Subtle Clues in Forrest Fenn’s The Thrill of the Chase

YuleMarbleTous[1]After working on any treasure hunt for a while, it’s nice to go back to the beginning and take a fresh look at things again.  I’ve done this recently with the Forrest Fenn’s treasure hunt.  I’ll call the overview I did- spring cleaning of the Fenn treasure mind- since spring is just around the corner and I was able to toss quite a few details and various ideas that I had collected over the months away.

In doing this, I was able to consider things without being bogged down by superfluous clutter.  One of the items I considered again from anew was the sentence, ‘There are also subtle clues sprinkled in the stories.’  This is written right after the Forrest Fenn’s poem given in The Thrill of the Chase book.

In early interviews, and even now, Forrest continues to advise us to read the poem, read the book, and then read the poem again.  And to do this several times.  It seems Forrest must feel these ‘subtle clues sprinkled in the stories’ will be helpful for understanding his poem.  He actually does state this in a radio show episode on As It Happens.

So I wondered, what could these subtle clues be or how might they be exactly given or found?  How could they help?  Is Forrest known to have said anything on this?  One statement by Forrest comes to mind.  It’s as follows:

“All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem. The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker.”

Okay, so the fact that he says they are not ‘deliberately placed’ seems to provide a little more information.  For me, this might help me in further spring cleaning out one definition for the word ‘Subtle’; the one being ‘clever and crafty.’  If the ‘subtle clues’ were ‘clever or crafty clues’, I would consider them to be ‘deliberate’ too.

For instance, maybe I can toss out the following thought I had once too.  In the chapter entitled, My War for Me, page 76, Forrest writes, ‘a curiosity to wonder about, like the Lincoln Memorial.’  Well, this caused me to be curious about the Lincoln Memorial.  In doing research, I found it interesting the exterior marble used for the Lincoln Memorial comes from the Yule marble quarry in Marble, Colorado.  Another fascinating tidbit is that the marble for the Unknown Soldier Tomb also comes from there. It’s a special marble.

With Forrest telling the story about the ‘graves of the unknown soldiers’(French Soldiers) in the My War for Me chapter as well, I liked the thought that this might be a ‘subtle clue’ towards Marble, Colorado. Additional support, like the fact he played ‘marble’s’ is written in the book, the poem line ‘heavy loads’ could refer to quarried marble, and his humorous scrapbook on ‘shower marble’, made me like it a little more.

But is the line about the Lincoln Memorial actually one of the subtle clues for finding the treasure and hint to Marble, Colorado?

If something like this is a clue, it seems to me like it would be ‘deliberately placed’ there, making it definitely not a clue then.  But what if it is just ‘cleverly or subtly placed’ there?  Is there a difference?

Who knows……

What I do know is my mind is filling up with lots of new ideas since tossing out some old ones.  And I know I need to keep thinking about what Forrest means by ‘subtle clues sprinkled in the stories’.  He seems to think we can find these.  What do you think?

Best of luck with whatever you seek!



Please feel free to Friend/follow on Facebook for continuing ideas on this and other treasure hunts.


(Photo credit: Oscar D. McCollum – Marble Historical Society Collection)

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22 Responses

  1. Indy says:


    I agree with your assessment of subtle clues. If the treasure was around Marble, Co., then he gave it away in a couple of clues in a few chapters and it wasn’t subtle, but part of the actual solution. I believe he’s telling us to use the hints in the book to solve the poem and not use the hints to solve the chase.

    The reason I believe this is because he said that the book won’t lead you to the treasure and only the poem can. (not in those words, but close). So the hints in the book can’t be geography based or else the book could lead you to the chest and he said it won’t.

    But don’t mistake my thoughts on this subject as an indication that I have any idea about how to solve the poem because I don’t and I haven’t found the subtle hints yet.

  2. Muset says:

    Hi Jenny,

    You make a good case for how to find subtle clues. I’ve been tracking his use of “marble” as well, but with no connection to any solve as yet.

    He said the clues aren’t placed for the seeker. So are they for the deep thinkers?

    The seeker might use a word in his book to try and skip to the end, but the thinker might use a word in his book to craft an holistic solution that only works when the entire puzzle is solved.

    Thanks again for your great web site and thoughts.

  3. Chris Yates says:

    Hi Jenny,

    everything i say here is just my opinion

    if we look at the statement from Forrest

    “All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem. The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker.”

    we can help to narrow down the intended meaning by taking everything he has said on the subject in balance

    Forrest has said multiple times and in various ways, that there are hints in the book and they are helpful.
    Because he has repeated this, we know it is true. we also know that, if he put hints in the book, he had to do so intentionally when he wrote the book.

    so if we know that is true, then we know that “deliberately placed” does not mean “intentionally”, as in “by choice”

    Forrest chose to put hints in the book, this we know.

