by Connor Robinson
If someone told you there was a small chest hidden in the Rocky Mountains with millions of dollars of treasure inside waiting to be found, would you believe them? The prospect seems far fetched to say the least, yet the treasure exists thanks to an 80 year old man, his vast collection of ancient artifacts, and his love of the outdoors.
His name is Forrest Fenn, and in 1988 he came up with the idea of creating a “treasure hunt” in which anyone could take part. Fenn is an avid collector of fine art and ancient pieces of history, and he used his wealth accumulated over years of collecting to create a treasure chest to hide. The chest contains solid gold and rare collectible coins among other valuable items, with an overall value totaling north of two million dollars.
Despite the idea and construction of the chest taking place nearly 30 years ago, Fenn hid it 22 years later, and people have been searching relentlessly the last seven years it has been concealed in the wilderness. As one could expect, the prospect of finding a large sum of money that’s yours to keep if located will bring many out to search for the loot, but the treasure has gained an almost cult following of those dedicating as much of their time as possible to find the elusive box. Fenn plays into the mystery by giving a cryptic 24 line poem and the occasional brief hint dropped mid-conversation as the only evidence available on which to base your treasure hunt.
Some hints narrow the area significantly, while others are so vague their meaning is disputed. Those dedicated to using maps and math to reduce the area it could be hidden in started with the broadest clue: the box is in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, or New Mexico, and narrowed the search to only 0.084% of the original area based on other clues. The massive reduction in size seems useful, yet the expanse is still 23,310 acres, or the area of over 17,000 football fields. Fenn maintains that the box is hidden in an area an 80 year old could walk to from his car, even while carrying the heavy treasure with him, and says that if the area you suspect it’s hidden in is dangerous, it’s not the correct spot.
Fenn has come under fire from the family members of several people who have died while searching, and he expressed remorse, yet maintained that if they had followed his first rule of not endangering themselves while probing for the lost riches, they wouldn’t have lost their lives. On a happier note, many of those who came to the area around Yellowstone National Park looking for the physical treasure say that instead they left with the treasure provided by the natural beauty of the area. Expansive views of mountains, immense geological features, and hundreds of pristine lakes and rivers are the perfect sights to see on a trip to clear your mind.
If you and your friends feel like they need some R&R after a stressful school year, just plan a trip out West in search of Fenn’s gold. You’ll probably return refreshed and happy, but you could be the one returning with college paid for and a cool million in the bank. It all starts with solving one simple 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.