The Porvenir Canyon – My Solve

This past week, I headed out for my seventh botg. Just hours before heading out on the trail, I found out the treasure had been found. While it was tough news to hear, I determined that my real treasure was finding this place all in itself. In fact, this provides the foundation for the documentary ‘Finding Forrest Fenn’.

I spent two days hiking in the Porvenir (Spanish for ‘Future’) Canyon. The final day before heading to Santa Fe and then on to Chama was the best. The weather was near perfect.

My ‘Solve’ starts in Montezuma, NM, the home of the old Montezuma Castle (hotel) that was purchased in 1981. The castle and surrounding 100 acres were purchased by industrialist and philanthropist Armand Hammer for use as a United World College. It is on these acres where Montezuma Hot Springs is located and is my ‘Where Warm Waters Halts’ (WWWH). This is the first clue in Forrest Fenn’s Poem and the most important.

The Montezuma Castle
Montezuma Hot Springs – “The Baths’

From there, the highway goes northwest up and then down into Gallinas Canyon. Hwy 65 snakes in and out of the mountains before descending into a beautiful valley. At the crossroads, you go to the right toward El Porvenir Campground. Many searchers continued straight on Hwy 65 to explore the Gallinas Creek where ‘Western Life Camp’ and the ‘Oak Flats Picnic Area’ is located. Turning to the right takes you toward Hermit’s Peak and the El Porvenir Christian Camp.

First Sightings of Hermit’s Peak

Just a few miles further and you deadend at the El Porvenir Campground. There are two trails to decide between. Most popular is the Hermit’s Peak Summit Trail. However, my ‘Home of Brown’ (put in below the home of brown) has me take the Porvenir Trail. This trail takes you into the Porvenir Canyon below ‘Hermit’s Cave‘, where the monk Giovanni Maria de Agostini lived for several years. He would come down periodically to the town to heal the sick and infirm using native remedies.

From there it’s no place for the meek. The first 1.5 miles of the trail is owned by the El Porvenir Christian Camp and allows access to hikers. It can be a busy area at time so requires a searcher to remain inconspicuous. At one time I thought this might mean that you needed to off the trail through private property in order to locate the chest. Careful study of my topographic map showed that there were public lands just 200-500 feet off the trail. Most recently, I felt that it was necessary to hike in 1.5 miles to where the public land started.

First Water Crossing

The trails crosses over Beaver Creek on many occasions. Two of the crossing involve bridges that are maintained by the Christian Camp. There will be no paddle up your creek (Beaver Creek is not navigable) just heavy loads and water high.

In my last expedition, my ‘heavy loads’ was a streambed that was spilling out large boulders onto the trail. There was no other geographic feature like this anywhere on the trail. Last year, I walked up the streambed 500 ft and laid out GPS markers all along the streambed to analyze back at the Hotel where I had a good wifi connection. However, the steep ascent made it unrealistic for 80 year old Forrest Fenn to take on with a 22 lb + load.

Heavy Loads

Just another 500-750 feet and I crossed the 7th water crossing. It was a beautiful area I discovered last year in late September. I spent much time soaking and wading in the swimming hole below the waterfall last year but opted to enjoy the shaded areas on top of the waterfall this time. It was magical, peaceful, and restful. I set my video camera up on a tripod under the tree to film the meditative ‘water high’.

Water High

This time, I determined that ‘Indulgence’ (the Treasure Chest) might be located 500 ft. beyond the waterfall to the left of the trail. I had located an area up against the canyon wall that helf some promise. I continued walking to the GPS marker I had pre-marked on my Google Maps (I learned a great deal about navigating using GPS markers in the field).

I discovered an area that was inaccessible and filled with debris. It seemed like it would be impossible to find anything in such a dense mass of shrubbery. Not only that, it didn’t seem ‘Fenny’. That is, it was not the beautiful final resting location I envisioned for Forrest. Over the past four years, most (if not all) of the places I discovered didn’t meet my imaginary criteria.

Further Down the Trail

Just prior to this hike on the trail, I had learned the treasure chest had been found. Without any information concerning the exact location, I still was out to investigate the new possibilities. More than that, I was out to document my experience engaging with this Porvenir (Future) Canyon. I enjoyed my times as always and came away with the feeling that THIS, was my real treasure.

