Modern Day Teasure Hunt In the Rockies

Those of us who grew up on movies like Goonies and the Indiana Jones series have always wanted to go on a modern day treasure hunt. We scoured our attics for long-lost maps and pretended to fight Nazis for the holy grail in our backyards, all in the name of adventure and never growing up. Well, now we’ve grown up (mostly) and there’s a real-life treasure hunt for real gold in the Rocky Mountains!

Millionaire Forrest Fenn must have been one of these adventurers-at-heart, because the eccentric older man, in an effort to relieve financial malaise after the great recession, hid a chest filled with $2 million worth of gold, precious stones, and expensive artifacts somewhere in the Rocky Mountains in 2008. Fenn isn’t crazy, his friends say, nor is he one to create a wild hoax; for what it’s worth, everyone who knows him says the hunt is real. The only clues he’s given to the public about where to find this chest can be found in a poem written in his self-published book, “The Thrill of The Chase.” He estimates that about 65,000 people have gone treasure hunting over the last 6 years as a result.

Two of those people have died in the pursuit, unfortunately. Randy Bilyeu and Paris Wallace went missing two years apart. Their bodies were found days after they were reported missing, of undetermined cause. Though some have called on Fenn to call off the hunt after the deaths, he has only expressed regret and respectful concern for the families of the deceased, and urges anyone who goes hunting for his treasure chest to take GPS, a buddy, and to wait for the snow to melt fully.

Bilyeu and Wallace’s demise haven’t stemmed the tide of treasure hunters and adventurers who are positive that they can crack the poem and unearth the chest in the wilderness somewhere between New Mexico and Canada. And though none have come back with the treasure yet, they often do return with a newfound respect for the outdoors. “You go out, you look, you don’t find it, you come back home, you go through your clues again,” says adventurer (and retiree) Cynthia Meachum. “And you go out and you do it again. And I have actually seen some of the most spectacular scenery because of this that I ever would’ve seen.” We think Fenn would be pleased about that at least.