How many times had Forrest told people the solution to his poem was simple, and that people tended to over-complicate it.
Keep it Simple, Stupid.
I figured that I had enough money to make it into Chicago, maybe a little further. That left 1,200 miles I’d have to cover with no money. Through Iowa, Nebraska and into Wyoming.
That the treasure was in Thermopolis wasn’t much of a surprise, I just hadn’t expected to find the beginning of the poem to point to a spot that was named, smack dab in the center of the map Forrest Fenn had released.
“And take it in the canyon down, Not far, but too far to walk. Put in below the home of Brown.”
If I was right about Thermopolis this line meant to follow U.S. Route 20 south out of town but not as far as Boysen Reservoir.
The manmade lake was formed by Boysen Dam and was stocked with Brown Trout among other varieties of fish, and if you put in below the dam you’d be on the Wind River heading north, back towards the town of Thermopolis.
Boats or floating of any kind in this section of the river was strictly prohibited. Though this was the route described by the poem, I realized that it was most likely not the route taken by Forrest Fenn to place the treasure. That much was obvious from listening to any of his talks.
So why consider the river route then?
Because that’s where the clues were leading.
Like Forrest said in an interview, “The solve is difficult for many searchers because their minds think the clues are tougher to decrypt than they really are.”
And because they wrongly assume that there is only one way to the treasure.
Rafting the river would be dangerous, so you could say that it’s no place for the meek. But the real clue is in the next line, “The end is ever drawing nigh.”
People usually took this to mean a cemetery. As if it’s some kind of morbid reference to our own imminent death and the unstoppable flow of time. Forrest was diagnosed with cancer when he came up with the idea of hiding the treasure, so it’s a semi-logical conclusion. And there is a cemetery up the river as you approach Thermopolis, but I didn’t think that’s where the treasure was hidden. Because it was hidden, not buried.
Besides, the end drawing nigh meant that you were getting close, not that you were there, not that you were dead. Drawing also meant to pull or drag toward, or attract. As in your destination was being pulled closer by the flow of the river?
That’s because, as you float downriver you are looking for Johnson Draw. That was the double meaning of the line and it is one of the canyons off what would now be your left side as you headed north. Though it was formed by erosion there is no significant source of water, meaning that you wouldn’t be able to paddle your way in, except for the brief moment when you pass under the railroad tracks above the entrance.
That would be the “heavy loads,” reference in the poem.
The “water high” reference could maybe be a waterfall at the back of the draw, I thought. Or a water pipeline carrying water from the reservoir into Thermopolis along the railroad bridge. And even if I was wrong about Johnson Draw, how many railroad bridges could there be south of Thermopolis and north of Boysen Reservoir?
For a couple of days I’d hardly thought about the treasure. I’d been in the moment, trying to figure out logistics and my budget, until I was sitting on the S3 bus on the way back from seeing downtown Asheville when it hit me full force in the stomach.
“What am I doing?” I almost asked myself out loud. “I should be there…”
Paranoia about someone getting there before me, someone smarter and with more resources, how the location was so obvious that everyone must have figured it out. As if the hundredth monkey effect was real and my thoughts had been sent out and read by the rest of humanity. If I could just get there first…
Bus schedules, distance, and my lack of funds were all playing a role in my slow-motion crawl across the United States.
Asheville was nice enough. More of a big city than Ashland, Oregon was, both of which I was told would be perfect for me to settle down and start a life. Neither of which felt like long term options. Where does a person go who wants to do the things I want and live the way I plan?
Cheap tacos, protein shakes, and hallucinogenics.
Ugh… how have I made it this far without going crazy?
If I was wrong about the treasure I’d be broke in the middle of nowhere.
If I was right, I’d be broke in the middle of nowhere with a huge logistical problem, i.e., carrying almost fifty extra pounds of treasure in my backpack with no idea how to convert a portion of that safely into cash. The logistics are what I thought about, not the treasure itself. I also wondered about things going on off-stage so to speak.
But I had to watch that. I couldn’t dwell on possibilities that I couldn’t control. Besides which, I can and have dreamt up some damn scary alternatives. I just didn’t want to give them power.
The bus to Knoxville couldn’t come soon enough. I’d just have to keep the sheer terror under wraps for a couple more weeks.
Act as if I have all the time in the world.
It is mine after all. It was put aside for me.
“The treasure is waiting for me,” I repeated to myself.
…and repeated it again.
“The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose,” said the J.B. Haldane quote on the bedroom wall of the friend’s place where I was staying.
Miss America had been pregnant when she hiked the Appalachian Trail, which was how I knew her. It was hard to fathom that the little girl running around the house meant that it had been five years since I’d last seen her. All the more so because she took me into her house without hesitation or reservation.
“Happiness, too, is inevitable,” was another quote that they had, this one from Camus, to which I made the joke, “What do you call a cow with black, green and brown spots? Camoo…”
“Don’t be absurd,” my host joked.
You can download the entire book of Quest in the West in PDF format here!