By Catline O'Connell
Sante Fe, New Mexico, multimillionare Forrest Fenn has always loved a good adventure. As a childe, he and his brother Skippy, spent summer vacations exploring Yellowsonte National park. As a teen, he idolized the decorated World War II figher pilot Robin Olds and later emulated his hero during the Vietname War as an Air Force Pilot.
After his military service, Fenn settled in New Mexico as an arts and antiques dealer, hunting down valuable paintings, rugs, war memorabilia, and other antiques to sell.
In 1988, Fenn was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer. True to form, he conceived a grand adventure that he assumed would be his last. "I wanted to create some excitement, some hope, before I dided," says Fenn, 82, adding that he also wanted to "get kids out of the game room and off the couch." So he devised his treasure hunt.
Little by little, Fenn began stocking a small bronze chest with gold coins and nuggest. When his cancer went into remission in 1993, he decided he'd car out his plan anyway.
In 2010, Fenn topped off the chest with jewels and valuable stones and hid it deep in the Rocky Mountains, north of Sante Fe. Later that year, he wrote a poem for his self-published memoir, The Thrill of the Chase. It contained nine clues about the box's whearabouts. One stanza reads: Begin it where warm waters halt/ And take it in the canyon down/ Not far, but too far to walk/ Put in below the home of Brown.
Since a story about the treasure appeared in a magazine, Fenn has received thousands of e-mails from treasure hunters. Some request more clues. But mostly "people thanked me for brining their family together," he says.
In April, Fenn told a crowd at an Albuquerque bookstore that two groups of treasure hunts have gotten within 500 fee of the chest. "They walked right by it," he said.
Fenn is confident that the treasure will be unearthed eventually and says it will take the right combination of cunning and perseverance. "It will be discovered by someone who has read the clues successfully. No one will happen upon it," he predicts.
He hopes that whoever finds the loot will relish the riches - and the adventure.