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Not far, but too far to walk: the Forrest Fenn treasure hunt
April 5, 2013 4:57 PM   Subscribe

The Forrest Fenn treasure is described as a bronze chest, approx. 10"x10"x5" and 42 pounds, containing over a million dollars worth of gold, jewels and artifacts, claimed by Mr. Fenn to have been hidden by him somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The 82 y.o. long-time Santa Fe art dealer and former U.S. Air Force major decorated for fighter missions over Vietnam has published a memoir, The Thrill of the Chase and a cryptic poem with clues to the chest's location.

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 answer 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.

HuffPo is on the story and bloggers are reporting here and here, which has a section for Mr. Fenn's reply emails to adventurous, aspiring millionaires just like you. He has been likened to Indiana Jones, and to the Native American trickster spirit Coyote.
posted by bruce (32 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Isn't this a lot of money to be paid to set yourself up to be kidnapped? I thought the going rate was $1000.
posted by BrotherCaine at 5:02 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


You should have posted this to AskMe; we'd have found it inside of a week.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:33 PM on April 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


You should have posted this to AskMe; we'd have found it inside of a week.

Is the treasure hidden at a therapist's, lawyer's, or doctor's office? Is the key to code a crypto based on the letters DTMFA?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:38 PM on April 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


Is the treasure hidden at a therapist's, lawyer's, or doctor's office?

If you really think hunting for buried treasure is a New Mexico desert is a good idea, one of those might actually be where the real treasure is hidden.
posted by mhoye at 5:54 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This chest full of gold and jewels has been in my fridge for kind of a long time. Do you think it's safe to eat?
posted by rifflesby at 5:54 PM on April 5, 2013 [18 favorites]


"My chest full of gold and jewels won't boot up."
posted by mhoye at 5:55 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I do have to wonder if this guy is not aiming to become the greatest troll ever. If I make it to 82 and in such apparently good mental shape, I might try starting something like this too to amuse myself.
posted by Iosephus at 5:56 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like the Goonies crossed with Romancing the Stone! But with added mental illness!
posted by Justinian at 5:57 PM on April 5, 2013


The real treasure was inside you all along.....
posted by humanfont at 5:58 PM on April 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


I like how he's taking acknowledging the real world implications of this treasure hunt. Like here, where he presents a custom bound copy of his book to the woman who was lost in Bandolier National Monument overnight trying to unriddle the poem.
posted by hippybear at 6:00 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You should have posted this to AskMe; we'd have found it inside of a week.

Dude AskMe helped me with this mystery
posted by The Whelk at 6:00 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


additional ff disclosures re: treasure:

it is at an elevation of at least 5000 feet.

it is not necessarily in new mexico. ff summered in yellowstone as a child, colorado, wyoming and montana are definitely in play. i don't think he took it to canada, you know, crossing the border with something like that.

in answer to the question, is it where a kid could safely look for it, he has answered yes, if an old codger can get there, a robust child could also, but one caveat, i think he was referring to terrain, not fauna. the rockies has real bears, and i'd be bummed if someone got eaten on account of my post.

there are no structures involved in reckoning the location. he was under pressure to disclose this because the warm waters halt/home of brown thing, when you go into an outhouse and shine a light through the hole, you can see where the warm waters halt and the home of brown begins, and people were just driving up into the mountains and digging up the first old outhouse they saw.
posted by bruce at 6:04 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


there are no structures involved in reckoning the location. he was under pressure to disclose this because the warm waters halt/home of brown thing, when you go into an outhouse and shine a light through the hole, you can see where the warm waters halt and the home of brown begins, and people were just driving up into the mountains and digging up the first old outhouse they saw.

This is one of the funniest things I've ever heard.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:08 PM on April 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


So I think if you start at the hot springs near Santa fe, and then end up at Darrien Brown's Ranch, also at 4612 Dry Cimarron Hwy, you've got

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.


You follow along the Dry Cimarron Riverbed/Road. No paddling, all dry.

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,

If you assume blaze is literal, go with Capulin Volcano National Monument.

Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.


Then go down into the crater and look around there.