    The meaning of “deliberately placed” is two fold here. F is saying it because it is a big hint to the poem.

    the clues and/or hints in the poem are “deliberately placed” meaning deliberately located. he worked on it for 15 years because everything is in its location for a reason. the location of the word itself in the poem is part of the clue. for example, ‘quest’ is in stanza 4 line 2 for a reason.

    and so contrarily, “The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker” means that hints in the book are not deliberately located in a certain chapter or on a certain page or in a certain paragraph etcetera for any reasons that are related to the meaning of the hint. the hints are there, and speak for themselves, “if you can recognize them” (as f once said)

  4. Rhi says:

    I like “another stream to follow” and crooked gun sight, tigers and cobras, myself.

  5. JCM says:

    This statement:

    “All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem. The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker.”

    I believe must be considered in the context it was given – as an answer to a question. Without the context of the question, this statement easily gets twisted in its meaning. The person who asked the question was part of a book club and they had determined that in addition to the 9 clues in the poem, that there was one clue in each of the chapters that also provided required information to find the chest.

    f says that there are “subtle hints” – but – were not “deliberately placed” to “aid” the seeker. Most focus on “deliberately placed” and gloss over the word “aid” and its meaning. IMO, f is answering that they are wrong in their assumption about additional clues in the chapters, that the subtle hints are there in the chapters, and that the hints do not provide additional details or specific information that is necessary in order to find the chest – the word “aid”.

    f has clearly stated that the hints in the book are specifically for helping us understand the meaning of the clues in the poem, he has repeatedly emphasized that point as THE WAY to solve the clues in the poem. Read and reread the poem, memorize it, then go back and read the book slowly looking for the hints… I have my ideas about what those hints are, but I still wonder very much just what it is exactly that f is directing us to in the chapters; perhaps this is where “imagination” is needed… seeing that which was deliberately placed to not be obvious… the elusive subtle hints.

  6. The Wolf says:

    We need to talk…
    First off, as always I love your take on things and I always feel you are all over and around the correct concepts. As far as “subtle”, listen to this statement and tell me what seems odd about it:

    “There are also subtle clues sprinkled in the stories.”

    Ok, probably nothing because which is good because that is by definition subtle. Now take a look at it from a man’s eye listening to another man talk. Go a little further, are these the words of a combat veteran, macho fighter pilot, Indiana Jones achiologist, adventure seeker? What word in that sentence doesn’t fit?

    I am sure you will come up with it now…

    The Wolf

  7. Jenny Kile says:

    I appreciate all the great points and perspectives…thank you so much.

    It is very true that I shouldn’t have taken the phrase talking about ‘deliberately placed’ out of the context it was spoken. Here it is in the rightful place:
    Dear Mr. Fenn, We are a group of avid elderly bridge players in San Diego who after reading your book hope to find your treasure. We are not into poetry as much as the memoir. We realize the clues are in the poem, but were wondering if there isn’t at least one clue in each chapter. Thank you for a great book ~Sincerely, Emily

    Emily,– All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem. The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker. Good luck in the search. f

    This context does change things for me. So thank you for setting me straight! I am grateful. (I think I might look in Marble, Colorado…kidding, kidding…well I don’t

    It’s also true Forrest has continuously told us to ‘read the book (again and again after reading the poem)’ in order to help solve the poem. And although the poem is all you need, it is clear Forrest thinks the book offers help. I am still thinking on exactly how or in what ways…. (I suppose I will until the treasure is found).

    But another consideration I had for ‘subtle clues’, which I didn’t write about above, is his use of words. Understanding how he uses them in the book could offer help on learning how he uses them in the poem.

    I think a good example of what I mean by this is in the chapter of Flywater. He uses the word, ‘Waters’ a few times in here, and he is referring to the river and his fishing holes. Instances are as follows:

    “But I know as the seasons slowly change and the leaves of life fall and reborn anew, so do the names of those who wade those waters………” or “How special those hours were, spent watching the waters deepen into cobalt as the flow……”

    Now I’m not suggesting the ‘warm waters’ of the poem are the same ‘waters’ he speaks of in the chapter…just that this could be considered a way for a ‘subtle clue’ to be given…… for the use of a word in the book to be the same way it is used in the poem….In this case, ‘waters’ is a river ……and would lead away from other usages which have been considered for waters (like two rivers/waters coming together..etc.). (also not saying that is a definite clue).

    Another example is Forrest mentions Spring is warm in the book…..So it could be considered a subtle clue for ‘warm waters’ to be ‘Spring waters’…….

    And then there could be some more twisted type of ‘subtle clues’ that can be thought about….like him going to ‘Borders’……is that a subtle clue to ‘edge— a border,etc…’

    I suppose mostly what I’m trying to do is to consider the ways ‘subtle clues’ can be given in the stories…and how might they be then applied. If Forrest says knowing these helps….I feel it’s worth thinking about……

    I realize we will each come to our own conclusions on the question of what are the ‘Subtle Clues’….but I appreciate so much the opinions given to maybe help determine and hone in mine……


    • Clinger says:


      As always, another great post from you.

