Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Weather, these last weeks, has been shirt-sleeve summer.  Every day, we see  beautiful winter sunrises and sunsets at odds with warm days. Sqaw winter makes you crave the natural order of things; to do right by the trees, and grasses, and critters. Bears hanging low, refusing to hibernate. Birds haven’t a proper signal to  migrate. It’s all wrong.

Weather so dry I’ve had to water the yard lightly, so I decided its time to go gold hunting. It never takes much convincing to get Jan and Brian out looking for gold.  We arrived at what was a dry creek in the fall of  2010. Brian commented that we hadn’t considered the snow melt with this warm weather.

Not to be deterred, I took off my shoes and socks, rolled up my pants, crossed over to a  promising area of gravel and loaded the bucket. The gravel was so wet and heavy, and I expect the bucket a bit weak,  the bottom fell out. I ended up washing the spill on the riffles of a rock. Not a smidge of color.

Jan spotted some old tailings. We checked the topography and found a spot where water had once gushed down this hill and filled a crevice with gravel. I went in with my trowel and reached for the gravel. Water invisibly clean and clear I didn’t even see until I touched it.  Beautiful gravel and good muck.

We brought three buckets. This time, I made sure I didn’t fill the bucket.

We drove around for several hours, stopping at various spots. At this place someone had placed a board to sit on and left a crevice tool and a linoleum slide. It was wet and tough to work.

We went to a popular panning spot under a bridge. The property owner had built a rock dam to catch  the gold before it ever got to the bridge. He built a dam, but it takes a tri-dam to be effective. Then he fenced it and posted no trespassing signs. What the owner probably knows is that no one owns a river. As long as you don’t walk above the high water mark, you aren’t trespassing. The signs discourage rubes, which we aren’t.

By this time, I was wet and cold. The gold eluded us but we got a taste of winter. On the way home we reflected on how the early miners slogged through creeks and winter melts and cursed their lot but never gave it up. They survived on the fever. We’re pikers.

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