Adventuring For Fenn's Treasure Safely
Staying Safe Is Your Top Priority While Looking For Fenn's Treasure
The search for Fenn's treasure attracts many people with varying levels of outdoor experience. Some are seasoned adventurers with lifetimes of experience in being self-sufficient. If this is you, you pretty much have things figured out, and you'll find all of the outdoor safety info and tips here a rehash of what you already know. Others have little to no outdoor experience and might learn a few things about staying safe and great tools to use when adventuring in the outdoors.
Deaths Related To Fenn's Treasure
Staying safe and having the appropriate adventuring gear are some of the most important things to know when searching for Fenn's treasure. Your very survival depends on it! While we all think we know what to do, dangerous situations and weather extremes can catch us off guard. Already at this point in the thrill of the chase, at least five people have died in events related to looking for Fenn's treasure.
Many of their deaths involved rivers, bodies of water, and being unprepared for bad weather conditions. One treasure hunter's death was also related to a fall from a height. These unfortunate events were the results of people's choices and one bad choice leading to another until they resulted in a tragedy. You can learn more about these fortunate circumstances on the Fenn Treasure wiki
Your Responsibility And Capabilities
Be prepared and think! Know your limitations! You are solely responsible for your actions and the outcome of those actions. If you question your experience, abilities, or safety at any time during your hunt for Fenn's treasure. STOP - wherever you are immediately. Think about what you are doing or what you are about to do. Ask yourself, "What is the worst possible outcome that could happen." If you are not capable, prepared, or able to deal with those outcomes, STOP and find another path, route, or solution to reach the same goal.
Looking for Fenn's treasure does not include dangerous activities. Keep in mind that Forrest Fenn was around eighty years old when he hid the treasure chest, and he made two trips from his car in one day to hide it. You should not be looking for Fenn's treasure in places which include fast moving water, on the faces of steep cliffs, inside of abandoned structures or mines, or in places requiring extreme hardship to get to including long distances. Forrest Fenn could not have hidden the treasure in those places and was not physically able to reach them. Stop and think. For tips on where Fenn's treasure could possibly be hidden, visit the Fenn's Treasure Search Area page.
"My church is in the mountains and along the river bottoms where dreams and fantasies alike go to play." - f, TTOTC
What Is Treasure Hunting Safety?
Treasure hunting safety is exactly what it sounds like, and you could probably tell me at least ten things about what staying safe in the mountains looks like right now. The fundamentals of staying safe are being prepared and aware. It includes:
Know Your Roads
Most of us Fenn's treasure seekers have to drive to our search areas. These adventures usually begin with a road trip to your search area. Check road conditions before you leave especially if you are crossing state lines, making significant elevation changes, or traveling long distances. Just because the road conditions are good or passable near you, does not mean they are in the same condition a few hundred miles away. It is no fun traveling many hours only to find a section of highway closed due to blizzards in the winter or wildfires in the summer.
When you plan your trip:
- Check out road condition reports across your route (see the department of transportation website links below)
- Look at the road webcams on these DOT websites
- Make a few calls to local businesses to ask about hiking conditions and recent weather
- Check the weather forecasts for your trip dates
How To Check Road Conditions
Know The Weather Forecast And Searching Season
Knowing and planning for the weather can make searching for Fenn's treasure an enjoyable adventure. Not knowing the weather or not being properly equipped to handle it can be a nightmare. This is especially true in the Rocky Mountains since weather can change by the hour and differ by elevation. Remember that elevation significantly affects cloud formations, weather patterns, and precipitation like rain and snow.
Research weather common to your Fenn's treasure search area and searching season. This will help you know when to travel, what to pack, and plan ahead. Knowing that afternoon rain showers are common in the Rocky Mountains during the summer is helpful while hiking. Knowing that a dry summer leads to less moisture in one-hour and one-thousand hour ground fuels which increases wildfire danger and activity in the fall can help you avoid burn areas. Knowing that certain stretches of highways and interstates shutdown or are permanently closed during the winter and early spring can affect your travel routes. Become a Rocky Mountain seasonal weather expert. The more you know the better!
Time of Day, Temperature, And Elevation
Mornings and evenings often experience significant temperature changes since less heat is contained in the atmosphere at higher elevations. Expect temperatures to swing up to +/- 30°F (degrees Fahrenheit). Also, as elevation and altitude increase, air temperature decreases. On sunny days for every +/- 1,000 feet of altitude, the temperature changes +/- 5.4°F. With precipitation like snow or rain falling, the temperature change decreases to around +/- 3.3°F for every +/- 1,000 feet of altitude. These numbers are based on this Colorado Parks Study.