      I think that by just acknowledging that there are hints in the stories, subtle or not, dictates that they were indeed placed on purpose. After all, Forrest did pen them & it’s unlikely he wrote the story and then thought, “Oh lookie there, that’s a subtle clue I accidentally included”. For that reason, I don’t fret over the word deliberately in his comment. I take it for fact that there are some hints to be found & act accordingly. Pretty much anytime I read a phrase or sentence in TTOTC that sounds stilted or stiff, my Spidey sense turns on. I of course, like most, have not been able to definitively point to one of these elusive hints, but I continue to read and think.

      One question that I would like to ask Forrest would be is there a subtle hint for each of the nine clues in the poem? I think it’s doubtful that he will answer, but maybe there is a chance as I don’t think that answer would give out too much information.

      Also, on your marble post-it note you could also write down that ‘scant’ could refer to a slab of marble. I’m not in the Colorado camp, but you do make one rethink one’s position with your research.

      • JCM says:

        Clinger – Maybe this might partially answer your question on the hints:

        “I have some advice. Read the book and 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 going to help you with clues that are in the poem.”

        “hints that are in the book that are going to help you with clues that are in the poem”; this line along with a number of other similar quotes, along with this question/answer ( lead me to believe that there are subtle hints for all the clues in the poem.

        If there are not, I have a number of items that have ironic coincidences of matching up and bringing meaning and clarity to what is otherwise just confusion when only reading the poem.

    • JCM says:

      Jenny – Your additional thoughts and comments here about the subtle hints are as if you’re standing on the edge of the playground I am playing on… I am the one over on the merry-go-round spinning in circles.

      “The person that finds it is going to be a person who thinks and plans and has an analytical mind and uses logic, not someone who has a hunch.” f

      Thanks for your comments and thoughts Jenny, they help me to keep my thinking and research in check and not deviate into areas that are not productive.

  8. The Wolf says:

    I think your example of “subtle clue to ‘edge— a border,etc” is the perfect example of a hint that was not purposely placed, especially when he repeats it in other converstations like when he says so many writters go right down the middle and he askes how they know where the edges are if you don’t go out and look; he likes to bump tires against the curb, etc.

    There are many of them, but I also believe the aberrations and the abstract things he says are the indicators to listen closely.
    The Wolf

  9. inthechaseto says:

    The way in Forrest sets up an answer is to know how one thinks. Lets look at what he did.

    “All of the information you need to find the treasure is in the poem. The chapters in my book have very subtle hints but are not deliberately placed to aid the seeker

    So what your mind did was go from the poem to the book – then hints not being placed.

    Wrong thinking –

    What he really said was that the “chapters” (themselves) are not placed in any order to aid the seeker. I find that to be quite true.

    Happy Hunting

  10. Rhi says:

    I think the subtle hints point to real objects in the mountains, like a cluster of rocks that looks like an alligator, or maybe a fallen tree could be the wooden sign hammered into the ground.

  11. Peter says:

    Thank you for hosting this website. I love finding bits of gold sprinkled in your site. I feel Forrest put information in his book about important places in his life along with some important events. If I had hid a treasure in a place of importance to me and my father and then later wrote about important places in my life I would have to be giving some hints to the treasure’s whereabouts. These hints would not be in my story to help treasure seekers but just to tell the story. I think this is what he means. If I learn about those places they will help to understand the poem. PJP

  12. 23kachinas says:

    Visual interpretations of posted over at Chase Chat (allows photo posting) attempts to explain thoughts in the black lined symbols (bridge, church and airport).

    I still don’t know what the turtle or the owl mean?

  13. E.C. Waters says:

    One sprinkles salt.

    Begin it where … is a start. A start is “saltarse” in Spanish. Fenn describes saltpeter in Stout Hearted Men. He describes bicarbonate (fizzy soda) in Gold and More. Warm water salt is an Epsom salt, not far from Deal, also on the Downs. Any part of some (Epsom) is better than no part of any. Little Indiana Jones was well traveled and well versed in many languages. Including Portuguese.

    There is a Saltpeter Mountain near Dawson in NM. Up the canyon is a Stag Canyon, Stout Canyon, a Five Dollar Canyon, and a Horseshoe Bend.

    There are travertine and tufa formations just NW of Santa Fe in the Valles. Fenn wrote Puceet in Scrapbook 107, French for Puce et, or “Chip and” (Dale). A dale is a valle. “Sentir” me all is the old name of a mountain inside the cauldron. There a many other connections there, too.

    And there is a Salitral Spring near Lake Abiquiu that I like because the area is bubbling with hits for me.

  14. randawg says:

    The Lincoln memorial comment has puzzled me too. As did the $5 bill reference in SB 107. How is the Civil war ‘..a forgotten war, a curiosity to wonder about’? What about Lincoln County Colorado, or Mount Lincoln? Or Lincoln Montana?

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