After learning of Joe Brown in the Yellowstone (YS) area, I looked up the name for more information. I read that Joe Brown looked for gold in the mouth of a creek now known as Bear Creek. (And he found it!)
So off I went.
The creek was easy enough to find on the map. It appears to be north of the park, yet according to physical sign posts, it may actually be within the border of the park. Regardless, it connects to the Yellowstone River to the north. You can reach the mouth by foot if you travel along The Yellowstone Trail
Thanks to Google Earth, I was able to see the trail, but finding the start to it was another story. I decided to park in a lot to the west in Jardine. There was a sign for the Gallatin National Forest. I started walking east, hoping I could eventually find the right trail.
I soon ran into a sign marking private property, with a barbed wire fence. I didn’t feel like trespassing, especially since I hoped to walk back to the car carrying a huge treasure. So I walked south along the fence line. Eventually I found a sign post for the border of YS park. I was home free!
So I followed the trail for hours until finally I hit the bridge over Bear Creek, along the Yellowstone trail. The water was raging rapid white water, with huge boulders sticking out. No place for the meek to be sure. Even a name like Bear Creek might scare off the meek. What a thrill – I thought it looked perfect for the poem’s clues
The east side of the creek was a steep slope – not navigable on foot. The west side had a short trail, bordered by what appeared to be a man-made rock wall. So I dropped my backpack and walked up the trail – looking for a blaze of some kind.
I found what I thought look like the ideal spot – a bunch of rocks on the side of the bank that would make a perfect little shelter for the treasure and an eternal resting spot. There was a sign on a tree that was no longer legible. Maybe a wise person would recognize this as a blaze
But there was no treasure. Had someone beat me to it? This spot matched the poem clues and visually seemed perfect both in the water and on the shores. It was by far the best prospect I had found in person.
I scoured the area, but didn’t find any better spots. I walked as far as a person could walk. I know the water in June 2014 was really high and fast due to the vast winter snow melt, but it is hard to imagine crossing that creek safely any time.
Then I headed back west on the trail. At this point, I’m not sure that trail officially exists anymore. At one point I saw a sign showing the trail going another direction. I walked to the end of my trail – where I found another sign post marking the border of YS park. The trail literally starts and ends in the middle of the woods. That meant I had to improvise to get back to the car. I knew I had to go up, north, and west. At that point I didn’t really care about crossing through private property. It had been a heck of a day and somewhere I found the strength to push through and reach the car. Along the way I saw a shrub full of long brown fur, and walked above the river on a trail that probably wasn’t safe. Too bad I didn’t have a working camera
If you want to double-check this area, find a different starting point. Maybe to the east of the creek on the YS Trail. If the water looks dangerous, do not try to cross, other than using the bridge.
Upon returning home, I found some troubling and confusing info on our friend Joe Brown. I’m currently waiting for some research requests to be completed. If and when the new info is available, I’ll pass it along.
Until then, stay waiting on the edge of your seats!
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