04:00 AM

Employee Blog: My search for Indulgence


Who can resist a treasure hunt? Not American Family Insurance employee Jake Peetz. He discovered a real-life one, and was hooked. And while Jake thinks he knows where the treasure is, he hasn’t found it … yet.

When I was young, my dad and mom would pack my siblings and me into the van, and we’d head out to Montana and Wyoming to go hiking, fishing and to enjoy the great outdoors.

Looking back, I don’t think we realized how special these trips truly were. As adults, my siblings and I often reminisce about our adventures – running through the wilderness and coming face-to-face with a full-grown moose and all the other fun times we had. The beauty and mystery of it all sparked a sense of adventure in me and set the stage for one of the greatest adventures in my life.

One night in 2014, I was searching online for lost treasures in America. I love the outdoors and wanted to experience more fun family adventures. I stumbled upon the story of Forrest Fenn and his poem about an elaborate treasure hunt

I was immediately hooked.

Like me, Forrest’s dad took him on yearly hiking and fishing adventures. Forrest grew up to be a decorated pilot in the Air Force and a well-renowned art collector in his later years. In 1988, Forrest learned he had terminal cancer. The diagnosis hit him hard. He wanted to leave his mark on the world, so he hid his art collection in a treasure chest somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. He published the poem and two books that give hints to the location of his hidden treasure chest, which he aptly named Indulgence.

Hesitant it might be a hoax, I researched as much as I could – reading both books, following several websites and studying each line in the poem for hours. At this point, I have read his poem over and over to where I easily can recite it by memory. I learned he hid the treasure to get people outdoors and off their “texting machines.” All his book proceeds are donated to cancer research.

I’ve made six trips to the Rocky Mountains in search of his treasure and have uncovered more and more hints each time. My first trip was overwhelming. I was sure I knew the general location, but the possibilities were far too vast. I quickly became discouraged, but my brother pushed me to continue. The following morning, we found a large rock with an “X” naturally formed into it. I was elated but ended up not finding anything else near the rock.

After returning home, I retraced our path on Google Earth. After analyzing, re-thinking and re-analyzing, it finally came to me. I understood what the poem meant and where it meant to lead me. I went through all the clues and hints Forrest provided on his website and in his books, and all of them confirmed my theory.

On the following trip, my dad joined the search. He had just healed from knee surgery, and the hike turned out to be too much for him. Getting to the location where I believe the treasure is hidden takes about 45 minutes of driving in the mountains and another 2½-mile hike up the mountain. We got lost. We almost got stuck. We hiked in the pitch dark, and I once displayed early signs of hypothermia. Let’s just say, I was thrilled to get back to my hotel room.

My next trip was with coworker, friend and Marine John Richmond, a care center team manager in Sales and Service Operations, who promised he could get me to the right location. And he did, but there was too much snow for us to thoroughly search the area. On that same trip, I found another clue that confirmed we were on the right path, a stone pyramid hidden from sight. The next two trips brought unpredicted weather, which prevented us from reaching our desired location.

It’s been eight years since Forrest Fenn hid Indulgence in the Rocky Mountains. Filled with double gold eagle coins, gold nuggets, emeralds, diamonds and Native American artifacts from his personal collection, the treasure chest weighs more than 40 pounds and is valued at $3 million.

I’ve learned the hard way that timing is everything, I am 99 percent certain that I know the exact location of Indulgence. Only time and my next trip will tell. The thrill and excitement of knowing that I could find a hidden fortune that would change my children’s lives forever is why I started this hunt in the first place.

But now, it’s the memories made with my family and friends and our adventures that keep me going back for more. Because sometimes, one must be willing to get completely lost to truly find themselves.