A Poem and Memoir as Map in a Real Life Treasure Hunt
An old friend and fellow poet gave me a ring today. I hadn’t talked to him in years, and he was only in town for a day, so we squeezed in a few hours to catch up.
The impetus for his sudden road trip from Portland was, he told me in all seriousness, a treasure hunt. He rented a car with a few friends and started driving east because there is an actual stash of gold, jewelry, and other valuable artifacts hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Even better, there is a map in the form of a cryptic poem written by the person who hid the treasure, and that person’s name is Forrest Fenn.
After America’s sparkly b-day splooge finished exploding in the night sky, and our feral children dropped from sheer exhaustion, I found this Daily Beast piece titled If You’re Hunting for Forrest Fenn’s Buried Treasure, Start Here.
You can start there if you want, or you can start with the poem included in a memoir titled The Thrill of the Chase that allegedly alludes to where this rich eccentric stashed at least a million dollars in loot…
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.
That last line about giving title to the gold may present some problems. I found this part from the Daily Beast piece to be interesting (and watch for the bizarre analogy):
The problem in all this is title: who owns the land where Fenn hid the treasure? Not Fenn, or so he tells me. He won’t confirm that it’s on federal land—“too big of a clue,” he says—but he feels darn entitled to use such land as he pleases, no matter how sacred ground. “I own the government,” he told me. “I’m a taxpayer.”
Would he dig Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center once stood? He’s not opposed to idea. “Why shouldn’t you go in there and pick up a piece of cement?” he asked me rhetorically. “They took all the bodies out of there.”
But if Fenn hid the chest on government land it could be a felony to remove it, since everything on government land by definition belongs to the country, to all taxpayers, not just a brazen fellow hoping to play finders-keepers. And if Fenn hid the box on private land, well, as Fenn himself will tell you, the owner of the land is the automatic owner of the box. “There’s no place that you can put [the treasure] that under the right circumstances there are not complications,” Fenn told me.
But can you at least assure people they won’t get arrested? Or that they won’t get sued and lose the money? “I’m not assuring people of anything,” Fenn admitted. “I went out there and hide a treasure chest, and they can go get it. That’s it.”
My friend is hoping that’s what his foursome is going to do, go get it. Apparently, according to Fenn himself, a few treasure hunters have been within 500 feet of it.
It’s an intriguing story, and I hope my friend has a good time searching, but is spared the circus and legal wrangling that would inevitably ensue if they find the loot—and I use that word specifically because that may be what some of the treasure is.