Photo Album | Cimarron Canyon Recon | 2013

Cimarron, translated from Spanish to English, means “Wild Place.”

If you’ve been wise, and found the blaze…


Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

Matthew, Ch 2, Vs 7-10,
The New Testament
King James Version of the Bible

I had a dream.

I dreamed I was standing at the edge of a canyon, hydraulically routed down the geology of someplace in the mountains North of Santa Fe. I was on the Western side of the canyon, facing East, the river below flowing North to South. The sun was low, but not near setting in the sky, casting my shadow across the canyon so that it fell upon the far wall. As the sun set and my shadow rose my ephemeral head eventually I had a dream.pointed to a large star shape in the rock on the East wall of the canyon. It was large enough to be seen without aid, and difficult to discern whether it was natural or not.

Anchoring myself with a rope, and a pair of carabiner clipped to a safety belt, I walked to the edge of the canyon and leaned over. I looked quickly down, and could see the faint, cool outline of a trail switching back and forth from the canyon floor to the canyon rim North of my position. About three quarters up the side of the canyon wall one of the ledges on its side stood out from the others. In a depression on the ledge  laid a brown box. The ledge was high enough above the trail that the box could not be seen by anyone walking upon the trail as it continued North from that point.

By that time the sun had set, and dusk had fallen upon the location. I wondered, for just a moment, whether or not the treasure would tolerate one more night alone, cold, undiscovered and uncared for.

I stood back from the canyon edge, untangled myself from the safety belt and anchor rope, hoisted my pack upon my back, and headed for my campsite. I found a grassy spot near my tent, and using my backpack for a pillow, I laid down to admire the stars in the unpolluted sky overhead. The moon not having risen, the Constellations shown almost in neon. I called their names out to them. They did not call out my name to me.

Protected by Orion’s sword, I fell asleep outside my tent and sleeping bag.

And, I had a dream.

Connections, Synchronicity & Segues

Fenn writes like he thinks.

And, he thinks in compact, self-contained packages (CSCPs*), the current one connected to the previous one as much as it is to the following one. Then, as he moves through his line of thought, he builds cross connections. Eventually, each CSCP is virtually connected to all the other CSCPs. As they age, some of them float out to the edge of his cranial universe, far away enough from the center of mental gravity that they escape, never to return. Some hang on near the edge and are modified by it. They become memory anomalies, or as he calls them, “aberrations.”

Sooner or later, when he needs them, he pulls some of the related CSCPs together to form a new, complete thought.

Then, he writes.

The Swiss psychologist, Carl Jung gave the process a name. He called it synchronicity.

Synchronicity is what leaves Fenn’s audiences with a sense of a mind that’s in constant motion. Eclectic, yet organized. Artistic, yet logical. Organic, yet mechanical. Cunning, yet caring. Twisted, yet aligned.

To me, the synchronous manner in which he thinks, then writes, is what leads to what I refer to as “The Fenn Segue.”

(Segue: pronounced seg-way. Definition: to make a transition without interruption from one activity, topic, scene, or part to another.)

I noticed it the first time in my reading of the chapter entitled “First Grade,” subtitled “Lanier School,” beginning on pg 16 of “The Thrill of the Chase.”

It begins, “My father was a teacher at Lanier School…” There’s a photo of his father captioned, “Mr. Fenn, Principal” on the opposite page.

One could assume that this chapter was going to be about his father. And, for the most part, it is.

olivejarkeyIt is, except for the SEGUE about John Charles whatever, who would sometimes “…bring a little jar of green olives to school and wave that thing…” in Fenn’s face. Description of the jar of olives follows. The first time I read the chapter, I was so distracted by the olive jar segue, that I had trouble concentrating while reading the rest of the chapter. Instead of following my eyes reading, my mind was asking itself the same question Fenn asked the readers, “What was that all about anyway?”

Why would you segue out of a perfectly good story, to tell a completely unrelated one?

