Category Archives: Thoughts

New Mexico expedition to find Forrest Fenn’s gold

My dad, two brothers, and I head cross country in search of treasure.

We didn’t find it, but that’s OK. No one finds treasure their first time out. Does it exist? You bet.

Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges – Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!

— Kipling

Everything Forrest Fenn said was true. If you throw a couple of bedrolls in the back and leave out of Kentucky, heading west with nothing more than a book, a poem, and a poetic solve to guide your way, past Louisville and through Indiana, through Illinois, past the Great Arch in St. Louis, through Missouri and Kansas and windmills and buffalo, the plains of Colorado, and you see specks of white way off in the distance, just above the horizon, and you are unsure of whether they are clouds, and as you get closer you realize they are actually snow capped peaks and that the darker blue beneath isn’t rain, it’s a massive mound of earth formed over millenia, and you suddenly feel very small, and you realize the futility of finding a small ten inch box in all of THAT. When you see that, and you decide to press on a little further, and you make it to the base of your mountain, and you start to climb, and you look out at the blue and green valley you suddenly realize you’ve made it to your spot. Your spot! It’s not a pixel on a screen, it’s dirt and earth, and you are standing there. When that happens! When that happens you kind of feel you know a little about what Forrest felt when he came out of his hiding place and said to himself, “Forrest Fenn. Did you really do that?”

When you’re standing there and you look out over the canyon you’ve made it, and you realize the other guy is still back in his cubicle wondering how he’s going to get his family to Wally World this summer.

It’s fleeting. It doesn’t last long, but you can take a small part of it with you.

So you come down out of the mountain, and you’re talking to your brothers and you say, “I felt like I could have been within five feet of the treasure at any given moment and still have missed it. It could have been us. I mean, someone has to win American Idol.”

And one of them looks you right in the face and says in all seriousness, “You know they’re cancelling that show, right?”

That! That, right there. That is the Forrest Fenn Experience, my friends. That’s America. Someday someone might find that treasure, but until then Fenn’s promise of a worthwhile experience sits there waiting for anyone. Anyone at all. You just have to go. Your adventure awaits, and the game is afoot.

I only wish he had hidden it in the Appalachians so that I could go this weekend.


The Thrill of the Chase

Photos cc by Jeremy Parnell.

Forrest Fenn and red balloons

Planning a trip to New Mexico soon to look for Forrest Fenn’s treasure. Most of my research has involved mining social media for background info (although I did buy his book). I should really know better.

In 2009, the Defense Department ran an experiment to gauge how effective social media was at solving puzzles. They launched ten eight-foot red weather balloons in ten separate locations across the United States, and offered $40,000 to the first person to send them the correct geo-coordinates of all ten balloons. They knew, because the balloons were scattered, that people would have to rely on and form social networks to guess all the locations correctly. It was encouraged as part of the experiment.

I spent that day, like many other people, hovered over Google Earth and trading locations on Twitter. I thought I was doing good. I didn’t expect to win, but felt I had at least three solid locations discovered. When the winner was announced, I had none.

Last year I visited both Washington, DC, and Las Vegas, Nevada, on two separate trips but close enough together to link the two in my mind, and I remember thinking, “Well, that’s America.” But maybe there’s another America waiting for me on the map, still.

The game is afoot!


The Thrill of the Chase

Da Vinci encounter


Hanging out in Washington, DC, at the National Gallery of Art.

I think I can finally say that over time I have managed to see works from all of my favorite artists in person. With this piece, painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1474, my fav list is complete. It’s the only da Vinci on public display in North America.

I am literally inches away from it and suddenly realize that these brush strokes were laid over 500 years ago. It’s a very direct connection to history to be in the presence of a masterpiece.

Photos cc by Jeremy Parnell.

Before I die…

Before I Die

This is one of my favorite public art projects (I linked to it before) and I was excited to see that they put one up locally. The original was added to the side of a house in New Orleans by a woman who lost a friend to Katrina.

The installation is a chalkboard with open-ended lined sentences that start with the words “Before I die I want to”. It’s an example of open source art; that is, anyone can put one up, and at any given moment it can be modified by the viewer. The art is constantly changing.

The project challenges you to pause and consider what matters to you and what you would like to do while you’re still around. It’s a collection of hopes, dreams, and irreverent attempts at humor.

What I appreciate most, however, is the framework upon which all this occurs, and how like-life the board actually is. Periodically all of those comments are simply wiped away, and the writer’s thoughts become just a chalky film that the next person will scribble over with their own thoughts.

This one is in Lexington, KY, but you can build your own or see others around the world through the project’s website: