Travel tips, stories, and adventures from around the world.

Our First Summer in Japan

Summer in Japan! A quick roundup of all the festivals, events and other cool things we did during our first summer in Japan!

TL;DR As temps dip into the 60’s, reflecting on some of the summer shenanigans we got ourselves into. These are smaller events that don’t really warrant an entire post, so we’ll do round-ups like this at the end of big seasons. To keep up with us in the moment, follow @frompineapples and @frompineapples.eats (all ze foods) on Insta! 

Summer in Japan – the season of Festivals!

At it’s peak, Summer temps were steadily in the high 90’s in Tokyo (and humidity hung around creating a sauna everywhere you went), so we honestly left the apartment as little as humanly possible.

That being said, we did manage to get out and check out some of the amazing Summer festivals that Japan is known for. We already posted about the Tanabata Festival (which was mildly disappointing), but we checked out a few others that were pretty amazing!

An hour of fireworks in Kita-Senju – Adachi Fireworks Festival

Summer in Japan - Adachi Fireworks

Epic. Fireworks for an hour straight along the river with yukata-clad people (like 600,000 of them, not even exaggerating). Thanks Maisha for coming with and letting me hang out at your place after to avoid the INSANE lineup for trains!

30,000 Lanterns at Yasukuni Shrine – Mitama Matsuri

Summer in Japan - Mitama Matsuri

Mid-July so it was a sweltering sauna, but still worth it! So pretty! Make sure you have an escape plan out of the area since restaurants around there were just as packed as food stalls and convenience stores.

Island Music Festival

No Hawaiian or local food, but lots of strong drinks! Haha. Which made for a lot of fun times, with great performances (to the crowd’s delight, Konishiki performed too!) even though headliner Fiji never showed. Lol.

Tachikawa Manpaku Food Festival

So. Much. Food. We utilized the divide-and-conquer strategy and ended up with a couple of donburi (raw meat and sashimi from Tsukiji), three types of curry pan, mochi-gyoza (this was delish), and a melon + ice cream + soda parfait and strawberry slushie thing. Everything was amaaaazing and we got there around 10:30am, so the lines weren’t bad at all! 500 yen entrance fee.

Other summer happenings

Truth be told, those were the only actual festivals we attended. Our summer was highlighted with a ton of exploring (check out our new walking series) and some smaller events and art shows.

Team Lab – Borderless

There’s been a ton of Internet buzz about this digital art show over in Odaiba – and for good reason. We did early bird tickets (2400 yen) and spent over three hours exploring the massive exhibit (you could easily spend more time in there, if you check out the tea house or play any of the interactive games / art projects). I posted a few pics on Instgram, but here’s a few more! It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re ever in town!

Art Aquarium – Night Aquarium

Less publicized, but still pretty amazing is the Nihonbashi’s Art Aquarium. Much smaller (literally one room and a hallway) and you can get through it in an hour then spend time exploring Nihonbashi!

Google’s “Cutest Haunted House”

For a week, Google had the “cutest haunted house” (it wasn’t scary at all and I’m the biggest scaredy-cat ever) in Omotesando. Directions and tickets were via the Japanese (!) google assistant and everything was in Japanese when we arrived, but all that studying is paying off! Haha. More pics on our Insta.

Capture the Flag and Dodgeball

Meetups! While I’ve been having fun at Dodgeball, I have to admit I LOVED glow in the dark Capture the Flag! We used glowsticks on both the flag and each team member and ran around Yoyogi Park for a couple of hours. Let it be known that I’m slow and super unintimidating, but I still had a blast. Also sprinting around in the dark is both dangerous and a crazy good workout (I’ve never hurt so much!).

Makerfaire

Makerfaire Japan! One of the striking differences was the insane amount of robotics projects – from robot soccer to robots playing instruments, there were a ton of interactive projects that let you control or play with them. Also a lot of very Japanese-ey things – I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Lol. We had an amazing time – hoping to come up with some cool ideas and have a booth of our own next year!

That’s a wrap!

It’s been an amazing 6 months, but now that Fall is in full swing, I can’t wait to see the leaves change colors! I’ve honestly missed seasons – and more importantly, I’m happy the hot humid summer days are over with!

