Jul 21, 2016

For third time in four years, treasure hunter has North Fork misadventure

The third time was not the charm for a treasure-seeker along the North Fork of the Shoshone River.

After failed attempts to find the famed Fenn treasure in 2013 and 2015, a woman from Virginia again ventured into the backcountry last week. For the third time, her search for fortune resulted in a call to the Park County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue.

Madalina L. Taylor, 41, of Lynchburg, Virginia, was reported as an overdue hiker on Monday afternoon, the Park County Sheriff’s Office said.

A resident told the Sheriff’s Office that, on Friday, he’d seen a woman who appeared ill-equipped for the backcountry at the Jim Mountain trailhead; as of Monday, it appeared the woman’s Dodge SUV had not moved, the resident reported.

The Sheriff’s Office determined the vehicle belonged to Taylor, who has a history with the Search and Rescue Unit.

In June 2013, she and her companion, Frank Eugene Rose Jr., were rescued after being lost in the Big Creek area for four days and suffering from exposure.

When the couple returned to the area in June 2015, Taylor had to be airlifted from the North Fork after falling and breaking her ankle.

They told authorities they’d been in the area seeking the Fenn treasure — a box containing more than $1 million worth of valuables that arts and antiques dealer Forrest Fenn says he’s hidden somewhere in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado or New Mexico. Some people think the treasure lies near Yellowstone National Park.

Despite being warned last year to not return to this area without proper training in environmental survival skills, and warned they would be arrested for trespassing if caught on private property, it appeared that Taylor had indeed returned, wrote Lance Mathess, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, in a news release.

On Monday, Search and Rescue crews did an aerial search of the Jim Mountain trails and areas where Taylor and Rose had previously been found.

“After nearly two hours in the air without spotting Taylor, the search was called off,” Mathess said. “There was simply no way to determine which direction Taylor went or if she was even still in the backcountry.”

At around 10 p.m. Monday, Taylor emerged from the backcountry near the Grizzly Ranch, unhurt.

“She commented that she had seen the search plane, but because she didn’t consider herself to be lost, she never signaled it,” Mathess wrote.

Taylor also said she had three encounters with grizzly bears and that she “had had enough,” Mathess said.

The ranch owners gave Taylor a ride back to her vehicle.

According to Mathess, “She was headed back east with no intentions of ever returning.”

“I think many are plainly tired of their foolishness,” prominent Fenn treasure seeker Dal Neitzel said of the recent news.

The Fenn treasure has attracted thousands of enthusiasts who comb over the various clues Fenn has shared. He first described his hiding of the treasure — and laid out a cryptic, poetic path to it — in a 2010 memoir titled, “The Thrill of the Chase.”

Part of his aim was to encourage more Americans to get into the outdoors, though “it is unfortunate that some searchers go into the mountains unprepared for what they find,” Fenn said last year.

Dal Neitzel, a dedicated seeker of the Fenn treasure, posted the news of Taylor's most recent misadventure on his website.

“I think many are plainly tired of their foolishness,” Neitzel wrote of the general feeling around the treasure-hunting community.

“Fenn people are nothing if not persistent,” added a website commenter who identified theirself as E.C. Waters. “Well, maybe we’re also nutters. And fools. And what’s that word for doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result?”


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