As a pilot and knowing Fenn was a pilot, dead reckoning came to mind, so we first thought to draw intersecting lines to locate the treasure where X really does mark the spot (in spirit). We didn’t see the clues as part of following a linear path, but more creating a drawing on the map that would lead us to Fenn’s Treasure. There were also double meanings to what we saw as clues, which strengthened our resolve. You don’t need the history to solve it, but it’s there and it helps.
Clues to Fenn’s Treasure in Forrest Fenn’s Poem
“WWWH” Firehole river into the Madison. Ojo Caliente works great as Fenn’s secret swimming spot within Yellowstone, but any point on the Firehole, like the falls, works to get you quite close.
Down river in the Firehole Canyon is North, so your next point is North not far, but too far to walk.
“Put-in below the home of Brown” – Joe Brown Put-In, below where Brown found his gold in the Beartooth mountains.
Between WWWH and HOB is a nearly perfect vertical line at 110° 50′ W Longitude. These two points from the first two clues create the Y-axis that Fenn’s Treasure is on, so… you could theoretically walk the line to find it, similar to Fenn’s statement on having the first two clues.
Here we’re also getting close to the famous lone semi-colon. Not necessary information, but a helpful hint. It separates the poem/clues for the two lines you’re drawing.
“From there it’s no place for the meek” Saw this as a hint we were on the right path, but not needed to solve it. “From there,” or “After drawing that first line / from Joe Brown Put-In,” across the cold Yellowstone River, Joseph Meek escaped up into Yellowstone from Devil’s slide, Really close to the vertical line you’ve drawn. This also leads you toward the general vicinity of the old mining town of Electric, Mulheron Creek, one you can easily drive and known for white-water rafting, and Beattie Gulch, a dry creek that’s on public land and used to be drivable in 2010.
“The end is ever drawing nigh.” Now we’re about to draw the second intersecting line and getting close to the treasure.
“No Paddle up your creek” – The treasure is likely on a dry creek you’ll be walking along.
“Just heavy loads and water high.” Sounded like directions to us, like “just over on South and Main St.” We saw this as containing the two clues for our intersecting line. Just Electric (heavy mining loads / electrical loads), and High Lake, (or water high) a place possibly familiar to Fenn on his fishing adventures as a teen, or his horseback adventure with Donnie. A place a young kid could see nearby on a map and make the connection.
Finding Fenn’s Treasure
These four points create the blaze, a cross sticking out of Ojo Cliente, casting a long shadow over the Madison River – a lament on his own mortality in the forward from Too Far to Walk / also the meaning behind the cover photo with his shadow. On topological maps, gravesite are marked with a cross, so we took this as Fenn being buried in spirit in Yellowstone along the Firehole River, and how the X that marks the spot is there “in spirit.”
In this solve, the cross points to a spot on Deaf Jim Creek in a wooded area accessible by car, just outside the park boundary that meets all the criteria. One, it’s overlooking Gardiner (note Fenn’s reference to Gardiner’s Island in TTOTC just after the poem). Two, its location gives credence to “hear me all and listen good”, and the area was previously burned down in a real blaze before 2010, which created beautiful meadows. Three, if you check the topo map, it’s in the only square of public national forest, surrounded by private land, with an easement for public use of the road. You can rent a cabin for 10 at the top, accessible by Beattie Gulch, and be a short drive or hike through their ” rented backyard” to the hiding spot – easy for Fenn to hide a treasure on a family trip, the one likely mentioned in Too Far to Walk when he discusses showing his grandchildren his secret swimming hole. This also solves the mystery that he hasn’t been back to W. Yellowstone in a long while – he entered the park through Gardiner – and part of the discussion around the legality of finding a lost property on private land. Maybe he wanted his bracelet back for legal reasons to make the claim go smoothly.
What hit us was his quoting T.S. Elliot**. “We shall not cease from exploration and, at the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”**
The solve is circular – only after you’ve drawn the lines do you discover the meaning behind the first clue, where warm waters halt – what Fenn describes as the most important clue. He’s buried in spirit on the Firehole in Yellowstone. I tear up to the thought still, correct or not.
Anyhow, we’re truly sad the chase is over, but had the BEST trip the first time ’round, adventuring & exploring in the snow, even in crappy BOTG weather. The kicker is we had a trip booked for, yep, June 1st, which we pushed back due to Covid-19. Doing our part staying home. Fenn’s Treasure would have been cool to find and re-hide to keep the chase alive. Maybe keep a coin, but ultimately pass it on with a new chase. Hope the finder does right by it.
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.