Season One, Episode 04 – As I Have Gone Alone In There

Important: Everything Is Stories is created specifically for listening and is best experienced audibly. If you have the means, we highly recommend listening to the audio version. It captures the emotions and emphasis that cannot be conveyed on the written page. Transcripts are produced using a mix of speech recognition software and human transcribers, so there may be some errors. It is advised to refer to the accompanying audio for accurate quotes when using this content in print.

FORREST FENN: Well, when I was nine years old, I found my first arrowhead with my father. He was an arrowhead collector and so was my football kid coach in high school. So we did all that together. And most of the arrowheads you find out in the countryside are broken, half in two. And people say, oh, it’s broken, that’s terrible. But to me, that means a lot to me, that means that projectile was on the end of an arrow. It penetrated a body of a deer, maybe hit a bone and broke right in front of where it was hafted. So that to me, that has, that thing has a history that a whole arrowhead doesn’t have. So I think it’s the wonderment of being out there, of seeing nature and visualizing what used to be.

The Rosetta Stone was buried for 2000 years before somebody found it. And I said in my book, don’t you know that guy’s proud. The guy that carved that thing. Well, it was 1988 when I acquired the treasure chest and started filling it up with things, I paid $25,000 for the treasure chest. And I started to filling it up with 265 gold coins. Most of ’em are American eagles and some double eagles. Mostly double eagles. My goal never changed. My goal was to take that treasure chest out in a very special place and put it there.

I’ve never said that I buried it, but I’ve never said that I didn’t bury it. I just don’t want to give that as a clue and let people go looking for it. If you can find the treasure chest and open that lid for the first time, it’s gonna be the most wonderful thing that you ever saw. I crafted a poem that’s in my book. It has nine clues in it. And, I changed that poem over, over a 15 year period. People read that poem and they say he sat down and wrote that poem in 15 minutes. Well, it took me 15 years. The poem is really not so much written as it is an architectural plan. It’s been crafted, it reads very simple. Here, I see one there. 

PRODUCER: Do you wanna read it? 

FORREST FENN: Yeah. Hand me that book. 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 at 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 will 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, I dare you to. To go get it. If you can find it, you can have it. And nobody knows where it is but me. And if a train runs over me this afternoon, it’ll go to my grave with me.

My name is Forrest Fenn. We’re in my home at, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’ve lived in it since 1988 and, I think it’ll be my last abode that I’ll enjoy. The Santa Fe Trail runs about 50 feet from my library window, and I have a, an old 1880 Army ammunition wagon, sitting right in the middle of the Santa Fe trail. It goes right through my pond and , I’m very happy in where I am. Santa Fe is a wonderful place to live, and I’ll be 83 in two weeks.

I’m going out at the top of my game. You know, some people are collectors and some people are not. My wife is not a collector, but I collected everything. I used to catch, collect match folders and, beer steins and I don’t know what it is, but if you have an old photograph of your mother, what makes you like that photograph? Antiques, there’s the mystery of it, the unknown that plays on your mind. The mystery of where they were and who made ’em and what they did. And , you can conjure back anything you want to about that. It is the thrill of discovery. The thrill of the chase. On we go, the virtue lies in the journey, not the prize. And I believe that.

MARK HOWARD: There’s a lot of people that really enjoy the idea of a treasure. Just like I enjoy the idea of it. From my perspective, of course, I’m a goldsmith and having 20 pounds of gold to work with, that’s my palette. That’s what I enjoy and that’s what I do. So that would be like extreme freedom for me. From $1,300 an ounce gold, which is what I have to pay today. My name is Mark Howard. I’m, we’re here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, or outside thereof , this is in my house.

And as far as the treasure goes, I’m going to probably look again, although the past two times, because it’s whipped me, I’ve said to my wife, you know, maybe I shouldn’t go again. And it only takes me a couple of weeks to say, you know, I think I gotta go again. I like the treasure hunt. It’s like when we were kids, like Treasure Island and all the stories that you read when you were a kid and you thought, God, I just love to go out and do something like that.

And this kind of fed into that. And I said, okay. I was what, 57? I’m gonna be 60. I said, if I’m gonna do this kind of thing, I better do it now. There’s some historical coins in there, there’s some historical artifacts in there. All those interest me too. I really love, antique stuff and it, one of the things I really want is that damn box. I really want that box because, and this is from like 1150 AD. 

