[originally posted on dalneitzel.com 12/10/20]
When I posted my statement revealing myself as the finder Monday, I left an email address fellow searchers could use to reach me. I figured it would be a sort of release valve for pent-up frustration and would become full of hate mail pretty quickly. But what I received surprised me.
Over the past few days, I’ve been overwhelmed with hundreds of kind, heartfelt, and congratulatory emails, and now I feel like a lousy cynic for thinking most searchers would hate me. When I interviewed with Dan Barbarisi, he told me, from his reporting the last few years, he believes there’s a silent majority of good and decent people who took up this adventure. And based on my inbox, that seems to be the case.
I never understood how Forrest put up with a lot of things, his stream of emails being one of them. But now I understand. It’s impossible not to appreciate the time these lovely people have taken to reach out, and I’ve felt compelled to write back and at least thank every one of them (sorry to anyone I missed along the way).
Searchers have shared with me treasured photos from their trips to the Rockies, interesting stories, and memories of time spent with Forrest. Many people have also sent me photos of where they thought the chest was, and several people have told me they thought they ran into me or saw my footprints somewhere while they were boots on the ground. One searcher even thought I might have left behind a pair of goggles he found in a tree.
Others hope I will answer a question or two for them, and it hasn’t been too much of an imposition for me to oblige that amount, as long as they’re aware I don’t want to reveal too much about the clues or the location to which they lead.
I don’t mind anyone sharing my emails, but I figured in the spirit of “Forrest Gets Mail,” other searchers would appreciate if I published the answers, so I asked Dal if I could share on his blog some of the interesting exchanges I’ve had thus far.
My answers below are in bold.
I do have a long list of questions, but I’m pretty sure you’ve grown weary of having answered so many. So for now, I’d like to ask just one: I believe in one of your articles, you said you found the chest after searching many days in the general search area. Did it take you to a general area after solving a “majority” of the poem, or do you think it took as long as it did because perhaps the entire poem was not solved? Forgive me if I’m encroaching or being too vague.
Thanks for taking the time.
Stanners, I think my issue in 2018 was I didn’t know what blaze I was looking for and I wasn’t systematic enough. I fixed those before the 2019 search season, but the limiting factor after was deciding that, because I couldn’t find the blaze I was looking for, forces of nature had probably damaged or destroyed it at some point before I got there.
My strategy on the trip when I found it was to try to imagine how the blaze could have been damaged (knowing what I knew about that location) and to try to find that. But I didn’t feel my chances were good.
Can you please disclose what the “blaze” is/was? (If there’s a sound reason why you are unable to share, can you explain why not?)
Thanks and God Bless,
Jason (Yellowstone/Fairy Creek Solve)
Thanks Jason. I think that could imperil the location if it ever becomes known. Sorry, but there is a hint in the book.
I just wanted to say congratulations on finding the chest! Like you, I put two years into looking for the treasure. Although I obviously didn’t find the chest my 2 trips to Colorado were absolutely amazing. I instantly fell in love with the Rockies. But also, I gained some lifelong friends and a new hobby in treasure hunting.
I wish you the best. I hope all this goes well and is a positive experience for you. And damn, huge shout out for figuring it out. Sounds like you put the time into solving this and are well deserved.
Again, congrats man. Well deserved!
Thanks Bill. When Forrest had me to his house, the pseudonym he used around his family for me was “Bill.”
LOL… Because it’s an awesome name of course! And if it means anything my son’s name is Jack.
I apologize as I’m sure you’ve been inundated with email today. I like so many others would love to know to location of the chest but fully understand your decision not to disclose it, I would have likely made the same decision had I found it myself. My biggest motivation in my many years and 100s of BOTGs searching for the chest was driven by the desire to read Forrest’s autobiography he had sealed in the olive jar… What’s you plan/intention with the autobiography? I really would love the opportunity to read it more than anything else! Again, congratulations, be well, and be safe.
Thanks ShadowKaster. I’ve not opened it because I think that would hurt its value substantially, though I would like to read it too (more than the little I’ve been able to see through the glass). We’ll see if whoever buys it opens it.
Forrest’s hairs (his “DNA”) are pasted onto the paper in there.