The next day, I want back out on the trail before meeting up with Cynthia in Santa Fe for Lunch. The weather was even more perfect and I ended up taking many glorious pictures and capturing memorable video footage.

In October, I will submit my documentary to the Santa Fe Film Festival. At this point, I have all of the footage, images, and interviews needed to tell my story.

Stay Tuned for More Clips!

Forrest Fenn Treasure Finally Found

Forrest Fenn treasure chest hidden in Rocky Mountains finally found
The bronze chest filled with gold, jewels, and other valuables is worth more than $1 million

PUBLISHED: June 7, 2020 at 3:02 p.m. | UPDATED: June 7, 2020 at 4:25 p.m.

Forrest Fenn’s map and poem which contained clues to where his treasure was buried.

SANTA FE, N.M. — A bronze chest filled with gold, jewels, and other valuables worth more than $1 million and hidden a decade ago somewhere in the Rocky Mountain wilderness has been found, according to a famed art and antiquities collector who created the treasure hunt.
Forrest Fenn, 89, told the Santa Fe New Mexican on Sunday that a man who did not want his name released — but was from “back East” — located the chest a few days ago and the discovery was confirmed by a photograph the man sent him.
“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago,” Fenn said in a statement on his website Sunday that still did not reveal the exact location. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”
Read the full article.

The Raven Trail

For at least 40 years, my family and I have called Wisconsin’s Northwoods our summer home. For a large portion of that time, I’ve spent time in a specific forrest that has been my ‘special place’. It has served as a place of refuge, cleansing and renewal.

Several years ago, I had a chance to write about the trail for my ‘Nature Writing Course’.

“Conflict, Compromise, and Coexistence on the Raven”

My Sanctuary

Northern Highland American Legion Forest   Woodruff, Wisconsin

For many years, I told people the Northern Highland American Legion (NHAL) forest was “My Forest”.  It felt that way.  Most visits to the forest’s Raven Trail were isolationist experiences, the chance to enjoy Mother Earth without the interference of other humans and prying eyes.  The forest became my long-sought antidote to civilization, a place where I could sort out the messy and complex web of accumulated crap.  The center of my universe exists at the edge of Clear Lake, on a wooden bench facing the crystal clear water with a shoreline of polished pebbles tapering to soft sand.  I flee to this refuge, far from life’s noise, to restore balance.

                             “Meditation Bench” on Clear Lake   Woodruff, Wisconsin

As the morning unfolds, black crows caw as they fly high above branch to branch.  The thick fog on the lake restricts my visibility, waiting for me to wade in.  In time, but not yet.  First, the ritual requires attaining attunement, accomplished by focusing my awareness on the various elements surrounding me: the wind through the trees, the scent of moist pine, the feel of sunshine on my skin.

Finally ready and assured of privacy, I wade into the cool lake unhindered by any layer of fabric, step carefully over sharp stones and pebbles, to sit in the soft sand.  I feel soft nibbling about my legs and notice a school of small fish cleansing my skin of impurities; I am at peace.  The fog is still dense but clearing.  After a long moment, I look up and am overcome with awe by the sight of a loon twenty yards away engaged in a similar early morning grooming ritual.

The elements of this environment: a symphony of birdsong, the soft wind’s caress of the pine branches high above, the soft carpet of moss and pine needles under my feet, the invigorating cold lake, all acted to simplify and deconstruct my life in turmoil.

 Then, the trail was opened to a new user group: mountain bikers.

            You must understand, at one time, I ran the five-mile hilly boulder-strewn trail blanketed with dead pine needles.  My loud inhalation of the pine-scented air and noisy gait drove away all manner of native life, surely disturbing the peaceful forest.  Still, when the intruders arrived on the scene, my illusion of entitlement was threatened at the core.  Even the smallest notion of sharing “My Forest” grated my nerves to no end.  Could anyone else even begin to understand the importance of this place in my life?  Even though miles and time separated me from my sanctuary, the knowledge of its continued existence has always been a ready source of comfort.  It would be many years before I would accept a compromise.

