As puzzle and adventure fans, it seems like we’re always trying to find ways to inject artificial adventure into our modern, normal, “boring” world. But would you go looking for a real treasure buried by a genuine treasure hunter?
82-year-old Forrest Fenn, called a “Real-Life Indiana Jones,” has spent his life digging for artifacts and treasure all around the world. Fenn is a fascinating enough character already, but his free-for-all treasure hunt has been making headlines. Somewhere out there, “in the mountains north of Santa Fe,” Fenn has buried a small antique chest filled with $1 million worth of artifacts and gold. The clues to the treasure’s location are hidden in Fenn’s memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, the most important one being the following poem:
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.
This poem amuses me because it sounds so much like a Ravenchase clue! There’s a little voice inside me that says “Hey, I write clues like this all the time, I bet I could figure it out!” But the truth is that a good puzzle brain probably won’t get you very far in a hunt like this. My guess is that a skilled outdoorsperson, someone who can recognize where they are and where they’ve been and survive for days or weeks in the wilderness, would have the best chance at reaching the treasure location. And it makes sense that someone would need the same set of skills and interests as Fenn himself to find the treasure.
We all love puzzles and adventures here, and the idea of an honest-to-goodness treasure hunt is certainly appealing, but I think most of us prefer the accessibility of a fictional, designed event. The kind of hunts we design and attend are low-risk, high-reward, and a nice escape from reality. A treasure hunt like Fenn’s would have to become your reality, hunting trips eating up your funds and time. That being said, much like the GAR probably makes a great vacation trip for a puzzle lover, a treasure hunt trip through the mountains might be the perfect vacation for the adventurous outdoorsy-type who might go trailblazing for fun anyway.
If you’d like to hunt vicariously, here is an entertaining blog (which, along with so many other elements in this story, seriously reminds me of Ready Player One) written by one hunter who has made several expeditions in search of the treasure.
And here are a few articles on Fenn and his treasure:
$1 Million in Buried Treasure: Find It! — Huffington Post
A Real-Life Indiana Jones Wants You to Find His Loot — The Daily Beast
Treasure Hunter Forrest Fenn Aims to Share Goods — Examiner.com