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Santa Fe celebs converge on hidden treasure

SANTA FE, N.M. — CBS’s “Sunday Morning” program that aired July 12 has answered this journalistic question: How do you get Santa Fe antiquities dealer and treasure-hider Forrest Fenn into the same news story as Valerie Plame, the former CIA operative outed as an agent by the George W. Bush administration?

No, Plame, who has lived in Santa Fe now for several years, was not shown hiking up Wheeler Peak or digging alongside a Colorado mountain stream in search of Fenn’s old chest said to be full of gold coins and nuggets, and other valuable stuff.

Valerie Plame told CBS that Forrest Fenn hid a treasure somewhere in the Rockies “to completely amuse himself.” (Courtesy of Norah Levine)

Valerie Plame told CBS that Forrest Fenn hid a treasure somewhere in the Rockies “to completely amuse himself.” (Courtesy of Norah Levine)

Fenn set off something of a national sensation and has inspired a growing online cult whose members are variously simply fun, obsessive or just mean when, about five years ago, he announced he’d put the chest out in the wilds of the Rocky Mountain region somewhere and published a poem that is supposed to provide clues about where to find it.

But Plame did vouch for Fenn when CBS reporter Barry Peterson wanted someone to give assurances that Fenn hadn’t just made the whole treasure story up. “Do you believe him? Do you think the treasure’s out there?” Peterson asked Plame, identified as friend of Fenn’s and “someone who knows a lot about secrets.”

“Oh, absolutely,” Plame responded. “I think that this is something that Forrest has done to completely amuse himself.”

Author Michael McGarrity, the crime novelist known for books like “Tularosa” and “Hard Country,” also made a cameo in Peterson’s piece. “Forrest, whether he admits it or not, loves attention, but he denies it,” McGarrity said.

How did Peterson miss getting George R.R. Martin in on this, too?

The only hint about the treasure’s location that Fenn gave Peterson was that’s it’s not in a mine. “A lot of these old mines are dangerous,” Fenn said. “I mean, they have snakes in ’em, they have black widow spiders.”

He also recalled leaving the treasure for someone to find. “And when I walked back to my car, I talked to myself out loud – there was nobody around anyplace – and I said, ‘Forrest Fenn, did you really do that?’ And I started laughing.”

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