For the new folk who have recently learned of the treasure that Forrest Fenn has hidden out there somewhere and are all charged up to begin the search, let me tell you what its been like for those of us who have been at it for a while.
It starts off simple enough. You read Forrest Fenn’s Memoir and pay some extra attention to the poem. You find a few addresses in the text thinking it’s obvious that he put the treasure where he used to put other things. You make assumptions like, “It’s hidden in the cemetery in Truchas, New Mexico” or “It’s in the Red River just before its confluence with the Rio Grande.” You begin a search of Wikipedia to find just where it is that gypsies hang out, or you try to make any and all numbers in his Memoir into geographic coordinates, and then you take out old maps from long ago trips to look for “Brown” as a street name, a park name, a town name, a county, but to no avail. And if you are really into it, you buy new maps but nothing has changed.
You go to REI and dream about all the stuff you will need to wade the freezing Fire Hole River and then you discover that the Fire Hole River is relatively warm. And then you say “Aha!” and look at the map to find that the warm Fire Hole River meets the Gibbon River and say “Aha!” “The warm waters halt!” and then you discover that the Gibbon River also comes through a geyser basin.
You make plans to go “out there,” “up there,” or “in there.” Your plans get more and more specific because your current theory seems to everybody but your spouse to be without fault. And then you find that where you wanted to go April 1 is still covered with 100 inches of snow.
All of us have been there. And because of these very high highs and excruciating lows I personally began to dream “treasure dreams” but most of them were not the kind where I find anything. They were about the hundreds of caves scattered around the Yellowstone Caldera—virtually all of them filled with poison ethers and I try to figure out just how I could get in and out of the exact cave where the treasure is hidden in the 15 seconds I can hold my breath.
They were about the recent deaths of hikers in Yellowstone due to a bit of carelessness and hungry grizzlies that turned into nightmares about me looking for all the world like Hugh Glass, the
Mountain Man who lost his scalp and half an ear and got several exposed and broken ribs in an encounter with a mommy grizzly. Left for dead by his “friends” he survived and, all alone, walked, limped and crawled through a few hundred miles of wilderness to a safe haven but, unlike Hugh, in my dream I roll into a river, float a ways down stream and end up in a pool full of piranhas.
The stress was getting to me. My adrenaline was flowing. I couldn’t sleep but when I did sleep my dreams got even more intense and creative but all of them gradually fell by the wayside until but one remained to be replayed over and over. It did, however, include ‘pay dirt’ and it went like this:
As the virtual purple curtains open with the roaring MGM Lion looking exactly like a grizzly, a voice welcomes me in and invites me to sit back, relax and enjoy the show. But then, dressed in the tattered leather clothing of Lewis and Clark, I am shown wading the thunderous current of the Yellowstone River, its waters reaching to just above my nipples (or armpits for the Southern Baptists) and its temperature reaching to just above freezing. Once across, I wave off an up-elevator full of people wearing three cornered hats and lapel pins that read, “Don’t tread on me!” Instead, I climb the steep, rocky slope on my own, prickly-pear cactus tearing at my moccasins. I find the treasure chest under two-feet of snow just minutes before the other guys (who now all appear to be wearing black spats and war paint) get there. The treasure is inside a small cave resting in an outer wooden box that I carefully open. I lift out the brass chest, dry a tear or two from my eyes, sniffle a couple of times, and wipe my nose on the pajama sleeve of Agent “99” who looks exactly like my sleeping wife. Then I replace the treasure with the still warm ham and cheese croissant sandwich that Forrest Fenn had insisted I carry along.
“That’ll show them who in this town has the real ‘sleuthiness’ “99” whispers in my bad right ear, her lips just barely brushing the long hairs that now grow from my earlobe and, as always, I don’t hear a thing.
Hang in there dreamers new and old. Our time is coming.