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The hunt for Forrest Fenn’s $2 million hidden treasure

This is the moment Estelle and I began to
question our sanity. There’s definitely a promising cave down there. I don’t know if it’s a bear den or a mountain
lion den. We’re right about here just outside of Yellowstone
National Park. And we’re looking for a tiny box about the size of a happy meal that’s filled with over a million dollars
worth of treasure. We’re here because of a guy named Forrest
Fenn. You might have heard of him. Well you’ve likely heard of that Santa Fe
author Forrest Fenn. Forrest Fenn
On to this a Santa Fe art collector and author, Forrest Fenn. Fenn is one of those rare characters he’s
like straight out of a wild west film. He served as a pilot in the Air Force, took
up a hobby as an amatuer archeologist, then later moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and opened
an Art Gallery. Over the years, he amassed a collection of
artifacts worthy of the finest museums. He made a fortune selling his wares to US
Presidents and Hollywood tycoons. In 1988, Fenn was diagnosed with cancer. He fought it off — but it got him thinking
about his legacy. When faced with his own mortality, he decided
to do what any eccentric man might do to ensure his spirit lived on after death. He buried a treasure chest. Some time between 2009 and 2010, Forrest claims
that he trekked out into the Rocky Mountains and hid a 12th century bronze chest containing
42 pounds of his finest treasures — gold nuggets the size of chicken eggs, 16th-century
Spanish jewelry, and even a ming dynasty jade sculpture. In 2010, Fenn self-published The Thrill of
the Chase, the memoir And in the back of the book there’s a poem. That poem contains 9 clues that supposedly
lead to the treasure’s exact location. It goes a little something like this. 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. Ten years later, nobody’s found it — and
many have tried. But Forrest, who’s now a cult-like figure
in the treasure hunting world, has admitted that four of the nine clues have been solved. And apparently, some people have gotten within
250 feet of the gold. Update this morning on a story we have been
telling you about for years a man who decided to give away his fortune claimed to have buried
it somewhere out west several years ago. The treasure is real. The treasure story is real. The treasure is hidden where I left it and
the search goes on. In public and private Facebook groups, more
than 8,000 members rage in these deep philosophical debates over the interpretation of the clues. The “FindingFennsGold” sub-Reddit boasts
1,600 regular contributors, who pose questions like “What kind of hill can an 80 year-old
man climb?” and “Does anyone else here have dreams about the treasure?” Over the past year, we talked to a lot of
these treasure hunters. Like Ricky and Greg. You can see big red behind me. We’re here in historic Natchez, Mississippi
today. They’re engineers on a steamboat. So this is a daily search for you? Every night. Every night I’m looking. If you ask anybody that works with us on the
boat they will tell you that Greg, oh yeah, he’s the one looking for Forrest Fenn’s treasure. No I’m not this type of person at all. I do crossword puzzles I don’t like camping
it was the extreme opposite of anything I’ve ever done. So how did you first hear about Fenn’s treasure. Well I’ve never heard of it before until this. There it is. Treasure hunter dies in search of writers
$2 million gold. In the morning I get this newspaper delivered
and by about 2 o’clock in the afternoon i think I’ve solved it. I studied geography in college so I’m all
into maps. I spent hours upon hours just looking through
google maps at all the places he went. It’s really easy to become obsessed with this
story. This is Josh and his Dad, they spent a week
traversing New Mexico for a family vacation. Just looking for the chest. I’d say about 8 weeks of really hard research,
google maps, little sleep, too excited to sleep type of stuff A lot of too excited to sleep for me. And that obsession? It happened to us too. I asked Zack if he wanted to help me find
the treasure. I said “absolutely yes.” So we went to the Rocky Mountains with a foolproof
plan to find Forrest Fenn’s gold. [Cow moo] Come on buddy, please move. We are definitely in Wyoming. [Phone rings] Hi it’s Scott Hey Scott? It’s Zack. So you’re wondering Montana looking for treasure? Actually we’re on the road right now we just
