100 Years Ago


On Summer Seas (1916)

The National Park Service was created one hundred years ago.  Yellowstone preceded that, being designated in 1872.  And once upon a time, I dreamed of being a forest ranger.  My imagination had me up in a tower in a sea of green trees–a rather narrow view of the current job description.

morning in mountains

Glacier National Park


One of the more unique rangers we’ve met was dressed to the hilt as a French voyageur  and remained in character, impressing our youngest.  I think there was even bread baking involved.



1868 Quetico Superior Route, Passing a Waterfall by Frances Anne Hopkins (Scene showing a large Hudson’s Bay Company freight canoe passing a waterfall, presumably on the French River. The passengers in the canoe may be the artist and her husband, Edward Hopkins, secretary to the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company.) (public domain)

That national park was the site of the Rainy Lake gold rush in the mid-1890’s.  Northern Minnesota is not the first place I’d think of when searching for gold.  Better odds, maybe, of finding Forrest Fenn’s treasure chest.


Forrest Fenn’s Treasure Chest





I won’t be making it to this year’s Fennboree, but if I could, I would take a moment in Santa Fe to get a look at an ancient wrought iron gate on East Palace Avenue, the site where dozens if not hundreds of scientists, mathematicians, and physicists, after meeting with gatekeeper Dorothy McKibben, disappeared from sight beginning in April 1943.P1000401

(Well, first I might stop at that French pastry shop at La Fonda where Amy bought those gorgeous treats for Forrest’s book signing last September.)

Said portal transported those invited to the site of the Los Alamos Ranch School on a mesa in New Mexico.  You probably know (part of) the rest of the story, but for me, I learned a lot from a book called Bomb, by Steve Sheinkin, my newest favorite non-fiction author.  Wow.  He used to write textbooks for schools but kept notes on all the things they wouldn’t let him put in–fascinating stuff I should have learned.   Sheinkin puts it together in a compelling and quick read.  (Young Adult level but hey, who’s got time for an academic treatise these days?)

So back to the story:  the race between the Americans and the Germans to develop the bomb; some very, very brave Norwegians on a mission; the spies who wanted to steal the plans for Stalin;  the guys who just wanted to give it to the Russians so there wouldn’t be only one superpower in possession of the new and terrible weapon of mass destruction.

When I was young, my ideas of Russian spies were partly based on Boris and Natasha, and hearing intimations about the McCarthy era excesses.  Somehow my public school history classes never got much past the Civil War by the end of the school year, hence the black holes in my knowlege.  (No, that’s not a typo;  it’s spelled Fenn’s way.)


[Side note:  There was a Rocky and Bullwinkle episode titled Buried Treasure.  Hmm.  Frostbite Falls?]P1000443


I could also rave about Sheinkin’s newest book,  Most Dangerous:  Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret Viet Nam War.  I have no excuse for not knowing or remembering more about the topic, having been of school age when it was in the newspapers, except that the facts didn’t all make it into the media at the time.  I wish that weren’t still true. History gives us perspective if we’d only choose to look at the parallels in our own day.  Does your view of Ellsberg color your impression of Snowden?  What caused Benjamin Arnold to switch sides?  Had you even heard of the Port Chicago 50?

Do you agree with Abraham Lincoln?

“I am a firm believer in the people.  If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.  The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

(Check out Steve Sheinkin’s  other books like King George:  What Was His Problem?  or The Port Chicago 50:  Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights or  Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, etc.)


170-Year-Old Champagne Recovered (and Tasted) From a Baltic Shipwreck

Worth the cold — the bottles auctioned at up to 100,000 Euros.


The term “vintage” may now have a whole new meaning for wine lovers—a treasure trove of 170-year-old champagne has been unearthed from the bottom of the sea. In 2010, a group of divers in the Baltic Sea happened upon the remains of a sunken trade schooner just off the coast of Finland. Scattered amongst the wreckage 160 feet below the surface, they discovered a treasure sent from Dionysus himself—168 bottles of French bubbly that had aged in near perfect conditions for decades.

Although the local government ultimately claimed the bottles, a team of scientists led by Philippe Jeandet, a professor of food biochemistry at the University of Reims, was able to obtain a small sample of the preserved beverage for testing—and tasting. Their chemical and sensory analysis, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides a unique lens into the past, offering information about conventional winemaking…

View original post 857 more words

1884: The great Robbery of Hawaii

There be pirates . . .1884 Hawaii  (reblogged below)

and treasures found with imagination


Intrepid on the Atlantic

Intrepid on the Atlantic

weird history nut

Greetings once again loungers on bar stool of the bar of shame. I have yarn for ya

When one thinks of pirate raids in the pacific, one normally thinks of the great buccaneering days of south America in the 17th century or the brief age of the privateers during the war of south American Independence around 1820 or the few acts of gold fever piracy in the early 1850’s. By the time of 1880 piracy and the great buccaneering raids was well and truly a thing of the past. Or where they?

The peaceful pacific was settling down to a more gentle refined era of neocolonialism and island monarchies. It was the age when the missionaries had tamed the mighty cannibals of the pacific and the reckless beachcomber and pirates were a thing of the past. Hawaii was still a independent kingdom not yet a state of the United States.

View original post 612 more words

Pieces of Eight


The Spanish dollar was the basis of the United...

The Spanish dollar was the basis of the United States silver dollar. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aaargh!  Am I the only one who thought pieces of eight were made of gold?

There’s been a lot of pirate talk on the Thrill of the Chase blogs lately, and some pirates have already departed on their quest for the Forrest Fenn treasure hidden somewhere in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe.

