Secret Trust Adventure Revealed: Deciphering the poem and painting

With the Secret Trust Adventure completed, I have received several requests to explain the poem and painting. If you are still looking for the cache to grab a 3D printed Secret Trust Adventure commemorative medallion and do not want any help, stop reading now. Spoilers lay ahead.

The six weeks (and one day) of the treasure hunt were designed to reveal the GPS coordinates of the hidden cache, but as demonstrated by the Longnecker family, it was not technically necessary.

$1,000 first place winners.

Like Forrest Fenn’s The Thrill of the Chase or Byron Preiss’ The Secret, everything you needed to find the treasure was actually contained in the poem and, to a lesser degree, the painting. However, the painting was filled with some fun easter eggs, which we will explore later.

First Stanza

 Let’s examine the first stanza.

This provides the final hiding place of the cache. With a tunnel clearly visible in Scott Cantrell’s painting, many people assumed that the treasure was inside one. The Uncharted Lancaster website is filled with posts highlighting various tunnels and culverts all over Lancaster County.

However, upon closer inspection of the image, you may have noticed that there’s a brown eye (insert the obligatory sophomoric joke here) with a golden coin highlighted on the sail of the ship.

This indicates a couple of things. One the unblinking eye is, in fact, brown in color. Second, notice how the coin is actually above the tunnel. This means the treasure is not inside a tunnel but above one.

If the treasure is not inside a tunnel what else could the unblinking eye be then? What are homophones for the word eye? Ai. Aye. I.

What if the treasure was hidden inside a capital letter “I”? An I-beam looks like a capital I. This means the cache is hidden inside an I-beam above a tunnel.

Here is an unblinking eye that is brown in color.

But where?

Second Stanza

The first line of this stanza says to “find a road lined by metal masts.” There are a lot of roads in Lancaster County. Ones with metal masts (or poles) shrink the number but not by much. The second line of the stanza helps you zero in on a specific area to explore for “metal masts.”

The second line—within the echo of disaster past—refers to the dynamite factory in Shenks Ferry that exploded on June 9, 1906. The location is highlighted in the map below.

So you are looking for a road lined by metal masts near an exploded dynamite factory. That’s the Enola Low Grade!

When you do get close to the treasure’s location, the “metal masts” start to resemble the masts found in the painting.

Third Stanza

The previous stanza hinted that we are traveling along the Enola Low Grade, but that’s a 29 mile stretch of railtrail. The third stanza tells you where to start and where to go.

From scorched steel travel west. This is your starting point. It refers to the Martic Forge trestle that was destroyed by arson on April 12, 2018. After the fire all that was left is scorched steel.

The second line of the stanza refers to the John Smith and the Susquehanna River.

On July 24, 1608, John Smith left the Jamestown, Virginia settlement to explore the upper Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. From this expedition, Smith drew a fairly accurate map. Rocks, rapids, and waterfalls would eventually stop him. Smith marked the location with an “X” on his map, calling it “Smith Fayles.”

History would convert that name to “Smith’s Falls,” where the Conowingo Dam would be constructed between 1926 and 1928.

The third stanza translates to: start from the burnt trestle bridge and walk west towards the Susquehanna along the Enola Low Grade. But how far?

Fourth Stanza

Between the early 1900s and 1972, there were several coal dredging operations on the Susquehanna. One of them was located at Shenks Ferry. The first image below shows a paddleboat dredging for coal on Lake Aldred. The second shows the entire operation at Shenks Ferry. The treasure’s hiding spot is even visible in the lower right-hand photograph.

The “siren’s wail” in the second line of the stanza is not a mermaid, but the water release alarm at the nearby Safe Harbor dam. Although the rock the Siren is laying on is the petroglyph filled Big Indian Rock found below the dam on the Susquehanna. If you look closely you might see some petroglyphs.

Fifth Stanza

The fifth stanza refers to the December 23, 1981 train accident that occurred near Safe Harbor on the Enola Low Grade.

When the Conrail freight train hit the boulder, lower left, the cars behind the engine crumpled into a zig-zag formation.
When the Conrail freight train hit the boulder, lower left, the cars behind the engine crumpled into a zig-zag formation.

The site of the train wreckage, highlighted in the map below, represents the furthest boundary of where the treasure can be found on the Enola Low Grade.

With all this information in hand, you are looking for an I-beam above a tunnel on the Enola Low Grade near Shenks Ferry. There are only eight I-beams in this general location. The rest are round. Of the eight, only two are above a tunnel.

Painting Easter Eggs

Here are a few of the fun easter eggs in the painting. The outline of Lancaster County is hidden in the bay.

The Uncharted Lancaster logo is found on the small flag at the top the mast. The glint in the eye on the main sail is one of the dollar coins found in the treasure.

Some of the train wreckage is found in the bottom right hand corner of the painting.


Congratulations to the Longnecker and Sporrer families for being the first and second place teams to complete the Secret Trust Adventure. Big thank you to everyone who participated—over 125 people joined the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County in the process.

$200 second place winners.

There you have it. The clues of the poem and painting deciphered. If you are interested in learning the solutions to the weekly challenges, let me know.

P.S. Will there be a treasure hunt next year? YES!

6 thoughts on “Secret Trust Adventure Revealed: Deciphering the poem and painting

  1. Most definitely interested in the solutions to the weekly challenges, our math worked out but maybe we went about it differently. Lucky we could find a way to get the rock carving clue without getting wet, the river was a little deeper and swifter than we wanted to wade in!

  2. Thank you for that explanation of the poem. However…I know enough about Lat-Lon to know that any location in Lancaster had to be close to 40N-72W. What mathematical gymnastics should I have gone through with 6+weeks of digits & letters to arrive at the lat/lon of the prize?
    Bruce T
    PS looking forward to next year

  3. You had to decifer the code that was above the poem. (There was 8 blank spaces.)That told you the order in which to place your numbers.

  4. Definitely would like to know how to decipher the weekly clues. Got all information other than the one in the river and a couple at Millersville. We knew from geocaching in the area what the hints in the poem referred to, but did not make the Eye/I connection.

  5. I would like to hear how the first week winning family was able to piece together the location. Look forward to next year.

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