Mike Petersen - Strange Deaths in U.S. National Parks

Bonny Senger Selfie  with her boyfriend Mike Petersen

Mike Petersen, Body found June 7th 2017, West YellowstonE, Montana

On June 4th 2017 , 42 year old, Mike Petersen kissed his girlfriend, Bonny Senger, goodbye at a trailhead near West Yellowstone at 9.30am.

Mike, a father of four with kids aged 17-23 years,  was a frequent hiker in the Montana Rockies and Yellowstone National Park area. On that day he was dressed in bright orange vest and waders and carried a gun. He also packed supplies such as food and bear spray. Often he would visit with one or more of his children. but on this occasion he decided to go hiking alone.

Petersen texted Bonny throughout the day as he knew where he could get cellular reception. She planned to pick Mike up around 6 pm at the trailhead and go for dinner.

But at 6 pm there was no sign of Petersen and at 7.20 pm, Bonny heard four gunshots in the woods. She hoped it might have been a signal he was on his way, but then there was nothing. She quickly drove to find cell service so she could call the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office. At 10pm that day a search was started  with search-and-rescue team, sniffer dogs and helicopters.

Beaver creek, Yellowstone

He was found drowned in Beaver Creek on June 7th, after three days of searching. Gallatin County Sheriff's Capt. Jason Jarrett said Petersen likely died attempting to cross the creek on his way back to the trail head in the afternoon. Due to the spring snow melt, the creek was much higher than it was when Petersen crossed it in the morning. The Gallatin County rescue team has responded to three drowning deaths that spring.

During their search, rescuers found Petersen's vest and bear spray canister about a half mile away from the river. Crucially they also found his backpack with his gun. 

The big question is why did Mike leave his kit behind and head for the dangerous creek given he was an experienced outdoorsman? With bears around, leaving his firearm and spray would have been particularly reckless. Was there more to the story than the police reported?

The Forrest Fenn Treasure Hunt

Forest Fenn treasure hunt

Some have postulated that Mike Petersen was searching for the treasure chest hidden by millionaire and retired Santa Fe, New Mexico art dealer, Forrest Fenn. It is apparently filled with antique coins and relics, a jar of Alaskan gold dust and an ancient Chinese jade carving. Several people have been killed in the wilderness trying to find Fenn's treasure box. Was Petersen one of these unlucky individuals?

Fenn hid the treasure after a 1988 terminal cancer diagnosis and which later went into remission. He subsequently wrote a self published book in 2010 called “The Thrill of the Hunt,” which contained a short poem describing the treasure’s location somewhere in the Rocky Mountains between the Canadian border and Sante Fe above 5,000 feet.

Fenn spent several summers in Yellowstone fly fishing and lived in West Yellowstone in Montana The poem has phrases which seem to match places in Yellowstone including "warm waters halt," "canyon down," and "home of Brown" bears.

The Thrill of the chase map and poem

As I have gone alone in there
And with my treasures bold,
I can keep my secret where,
And hint of riches new and old.

Begin it where warm waters halt
And take it in the canyon down,
Not far, but too far to walk.
Put in below the home of Brown.

From there it’s no place for the meek,
The end is drawing ever nigh;
There’ll be no paddle up your creek,
Just heavy loads and water high.

If you’ve been wise and found the blaze,
Look quickly down, your quest to cease
But tarry scant with marvel gaze,
Just take the chest and go in peace.

So why is it that I must go
And leave my trove for all to seek?
The answers I already know
I’ve done it tired, and now I’m weak

So hear me all and listen good,
Your effort will be worth the cold.
If you are brave and in the wood
I give you title to the gold.

In 2013, Fenn gave The Today Show four more clues: The treasure is hidden higher than 5,000 feet above sea level, it is not associated with any structure nor in a graveyard and not hidden in Idaho or Utah. On July 12 2015, Fenn gave a new clue on the TV show Sunday Morning. "The treasure is not hidden in a mine. A lot of these old mines are dangerous. I mean they have snakes in them, they have black widow spiders,"