came from Bozeman and we’re driving down toward Wyoming. We’re pretty convinced the treasure’s there. Wyoming? Okay. Well Wyoming is the right state, no question. Oh yeah? Really? Absolutely. Have you been to your spot yet? I have. I made a mistake. You probably heard this story from multiple
people as well. It’s what keeps me awake at night at the moment. But if you were to go back you know what the
mistake was? Absolutely. You’re scaring me I feel like we’re going
to come back from this trip and just not sleep for weeks. Is this your first time that you’ve been
out searching? You’ll be out there and you’ll find what
everybody else finds. Your reaction will be “wow we could spend
the next 10 years right here right where we are and never stumble across a 10x10x6 chest. Dude I’m shocked he just said it’s in
Wyoming like I expected him to be really adamant it’s in colorado – yeah and I feel pretty good right now that this
established esteemed treasure hunter thinks that it’s uh in the same general at least
the same state where we’re going. At least we’re in the right state, Estelle. There’s a weird unspoken dynamic with Fenn
treasure hunters. We’re a community and we’re all collectively
scratching our heads trying to decipher what Forrest Fenn is telling us. But we don’t want to give away too much after
all we want to be the first ones to find that treasure. In our research, we came across this map made
the amatuer cartographers. Using geographic data from the clues they
were able to narrow down the original search area from 27 million acres to 591,636 acres. That’s a 98% reduction in size. Even just in that area, we’re looking at
23,310 acres of wild land. We now think it’s probably more towards Yellowstone. Where specifically did you go in Yellowstone? I can’t give you too many clues! I haven’t found the treasure yet. If I got it, it’s more about being know as
the person that found it. That’s all I want. Zack and I each spent week coming up with
our own theories. Zack spent an entire afternoon trying to convince
me that the longitude and latitude markers on Fenn’s map were a clue. Obviously that was crazy. He actually owns Sitting Bull’s original peace
pipe. What? It’s worth $1.1 million dollars. That checks out. All the old men look like Forrest Fenn out
here. Every elderly gentleman I drive by I just
the first my first though is – I’m like it’s Forrest! Yeah. What does that say about how obsessed we are. We reached out to Fenn early on in our research
with the same starry eyes that many treasure hunters do. He denied our request to interview him. Yeah I wonder how many people he emails and
he’s just like god damn why do I have to answer another one of these emails. Maybe it’s because he knew we were getting
close to the treasure. And with that, here is where I think the treasure
is. So first you start with “Where warm waters
halt.” That’s the Firehole River Falls right in the
heart of Yellowstone National park. Now the name of the river speaks for itself. Oh okay. There’s the cave. There it is. Oh man, that is not what I expected. Actually in 2007 water temperatures in the
falls rose to 82 degrees and it killed a bunch of trout there, pretty much halting life. So coincidentally right above the falls there’s
this canyon and it leads to the Madison River. Now if you take the Madison River straight
to Hebgen Lake that’s “too far to walk.” So at this point we’re right on the border
of Montana and Wyoming but it’s a place Fenn explored as a kid so that counts for something. Now above Hebgen Lake is grizzly bear territory
“Home of Brown” and Red canyon creek “No paddle up your creek” So in 1959 a massive earthquake shook this
region and the Hebgen Lake dam gave way creating Quake lake along with a deadly landslide. That’s heavy loads and water high. But Estelle, what’s the blaze? Honestly it could be anything. A lot of people think you’ll only be able
to see it if you’re standing in the exact right spot. So all of that sounds really good to me but
the skeptic in me says “hold on Estelle” this is a highly interpretive poem thousands of
people have come up with hundreds and hundreds of different theories that seem to fit perfectly
like puzzle pieces. Are you going to tell me that I’m wrong right
now? I will not crush you in this moment. Forrest himself has acknowledged that this
treasure may very well be around for 10,000 years before someone finds it. At least one person has been within 200 feet
of the treasure and if that has happened – someone was standing 200 feet away from
millions of dollars! Yeah if that happened with six years of it
being hidden then how could it possibly last 1,000 years. radio: make the bears aware of your presence
and carry bear spray. Bear spray has been shown to be over 90% effective
