J.R.R. Tolkien said it best:
"The legend of Bilbo's gold excited both curiosity and hope; for legendary gold (mysteriously obtained, if not positively ill-gotten), is, as every one knows, any one's for the finding - unless the search is interrupted."
Today we will be visiting a "Treasure Cave", one of several such sites around the Midwest where legends of gold have been exciting curiosity and hope for generations. I shan't be identifying the exact location because the owners don't want curious hobbits or humans tramping about and getting themselves into difficulties. Honestly, if you had not taken the trouble to speak with the owners the chances of your finding the spot would be pretty much zero anyway. When one of your landmarks is to look for a picnic table, and when half an hour's walk into the wilderness has not revealed it...well you'd probably give up.
And miss a magnificent view.
The stories associated with this place are varied. All can't be true. Probably none are. Was the treasure Spanish doubloons, or French gold, or a payroll destined for American soldiers at a frontier post? Were the thieves Indians or river pirates? In most versions of the story a survivor of the attack hid on shore and saw treasure being hauled up a slope and stashed in a cave. Maybe this one.
Whatever the beginnings of the story it took on a life of its own. The secret was passed on from father to son on a death bed. Or a rumor of it reached a far west mining camp. Or it was divined during a seance. Treasure hunters came. They dug and dug, expanding a natural cave system into a warren of tunnels.
It is not an agreeable place. The caves had a peculiar smell to them, perhaps there was a dead raccoon in there someplace. And unlike the brewery caves I usually visit there was a tumbledown, irregular look to them. I lack the imagination of the great Professor Tolkien, but it seemed to me the sort of place you might encounter Orcs.
Maybe all seekers of Treasure, or just of Treasure rumors, have nostalgia in their souls. There is no reason that visitors to this place would favor candles over the far more reliable option of flashlights, but they seem to have done so. Perhaps it is fitting that they use a technology that comes down to us from the days when river pirates hauled bags of Spanish doubloons up a cliff face.