Synchronicity. It was not unrelated. It was connected. The olive jar, a CSCP that had traversed some distance out into the universe in his mind, was snapped back into his current CSCP of thought. Lanier School? Probably.

(As I am writing this, I recalled a CSCP of A****** Garcia, the overweight, abused bully two grades ahead of me at St. Anne’s Elementary School in Santa Fe, who would seek me out on the playground and beat the crap out of me. On one of my leaves from the service, I was informed he had killed himself in a car accident on I-25 between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. He was drunk. He killed his girlfriend in the process, and left his wife and daughters with almost nothing, except unpleasant memories.)

By the way, the previous paragraph was a classic example of a segue.

I’ll bet some of you had the olive jar kid in your lives too. I’ll bet just reading this elicits the memory of your olive jar kid. Don’t have that kind of memory? Then you were probably the olive jar kid.

That, of course, is not the only Fenn segue in the book. The “horseshoe” segue in “Dancing With the Millennium” on pg 135 is a good example. There are several others. Even the “Treasure” chapter beginning on pg 127 entitled “Gold and More,” subtitled “Somewhere North of Santa Fe,” contains a couple, including the dream about Captain Kidd and Gardiner’s Island. He also, in the same chapter, writes that he placed his 20,000 word autobiography in a glass jar, sealed with wax, into the treasure chest.

I felt like there was something important about the Fenn segues. Upon completing my first reading of the book, I returned to its beginning and made notes of each of the Fenn segues.  I especially noted the mention of the olive jar at the beginning of the book and his mention of the jar containing his autobiography near the end.

Focused on finding the treasure, I didn’t think much about it. In the grand scheme of value…well – his autobiography wasn’t an egg-sized gold nugget. Was it?

I didn’t think much about the jar until one day I heard him talking about his autobiography in the jar.

A jar he sealed with wax.

And, a jar he put in the treasure chest before he hid it.

An olive jar.

Yes. He said it was an olive jar.

They key, I believe, to understanding the Fenn Segue is in the olive jar.

* You won’t find Compact Self Contained Packages (CSCPs) in the literature. I made up the phrase to describe how I think Fenn thinks.

To buy Fenn’s books or not? That is the question.

I recently received a comment from one of my regular contributors, a searcher who puts much thought into his effort. There was a question at the end of his comment. He wrote, “Lately I have kept researching my general area and feel strongly about my approach. I am considering purchasing both [of Fenn’s books,] “The Thrill of the Chase” and “Too Far to Walk” to see what hints jump out to confirm or ruin my area. What say you?”

In a Socratic way, the question stimulated the response I share below:

My Copies of Fenn’s Books

I have purchased both of the books referred to above. I’ve read them both, TTOTC more than once. I also have a copy of Fenn’s book on his San Lazaro pueblo excavation, which I’ve read sporadically, especially when I need something to relax me at bedtime before going to sleep. Not that it’s sleep-inducing, it’s just a comforting read.

The challenge of identifying additional clues or hints in any of his books is made immensely more difficult due to Fenn’s writing style.

He is a natural storyteller. Storytellers naturally embellish. He, by his own admission, takes license with his research, spelling, grammar, punctuation and definition. He makes mistakes, sometimes intentional, sometimes not. He is adorably cunning. He’s intentionally inexact. And, he’s a senior citizen, therefore  his memories aren’t quite as perfect as he would want us to believe.

He wrote his memoir like I would write my memoir, neither of us like Thomas Jefferson wrote his.

As a result, almost everything he writes can be interpreted by someone as a hint or clue that reinforces something they may already want to believe, including their search algorithm. Once a searcher makes a decision that something they have read in one of Fenn’s books supports their particular search algorithm, it naturally becomes part of the algorithm, not only the current one, but future ones as well.

I have fallen prey to it as much as anyone, having convinced myself there is something special about the word “horseshoe” based on one of Fenn’s segues in the book. (Of which I will write more about later.)

