It’s not everyday that a prize is offered randomly to intrepid explorers. However, this seems to have been the case for one recent millionaire. The man, so-called Forrest Fenn, decided to (at least as far as we know) bury away two million dollars in cash for whomever might be able to find it. The treasure, however, has yet to be claimed.

a hoard of money. Concept Economics, Financea hoard of money. Concept Economics, Finance
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The man was a renowned author whose fame is now in part due to his stunt. People didn’t know whether the treasure was a hoax or a reality. Still, many ponder whether the buried treasure actually exists. Through relentless searching, some people might have new clues as to where this treasure might be found.

Forrest Fenn

Forrest Fenn, the man who started it all, was definitely idiosyncratic. Having started his career as an author, the man eventually moved on to become an “amateur archaeologist,” studying bones and the like just for the thrills. We’re with him on this one. Later in his life, he decided to move to the cozy Sante Fe, New Mexico.


While some might consider the change an odd one, it was exactly what Fenn was looking for — a sort of quirky and adventurous solitude. Some people find this sort of thing in places like Montana. Fenn chose Sante Fe. Once he moved there, he opened up an art gallery showcasing many of the collectibles he had gathered over the years.

The Fenn gallery

The number of items — regalia, trinkets, and the like — that Fenn had gathered were enough to make the most prodigious art collector balk. His collection was so renowned that he sold materials to some of the most well-known names in Hollywood. To put it lightly, he was kind of a big name. People took him seriously as a collector and dealer.

Arrowheads found in Northeast LouisianaArrowheads found in Northeast Louisiana
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Because of the value of all he had collected (and the subsequent fame that followed), Fenn had made millions selling off his wears. His trade was a lucrative business, and the items he had well-sought. This wealth would continue to mass as he pursued his passion for collecting. This would ultimately culminate in what would be his treasure.

A turn of events

Something ultimately did shift in Fenn’s life. This change was that he diagnosed with kidney cancer. While he was eventually cured of the cancer, many say that this diagnosis triggered him to begin thinking about his legacy. While you would think a man with as sterling a reputation as Fenn wouldn’t be worried about such a thing, he was.

The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs found on the left and right sides of the body in vertebrates.The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs found on the left and right sides of the body in vertebrates.
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This is where the treasure begins to take shape. The story goes that a treasure chest was buried with around two million dollars in it. The antic was enough for Fenn to think that his name would carry onto successive generations. They would look for the treasure, and all the while remember his name. This is where he left us off.

Where did he choose to bury the treasure?

While ambiguity to the chest’s whereabouts abounds, Fenn claims that he hid the thing — an ancient chest like that you might see in one of the many Pirates of the Carribean movies — in the Rocky Mountains. Stretching from Canada in the north to Colorado, Wyoming, and even New Mexico in the south, the Rocky Mountains are a large territory to scour for treasure.


Still, however, the first clue was laid and people would bristle. What Fenn had claimed to bury in the chest wasn’t just any cash prize, however. As expected of a collector, he chose to put some of his most prized trinkets in there — golden rings, medallions, etc. How he was able to part ways with the best of his collection we don’t understand.

A poem as a clue?

How people piece together the clues to this treasure hunt is uncertain. However, some claim that in the back of one of Fenn’s books lie a poem — and in this poem a handful of clues. These clues, people suspect, as likely to lead one to the treasure’s whereabouts — or, at least to another set of clues that might help out.


While the poem could be read to hint at a treasure (it most certainly sounds that way), many might still feel skepticism at the actual burial. Did he bury the treasure, which consisted of some of his finest collectables, or was this all a scam implemented to get some attention. While the latter claim might be a little insulting, it is definitely worth considering.

The chest

In the poem, nearer to the end, Fenn mentions the chest explicitly. Prior to its mention, he gives various clues that might offer a geographic layout of the surrounding rocky terrain. While, again, it is very unclear as to whether this poem was meant to serve as a clue or misdirection, the former interpretation is definitely compelling.


And this is why, in fact, so many have embarked on the journey to try and find the thing. So, ultimately, he set abound a journey to which many wannabe “treasure hunters” could not resist. And so began what some might consider one of the most adventurous and well-known hunts for gold ever to have grown from one man’s wishes.

Working through the clues

Some of the clues, according to some, have been solved. While there are around nine clues or so that people have agreed are at least clues to a location, many think to have solved the first handful. These clues — those about things like the mountain pass and valleys in which the chest may have been hauled (how did he haul it?) are clear as day.

a treasure chest over a mapa treasure chest over a map

Some people claim to have gotten within 250 feet of the gold. However, if the gold has never been found, how would you know you were within 250 feet? These nonsensical claims aside, many feel as if, based off of Fenn’s description of the canyons and rocks of the mountains, that they were at least close to where the treasure might be buried.

