One of those media email/phone calls came to me, this time it was the Travel Channel producer, interested in filming an episode with me searching for the treasure. They were primarily interested in following me in Colorado, since they already had a family in New Mexico to follow. After several weeks of corresponding and planning many details, we agreed to meet in Crawford to film in the Black Canyon of the Gunnisson. I had done extensive research and previously scouted the area, and found many solves matching the clues. I was particularly excited about the WWWH clue, being a solar heated pool at the end of a Creek that flows into the Gunnisson River.
Initially, what brought me to this territory, is that the number “50” kept popping up throughout Forrest Fenn’s book “The Thrill of the Chase”. I decided to follow Hwy 50 north and explore all the hot fishing spots he and his family may have frequented on their way from Temple Texas to Yellowstone. Gunnisson is world class famous for its prolific trout fishing.
There were many intricate complicated challenges about this epic area, because of timing. With production, its all about timing! “Hurry up and wait” is the norm. This small window of time was difficult because it happened to be the peak season of “hatch” and passionate Anglers from all over the world come to fish the Gunnisson during Hatch Season. There are strict Government regulations that only permit a certain number of people per day on the river. And that number was maxed out by the time we called for permission. However, with much persistence and explaining that we are not fishing, but filming, and even though all boats were spoken for, we managed to get from BLM, the green light to go. We found an outfitter to jet boat us to the location we wanted to explore and film.
I brought my companion/body guard/photographer/driver; Billy, with me to share the adventure with. The drive up from Taos thru the mountains in full Summer bloom was extraordinary! All along the way we drank in the pristine beauty and breathed deep in to our lungs, the refreshing pure pine, sage high altitude air. Rivers along the way were gushing with snow melt and recent rain fall. We took the “Million Dollar Highway”, stopping in small townes, exploring both current and abandoned shops and cafe’s, chatting with shop owners, collecting more information about clue related interests.
At last, we arrived at our destination for the evening, checked in to our room in a small charmed towne called Crawford, dined at a small outdoor cafe while we anticipated the arrival of some of the Production Team. We managed to get back to our room in time to catch the last episode of “Game of Thrones” and plan out our early morning adventure in the Black Canyon of the Gunnisson.
The alarm went off at 4:30 am, and we ventured out in the dark chilly morning to ‘scout’ the area we planned to film the search. With our hot coffee’s and tea, yogurt and bananas in hand, we greeted the Travel Channel Field Producers and immediately caravanned to the Gunnisson River to our “Put-In”. When we arrived, dawn was just breaking. Securing our gear and putting on our warmest hats and gloves, zipping and buckling up, we were quickly whisked off in a jet boat and down the river we sped. My eyes were a steady stream of tears for the cold and speed of air, and saliva slipped from my distorted wind blown mouth and we all laughed at the speed and thrill of the adventure. Billy managed to remain in the boat while documenting photos, as the rest of us hung on.
Wasting no time, we hiked up where we came to our “Heavy Loads and Water High” finding great “Blaze” clue potentials and caves to explore. But first, we had a couple other areas of important interest to cover before spending time in the caves.
We spent several hours scouting and discussing the strong possibilities of the two areas, when our Jet Boat arrived to whisk us back to the Put-In and continue making important adventure arrangements for the episode story.
Next, we drove to Telluride to check out some surrounding areas that were of second potential interest. Just as we were arranging all the fun details (of which I will not disclose at this point, because the show will air late November-early December, and I don’t want to spoil it for you by giving away the fun highlights), we got a call from the BLM office, stating that they will NOT give us permission to film my ‘hot spot’ and all of our plans got abruptly shifted. Much as the production team tried to convince me to “make it work, there in Telluride”, for me, it simply did not fit any of the clues, and I have a more altruistic alternative…
PLAN B….. I promised them, I had a full story and exciting search in New Mexico. The Production Team was awesome and completely trusting in my decision, and went with my plan to film in New Mexico. I will continue my story on filming with the fabulous “Expedition Unknown” Team later, after it has been aired….
On our drive back home, we took a different route, with more beautiful scenery and I processed my feelings of not being able to film the epic River area in the Black Canyon of the Gunnisson. Much as I was very disappointed, I came to peace with myself, because this area is so special, so remote and difficult to get to, that it deserves to remain untouched and less visited. I respect that the BLM department keeps strict regulations on how many people are permitted to visit the River, and prefer to see it preserved in its natural habitat. I do recommend that you book an over night or two trip with an outfitter there and experience it for yourself. It is truly a very impactful and powerful place!
One very important little yet big thing I left out, was that I overlooked researching the elevation of the Gunnisson River in the Black Canyon…. too low. The basin sits just below 5,000ft. So, that blows the Black Canyon out of the water and disqualifies it entirely from the Thrill of the Search, even though I had perfect solves for all the clues! Even so, the multiple times I’ve been to the Black Canyon and all the time and energy I gave exploring the Canyon, I have no regrets. It was a privilege to meet new friends and have adventures with them in new territory. I am so very happy to have integrated myself with the magnificent beauty and powerful energy of the Gunnisson River, Canyon, Gorge and its surrounding areas. It is deeply impressed in my memory, etched in to my heart and soul. In the not so far future, I shall return for a new river adventures on the Gunnisson.