I also believe Fenn’s writing style is the primary reason there is so little agreement in the search community about where we imagine he hid his treasure. ChaseChat and Dal Neitzel’s blog, while very useful and informative, have published thousands of posts in which searchers disagree with other searchers solutions, and when they do, cite Fenn’s written or spoken words to support their differing position.

Finally, whenever Fenn is asked whether there are additional hints or clues in the books (independent of the poem), he responds with obfuscation. At the event at Moby Dickens Book Shop in Taos, he said, “There are nine clues in the poem, but if you read the book (TTOTC), there are a couple…there are a couple of good hints and there are a couple of aberrations that live out on the edge.” A couple? Aberrations that live on the edge? What? Either he’s blowing smoke, or we’re all reading way too much into his writing.

So, back to the original question. Would I recommend you buy the books?


I would buy them even if I wasn’t searching for the treasure. I would buy them because they are pretty well written books soulfully composed by a talented storyteller with a great story to tell. I would buy them because they gave me the opportunity to meet him and to have them autographed by him.  I would buy them because they are a pleasant reminder of this period late in my life where I can tell people that “I’m a treasure hunter,” (rather than “retired”) when they asked me what I do for a living.

But mostly, I would buy them because they provide me additional insight to Fenn, the man. And, as I have written in the past, “The key to finding the treasure is in the man. Know the man, and you know the treasure.”

If, in addition, I could give myself a morale boost by identifying some of what he’s written as hints that solidify one or more of my search solutions, then that would be an added benefit.

Buy the books? Yes! You’ll be glad you did.

If you haven’t already, and decide to buy the books, do yourself a favor and call either  Moby Dickens Book Shop in Taos or Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, and order the books from them. They’re small businesses that have been very supportive of Fenn and the search community, and they sell the books at list price. Tell them Toby sent you.

Fenn’s Clues and Hints: Intentional, Accidental or Incidental?

I copied the following lines from the “Cheat Sheet” page on Dal Neitzel’s Blog:

Q: Are there clues in “The Thrill of the Chase?”

Fenn: “Yes, because the poem is in the book.”

Q: Are there clues in “Too Far to Walk?”

Fenn: “Yes, because the map is in the book.”

Q: Are there subtle hints in “TTOTC?”

Fenn: “Yes, if you can recognize them.”

PIC_0080Fenn has also said, “The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker. ”

And, on more than one occasion, Fenn has said that there are hints (he’s careful not to use the word “clues”) sprinkled throughout the book.

He’s also written (in emails), “All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem.

Therefore, I have come to following conclusions:

  1. When Fenn intentionally gives us a clue, it’s…well…bull puckey.
  2. Any other clue or hint to finding the treasure, outside the poem, are accidental or incidental to the written word or the conversation.

Here’s what I mean.

If I go over any of the clues of which Fenn has preceded with any variation of the phrase “I’m going to give you a clue (or hint),” they have no real value. At least to me. I could go on searching, following the clues in the poem, and knowing none of the following would have made a difference to me:

  • It’s not on top of a mountain.
  • It’s below 20,000 feet.
  • It’s above 5,000 feet.
  • It’s not in Idaho, Nevada, Utah or Canada.
  • It’s 300 miles west of Toledo.
  • It’s at least 8.5 miles North of Santa Fe.
  • It’s not in a graveyard
  • It’s not associated with any structure.

…yada, yada, yada.

I believe:

  • There are at least hints, and maybe clues, in everything that Fenn has written or recorded.
  • Those hints and clues were purely accidental or incidental to what he was writing or the conversation he was having at the time.
  • He was surprised to have noticed them or to have them pointed out to him, post hoc.

For, a classic, example, associating the phrase “too far to walk” with the phrase “about 10 miles” in the preface of “Two Far to Walk” was purely accidental. It also, in the grand scheme of things, may be totally meaningless. But, it wasn’t intentional.

I also believe that there are incidental hints or clues in may of the recorded interviews, with value, as long as they are not preceded by the phrase cited above.

I find nothing written or spoken by Fenn in which he has said the equivalent of “I intentionally placed hints (or clues) (in anything) other than the poem.”