FORREST FENN: The box is a beautiful cast bronze box that I’ve been told was 11th or 12th century. And it’s 10 inches by 10 inches and five inches deep and weighs 42 pounds. It, the gold is what makes it heavy. 265 gold coins. Some pre-Columbian gold figures that are 15 or 1800 years old. There’s a wonderful , necklace in there. Made of Sinew and Tiarona Cultures with carved Jade figures and Carnalian and Quartz Crystal carved figures. It’s wonderful. 2000 years old and it’s worth looking for. I put a little bracelet in there that I won in a pool game with a guy that it’s the cheapest thing in there.

It’s probably worth, well, all the notoriety it’s had now, it’s probably worth 750 bucks. It was worth 250 when I put it in the treasure. You can’t just go out and buy a bunch of gold nuggets. There are hundreds and hundreds of gold nuggets in that treasure chest. There’s a little jar of gold dust from Alaska. I couldn’t put a Porsche in the box or I’d have done that. I was limited by so many cubic inches in that treasure chest.

MARK HOWARD: He often says, if it takes 2000 years for somebody to find it, that’s just fine by him. I don’t, it’s not fine by me. But that’s okay. I think I’ve only been out of maybe 20 times. Started here in Northern New Mexico and at one point I went as far as Yellowstone. Then, I went into Colorado and I’m still kind of bouncing around looking for the treasure. Almost anybody that found it, with the exception of the people that are crazy, would probably let him know.

I certainly would. My idea is to put Jim Weatherall’s bracelet on and walk up to his house. And I can knock on the door and he’d know immediately and I wouldn’t have to say a thing and he wouldn’t have to say a thing. And that way he wouldn’t ever have to say a thing to anybody else either. But that’s, you know, it’s a daydream. 

FORREST FENN: There’s something that, I don’t know, whether’s in the treasure test or not. It was a crazy idea, but going back to the question that you asked earlier, did I want to know if somebody found a treasure test? So I said, yeah, I do. One reason is so, people won’t be spending all their money and looking for something that’s isn’t there anymore. So I put an IOU, I wrote it out, an IOU take this IOU to the to my bank in Santa Fe and collect a hundred thousand dollars. I figured for a hundred thousand dollars the guy that found a treasure chest would not want to keep it secret anymore.

So now the IRS is getting the act and everybody knows that, if somebody finds it a thousand years from now, my bank won’t be there and there’ll be no money in the account, even if they did. So I think I took, I think I took that IOU out. But I don’t remember whether I did or not. It’s in there in spirit. There are two gold nuggets in that treasure chest that weigh more than a Troy pound a piece. I used to take ’em out and hand them to people that almost drop ’em because they’re so heavy. I go on the Today Show,  I’ve been on five times, 

AUDIO CLIP: talked you into somehow giving us another clue this morning. Well, I’m not gonna put an X on a map for you. 

FORREST FENN: And I think we’ll do it maybe another. And, and I give clues. The last clue I gave them was that it’s not in Utah or Idaho. But that’s not gonna lead you to the treasure test. 

AUDIO CLIP: The clue is the treasure is higher than seven than 5,000 feet above sea level. The treasure is higher than 5,000 feet above sea level. 

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: I think it’s in New Mexico now. The issue was it buried? And we’d finally got Forrest to admit that, no, it’s hidden. So it’s quite, possible. It’s not buried, just simply hidden. My name is Michael McGarrity. I’m a novelist. We’re in Cathedral Park, which is next to the Basilica A block from the Santa Fe, famous Santa Fe Plaza. Now we like to get together once in a while and have lunch and tell stories.

Socializing usually is something that happens when somebody throws a party or there’s some special event to get folks together. But I mean, this is the stuff that myths are made of, that legends are made of. And we’ve got our share of old mine treasures being hidden on White Sands Missile Range at Victoria Peak or down in the Gila. Now we’ve got the Forest Fenn Treasure. 

FORREST FENN: There have been some people very close to the treasure chest. There have been people that figured out the first couple of clues and walked right past the treasure chest. I think it’s there. I haven’t checked on it, but I’m 99.9% sure it’s there.

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: He has said publicly that people have come within 500 feet of the treasure. Now the question is, is that true? Yeah, I mean, that’s a great, that’s a great teaser, and I would’ve used it myself. Even if the person that got closer to it was five miles away. I still would’ve said that if it’s found, and I asked questions. I asked him this question, if it’s found, how are you gonna know it’s found? Now he’s convinced that he will be contacted, right?

If I found a multimillion dollar treasure, I wouldn’t want the IRS to know about it, would you? No. I’d take it home and I’d sell one gold nugget at a time. He’s a character. What else can I say? I mean, he’s an interesting guy. He has a certain flamboyancy to him.

