Archive for January, 2012

Ben C. de Baca (Richard E. Saunier)

My grandson, whom I introduced to you in the last post, is now totally into the alphabet.  I know this because the day after Christmas, the floor of our old adobe was covered with alphabetical blocks, alphabetical trains, alphabetical alphabets and alphabetical animals (“A” is for alligator, “B” is for buffalo …. etc.) and he, like you, has now identified the Pirates “X” on Forrest Fenn’s MAP as an “X”.  I swear, because of his new fluency in “alphabetical animals,” I fully expect him to be teaching me the Systema Naturae of Carl Linnaeus by spring.

Unlike you, however, he has not tried to figure out just where that “X” on THE MAP is on the ground. I must say that it’s placement was an enigma to me as well until my lovely wife, who is a hostess at the Book, Map and Photo Store of the New Mexico History Museum (where she calls everybody “Hon” but DOES NOT wear short pink dresses and a hair net) brought back a copy of a map that looks somewhat like THE MAP on page 133 of The Thrill of the Chase only it is much less fuzzy and a whole lot more colorful; all of which makes the “X” become totally clear and its location instantly knowable.

Now, for those of you who are interested, the coordinates for that “X” are 36°00’46.82”N and 105°31’49.40”W—except that they aren’t. You see, I got those coordinates using a useless plug-in for Google Maps that must have been invented by a wannabe Google engineer working out of his mother’s storm cellar in Temple, Texas. He won’t make it.

If you want to know the real coordinates, you must use Google Earth, which now gives its own coordinates for any spot on the Globe.  The spot we are looking for is at 36°00’39.98”N and 105°31’36.60”W which is not really an “X” at all. Rather, it is the place where the invisible dividing line between Rio Arriba and Taos counties butts up against the invisible Mora county line for three arms of the “X” with the fourth arm being an all too real ridge coming off of a 12,000 foot-high mountain in the Pecos Wilderness.

If, by any chance you still want to go there, take the “Divide Trail” (Forest Service Trail 36 via Forest Service Trail 27) which starts at the Santa Barbara campground and then takes you on a route that is kind of northy-southy over Jicarita Peak (12,835 feet elevation) and on to the ridge in question which would eventually lead you to a small peak of unknown elevation but whose name, as far as I can tell, is “Trouble”—really, that is what the map says. It would take the most storied star athlete from Taos, even one who is high on caffeine and riding a mule, a week just to get there.  I am sure that it has been a while since our favorite mountain man and potential benefactor has made that trip.

However. If, once you are there, you take one or two very careful steps to the east, you can peek over the edge of a multi-hundred foot drop straight down to the easily reached “North Fork Lake.” What if maybe the “X” isn’t exactly located at 36°00’39.98”N and 105°31’36.60”W but a few horizontal and a great many vertical feet to the east?  Furthermore, you should know that this lake feeds the Rio de las Casas, a tributary of the Mora River which flows “canyon down” right through one of my favorite places in all of New Mexico: Loma Parda!

You want more? My guess is that most everybody in New Mexico, maybe even Forrest Fenn, knows that “Loma Parda” is Spanish for “Brown Hill!” (Or, more accurately, “brownish-grayish-dunish colored).Not only that, one of the most famous hot springs in New Mexico is just a short jaunt south of Loma Parda at Montezuma!

Regrettably though, these observations are all backwards; the clues cited above need to go the other way. You begin with “warm water,” then you go down the canyon, and then you put in below the home of brown—not the reverse.  Not only that, but Loma Parda is not even the “home of Brown.” It is the home of a whole lot of snakes (some of which rattle), a herd of passing buffalo from the Wind River Ranch, and Ben C. de Baca, the ghost town’s only living human occupant.

No matter, Loma Parda is worth the trip. Ben, whose great grandfather and great uncle ran the “Loma Parda Hotel and Taxi Service” back when the town was really jumping, is a man with a barrel of really, really good stories.  And he will tell them to you over a free soda-pop and maybe a tomal or two if he has recently been into town. Turns out that Loma Parda’s sole reason for existence was as the brothel for the soldiers at old Fort Union.

Stay the course,  /r

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Last Spring my favorite daughter-in-law brought our then one year-old grandson out to see us. Yes, I understand that this is a blog meant to tell just how I’m going to find the treasure chest that Forrest Fenn stashed out in the mountains a year or so ago. And I will do that. But I figure that a few words about my grandson might also be in order; I am, after-all, a new grandfather.

And a remarkable little kid he is. For example, whenever he tired of trying to convince me in English that he absolutely had to have another cookie, he resorted to ASL (American Sign Language) thinking, no doubt, that the battery must have gone dead in my hearing aid.

I will give a whole lot more detail on his numerous achievements as well as his suggestions as to how we should interpret the clues of Forrest Fenn in later postings. This one, however, is about how he influenced the discovery of the secrets hidden in THE MAP.

When we met the two of them (favorite daughter-in-law and grandson) down at the airport in Albuquerque the day they arrived, my daughter-in-law asked me how I was doing. I said, ”Fine. I’m going to be a millionaire just as soon as I decipher THE MAP on page 133 of Forrest Fenn’s memoir, The Thrill of the Chase.”

Her response, as I remember it, was something like, “Yeah. Right.” Then, slowly shaking her head, she turned away, hugged my wife and handed her our grandson.

I sat in the rear seat on the way back to Santa Fe from Albuquerque just so I could quiz my grandson on whether or not he understood anything that Sarah Palin had ever said, but as we left the garage my daughter-in-law offered him her I-Pad which he took and, even before we reached the garage pay-booth, he had the I-Pad opened and turned on, had selected what appeared to be his very own file, and was debating whether he should watch “Curious George meets Allie Oops” or something called “Bunny Hunt” which, as far as I could tell, had absolutely nothing to do with Hugh Hefner, Playboy, or the NRA.

Given that I had now been replaced by something I knew nothing about, a nap seemed appropriate. The trip home, therefore, was uneventful except from time to time my grandson would poke me, point to something on the monitor, look me in the eye and say what sounded very much like “Absáalooke pwat” whereupon I would nod, take his word for it, and go back to sleep.

On our arrival home, I asked my daughter-in-law if she wanted to see THE MAP. Her response, as I remember it, was something like, “What map?”

I once again explained that “I was about to be a millionaire just as soon as I deciphered THE MAP” and she asked me what the problem was. “It makes me dizzy,” I answered.

So we then went to my desk in the office where I shoved aside three or four loupes of various magnifications, wiped a spot of spaghetti sauce off the page opposite THE MAP and showed it to her (by which I mean THE MAP, not the spaghetti sauce.)

She took the book, opened it to page 133, held it at oh, about 15 inches in front of her nose for all of 12 seconds, handed it back to me, knelt down to grab hold of the diaper my grandson was wearing to keep him from the brownish colored apple-core that had been sitting beside my wastebasket for all of a week and said, “It’s a map of Northern New Mexico.”

Incredulous, I stood there looking at THE MAP for the seven hundred thirty-second time, squinted my eyes and, sure enough, it was.

Then, as she dashed out the office door to grab my now diaperless grandson in an unsuccessful attempt to keep him from pouring more cat food into the cat’s water bowl, she added, “And there is a Captain Kidd-like pirate “X” about an inch and a quarter above the top gold nugget.”

And, sure enough, there was.

Life is sweet.  Happy New Year one and all,


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