Alternatively, it could be on Black Mesa in Oklahoma as that's right at the other end of the cimmaron river, and it's over 5000 feet.
posted by Lord_Pall at 6:16 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I love this answer to an email from this list of responses from Fenn:
Seetak, since you took the time to write me a long email I feel obligated to respond in kind, even though yours was the 6,864th one to enter my inbox. I am 82 years old and you are college age. Let me give you some advice because you will not live long enough to make all of the mistakes on your own. Go ahead and pass your bar exam but don’t you dare work as a lawyer. If you do you will wear a coat and tie, sit at a desk all day. You will not have time to smell the sky or experience the soft breeze ripe with sun. Go looking for my chest full of gold and all of the other treasures that lurk once you leave the florescent lights behind. I have spoken. f
posted by hippybear at 6:20 PM on April 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


I LIVE THERE. Well, close to Santa Fe, where I actually work. But, see, I moved here with my family, and neither my wife nor I had a job, just our dream. Our dream was a new life. I thought that life would be one of stable work, so I got a job. My wife did, too, and that's swell and all.

But there's gold in these here hills. And I work near these hills. But I won't have to work, if I find the gold.

I'm now watching Jeff, Who Lives at Home, which so far, is about the chance encounters, and the movie Signs.

I was brought here, now, to find the gold. I'll be back, wish me luck.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:10 PM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I like the idea of a good treasure hunt and getting folks out to enjoy the outdoors. However; the added wilderness destruction from treasure hunters tromping around the mountains digging up everything is going to suck.

And it's shaping up to be another bad dry year out here in New Mexico. Fire restrictions are already going up and there's a good chance they will have to close down the National Forests this Summer. All it will take for yet another mega-fire is for some idiot to get lost and burn stuff to keep warm.

Mr. Fenn will get plenty of notoriety and increased book sales, but how is the sequestration saddled Forest Service going to fare? I figure the prize won't come close to the cost of the clean-up.

And really… what's the next prize for the idle rich to dangle? Donald Trump hiding a golden toupee in Central Park?
posted by jabo at 7:12 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Fenn has made it clear that the treasure is likely not buried. Also it is not in a place which cannot be gotten to by an elderly man, and it took the elderly man two trips to get the treasure there. He's given many clues. Anyone serious about this treasure hunt isn't going to be tramping all over digging holes. They will have done much more research than I have done, and I only read a single blog, really.

That said, I do share your fire concerns. But that's pretty much every year in the southern Rocky Mountains. Given that is where it is. The scope of the search extends pretty far and wide, based on Fenn's history.
posted by hippybear at 7:17 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


If this treasure isn't close enough to you, here's the Wikipedia category Treasure by country, which is great, if you're in Canada, Czech Republic, South Korea, Peru or the United States.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:18 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyone serious about this treasure hunt isn't going to be tramping all over digging holes.

There are already reports of people digging up outhouses, someone getting lost in Bandolier and someone arrested for digging up a descanso (a memorial cross that locals use to mark where a loved one has died) in the National Forest.

Northern New Mexico is home to a lot of very, very poor folks who are desperate enough to do anything to find a box o' million gold pieces. For every rational treasure hunter, there's plenty more who are not.

On and… welcome to Santa Fe, flt.
posted by jabo at 7:28 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]



You should have posted this to AskMe; we'd have found it inside of a week.


Is there a cat hidden inside it too?
posted by peagood at 7:37 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Las Cruces native here, so yeah, I know the New Mexico vibe (albeit from a different locale).
posted by hippybear at 7:39 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there a cat hidden inside it too?

There is and there isn't. We won't know for sure until we find it and open it.
posted by axiom at 9:13 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is there a cat hidden inside it too?

What should I name this chest full of gold and jewels, and do you think I should just go ahead and have it declawed?
posted by kzin602 at 9:24 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, this is a completely obnoxious waste of time. But leave it to a Santa Fe art dealer (it's about the furthest thing from a fine or auspicious profession) to crassly exploit and extend the dynamic of the white treasure-hunter despoiling native lands. "The Native American trickster spirit Coyote"? Ugh. Give me a break. And of course he's filled it with pre-Columbian art and Chinese artifacts and other things which he clearly shouldn't "own" (HuffPo: "The Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2006 raided his home as part of an antiquities theft probe, but Fenn was never charged...") although art dealers rarely have any scruples about such things.