FORREST FENN: But I put other things in there too. I pulled a couple of hairs outta my head. Because somebody can do a dna, they can do a Carbon 14 test. And there’s another thing that I put in the chest that I’ve not told anybody about. And I’m saving it for the person that finds a treasure chest. And in other words, this is not something that I put together in an afternoon, and I’ve, I spent a lot of time thinking about it. 

MARY WOLF: My name is Mary Wolf. I’m the co-owner of Collected Works Bookstore and Coffee House in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. Forrest Fenn has been a loyal and constant customer of the bookstore since the bookstore opened in 1978. I got to know him best probably in 2010 when he came to the store to talk to Dorothy and myself about, uh, The Thrill of the Chase. The book that he was about to release and publish. 

FORREST FENN: I wrote a book called The Thrill of the Chase and that’s the philosophy that permeates that book. There was a lady writer from Austin asked me, he said, Mr. Fenn, who’s your audience for this book? And I said, my audience has ever redneck in Texas with a pickup truck and 12 kids. He lost his job. And as a thrill for to go out and look for things. I said, that’s my audience. Throw a bed, roll in the back of your truck, get a six-pack and hit the road looking for a fortune.

I mean, it’s the thrill of the chase. That’s what we’re talking about. Take your wife and put all the kids in the back of the truck and head out. 

MARY WOLF: Thrill of the chase has had a huge impact, obviously on our business. Forrest is not tied to the bookstore in any way contractually. However, he gave us this book to sell. He paid for the first printing and then gave us the book because he didn’t want anyone saying that he was making any money from this story, which he hasn’t. , we’ve paid for the last printing and we’ll pay for the future printings. And we are already in the fifth printing coming up.

So we’re going through the books. First of all, he can well afford to hide a treasurer of that value. And what really drives him is to leave a lasting mark on a whole generation of people and recreate a love of adventure and a passion for discovery that he has in his own life. And, I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s a beautiful story. He has an amazing story. 

FORREST FENN: Well, I was born and raised in Temple, Texas, in, in the heart of Texas, 60 miles north of Austin. My father was a school teacher. And when I started first grade, he started in the school that I was started first grade in. He was a math teacher, and the next year they promoted him to be the principal. And then I went to a junior high school and he moved over there and he was my principal again. So I passed all those courses because my father was principal.

I’m not sure for any other reason. I remember the first time I saw TV in Temple, Texas, there was a big truck out behind on, on the city square behind the city hall. And they invited people to come into City Hall and look at a television set was being transmitted from a hundred feet away. It wasn’t a very good picture. And then a couple years later, color TV came along and boy, that’ll never work. And I remember riding back to from Yellowstone to Temple, Texas with my football coach. In 1946, we dropped the atomic bomb Hiroshima. 

AUDIO CLIP: How can we tell when the atomic bomb may explode?

FORREST FENN: And boy, that was the end. The beginning of the end. President Eisenhower told everybody to go out in the backyard and dig a bomb shelter and stock it with food for. And everybody did.

AUDIO CLIP: Always remember the flash of an atomic bomb can come at any time, no matter where you may be.

FORREST FENN: Every generation thinks that theirs will be the last. When the bow and arrow was invented, everybody said, boy, this is the ends coming. And then when the Chinese invented gunpowder, that was the end. 

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: Santa Fe’s a place that attracts unusual people. And Forrest certainly qualifies in that regard. He’s a very unique guy. His record, in the military is just an incredible one. You could call him a war hero. I mean, he, enlisted in the Air Force. I mean, he can tell his own story.

FORREST FENN: I joined the military on the 6th of September, 1950. The Korean War was brand new, and I was gonna win the war. I started out a private and I retired 20 years later, a major. The military and all of their wisdom said that I had an aptitude for electronics and I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was doing. But I went to advanced radar maintenance school for nine months in Biloxi, Mississippi, and I graduated, but I still didn’t know what I was doing. Had a mean sergeant and didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him. So I went down to personnel and I said, how can I get out of this place?

They gave me a bunch of forms to fill out and I could go to jump school, I could volunteer for submarines or I could go to pilot training. And I said, I’ll take the first one you can get for me. And it was pilot training. So they put me in this little machine, it looked like a phone booth turned on its side. And it had a stick in it like an airplane has, and it was on springs. If you turn the thing loose, it falls over and you crashed. So the secret is to hold the airplane steady.

And this guy said I was the best that he ever saw doing that. I mean, it was the simplest thing I’d ever been in, but, and I said, if that’s all there is to it, I’ll take it. And so they accepted me in the pilot training. When you flying fighter airplanes, the old saying is, if a fighter pilot makes a mistake, he doesn’t have to worry about it. But when you get in that airplane all by yourself, it’s a whole different ballgame. There’s nobody there but you. It’ll sober you up. 