Congratulations! I am envious and not envious at the same time. Hope you will find peace soon when this dies down.
P.S. My spot is near Lower Slide Lake. Giggle if it’s close and scoff if it’s not!
Thanks Dan. Not confirming or ruling out anywhere in Wyoming so I will stare blankly at you.
Hello Jack, nice to meet you! I am Susie Fennhaven on Youtube. Because of TTOTC, I love Eric Sloane. I must ask, did Eric have anything to do with the solution or the location? Forrest cast his spell and finding a way forward without answers has alluded me. Thank you for everything you have shared.
Thanks Susie. I think anything that was important to Forrest could have been important to the solution, and I don’t want to narrow those things down, sorry. Eric was certainly important to Forrest.
Congrats on finding it! Was the blaze damaged by another searcher in your opinion? Did the writer get it right that the damage hindered you?
Thanks Ray, weren’t you on Fargo? On a related note, I think this story really resonated with me and this chase: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B77ym0cWVmA&t=27
He was right it hindered me, but it was clearly damaged by forces of nature.
There’s two more I thought of. Note these are some loose end discrepancies noted by the community you may want to address as much as they are for me, though I’m curious too :) :
1. You stated on your YouTube channel that you asked Forrest about posting the uncut New Mexico Tourism video in 2019, but Forrest made a statement post-find on June 16th on Dal’s blog with the first chest picture that he hadn’t communicated with you since 2018. Can you explain the discrepancy?
2. You stated in your first Medium article that you called Forrest in 2018 and told him about a fake blaze you found about 1000 feet from the location you eventually found the treasure and you told him exactly where you were. You said when you met him post-find he had forgotten that call. It was a short call but wouldn’t he remember it since you were so close and he knew exactly where you were?
1. Sure. Not asking me before he said that, haha. I don’t know if he said that because he was so taken aback by me saying I had called him that it had prominence in his mind, he simply forgot I occasionally emailed him (which he mainly ignored), or it was just a poor choice of words, but I agree “communicated” is misleading there.
2. The reason I tortured myself over it was because he ended the call quickly after saying he couldn’t hear me. I didn’t know then if he really couldn’t or he was just shocked at what I said and wanted to get me off the phone, but I guess now it was the former.
Congratulations on finding the treasure. I completely understand your reluctance to reveal the location it was found.
In you first in post on Medium you mentioned a couple slip ups Forrest made that helped you. My question is if those helped you solve the clues in the poem, such was WWWH and HOB, or if you were able to bypass the clues and determine the location solely because of the slip ups?
Thanks Joe. Definitely just helped, not bypassed. To me those subtle slip-ups are the exception that proves the rule — it’s really impressive how well Forrest kept his spot close to his chest.
I’m sorry but I just had a question about when you conducted the interview with Forrest. Was that available elsewhere? I don’t believe I’ve ever seen it.
Miriam, I never interviewed Forrest. That was done for the New Mexico Tourism Department by a professional crew. Read the description I wrote under the video for a link to their video, which has their credits listed.
It sounds like you are saying that the clues were not as important as Forrest said they would be. Could you clarify how much you relied on the clues versus other information? In other words, could you have found the treasure using only the clues? Also, did Forrest confirm what the answers to each clue actually was?
Thank you so much for any info you can give.
I brought other information to bear on the clues, but I certainly could not have found it without figuring them out. And yes, he did.
I was right on what all of them referred to, but I will say there was some additional nuance to one of them for him that I would not have expected.
I’ve dedicated just shy of a decade of my life to this hunt, and I have every intention to keep searching. Seeing and feeling that special place is at the top of my bucket list. I hope you’ll take pity on my self-inflicted obsession and consider answering the following. Please know the questions posed and any answers received will remain confidential. This is purely for my continued sanity. ;)
1. If one were to scrutinize a particular Forrest interview for anomalies and/or “slip-ups”, which video(s) would bubble to the top of your mind?
2. Which word(s) in the poem come to mind as being of extra importance?
3. Is there any additional advice you would give to someone in my position?
1. I don’t want to point them out. I think every single interview is important, and just about every time I listened to or read or watched them for the umpteenth time, I made a new connection to something else he said elsewhere, and I understood him better even if it didn’t directly help me figure out where the treasure lied. I can say both are pretty subtle, but one requires far more attention to detail than the other.
