Where Warm Waters Halt in The Thrill of the Chase Treasure Hunt ~ by Del Shannon

treasure hunt book

The Thrill of the Chase book (with treasure poem inside)

Where Warm Waters Halt

By Del Shannon

(The following is written in a manner of ‘in my humble opinion’)

Where warm waters halt…

This is the now iconic first clue written by eccentric millionaire Forrest Fenn. He’s earned the “eccentric” title in spades because of a single act: About 7 years ago – nobody is exactly sure except Fenn himself – he stole into the mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico and hid a treasure chest filled with $2 million of gold, gems and other valuables. And in an act that can only be called defiant, he wrote a book and a poem that describes the route to get to the treasure and dared anyone to try and unlock the riddle and claim his cache.

Since publication of Fenn’s The Thrill of the Chase in 2010, thousands of theories have been offered up as the location of this first clue. The location of the starting point of the hunt for Fenn’s treasure puts into context every other clue. Fenn has said you’re wasting your time if you’re searching without knowing where to start.

So where do warm waters halt? Not far from Questa, New Mexico.

forrest fenn treasure hunt his books

Forrest with some of his books

I first heard about Forrest Fenn and his treasure chest while sitting in the breakfast area of the Taos Hampton Inn eating a self-made waffle and sipping coffee. I was there working on the reconstruction of the Cabresto Dam, just east of Questa. The Today show was on in the background and this is when I first saw Fenn, his piercing eyes revealing more intelligence than his carefully selected words. He was explaining that all you had to do was follow the nine clues spelled out in a simple poem and you were rich. Just like that, my curiosity was piqued.

Buying Fenn’s book and starting my search around Questa and Taos was obvious and easy. The land seemingly disappears into oblivion at the Rio Grande Gorge and thrusts to the heavens just steps away at the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, creating billions of hiding spots. Working in the area revealed that the landscape and its population are one and the same. The people of Questa and Taos stand out as easily as the canyons and peaks that surround them, none is even remotely like another.

Very little in the The Thrill of the Chase pointed me to anything that resembled the area around Questa and Taos. Fenn waxes Quixotic about his youth spent doing anything but focusing on school, holding a special place in his heart for Yellowstone.

One story in particular gnawed at me like an obsessive-compulsive beaver. In an early chapter titled “First Grade,” Fenn recounts being bullied by a boy named John Charles Whatever who often threatens to beat up Fenn, while at other times waves around a jar of olives in his face. The more I read and reread this passage the more it began to look like a ham at Chanukah – bizarrely out of place.

All I had to go on was the name “John Charles” and his olives, so I started there. After internet searches with dozens of permutations, I finally got lucky. After reading a history of Questa, once known as Rio Colorado, I learned that the great explorer, John Charles Fremont, once spent a few months during the winter of 1849 in Questa.

Fremont had tried to cross the southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado during the winter of 1848-49 and convinced 32 gullible men into joining his folly. Fremont was from an era where braggadocio was a suitable proxy for intelligence and thrived in an environment of delusional arrogance. By December 1848 eleven of his party had frozen to death and most others had started eating their belts. The party finally gave up and began limping their way south to New Mexico.

The surviving members stumbled into Questa in January 1849, but Fremont, sensing his men would be in an extended sour mood once they could again feel their feet and hands, headed for Taos. He was off to California a few weeks later

A tragic story, but this new knowledge didn’t appear to put me any closer to the Fenn’s treasure. John Charles Whatever’s olives did.

Besides being a lover of history, Fenn is a fly fisherman. The Red River fights its way out of the mountains near Questa, its last gauntlet is a maze of basalt boulders below a fish hatchery. Fed by springs, the water stays a consistent 48 degrees in the winter. In this same stretch of water there is a mid-winter (January through March) hatch of blue winged olive flies, which, along with the warmer water, coax brown trout out of the colder waters of the Rio Grande…along with the fishermen.

Fremont and his olives were pointing to Questa.

Thrill of the Chase book (opened to chapter ‘In Love with Yellowstone’

Still, more detail was needed, which came from another of Fenn’s stories. One evening, while re-reading the In Love With Yellowstone chapter I stopped after Forrest described his dismay after his father sold the families ’36 Chevy for a ’41 Plymouth. Why on earth was this such an important part of his life? And why didn’t he use the numbers ‘19’ in front of these dates. Every other reference to a year in The Thrill of the Chase uses all four digits – 1926 for example, the year his parents were married.

Forrest’s attempt at alarm over this car sale seemed insincere. After chewing on ’36 and ’41, which were details that seemed misplaced, and while using Google Earth to snoop around the Questa area, I noticed the latitude in the lower right hand corner. If I hovered the little electronic hand directly over the center of the village and it read 36 degrees, 42 minutes north. Hmmm… Then I moved it to the fish hatchery and it read – exactly – 36 degrees, 41 minutes, 0 seconds north. Holy crap!

Two hints at the starting place are compelling. If I could find a third it would concrete the location of “where warm water halt.” A local fly fisherman supplied my requested last hint.