Watch the clouds. They foretell of the weather that is coming. It is also helpful to be able to identify common cloud types and associated weather patterns. Low and mid-altitude clouds like nimbostratus and altostratus can form at altitudes near 6,500 feet. These clouds often hold precipitation and can cause fog cover on the ground at higher elevations. Other low-altitude clouds like cumulonimbus formations can cause severe weather like thunderstorms, lightning, and hail. Be careful if you see one of these building in the sky. Other clouds like "shelf clouds" are a sign that a significant wind shear event is taking place. These clouds are usually found at the bottoms of cumulonimbus clouds and can precede more dangerous weather like squall lines, funnel clouds, and tornadoes.
This isn't a detailed weather guide, so let's stop there. You can Google those cloud names and other common clouds for pictures of what they look like. If you are interested in learning more about weather, check out the National Weather Service SKYWARN Storm Spotter program. They provide free training on how to identify and spot developing weather patterns.
Use A Weather Tracking App With Storm Radar
Having a weather app with local forecasts and radar can be extremely helpful. There are free versions of these apps which provide great information. You can also find paid versions which host more radar features and nodes with frequent updates. Also, some more advanced live radar services (meteorological reporting grade) are paid subscriptions.
Weather Radar Free App
The Weather Radar Free app provides weather reports and forecasts, wind and precipitation tracking, and more. Use the forecasting to check current, hourly, and daily conditions. This app is only found in the Google Play Store. There may be a similar app for Apple devices.
- See weather conditions as they happen and future forecasts
- Find it in the app store for Android devices
- Cost: Free
RadarScope App: The Ultimate Weather Radar
The RadarScope app displays live storm tracking, weather reports, lightning warnings, and weather pattern outlooks. Find out what the weather is doing and if you are in the path.
Know Your Fenn's Treasure Search Area
While searching for Fenn's treasure, knowing your search area allows you to know where you are at all times. This includes knowing and being able to locate trails, nearby roads, landmarks, the closest emergency help, and other locations while you have boots on the ground. You might think,
"Well, thats obvious. I've been looking at maps for weeks or months. I planned the route and identified the nine clues in the poem. How could I not know my search area?"
These are all great things to do in preparation for looking for Fenn's treasure! It is also a good idea to download a few trail guide apps with offline capability for your smartphone, have an extra battery pack for charging, and bring a paper map for backup as well. Useful hiking apps include AllTrails (free), COTREX (free - Colorado only), Guthook Guides (free), and other back country apps where their are no trails. Most are free apps, but some are paid.
Trail Guide Apps Features
These apps help you:
- Track hiking progress including distance, route, direction, and map location
- Review terrain profiles including topography and elevation
- Know your location by GPS
AllTrails App: Your guide to the outdoors
The AllTrails app contains databases of local trails across the country. It sorts them by length, rating (user reviews), level of difficulty, and pinpoints their location on the map. Plan a route, and download it for offline usage.
COTREX App: Exploring the Trails of Colorado
If you are searching for Fenn's treasure in Colorado, the COTREX app offers the most comprehensive trail data for the state. It is maintained by the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife and contains a large database of trails, topo maps, and more. You can download whole offline map blocks of Colorado by geographical region.
"So I applied some mountain man wisdom to the situation. The sun comes up in the east..." - f, TTOTC
Know What You Need For The Trip
Now you are almost ready to start your trip to find Fenn's treasure. You know where you are going for the search area, road conditions on the way there, and the weather you will face. The only thing left is to start packing for your treasure hunting trip. Bring the essential things you need to stay safe. This includes packing an overnight bag with gear to spend the night in the car, bringing enough food and water to survive without relying on outside help, and making sure your vehicle is ready for the trip.
You should have an overnight bag in your vehicle even if you plan on staying in motels or at other lodging accommodations. This is especially important in colder weather since you have to be prepared to spend the night in your vehicle if you become stranded. Pack things like a sleeping bag (one per person), survival candles, bottled water, warm clothing, and nonperishable food items in a large duffel bag, and store the bag in your trunk.