A cult following

Many people have tried to band their “expertise” together to try and find out more details about these clues. However, each of these people are essentially flying blind. Because the clues, however ever explicit they might appear at first glance, are ambiguous and could describe numerous different mountain ranges.


Mountain ranges, after all, can look very similar. But despite this potentially ruffling fact, many claim with exasperated glee that they are steadfastly approaching the treasure’s bounty. While it’s difficult to know without people actually finding the thing, people are certainly excited. But where they’ve taken thus far hasn’t been to the treasure.

The collective

Those interested in finding the treasure aren’t necessarily those you would expect (or maybe they are). They are a collective group of humans with varying places in the word. Some of them were adventurous prior to their search, others were not. Either way, they were all bound by the same tantalizing fantasy of finding some buried treasure.


One wonders how much of their resources these people have pooled together in an attempt to find this treasure. The task involves travel, time invested into research, and all sorts of other odds and ends that subtract from time you could spend on other things. To be sure, the task of becoming a treasure-hunter is by no means a simple task.


The treasure, or so people think, was actually buried in Wyoming. While the rocky mountains extend deep into the state (with a wide spread), people seem to think they can find the chest. And the tenacity with which they do so it something to behold. Once they grasp onto the notion, there is not a lot of budging.


Even a duo of journalists for Vox were conscripted into the enthusiasm. Having researched those who scour google maps and the like looking for clues as to the layout of the treasure’s surrounding terrain, they thought they might give it their own shot. But the difficulties they would face were already familiar to those who have tried before them. And these problems were many.

Maps or misdirection

Online, people have tried to craft maps of what some of the best places to look might be. These maps show the topography of different regions, the hydrology, and many other factors that might help lead those in the right direction. However, are these guiding people in the right direction or merely spreading misdirection? To be sure, somebody would have to actually find the treasure.


Using clues as clear and precise as “the treasure is wet,” the intrepid hunters were able to narrow down much of the Rocky Mountains to a slightly smaller range. However, this by no means helps them to the point of solving. As with any good treasure hunt, nine clues and an entire mountain range is not going to get you very far.

Theories abound

Many people, having each tried their hand at cracking the impregnable code, have fathomed theories that might help explain the clues left by Fenn in that historic poem. One of these clues is that the chest lies where the warm water halts. While this could mean something like the far corner of the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, it’s likely something more discrete.


What people actually think this means is the Fire River Falls — also in Yellowstone National Park. There’s a cave in this area. And within this cave lies a canyon that takes you to another river. From here, people look to what Fenn did as a child. Because he’s been in these regions before, they consider the are area a tantalizing location.


The poem that people have used as the springboard to their search is replete with ambiguities. Phrases like “high water” and “heavy load” lead people to believe that certain catastrophes like landslides and the like could yield clues that the treasure is nearby. However, these people seem to forget that these phrases could be used to describe a great many things.


While creating a full spreadsheet of possibilities for what these ambiguous phrases may mean is certainly helpful, it’s likely not going to help any one person. The list must be systematically checked, checked, and then checked again. But even then, there will be so many other possible places in which this chest could lie. But just how far could these words and phrases get these hunters?

10,000 years

The legacy of the treasure is something that Fenn certainly wanted to endure. Given the loose clues as to the chest’s whereabouts — and the large territory in which it could be found — it is very unlikely that someone will find it within the next few years. Rather, it’ll likely be found once Fenn has long since passed away.


By this point, the only one likely to find it is something taking refuge from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This person exploring the mountains will be met with gold and regalia that likes of which they have probably never seen. However, how they will get a heavy chest from the presumably difficult-to-reach mountain top eludes me.

Unbelievable claims

Rumors have spread through the online community that someone has gotten within 200 feet of the treasure. We need to take a moment to unpack this claim. On its face (in fact, everyway you look at), this claim is absurd. If someone had gotten within 200 feet of the chest, there is no way on planet Earth (especially considering the fervor these people hold) the person would not return to take the chest.


Moreover, if they actually didn’t see the chest, then they have no way of knowing that they were within 200 feet — these people are literally just assuming that whatever random spot they landed in is within 200 feet of the chest. So, considering how ridiculous this claim is on literally every front, it’s best that people ignore it. It’s rather unbecoming to buy into something so nonsensical.

More of the unbelievable

Because of the treasure, some have been lead — unprepared — to launch themselves into the mountain wilderness with little preparation. As any intrepid explorer knows, there are certain dos and don’ts that people know when traveling in the high altitudes and in the harsher seasons. These mostly revolve around appropriate attire and preparation.