So, where does all that leave me?

Here: Fenn hid a treasure someplace in the mountains North of Santa Fe and wrote a poem containing nine clues that, when correctly interpreted, will lead me directly to the treasure.

My Opinion (Revised): The Nine Clues in Fenn’s Treasure Poem

DSCN7514I have, as of about five minutes before starting to write this post, revised my opinion on what are, exactly, the clues in Fenn’s treasure poem. I have revised The Poem page to reflect my new thinking, and I’ve included it in this post as well.

The obvious question is, simply, “Why?”

I spend at least an hour every night reading The Poem, attempting to see it from new angles and discover other meanings. Tonight, for the first time, and for just a moment, I saw The Poem from the same angle an aviator might have seen it. It’s a spatial perspective, rather than temporal.

I saw a set, a group, and a pattern…all previously unseen (by me).

Here’s my new reading of the poem and it’s nine clues: (you can compare it to the older version included at the bottom of this post)

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.

1. Begin it where warm waters halt
2. and take it in the canyon down,
3. not far, but too far to walk.

4. Put in below the home of Brown.
5. From there it’s no place for the meek,
6. the end is ever drawing nigh;

7. there’ll be no paddle up your creek,
8. just heavy loads
9. and water high.

(Note: I have converted the two stanzas containing the nine clues into normal sentences without the capitalization associated with the poetic structure. I’ve limited capitalization to the first word in each complete sentence and the proper noun “Brown.”)

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 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 came to the conclusion, as a result of my research that the first line of the fourth stanza, “If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,” is not a clue. It’s the objective.

Thus, as of this evening, I further concluded that searching for the treasure chest is a complete waste of time.

I’ll bet that caught you off guard!

From now on, I’m searching for the blaze.

This is the previous version:

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.

1. Begin it where warm waters halt
2. and take it in the canyon down,
3. not far, but too far to walk.
4. Put in below the home of Brown.

5. From there it’s no place for the meek,
6. the end is ever drawing nigh;
7. there’ll be no paddle up your creek,

8. 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 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.

In Fenn’s Poem: What Does “it” Mean?

And take it in the canyon down...

And take it in the canyon down…

I am reminded of the 1998 impeachment trial of President William Jefferson Clinton, when in his grand jury testimony he was asked to explain how he responded to his aides asking him if he was having an affair with Monica Lewinski. He told his aides, straight-faced, “There IS nothing going on between us.”

Attempting to explain the above response, Clinton told the grand jury, again, straight faced, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the..if he…if ‘is’ means is and never has been, that is not–that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.”

He confused everyone enough with that answer, that the impeachment failed.

The question for today is: In Fenn’s Poem, what does “it” mean?

(I’ve added the complete definition of the word “it” at the bottom of this post.)

It (the pronoun “it”) is used five times in Fenn’s treasure poem in five different lines:

  1. Begin it where warm waters halt
  2. And take it in the canyon down,
  3. From there it’s no place for the meek,
  4. So why is it that I must go
  5. I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.

The easiest and safest assumption we can make is Fenn used the single syllable word as a substitute for multiple syllable words (or phrases) that would not sustain the rhythm of the poem.

For example,

Begin your journey where warm waters halt
And take the narrow pathway in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

…while more descriptive, has lost all it’s rhythm be the middle of the second line.

Two of the its (of the five) are relatively easy to work out with confidence:

3. From there (the location you find yourself) is no place for the meek,


4. So why is (this point in my life important enough) that I must go
[And leave my trove for all to seek?]

The conundrums are its 1., 2., and 5. But, I feel like the three are intimately related. What makes 1., 2., and 5. so difficult, is that there’s no reference point, before or after them. For the word “it” to be effective as a subject or an object, there has to be a reference before or after. See the examples below in the definition of it at the bottom of this post.

Let’s start with the obvious (at least to me).

1. Begin (your adventure) where warm waters halt
2. And take (your adventure) in the canyon down,

5. I’ve done (my adventure) tired, and now I’m weak.

I have a hard time buying into varying the three, such as:

1. Begin (your hunt for the treasure) where warm waters halt
2. And take (your excitement at being outdoors) in the canyon down,

5. I’ve done (all this writing) tired, and now I’m weak.

I’m not saying that the reference to my and his adventure are correct. You can replace them with any word or phrase you think is appropriate for your search solutions.

But, I AM suggesting that it’s the same word or phrase in all three lines.

it (pronoun)

1. used to refer to a thing previously mentioned or easily identified (a room with two beds in it), referring to an animal or child of unspecified sex (she was holding the baby, cradling it and smiling into its face), referring to a fact or situation previously mentioned, known or happening (stop it, you’re hurting me)

2. used to identify a person (it is me)

3. used in the normal subject position in statements about time, distance or weather (it is half past five)

4. used in the normal subject or object position when a more specific subject or object is given later in the sentence (it is impossible to assess the problem)

5. used to emphasize a following part of a sentence (it is the child who is the victim)

6. the situation or circumstances; things in general (no one can stay here – it’s too dangerous now)

7. exactly what is needed or desired (they thought they were it)

8. informal, sex appeal (he’s still got it) sexual intercourse (they were doing it)

9. informal, denoting a person or thing that is exceptionally fashionable, popular or successful at a particular time (they were Hollywood’s it couple)

10. (in children’s games) the player who has to catch the others

On Postmarks in TTOTC

Postmark Graphic: "The Thrill of the Chase" by Forrest Fenn, pg 22.

Postmark Graphic: “The Thrill of the Chase” by Forrest Fenn, pg 22.

Having spent 10 years of my life with the National Security Agency, it is difficult for me not to look for ciphers of various sorts in everything from company logos to Fenn’s Book. (Logos? Really? I once spent a week with EXXON. Take a good look at it the next time you see it.)

Here is a potential cypher in Fenn’s book I find intriguing. (Although I have yet to make anything of it.)

Counting the Epilogue, Fenn’s book, “The Thrill of the Chase,” which includes a chapter on the story of the treasure he hid, is comprised of 26 chapters. (Coincidentally, the same number of letters in the English alphabet.)

Most of the chapters in the book are preceded by a photograph recorded in, what seems to me, a time contemporary to the subject of the chapter that follows. I say most, because not all of the chapters are preceded by photographs, e.g., pg 20 “No Place for Biddies.”

Of the chapters which are preceded by photographs, 20 of them include a postmark as a graphic device, similar to the one in the attached photo from TTOTC/pg 23.  Several of the postmarks are duplicated on the inside front and back cover of the book.

There are 6 chapters which do not  include a postmark at the beginning, even though some of them include a contemporary photo. They are:

  1. Pg 1 Important Literature
  2. Pg 20 No Place for Biddies
  3. Pg 32 My Spanish Toy Factory
  4. Pg 104 Blue Jeans and Hushpuppies Again
  5. Pg 134 Dancing With the Millennium
  6. Pg 144 Epilog

Of the 20 postmarks, the YEAR of the postmark is illegible on 6, (e.g., pg 46) and there are 6 that are “embellished” with additional information, (e.g., pg 56). (The embellishment on pg 121 is difficult to see without an eye loupe.)

(I’m not going to make a big deal out of 6 of this, 6 of that, and 6 of something else. And, if you comment on it, I won’t approve it.)

The postmark that intrigued me the most, and was the basis for this blog post, is the one on pg 72, preceding the chapter entitled “My War for Me.” (This chapter contains 31 pages of the 146 page book, taking more 20% of the book for itself.)

The postmark reads, SATURDAY 27 DEC and the YEAR is illegible. There is a photo on the same page of the Fenn’s the  date they were married, with the caption, “Our wedding, Dec. 27, 1953,” There were obvious differences in the manner in which the two dates were presented, one making the YEAR illegible, and the other not including the DAY.

That curiosity led me to a where I entered “December 27, 1953” and clicked “Go.”