Trail Gear And Hiking Equipment
Start off with a sturdy backpack. If you actually find Fenn's treasure chest and plan on transporting out of the search area with you, it will need to support over 40 pounds in addition to the gear you brought with you.
Pack the gear you think you'll need on the trail for your Fenn's treasure adventure into the sturdy backpack. Things that really come in handy in any season are duck tape (for blisters), a basic medical kit, parachute cord or 1000lb cord, a multi tool, a small knife, a rechargeable battery pack for your cellphone, sunscreen, sunglasses, chap stick, a wide brim hat, and trail snacks and power bars. Other nice to haves are a parachute hammock (for afternoon naps), gloves, bandanas, a backpack rain cover, and hand sanitizer.
Hiking Clothing And Footwear
Pack the clothing you need for the season you are searching in. Nylon or quick dry travel clothing is best. Avoid cotton and materials which will absorb and hold water. Dress in layers since temperatures change in the Rocky Mountains throughout the day. Bring a rain jacket or poncho. A rain jacket can also act as a wind breaker. In the colder months and winter, try to bring a cold weather parka or GORE-TEX shell jacket along with thermals or long underwear. If there is snow on the ground or you are crossing snowy terrain, bring waterproof gloves and outer clothing. Getting wet when it is cold out places you in a bad situation and at risk of getting hypothermia.
Pack extra wool socks with at least one pair of socks per hiking day and then bring a few extra. Use good hiking boots or water-resistant footwear with good ankle and arch support. Waterproof your footwear with sealers like bee's wax as needed. Boot gators can also come in handy to keep your feet dry. Yaktraxs or traction cleats can come in handy if you are walking over icy or slippery ground. If you think you'll need snowshoes, it might be best to stay home and drink hot chocolate until the snow melts.
Gauging Backpack Weight
For your backpack weight, try not to exceed more than twenty percent of your body weight (or less) depending on your level of fitness. I would actually recommend much less since if you did find the treasure and wanted to take it with you, that would add over 40 pounds to your pack load right there. Your pack weight also includes food and water so don't forget to include those as well.
Know And Respect Wildlife
Know the wildlife in your Fenn's treasure search area and plan accordingly. If you are treasure hunting near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming for example, you are in grizzly bear country. You will want to bring bear repellent (a form of high concentration pepper spray). Bear bells may also work but be careful using them. Bears can associate the sound with humans and come see what all the noise is about. Also, keep an eye out for signs of animals in the area including tracks, scat, territorial markings, and signs of foraging. Try not to feed or disturb any wild animals you come across.
Food Storage In Bear Country
If you are camping outdoors, be sure to secure your food in a locked vehicle or bear hang (the practice of hanging your food in a bag high up in a tree). Do not keep anything edible on the ground, around your tent, in your sleeping bag, or inside your shelter. This also includes things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, and anything smellable or with a food-like scent.
Make sure your vehicle is road trip ready by checking things like tire pressure, spare tire, tool kits, maintenance schedules, last oil change mileage, and fluid levels. If you can, have a certified mechanic do a multiple point vehicle inspection to look for any problems you may encounter on the road. If you are driving an older vehicle or question your ability to drive there and back, it may also be helpful to bring your vehicle title with you in case you need to permanently swap vehicles during the trip.
Tell A Friend
Ok! If you made it this far, it is time to get on the road and go look for Fenn's treasure. The last thing you want to do is tell a friend where you are going and when you'll be back. You don't have to give them all of the specifics... like about the treasure, how you are looking for it, and all of the other details if you don't want to. We get it. Fenners know and understand the thrill of the chase, but other people may not share your same enthusiasm. Just be like,
"Hey, I've always wanted to go hiking at ________ spot. I'll be up there for a few days and back on ________ day. See you then! Oh, if I don't make it back by then, I might have fallen and can't get up. Try to call me and come find me if I don't answer."
