Archive for the ‘Cache’ Category

It was a dark and rainy night and I was wide-awake thinking about a problem in which I was to figure out one of those natural history things that can be oh, so frustrating, yet oh, so much fun: why did a shrubby live-oak chaparral species grow in profusion in some places and not in others just a foot or two away?

The next morning, I sat at my desk sucking on an acorn as I pondered the same question, when an ecology professor I knew stopped in and asked what was wrong. I explained the problem, told him that I had tried everything and had come up with exactly nothing but a bag full of acorns. He stared at his corral dusted boots for a while and then asked if I had another acorn—I did. He popped it into his mouth and began staring at the ceiling formulating his response.

Now, being a more or less observant itinerate, I have learned that teachers, mentors, and sages come in all kinds, shapes, sizes and ages and the cowboy standing there beside my desk was about to become one of them.

He didn’t say, “Try it this way,” or “Try it that way,” or “Try it all again.” What he did say was, “Take a break.” “ Just go up there alone for a couple of days. Ride the back roads, look at stuff, and the only objective for the whole trip should be to have an ice cream cone in Sedona.” (This was when Sedona had maybe five houses, a church and a rustic restaurant hanging out over the river that had the only freezer within 50 miles—I loved that place).

So, to quote Kit Carson and to shorten the story: “I done so.”

And lo and behold, things clicked, eyes opened, the world smelled nice and ice cream never tasted better.

I tell this story because after spending more time than I should trying to fathom Forrest Fenn’s memory as well as his tea drinking habits and finding that “red, green and black” led to a promising search area of more or less 15,000,000 acres north and west of Santa Fe, I remained stumped and thought of an old sage with dirty jeans and cowboy boots who sucked acorns. And then I began to secretly plan a trip to Yellowstone just to look at stuff; and, the sooner the better, because New Mexico was burning.

Southern end of the Las Conchas Fire of June 2011. New Mexico’s second largest in history at 156,593 acres. (Photo: Saunier)

Of course, this does not mean that preparation and homework would not be required so I went once again to REI and bought their only book on the national parks of Wyoming and Montana and then ventured once again into the mind of Forrest Fenn via his Memoir. I finished the books in a couple of hours and began looking for more references on western national parks on the internet machine. What I found were a few hundred articles on geysers and waterfalls, several geology references and a bunch of articles on fishing. Noting the quantity of space dedicated to fish and fishing in the Memoir I then Googled specifically, “Fishing in Yellowstone” and got back a large package of interesting information like the fact that, although introduced into the waters of the Yellowstone, the brown trout was one of the most sought after of the several species of fish that now occur there. Then I Googled “brown trout Yellowstone” and got back—wait for it—a map of brown trout distribution in Yellowstone National Park.

Of course, brown trout have been introduced into nearly all of the coolish waters of the Western Hemisphere, including the Rio Grande, but that fact didn’t slow me down. I went back to the Memoir and was stopped by the photograph of Forrest’s “Secret Fishing Hole” on page 124. What stopped me was that there was something vaguely familiar about it.

Forrest Fenn’s “Secret Fishing Hole.” (The Thrill of the Chase/Forrest Fenn)

My mind went back nearly fifty­­ years to a small lake in Puyehue National Park in Southern Chile. Rumor had it that this lake was full of brown trout put there by early 20th century German immigrants. I say “rumor” because friends and I had tried several times to catch said trout and we were not only always “skunked” but we were also eaten alive by the fierce Chilean tábano, a horsefly the size of an actual horse that has a bite that will take large chunks out of exposed and unexposed parts alike. But then one Fall day after the first frost and the tábanos had all gone to wherever tábanos go for the winter, we were walking along the stream that fed into the lake when I looked down and there it was—Forrest Fenn’s secret fishing hole!

