Several years ago, a millionaire named Forrest Fenn sent the world on a treasure hunt when he stashed a chest filled with $2 million in gold somewhere in the Rockies. Tens of thousands of people have tried to find it. The latest hunter is a 54-year-old grandfather named Randy Bilyeu — and he’s been missing for three weeks.
Now, instead of searching for a treasure chest, Randy’s friends, family, and local police are desperately looking for him. Even the 85-year-old millionaire who started this whole quest is helping to comb the most remote regions of the upper Rio Grande for Bilyeu — and out of his mind with worry, according to The Associated Press.
Bilyeu left his home in Colorado in early January. He was last heard from on January 4 and was reported missing on January 14, The Albuquerque Journal reported. Family and friends said Randy set out on January 5 after scouting along the river for two weeks. He brought a raft, a wetsuit and waters, a GPS device, and his dog, Leo.
After no one had heard from Bilyeu for a while, one of his friends became concerned and called his ex-wife. She filed a missing person’s report and police started looking. Soon after, they found Randy’s car, parked along the river and his dog Leo, still alive. Downstream, they found the missing man’s raft. Police found maps as well, which were marked with the same clues other hunters had used to find Fenn’s loot.
But on January 18, police stopped looking for Bilyeu. They’d combed the canyons and mesas near the river both by air and on foot and brought in some sniffer dogs. They found no sign of the missing hunter.
“Unfortunately, we just don’t have anything to go on right now,” State Police spokeswoman Sgt. Elizabeth Armijo said.
But his fellow treasure hunters won’t stop looking for him. One of those friends, Sacha Johnston, said Bilyeu’s family deserves closure.
“We feel like someone should be putting an effort towards it. We seriously will keep looking for Randy until he is found, whether that’s this year or next year. He’s between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, presumably. We’re so close.”
Johnston is sure that his missing friend was careful and prepared; he’d taken note of the more dangerous spots, had done lots of research, and “knew where he was going. He had a plan.”
Randy Bilyeu may be the first person to go missing while searching for Forrest’s treasure, but he’s far from the first person to get into trouble during the hunt. Some people have forded swollen rivers, one woman found herself spending the night in the woods, and others have been caught digging on public land.
Fellow treasure hunters also are searching for Randy Bilyeu, who was last seen on Jan. 5. https://t.co/kbcpG0csC5
— CarlsbadCurrentArgus (@CCurrentArgus) January 30, 2016
Forrest never meant his quest to be easy and his clues also came with plenty of warnings, too. And as another day ticks by without Randy being found, the millionaire is determined not to suspend the hunt for his treasure.
The treasure includes $2 million in gold, jewelry, and artifacts. Fenn, an antiquities dealer, published clues to its whereabouts in the Rockies in his memoir, The Thrill of the Chase, in the form of a poem. Thousands have scoured the mountains and Yellowstone National Park to in the search and share their experiences and discuss clues online.
“The hope of finding the treasure is one thing, of course, but there’s a sense of adventure when you get out in the mountains and in the sunshine and the fresh air. One of my motives was to get the kids off the couch and away from the game machine.”
Randy Bilyea’s daughter, Carissa, told Inside Edition that her “adventurous” father “liked the thrill of it. He liked being outdoors. He told me that it kind of connected him spiritually.” He’d been fascinated with Fenn’s memoir and the clues for years and had designed a route that included areas not mentioned in the book.
“He had some kind of a plan that bewilders me, quite frankly,” she said.
A GoFundMe page has been set up to help in the search for the missing Randy Bilyeu.
[Photo By Kristy Swanson/Shutterstock]