I want you to know that I have looked at Forrest Fenn’s map on page 133 of The Thrill of the Chase for what seems like days, weeks, even months on end. Not that that is all bad, mind you. I love maps—even when they are of places I have never been or where, unfortunately, I will never go.
Maps help conjure up all kinds of great adventure stories and, in North America, the best ones to do that are the old antique maps made by those sometimes skilled, often self-taught cartographers of the early years of Manifest Destiny; of Lewis and Clark and the mapmakers that dutifully put to paper the names, words and places traveled by the mountain men, who, whether French, Spanish or Irish, had a way of describing the essence of a landscape that is lost on no one.
From Tetilla peak (Spanish) that I can see from my office window, to les Trois Tétons (French) of western Wyoming to . . . well, I don’t need to tell you about the Irish. You understand what I mean. These early travelers never lacked for realistic descriptions nor did they suffer a loss of imagination; and their vocabularies were very much those of uncommon common men.
But do I care for new, modern maps? Not so much. They all seem to be about ranches or farms sold to developers just so they could undo the ancient trails and traces—the very names of which tell of hardships and successes won only with great difficulty—and then saddle them with designations like “Lily Lane” or “Hibiscus.” Now the falls, cataracts and steep narrow canyons that were always dangerous encounters for those early travelers, are hidden by reservoirs and diversions that have destroyed the very personalities of rivers that for many hundreds of thousands of years molded the landscapes of which they are a part.
And what have I found in Forrest Fenn’s map after all this blinking and thinking? Well, for one, it’s just about the fuzziest map I ever saw, and it makes me dizzy, and it doesn’t help matters when I use a magnifying glass. However, after a couple of months of eye-blinking and brow-mopping over THE MAP as it has come to be called in our house, an epiphany of sorts occurred right there in front of me while I was re-reading Mr. Fenn’s wonderful story about letting children touch the nose of George Washington in a very expensive painting of that very same George Washington, when one of the young ladies discovered that that George Washington was the reverse of the George Washington she had in her pocket!
I’ve no doubt that many of you have looked at that MAP for hours just like me. And it made you dizzy and you used a magnifying glass. But how many of you have scanned that MAP and then put it in Photoshop so that you could reverse and then sharpen it?
Aha! And now you want me to tell you what I discovered? Well, here it is and it won’t cost you a percentage of the take if you find the treasure because of it.
What I found was that if you scan the MAP and then reverse it in Photoshop and then sharpen it, you have an image resembling pretty much every mountain range and river in the United States west of Arkansas.
I am sorry about this. It’s not much of a Christmas present. But maybe I can make up for it in the next installment about that MAP which will be coming more or less soon (maybe). You see, it has, indeed, snowed up at Ski Santa Fe where you will be able to find me over the next few weeks.
Seasons Greetings and best wishes,