Stanton, Arizona LDMA camp (part 1…the Desert)

Desert Fun! What an amazing place, this desert. Every few yards, the vegetation and rock formations change…One side of the mountain has cacti, the other huge rusty colored rocks. One side of the desert trail (aka roads) has “soft” looking cacti and jack rabbits, the other side lightning struck “two armed” cacti and free range cattle feeding on prickly pear cacti. Even in this oh-so dry environment, we were lead to a river running through a canyon, an oasis, if you will. We dug for gold in each of these different terrains…not so lucky, this time. We did, however, add some lovely “Arizona Pin-stripes” to our truck. Each and every plant out here is prickly. Even the so-called trees with leaves. Screeeeech…was a common sound as we traversed the Stanton backcountry on trails meant for 4 wheelers and cattle.

Published in: on December 28, 2007 at 3:14 am  Leave a Comment  

Montezuma’s Castle

We spent the day visiting and hiking around some ancient ruins in Verde Valley, Arizona. Both Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma’s Well were dwellings of the Sinagua Natives some 1100 years ago. An estimated 400 people lived in these cliff-side apartments.

Published in: on December 26, 2007 at 2:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Mmmmm the smell of home…

Today, six months ago, we moved into our NECI trailer and headed West for the adventure of a lifetime.  And that, it has been.  But this evening, December 24th, we are hunckered down in a quaint cabin amongst the Coconino National Forest in Arizona, fire lite, listening to carols, and cooking up some delicious smelling food.  We have 2 pumpkin pies, Swiss truffle brownies, chocolate chunk brownies, and the turkey’s in the works.  Yes, there are only 3 of us.  But I don’t think we’ll go hungry anytime soon.  It’s quite a treat to have a full sized kitchen to cook in after so long.  We’ve gotten pretty good a creating some fun gourmet-style meals on a tiny 3 burner stove and almost zero counter space.  But tonight, the space is plenty, and so is the culinary aroma.

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 11:26 pm  Comments (2)  
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Happy Holidays from the Road!

We are taking a brief break to enjoy our holiday in snowy Flagstaff, Arizona.  We hope you all have a very wonderful and safe one, as well! 

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 7:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yosemite National Park

One of our days down in the Italian Bar Canyon, we decided to take a 2 hour trip to Yosemite National Park and explore the sites of Bridal Falls, El Capitan and Half Dome. I was looking forward to taking some Ansel Adam’s-type pictures on this sunny day and a tad disappointed that the valley was filled with pink smoke from a controlled burn on the windward side of the mountains. We did enjoy our visit though. We saw bear tracks in the sand along the reflecting pool in the valley, a coyote up on Glacier Point (she was looking for some alone time), and ate lunch overlooking Half Dome with some sassy ravens. The ravens watched us get out of the truck with our mini-cooler and made a point of following us on our hike. They waited until we started lunch, then closed in on Chase and his food. Chase won, but purposely left a chip behind as we were leaving. Funny…those ravens were in the parking lot as we left waiting for the next family of victims. We also saw the Giant Sequoia Trees at Mariposa Grove. At a good 15 feet in diameter, they were still massive and impressive even after a visit to the redwoods. On our way back to camp we decided take an off-map off-pavement road on a hunch to save some time and have a little fun. We’d had a tip from a local who wasn’t quite sure, but…we tried anyway. Somewhat like the Bald Hill road in Northern CA, this dirt road took us up and up and around then through someone’s driveway (their 5 dogs let us know we shouldn’t be there) then over a washout, and down down down to the main road. Once again, we didn’t get lost. Amazing. We stopped once on that old carriage road (called Miami Trail) to pick up 2 ENORMOUS pine cones! The seeds were all out, so we didn’t feel like we were taking any little trees. These are some of our favorite treasures of our trip this far. They are now on display on the mantle of the cabin we are in…but that’s another story.

Published in: on December 16, 2007 at 11:13 pm  Comments (4)  


We left Scotts River and headed South for Sonora, California to another of the LDMA camps, Italian Bar, or “I-Bar” as it’s referred to. For a year now, we have had many a miner warn of the crazy narrow, steep switch backed road down into the valley where this camp is. We arrived into town at night and planned to stop and camp at the top of the said road, unhook the camper in the morning, and drive the road once with the truck alone so we knew what we were up against. We didn’t want to be one of the 5 or so campers lost over the 750 deep canyon each year (this could be a miner exaggeration). So, as we approach the canyon road, still paved, we keep a sharp look-out for the “top”, as described to us. Next thing we know, there’s an open gate, and the pavement ends…ut-oh, I think we’ve just committed ourselves…the road narrows, gets steeper, and it is dark. Really dark. Well, here we go, down, around, slowly…Fortunately we arrived at the bottom, with the camper still attached, and had not met any other vehicles on their way up as there was no way out but down. The next day, as the sun shown it’s light on the canyon we were now camping in, I was very thankful that we’d come in at night since I couldn’t see just how perilous that crazy road was. We were, literally only 6 inches from opening up the camper like a can on the upper side on the huge protruding rocks and 6 inches (maybe less at times) from plummeting 700 feet off the edge. Good driving, Marcus! He said that the I-Bar road wasn’t as bad as he’d expected, actually. Boy, am I glad! I don’t think I could have handled much worse without sedation.