AUDIO CLIP: Get sound over there. Okie.

FORREST FENN: I was in Vietnam for a year. I flew 328 combat missions. I was shot down twice and took battle damage a few times. I lost some roommates. Getting shot down was routine. It was, I didn’t get killed, but I had an airplane full of bullets holes and, it was totally destroyed. I did land the thing, but I landed at a little air airport that was used mostly for little Ford air controllers. Little putt-putt airplanes and helicopters. And, I put the tail hook down on this F100 I was flying and I engaged the barrier cause I knew I wasn’t gonna stop otherwise.

But I pulled that thing the wrong way and I, I touched down at about 150 knots, I guess. And I stopped in less than 200 feet. Came away with the idea that we need to learn to leave other people alone.And I think we probably killed 10 civilians, maybe for every military person we killed. Cause we didn’t, we’re dropping bombs and strafing you don’t see the bodies laying there. But it’s a terrible, terrible thing. We need to stop doing that.

When I was 27 years old, no college. I was in a fighter squadron in Bitburg, Germany. They took me down to supply and I checked out an atomic bomb. 61 Megaton atomic bomb. I think the bomb at Hiroshima was something like 17,000 tons. Well, this was 61 kiloton. I owned that thing. It had a crew chief, like an airplane has a crew chief and it’s on a dolly. But the dolly couldn’t move one inch unless I was standing there supervising.

I was all over Europe and South America and all over this country. And, we had a gunnery school outside of Tripoli, Libya, about 35 or 40 miles. And on the weekends I’d get a Jeep and go down in the Sahara Desert where the big tank battles were fought in World War II. And it’s just like they left that country.

You can see skeletons laying there and a German helmet and a burned out tank, and, well, it’s laying around. But I can’t tell you how many times I’d see a hand grenade laying on the ground there with a flint projectile laying next to it. That’s 1500, 2000, 3000 years old. You see wars laying on top of wars? They grew me up in the Air Force. You get a haircut once a week, whether you like it or not. And I could see myself growing in the Air Force. They gave me so much authority, I retired, you have to serve 20 years to get retired pay.

But you have to retire at the end of the month. So it cost me 24 extra days. I served 20 years in 24 days, and I got out to the first minute I was eligible. Had a wife and two daughters, two young daughters. And my retired pay was 800 bucks a month. I could get by with that in 1970. We did all right, but I wanted to do better than that. And I just wanted to go someplace where the world would stop and let me out. And Santa Fe was the only place I knew where I could wear blue jeans, a short sleeved shirt, and hush puppies and make a living. One of my rules was that I didn’t want to do anything.

Where my best customer gave me a hundred dollars, talking about a restaurant business, one hour martinizing. I mean, you could go on and on and on. They’re labor intensive. Primary employee doesn’t show up. He’s drunk or something. I was a collector of Indian things and antiques and that sort of thing, so I wanted to deal in luxuries.

JD NOBLE: I’ve known about him forever. He’s a local legend. He had an amazing gallery here in town and really brought it to the ultimate Santa Fe Gallery. If you had to choose one of the major galleries he his gallery would’ve been the one. JD Noble. I’m part owner of the Hat Smith of Santa Fe. I was looking for some photos of some old Indians that I knew. I knew Forrest had some photos of these old Indians from Taos. And so, called him up one day and said, hey, I would like to, have lunch with you and talk about these old Taos Indians.

So he says, yeah, yeah, I wanna show you something. We had lunch and he says, well, I don’t really have any photos that I can help you with, but I do have this. And he unrolls this flier for the new book on the treasure. And so, man, I am hooked right away. So my trips are no more than usually two days. I’ll go in and camp out. If I can’t find it in two days, I come back and then I go out again. 

FORREST FENN: When you’re dealing with luxuries, you’re normally, you’re dealing with better people. You’re dealing with people that can write a check that won’t bounce. I broke all the rules of custom. I would take anybody’s check for any amount of money and normally I wasn’t interested in looking at a driver’s license and that’s unheard of. I go to New York today and they won’t take my travelers check. Well, I took a check for $375,000 from a man one time and told him I didn’t wanna see his driver’s license. He couldn’t believe it. He couldn’t believe I’d take his check. In 17 years in the business, I had two bad checks. The big one was for 600 bucks. And the guy that wrote me a check for 600 bucks, I knew it.

