We’ve been into the Prescott National Forest, AZ 3 times on our trip so far, all in search of a little adventure and some gold. And each time, successful! Yeah! Our first visit, I picked up some grass on the side of a stream, cleaned it off into our pan, and voila, a tiny little picker! Our second visit was far more adventurous, though we didn’t get “lost” as on the first trip. We drove 20 or so miles off the main road and off the beaten path to a friend’s log cabin, no electric or water, 3/4 mile hike in. It was amazing! We cut wood to keep warm and cook by in the enormous 2 story stone fireplace, and admired the tributary of the famed “Turkey Creek” (with it’s great history for gold) which ran actively through the front yard. We hiked the 2″ Keene dredge in and Marcus & Drew dredged in the cold water for 2 days. Color was good, the trip fun. Enough color and fun, that the following weekend, we decided to venture into the forest once again. This time, however, we opted for the scarcely used “Trail 83″ over which we labored for the better part of 4 hours to traverse a mere 2 miles with the truck in order to drive to the cabin instead of hike. 14 two-foot thick fallen trees later, we arrived in one piece. This time we spent cutting out the road turned out to be well worth it, as this gave us more time to run the dredge. Day one, good gold, day two bigger gold, and with just a little move up the river, day three much bigger gold. We were just getting into it as the time came for us to pack up. But, we hope to go back for the month of January next year to chase that streak! The pitures of the gold are only of days 1 & 2, as we were too excited on day three and forgot to take a picture before splitting it up. Yup, GOLD FEVER has definately set in…
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.
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!
As we continue to search for gold, we head south to Northern California where the trees are huges and the roads a bit narrow! We stayed at another LDMA camp called Scotts Bar. It sits where the Scotts river and the Klamath river meet. The salmon were running upstream and we watched the water boil and the fish jump. Boy I bet they taste good…But, no time to throw some lines in the water, there’s gold here. We finally purchased a used highbanker-dredge combo and put it to pretty good use right away. We did find a few “pickers”, and mini-pickers, as we call those that only Chase can pick up. The weather was sunny, rainy, snowy (only in the higher altitudes). Wonderful! The caretakers of the camp are welcoming and fun, and the campfire & coffee’s always hot. I could easily spend a ton of time here. One afternoon, we took an exploritory drive along the scotts river and ended up off on a 4×4 logging trail beginning at 1000ft and ending at 6000ft in the snow! The view was well worth the ride! All in all, the gold here was good, and the company fantastic. Can’t wait to go back…
After leaving Montana, we sped past Yellowstone in search of that yellow stone. The LDMA (Lost Duchman’s Mining Association) was holding an “outing” in Durkee, Oregon and that’s where we headed. After 9 long bumpy miles into the property on the very wash-board road, we arrived at the Burnt River camp nestled in a deep ravine with huge steep mountains on either side and a river running through it. We set up camp and immediately headed for the river with our mining tools. We were able to pick away at a hole in the mountainside and run about 4 buckets full of material through the sluice box before the sun dissapeared behind the westward mountain and the dark and cold set in. Each pan produced some color, or gold, which was exciting enough for us to continue the following day.
While at the Burnt River camp, we ventured out of the valley again and visited the “Hungry Redneck Cafe” which was just off the interstate in Durkee. Just the name alone gives you a pretty clear idea of what it’s like. We had a wonderful time with a fun server. Chase ate spaghetti and was actually up set that he was given so much. “Do they actually think I can eat all this?!” But, he did manage to put a huge dent in it. After our meal, the cook came out of the kitchen to show off his day’s findings to the table next to us. I was too curious to keep my mouth shut, so I asked him to humor us, as well. To both of our’s dismay, this young man pulled a rolled up piece of plastic shopping bag out of his pocket, laid it on our table and unrolled it reveiling at least (and this is no fish story) a half an ounce of true nuggets. Our jaws hit the floor. We were a little more motivated to find that shiny yellow rock after that.
We met lots of adventurous prospectors like ourselves and made, as always, a bunch more friends to add to our ever growing family. A rainbow graced us and convinced Chase that it was showing us the way to the gold. If only he knew how far the top of that mountain was. He was ready to hike up there as soon as we saw it. Once again, we had a fantastic time and were sad to leave all of our new friends. But, the adventure must continue… and so it does. Next stop, Northern California!