We explored the I-Bar gold area without so much as raising our shovels, something Chase was not very happy about. He reminded us that there could be a 1 lb nugget out there and we couldn’t find it if we didn’t try! Well, he’s absolutely right, but neither of us was comfortable enough down there to leave camp, pick a spot, and get to work. Between the cougars and loco locals (mercury soaked miners were the least of our thoughts…think meth labs in trailers accessible only by foot…) we decide the gold could stay right where it is. There’s lots of gold out there, too, but you’ve got to find it. The old timers used to hike and mule their equipment in and out…can you imagine? That road I described earlier was only a distant dream back then.

All in all, the Columbia-Sonora area is beautiful and well worth a visit, but the valley witch lies beyond (Italian Bar) is better left alone. We snuck out late one night, in hope to make it up the treacherous road without meeting another RV on it’s way in and made our way further South. Ahhhh. It felt good to be out of that canyon!

Published in: on December 12, 2007 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Scott’s Bar, California again…

We spent our first night under the stars next to the Klamath River at the Klamath LDMA property. Early the next morning, we finished the windy drive on route 96 to the junction of the Scott River and the Klamath. This is the local of the Scott River LDMA camp where we spent a two weeks last month. This time, it was colder…the sun in the valley would hit the camper and begin to melt the thick frost around 10:30am and would literally set behind the mountain on the other side of the valley at 1:40pm! And we were here to do some mining on our own.

We built up our arm muscles moving big rock after small boulder just to get to the gravel, but came across 2-3 penny weight a day. Hard work could payoff in this area. We needed a few parts for our high banker so headed in to Happy Camp, a town 35 miles West along the Klamath river. This took us on a treasure hunt of sorts. None of the mining stores had our part, so we went out into town seeking Rusty, a dredge repairman with some used parts. After arriving at the place of work we were told he was at, and finding out he hadn’t been there in days, we decided to give up and go back to camp. On second thought, we drove past the local tavern first. And, maybe by coincidence, he happened to be parked outside. We gave him a ride to his house, got a tour of lots of different dredges, and purchased our part. Another fun adventure.

We spent Thanksgiving day with other members of the LDMA at home in Hamburg eating plates of delicious food and listening to grand miner stories. These guys talk about gold in pounds, and store it in mason jars (so we’re told), not in penny weight (20th of an oz) and keep it in little glass viles like we amateurs do. Pretty astounding.

Published in: on December 8, 2007 at 11:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Giant Trees!

We decided to take a camping trip from our camping trip and packed the back of the truck with enough blankets and gear for an overnight. We left the camper at Scotts River LDMA camp and ventured West via a very winding route 96 then took a “short cut” called the bald hill road which lead us to the coast and home of the giant redwood trees. This short cut was like none other.  It was unpaved, straight uphill and 90 degree right turns followed by 90 degree to the left turns.  I almost needed dramamine!  We took a few trails and explored the forest, feeling much like ants, and in awe of the age and enormity of the forest. One tree was 21.5 feet in diameter and over 300ft tall. It is estimated at 1500 years old! We then found the corkscrew trees where 8 redwoods have grown together and become one huge mass. The drive thru tree which we found was just barely wide enough for the Dodge. The mirrors, folded in, still rubbed on either side of the tunnel as we came through.

We then decided to set up “camp” for the night and pulled down to Gold Bluffs Beach near where we had seen a herd of Roosevelt Elk earlier in the day. We slept in the back of the truck and snuggled close, as it dropped down to only 17 degrees that night. burrr! But we survived, and enjoyed the trees!

 Oh, the following morning, before headed back to the LDMA camp, we found a great diner/cafe, drank warm coffee and ate lots of good breakfast food.  Chase, being so used to the restaurant scene and harrassing Chef’s students, felt a bit too comfortable at his post at the diner counter.  He pointed out to the server that her help had left and was sitting down talking to other guests.  (She was the 83 year old owner and was talking to her grandson!)  He then reminded one of the other servers that the dishwasher could take his empty soup bowl.  Uggh.  I think we’ve created a monster.  Fortunately, the staff was loving this 6 year old’s input. 

Published in: on December 6, 2007 at 8:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Down the Oregon Coast…

After spend a few more days in Portland, OR to recoup, we took 2 days to get to Northern California via the Oregon coast. We had one very stormy windy blustery day with 35-55 mile an hour sustained winds, and gusts to 85! We decided to lay low and leave camper at a state park and explore the coastline. Day two the wind had stopped and we spied some sea lions playing in the surf. So cool!

Published in: on December 2, 2007 at 3:52 am  Leave a Comment