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Walking Tokyo Series: Rainbow Bridge

Walking Tokyo gives an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of Tokyoites. Read our notes from the 5 mile (~2 hour) walk across Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge. Join us as we walk Tokyo!

TL;DRWe’re walking Tokyo (this time over Rainbow Bridge) to practice for next year’s Yamathon! Let us know in the comments if there’s anywhere in Tokyo that you’re curious about or if you’d like to join us! Thanks @noellechun for coming along this time! It was awesome catching up!

Rainbow Bridge?! Why?!@

Why Rainbow Bridge you ask? Why not?! Check out our first post to learn more about why we love to walk the cities we live in. This week we’re posting our weekend adventures with our friend from Hawaii, @noellechun! She was an awesome sport as we navigated and adventured around Odaiba. We ended up in Ginza with the intent of eating a GIANT cream puff, but didn’t realize we needed to reserve that thing a week in advance. Our spirits weren’t crushed though, since we still ate a ton of amazing food at the Taste of Tokyo event – and ended the night with some Cremia🍦!

Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge

Our Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Statistics

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Statistics

 

Statistics

  • Odaiba to Rainbow Bridge – 4.92 miles
  • ~2.5 hours
  • Odaiba is pretty flat, but the bridge had a steady uphill on one side (as all bridges do 😂)
  • If you’re afraid of heights – this is NOT the walk for you.
  • Sunset views on both Odaiba Beach and the bridge are amazing.
  • On Rainbow Bridge, you pick North or Southside to walk on. North gives nice views of Tokyo’s skyline and a glimpse of the setting sun until you hit the turn in the bridge. The South path has nicer views after that.
  • Coming from Odaiba, there are two places to choose which side you want to walk on: once at the very beginning and again (you can switch sides) before the bridge turns.
  • Not much to see on the walk from Ariake Station area to Odaiba Kaihinkoen Station area, so hopping on the Yurikamome line is an option.
  • Neighborhoods we passed through: Odaiba, Shibaura Island
  • #FromPineapples difficulty: 🍍🍍 (of 5)
  • #FromPineapples things to see: 🍍🍍 (of 5)

Neighborhood Notes

  • There’s always something going on in Odaiba on the weekends and this Sunday was no exception! There were three outdoor festivals and a tourism expo:
    • Fiesta Mexicana – Mexican food, drinks and performances on the West Side of Odaiba near Daiba Station.
    • Mercari Flea Market – Similar to the Swap Meet at Aloha Staidum, there were tons of people selling their stuff on the cheap! This was in the West Promenade area near Diver City.
    • Tokyo Ajiwai Festival (Taste of Tokyo) – Food vendors from all over Japan as well as vendors representing various countries and ethnicities in the world! On the Southeast side of Odaiba, near the Ariake and Kokusai-tenjijo Stations (right in front of Tokyo Big Sight)
    • In Tokyo Big Sight, there was Tourism Expo Japan (we didn’t get a chance to check this one out)
  • To get to Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba, walk through Odaiba beach which was reminiscent of Ala Moana Beach at sunset – complete with standup paddle boarders (okay, there was one guy) and hula dancers. Lots of folks relaxing and just hanging out.
  • From the North side of the bridge, you can see both Tokyo Tower and (way off in the distance) Tokyo Skytree.
  • The pedestrian path on Rainbow Bridge is suspended below the cars, so you can’t see above you except in the lookout areas.
  • We walked through Shibaura Island and it was quite fancy looking. A quieter area, but the buildings were noticeably nicer than the area directly off the bridge.
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Learning Japanese – My Monthly Syllabus for Self-Study

So, how am I learning Japanese? SLOWLY. Haha. 2x/week Skype classes via iTalki, at least 1x/week language exchange meetup and apps (Anki, HelloTalk, VoiceTra and Google Translate). Practice makes…super far from perfect, but kind of slowly getting there!

TL;DRSo, how am I learning Japanese? SLOWLY. Haha. 2x/week Skype classes via iTalki, language exchange meetups at least once a week and apps (Anki, HelloTalk, VoiceTra and Google Translate). Practice makes…super far from perfect, but any progress is still progress!

