SALT LAKE CITY — If Forrest Fenn is telling the truth, there’s a treasure worth millions of dollars somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe, N.M. The eccentric multimillionaire announced earlier this year that he’d hidden the treasure to leave a lasting legacy and to inspire Americans to get off their couches and to go search for it. Hundreds of treasure seekers have heeded the call, spending countless hours scouring the mountains of New Mexico.
Fenn is a renowned collector and has said the treasure consists of some of his favorite antiques. He told Newsweek these items include ancient figurines, a 17th-century Spanish ring, gold coins, gold nuggets, rubies, diamonds, sapphires and more.
To help those who are seeking his treasure, Fenn was kind enough to provide a cryptic poem with clues to the location.
Two Utah adventurers, Nate Kiser and Brody Valerga, have studied Fenn’s poem and believe they have identified the location of the treasure. They are currently preparing the equipment they’ll need for the recovery. And here’s the twist — they don’t think the treasure is in New Mexico.
I’ve known Kiser and Valerga for years, and have even joined them on some of their past treasure hunts throughout the West. So when I heard that they’d solved the clues from Fenn’s poem, I was undeniably intrigued.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Valerga to learn more about the duo’s plans.
What do you know about the content of the treasure?
“The exact contents are unknown to anyone except Fenn, but he has confirmed that there is a lot of gold, precious gemstones and artifacts. It is rumored that he put in an ornate bracelet that he would like back. There is also a microsized copy of his biography. He originally intended that he be entombed with the treasure.”
Do you think Forrest Fenn may have been playing a prank with all this? If not, what makes you think it's real?
“Some of Fenn’s rivals believe this is the old joker’s farewell trick, but his close friends swear they have seen the treasure and vouch for his character. Fenn is a respected collector and art dealer. And while it is true he has a history of embellishing stories, his biography checks out. Plus, what else is an old adventurer going to do with his treasure? I have too much faith in humanity to believe this is a hoax. The treasure is real.”
What are your plans for the treasure hunt?
“Our No. 1 goal is to find the treasure. And of course we will have fun along the way. We make adventure films so this will be our next exciting project.”
Who is going on the treasure hunt?
“Right now it’s Nate and I and a videographer. We may bring one or two others as long as they disclaim their right to the treasure.”
What strategies are you using to interpret the clues from Fenn's poem?
“Reading Fenn’s biography has been very helpful. There are blogs of other hunters that helped us figure out where it wasn’t. Once we had our location in mind, we checked the poem against it and it matches up perfectly with the clues.”
Do you have any other clues to go off of?
“Fenn gives out one clue a month on the "Today" show. We plan to be up near our location when he gives out the next clue.”
What gives you an edge over all the other people seeking the treasure?
“Months of research and extensive travel in the area where we think the treasure is hidden. Plus, I think it’s fate.”
What equipment will you use?
“We don’t believe the treasure is buried, per se, so a metal detector probably won’t do much good. We will be armed only with our wits and experience — and probably a pocketknife. And maybe a divining rod.”
OK, final question. If the treasure isn’t in New Mexico, which state is it in?
“I don’t want to give too much information away here. I’ll explain everything once we have the treasure in our possession.”
Fenn’s treasure poem:
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.
Grant Olsen joined the ksl.com team in 2012. He covers travel, outdoor adventures, and other interesting things. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.