Under Santa Fe Skies

by Susan Tungate

Forrest Fenn Yet Again


The Chest! photograph by Forrest Fenn


Today I bring you a harmonic conversion of several prior posts. 

I have told you about descansos, those road side memorials so prevalent in New Mexico that are placed where someone has died: crosses decorated with flowers, teddy bears, photographs, Christmas decorations. By law in New Mexico it is illegal to knowingly or willfully deface or destroy “a memorial placed alongside a public road or right of way to memorialize the death of one or more persons.” Descansos may be removed by the state under certain circumstances, but it would be a rare occurrence. Descansos are sacred here. In New Mexico even when roads are under repair, the descansos are treated with great respect by construction crews. 

Enter Forrest Fenn’s treasure. Forrest is the man who has gained national publicity of late for (allegedly) burying an antique bronze chest (allegedly) chock full of gold and jewels and treasures (allegedly) valued at $2 million. In his book The Thrill of the Chase, Forrest offers clues to where he buried the box. Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe is the only place you can purchase the book, and they have sold a whole lot of copies. 

In early March I told you about a woman from Texas who, in searching for the treasure, got lost and spent a freezing night lost in the mountains north of Santa Fe. 

In today’s episode, the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game warden discovered a man digging with a hand tool under one of those sacred descansos. When they spotted him he had reached about 18″ under a 12″ by 12″ concrete base supporting an iron cross on state land along the upper Pecos River.

When asked what he was up to the guy volunteered that he was in search of…drum roll..Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest. The guy was told to restore the spot, and he did. He will now be charged under state law which makes it a misdemeanor to “excavate, injure, destroy or remove any cultural resources or artifacts” on State Game Commission land.

We have not been told the guy’s name or place of origin but my hunch is he is not from around these here parts. First we know you do not mess around with a descanso. Second most of us know by now that even if you find the treasure, if you find it on state or federal land you are not allowed to keep it.

So dear readers, in addition to the clues to the location of the (alleged) treasure box offered by Forrest in his book, I offer you these clues: Do not go wandering out looking for treasure without telling someone where you are and be sure to bring warm clothes. Do not dig on federal or state land. Above all else never ever ever touch a descanso.

Stay tuned…



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