The Starting Line

I can’t believe it, but we’ve been in Japan for nearly FIVE months now. FIVE MONTHS! If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t start studying or taking any classes until July, though. The first few months were dedicated to finding an apartment, then we spent a week on a Cruise through Alaksa and another week back in Hawaii for work before coming back and feeling out of sorts. My first order of business upon our return was to take classes and figure out what my new normal would be like here.

To give you an idea of my starting point – I could get around (granted we’re in Tokyo where all the signage is in English) and order at restaurants. I could have some pretty simple conversations, like – the weather, or directions, but beyond that – it was all a guess. I took 2 years in high school and 1 semester in college – but in college, I started in 101 because I wanted the easy A. My understanding of particle usage and basic grammar has been mostly forgotten. I sort of just guess which particle sounds right. Hahaha. My vocab is also super tiny and mostly useless, even for everyday conversation.

Finding a Teacher

I started off by taking a once a week part time class (the full-time classes are all in the morning or middle of the day, so they didn’t work with my schedule) – but the class was too easy. There was no homework, tests or any motivation to study between classes. When it comes to learning Japanese, I have a history of being lazy and need that forced accountability to be productive. So I stopped those classes after the first four weeks and dove head first into finding an online tutor. I figure it’d save me a commute into central Tokyo, and I could be more flexible since I’d just need to be at home.

I spent a LOT of hours reading teacher bios on iTalki, watching their videos and trying to figure out how they run their classes. After a ton of research, I decided I needed trial classes and booked 6 of them in a week. I weeded out teachers that didn’t specifically mention being able to provide curriculum and homework / tests then spent 30 min – an hour with my top picks. The results were mixed. If ya’ll are interested, I can write up the individual teacher assessments (I have a bunch of notes) and link to their bios in italki. Lmk in the comments.

The teacher I decided to go with was awesome – super strict with pronunciation, provided a clear curriculum for where we’re headed and assessed me during our initial call to figure out what my current level was (he tested me, ack!). It’s been a few weeks and while I sometimes find myself getting annoyed when I’m tongue-tied trying to pronounce san-zen-en correctly, I’m still super happy with my choice.

How I’m Learning Japanese

So – here are the various channels that I’m using to learn Japanese. I’ll check in at the end of the year with an update (for sure this will change as time goes on).

  • iTalki (Classes / Video Chat) – I have a 1 hour class on Tuesdays and a 1.5 hour class on Fridays. My Teacher: https://www.italki.com/teacher/1040742. I also met a few people on iTalki that want to just video chat to practice, so since mid-August I’ve been meeting weekly for an hour or so with a language partner (we swap languages every 10 minutes).
  • Genki I and Minna No Nihongo (Textbooks) – These are the books recommended by both my teacher and basically everyone I’ve talked to. I actually completed Genki in High School and College (HA) but that was a good 15 years ago. My memory (and my previous studying habits) are pretty much the worst. Haha. I’m going through both textbooks during my classes with my iTalki Sensei.
  • HelloTalk (App) – You post “moments” which are just like status updates and people can hop on and correct you. My only concern is that varying levels of Japanese (similar to folks correcting English) could mean you might not always get corrected, correctly. Either way, for my level, it’s 1000% better than my guesswork. The only downside is that it sometimes feels like a dating app when only guys are messaging you. LOL. I think if you’re cool with ignoring direct messages (I only use it for moments, tbh) then you’ll be fine.
  • Watch Japanese TV Shows – (wait for it…) with JAPANESE subs on. Don’t cheat with the English subs! SUUUURE you’ll pick up a few words here and there, but if you want to level up, you need to put in the work. Japanese subs which mean a ton of time spent looking up translations. Anime also doesn’t really count, since the words that they use are typically not the way people speak in real life. Reality shows have been my go-to (Terrace House, Midnight Diner, etc). I have a Netflix Japan account, but I’m pretty sure Netflix US has a bunch!
  • Anki (App) – If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you already know about this app. However, #protip – create your own decks. While using someone’s pre-loaded 2,000 core words deck SEEMS great, for me, I learn organically. So I input phrases that I’m learning in class or with friends, plus corrected sentences from HelloTalk and phrases from shows like Terrace House and Midnight Diner. While I might not hit on every “core” word in order, it’s been much easier for me to remember things like “niku jiken” (meat incident) LOL.
  • WaniKani (webapp – I’ve just recently started using this app to learn radicals and kanji. I’ll check back in at the end of the year for a real review.
  • Read NHK Easy News – I try to read at least 1 article a day. It’s also helpful in keeping tabs on what’s going on in Japan!
  • Meetups – My goal was once a week and I’ve been surprisingly consistent so far. These focus on blocks of time (15 minutes) spent alternating between speaking English and Japanese. It’s a good place to practice actually USING Japanese with real people, in person!