He did it deliberately thinking he was gonna get by with him. I didn’t say anything to him. I didn’t call him. I didn’t write him a letter, but 30 days later I sued him for 600 bucks, attorney’s fees, interest on a note, and $25,000 punitive damages. He was calling my wife trying to get her to talk me into drop in my lawsuit. I finally settled with him, but I got attorney’s fees, I think was 75 bucks and interest on the note was like, a buck seventy five or something. And I told him, I said, come in my gallery again. I said, I’ll take your check for any amount of money. But I said, next time it’s a million dollars punitive damage. I said, cuz you have a track record.

This guy came in my gallery years ago. He had a little tiny human skull about the size of a big orange. He said, this is Napoleon skull. He said, I want a thousand dollars for it. I said, that can’t be Napoleon Skull. It’s too small. He said, oh, it was a skull when he was a kid. So that’s what you have to put up with when you’re a trader. I almost bought the skull. The story was too good to turn down. I ran my gallery for 17 years and I had my first two shows I didn’t sell anything, not even a book. And I finally decided to add a little bit of money left. I’m gonna spend my money on advertising. When that money’s gone, I’m gonna slam the door and leave this town and go do something else. Probably flipping hamburgers someplace. I tell people to, if you have a daydream, then that’s where your aptitude is. Go do that.

MARK HOWARD: I think what people need to know is if they know of Forrest Fenn, then they know that he’s a historian and, ethnographer, an archeologist, an anthropologist. I think part of it is the, one of the main parts of it is liken to match wits with Forrest. He’s very intelligent, he’s very logical, he’s very creative, and he is very crafty. I had many of the misconceptions that everybody else starts out with misconceptions by you have a certain perspective, and when you read this book, it’s from your perspective that you look at whatever clues are there and then try to find this treasure.

But you can’t look at it from your perspective. You have to divorce yourself from that and look at it from a perspective of Forrest Fenn. So first you have to know the man. You have to read the book. And then I read every book that he mentioned in the book, including things I hadn’t read in years, like Catch 22 and The Great Gatsby. And I looked at each one of them trying to say, okay, is there a clue in each one of these books as well? 

MARY WOLF: If you know Forrest, then you know that, primarily he’s an adventurer and a a great explorer of life and a great collector of things. And the Thrill of the Chase really sums up what his whole life has been about. It’s been about pursuing, the hard to reach, the going places where other people don’t go, obtaining things that other people aren’t able to obtain, and doing it in a really loving and careful way. And, I think that the treasure is just indicative of how Forest thinks, and he has obviously one of the most amazing personal art collections in the United States. So he was going to leave a legacy behind anyway, but this speaks to his larger desire to leave a legacy for the world.

FORREST FENN: People think I did this for my legacy and when you’re dead, legacy’s not worth much to you when you’re dead. So that was never a cons consideration of mine, really. I don’t care if anybody remembers me after I’m gone. You don’t have to acknowledge me while I’m alive, as far as I’m concerned. 

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: I used that word with him legacy, and he kind of gave me this strange look like, no,  it’s not about legacy. I’m just having fun. And I said, oh, wait a minute, Forrest come on. There’s a little bit of the legacy thing, leaving something behind. I mean, this is of legendary proportion. That’s what legacy means. Let’s talk about it from that standpoint. I mean, taking a beautiful antique bronze box and filling it with jewels and coins and gold and nuggets and burying it and writing a poem so that people can go and find it. If that’s not about legacy, tell me what it is.

PRODUCER: When did you find out you had cancer? 

FORREST FENN: I learned I had cancer in 1988. I had a small pain in my left groin, and it persisted it persisted for a, a number of months. So I was talking to a doc, a doctor at a party one day. He says, we ought to go over and check it out. So the first time I knew I was in trouble, the nurse, they gave me some stuff to drink and they were looking at my kidneys on this machine. The nurse says, hey girls, come over here and look at this. And I had a dead kidney. And my doctor said, well, normally just because your kidney is not working is not reason enough to take it out.

But since you have a pain, let’s take it out. And I said, what are the chances of being cancer. He said 5%. One hour operation turned into five, and he gave me a 20% chance of living three years. I was standing right here in my office with Ralph Lauren one time. He was a friend and a client, and I had something that he wanted and I told him I didn’t wanna sell it. He said, you got so many of ’em. He says, you can’t take it with you. And without thinking. I said to him, I said, well, if I can’t take it with me, then I’m not going. And that night I started thinking about it and, I had a 20% chance to live. That’s not too good.