The First Human Intruders

                 Sleigh-Haul Logging Road circa 1890         Woodruff, Wisconsin

A similar scene could be envisioned from 171 years previous when the forest’s first user groups conflicted over entitlement. 

          In the heart of Lac Du Flambeau country about 1842, Shainya sits cross-legged on the shores of the lake her community depends on for all aspects of sustenance.  The summer sun has dawned on another clear day.  Clothed in a simple cotton garment, the woman is silent and motionless except for her softly-whispered prayer.

Aaniin Gizhe-Manidoo, (Greetings Kind Spirit)

N’Gwunajiwi (My Love)

Niminwendam  (I am happy)

Kina go! Kina! (Everyone all together)

          Soon, she wades into the clear water after removing her garment, allowing the morning’s cool breeze to dance playfully through her long dark hair.  Diving headfirst into the sacred waters, she completes the ancient purification ritual necessary to attain connectedness with spirit and is at peace.

          Suddenly, a loud crack echoes from across the lake.  Followed by another.  The piercing sound of dogs, approaching quickly with an excited and high-pitched squeal.

Heart beating rapidly, the native woman cries out, “Ningotaaj!” (I am afraid!).  She flees through waist-deep water, to the safety of the family wigwam.

A group of five Lumberjacks, wielding axes with long wooden handles, establish themselves on the opposite shore of Pokegama Lake, across from the Indian Village built in 1745 when Chief Keeshkemun led the band to the area.

            “Henrik, did you catch sight of the Indian Princess across the way?”

            “Nope.  Missed that.  Them squaws better clear out before I get at em.”

            Later in the day, the jacks gather for a meal around the campfire.  Across the lake, Native children are heard laughing, splashing, and swimming unaware their futures will be forever changed as the forest is ravaged in the name of progress.

            “Them savages must be taught to cover themselves in the sight of God.”

            “Amen to that.  Swimming naked is not natural.”

            Lumberjacks proceeded to clear timber for sale, the settlers moved in, and the environment changed beyond comprehension becoming barren wastelands with non-descript clapboard huts.  The Native inhabitants of Lac du Flambeau were constricted to an area of land depriving them of necessary sustenance obtained through daily rituals and activities.  Today, gambling is the prevalent source of income for the reservation.

Whose progress is more important?

The beautiful woman wearing headdress feathers of birds. American Indian girl in native costume,potrait,model posing in forest

Quieting the Noise

The Raven Trail – Multi-Use Section – Woodruff, Wisconsin

            Public access to State Forests is both a right and a responsibility.  When user groups with conflicting agendas jeopardize the fundamental purpose of land preservation, objectivity and the prioritization of goals is of paramount importance.  Over the past ten years, a modern-day battle over land use has played itself out in Woodruff, Wisconsin’s NHAL forest as bike use has increased on the Raven Trail increasing the risk of potential conflict with other users also seeking an individual forest experience.

            Faced with the possible closure of trails due to early degradation, volunteers stepped in. “In 2008, the Lakeland Area Mountain Bike Organization (LAMBO) was very helpful in the construction of sustainable trails in the Raven network,” NHAL State Forest superintendent Steve Peterson said in a 2009 interview.

            The goal of LAMBO in developing the single-track (width of one bike) trail network was to preserve the watershed, minimize erosion, and be part of the NHAL experience for many generations.  Members unofficially logged close to 2,500 volunteer hours at the Raven Trail since organizing just a few years previous.

            While the design features targeted sustainable practices to minimize degradation to forest lands, it was clear other hikers (like me) felt the mountain biker’s presence was a noisy intrusion. I would need to speak directly with all user groups.

Setting out on the trail for a hike, I was intoxicated by the fresh pine air.  This Saturday morning provided intermittent showers and a light breeze keeping bugs at bay.  I was anxious to reach my meditative destination: the wooden bench on Clear Lake’s shore.  I wondered about the sound of barking dogs and bells heard faintly from somewhere deep within the trail system.

