Candy Moulton: Reading the West 4-8-13

candy moulton
encampment, wyo.

If you have seen any news at all in recent weeks, you may have caught the story of Santa Fe art dealer Forrest Fenn who has hidden a treasure chest with over a million dollars worth of gold, gold coins, precious stones, and other valuable items. The clues are elusive and it’s not clear where Fenn stashed the loot, but almost certain it is somewhere in the West. (Some recent clues are that it is at least 300 miles west of Toledo at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet … oh, and you don’t need to dig up the ghost town outhouse to find it as Fenn says it is not near any structures … old or new.)

Fenn has given dozens of recent interviews to bloggers, and news reports, to Fox News and the Today show. He has spoken of how he had cancer and thought he would engage in a bit of fun by filling a treasure box and burying it somewhere. But leaving clues in a poem published in his book “Thrill of the Chase.” This is not a new story, nor a new book. Fenn wrote and published it some years ago. He beat the cancer, but the treasure remains unrecovered.

If you google his name, you will come up with dozens of stories about this treasure. You can read blogs and comment lists where people question whether Fenn actually hid the chest.

I have been to his home. I have seen his collection and I have absolutely no doubt about the veracity of his claims. Forrest Fenn loves a good story. He loves challenging people. Somewhere above 5,000 feet, at least 300 miles west of Toledo … there is a treasure chest just waiting for you (or some other treasure hunter) to find it. To learn more about the quest, the book, the chest … visit his website at

One reason Fenn hid the treasure and wrote a book of clues, was to encourage people to get out of the house and explore. Two recent titles published by Mountain Press Publishing for young readers, encourage similar action.

T. Scott Brown provides a guide to geologic states in the Grand Canyon State in his new book “Arizona Rocks!” The book for middle-grade readers takes you to such places as Barringer Meteorite Crater and Petrified Forest National Park. It gives information about Hopi Buttes, which were formed form steam-driven explosions, and Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole that has a perennial supply of water.

The book has maps, numerous full color photographs, and concise descriptions of many of Arizona’s most interesting geologic sites.

While many of the folks seeking out Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest are no doubt flocking to New Mexico, you could be looking for it in nearby Arizona, using “Arizona Rocks!” as your guide for exploration.

For younger readers, author Michele Corriel and illustrator Dan Bilyeu have produced “Weird Rocks,” a guide for young rock hounds that focuses on 16 unusual rocks and the science behind them. Some rocks smell like rotten eggs, others work like a magnet. There are rocks that glow, some that sail along across dirt plains in Death Valley, and rocks that are like a chameleon, changing colors when they are polished.

Some rocks even hold hidden treasure. They appear to be rather ordinary from the outside, but if you crack them open with a hammer inside a geode you will find beautiful crystal displays. ❖