in deterring bear attacks. So we realized very quickly that despite these
cute pictures of bears in yellowstone they are very dangerous and we could very easily
get mauled by one today if we’re not careful. So apparently this thing has 7 seconds of
spray in it. That’s about enough to ward off one grizzly
bear. Hopefully we won’t need to use it today. Fenn’s treasure has lured many unprepared
hunters into the wilderness. We talked with a park ranger actually who
said people had ventured into snow impacted mountain ranges with just tennis shoes. This morning we’re waiting on the office of
the medical investigator find out how a hiker searching for Forrest Fenn’s treasure died. In January 2016 Randy Bilyeu went missing
in search of the treasure six months later he was found dead. Somewhere in this area which is a huge area
of land is the treasure. And it’s just a matter of figuring out that
exact spot. We’re a mile pass the trailhead and I think
we found something. It’s a tiny little cave that you could easily
miss. Zack has now decided to climb up the entire
face of this cliff and try to get into a cave that’s about a couple hundred feet high. There was a time when I thought the Fenn treasure
could be in a cave because one thing he said was that it’s in a spot that you could come
back to in 10,000 years and it might hypothetically still be there. A cave protects things from the elements so
I thought maybe that was a possibility Definitely not in that cave though. We’re wondering Wyoming constantly asking
ourselves. What would Fenn do? Where would an adventurous fly fisherman who
loves history artifacts and practical jokes hide a treasure chest? Do you think Fenn’s going to watch this and
think we’re a bunch of idiots? I think Fenn is the kind of guy that thinks
a lot of people are idiots so Look I just don’t want him to think I’m an
idiot. I’d like to make a film that gains his respect
a little bit. Like I would like to think that Fenn is sitting
somewhere tipping his cowboy hat to us. It’s really clear from every treasure hunter
we talked to that once you have a potential solve it’s really hard to entertain any other
theory, even if it makes total sense. Here it is six years later and I found the
spot. At the first opportunity he gets to go back
out there I think he’ll find it. That’s the beauty of it everyone knows where
it is one of us has got to be right. You could completely solve the poem and be
on totally the right trail and you still might miss the treasure. There are some theories that this is all about
poop. Heavy loads. Oh my god. There’s like – Home of Brown, heavy loads No paddle up your creek I think that just proves how interpretive
this is. You could literally take every clue in that
poem and make it about a piece of crap. So where are we going? So today we are heading back into the heart
of Yellowstone park which is apparently the oldest park in the United States. Actually last night I did a little sleuthing
and found out that Forrest is a board member at Buffalo Bill center. Some hunters seem to think that Fenn hid the
treasure while up here on a trip for a board members meeting and he just took off one morning,
hid the treasure and came back for his black bow tie event in September of 2009. That theory would definitely correspond with
the Lamar Valley area and also with Fenn’s fascination of the Native American history
that this valley holds. We are going to drive all the way down highway
212 to a place called Icebox Canyon. In this canyon there’s a creek called Soda
Butte creek. Soda Butte is this extinct geyser in the middle
of the Valley. Soda Butte. It’s also along highway 212. 212 being the temperature at which water boils. And it’s right near Icebox Canyon. There’s no way this isn’t the place “where
warm waters halt.” A bear completely mauled this area we’re standing
in right now uh all the trees around us are just completely scratched up. That’s insane. Okay so that’s just one clue Zack, where do
we go from there? The Lamar Ranger station. Now every hunter has a line from the poem
they obsess over And the line that seems to get the most people’s
attention is “put in below the home of Brown.” Everybody focuses on the home of Brown. Everybody. Any searcher you speak to they’re going to
say “if we can find the home of Brown we can find the treasure.” Like a lot of the poem, it’s pointing to
a specific location. Have you talked to any treasure hunters what’s
the take on that Brown? Give me some insights. Looking at a map, there are literally hundreds
of locations it could refer to. You’ve got all of America looking for house