            I walked a good thirty minutes through a mix of newly-budded birches and mature evergreen before first encountering the middle-aged hiker and her two dogs.  Her cell phone conversation echoed throughout the forest as the older woman spoke animatedly while herding the unleashed dogs up and down various side trails.   Approaching, I was met by the excited black Labs with cowbells hung from their collars.  Still talking on her phone, we exchanged hushed greetings.  I introduced myself as a student writing a story about the trail and offered to walk with her.

            Over the next ten minutes, Deb Carlberg proceeded to share her important views on the shared-use of the Raven Trail and her reasons for visiting the trail each day.

            “Dogs were not meant to be on leashes, they want to be free,” Deb said.  “My dogs will run at the bikes but they know a lot of us are out here walking our dogs.”

            We walked quickly and I struggled to keep up on the hilly trail, her years of cleaning houses and daily hiking clearly evident in a strong pace.   She felt the trail system provided enough open space for everyone to enjoy the trail system without conflict.

           Later, I learned from a DNR Officer that unleashed pets are forbidden and the source of frequent complaints.           

Urban Greenways in Peril

             Conflicts between mountain bikers and hikers are not specific to Wisconsin’s North Woods.   A few hundred miles south near the Milwaukee River Greenway Corridor (MRGC), trail users were given an opportunity to make their case at a forum this past October as an advocate group formed in September of 2012 attempted to stop mountain bike use on the wild paths on the east and west bank of the river.  The principle concern is that the trails are too narrow resulting in unavoidable collisions between hikers and bikers.   Environmental issues are also at stake.

            The Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission identified over 18,000 acres of high-quality natural communities and critical species habitats within the basin.  There are 16 endangered, 26 threatened and 65 special concern plant and animal species, and 30 rare aquatic and terrestrial communities documented within the basin.  Repairing and re-routing some of the trails had caused damage due to erosion and seeping.  Volunteers were engaged to mitigate degradation in the corridor.

Andrew Mishlove explores the river trails. Photo by Jason McDowell.

           “We did not feel comfortable kicking out existing users” said Ann Brummitt, director of the MRGC. “The trails as they are have worked okay, but we understand they can be improved,”

           On the Milwaukee River Advocates Facebook page, founder Sura Faraj asks, “Remember when you could walk the trails and it was like an undiscovered gem? Remember meeting other walkers, maybe passing by silently because you were both in mild meditative or euphoric states? It was easier to see wildlife, because they weren’t as scared.”

           The consensus is that mountain bikers have volunteered many hours to improving the trail system and should not be restricted from use.  Providing education on trail etiquette that is not common sense, including messages concerning the impact of unleashed pets and littering, could decrease conflict and facilitate the coexistence of both user groups.  While past years saw increased conflict between bikes and unleashed animals, better enforcement of existing leash laws and changing attitudes has made this a non-issue; Milwaukee pets may not want to be free.

Researching Attitudes

           In 1980, researchers Jacob and Schreyer suggested the concept of conflict between user groups was a form of dissatisfaction in which the person experiencing the dissatisfaction feels that the attainment of his or her goals has been interfered with by another user-group.  In a study conducted at Wilder Ranch State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains of Southern California, the true conflict was found to exist perceptually rather than concretely.  In my experience on the Raven, I perceive my ability to hike the trail meditatively as being thwarted by noisy mountain bikers while, in actuality, this may not be the case.

           In an interview conducted as a key component of the study, Mayor Cecilia Scott said, “I am a cyclist.  I ride for transport.  I don’t own a mountain bike.  When I go onto a natural land I prefer to walk.”  While Scott feels mountain bikes cause land degradation, she described feeling very uncomfortable sharing trails with bikers.   

           In the same study, Superintendent David Vincent felt it was a perception issue while Keith Kelsen, President of the Mountain Bike Organization of Santa Cruz, felt hikers used the perception of erosion damage to keep their sanctuary. 

           “All users need to be able to have their own experience,” Kelsen concluded.

           In order for bikers to participate in trail activities without the fear of aggressive animals or hikers who simply want to enjoy the tranquility of a forest trail, a clear solution was necessary.