My Weekly Schedule

Here’s a pretty basic outline of what I’ve been doing every week. My weekends are Sunday/Monday, so I typically don’t schedule any daily study time on those days:

  • Tuesday – Saturday (90min/day):
    • 30 min writing practice
    • 10 min reading practice
    • 20 min grammar/notes review
    • 30 min reviewing Anki/WaniKani flashcards before bed
  • Tuesday (1 hour): iTalki Class
  • Thursday (1 hour): Skype with Language Exchange Partner
  • Friday (1.5 hours): iTalki Class
  • Sunday (2 hours): IRL Language Exchange Meetup

I’m currently struggling with finding structure beyond just switching between English and Japanese during my online language exchange sessions. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know in the comments. We usually end up just chatting about daily life and I stay within my comfort zone of vocab, which I feel may not be super productive.

Find Your Why

I think the most important thing to do before you start learning Japanese (or any language), is to figure out WHY you want to learn. Unless you’re in school every day, it’s tough to stay motivated with self-study! For me, even when I knew we were going to move here, I didn’t make the time to study much before we moved. Now that we’re here, the struggle is real. There’s a lot of motivation behind wanting to read the mail, the menu at restaurants and just being able to express myself to the people I meet.

Heck, even WITH these reasons, I sometimes find myself unmotivated! Especially when I spend a bunch of time studying and I don’t feel like I’m any better. It’s all relative though – and I just have to compare my level to that first meetup I went to last December when I swear I sat there and smile/nodded through most of the 15-minute Japanese sessions. These days, I can at least figure out the gist of what people are saying! Haha.

In any case – get to the heart of your motivation and burn that in your heart and soul – cause at the end of the day, it’s the small consistent actions that will lead to big changes over time!

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Walking Tokyo Series: Hatchōbori to Nakano

Walking Tokyo gives an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of Tokyoites. Read our notes from the 10 mile (~5 hour) walk between Hatchōbori station and Nakano station. Join us as we walk Tokyo!

TL;DRWe’re walking Tokyo to practice for next year’s Yamathon! Is there anywhere in Tokyo that you’re curious about? Let us know below and maybe we’ll walk it or message us to come join us!

Walking Tokyo?! Why?!@

One of my favorite things to do when I travel abroad is to catch public transportation because it gives you an intimate glimpse into the daily life of someone local to the area.  Having lived in a few large cities, one of the first things Sara and I do is figure out how to walk it. Similar to catching public transportation, walking a city is immersive and gives you insight into the socioeconomic structures as well as the daily lives of those who live in a particular area.

Protip: Walking a city also allows you to scope out future places to live!

When we lived in NYC, we walked almost all of lower Manhattan (below 60th – it’s also why we know it so well!) and so when we moved to Tokyo, we figured we’d do the same – but this time, we’ll try to document our strolls so that they’ll hopefully give you some ideas for your own adventures.

In addition to the route and how long it took, we’ll have snippets about places we detour to along with neighborhood notes. To kick this series off, this past weekend, we walked Hatchōbori Station (a little East of Ginza) to Nakano Station.

Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station

Our Route

Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station Route

Walking Tokyo: Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station Route

Route

Walking Tokyo: Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station Statistics

Statistics

 

Statistics

  • ~5 hours
  • A little less than 10 miles
  • A little uphill north of the palace, but overall, a pretty easy stroll – this looks a lot scarier of a walk than it really is.
  • We stopped at Lawson Station in Ichigaya to get a drink and some lemon cheese pancakes (for fuel, of course!).
  • We walked around: Yasukuni Shrine and the exterior of the Imperial Palace.
  • Neighborhoods we passed through: Tsukiji, Ginza, Chiyoda, Ichigaya, Shin-Ōkubo
  • #FromPineapples difficulty: 🍍🍍 (of 5)
  • #FromPineapples things to see: 🍍🍍🍍 (of 5)

Neighborhood Notes

  • Ginza has a lot of shopping areas. Duh, it’s obviously famous for them – but walking the area gives a very different perspective of just how many shops there are here. Narrator: there’s a lot of them!
  • Ichigaya is noticeably fancier than a lot of Tokyo neighborhoods – not quite Roppongi Hills fancy, but still very, very nice. The building facades and overall atmosphere oozes upscale.
  • Shin-Ōkubo is (in)famous for its Koreatown and it shows – everything around the station is cheese this and cheese that. From cheese dakkarubi to cheese corndogs – you’re going to encounter a ton of younger folk here – even younger than Kichijoji. If you know Sara, you’d also know she’s already been here to eat Korean food, but we’re definitely coming back to try all these チーズ (cheese) dishes.
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Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri

The Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri is a summer festival that celebrates the uniting of two (literal) star-crossed lovers with wish-writing, colorful decorations and star-shaped everything. Mostly for kids, tbh. 

TL;DR The Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri is a summer festival that celebrates the uniting of two (literal) star-crossed lovers with wish-writing, colorful decorations and star-shaped everything. Mostly for kids, tbh. 

The Story

The Tanabata Matsuri, or Star Festival, is celebrated in Tokyo on July 7th every year (a few other places celebrate on August 8th since it was initially based on the Lunar calendar #themoreyouknow).

It’s a cute, but pretty depressing story of a Princess that falls in love with a Shepherd – all is flowers and candy until they start neglecting their respective jobs and the Princess’ dad decides that they work >>>>> love. Savage parenting, but life’s all about balance, I suppose.

He sees how sad she is and decides to give them ONE day a year to meet on the 7th day of the 7th month. – at the Amanogawa (Heavenly river, or Milky Way). For a cute illustrated story, check out this youtube vid (Japanese with subs).

Matsuri Weekend

The actual festival takes place in several locations all around Japan, so wherever you’re living/visiting be sure to give it a quick google. The festival we checked out, Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri, spanned July 5th – July 9th and included live performances, a parade, food, drinks and activities (mostly kid-focused).

It was blazing hot when we got there around 2pm on Sunday – but there was a ton to see! We walked from the Tawaramachi Station to Ueno Station, along the main street of the festival (Kappabashi Hondori).

There were decorations and tanzoku (slips of paper to write your wishes on) for you to tie to the bamboo branches strung up around the street.

We naturally wished to be fluent in Japanese by the end of the year. 😉

Most of the activities were for kids and my Japanese teacher actually mentioned that this festival was one of the less crowded ones of the summer. There were little pools to catch fish and crayfish, fresh puffed/popped rice, water balloon yo-yo’s and a bunch of tables selling beer / canned drinks / yakitori / yakisoba / mochi.

If I’m being 100% honest, unless I have a small child in tow (spoiler alert: not even on the radar yet hahaha) then this is probably one of the matsuri’s we’ll be skipping in the future – unless we take a trip out to Saitama, where I hear it’s epic.

Shitamachi Tanabata Matsuri

Officially celebrated on July 7th (with events occurring on the surrounding days)
From Ueno Station to Asakusa Station along Kappabashi Hondori
Website (Japanese only but you could get by with google translate)

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Treasure hunting for Forrest Fenn’s gold in Yellowstone National Park

I went hunting for Forrest Fenn’s treasure in Yellowstone National Park and you should do it too! It was an absolutely amazing and breathtaking experience – my only regret is it took me 40 years to get here!

TL;DRI went hunting for Forrest Fenn’s treasure in Yellowstone Park and you should too – it was an absolutely amazing and breathtaking experience. My only regret is that it took me almost 40 years to get out there – oh – and don’t worry, we didn’t find any treasure… yet. If you do one thing in this blog post, make sure to read our lessons learned – especially if you’re planning on searching for Fenn’s treasure.

You went what?!@

Yes, I went treasure hunting.

