If you can’t hunt one treasure, find another


Armed with a pointed trowel and diggin’ in to my dreams to find treasure, I’ve found the hardest part of treasure hunting is actually just getting out to hunt.

When I started as a full-time, freewheelin’, rolling-stone-type treasure hunter, I was covered in stardust, and treasure was just around the corner. But treasure hunting doesn’t pay much, and so, after a few poker games, gardening jobs and whitewashing a fence, here I am – back at the grindstone.

The grind isn’t so bad. A few weeks of rising with the sun for archaeology field school won’t kill me. But my endless to-do list may – especially when it slows to a crawl then a stall and my treasure-hunting adventures have to wait.

Last week, I wrote about the poetic treasure map that leads to a juicy treasure chest hidden by Forrest Fenn. For various reasons, I think the treasure is in a special spot in Yellowstone National Park. Since that’s much more than a day, or even a weekend trip, it’ll have to wait.

Luckily, I can still be a weekend-warrior treasure hunter. And – best of all – I’ll be free again in a few short weeks. I hope by then I will have saved up enough cash to explore Yellowstone.

Instead of being bent out shape by the quiet gnawing in my gut to seek out that treasure, I decided simply to follow other treasure leads a little closer to home.

Ever heard of Caverna del Oro? I hadn’t. How about Treasure Mountain? It’s near Wolf Creek. The Arapahoe Princess treasure? The Purgatory Canyon treasure? How about the stashes from heists of Wells Fargo stagecoaches? A little digging into these rumors of lost gold refilled me with hope.

In the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just to the northeast of the Great Sand Dunes, sits Marble Mountain. The mountain is home to the cave of gold, Caverna del Oro, one of the oldest legends of gold in the Southwest. The story I heard is that deep down in the cave lies a hidden treasure. A painted red cross above marks the main entrance to the cave, and the treasure is locked away behind wooden doors inside the cave.

Remember what I said the hardest part of hunting is? It’s just getting out there to hunt. After several hours of driving, my dad and I arrived at the trailhead to the cave late in the afternoon under a light snow/rain mix with lightning flashing in the distance. The weather made for abysmal hiking conditions, so we never went beyond tree line. However, a friendly local had heard of the cave – and the treasure – and set us in the right direction for next time. Slightly disappointed, and not too eager to get back in the car so soon again, we started heading home.

A winding Forest Service road brought us to the trail leading to the cave, but it was at the base of the massive Sangre de Cristo Mountains that I found treasure this week. Driving down a paved road with no lines, watching the cattle graze in a lush valley with soft grasses bent under the dark sky’s wind, I realized how the company of my dad on this adventure is what really made it. Just getting out with my old man for a few hours on Father’s Day to go treasure hunting was my treasure this time.

My dad agrees that finding some gold would be pretty great too, so I’ll keep looking. Till next time, happy hunting!

David Strawn is a Fort Lewis College student from Creede. This is the fourth in a series about the travels of a treasure hunter searching for the riches of humans, nature and human nature.

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