X Marks the Spot

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.

If this poem does not seem familiar to you don’t be alarmed. Odds are you are in the majority of other people that know nothing about it. It wasn’t written by a classic author. It does not have historical significance. On its face, it is kind of hard to tell what the poem is really about.

But to the people who have read it and took it to heart, it likely has become their world. This poem caused people to quit their jobs, don their hiking gear and launch into a life changing quest to find a million dollar treasure. That’s right, the poem is a map to a treasure that was hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountain range by a man named Forrest Fenn.

10 years ago, Fenn hid a treasure valued somewhere between $1-3 million. In 2010, he published his book The Thrill of the Chase. Within this book he wrote the poem that I read earlier. This was the supposed treasure map that would lead someone to a 20lb bronze chest full of gold and riches.

It was just reported in June of 2020 that his treasure had been found. Thousands sighed a collective groan. Some had ruined their lives in search of instant wealth. Some found themselves while in isolation and discovered something greater than a treasure. 5 paid the ultimate price and lost their lives; alone in the wilderness with no hope of help.

Controversy surrounds this modern day adventure tale. The simple fact that people died purely as a result of this treasure hunt is a real issue for most. But there are more subtle considerations; What was his reasoning for hiding what is by any standard a large sum of money in the middle of nowhere and telling people “go find it”. Was it all an elaborate advertising ploy? And more importantly, was there ever a treasure to begin with?

I had the pleasure to talk about the treasure hunt with Jessica. She altered her lifelong plans to hike the Pacific Crest Trail after randomly overhearing the treasure story on a camping trip with her son. Her story is fun and worth listening to. While she ultimately did not find the treasure, I feel that she found something much more valuable. Click the link to listen to our full conversation.

After our conversation, little to no information has been released regarding the treasure. It has been confirmed that it was hidden somewhere in the Yellowstone region and that an East Coast man found the treasure.

Fenn is an interesting (albeit controversial) individual. Fenn was a Vietnam vet that retired and opened an art gallery in New Mexico, The Old Sante Fe Trading Co. He was accused of selling forgeries in the gallery and those accusations led to an FBI raid on his house in 2009 during an artifact looting investigation. 2 people targeted in the raid committed suicide

He originally planned to do this the treasure hunt in 1988 when he was diagnosed with cancer and given a 20% survival chance. He beat the long odds and delayed the treasure hunt until 2010.

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