Of course, it really wasn’t his secret fishing hole. His secret fishing hole is like 43˚N, 110˚W while this one was 46˚S, 72˚W, a difference of over 6000 miles. Nevertheless, the phenomena were the same; it was spawning time at the secret fishing hole and, I am told, his secret fishing hole resembles in surprising detail the hottest singles bar in Cody, Wyoming.

I also noted the two pages of photos of Forrest’s family holding up the fruits of what must have been several days of really, really good fishing, with identifying captions of where it all happened. Taking special note of the photo of a young Forrest standing in front of a water spigot captioned “Water Hole,” I recognized the exact spot from earlier forays into web-world and made a “memo to self” to visit that spot and everything around it on my trip up north.

Best wishes,


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The chapter “Tea with Olga” in Forrest Fenn’s Memoir has been responsible for any number of fruitless Taos Mountain snipe hunts by those who search for his hidden treasure.  Those who hiked the Taos Mountains did so because they had read the Memoir and knew that he had cast the ashes of his neighbor and friend, Olga, over the Taos Mountains and that fact is thought to be a major clue as to where we were to search.

Maybe so, but I confess that I didn’t go there. What I did do was spend a whole lot of time trying to decipher something else in that chapter; something that I just knew had to be a major clue. It had nothing to do with Olga and the Taos mountains; it was all about the tea.

I understand, of course, that even now, Forrest’s IQ sits far above his age but what about his memory? I’m not much younger than he was when he wrote that chapter and I can’t remember anything without my wife standing along side to give me hints. So how could Forrest remember, maybe years after the events, that Olga gave him red tea on one visit, and black tea on another visit, and then, after he had finished his task, that she would soon be drinking green tea with her  father? And why was it important that the colors be mentioned anyway? It all made me think that Forrest was making things up for this part of the story. I mean, who ever heard of somebody from Texas drinking tea anyway? Texans drink “blackstrap” coffee or boiling hot cactus juice with the thorns still in it. There was something about “red,” “black” and “green” that I really wanted to know.

So I did what I always do when something “thinky” is bothering me. I sat in front of my computer, counted the icons on my desktop, checked my e-mail, trashed a half dozen of the ones from the lottery supervisor in London, and dreamed about what I could do with the $28,000,000 I would get for helping the widow of some deposed Nigerian despot. And then, I thought of Google. I put in “red,” “black” and “green” and immediately got back 482,000,000 results. I began to wade through them thinking that this was probably going to take all night when, on number 58, up jumped a Pendleton site that said the company had a series of national park blankets and that the one for Yellowstone followed the traditional color scheme for the classic quilts of its early hotels: “red, black and green!”

Yellowstone National Park Blanket by Pendleton

Yellowstone National Park Blanket by Pendleton

I went through more of the results though I should have stopped at fifty-eight because somewhere in the 70’s, there was another Pendleton site that now had the Yellowstone blanket with the added color yellow and they were on a beige background. I doubted that the English or anyone else would voluntarily drink “yellow” tea and this caused me to begin rethinking my idea that the clue indicated only Yellowstone as the place to be; especially since the new Pendleton Glacier National Park colors were red, black, green and yellow on a white background and the one for Yosemite National Park had red, black and green on a blue background.

Feeling somewhat dejected, I began paging through Teepee Smoke, the beautifully done biography of Joseph Henry Sharp by none other than Forrest Fenn. The book is illustrated with nearly 300 color plates of Sharp’s paintings and a number of old photographs taken by Sharp himself.  I went through it once for the photos, and then again for the text, and once more for the paintings. And there it was; Sharp’s near overwhelming use of the colors red, black, and green: vibrant portraits and scenes of everyday life of the Crow Indians and their neighbors the Blackfeet, Sioux, Cheyenne and Gros Ventre, painted while he lived among them.

