Someday Productions LLC and Pillow Talking Blog are pleased to present this exclusive interview with treasure hunter and adventure seeker “Wild Kat” Katya Luce…
Katya Luce a.k.a. “Wild Kat” loves adventure and is a self-professed treasure hunting guru. Several years ago she was introduced to the book The Thrill of the Chase written in 2010 by an ailing, cancer-stricken, millionaire business owner by the name of Forrest Fenn. Fenn’s book, a memoir, the text itself rife with hints, ends with an enigmatic poem containing nine perplexing and puzzling clues which, if solved, lead to the site of a treasure trove he hid himself; treasure which is valued at an estimated $1-3 million. In interviews with the art dealer and Santa Fe, NM resident, including several with The Today Show, additional clues and other juicy tidbits of information have been revealed.
Katya has had many a sleepless night since reading The Thrill of the Chase and subsequently in the planning of each of her carefully considered 70+ searches for his treasure; but she’s not the only one. To date, over a hundred thousand individuals have worked fiercely to decipher the cryptic clues and set out on what thus far have been futile explorations into the Rocky Mountains in an effort to locate Fenn’s treasure; treasure he placed in a bronze chest circa 1150 a.d., measuring 10x10x5, and which alone is valued in some estimations between $25-35K. It reportedly is filled with gold, jewels, and other riches as well as Fenn’s autobiography; potential locations have been narrowed to Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, and New Mexico.
As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.
Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.
From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is ever drawing nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.
If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease,
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.
So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know,
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak.
So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.
PT: Hello Katya, a.k.a. Wild Kat! Thank you for granting us this interview!
First, tell us about how you first learned about Forrest Fenn’s treasure.
KL: It was March 2013, and I was visiting a friend in Santa Fe. I noticed her library full of books and she suggested I read The Thrill of the Chase because it was written by a Santa Fe local. I just happened to know Forrest from the mid-1990s. She said the book was a memoir of his life, full of short stories. And “Oh, by the way,” she said, “at the end of the book he’s written a cryptic poem, a sort of treasure map that will lead you straight to a treasure he hid if you can figure it out!” Well, I like short stories and I always liked Forrest Fenn [so I read it].
PT: So you were hooked and began searching but you were living in Hawaii at the time. Why did you then decide to pick up and move, essentially changing your life in pursuit of the treasure?
KL: After making two more trips from Maui back to New Mexico to continue searching for the treasure, I realized that the only way I could wholeheartedly dive into the search, was to situate myself in an area where I could make day trips to search. I could no longer afford the trips from Maui to New Mexico just to search.
KL: Well, I’ve always been a “perpetual adventurist.” I’ve had entrepreneurial businesses such as being a commercial hot air balloon pilot taking [other] people on adventures. Several years ago I lived on a sailboat by myself for six months. I also was a chanteuse and toured from coast to coast performing in many venues; and I was a yoga instructor for most of my life, beginning when I was 17. [Additionally] I still am a union member for the film industry – that [career] gave me so many opportunities to work in the most beautiful locations on the planet!
KL: Yes, I’d say so. I used to camp a lot, be it deep in the woods or on Maui’s sandy shores. I love sailing and swimming with the ocean wildlife, especially with big turtles, dolphins, and whales. My best nature partner has been my son Justin (who also is a great mushroom forager!) with whom I still go off on nature explorations when I visit him in California.
PT: We know you have met Forrest Fenn. Tell us about him and your friendship with him. What is it about him that makes you believe in him so wholeheartedly?
KL: I first met Forrest in the 90s while I was working at an antique Native American artifacts gallery called the Morning Star Gallery in Santa Fe. It was near the Fenn Gallery. Our gallery director, Joe Rivera, was a good friend of Forrest’s and would call him over each time we got a new awesome collection in. Sometimes he’d stay for lunch as our staff were gourmet cooks and we had a fully equipped kitchen. Everybody liked and spoke highly of Forrest. He was known as a man with good integrity. I had not seen Forrest for eighteen years [after that when] I’d lived in Maui. We re-met after I engaged in the treasure hunt. We email each other [now], he’s very encouraging, though never, ever does he give me any slightest extra clue or hint in any way. I’ve visited him at his home several times and met for lunches. I avoid any conversations about the search with Forrest.
PT: We imagine that there are critics. What would you say to naysayers about the validity of Fenn’s claims that he buried this immense treasure?
KL: Of course there are naysayers, and I don’t really mind. That makes competition all the less. We all have a right to believe or not to believe. I don’t really say anything to the naysayers. I just smile.
PT: How do you go about planning each search? How much time do you commit to the searches – both in planning and during your exploration?