Van Beacham is well known in Taos as the owner of the Solidary Angler, a local fly fishing shop and guide business. He’s also the author of A Flyfisher’s Guide to New Mexico, and this is how Van describes the Red River from the fish hatchery to its confluence with the Rio Grande in his book. “The lifeblood of the Rio Grande Gorge, the spring-fed section of the Red River extending from the hatchery downstream about 4 miles to the confluence with the Rio Grande is the main spawning tributary for browns and cutbows in the bigger river. It also provides major holding water for big cutbows and browns since the water stays about 48 degrees all winter long. Due to the warmer water temperatures, the Red River is the premier natural winter fishery in northern New Mexico.”

The Red River provides “holding water” for cutbow and brown trout because of its “warm water.

It takes very little effort to connect the words “halt” and “hold.” In fact, they essentially mean the same thing. The word “hold” takes its origin, its etymology, from the Germanic word “halten,” which means “to hold.”


Warm waters halt in the Red River between the fish hatchery and its confluence with the Rio Grande. This is where anyone seriously searching for Fenn’s treasure must start.

thrill of the chase treasure hunt map

Poem and Treasure Map

Where to from there? Down river. Rio arriba.

In Fenn’s opening chapter titled “Important Literature” one of the books he talks about is For Whom the Bell Tolls. As with John Charles Whatever and his olives, if you look only at the surface you immediately reach a dead end, but when you dig a bit you realize there’s more to learn. Before Hemingway used the title for one of his books, For Whom the Bell Tolls was a line in a poem written by John Donne, a 16th century metaphysical poet. Donne begins with the famous first line of his poem, “No man is an island…” and ends with “…and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

Follow the Rio Grande downstream from its confluence with the Red River and you eventually reach the John Dunn Bridge, named for the famous Taos gambler and entrepreneur Long John Dunn, an escaped convict from Texas who built the first bridge and toll road across the Rio Grande at this location. The splinters of Dunn’s original timber bridge are somewhere near El Paso, carried there by numerous spring floods, and in its place stands a steel truss bridge built by Taos County. Connecting John Donne and John Dunn was easy and obvious, especially after learning that both Dunn and Donne are different spellings of the Gaelic word for “brown.” And because Dunn and Donne are proper nouns, capitalize the ‘B’ and you have Brown. Voila.

But John Dunn’s home wasn’t at the bridge, it was in Taos just north of the plaza in the area now occupied by the John Dunn House Shops. How could the home of Brown be at the Dunn bridge if Dunn never lived there?

This problem was resolved by the author Max Evans and his book Long John Dunn of Taos. This homage to Dunn describes, among other things, his early 1900’s transportation company – really just several horses and a stagecoach – and how he met Taos visitors and artists at the nearest train depot in Servilleta, then the only way in or out of Taos. He piled them into his stage, headed east in a cloud of dust across the Taos plateau, and then snaked them into the Rio Grande Gorge via a harrowing and ridiculously steep switchback road.

Dunn built a stone hotel at the bottom of the gorge and on the edge of the Rio Grande where travelers were forced to spend the night, most of whom were grateful for the stop and for surviving the tormenting trip into the gorge, before delivering them to Taos the next morning. Dunn’s hotel was run by his mother, Susan Jane Dunn, who also lived at the site. A short rock wall on the east side of the river is all that’s left of Mrs. Dunn’s home, the home of Brown.

All of that is pretty convenient, but I still wanted more on Dunn. It turns out The Thrill of the Chase is almost overflowing with references to John Dunn. In the chapter “Looking for Lewis and Clark” Fenn talks about taking Babe Ruth candy bars with him when he and Donnie went into the mountains outside of Yellowstone for several days. The problem is the candy is actually called “Baby” Ruth bars. If you look into Babe Ruth you learn that a man named John Dunn (everyone called him Jack) signed Ruth to his first major league baseball contact. Hmm…

Or look at Fenn’s odd reference to Robert Redford in the “Important Literature” chapter. One of Redford’s most famous movie characters was The Sundance Kid (aka Harry Alonzo Longabaugh). In 1897, Longabaugh was arrested by Carbon County Montana Sheriff John Dunn after he and others from his gang robbed a bank in Red Lodge, MT. Wow!

Three separate John Dunn references in The Thrill of the Chase aren’t a coincidence.

The second clue – Put in below the home of Brown – points to the John Dunn Bridge. It’s too far to walk from where warm waters halt at the confluence of the Rio Grande and Red River; about 14 miles if you drive or eight-ish miles if you fight your way on foot down the Rio Grande. All these hints point to these locations as the first two clues.

But be wary from here. ‘Putting in’ could mean crossing the river or heading either up or down the canyon. And if you cross the river, which direction do you cross from? Do you head west or do you head east? You could go in three directions from the Dunn Bridge. I have my own ideas of where to head next, but not the chest, so they remain only ideas.