Here's hoping he ends up in prison over the whole affair. We need fewer people like this in New Mexico.
posted by koeselitz at 11:55 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


hippybear: “Las Cruces native here, so yeah, I know the New Mexico vibe (albeit from a different locale).”

I know and love the vibe myself, but I prefer it when it's relatively harmless. This destructive let's-play-games-with-lives treasure-hunting nonsense, not so much. But I guess Mr Fenn had to do something like this. What else was he going to do – put the money back into the community? Heaven forbid anyone in the art market do that.
posted by koeselitz at 12:00 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


lol koeselitz, that's kind of an uncharitable assessment. about the furthest thing from a fine or auspicious profession...

dude, art dealing isn't a profession, it's a BUSINESS. if you're making a profit, you're not wanted by the police and you enjoy the respect of your community, you're on top of the business game. medicine is a profession, law is a profession (waves to my fans) and ARMS is a profession, where mr. fenn professed for 20 years before becoming an art dealer, earning a distinguished flying cross, air medal, silver star, bronze star, purple heart, etc., which is considered to be a moderately successful career arc. what fine and auspicious profession are you in?

maybe i can guess. as they eat ramen in their bohemian garrets, true artists always resent the short-fingered vulgarians who market their works of genius, just as musicians resent record labels and writers resent publishers, but what're you gonna do, peddle your mona lisa on craigslist?

put the money back in the community...he's done one better than that, he's figured out how to bring new money in from outside, by getting 1000+ people/year to visit his area, spending hundreds of dollars in disposable income each. that's quite a trick, and if i could do it here on the oregon coast, they would name a street after me.
posted by bruce at 2:04 AM on April 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Reading about this I couldn't help but think:

Now they stood beside the treasure,
On the mountain, dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it...
"Peace on Earth" was all it said.

posted by TedW at 3:42 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


bruce: there's a pretty big difference between "art dealers" (who are just people after all) and "Santa Fe art dealers."

For what it's worth, I'm a database programmer. Before that I was in library science. Never even remotely involved in the art world; I guess I just lived in Santa Fe too long, and spent too much time listening to gallery owners and art dealers complain about the "low class of people" who live in Santa Fe and watched them gouge folks out of land and gallery space for no reason.

And there's this: letting people dig up and destroy actual treasures like Bandolier and other National Forests just so you can cackle with glee at a little game is wrong. Guy should have ended this before it started.
posted by koeselitz at 4:22 PM on April 6, 2013


Reminds me a bit of Masquerade which all went a bit pear shaped as well. Hardly surprising when loadsamoney is up for grabs.
posted by adamvasco at 7:07 PM on April 6, 2013


Well, despite the cynicism, count me as someone who thinks what he's doing as noble. A chest of gold in the wilderness? People will have their imaginations fired up. It's all become a beautiful mystery again. Glorious.
posted by corb at 9:44 PM on April 6, 2013


letting people dig up and destroy actual treasures like Bandolier and other National Forests just so you can cackle with glee at a little game is wrong.

Okay, first of all, Bandolier is not a national forest, it's a National Monument. Second of all, the woman who was looking there was dead wrong about where she was looking and it's been made clear this is so. Third, she was not digging anything, she was wandering and got lost.

Also, people dig on National Forest land all the time. Anything which is designated wilderness area is pretty open to be used. People dig fire pits, latrine pits, dig up stumps and rocks. They tie things to trees, cut down trees, claim wood for fires or art uses. They move rocks, build trails, put in drainage diversion.

National Forest land is not some pristine tract of primeval never-touched-by-humans bit of whatever. It's set aside for the public to use for recreation and to get close to nature. Plus National Forest land can be permitted for commercial use. Which is going to do way more destruction to where ever that happens than a few people who are trying to decypher a poem.
posted by hippybear at 9:15 AM on April 7, 2013


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