Clues Lead to Nearby Mountain Pass
By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today
The Leadville Connection has done it again! One of the coolest things about living in Leadville Today is its deep, rich history; this city has been around a long time. Generations of people, from Supreme Court Justices to out-of-this-world astronauts find they have a Leadville Connection. But for this post, it’s even more intriguing than that, because this time, it’s about buried treasure – Fenn’s Treasure that is!
Perhaps you remember the world-famous story of intrigue about the treasure chest full of gold, jewelry, and other valuables worth between $1-3 million which was buried somewhere in the Rocky Mountains by an art dealer with a passion for poetry and puzzles. For more than a decade, treasure hunters have attempted to untangle the clues provided by Forrest Fenn in the 24-line poem first published in his 2010 autobiography, “The Thrill of the Chase.”
According to his website, “The man behind the treasure is Forrest Fenn, a 94-year-old millionaire, former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archaeologist, and successful art dealer in Santa Fe, N.M.”
When asked why he hid the treasure, he replied, “…hiding the treasure in the first place was largely about encouraging families to enjoy the outdoors. “I wanted to give the kids something to do,” he said. “They spend too much time in the game room or playing with their little handheld texting machines. I hope parents will take their children camping and hiking in the Rocky Mountains. I hope they will fish, look for fossils, turn rotten logs over to see what’s under them, and look for my treasure.”
Treasure Hunting in Rocky Mountains
And that’s exactly what folks did, crisscrossing the four Rocky Mountain states identified as possible treasure locations: Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. Since then, families and friends mapped out their summer vacations with notes for Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Hunt in hand attempting to un-riddle his cryptic clues along the way. The treasure hunt became the topic of news stories (https://www.yahoo.com/huffpost/chest-gold-hidden-rockies-ultimate-104524665.html ) and video features, like this one from CBS Sunday Morning back in July 2015.
Over the years there were a few false discoveries. And a seemingly endless number of folks will tell you that they solved the puzzle poem, but “just haven’t had a chance to get to the spot..” Or the tale of coming within yards of the X-marks-the-spot only to be run off by a Moose Cow with babies in tow. Really?
However, this past June 2020, in the midst of a global pandemic, Fenn announced that the treasure was found by a man from “back East” who did not want to be named. Reportedly, the discovery was confirmed by a photograph, letting the air out of every gold-digger’s glory hole, all the while igniting new speculations concerning who found the treasure chest and more importantly, where? In fact, many local denizens insisted that it was somewhere nearby, in Lake County.
June’s apparent conclusion to the decade-long hunt brought relief to some. After all, at least five people died while searching, the most recent close to home on the Arkansas River in late March of this year. But if 2020 didn’t have enough epic twists and turns, last month on September 14, the maverick, millionaire treasure map maker, Forrest Fenn died of natural causes at the age of 90, sending online treasurer bloggers and skeptics back into the stratosphere of speculation. After all, Forrest never provided any kind of public proof that the treasure had actually been uncovered.
Since Forrest’s death, a series of new speculations have bread-crumbed the story closer and closer to Lake County’s front door. Then, lo and behold earlier this week into the Leadville Today Inbox pops up an email claiming that “Fenns treasure was found on Weston Pass by two Leadville residents and two non-Leadville residents.” What?!
Accompanied with the note indicating he wanted LT to have first dibs on the story, was the following YouTube video which describes in detail the unraveling of the poem’s clues that led to the eventually treasure chest discovery, supposedly atop Weston Pass. Josh Jordan is the guy who posted the video and claims to currently have a gag order about the discovery until Thursday, October 15. So stay tuned on that front. Of interesting note in the video is the identification of several staff members from Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, although no official comment from the college, yet. At present, other experts of Fenn’s Treasure have weighed in on the blogs. #WhatSayYou
The Leadville Connection
But for LT there was one more unanswered question: Why Leadville? Why Lake County? Why Weston Pass? If the most recent claim can be verified, what was the millionaire’s connection to America’s highest city? For the answers to those questions and the rest-of-the-story, you’ll have to stay tuned as theorists and puzzle-solvers turn their glance up high to the mountaintops surrounding Leadville Today.
So far this week, LT has heard from several passionate, poem-pathologists pitching proof about why the coveted prize would be buried in Lake County. Time will tell if the latest conviction can be proven. But truth be told, it’s been an interesting – and welcome – distraction from the rest of the news. So stay tuned, keep that treasure shovel handy and by all means, if you see any buried silver or gold beneath one of the richest pieces of earth, drop a note to email@example.com.
Colorado Journalist Kathy Bedell owns The Great Pumpkin, a media company in Leadville, CO which publishes LeadvilleToday.com and SaguacheToday.com.