Restoring Harmony

Single-Track Trail for Bikes Only on Raven Trail

            In 2011, Rose Perry was knocked down by an unleashed dog on Oshkosh’s Wiowash Trail sustaining a sprained ankle and leg bruising.  “I have ridden on that trail for many years without an incident but now am very careful,” said Rose.  Not having easy access to ‘bike only’ trails, it is a source of anger and frustration for Rose motivating her to travel further to find suitable locations.  She has become a visiting user of the Raven.

NHAL Forestry Supervisor Jeff Olsen envisioned a trail system that would be enjoyed by multiple users.  “The trail design features are targeted for sustainable trail use over the long haul,” said Olsen.  “Some steep and sandy surfaces were bypassed or modified to accommodate mountain bike traffic and keep the bikes from roaming through the woods.”

In years past, logging operations on the Raven destroyed some hand-built trails requiring a great deal of work to restore.  It was a mess.  “One of the things I’ve noticed with volunteer groups is their numbers really jump up when there is an issue such as the possible closure of trails,” said Trail Coordinator Tony Martinez.  “Then, as years progress, the number of volunteers decline and you’re left with only a few hardcore volunteers.”

            On the Raven Trail System, bikes have exclusive access to both a skills course and other trails traversing the hilly landscape in exchange for a fee.  Hikers can walk meditatively without the threat of being run over or distracted while bikers can be assured there will be no collisions or encounters with animals.  There are also ‘shared trails’, used by bikers and hikers alike with courtesy and respect for the diverse habitat and wide range of users.  It is a trail system in harmony just as the natural habitat coexists with uninvited guests.

The Human Story

Beginning years ago, when the first settlers encountered Native peoples and forced them into life-confining reservations in order to reap newly discovered treasures (i.e. lumber, minerals, water, etc.), disrespect among various land users continues to be predominant across the nation and globe.   The examination of existing conflicts between Mountain Bikers and Hikers is a microcosm of a much larger issue, the peaceful coexistence of human beings on our planet in the face of great diversity, changing attitudes, and a wide variance of values. 

Henry David Thoreau found a conception of human life and human potential that became his ideal —that the human soul, deep within, is divine, and that this divinity is to be found throughout nature.  This conception is fundamentally at odds with society’s focus on some activities that are more profitable than others. 

On the Raven, bikers must pay a fee for use and these funds contribute towards maintenance of the public lands.  Also, the DNR relies on timber sales to bring in much-needed revenue in order to safeguard public access for generations to come.  Does this mean that bike use and timber sales are more important than the non-revenue producing activities of free users?  It definitely seems that what the Native Americans encountered two centuries ago continues to be perpetuated at some level but may be unavoidable due to our societies focus on development and monetary reward.  Instead, peaceful coexistence requires compromise.  Prior to human intrusion, the non-human inhabitants of the forest (i.e. vegetation, wildlife, etc.) were required to adapt in order to survive.  In addition, a symbiotic relationship exists widely where interdependency is required in the forest for survival.  Could not the hiker’s ability to continue using the trail due to the collected fees for bike use be counted as being mutually fulfilling and symbiotic?

On the Raven, multiple user groups can now take part in their activity of choice without great conflict due to the availability of exclusive trails and wide open spaces.  Having once been problematic, mountain bike volunteers have taken the initiative in re-designing trails for sustainable use and maintaining the network for all users.  In addition, education and signage provides clear instructions.

In his book “Walden”, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “we need the tonic of wilderness.”  He further explains that our need to explore and learn all things requires some remaining mystery to be pondered.  In the NHAL forest, I see this exhibited by both hikers continuing to meditate on the interdependency of the forest’s inhabitants and by bikers encountering the environment’s challenging obstacles.  Both pursuits are important. 

The deer and other wildlife, once driven away by the noise and confusion of intruders, are slowly beginning to return as peaceful coexistence, once again, provides a nurturing foundation for all of the forest’s inhabitants. 

