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Archive for the ‘New Mexico’ Category

I remember the first course in ecology I ever took and I remember it because it was mind blowing in any number of ways. It made me want to go to the library and find every book and article they had on the subject. I sat in the front row. I stayed after class and pestered the professor until either he tired or the next class wandered in. It made me see things and processes I had never seen before. I wanted to know every little event that created any landscape that happened to be in front of me: its history of storms, fires and landslides, the burrowing and the bugs; who was winning and who was losing. I wanted to know about its washings and its dryings, what was permanent and what was passing, its temperature swings, who ate what or whom, and when and with what it all started. Ecology was challenging and oh so much fun.

Ecology is so much fun that I give an exam to all the Santa Fe visitors who are in good enough shape to walk the Rt 66-La Bajada-Camino Real circle with me. On the way back from that crazy incredible piece of Earth, I ask them to explain what they see as we break over the edge toward Santa Fe from the rutted Caja del Rio plateau. It is a glorious scene with the southern extremis of the Rocky Mountains in the distance, the Santa Fe River course below, and a strange grouping of trees in the near view. It is that grouping of trees that is of interest because of how it is laid out—exactly like an orchard but the trees in it are not trees one sees in an orchard. They are junipers—a small tree that is ubiquitous at this elevation and latitude and among its few uses are firewood for Forrest Fenn, subjects for artists to paint and a light wintertime snack for coyotes and scrub jays.

Orchard-2

However, to plant junipers as an orchard would be a complete waste of time, money and contrary to common sense. It would be like planting goldenrod around a house in Maryland or Virginia. Out here, juniper is the plant that sheds pollen in the trillions and each little bitty pollenette with its mini-minute thistle-like spikes flies into your nose holes and then shuffles all the way up and through your sinuses; within days of the bloom, which seeming lasts from March through to October, the entire population of Santa Fe becomes a raspy-voiced chorus of crybabies.

But there that orchard is in front of you as if laid out by a band of teenage Future Farmers of America and if you can say just why it’s there, you may have a leg up on trying to find Forrest Fenn’s treasure. It means your powers of observation and logic are finely tuned and that your curiosity concerning things that just don’t fit is close to that of my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson who has now entered the “why” stage of his development.

This “fine tuniness” even helps when reading Forrest’s Memoir. For example, you need to be aware that his picture captions come in two different fonts—one manufactured by a geeky engineer in Palo Alto and the other in Forrest’s very own non-cursive hand writing. This became important a while back when my wife found a strange bit of graffiti on a rock, and when I compared the printing on the rock to the captions on pages 122 and 123 of the Memoir, they appeared to have been done by the same hand.  But, then, my wife announced that she wrote her alphabet the exact same way and proved it by showing me the New York Times crossword she was doing. Damn; so close and yet so far.

But sleuths don’t let that kind of thing bother them. I went back to the Memoir and became aware that chapter titles came with chapter subtitles, and there on page 126 I found a subtitle that said in really well hidden letters, “Somewhere north of Santa Fe.”

Now we were getting somewhere. I leafed through the Memoir looking for more subtitles and found one that said “Somewhere in Wyoming.” “Aha!” I announced to no one in particular but my grandson immediately wanted to know what “aha” meant and why I had said it.

I ignored him. I was on to something. I took out my map of Wyoming and found that if you go canyon down the Shoshone River east from Yellowstone, you hit the Buffalo Bill Reservoir (Home of Brown?) and just below that, you have the metropolis of Cody, Wyoming (See pages 65-67, Memoir).  And then I found that Forrest Fenn is not only a member in good standing of the “Buffalo Bill Historical Center” in Cody, Wyoming, he is also a board member of that fine institution.

It was all coming together and I searched for more subtitles thinking that they would give me even more information. I found the clincher on page 58. It said, “Somewhere in Montana.” My grandson shouted, “Aha!” but I knew that I was foiled once again.

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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,

r/

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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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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,

/r

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Third wife of Kit Carson. 1828-1868 (Kit Carson Museum)

I couldn’t help but notice the naysayers who read and comment on the many articles describing Forrest Fenn’s treasure hunt. They are the doubters, skeptics and cynics who believe that Forrest Fenn is pulling our collective leg; that he has decided, as one of his last formal, public acts, to play us for fools rather than do what he says he has done—that is, to offer up a million dollar treasure to those willing to decipher his clues and go out looking.

I am somewhat torn by this bit of information. On the one hand, it means that fewer people will be searching for his treasure. And, on the other, it could also mean that we as a people have “developed” to where the kind of challenges offered by Mr. Fenn are seen as meaningless amusement and that wilderness no longer draws us from our comforts as it once did.  It means that the heroic/tragic tales of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and Sacagawea, of Joe Meek and Tom Fitzpatrick, of Kit Carson and Josefa Jaramillo and of Jim Bridger now molder unread in forgotten libraries and that we have lost something special.

There is no need either to question or to defend the honesty of Forrest Fenn. We need only to look at his motives and see what they say and, fortunately, The Thrill of the Chase has more clues about this part of Forrest Fenn than it has about how to find the treasure.  In short, despite a far above average biography, Forrest Fenn fears to leave this world as unknown and unremembered and the rediscovery of the life of Forrest Fenn in a hundred or a thousand years would be his ideal scenario.

We know this because he left a number of 20,000-word autobiographies in the bronze jars and bells he fabricated and hid around New Mexico and he fantasizes about his desire to have been buried along side his treasure chest. He is saddened that the name of his beloved father appears but once in a Google search along with the number of his burial plot in a small Texas town. He writes poignantly of a late night solo flight down the East Coast as he ruminates on our place in the Universe. He brings tears with an account of his accidental encounter with the grave of a French soldier in Vietnam who, without Maj. Fenn’s intervention, would have gone through eternity with no one to know or remember who he was, or how he died.

I have the same fears as Forrest Fenn; we all do. No matter what we profess to believe, what we know for sure, is that we will die and what will be left is our legacy and nothing more. And, for most of us, even that will soon fade away. Few of the billions of individual stories that have been played out here on Earth attain the levels of those reached by Moses, George Washington, Madam Curie or Steve Jobs. But we are all somebody. Our determination to hang on to that living uniqueness— even in death, is as strong as our desires for a great many other things—like, for example, a king’s ransom in gold and jewelry.  For me, it would be difficult not to believe that Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest is hidden out there somewhere.

Maybe though, the naysayers need a more practical answer as to why they should trust Forrest Fenn on this one. Let me provide that answer. Much of Mr. Fenn’s fortune obviously is in gold and jewelry rather than in Wall Street investments. What difference does it make then, if a part of his gold and jewelry is under his bed or hidden somewhere where he has every confidence that it will not soon be discovered?

Best wishes,

/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.

r/

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