2. I think it’s crucial in figuring it out not to separate out a word or clue as “most important” but rather see the poem as a coherent whole. It tells the story of a journey he took and the things he saw along the way from his perspective just like any other chapter in the memoir, and it is imbued with emotion just like every other poem he wrote. It’s one with that oeuvre, not a separate thing, and sometimes I think he did more harm than help in pointing out that it includes nine clues. I think always reminding myself that the poem itself was not the point, but rather finding the special place where he wished to die, helped me see the big picture.
3. I feel bad because I don’t want people to torture themselves over this, but obviously I don’t want to see the place destroyed. It is true that I believe there is more than enough evidence sitting in front of us and publicly available, in concert with the poem and by connecting the dots, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt where that special place is. So I do think that thrill of discovery is still available to everyone, and I think Forrest would smile to see someone else figure him out. But I’m sure I had some luck in figuring it out and fate probably helped determine what would catch my eye, so there has to be some bias there. I guess my best advice is to listen to everything Forrest has to say surrounding the subject of simplifying, and try to consider everything in context, both the big picture and small. But it’s probably true that many neurons have been connected in ways over the years for you that restrict seeing things in a new light. Forrest’s best advice began with “reading the book normally,” and I don’t think enough people actually did that first step. Maybe try beginning anew by reading TTOTC just like it was any other memoir on the shelf.
Was excited to hear another former journalist found the treasure. I do have a few questions:
- What kind of gear/day pack and navigation equipment you used (compass? All trails? Atlas?)
- what types of preparations did you have to do? Did you physically train? Get bear spray? Take a survival class?
Thanks Emily. Hiking pack, lots of water, a bit of packaged food, GPS (after 2018), gloves and backup gloves, bear spray for any animals looking to pick off a lone Easterner, bug spray (when I remembered, which is when they didn’t bite), a Tigers cap, watch, utility knife that I never used, sunglasses, rain jacket, and a softshell when it was colder. And my phone of course, which I used to listen to podcasts and audiobooks out loud while I was searching. Probably some things I’m forgetting too. I also brought one of those blue IKEA bags on my trips with the idea of putting the treasure in it to reinforce my pack when I carried it out. I don’t know if it helped with that, but it did help protect the interior of my pack from getting filthy from the treasure.
No training required, but I do enjoy hiking occasionally, especially when I’m in a new country.
Why is there a stick on the surface of the treasure chest?
Ty, it was a windy day when I found it, and that twig probably either snapped off a branch above and fell into the chest or I somehow knocked it in at some point without realizing it. I took those photos at the spot so Forrest could confirm for me it was the real treasure, and if so, to prove to him that I had found it. I wasn’t looking ahead of that. I didn’t notice the twig until after I pressed the button to take the photo, then tossed it aside and didn’t bother to take another photo of the same thing. If I had known the twig would become so famous, I would’ve kept it.
One more question is how did you know when you figured out a clue if it was correct or not or did you know?
That’s a little hard to say, Carolyn. I suppose everything fit together, and I had some evidence parts were right. And I found more evidence over time.
While I don’t expect you to reveal many, if any, details of the treasure, I do have three questions below that I’ve wondered about. It would help to provide me with closure if you were able to answer these questions. If you felt okay with sharing the answers to these questions, I would feel very grateful.
1) What was the purpose of the key inside the treasure chest?
2) What was the purpose of the scissors inside the treasure chest?
3) Did it take you two trips to retrieve the treasure as it did Forrest to hide the treasure?
Good luck to you in everything in life. There will probably be some more road bumps along the way, but it sounds like you have a very good head on your shoulders, so I have faith that you’ll be okay. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon!
1. That’s the key to open the front of the chest. Not very usable now that it’s rusted
2. Forrest didn’t know how those ended up in there
3. Nope, just one, but it was good exercise
I want to thank everyone again for the kind emails. I’m going to slow down on answering them now, and I hope people understand that. I’ve promised Jenny Kile a “Six Questions” next week and hope to do some kind of Q&A with searchers in the future.