Approximately a decade ago, a 79-year-old man did the unthinkable. He left a chest with approximately $1 million worth of jewels and gold and other precious stones in the middle of nowhere.
Of course, he did so on purpose. There is nothing like a good ol’ treasure hunt, after all.
When I was a kid, we often would hide things in the yard, digging small holes to place them in and then draw a map with the tell-tale “X” marking the spot. The drawings would be very ambiguous, highlighting a certain tree or bush or turn in the creek while omitting the rest of the woods and water. But we had fun doing it.
And that sense of adventure and wonderment is what led Forrest Fenn to deliver his treasure chest on two separate trips into the “canopy of stars in the Rocky Mountains.” Rather than drawing a map, his path of ambiguity was through a poem. From his autobiography, The Thrill of the Chase, it read as follows:
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.
Over the years, many people have sought the treasure. Some gave up their life savings knowing they had figured out the guidance of the poem. Others gave up their lives. Eight people are known to have died in pursuit of the treasure. Forrest Fenn’s goal was to get people out and enjoy nature to the utmost. If it took his collection of valuables to spark the fire, then it was worth it.
Earlier this month, Forrest offered some disappointing news to the many people who were and still are on their search of a lifetime. A person from “back East” had sent him a photo of the treasure chest and its contents and proved to Fenn that the treasure had finally been found.
In several interviews since the announcement, treasure hunters ranging from highly technical geniuses to family groups that would take weekend trips together for fun, have stated they will continue their quest.
Why would you continue to search for something that has been found?
Well, part of the reason is they don’t believe it has actually been found. Several lawsuits are now being filed in various states from treasure hunters against Fenn, saying that he announced it had been found because someone was getting close. Other lawsuits are claiming the treasure was never placed anywhere and it was all a hoax.
Meanwhile, many people are continuing to look not because they believe it is still out there but because they are enjoying the search. They are enjoying their time together with family members and other treasure hunters. They are enjoying the journey and not worrying about the destination.
That is what Forrest Fenn was really after. And in a sense, that is the real treasure.