“Coexisting Ecosystems of Clear Lake”           Woodruff, Wisconsin

End Notes

4  In the heart of Lac Du Flambeau country:

Ojibwe History.  Retrieved May 22, 2013 http://www.mpm.edu/wirp/icw-151.html

Lac Du Flambeau Band of Ojibwe History. Retrieved May 22, 2013


4  Aaniin Gizhe-Manidoo, N’Gwunajiwi , Niminwendam, Kina go, Kina: 

Noongwa e-Anishinaabemjig: people who speak anishinaabemowin today

Retrieved May 27, 2013 http://www.umich.edu/~ojibwe/

4  Shainya cries out, Ningotaaj:

Retrieved May 22, 2013 http://www.ojibwe.org/home/pdf/ojibwe_beginner_dictionary.pdf

4  Henrik, did you catch sight:

McBean, T., the Lumber Camps of Long Ago, 1915, “Preserved in a scrapbook in the

Wisconsin Historical Society Library; Online facsimile at retrieved May 22, 2013 http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1367

4   Them squaws better clear out before I get to em:

Phylena McMaster’s historical account of Lumberjack’s treatment of women.


6   In 2008, the Lakeland Area Mountain Bike Organization: LAMBO set to unveil Raven

Trail skills course for single track riders.  Etten, Douglas.  August 25, 2009. 

6    Members unofficially logged close to 2,500 volunteer hours: LAMBO set to unveil Raven Trail skills course for single track riders.  Etten, Douglas.  August 25, 2009. 

7   Conflicts between mountain bikers and hikers: Advocates clash over mountain biking in  the Milwaukee River Greenway Corridor.  McDowell, Jason.  Retrieved from onmilwaukee.com May 15, 2013.

 9   In 1980, researchers Jacob and Schreyer: Studying recreation attitudes among hikers and        bicyclists: analyzing land-use conflict between hikers and mountain bikers in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.  Osbaldeston, T.P.  Retrieved from  www.scruznet.com/~landauer/LiverpoolStudy/ May 15, 2013

 10   In an interview conducted:  Studying recreation attitudes among hikers and bicyclists: analyzing land-use conflict between hikers and mountain bikers in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.  Osbaldeston, T.P.  Retrieved from  www.scruznet.com/~landauer/LiverpoolStudy/ May 15, 2013

Lapham Peak – Ice Age Trail

A Short Synopsis with a Surprise Ending

This past Friday, I had the opportunity to return to one of the most amazing trails I’ve ever hiked on. This section of the Ice Age Trail is Wales, WI just down from where I spent time as a Novice Monk at ‘The Order of Julian of Norwich’. My cell was name ‘Killian’. It was an important time in my life, one that permanently affected me on every level.

My Mom and Dad with me as I make ‘Novice Promises’.

Sr. Scholastica – Marie (OJN’s Guardian) allowed me to continue running in the early mornings during my time of cloister. On Sundays, I could leave the monastery for an extended run giving me time to explore and connect with the forrest. After leaving the community, I remained in town and always close to this trail.

On this day (May 15, 2020), the weather was absolutely perfect even considering it was muddy from an earlier shower. Birdsong echoed throughout the forrest. Many people were out enjoying the trail system as well, everyone with smiles.

Lapham Peak stands at 1233 feet and is named for Increase A. Lapham (1811-1875), a Scientist and Useful Citizen. More than that, Lapham was Wisconsin’s premier 19th-century naturalist, archeologist, and scholar.

On this hill in 1870, then known as Government Hill, the first National Weather Service signal station was established by the United States Army Signal Corps.

While it was a perfect hike, I did realize how out of shape I really am. It was hard to catch my breath on some sections of the trail, especially the stairs. With just two weeks to go, I’m more determined than ever to be ready for hiking in altitude.

Preparation Hike #1

What an amazing day on Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail. The sun was out, the trees beginning to bud, flowers blooming, and life could not be better. This day marked the first of 4 three-hour hikes that will prepare me for the arduous canyon trail. I’m never prepared for hiking in altitude, even if it’s only 7600 ft.

This is a new segment of the Ice Age Trail for me, one that begins just 1 hour from my home in Oshkosh, WI. Having purchased my annual sticker to the recently opened State Parks, I was good to go. The trail began by winding through a beautiful forrest near to Pike Lake.

At the furthest end of my trek, I came across a beautiful field the just took my breath away.

What I didn’t expect was the long section that ran through the small community of Slinger, WI. Such a beautiful small town and it was great to see human beings.