Finding Fenn's Treasure
If destiny and fortune smiled on you - congrats! You found Fenn's treasure chest full of gold nuggets, double eagle gold coins, precious gems, and other artifacts. There's a few things you need to think about next. The order of the steps may vary depending on things like cellphone coverage, people nearby, or other circumstances. Here are a few things you'll want to do after you find Fenn's treasure:
- Take a picture of yourself and the Fenn treasure chest (a selfie works just fine)
- Document the area the chest is located in with photos and/or videos
- Send the picture of you and the chest to someone you trust like a close friend or family member who hopefully knows of your interest in the thrill of the chase, Fenn's treasure, and is someone who won't tell the whole world (or do so when you have cellphone coverage again)
- Take the chest from its hidden location and conceal it in your backpack
- Transport the chest in your backpack back to your vehicle, and do it in one trip if you can (the chest and its contents weigh over 40 pounds combined)
- If you can't take everything in one trip, make a hidden cache in the woods to leave some of your hiking gear and the treasure chest at until you come back
- First, transport the contents of the Fenn treasure in your backpack back to your car, place it in another bag, and hide it in your vehicle out of sight (lock it in the trunk if possible)
- Then, make a second trip back to the hidden cache location for the chest and the rest of your hiking gear
- Do not talk to anyone you meet short of a passing trail "howdy" and maintain good situational awareness
- Conceal the chest and chest contents in bags hidden out of sight or lock those bags in your vehicle's trunk
- Find a safe place like a secure room with a lockable door to further examine the chest and document its contents on video
- Upload your pictures and videos to a private cloud service like Google Drive or Dropbox
- You may want to send a link to the cloud drive back to the person you trust for safekeeping (who you sent the first picture of you and the chest to)
- Make your way safely back home making sure you obey all of the speed limits and rules of the road - do not give local or state law enforcement any reason to pull you over
- If you are pulled over by law enforcement, do not give them any consent to search your vehicle even if they ask you to or say they have a reason to (they cannot legally do so unless they meet a motor vehicle exemption rule like seeing contraband in plain sight or conducting a search incident to arrest or impounding your vehicle)
- If the authorities do find and seize Fenn's treasure, it gets more complicated, and you will probably have to have Forrest Fenn and a legal team help prove that it is your legal property in court proceedings in the seizing jurisdiction
- Store the treasure chest in a safe place or safety deposit box (you'll need to find a bank with a big one larger than 10'x10')
- Don't tell anyone else about your find yet and proceed with your normal life for the next thirty days or so as Forrest Fenn recommended
- After that, you will probably want to talk to Forrest and let him know about you finding his treasure (he wants his turquoise bracelet back)
- As this point, consider consulting legal counsel and a tax professional depending on how you proceed with your treasure find
- You will most likely have to pay taxes on the treasure's value, so you finding Fenn's treasure falls under IRS code section 61 since it is considered a factor in gross income - Section 61(a) of the Internal Revenue Code defines gross income as income from whatever source derived, including (but not limited to) a treasure trove to the extent of its value in United States currency (USD), I.R.C.
- Tax Note: The value of the treasure would be based on its appraised value and taxed in the income bracket it falls into - in 2019 as a single filer, any income exceeding $510,300 USD is incrementally taxed at up to 37%, so you would be paying out around $327,637 USD in taxes if Fenn's treasure was worth exactly $1 million USD (estimate based on 2019 Turbotax tax calculator)
- You could potentially defer the taxable value of finding Fenn's treasure by setting up an artifact loan agreement with a museum, but you will need to consult a legal and tax professional to set this up and understand the basic legal issues set forth in the museum loan agreement
- Consider filing for valuable personal property insurance to protect the value of the chest and its contents - this can give you increased protection over typical homeowners insurance
- If you decide to tell the world you found Fenn's treasure, keep details to a minimum, and keep everything off of your personal social media accounts unless you think you can handle the fallout from such a find
- Keep the original hiding spot a secret (in that case skip steps #3, #13, and don't share any photos)
- If you decide to sell Fenn's treasure (since you may have to due to taxes), consider auctioning it off with a collection of signed books by Forrest Fenn as The Thrill of the Chase and the Fenn treasure chest are now pieces of history
- If you can live without the monetary value of the treasure (and pay the taxes), consider setting up a special exhibition tour with museums around the country (this could be hard if you cannot avoid or absorb the taxes)
- Another alternative is to create a GoFundMe or Kickstarter page to pay the treasure chest's taxes and setup a nonprofit organization dedicated to Fenn's treasure which will sponsor future treasure hunts and keep the thrill of the chase alive for future generations
- Just for fun and if possible, think about re-hiding some of the chest's contents or other motivating items in the original spot (again, don't do this if you have already told people where you found it or sent pictures of you in the spot to people like in step #3) or make your own poem and write your own book for the rest of the Fenn treasure hunters to follow
- Keep the thrill of the chase alive and continue the legend