For a decade, hundreds of thousands of people have combed the deserts and mountains of the southwest, looking for a treasure of unknown value, hidden by an art collector named Forrest Fenn. Some left jobs and families behind in their quest; a few died during the search.
The quest for Fenn’s treasure was kickstarted by the short clue to the treasure’s whereabouts in a poem he wrote included in his 2010 memoir, The Thrill of the Chase.
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.
Yesterday, Fenn announced that the treasure, worth an estimated $2 million, had at last been found, confirmed, he says, by a man who sent him a photograph of the stash. All Fenn would say was the man was from “back east” and didn’t want to be identified. Fenn promises more information will be released, including the photo, shortly.
The quest for the treasure has been controversial for years. Many allege it never existed and accuse Fenn of responsibility for people quitting jobs or dying in pursuit. Some claim Fenn routinely moved the treasure, complicating finding the thing. Others imagine the treasure was found years ago but Fenn refused to announce it publicly, enjoying the spectacle too much.
Fenn has been sued multiple times by frustrated collectors, arguing that he made misleading statements and caused suffering and harm to those searching for a box full of riches.
A treasure hunter from Chicago, upon learning Fenn’s riches had been found, has filed an injunction in federal court accusing the man who located the treasure of stealing the location from her somehow.
“He stole my solve,” she said, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican. “He followed and cheated me to get the chest.”
Fenn occasionally gave interviews and dropped more clues over the years.
“The ornate, Romanesque box is 10-by-10 inches and weighs about 40 pounds when loaded,” NPR’s John Burnett said in 2016. “Fenn has only revealed that it is hidden in the Rocky Mountains, somewhere between Santa Fe and the Canadian border at an elevation above 5,000 feet. It’s not in a mine, a graveyard or near a structure.”
Fenn also made clear that the location didn’t require any special technical ability or superhuman fitness to reach, pointing out that he hid the box when he was 80 years old.
On his website announcing the find, Fenn said:
“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago. I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot. I congratulate the thousands of people who participated in the search and hope they will continue to be drawn by the promise of other discoveries. So the search is over. Look for more information and photos in the coming days.”
Photo: Andrew Preble