"About 50 people came in on the package last year," she said. "Now our phones are ringing off the hook. ... So many people have the book so they are not all doing the package, but they call and want to stay here."

The local Chamber of Commerce should "give Forrest an award for increasing tourism," says McGarrity, his friend.

He talks of being stopped on the street by a man in a big truck with Texas plates, pulling an all-terrain vehicle and asking if he knew where Forrest Fenn lived.

"Are you hunting for treasure?" McGarrity asked.

"You betcha!" the Texan said.

But the publicity has also raised safety concerns.

A few weeks ago, a woman from Texas, drawn by a network report about the treasure, got lost searching the mountains near Los Alamos. She spent the night in the rugged terrain of Bandelier National Monument and was walking out the next day when rescuers found her. But the case prompted officials to warn searchers to be properly prepared for the outdoors. They also reminded the public it's illegal to dig, bury an item or use a metal detector on federal lands.

Also a concern: Fenn says he has had people ringing the buzzer at his gate and trying to follow him when he leaves.

For the most part, though, he says people reaching out to him are just trying to convince or trick him into giving more clues.

So far, the best anyone seems to have gotten out of him is that the treasure is more than 300 miles west of Toledo, not in Nevada, and more than 5,000 feet above sea level "in the Rocky Mountains. (Santa Fe, whose Sangre de Cristo mountains mark the start of the Rockies, is 7,260 feet above sea level.)

But he emphasizes two things: He never said the treasure was buried, and he never said it was in Santa Fe, or even New Mexico for that matter.

Nietzel says the most common place the clues about "where warm waters halt" first lead people is to Eagle Nest Lake, about 100 miles north of Santa Fe, because it has a dam that holds back warm water and is known for its brown trout.

Others are sure it must be in Yellowstone, because of Fenn's history there and his deep knowledge of the park.

Nietzel says he has made 29 searches for the treasure in six states, and he plans to resume his efforts when it gets a little warmer in the mountains.

Another friend of Fenn's, Santa Fe jeweler Marc Howard, says he has made about 20 searches, and is "still trying to match my wits against a seemingly impossible poem."

The scheme is similar to a treasure hunt launched in 1979 by the author of a British children's book, "Masquerade," which had clues to the location of an 18-carat jeweled golden hare hidden somewhere in Britain. That rabbit was found in 1982, although it was later revealed it was found with the help of the author's former live-in girlfriend.

Fenn, who lives with his wife in a gated estate near the center of town, insists he is the only person who knows where his treasure is hidden. Asked what his two daughters, Kelly and Zoe, think of him hiding part of their and their seven kids' inheritance, he replies only that "they've been saying for years that I am crazy." He doubts they have any interest in finding it, but says he wouldn't be surprised if one of two grandsons has gone looking for it.

And he is ambivalent about whether the chest is found soon, or even in his lifetime.

But "when a person finds that treasure chest, whether it's tomorrow or 10,000 years from now and opens the lid, they are going to go into shock. It is such a sight."