Even though I’d like to think of myself as fairly calculating, I think most people would consider me impulsive.  When I first heard about Fenn’s poem back in 2012, I jotted it down on my “someday” to-do list, and vowed that one day, I’d have to make a go of it. After all, who wouldn’t want to participate in a real-life Goonies adventure!

Welp, as fate would have it, that someday was about a month ago.

What exactly is Forrest Fenn’s Treasure?

In 2010, an eccentric, millionaire art dealer named Forrest Fenn buried a treasure worth millions in the Rocky Mountains north of Santa Fe.  He included clues to the treasure’s location in a poem contained within his 2010 memoir, “The Thrill of the Chase” (which we purchased).  Over the years, Forrest has given hints about the treasure through various media outlets.  It’s been estimated that over a hundred thousand “Fennatics” have gone searching. In addition, the chase has been attributed to at least four deaths since its beginning.

Here’s an Instagram photo that contains the poem from his memoir:

 

Just to give you an idea of how popular the chase is, here’s a few links to large media outlets who have reported on Forrest Fenn’s treasure in the last few years.

How do you plan for a treasure hunt?

Well, the very first thing I did was convince other people to go with me because Sara wasn’t letting me go into bear country alone. Luckily, two of my childhood friends volunteered to accompany me on this hunt (and they didn’t even need any coaxing!).

Since this was going to be primarily an exploration expedition, and I was a bit preoccupied moving to Tokyo, we didn’t plan as much as I would have liked.  We had a few two in-person planning sessions which consisted of meeting at Zippys for a few hours to brainstorm where the treasure could be.  We also created an online chat so that we could collaborate when we weren’t meeting in person.  The chat was used fairly regularly to post links from the Interwebs, potential solves, questions, and what not.  Not to mention, it preserves history! (Protip: If you do just one thing from this blog, I’d highly recommend doing this.)

Not to mention, the Internet is littered with resources that we used to help us along:

I want to say that I tried not to look at other people’s solves because I didn’t want to have too much confirmation bias, but the temptation is too great, and it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll get trapped in a k-hole reading where other people have been. In any case, we all agreed that the treasure should probably be somewhere near Yellowstone National Park – so that’s where we headed!

Our Itinerary

Day 1

We arrived in Bozemon, Montana from Seattle, Washington at around 1 in the afternoon. The three things on our actual agenda for the day were the following:

  1. Picking up our rental car so we could drive down to our Island Park AirBnb
  2. Stop by the Costco outside of Bozemon so we could pick up food for the week
  3. Stop by somewhere to get bear spray, a whistle, and a map of Yellowstone

After picking up our rental car and (rental) bear spray cans (don’t buy new ones if you’re only temporarily visiting!), we headed down to Costco to pick up luncheon meat, snacks, water, and other goodies for our week near Yellowstone. Since the nearest grocery store would be 20-30 minutes away, we wanted to make sure our AirBnb was decently stocked.  The drive from Bozemon took a few hours – we arrived at the AirBnb around 6 pm and proceeded to just relax and unpack – after all, we had a long week ahead of us.

Protip: If you can afford it and are staying west of Yellowstone, I’d highly suggest eating dinners in the town of West Yellowstone. For one, if you’re really seeking out treasure, it’s going to be a long day – you’re not going to want to cook dinner after a long day of hiking, hunting, and driving. Second, there are a lot of different restaurants that have exotic meats – bison, elk, etc. and it’s nice to support a town built on tourism.

Day 2

Prior to arriving at Yellowstone, we wanted to make sure that we at least saw all the big tourist attractions since we didn’t know when we’d be back. We drove the southern portion of the Great Loop and saw:

Protip: The geyser is called Old Faithful because it’s one of a few geysers that park rangers can predict. Intervals between eruptions range from 60-110 minutes and they normally last between 1.5-5 minutes long.  Sit on the boardwalk for an up-close view or walk up the side of the mountain for a far-away view with a lot less people – I did both – or if you’re uber lazy, just take a peek at their livestream. XD

Day 3

Today was the first day (and ironically, our only day) attempting a potential solve. We ended up going to a place called Boulder Spring off of the Ojo Caliente. It was absolutely beautiful and while there wasn’t a single person in sight, there was a lot of roaming bison. We searched for a few hours, but alas, Fenn’s treasure was nowhere to be seen. If you’d like to see why we thought Boulder Spring was a potential solve, feel free to leave a remark in the comments!

