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Cookie Tree "Treasure" Map Surfaces

Cookie Tree “Treasure” Map Surfaces

(Ridgway) What appears to be a valid treasure map to the legendary Escalante Gold, reputed to be buried somewhere beneath the former Cookie Tree Ranch, has surfaced here according to local geologists. The former ranch, now cooling its heels under the Ridgway Reservoir, was flooded back in the late 70s as a water storage project for the lower reaches of the Uncompahgre Valley.

     The map, which was discovered during an excavation at Elk Meadows (some 12 miles away from the said lake, looks to be authentic according to unreliable sources high above Ridgway. Although it has faded over 235 years since the treasure was lost along what is known as the Spanish Trail, the map is readable despite extensive water marks and fraying caused by the seriously dry climate.

     Believed to have been drawn between October and November of 1776, the map could lead diggers to a fortune in gold, silver and Spanish coinage of high value. Most of the loot was stolen from various indigenous tribes in return for promised salvation. Historians, still out to lunch on the origin of the map have been slow to draw conclusions.

     It is now in the hands of the local police who say it will remain locked up until priorities can be established. Several families associated with the ranch have been contacted but as yet no one has come forward to claim anything. Police expect their share of quacks and schemers insisting the map is theirs or posing as heirs of a sort. Already rangers working at the reservoir have reported suspicious behavior and signs of forced entry on remote fence lines. They arrested one man who was “out fishing” with 400 pounds of dynamite stashed on his boat and detained another who was taking photos of military installations on the evaporating body of water.

     Already the news has created a domino affect in a land known for high stakes poker. Real people living here are accustomed to creative survival and the thought of glorious riches has them all giddy. Even newer residents who brought their money from other environs have been concocting secret plans, drenched in dreams of more, stunned by fantasies of increased wealth.

     “What are we going to do…drain the reservoir and start digging?” asked Rory Silvers, who with a handful of former mining enthusiasts have been stockpiling earth moving equipment and fuel depots just north of Ouray. “If the mythical treasure exists and is under the former ranch/reservoir the authorities will have their hands full keeping people out.”

     Another miner went on to say that a retrieval operation might impact the valley beyond belief.

     “This could make Cherry Creek or Sutter’s Mill pale by comparison,” he spat. The search may last years and net nothing or, with laser and satellite technology at our disposal, we could see the treasure exhumed in moments. Other experts in the field questioned Markey’s tech references saying that dynamite and shovels would dictate the progress while drilling probes would be the order of the day.

     “This Silvers guy is dreaming,” said one retired mining engineer. “If there is treasure at the bottom of all this it is certainly irretrievable. After all of these centuries underground it is one with the earth, gone forever from the hands of man.”

     Many here compare the chances of finding the treasure to the chances of winning a state lottery which has been equated to being struck by lightning at the bottom of the ocean or stung by a bee from China. The numbers don’t lie but that doesn’t keep prospectors from eyeballing a claim. 

     Already the trappings of wealth have invaded the once pristine reservoir as permits have been secured to build several restaurants, a general store and a brothel lakeside. Sources tell us that there is not a shovel or pick to be had in Montrose and Delta Counties and that streams of miners from the West End can be seen making their way over Highway 90 “toward the big bonanza’.

     “We sure don’t want this map to fall into the wrong hands,” said one police officer, “which would pretty much include anyone and everyone who needs cash and can handle a shovel.”

     Meanwhile the elusive cache cries out for liberation. Although many have surmised on the content of the treasure none know for sure what awaits the finder. One group vying for position on the matter is the Timpanog Ute tribe who claim dominion since it was they who guided Escalante and Dominguez through the region in 1776.

     Fathers Escalante and Dominguez could not be reached for comment since the inconsiderate Escalante died in 1780 and baffling Dominguez in 1803.

– Uncle Pahgre