An obvious question remains: Why am I sharing this? It’s not as if I haven’t tried to find Fenn’s treasure on my own. I’ve made many trips to areas I felt certain that, when I walked out, I would be struggling to carry over 40 pounds of gold, jewelry and artifacts back to my car. But I’ve learned that the search isn’t as simple as my romantic visions make it out to be. It took a couple of years to unlock these first two clues and it may take much longer to unlock the rest.

And if I’m completely honest with myself, I’ll admit that I’d like the treasure found, in direct contrast to Fenn’s wishes that it be discovered 1,000 years from now. I’m a sucker for a good challenge wrapped in a mystery. So far I’ve done this alone, but I could be persuaded to work with someone else or as part of a larger group in the right circumstance. It’s always more fun to work with a team.

lost treasureFor the record, I didn’t contact Fenn for this story. What would he have said to me anyway? At best he would have complemented my sleuthing. More likely he would have just silently shrugged, smiled at me with his quick eyes, and walked away. I figure he’s done what he wanted to do and, whether or not he enjoys the attention he’s created, I’d make my own choice and leave him alone.

A final thought. To me, Fenn’s poem is a love letter to an area he unquestionably adores and which also helped him heal from his time in Vietnam. When you dig into the history of the Vietnam war, you learn that there is a Red River there too and pilots who flew into this maelstrom found some of the most dangerous air over this river.

I like to think that what Fenn found in New Mexico’s Red River was the thorough opposite of Vietnam’s. The paradox was not lost on him. In my mind I can see him casting for brown’s while marveling that one Red River could be filled to overflowing with death while the other held out its hand and reminded him there were still places where he could gently ease the visions of war from his head, replacing them with the rediscovered memories of the trout he chased in his youth as they led him, once again, to peace.

~by Del Shannon


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67 Responses

  1. Jenny Kile says:

    Awesome write-up Del! Thank you for sharing. Your story shows lots of thought and work you put into it and also conveys your passion for finding the chest! It’s out there…..and it will be found….. so exciting to know that! Best of luck to all!

  2. nmc says:

    Wow, this is a “Runaway” solve! Nice write-up.

  3. GEYDELKON says:

    Wow, great insight. Good luck.

  4. Buckeye Bob says:

    I like the way you find hints and dig into them, Del.
    Frisking the “what if’s”.
    Nice work.

  5. Chris says:

    It’s always bothered me that Fenn mentions the title “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and actually describes the plot to “The Sun Also Rises.” Was he confused or is there more of a meaning there?

    • Del Shannon says:

      Yes, exactly. The most important thing Fenn is trying to convey is John Donne and his poem, not Hemingway. This is exactly the type of FF does over and over in the TTOTC. It’s a clever slight of hand and he expects readers to use their own bias to make an assumption. Babe vs. Baby Ruth candy bars are another great example. There’s no way that’s a mistake or typo. And there’s no way Skippy flew a float plane to Hebgen Lake and got us stuck there. So what’s the real message? I have my ideas. Or how about all the references to fire and burning. I counted them up today and there are at least 17. Juniper fires, Chinese fire drill, the gypsy fire, bonfires at Texas A&M, Fenn’s plane on fire, his parents burning their mortgage papers in the back yard, etc. All sorts of things like this are sprinkled throughout TTOTC. The fire references are important, and I think I know why, but I still don’t have the treasure. 🙂

      • nmc says:

        The Hegben Lake Caper always bothered me as well. I lent my book out to a friend so can’t check, but didn’t Mr. Fenn add that Skippy called and told them he was coming and landed a short time later? How did Skippy make that call?

  6. seannm says:

    Del Shannon,

    Nice write up, way to use your imagination. Nice to see a solve posted here on MW!


  7. SL says:

    It begins at Truth.

    Great reading, Del Shannon!


  8. Y. Mangum says:

    I appreciate the way you think.


  9. Del Shannon says:

    Thanks for the kind words everyone. There are even more “John Dunn” references in TTOTC, but they are more vague than the ones in this story so I felt less confident in using them. But I’ll share them here to see how they’re received.

    There was an infamous gangster in St. Louis named John “Pudgy” Dunn. His brother (also a gangster) was named Harry “Cherries” Dunn, and Cherries Dunn killed a member of a rival gang named William “Skippy” Rohan. Everyone knows the prominence of Forrest’s brother Skippy in the TTOTC and also in Fenn’s life. Read more here – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_%22Pudgy%22_Dunn

    And then there are the old-time radio shows (Your Hit Parade, Mr. District Attorney and Hopalong Cassidy) that FF mentions in the “Surviving Myself” chapter. Author John Dunning is well known for his two books on old-time radio shows; “Tune in Yesterday: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio, 1925-1976 (1976),” and “On the Air: The Encyclopedia of Old-Time Radio (1998).” Here’s more about Dunning – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Dunning_(writer)

    I’ll admit that these are indeed pretty vague, but I found them curious especially in light of the other “John Dunn” references I found. There are probably more in TTOTC that I’m missing. I wonder if anyone out there can find them?


  10. JC1117 says:

    Nice write-up, Del.