My father called me on the phone one night. He had been, he had pancreas cancer. They gave him six months to live. And 18 months later, he called me on the phone and said that he was gonna take 50 sleeping pills that night. I had an airplane. I said, I’ll be there first thing in the morning. He said, that’s too late. And it was, and I respected him for because he did it on his own terms. Why do you have to do it on somebody else’s terms all the time? So I decided to, if I was gonna die, and the odds certainly were said that I was going to, then I would appreciated what my father did.

And, the last thing I want to do is die in a hospital bed. I said in my book, a hospital bed gives you temporary postponement and you’re miserable the whole time. The poem originally said, leave, take the chest and leave my bones alone. I ruined my original story because I got, well. When I’d hide this a treasure’s chest full of wonderful things and let somebody else have the same thrill that I’ve had all of these years for 70 years, 75 years. The gold in this treasure chest weighs 20.2 Troy pounds. It’s full of emeralds and diamonds and sapphires, and 200 and something rubies. When I hid the treasure chest, walking back to my car had this strange sensation. I said, I asked myself out loud. I said, Forrest, did you really do that?

And I started laughing at myself out loud. There was nobody around. But in the back of my mind, I told myself, if I’m sorry, later, I can go back and get it. But then the more I thought about it and it started evolving in my mind, I became really proud of myself. Once in a while you do something that you’re really proud of. That happened. That hasn’t happened to me too many times, but I was really glad that I hid that treasure chest. My wife doesn’t know within 18 months of when I hid the treasure chest, but the clues are there. They’re not easy to follow, but certainly not impossible. 

MARY WOLF: But I have no doubt that it’s out there. I know that some people think that there’s no way that he could have done this or would’ve done this, and I think that people who believe that don’t understand What drives Forrest? He really is driven by wanting kids to have the same sort of experiences today that he had growing up. Even though they’re growing up in a very different world. And so he really wants kids to get out and bond with their families and go out and explore nature and and get out there and experience the thrill of the chase.

FORREST FENN: We have a problem in this country with our youth today. We’re obese graffiti, drive-by shootings, disrespect, and the teenagers today are gonna be our senators and presidents in the future. So what are we doing? To prepare those people, and I’ve got to blame the churches. I blame school teachers. I certainly blame archeologists who have a wonderful thing to offer, but they’re full of jargon.

And everybody has their thing going and we’re mostly oblivious of the problems. There’s something that, that somebody else sees, but it’s not my problem. That’s the attitude today, and I think that’s a terrible attitude. So in, in a very small way, I was hoping to get kids off the couch, outta the game rooms and away from their texting machines and out to smell the sunshine and see what’s going on in the countryside. 

JD NOBLE: I think that’s Forrest’s whole intention. Get their kids, take them out and show ’em the outdoors and have an adventure. It doesn’t matter if you find it. I’ve had some amazing times out in the mountains just looking for it. 

MARY WOLF: We have heard numerous times, this is the first time we’ve taken a family vacation. All of us. This is the first time that we’ve all gone somewhere and spent this much time together. And we hear that from the kids too. Like, this is the first time we’ve ever gone anywhere with mom and dad and done what mom and dad are doing.

And that’s really powerful and Forrest loves to hear those stories. I mean, frankly, there’s just as much chance of a six year old from Kansas finding it. As you know, there is somebody in Santa Fe who’s been dedicating their months to figuring out the puzzle. I mean, if they wander across it, they will find it.

FORREST FENN: Again, let me say that I’m not thinking about something, let’s go do it this afternoon, I’m thinking about a thousand years from now. Nothing has happened that, that was not predictable. I’ve called 9-1-1 3 times. They arrested a guy at my gate, put him in handcuffs last week, took him off to the to the jail. But I’ve had death threats. When you look at politicians, they get death threats every day. 

MARK HOWARD: And you can’t guess what these people are gonna do And people get in their head, it’s my treasure, I deserve it. I’m going to go get it. And that can be a little, little scary. 

FORREST FENN: So I’ll be 83 years old on the 22nd of this month, and I told a guy the other day, if torture and death are the only two things you can threaten me with, you’re in trouble. I’ve been down the road a few miles and I don’t wanna leave my wife with all of these things. The vultures would circle this house and so I’m selling some things now. I’m not tearing down my walls, but, things that’ll land down. I’m just trying to ease the pain for my heirs.

I think over spring break in Santa Fe, there were about 6,500 people in Santa Fe related to the treasure chest. And this summer, before the summer is over,i’ve spent some time estimating, I think there’d be 40,000 people will have been looking for the treasure chest in New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming. 