After taking a small break, we decided to check out one more place before calling it a day.

Protip: If you’re hunting for Fenn’s treasure, prior to searching – set appropriate time limits of how long you want to search within an area as well as how you plan to fan out the search.  Since we didn’t plan this, we sort of meandered around the solve for a few hours until we were all tired. Based on what Forrest has said, we believed that we should be able to see the “blaze” and the treasure immediately – but this may not be the case, so you’ll want to plan accordingly.  Also, Grand Prismatic Spring is a must see!

Day 4

We were planning on saving another solve for our last day so that we could do a little more research (bad planning on our part) – so instead, we decided to drive the northern portion of the Great Loop and saw the following:

Protip: I think you could spend a lot longer than we spent at Mammoth Springs and even stay for a few days in the area. Although we walked the entire springs, it’s quite a sight to see – I didn’t realize it then, but the contrast in the landscape is pretty amazing. We ate dinner at a small cafe called Mountain Mama’s Cafe. I would definitely recommend it if you’d like to try a bit more exotic meats like bison, elk, pheasant, etc. You can pick up Huckleberry ice cream sandwiches at the grocery store across the street!

Day 5

Our last day!

We were planning to attempt another potential solve, but the weather was absolutely terrible and someone in our party felt ill so we decided to just grab lunch in town and pack for our trip back to Bozemon.  Since I now live in Tokyo, anytime I’m in the states I really have a jonesin’ for Mexican food because it’s virtually impossible to get in Japan. We decided to eat at Las Palmitas – a Mexican restaurant in a bus! It was really tasty – definitely recommended. Before heading back to the AirBnb, we stopped by Lake Hebgen for a short bit.  I got to walk around and explore the area by myself, but I must admit that it was really creepy with all these “Grizzly Bears frequent this area” signage.

Lessons Learned

  1. Yellowstone National Park is absolutely beautiful. Forrest once stated that the whole purpose of his endeavor is “to get people off the couch, off the video games.” Well played, Mr. Fenn. It got me to visit my first national park in 40 years of life, and I don’t even live in the country anymore!
  2. It’s been said ad nauseam, but once you get “boots on the ground” (BOTG), everything is much bigger in real life when compared to a computer screen; I don’t care how big your monitor is. Even a small search area could potentially take hours to investigate – depending on how thorough you are – so plan accordingly!
  3. We winged it – we’re 3 dudes born and raised on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. No matter how much research we did before we arrived at Yellowstone, there’s nothing like experiencing it for yourself. I walked around Lake Hebgen by myself early one morning, and I’ll be the first to admit, the silence coupled with all the “Beware of bears” signage had me pooping my pants.  There’s nothing that will prepare you for that, so just get out there and explore!
  4. If you can afford it, you should stay as close to Yellowstone as possible – potentially even in the park if you can get an RV camper. We stayed in Island Park at an AirBnb and even though it was awesome – it was about 30 minutes away from the entrance to West Yellowstone – so it was a 60-minute drive every day.
  5. There will be a lot of traffic because of animals near the road and tourists that don’t follow directions. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. So don’t freak out. We spent at least 3 hours one day waiting for bison to move from the side of the road. Coupled with the tourists stopping in the middle of a one-lane road to take pictures, you’re bound to get trapped behind some insane traffic. Make sure you have a lot of podcasts saved on your phone and/or everyone has an offline mobile game. There were times we literally shut our engine off because of the traffic.
  6. At the very least, make sure to create an online chat room (with unlimited history – sorry, no Slack!) to document your potential solves. You’ll thank me when you decide to head back the following year. Not to mention, you’ll want to use an assortment of other online tools (Google Docs, AirTable, etc) to help provide some structure to this process.

The adventure was amazing – amazing enough to do it again. I wish I could say that we found the treasure, but there’s actually a ton of satisfaction in just planning and searching. There’s quite a bit of work involved, and it isn’t something that most people can say – especially those from an island in the middle of the ocean.

In front of Yellowstone sign

In front of Yellowstone sign

So for that, thank you, Mr. Fenn.

Now that we have an idea of what the experience actually entails, follow me next year as we head back in an RV camper!

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