    I especially liked this… “And in an act that can only be called defiant, (Forrest) wrote a book and a poem that describes the route to get to the treasure and dared anyone to try and unlock the riddle and claim his cache.”

    And I like Metaphysical Poets, too.

    The Arrow and The Song

    I shot an arrow into the air,
    It fell to earth, I knew not where;
    For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
    Could not follow it in its flight.

    I breathed a song into the air,
    It fell to earth, I knew not where;
    For who has sight so keen and strong,
    That it can follow the flight of song?

    Long, long afterward, in an oak
    I found the arrow, still unbroke;
    And the song, from beginning to end,
    I found again in the heart of a friend.

    – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


    Thank You, Jenny and Del.

  11. WyMustIGo says:

    Didn’t Forrest rule out the Rio Grande?

    I just want to point out the comment you made “reach a dead end” when talking about JC, the Olive Jar, and the books in Important Literature. I’m not sure how you reached a dead end when those people can be connected to many places throughout NM, CO, WY and to a lesser extent MT. In fact, it was pretty easy to find the one place they all had in common.

    The other thing that comes to mind is warm waters. The word “warm” when applied to temperature is completely subjective. An Olympic swimmer might think 50 degrees is warm, you might think 79 degrees, etc. It seems to me that using it as a relative measure makes more sense. For example, if you took a glacier and compared it to the waters created by the melt, relatively speaking ALL runoff from melt could be considered warm because it is warm when compared to frozen. You can also claim that water spewing out of a 500 degree geyser is warm because by the time it hits the ground it is, again relatively speaking, warm.

    So what does that mean? To me it means that warm waters are any “moving” bodies of water that is not boiling and not frozen. I believe that the more important words are not the adjectives, but the verbs “halt and take” which are describing what “the waters” (the subject of the sentence) are doing. The waters halt and the waters take it in the canyon down, not you. So IMO we are looking for a spot that takes a moving body of water, cause it to halt, and then resume in the canyon below. Since he did not use the word “stop”, the water has to still exist in the canyon below. That is why for example that I feel Madison Junction does not qualify. The Firehole and Gibbon STOP, *poof*, the are gone, they did not halt, they vanished and became the Madison. This kind of thing is a confluence of rivers/streams, it is not unique to Madison Junction in any way. Even temperature wise, those rivers are not warm, they are cold just like the Madison is. In fact, that is why I do not think temperature can be considered absolute.

    Just food for thought.

    • Del Shannon says:

      Thanks, WyMustGo. I appreciate your thoughts.

      Fenn said the chest wasn’t near the Rio Grande. He didn’t say anything about where the search should start.

      Regarding JC and his olives, JC was in Questa at the same time as a very well known blue winged olive hatch (Jan to March each year). The connection is based on the time of the year JC was in Questa.

      I made the decision to not make my own interpretation of the word “warm” and let someone else make it for me. That’s why Beacham’s book rings so true for me. You are correct that the word “warm” is completely subjective and it could mean just about anything. But when you combine “holding water” and “warmer water” as Beacham did, then you have my attention. But you can’t consider the “warm waters halt” clue without looking at the other clues. Add in the latitude coordinates and it all fits pretty well. Then add in the multiple references to John Dunn and the relatively close proximity of the Red River to the John Dunn Bridge did it for me. This wasn’t me just speculating on the meaning of “warm.” It was finding several clues that all pointed to this location as the first two clues. Where the poem goes from there is still in question. It obviously diverges from the Rio Grande, but where and for how long? These are clues and questions that still need to be answered.

      Again, thanks for your thoughts.


      • WyMustIGo says:

        Thanks for the reply.

        My idea of wwwh is based on many hints in the book too, its just that IMO the verbs halt and take are the real players in that line. In simple terms, my idea of that line is the water that halts is the same water that goes in the canyon down, it doesn’t end or change names, it is the same body of water. It is not a waterfall or dam either since he ruled out dams (for WWWH) and his comment that people are too fixated on waterfalls (paraphrased) leads me to believe it has nothing to do with a waterfall either.

        I will give you one real important hint: WWWH is an exact location, it is not an area or a range, it is a specific spot that does not move. For example, river confluences move all the time, sometimes a few feet or more per year. Some rivers FF has fished are no longer at the same location. It is extremely important that the starting point is exact. Waters change temperature hourly if not sooner, their positions vary, and they exist in a million places. Anyway, try to pick a WWWH that is precise, even a few yards off is not precise.

        Also, IMO, the clue is “where warm waters halt and take it in the canyon down”. That is a single precise spot IMO, there is no comma before “and”, two things happen at one location, they are not two separate instructions. That is based on how to read the line, it isn’t a guess. Forrest says he doesn’t always pay attention to grammar (paraphrased), but that sentence is proper grammar, so why would a searcher read it incorrectly? The only instruction in that entire stanza is “Put in below the home of Brown”. It is not telling anyone to go down a canyon, although you would if home of Brown is down.

        3 years ago I wasted a lot of time trying to locate clues without first having learned to read the poem properly. It was a disaster. LOL.