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: On the one hand, let’s give him an award for increasing tourism in the community. Right. I was walking in a shopping center, just after the book came out and there was this huge four by four extended cab Dodge 350 Ram Charger and in the back was a four wheel drive all terrain vehicle. And this big Texan gets out and it was a Texan cause he had license plates from Texas. He says, you tell me how to find Forrest Fenn. I’m looking for Forrest Fenn. I’m here to look for that treasure. 

MARY WOLF: We have met people from probably four continents and 10 countries who have come here. And we have met families, older people, young people, college kids who’ve gotten together. People who’ve started teams working on the puzzle, crowdsourcing solutions to the puzzle. And then sending delegates out here to look, 

MARK HOWARD: I run into the people who’ve told me they’ve spent their life savings coming out here, literally coming from Florida. One guy came, spent at least $12,000 on airfare. That was his life savings. A lady come in from Mississippi, she was an old client, and she said, well, when I find Forrest’s treasure, And she’s 40 pounds overweight, five years older than me, and she’s rich. Okay? And I said, well, you go, girl, what the hell?

FORREST FENN: I’m right at 22,000 emails from people related to the treasure chest. They tell me where they are and where they’re going, and want to know if they’re hot or cold. Thousands of emails from people that thank me for getting them out of the house. I had a man send me an email and said, my brother, I had not spoken to my brother for 12 years. He called me on the phone and said, let’s go look for the treasure chest. And so they’re connected again. I see a lot of that kind of thing. 

PRODUCER: That’s great. 

FORREST FENN: That’s very rewarding. It’s a byproduct of something that I did that is, I’m the big winner in this thing because I feel a sense of satisfaction.

MARY WOLF: The best one that I heard was a gentleman who said that if he found the treasure, he would give the bracelet back to Forrest and then he was gonna re hide the treasure somewhere else. And write his own book and just kind of keep it going because he was having so much fun looking for it. And he’d been looking for it for six months and he kind of wanted to find it. But he kind of didn’t want that to end, so.

MARK HOWARD: He come to my shop. I’ve had, have the guy that I mentioned from Florida, came to my shop. He brought me a detailed map, laid out on a piece of cardboard, told me what he was thinking. And said, will you go get this for me? And split the treasure with me. And I said, look, that’s, that’s not my thing. I know where I want to go. And he got offended and left. 

JD NOBLE: I really kind of wonder if some people have found it. My last adventure out, somebody had beat me to it, to the spot. I had been there once before, but I was unprepared and I came back and, waited for the weather to get warm and went back and somebody had left a message that they had been there, already.

Done in pink chalk with a big X on a rock and said, it is not here. I think it’s a diversion cuz I still want to go back to there cuz there’s many, many, I can’t tell you where it’s at. People somebody else already figured it out too, so we were. Whoever it was, we were both thinking and putting the clues and that’s just, it is interpreting the clues, which are so vague

FORREST FENN: I’ve given clues to everybody. I’ve never given a clue to an individual. The first clue that I gave that wasn’t in my poem cause , I made this guy mad and he demanded another clue. And I said, okay, the treasure chest is hidden more than 300 miles west of Toledo. I don’t think he knew that I was pulling his leg. There was a guy out here someplace, dug a hole 18 inches deep and nine inches wide, and they arrested him.

SAMPLE: The charges were digging near a descanso, looking for Forrest Fenn’s box of gold and jewels. 

FORREST FENN: Please tell me. What’s going on here? Nine inches wide and 18 inches deep. And they arrested the, they were all over the paper. The, according the police officer, they were gonna prosecute this guy. 

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: There are people saying, oh, wait, wait, wait. He’s off sending these people off to trample our wilderness. Right? What wilderness? Come on. Not the only real wilderness we have most people can’t get to, and that’s up in the Pecos, which recently burned. Most of what we have in terms of national forest is not wilderness. But oh no, he’s gonna send people out and they’re gonna dig up plants and disturb the ground and, um, be where they shouldn’t be.

FORREST FENN: No matter what you do, somebody’s not gonna like it. They’re just always disgruntled people. Somebody picks up an arrowhead worth $8 and they stole that from the government. So I guess the government’s gonna come get them and arrest them. And too many PhDs in government. Bureau of Land Management came in and searched my house. Four years ago. Somebody told them that I had taken something out of a cave in Arizona, that was on government land.

Well, it wasn’t on government land, it was private property. But even if everything they said was true, this statute of limitations had run out 47 years ago. So four years passed and got a letter from them that absolved me of everything and that was the end of it. Builds character. I just wonder what I’m gonna do with all this character.