After 2 days of nursing headaches, walking slowly, and drinking loads of water while adjusting to the lack of O2 at 11,000 feet, we were finally up to some hiking and exploring of the enormous mountains which surrounded us at our dry campsite up above Leadville, CO at the LDMA property. We ran the metal detector, and found an old axe head, iron nails and scrap metal from the mines, and lots of silver ore (so we think) inside the rocks. There are old and new mine shafts and holes dug every 50 feet or so, where iron, silver, and gold have been found. One such hole had the vegetation around it pushed inward, making it apparent something quite large had recently climbed in and made it home for the day. Upon further inspection, we discovered very large cat prints, and cat scat near the opening. Only the day before, we had a gentleman in his pick-up stop to warn us he’d just seen a mountain lion in the valley just below us. Pretty neat! After reaching our summit at 12,000 feet, (and I say Our summit, because the mountains just kept going UP, and our stomachs were calling us back to camp), we began our decent and it began to SNOW! What fun to be out in the mountains in September and have the sun beaming down one minute and the next being pelted with wind gusts carrying snow flakes! It didn’t last long enough, and we all wished for the new weather to continue. Alas, the sun came back. We dug for gold some, but didn’t come across any. It is difficult to find especially without water. I found a bit while we were at the ranch in northern Colorado while trying to fish with Chase. The water was a bit too cloudy for the trout, but not for the gold. After leaving Leadville, we stopped at a creek along highway 70 towards Denver and panned for a few hours. Each pan had some color, and as we were leaving, Marcus pointed out that I, too, had gotten some color (my back was burned from leaning over the river).
We spent the next evening in Cheyenne, WY at the A B Campground, then headed north into Spearfish, SD.
We’re staying at an LDMA (lost duchman’s mining association) property in Athen’s Michigan. Chase and I were out digging in his claimed “canyon” when we came across an odd looking rock. Upon further examination, this isn’t a rock, after all. It’s a fossil of some sort. We all have our theories as to what this once was, Marcus thinks it look like a nut, I think it looks like a butterfly chrysalis, and Chase thinks it looks like a leaf print. Pretty neat to find something so old and mysterious. We’re headed back over to explore our paleontologist sides once more. I’ll try to get some pictures of our finds and get all of your ideas of what they might have once been.
We plan to pack up later on this evening (it’s too beautiful out right now to waste the day driving) and make our way towards Minnsota. It’s a good 9.5 hours from here, so we’ll break it up into 2 days. Drive late tonight, park at a Walmart for free, and finish up tomorrow. Once in Minneapolis, we hope to meet with NECI alumni, do a demo or two, and stage at a few restaurants.
We dug in the dirt on a hunt for gold yesterday afternoon. It was hot! Steamy. In the stream wasn’t so bad, but as we walked along in the fields and apple orchard with the metal detector, it got hotter and hotter (Chase is the only one of us to find anything…a 1988 dime). As we headed back toward our camper parked on the edge of the field, we could hear music drifting across from town. We changed and went into Athens to investigate. There was a mini-village fair going on! Maybe 200 people, vendor tents, carnival games, bounce houses and slides…even Elephant Ears. What’s an Elephant Ear, you ask? It’s fried dough, Michigan style. The local fire department boys were stretching dough, frying it in vegetable oil, and serving huge, elephant ear size portions of cinnamon and sugar coated tasty fried dough. Yumm and Uhhgg. Marcus and I each ate one. Sharing only one small bite each with Chase. He wasn’t too interested. He did 6 trips down the giant blowup slide tumbling and somersaulting down. There was a 13 year old desert tortoise which we feed leaf greens to, and alligators! Chase held onto one of the 2 year old gators (they had rubberbands around their snouts) whose name was Einstein because he could get out of his rubberband when no one was looking. These gators were only a foot or so long. Can you imagine just how old the 12 footers we see in South Florida are? I never knew they took so long to grow. We had a whole lot of fun checking out this small town fair…which was called the Athens Summer Homecoming (complete with dressed up teenagers named homecoming queen, court and all), but we couldn’t help but feel like we were crashing the party. I’m sure we looked out of place, as well. Oh well, ’twas fun!
Chase and Dad gathered firewood for a great fire last evening. We sat around it, waiting for dark, or, waiting to have smores. This is the first night I’ve realized the time difference. We are still in EST, same as Vermont, but because we’re west, the sun comes up later, and goes down later. It was almost 10 before it was dark! I came inside to get our smores ingredients, and was shocked when I looked at the clock. Oops. We still happily enjoyed our chocolately creations. Chef Marcus added sliced banana to his…
Today is overcast, light breeze…we’ve made a list of things to get done, including laundry. Guess it can’t all be fun and games.
May 2007 Loud Mine LDMA outing.