        Also beware that any noun might be a verb, so when looking up definitions be warned that you first need to know exactly how the sentences are grammatically structured.

        These are my nouns (in order that they appear in the poem):


        Your list may vary. Note that Brown is not a noun IMO, it is an adjective.

        Anyway, good luck.

        • Del Shannon says:

          Thanks, WyMustIGo. We’re probably going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I’ve made a very concerted effort to not inject my own bias or opinions into solving the poem and do my best to follow the clues and hints, so I don’t impose the same rules that you mention above. If things line up I keep going and if they dead end I stop, move back, try to see where I went wrong and then move again. I’m currently at the “wise” location and am trying to sort out the “blaze.” There are multiple and conflicting hints within the TTOTC (including the poem) to what and where the blaze is, and this making for a pretty good challenge.

          Thanks again for your thoughts. Good luck to you as well.


          • WyMustIGo says:

            Are you saying I am being biased? I disagree, see my comment below about 36 and 41, your solve is based on incorrectly bending the book to fit the solve.

            • Del Shannon says:

              Yes, of course we disagree. Which is fine. And we’re all biased (me included) in our own way. I hope that even though we disagree that we can have a good conversation about things. I appreciate your views on the topic and I hope you appreciate mine as well. Again, best of luck in your search! Del

  12. JDA says:

    A very nice write-up Del. You obviously have done a lot of research. Can you or others figure out the remaining clues – I wish you luck. Have fun, and TRY to STAY SAFE JDA

    • Del Shannon says:

      Thanks, JDA. I think I can figure out the remaining clues. And do agree with FF that the treasure is not “near” the Rio Grande, even though the starting place for the hunt is. If there’s enough interest, I might be coaxed into revealing my interpretation of the next clues. Not surprisingly, the remaining seven clues in the poem become harder and more vague as you advance. This is why I haven’t found the treasure! 🙂

      • tighterfocus says:

        Del, the clues are supposed to get EASIER after the first has been solved. Thanks for the history lesson, but I don’t think that all those “coincidences” add up to a correct solve of the
        first clue (did you look up “halt”in a dictionary? Did you show the poem to any children?).

        Thank you for sharing. You appear to be analytical and intelligent. Good luck. All IMO.

        • Del Shannon says:

          Thanks, tighterfocus. I’m not sure who said the clues were supposed to get easier. Is that written down some place?

          But since you brought it up, the next clue after “Put in below the home of Brown” is “From there it’s no place for the meek.” So, you’re standing at the John Dunn Beidge at the edge of the Rio Grande, which is also the start of the famous Taos Box. The “put in” for those wanting to raft the Taos Box is right there as well. The Taos Box is one of the top white water rafting sections of river in the country and certainly no place for a meek person. But there’s also another clue. Maybe you should think it’s a coincidence. In Mexico the Rio Grande isn’t called the Rio Grande. It’s called the Rio Bravo de la Norte, which translate to English as The Brave River of the North.

          It’s pretty easy to connect a “brave” river as “no place for the meek.” But you can come to your own conclusions and do your own research.

          I’m not sure how you tell the difference between a clue and a coincidence. We each have our biases and these are sometimes hard to get past. I shared many of these same clues with one of the most seasoned and well known searchers out there and the response was, “I don’t search in New Mexico any more.” In this persons mind all the likely hiding spots in Mew Mexico had been looked at so the treasure couldn’t be there. That’s amazing to me. There are millions of not billions of places the treasure could be hidden in New Mexico and we’re only just starting to sort out the starting point of the search.

          Anyway, head downriver from the Dunn bridge is my solution to the next clue. It meets my own criteria (multiple reference both within and outside TTOTC). I’ve shared some of these here but am keeping the others to myself as they show a patter FF repeats in TTOTC for where not only to go but also how far.

          Good luck and thanks for sharing your thoughts!


  13. Pen Ghost says:

    This is one of the best written stories I’ve read about the chase. You stated the facts without a lot of emphasis on …look what I did… and trying to be a creative writer. It is well thought out and written. It is the only one I actually read completely without skimming through the fluff. It also sounds like there is something to continue with it. I had not thought about the olives and the bully nor the babe ruth candy. Maybe I am just not a people history buff. I like to read about cultures and groups and natives. You succeeded in making me curious about a particular person. Thank you.

    • Pen Ghost says:

      I also like your unique way of determining WWWH.

    • Del Shannon says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Pen. Made me blush. 🙂

      I hate to sound like I’m coming across as cocky, but I really do think all the clues point to this area – Questa/Taos. Take all the tire refences in TTOTC as an example. There are the rubber tired gypsy wagons, the reference to the tire rations in WW 2 (twice), the flat tires FF and Skippy had every 50 miles driving home, and the tires on Skippy’s car that were yanked off by the big buffalo bull. And then read the line “I’ve done it tired.” I think this is Fenn’s way of saying he drove (on tires) from his home in Santa Fe to the treasures location and didn’t fly. I have more clues backing that idea up, but I’m keeping them to myself for now as they point to a pretty specific area. Once you start recognizing this sort of pattern the poem and clues start coming into more focus. It’s kind of like finding the edge of a puzzle. Once you know the boundary you can start slowly filling in the details in the middle.

