Treasure Inland

Forrest Fenn's famous treasure. This photo was taken by Mr. Fenn himself, before the 80 year old man carried the box and its contents in to who-knows-where and hid it all.

“Adventure is just hardship with an inflated sense of self.”


Usually when we hear about hidden treasure, it’s across the sea on some desert island and is guarded by pirates.  But I’m going to talk about one that is none of those.

It’s been about seven years since millionaire author and art collector Forrest Fenn hid a bronze chest full of treasure.  In a 2015 interview with ABC News, Fenn indicated that the box contained 265 gold coins, “mostly American eagles and double eagles, hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs, ancient Chinese carved jade figures, pre-Columbian gold animal artifacts, lots of rubies, emeralds, sapphires and diamonds and other things.”

Fenn wrote a poem giving clues for finding the treasure and included it in his self-published bookThe Thrill of the Chase.  In that poem, he said that whoever finds the treasure can keep it.  It’s no wonder then that thousands of people have taken up the challenge, hoping to lay claim to a fortune, estimated at about $1 million at the time he hid it, but that could be worth as much as $5 million now.

Sadly, in the last couple years, three people have died in pursuit of the riches.  Now several people are calling for Fenn to cancel the hunt and retrieve the treasure.  In an interview with ABC News, chief of the New Mexico State Police, Pete Kassetas, said, “I want Mr. Fenn to retrieve the treasure or call off the hunt.”

I understand that Mr. Kassetas is thinking about public safety, but I have to disagree with him.  As Mr. Fenn pointed out, the reason he hid the treasure was to inspire people to get outside.

And it has done that.


In our world, people have gotten the idea that they should be protected from any semblance of risk.  They file lawsuits if they order hot coffee and burn themselves.  They pass laws about what people can eat or drink, in the interest of protecting them from themselves.  They don’t go outside because of ticks and mosquitoes.

Our country is full of people who are sedentary, fat, and bored.  Many get their adventure by watching TV or playing video games.  They really do need to get outside and DO something.

They need adventure.


I’ve had a few adventures in my own life, hiking in the swamps of North Carolina, hunting in the Colorado Rockies, and camping in the Canadian wilderness, among other things.  The weight of being responsible for a family as well as the expense involved have reduced my adventuring to well below what I would prefer.  While my own exciting times are limited, I have always encouraged my sons to, “go for it,” as the saying goes.

And they have…many times.

When I ran across something on the internet about Arizona’s Havasu Falls not long before we took a trip to that area, I pointed out to my sons that the swimming holes below multiple falls could only be reached by foot or horseback.  They got excited.  Three of them decided to run in and back out in one day, stopping to swim in each of the secluded pools as they went.

They had to get special permission to make the trip in only one day because no one had ever done it.  According to officials, it was a two-day trip.

They did it, becoming the first three people to do it…ever.


Another time, one of the boys suggested that they form a team and compete in the Bass Pro Shops Conservation Team Marathon in Springfield, Missouri.  Despite living full lives with all the normal responsibilities, they did it…and won.  It took them a few years to actually do it as a team of just brothers, but they did that too, and until recently they held the record for the event, and they held it as brothers.


During preparing for and taking part in the canyon run and the marathons, they have incurred expense, injury, sickness, and failure.  Adventure has its costs and its risks.

But then there is the payoff.  Through their endeavors, my sons have learned that they can do just about anything they set their minds on, as long as they are willing to work for it.  If they suffer setbacks, they keep plugging away until they find a way to make it work.

If they fail, they get back up, dust themselves off, and try again…and again…as many times as it takes.

Where so many others have a sense of entitlement, my boys go out and work hard…and succeed.  They are happy, healthy, and thriving.


As I said, adventure has its cost.  Back during the California gold rush, the Sacramento Bee estimated that 20% of the 49ers died within their first six months of trying to strike it rich.  That’s one in five, folks.  But some, a very few, struck it rich while others moved on to other endeavors.

Heck, about 12 people die every year visiting the Grand Canyon, including two or three from falls over the rim.  Falls from the many thousands of cliffs in the Grand Canyon?  Who would have thought THAT could happen?

Maybe we should close the canyon to sightseers.  You know, because it’s not THEIR fault they stood too close to the edge of a stinkin’ 1000 foot drop…or is it?

In other words, whose fault is it if you exercise poor judgement in any pursuit?


So leave Mr. Fenn alone.


Let me add something real quick.  Forrest Fenn said that he did not hide the box anywhere dangerous.  He did say he took two trips to place it all but, heck, he was eighty years old and had survived cancer when he hid it.  Really, how physically challenging could it be?

Besides, people die every day.  They drown in backyard swimming pools, choke to death in fancy restaurants, and have heart attacks in their easy chairs.  I may go that way too, but I’d rather pass away while hiking in the Rocky Mountains.


I’m not trying to talk anyone into hunting Fenn’s treasure, and have no plans to search for it myself.  I might tell my boys about it though.  Heck, if they strike it rich they might even share some of the riches with their old dad.

What I am talking about is that life is much more interesting if there is a little adventure in it.  Mr. Fenn’s treasure gives some people that feeling.

And they don’t have to go to sea or face a bunch of swarthy pirates to do it.



(above) A picture of the treasure before it was hidden.  This photo was taken by Mr. Fenn himself.

(below) A map of the area where Forrest Fenn hid his treasure along with his poem in written form.

(above) Forrest Fenn’s poem.

(below) Mr. Fenn has advice for those who want to find his treasure.


(above and below) News reports about Mr. Fenn’s hidden treasure, and those who seek it.


8 Comments on "Treasure Inland"

  1. Interesting article! Let them have their adventure!

  2. Dottie Phelps | November 21, 2017 at 10:32 am |

    Interesting. I had not heard this before. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Treasure ye say!?!?!

    • Aye. Do ye know what a pirate’s favorite letter is? You say, “R”. No, actually it’s “the C”!

  4. Bobby Matthews | November 28, 2017 at 2:07 pm |

    I have to admit this story speaks to the inner child that ran through the woods of our family farm in Missouri, sometimes with great reluctance. I sought adventure in books and film-in this I’m much like my dad-but those times I spent “treasure hunting” in the woods, stick fighting with my brothers, and exploring the parks of Southeast Missouri with my family…are some of the best memories I’ll have. My son, who’s nearly three is terrifyingly curious, and filled with the boundless courage of a child. He loves exploring and discovering, a drive my wife always encourages when I cannot. One day I’ll tell him the story of Finn’s Treasure and who knows…maybe He’ll be the one to find it. But that’s the point. Get out there and try!

    • Oh, I can definitely see your insatiable curiosity in Richard. I planted a seed with some of your brothers over the holiday about maybe going out there on a family vacation. Some of them thought it might be better as a “guys” trip. Either way, I’m in! It would be fun but, to me, the most important thing is having an adventure with family.

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