The response was “December 27, 1953 is the 361st day of the year 1953 in the Gregorian calendar. There are 4 days remaining until the end of this year. The day of the week is Sunday.”

Who gets married on a Sunday?

Apparently, Fenn. I wrote him to ask about it, and he graciously replied that, indeed, he and Peggy were married on a Sunday, according to her mother’s wishes.

So, why “SATURDAY” on the postmark? One of Fenn’s intentional mistakes to see if we noticed?

I entered the information for the 13 other postmarks in which the YEAR was legible.

Not one of the DAYS are correct, according to the DATE and the YEAR.

Could Fenn’s graphic artist have not been interested enough to check? Well…yes. It’s possible.

But even then, you’d think there would be at least one of the postmarks in which the DAY/DATE combination was correct.

My opinion: the placement of the postmarks, the illegibility of some and embellishment of others, and the DAY/DATE errors are intentional.

I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why.

Dress for Success: Footwear

A couple of weeks ago I was someplace in the mountains North of Santa Fe. I was reconning one of my solutions – this one unique in my portfolio because it begins in Colorado and ends in New Mexico. I was hiking up a dry creekbed running up the side of the mountain, scouring ahead and aside of me for any sign of the infamous blaze. About an hour into the trek, and halfway up the climb, I came face-to-face with a couple of fellow trekkers. Early sixties, I’d guess. (I say that like they were older than me, but at 63, they were probably my age.) They were coming back down the wash. The gentleman, I noticed, was favoring his right leg. They were both wearing generic “athletic” shoes. Low cut, and very stylish.

We stopped to talk, and soon discovered we were in the dry wash for the same reason. I having traveled from Albuquerque, they passing through the area in their RV from Nebraska. I had seen the RV parked at a cemetery near the trailhead, although I wasn’t on much of a trail. We talked a little about the thrill of the chase. Their convenience store water bottles were near empty so I offered them a couple of water packets, letting them know I had plenty. They graciously accepted them. I asked the gentleman if we was OK, nodding in the direction of his right leg. The lady said he had twisted his ankle, and he said he was fine. I suggested they be careful on the way down the wash, as the combination of fine sand, stream-polished stones and gravity made for treacherous walking. The three of us, interested in getting on our way, shook hands, and wished one other luck in the hunt.

Gravity puts the entire weight of your body on your ankles and feet. Between them, both right and left, there are hundreds of bones, tendons, muscles and other pieces of connective tissue that independent of one another, are fairly fragile. Multiply this by the effect of walking over rough, unstable, angular, unpredictable ground and you make recipe for, while not quite a disaster, at least the spoiling of what could be a very good day.

(As I’m preparing for each of my recons, getting my gear ready and packing my knapsack, I ask myself the same question: “How would I feel if I read someone else had found the treasure in an area in which I was searching, but I had to return to my SUV because I didn’t bring my (fill in the blank)).

Good boots, for example.

Herman Survivors

Herman Survivors: These boots are made for walking.

These are my Herman Survivors. I love them. They’re tough, comfortable, triple stitched, waterproof, and have a steel plate inside the leather protecting the front of my foot. They have a thick, grippy sole that’s stable in water, and they clean up with a jet spray from my garden hose. I go through a pair about every ninety days. Because of me, not the boots. When I’m trekking I wear them with two socks, an inner silk one to prevent blistering and enable wicking and an outer wool one for comfort, and in the cold, warmth. You can find them in your local Wal Mart for about $60, or you can order them online at

There are more expensive boots. There are more technical boots. There are lighter, more expensive and more technical boots.

But, these boots are mine. And, when I find Fenn’s treasure, I’ll be wearing these boots.

I want to be cremated in them, so I can wear them on the other side. Whatever the heck the other side is, I mean.

If you find yourself someplace in the mountains North of Santa Fe, where you will experience a lot of different, challenging terrain, some of it wet and much of it other than level, make sure you’re wearing a pair of good boots. The kind of boots you can learn to love.

Reserve the damned athletic shoes for your next speed-walk around the mall.