Chief Flat Iron/Joseph Henry Sharp. Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Interestingly, all of these are tribes of the northern plains and mountains of Wyoming and Montana.  Their territories were the Big Horn Mountains just east of Yellowstone and the foothills and valleys of the Absaroka, Beartooth, Gallatin, and Madison ranges to the north and west of Yellowstone. Sharp spent eight years living on the Crow reservation and often returned there after moving south with an ailing wife. He, like Forrest, loved that part of the world; its history and landscapes shaped their lives and, importantly, their work.  And also like Forrest Fenn, for J.H. Sharp, “south” meant New Mexico (Santa Fe for Forrest and Taos for Sharp) where he spent years painting the Pueblo Indians of Northern New Mexico. So, once again we are back where we started; but I still believe that the three teas of Olga make a clue the significance of which revolves around the colors of red, black and green.  The correct interpretation is still out there and I refuse to believe that Forrest wrote of the colors in “Tea with Olga” only because he was preoccupied with a kitchen rewiring project and that he was just trying to remember which of the wires (red, black or green) was the one he shouldn’t touch.

Keep looking,


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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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For someone who can barely open his e-mails, starting a blog is a foolhardy task at best. Who knows if I will ever even find the thing again let alone change its design or add something new? But I have friends who are under 40 and conversant in all things virtual who can help at what they say, with a roll of eye and shake of head, will be “minimal cost.” I will do it without them.

The purpose for writing this blog is to tell you how my search for the world’s most awesome geocache is going and give useful clues along the way that may help you get off your duff and start looking for it as well. The cache is a treasure chest containing over $1,000,000 in gold and jewelry hidden by fellow Santa Fean, Forrest Fenn (http://www.kob.com/article/stories/S2261145.shtm). I will explain more about that later.

Others are searching for the treasure as well and some of them also have blogs that tell about their failures to find the chest. But mostly their blogs are wonderful stories beautifully written about the discoveries they make while out looking for what they haven’t yet found (http://lummifilm.wordpress.com/).

Mine will be different. The way it is to work is that I will explain the clues Forrest Fenn has given us in his book, The Thrill of the Chase, as I understand them but with just enough of a time lag so that the final clue, the key, the closing argument will be known only to me until the treasure chest is safely locked away in my storage shed.

I will also be like Forrest Fenn and give just enough information to send you in the wrong direction even though the clue, if faithfully followed, will lead you in the right direction, down the correct valley, along a perfectly defined trail to the exact spot where Forrest Fenn could have carefully placed his treasure.

But you will have to do your part—especially if you want to get there before I do. First, to follow along or even jump ahead, you will need to buy the book The Thrill of the Chase, A Memoir by Forrest Fenn that is available only from the Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, New Mexico. http://www.collectedworksbookstore.com/. Profits from the sales go to help pay for the treatment of children with cancer; how many children will depend upon you.

Second, you will have to “forge ahead” no matter how boring the post. I will try to keep each one at 750-900 words so you won’t get dizzy.  Come back often and there will be something new depending on the snow conditions at the Santa Fe Ski Basin; I have reached the age where skiing is a “freebie” so deadlines may not mean what they mean.

The book, The Thrill of the Chase itself, is “filled” with clues; probably more than Forrest Fenn intended and fewer than those I have ‘found.’  I have divided all these clues into three parts: 1) clues that will help us figure out just who Forrest Fenn is—a necessary task for a number of reasons. Of course, he will accuse us of making things up but pay no attention. He is much more open than he wants us to believe; 2) clues that will tell us whether or not it is true that he has hidden a fortune for anyone to find and possess—after the IRS has taken its share; and 3) clues that will lead us (me!) to the treasure. One of my favorite clues has already been repeated in this very post. See if you can find it. Of course you will also have to decipher it if you are to have any chance at all of finding the treasure.  Don’t Google “thrill of the chase” though.  I tried that and the first six results were porn sites; they definitely will not help you find Forrest Fenn’s cache.

The last thing you must do is to get in shape: learn where ‘North’ is, build up your legs and lungs and trim your toenails. We are about to follow Mr. Fenn on a fine, fine journey.


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