of Brown One of the things that led us to the brown
one is that the B is capitalized in “Brown.” If you Google the Lamar Ranger Station it’s
clearly a hot spot for Fenn’s treasure hunters. It’s this old ranch in the historic district
of the park. And back in the day, there was a really well-known
ranger there named Gary Brown. Home of Brown. Well this is the home of Brown. Looks like the main facilities are closed
down and uh it’s not open to the public besides that I guess. Maybe they shut it down because so many treasure
hunters came through asking. If it’s not clear on our faces our confidence
is completely shot right now. Every treasure hunter will tell you this you
start a hike with rose colored glasses and by the end you realize that your task was
nearly impossible. You’re trying to find a 10x10x6 inch chest
in 3,000 square miles of land if we’re completely wrong about Yellowstone that’s 300,000 square
miles of land. We started all the way up here at icebox canyon
followed down soda butte creek all the way down to the lamar ranger station which is
our home of brown and then from there all we know is it’s somewhere below the home of
Brown. It could be on anyone of these trails or ridges
or rivers or creeks. You should just point to random spot on the
map be like let’s just go there. Alright. Fossil forrest. That would be 10 miles of walking for forrest
fenn and about 1200 to 1600 feet of elevation gain. I’m sure forrest is an absolute beast on the
trails but how much does an 80 year old man do? I came to this with a limited amount of optimism
and I think most of that optimism is now gone. Fenn says that his poem specifically leads
to a very very concrete spot and I just don’t see it. The clues are so vague and interpretive that
I just can’t possibly imagine them culminating on an exact spot on a map. We really have become crazy about this – yeah. I feel like this journey has changed me. Where are we going? I don’t know. After coming back and maybe going into this
convinced that you knew where the treasure was like a lot of other hunters and then coming
back and realizing it wasn’t there, did it change your mind at all about maybe that there
is no treasure? There was a time frame when we started to
wonder if it was real. He’s gone through far too much trouble for
it to be a hoax. Why would he do it? This is his legacy to the world. I think it’s a great legacy. And I think he’ll be happy if someone finds
it in his lifetime. One thing about Forrest is that he’s genuine
about hiding this treasure. So if anybody that has that type of ability
to get that type of stuff has no issue in my opinion putting together a box of the stuff
he said he had. It’s certainly plausible that he’d be able
to do such a thing and i think he’s eccentric enough that he would. I feel like we’re just taking random guesses
at this point you know? I think really we’re lost after the first
three or four clues. He probably put it in some secret Forrest
Fenn cave somewhere. Uh there’s a huge herd of deer or something
crossing the street up there. Let’s go check it out. What are they? Those look like mountain goats. Those are mountain goats. Holy crap. Okay. Let’s pause for a second. We thought for sure those were cute little
mountain goats but in our excitement we failed to realize that these were big horned sheep. Nonetheless we lost our minds. Oh look at the rainbow in the background. Oh dude are you kidding me? That’s insane. The treasure at the end of the rainbow. Unbelievable. The whole entire trip left a lasting impression
on me. Take on this poem. I don’t even know the right word for it. It’s just a very cryptic poem, but it’s a
fun poem. I’m starting to think about why Fenn planned
this and why he did it and I’m starting to think that the treasure itself isn’t so important. As hokey as that sounds. It’s pretty hokey It is pretty hokey. His story about surviving a terminal kidney
cancer diagnosis really helped me with my own health struggles and just being able to
go out there and follow in his footsteps too. I’m so proud to be able to go out and do it. Is this sort of like a moment in your past
or do you think you’re going to continually think about it all the time. Oh no, oh my god no. The best is yet to come. Let me put it to you this way, in the end
everyone is going to be left with a smile on their face. You’re as ambiguous as Forrest is. We went down dozens of trails over the past
five days and we came up completely empty. We didn’t find the treasure. We probably didn’t even come close. But maybe we did and we’ll just never know.

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