      • Pen Ghost says:

        Del, I started in your area and studied it for about 3 years. I believe what you wrote. I just didn’t have those TTOTC hints. I suggest you continue with it. I agree to be selfish with your clues. When you are in Questa again, let me know –

  14. DWRock says:

    Nice write up, Del! I read and reread TTOTC many times early in my search but never managed to pull any specific clues out of it as you have… The olive jar does seem to be one of the most aberrant elements… I took as hints some themes like his love of yellowstone, and his man to man with his father about telling the truth but not all of the truth. You make me want to crack into the book again, but how do you reconcile your research with Fenns comments about obscure knowledge? I don’t mean to detract from your solve… I’m curious. Everytime I’ve gone that route I’ve stopped myself… A side thought or question: didn’t Forrest say he has been working on a book on the legendary personalities of Toas of which one he mentioned was your long john Dunn? I could be wrong but sounds familiar.

    • Del Shannon says:

      Thanks, DWRock. I appreciate your kind words.

      No doubt there’s a fine between obscure knowledge and the subtle hints Fenn says are in TTOTC. I guess it comes down to a personal interpretation. I’ve been down more dead ends I. My research than usable knowledge (at least in my opinion) so I did my own filtering. I was looking in the Red River Ski Area for a full year before I discovered the olive reference.

      And yes, at the Moby Dickens event Fenn mentions he was working on a book about some of the more colorful Taos chapters. This includes Dunn. Go back and watch the interview on YouTube if you’re curious. I think I’ve also found Arthur Manby in TTOTC. If you remember Fenn describing his time at Texas A&M and then running back home in disgrace, a truck with an A&M sign on the side stops and asks him what’s wrong. Fenn says he doesn’t have any money and the guy in the truck leaves without offering to help him. Manby was a notorious swindler and con man who only cared about money and cheating people out of their money. The A&M on the side of the truck stands for (I believe) Arthur Manby. This is anothe classic example of Fenn leading down a path and using our own predispositions of filling in the blanks with what we believe is the correct info when in fact it’s slightly different. Manby Hot Springs is just downstream of the Dunn Bridge, so this lines up with the clues as well.

      Anyway, there are lots of these examples in TTOTC and the real trick is finding them. Not easy at all because you never know when the info is useful or it it’s just useless. That’s one very big reason (maybe the most important reason) the treasure is still out there.

      Good luck with your own search. I’ve found it pretty stimulating and am enjoying digging through the info and trying to decide what’s useful and what’s useless information.


  15. Charles T Quinnelly says:

    I like it Del, but didn’t FF get asked about how much knowledge of history was needed and replied something like not really? I recently learned about ‘olives’ and fly fishing lures….so you are on to something. As a kid we’d go and get various candy bars and I always called a baby ruth a babe ruth, you can do the research on that history and legal reason why the name was changed. Texas A&M are known for their bond fires too….I don’t know….you might be on the correct trail…It’s pretty common to refer to year make of cars by the last two numbers…Overall Taos is appealing, sometimes I think how after meeting his famous client for lunch he’d have to stop along the way home for a break and maybe this is his where his special place is. Good stuff, thanks for sharing!

    • Charles T Quinnelly says:

      My first time post on Jenny’s site so my comments will be time delayed and appear as if I copied from above, lol! Neat how we searchers seem to think a lot alike sometimes!

    • Del Shannon says:

      Thanks, Charles. You don’t have to know about history to solve the poem. In fact, he’s said all you need is the poem. But FF also said there are other hints and clues sprinkled (some more overt than others) sprinkled throughout the stories in TTOTC. I wint looking for those other hints and clues because the vagueness of the poem meant you’d have to essentially guess where to start looking. I’m a civil engineer and have been trained not to guess. I solve problems for a living, so I treated Fenn’s challenge as a problem to solve. This means you establish what you do and don’t know, assign values to things, focus on what FF has said as guidance (like look for the things that seem out of place), and then try to corroborate what you find through other sources. It’s a mistake, in my opinion, to only use TTOTC as the source of info because there’s quite a bit that’s skewed. Fenn himself said he embellishes, bends the use of words and that non-fiction writers only need to be right 85% of the time. That enough evidence for me to look for and find other sources of into to “triangulate” hints and clues from multiple angles and perspectives. Other people approach the search differently using hunches or biases heavily, but I can’t stand that kind of guesswork as it isn’t anything that you can substantially rely on. That’s probably the engineer in me and I couldn’t tackle this problem any other way.

      Good luck and thanks for your comments!


      • Charles T Quinnelly says:

        Thank you Del,

        I have a friend who like you is a Civil Engineer and he is no none sense sort of person, works all the time but does find time to go fishing!