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: And he’s very bright. There’s nothing at all about this man that doesn’t speak to how smart he is. He’s a curious guy. That curiosity has led him to a point in his life where he is extremely well off. Lives a beautiful lifestyle. He likes to tell stories. He likes to confound people. He likes to put little things out there that has folks guessing.

MARK HOWARD: I’m not there to try to pry information out of him. That’s not to say that I don’t look carefully at everything he said to me because he’s that way. There could be something there. But, I don’t ask him any specific questions ever. And he doesn’t volunteer any specific information ever.

So I, it wouldn’t be fair, he’s really interested in this being something that, where the playing field is pretty level for people. But it’s gonna take somebody that’s intelligent who looks at all these, at different aspects. I think to find it, I don’t think anybody’s gonna stumble upon it. 

JD NOBLE: This last spot that I’ve been at, I really feel like it’s there. I’ve already hit Forrest up. He denies it. But he tries to get me to go back to one of my first spots and that’s a diversion, I know 

FORREST FENN: I still have about something like 4,000 arrowheads. And I tell people I’m saving those because after the next war. I’m gonna make a fortune sell in my arrowheads to different armies around the world. Einstein that said, I don’t know what will fight World War III with but World War four is gonna be fought with sticks. And the technology. It’s changing so fast I mean, if your computer is two years old, it’s archaic today. Technology is not gonna help you find that treasure. But your mind and your body and your attitude changes as things change.

MARK HOWARD: It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve been a lot of places I’ve been on top of some mountains. I’ve been in a lot of hot springs and when nobody’s there, that’s great. I just take it all off and throw myself in and wait a while. I’ve had big bighorn sheep right near me, bald eagles fly right over my head. I’ve been up in the mountains of the first snowfall of the year. Which at that point, at that place was September 30th. 

FORREST FENN: The greatest thrill is going by yourself. You don’t know where the edge is unless you go out there and look for it. 

MARK HOWARD: I always bring something back. Generally speaking, it’s something I’ve found along the way that that interests me. An owl Feather, a mineral specimen, an artifact that somebody lost long ago.

PRODUCER: Do you have any advice for the people looking for the treasure without giving away anymore information? 

FORREST FENN: Yeah, I have some advice. Read the book. And then study the poem over and over. Read it over and over, maybe even memorize it. And then go back and read the book again looking for hints that are in the book that are gonna help you with clues that are in the poem. That’s the best advice that I can give. You have to find out. You have to learn the where the first clue is. They get pro progressively easier after you discover where the first clue is. 

MARY WOLF: Forrest has given some good advice. I mean, Forrest has told people to enjoy themselves but not get into danger. Don’t get into trouble. Don’t go places that a 79 year old man couldn’t get to carrying a 42 pound box. But then again, you haven’t seen Forrest. He might not be your average 79 year old man. 

MARK HOWARD: One thing I need to tell people who , think they’re gonna go and do this, you better be in shape. If you think that this guy at 79 was a pushover, you got another thing coming.

JD NOBLE: You were asking me earlier about the reason. I was at a point in my life where I was ready for some adventure and, this was just perfect.

MARK HOWARD: I mean, I believe I know where it is. I just haven’t found the blaze. And that’s probably the gonna be the toughest part. 

MARY WOLF: I’ve seen a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been out there looking. And while a couple of times I thought, oh yeah, I got it, I know exactly where it is, and went there to look. When I came back empty handed, I didn’t feel disappointed, somehow. I came away with just more excitement about, going out again. 

MICHAEL MCGARRITY: Well, Forrest contends that his real mission in life when he wrote this book was to get people up and off the couch and out doing something in the wild, right? And I just roll my eyes, come on.But he sticks to it. He sticks to the story.

MARY WOLF: He is passionate about adventure, and he’s passionate about sharing that love of adventure and treasure seeking with, with other people. An American archetype, if you will.

FORREST FENN: I think the thing that, that I love, as much as anything as that first little arrowhead that I found when I was nine years old. 

PRODUCER: You still have it?

FORREST FENN: I still have it. Yeah, sure. My autobiography is in the treasure chest. I put in a little olive jar, rolled it up, printed at Kinko’s. I have to use a magnifying glass if I wanna read it. The olive jar had a metal lid and metal will rust. It’s tin. And so I dipped it in hot wax to make it airtight and watertight. 10,000 years from now, that autobiography is gonna be just like it is and I put it in there. There’s an old saying you can never go home. How many on, how many encores can a person take? I mean, I’ve played my hand.

PRODUCER: I think we’re good. Thank you, sir. 

FORREST FENN: I don’t feel like I gave you anything that you can use. 

PRODUCER: Oh, I think we got plenty.