Needless to say, some of the wannabe treasure hunters had none of this ready. And so, they have had to be rescued from park Rangers and the like numerous times. This is, let’s just say, annoying and reckless. If you’re going to embark into the wilderness looking for treasure, at least do your research first. Otherwise you’ll face some natural selection.

Lost luck, lost minds

Some reporters for Vox tried to find the right location of the spot. Unfortunately, their luck fell as heavily as did everyone else’s. On one trail, for instance, they saw a little cave off about a couple hundred yards. This cave was relatively easy to spot from a well-trafficked trailhead. Many (most, in fact) might consider the attempt to scale the rock leading to the cave a waste of time.


Not so with these intrepid reporters. One of the duo had climbed the rock to see what lies in the cave. As predicted, however, there was absolutely nothing there except the lost self-esteem of the reporter that just ascended. This is what most people should expect, given that the cave was in plain sight off a highly popularized trailhead.

Delusion or grandeur?

Many people think that they have found the exact (or at least relatively exact) location of the chest. They think that their pet theory with the interpretation of the so-called clues they have unearthed have led them precisely to an area near the chest. However, given the fact that none of these explorers has actually found the chest, we can assume none of them are even close.


Moreover, when you hear these people talk about their particular theories, you can tell that bias might pervade their view. But even if every single person currently looking for the buried treasure is wildly incorrect with where they assume the chest to be, cross-checking those who have tried and failed will help to ascertain a better general area for where the chest might be.

One line to rule them all

While everybody and their pet theory will guide them into different directions, there is one line that many think to be the ultimate determiner for where the treasure might be. This line is something many think gives clues to the best general area in which the chest might be buried. This would help to eliminate entire states from the hunt.


However, because of the line’s inherent ambiguity, it is unlikely that any person will find out immediately where this location is. Again, knowing what Fenn meant with such a statement is next to impossible. The best forward would be to assess what other people have thought, whether they found it, and the exact route they took.

A clue

One clue that seems like it could fit one particular line (“the home of Brown”) is the name of a man who worked in a particular ranger station. This ranger’s name was Gary Brown, and he just so happened to work in a ranger station in an area that might (if you squint hard enough) match the poem that Fenn wrote.


The ranger station is shut down, however, so it doesn’t look like any staff might be able to help. This is, though, exactly what you would expect. If this area is the one in which the treasure is buried, there is still a lot of work to be done. Even if it is in this area, there are still hundreds of miles of trails for potential treasure hunters to find.

Real or hoax?

Many people, after having tried and failed to find the chest, have questioned the claims of Fenn. Perhaps, they conclude, he just did the whole thing for some twisted sort of publicity. However, many are reluctant to conclude such things. While this could be because they have optimistic thoughts about actually obtaining the treasure, it might have to do with something else.


Regardless, many still suspect that the man was genuine and the pursuit is well worth it. And, as you might expect, these people will keep driving until their resources are depleted — whether those are cognitive or financial. Hopefully they work together. That really seems to be the best bet in this age of the Internet.

Lost hope

While the Vox reporters, likely working on a small budget gifted by their Vox employers, could not continue their search forever, they had at least put in some work. While their progress is rather diminutive while compared to other intrepid explorers, they put in more data that others could certainly use to their advantage.


However, because they didn’t find much in the short amount of time that they had, the pair gave up and decided to return home. Their thoughts are likely that the treasure does, in fact, reside in the rough and rugged mountains of the Wyoming mountain surrounding Yellowstone National Park. To be sure, though, someone would have to find the treasure first.

What next?

For those who are working to find the treasure, their best bet is to catalogue what they’ve done, write it down, then share it with others with the same goals. While it might not further their immediate progress, it would help somebody advance further. They wouldn’t, for instance, have to travel the same back-and-fourth routes that the other person traveled. This would save time.


Still, however, people are looking to refine their understanding of the poem left by Fenn, the clues that his life, history, and academic predilections naturally give, and combination of these different factors into one coherent picture. Still, for anybody to make progress, vast amounts of forest, mountains, and national parks must be explored.

Fenn and his legacy

So at least at this point, no one has yet solved the legacy of Mr. Fenn. This is, however, I think what he wanted. He wouldn’t want his buried treasure to be found so quickly. That would, after all, be a rather short legacy. Given that he wants something to endure for a long time (that is, in fact, what a “legacy” implies), it’s good that people are struggling.


The only hope now is that the online forums and other groups of people searching for the treasure conspire and work together. Through teamwork, as Fenn probably didn’t really say, much more is possible. In this case, however, I’m sure Fenn would agree. There is so much beautiful nature out there that people would need to explore to find his chest. Let’s hope one day they do.