        Okay, I agree the poem is ‘vague’ but what about the LGFI and the others who can figure out a couple of clues from home? Is this more to your point, the book helps them? Does sound like a great area where you are searching as you said thousands of places to hide. So many pick up on ideas and are open to sharing like you are, thanks, never would have known to confirm the number of bombs on each of the B52’s. Do you search alone out there? Do you use a GPS? Any concerns about Mt Lions?

        • Del Shannon says:

          Thanks, Charles. I had to look up LGFI because I had no idea what you were talking about. No I understand that it’s a Little Girl From India. Ha!

          I’ve done both internet and dirty boots searching and there might be some truth to the LGFI comment. What appears to be the obvious next clue is “no place for the meek” and going down the Taos Box. In Mexico the Rio Grande is called by a different name (the Rio Brave de la Norte, or The Brave River of the North). Seems to fit pretty well. Not meek is brave. But there’s a road on the other side of the Dunn bridge that’s a harrowing switch back road and no meek person would ever attempt to drive. You can follow that road all the way to Servielleta. Or so you go up the Rio Grande Gorge because Fenn told you not to walk (too far to walk) and instead drive?

          I think this is what he’s talking about. The first two clues match and connect to each other, but from there you could go in any number of directions. I have my own ideas why I think you head down the canyon and they are supported by a number of hints and clues in the same vein as those I use to establish where to start your search based on the poem.

          I have searched alone but it’s big country and I can see why FF feels so confident in his hiding spot. It’s actually a little overwhelming when you get out there because the country is so big. I drive to my spot without issues and haven’t ever felt unsafe. No horrible wild animals are waiting for me. I have seen bighorn sheep, foxes, great horned owls, deer and many other cool animals. I don’t use a GPS because I haven’t found any clues that resemble GPS coordinates outside of the lat of the fish hatchery. I have, however, found other references to other distances in TTOTC that are quite intriguing. Do a little digging to see if you can find them as well.

          Good luck and thanks for your message!


  16. WyMustIGo says:

    BTW Del, you pointed out ’36 and ’41. I am confused why you treated one as degrees and the other as minutes. Isn’t that bending the truth?

    Why not treat both as degrees North? I did, here are the results:

    36N is the NORTH border of Santa Fe County, NM.
    41N is the NORTH border of Colorado

    His father traded UP from a 36 Chevy to a 41 Plymouth. Wouldn’t logic indicate that he went UP past 41N and into WY or MT?

    I do not understand why in one case you would treat the year 36 as degrees, and then for some reason treat the year 41 as minutes. Especially when both 36 and 41 fall on exact “borders” when treated as degrees.

    I also want to point out that it is extremely common to drop the first two digits when discussing cars. In fact back in the 50s – 60s and 70s I was into cars (just like every guy was). I *never* heard anyone use the full year, it was always ’56 Chevy or whatever.

    Here is a bigger question I would ask myself. The chapter is based on the 1930s, Forrest is in grade school. He mentions everything is rationed, it is the depression. Ok, then why is his dad strutting around in a brand new ’36 Chevy only to trade her in for ’41 Plymouth so soon? How did he manage to get a 41 Plymouth in the 1930s?

    I figured out the answers to those questions, it made many things come to light 😉

    • Del Shannon says:

      Thanks again, WyMustIGo. Yes, you can interpret these clues and hints any number of ways. The key (for me) is to line them up with other clues. I didn’t find much of anything that points to the Colorado/NM border as a significant location. But when you add in John Charles Fremont and his olives, along with Van Beacham’s description of the Red River below the fish hatchery, then things start to come into focus. I need multiple references, hints and clues in order to take a location seriously. This is vital because the poem is so vague that you could come up with hundreds of thousands of ideas that all make sense, but that are also completely out of context because you’ve started at the wrong location. The 36, 41 are in a series so I read them that way. I’m a civil engineer and am used to reading lat and long all the time. And since we’re on the topic, FF mentions that the B-52’s in Operation Arc Light each carried 105 bombs. That’s not accurate. They carried 51 bombs. If you look at the longitude of the fish hatchery, it’s 105. Fenn mentions 105 again when he talks about the F-105 fighters from Korat, Udorn and Ubon. Two 105 references, which meets my criteria of multiple mentions in order to be taken seriously. Good luck on your search!


    • Pen Ghost says:

      Certain things were rationed. Gas/fuel was rationed, but not the purchase of a vehicle. I still have some of the ration cards from that time.

  17. SL says:

    Out of the box….again. Might the 15 years that The Flyer/Architect speaks of been used to plan/design something other than…..words?


    • Del Shannon says:

      I don’t know, SL. FF might have done many things in those 15 years. Deep questions. 🙂


    • Buckeye Bob says:

      Oh wow. I wish I could find the words to explain my thinking on this.
      I think Forrest definitely has a meaning behind all this, and I think it’s interwoven into the chase.
      From either side, one can help the other. But you can still find the treasure the basic way.
      1) Solve the clues in the poem without anything else (books) = least likely but possible. And the easiest effort at solving but hardest effort to accomplish the find.
      2) Solve it with the hints from the books, “Words”, and Scrapbooks = MOST likely means to the end, but much more difficult to solve.
      3) Solve it with the above and add in “meaning” = makes it more confident, but not more likely than #2.