English: The two Manila galleons-the "Enc...English: The two Manila galleons-the “Encarnacion” and “Rosario” during the five battles of La Naval de Manila in 1646. Original illustration by John Ryan M. Debil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So while I sit patiently in the Midwest trying to decode the clues in the poem, I continue to decorate my mind with new and possibly-never-useful facts.  But then again, Mr. Fenn said nothing is too small to know  (I  still need to find his exact words on that.


I. A. Wadsworth 25 cents (twenty-five cents) p...Even though where I grew up “two bits” was not uncommonly used in place of “quarter”, for some reason I always pictured pieces of eight  as heavy gold coins.  Wrong.  The Spanish gold coin was the “scudo” or “escudo” and equaled 16 reales (royals).

English: Spanish doubloon stamped as minted in...English: Spanish doubloon stamped as minted in 1798 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Spanish 8 reale coin was silver, and sometimes cut when smaller coins (i.e., a picayune was a half reale) were scarce.  Hence, 2 bits,  four bits, etc.  One bit equaled 12 1/2 cents, which is coincidentally why, up until August of 2000, the New York Stock Exchange reported value changes in eighths.

Wait.  Why base the NY stock market on the value of a Spanish coin?

Well, for starters, the colonies were forbidden, on pain of beheading and/or drawing and quartering, from making their own coins.

Secondly, the Spaniards had been reaping(?) the silver from Mexico to Chile since at least the 15th century.  Spanish “Milled” or “Pillar” dollars were minted in places like Mexico City; Lima, Peru; Santiago, Chile; and, of interest to seekers of the Fenn chest, Santa Fe de Bogota, Columbia.  (Quote: ” …in the mountains north of Santa Fe.”    How far north, some have asked.)

English: Detail of Pillars of Hercules from Ta...

English: Detail of Pillars of Hercules from Ta…

Holy Pompeii Pillars!  I mean, Pillars of Hercules, at the Straights of Gibralter, gateway to the New World, as seen on the obverse of the coins milled in the Americas.

Back to the stock market question.

The Spanish silver dollar/real a de ocho was the most common coin in circulation in 1792 when the NYSE was founded.  That was the same year Congress authorized the first Coinage Act, which established the mint in Philadelphia.  Since it was going to take awhile to ‘print’ a lot of money, Spanish coins were made legal tender in 1793 and remained so until 1857, you know, after the California gold rush filled the coffers.  And new regulations.

Next question:  so why are old reales showing up in fields, clay pots, and creekbanks in Illinois?  Like the 1/2 reales minted in Lima in 1755 and Nuevo Reino de Granada (Santa Fe de Bogota), and the 1702 to 1733 (?) vintage two bit piece.

(Hint:  It’s good to look near really old tavern sites with a metal detector.)

Again, a couple answers.  This was the frontier back in the day.  Even before the War of Independence, the French, Spanish, and Brits were all over the place trying to plant flags and claim what wasn’t theirs.  And up the Mississippi were the Spanish Mines—lead, not gold or silver.

And then, consider the sheer number of reales produced—between 1732 and 1821, 1.3 billion eight reale coins were minted at Mexico City alone.  And they didn’t all make it to Madrid.  The Manilla Galleons took them to Asia, as silver was the only commodity the Chinese accepted in trade.

1748 Seale Map of the Pacific Ocean w- Trade R...1748 Seale Map of the Pacific Ocean w- Trade Routes from Acapulco to Manila – Geographicus – Pacific-seale-1743 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Shipwrecks.  Pirates.Forrest Fenn's Treasure Chest

“Pizzas at eight!  Pizzas at eight!

So, Dal, maybe you should go back to scuba diving for treasure and leave the Rocky Mountain treasure to us landlubbers.

  Just kidding…..

Related articles


Enhanced by Zemanta

Bittersweet Revisited (in honor of Memorial Day)

A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly G...

A U.S. Air Force Sikorsky HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant helicopter being refueled over Vietnam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was a footnote on the previous post, but I think it deserves more attention——-Forrest Fenn was the rescuee.

Serendipity II — Right Time, Right Place, Right Stuff

How much pure luck or chance do you think it will take to find Forrest Fenn‘s “blaze“?

So often, it’s the unanticipated that turns out to be the treasure.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A full moon.

A shuttle launch.

A fortunate location.

Serendipity II close 1

Enhanced by Zemanta

Season Ends

In the heartland

In the heartland

Frost on the pumpkins, color in the trees.  The pears are canned, the garden is empty.

heavy loads ....

heavy loads ….

Maybe now I can get back to the Chase!

Someone else’s find:   From Science Daily   —-http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130919121906.htm



The prior blog referenced Forrest Fenn’s rescue in the jungle of that “conflict overseas”. ***  He was shot down twice during his service.

To gain some of Fenn’s perspective on those experiences, see his writings on his blog @ Old Santa Fe Trading Co.com, and in his book The Thrill of the Chase.  Maybe there will be more in his latest book, Too Far To Walk, which is being released this week.

***   “the conflict overseas” from Sam Stone by John Prine, one of the great singer/songwriters.

Fair & Square

Fair & Square (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had the opportunity to see Prine at Chicago’s Earl of Old Town ( & other folk legends—Steve Goodman, Bonnie Koloc) back in the day, and also last week when he “played Peoria”.

Forty years on, Prine’s lyrics still resonate.  For example, Paradise:


And daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County
Down by the Green River where Paradise lay
Well, I’m sorry my son, but you’re too late in asking
Mister Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away