KL: Whew, well, the more and more I research and search, the harder it is to pick a new area. First, I get all my maps out, start Googling, gathering information, searching for “…where warm waters halt” potentials, and from there [I use] Google Earth, looking for the “canyon down” and what would follow is a reasonable “HOB” or “home of Brown,” and so on…If it looks good and I can follow it on Google Earth, then I head out and get my boots on the ground and search. And time? Sometimes it takes a couple of weeks to dial in to a new territory; sometimes, just a couple of hours or days.
As far as how much time searching? Well, if the area looks promising and really fits the poem superbly, I can spend up to months and months searching that [same] area, until at last I feel It’s not here, time to move on…Sometimes I can go to an area for the first time, and right away know that it’s not [the right place].
PT: What have been some of your most exciting adventures in seeking out Fenn’s treasure? Feel free to talk about events during the hunts as well as in between them, such as television guest appearances and interviews, etc.
KL: Finding rarely visited ancient ruins that were built over one thousand years ago! Absolutely stellar! Filming a full-length feature documentary with UK’s Moxie Pictures during 2014-15 was wonderful because I’ve taken the director/producer to my very favorite places, including my special secret one I’m still searching now. Hopefully by the time the movie comes out, I’ll either have found the treasure or have an equally awesome place [to search].
PT: This would be a good time to tell us about your experience in being featured in the upcoming Expedition Unknown episode which aired November 18 .
KL: Filming with the Travel Channel TV show Expedition Unknown was another highlight. Pre-production and scouting was great in Colorado at the Black Canyon and Gunnison Gorge. We had many adventures there, too; on a jet boat through the canyon while perfectly lining up clues to the poem. Ultimately the BLM [Bureau of Land Management] refused to let us film there, so we went on to Taos Rio Grande Gorge and added a whole new level of searching by helicopter and river rafting; we had tremendous thunder and lightning storms and pouring rain that added to the epic search. The crew was great! One of the camera men got hooked looking for the treasure. We’d find him from time to time sneaking off looking for the treasure. We spent three days filming my story in the Forrest Fenn episode.
PT: What harrowing experiences have you had related to the hunts?
Another special highlight from all of my searches was my close encounter with a beautiful cougar. As she was stalking a baby deer, the momma deer was in total panic, running back and forth in front of me with her eyes wide open and nostrils flaring! The cougar crawled just thirty feet in front of me on my path.
Another time was getting busted by officials for snorkeling and diving in a dam spillway with a girlfriend search partner. An epic moment for sure – like a great scene in a movie!
PT: Have you met any interesting people in your pursuit of the treasure?
KL: When I first started searching, I met a lovely young lady named Michelle. She lived in Santa Fe and knew Forrest. She used to visit him before he hid the treasure. He’d allow her to run her hands through the gold and gems in the treasure box. She was one of the very first searchers before word got out to the world about the search. She searched over three years until early last year when she moved to Hawaii for health reasons.
Oh, and I adore Dal Nietzl! He’s the best searcher by far, and plays an important role in creating a forum for searchers and for people to go who are just curious [about Forrest Fenn’s treasure].
There are several other searchers I’ve met and who I stay in contact with; and then there are the eclectic folks I’ve met [along the way] who are not searchers.
PT: To your knowledge, have there been any celebrities or otherwise well-known treasure hunters?
KL: I think the celebs keep a low profile. Some searchers are becoming well known for being a “Fenn addict” or “Fenn fanatic.”
PT: What have been some of your biggest disappointments?
I don’t get disappointed much anymore. My first year, in the beginning of my search as part of The Thrill of the Chase, I felt big disappointments many times for sure! I’d think, This is the day I’m going to bring it home! And how heavy the heart felt when that was not the case – now I don’t get attached to the outcome. I just enjoy the journey.
PT: What lessons do you take away from each hunt or advice can you give to treasure hunters?
Lesson #1: Always, always take water with you! Even if you think that you’re just going to take a look on a cliff for a moment.
Lesson #2: When going on a search, always take necessary [other] supplies: food, first-aid, bear spray, rain gear, flashlight, knife, a good map, compass, gloves, lighter, a good walking stick (in case you need to battle a cougar), etc.
Lesson #3: Don’t run from cougars and bears! Talk to the animals.
Lesson #4: Every search is an opportunity to discover yourself in new situations.
Lesson #5: Keep a low profile.
PT: What do your family and friends say about your commitment to the hunt?
KL: Not sure what they say when I’m not around, but the for the most part, those that really know me, know that I always chase adventure! Most of my friends and family say that they believe in me and are rooting for me.
PT: Can you see yourself ever giving up on the hunt before the treasure is found?
KL: As you know, life has a way of presenting new situations to you. And should something change my course, then I
shall move on. As far as “giving up”…no.
PT: Do you think that Forrest Fenn’s treasure ever will be found?
KL: LOL! I sure do hope so!
PT: If you find the treasure, what then?
KL: If I find the treasure then I’ll begin a great movie project about the adventures; and then I’ll find another treasure to look for!
To read more about Katya’s adventures, visit her website at: Wild Kat’s Official Website