      And it’s hard to separate #2 from #3, since they are woven together.

      I think what will happen is that someone will finally solve it according to #2, and then people will delve into #3 in the years to come afterwards because parts of it kind of sticks out and should be very noticeable.

      I’m not sure I’m saying this quite right. But that’s a stab at it.

      • Point Foot says:

        That is a very interesting line of thinking. One way I’ve tried to solve it is to use the books and match my area to the solve and then go back and try to figure out how I can get to the same place using only the poem. Since I don’t hold the treasure I might not know what I’m talking about. There are so many levels to this puzzle. Wouldn’t it be funny though if the ultimate finder (if one does ever arise) ends up solving all 3 ways concurrently?

        • Buckeye Bob says:

          I think you’ve got a good way of going about it. But I kind of went back and forth along the way to get to where I am right now.

          I think it would be quite the thing for the finder to have the meaning figured out entirely. I mean, they might have the final point guessed at, but not certain. That part seems pretty deep. It seems to me that there could possibly be a multiple meaning that fits together, too. I don’t know. All I do know is that there’s a path in there somewhere.

          • Point Foot says:

            I would not be surprised if there are multiple meanings. This chase has more layers than an onion! The only word that comes to my mind is masterpiece.

            • Buckeye Bob says:

              I agree. But when it’s all said and done I think we’ve understated it.
              I already know of a few things that are beyond doubt and so freakin’ cool that it’ll blow people’s minds.
              There’s these two things I’m absolutely sure of that I never expected to be possible in this sort of thing in real life, and two more that I’m working on. I mean, they fit in a cool way, but I’d like to find more and flesh it out, so to speak.

              And this is beyond the generally cool stuff. I mean, these are really special.

              Of course no one’s going to take me seriously right now, that’s to be expected. But eventually I think they’ll see it and agree, if the treasure hunt ends in our lifetimes anyways.

              • Point Foot says:

                I completely agree! There are amazing things hidden within the books and the poem. Most everyone thinks I have a vivid imagination or that I’m crazy at this point. One day I do believe someone will figure it out and it will be revealed for all to see. Just the little I know will blow people’s minds. But until it is found no one will believe.

  18. SL says:

    Literally speaking; it appears to have simply(?) been leading from… Point A to Point B. – I am getting a sense that although I may not be physically within reach; I might after all; arrived to the destination, and in turn, to the resolution of a “secret.” (The Flyer does indeed, possess a Reverie of truly cherished, heartfelt and remarkable memories).

    Hopefully, many will one day have the opportunity of experiencing and in sharing the very real…..”Thrill of the Chase.”

    • JC1117 says:

      Wouldn’t that be something, SL?

      And each one there
      Has one thing shared
      They have sweated beneath the same sun
      Looked up in wonder at the same moon
      And wept when it was all done
      For bein’ done too soon
      For bein’ done too soon
      For bein’ done

      – Neil Diamond

      I’d like to know what you’re hinting at.

  19. SL says:


    I wouldn’t know whom, or how many mentioned may have believed the lyrics conveyed in this beautiful, Neil Diamond song. I suppose it could have depended on where they were at in a spiritual sense. ( TTOTC and The Flyer, IMO, appear to have truly impacted a lot of lives from this vantage point however; mine included). Could be mistaken; yet, I tend to feel that few in his life ‘really’ do know him.

    IF I am even close to understanding a ‘secret’…it doesn’t indicate that I’ve solved some of the clues. (WWWH, IMO, remains to begin at the “truth.”

    Best to you, my friend. If I can offer more research findings in the future; let me know!


  20. Sparrow says:

    Very nice write up. Dunn and Done is very interesting.

    Just take the chest anD gO iN piecE. 🙂

  21. Ron Ricker says:

    your website has become almost impossible. There is so much activity going on in the background that my navigation
    is ignored for the most part. Secured connections are being made, unknown requests for who knows what….its rediculous.

  22. Joshua says:

    Thank you for still convincing everyone wwwh is the first clue! Hilarious, ignore the 4 lines, nothing to see here.lol

    • Del Shannon says:

      Thanks, Joshua. I suspect we’re going to have to agree to disagree. I’ve spelled out my ideas and thoughts on where to start looking and I’d love to hear yours. Where do you think the search should be started? Thanks again. Del

      • Joshua says:

        Well I would start by finding as many sentences as you can in the first 4 lines of the poem and not using only words but letters also.b= be, c=see, sea,I= eye, I, ect…. then do numbers for coordinates… everyone reads the poem but isn’t READING THE POEM… is it treasures???? Or as ur in trees! Asur in trees. See how that word is put together? Start over and don’t research anything.. oh and I know I’m right because the last line of the poem says URNI….. YOU ARE IN I…. it’ll be over soon.lol

  23. Lugnutz says:

    Del –

    I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
    How about you?


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