Cold Mystery, Fevered Romance and Lost Gold

A burned out cabin ruin with an aspen tree growing out of the inside, bear claw marks 12 feet up, 3 hand forged nails, a longtom sluicebox axed out of a 3 foot diameter log, a spring 75 feet above the sluice, an arrastra below. 

A mysterious map chiseled on the face of a 300 pound rock surface depicting the exact layout of the canyon, the cabin, the waterfall, all so accurately depicted the person had to have scrutinized the layout from the mountaintop, then scratched it on this stone 600 vertical feet below and half a mile away.  The rock was carefully placed on the canyon wall above eye-level so it was easily seen, but only by someone looking up.

I’m guessing the date must have been spring, 1995.  I’d moved my search to the mountain I described above and was performing a systematic search of  the canyon from the discharge to the mountain crest.  I’d filed two mining claims at the location of the cabin and sluicebox pictured in the earlier post, and downstream.  I hadn’t yet found the map rock, and I was spending every moment I could squeeze between job duties, romantic obligations and financial constraints camped on that mountain.

I headed down there planning on spending a week, but on the road the Mitzubishi Montero sprung a water hose a few miles outside of Grants.  It was raining while I mucked under the hood, taping the hose and getting enough coolant in it to drive it to a parts house in Grants, where I installed it in the rain.  I was chilled and soaked as I drove south from Grants, but in too much of a hurry now to change clothes.

By the time I arrived at my usual camp site I was running a high fever and feeling my breathing becoming hard labor.  I hastily dragged a tarp out of the truck,  put my sleeping bag under it and got inside, hoping I’d shake off what I was afraid was coming.  I’d had pneumonia enough times this lifetime to recognize the onset.

The next morning found me weak, fever skylining, knowing I’d better try to get out of there while I still could.  I threw some brush over my gear because I was too weak to reload it onto the truck, and started down the mountain.  My vision was blurred and I was hallucinating, barely able to stay on the two-track.  When I reached the US Forest Service road a line of fenceposts ahead briefly became a line of riflemen aiming at me.

I remember nothing of the trip after that until I found myself at the home of my lady friend in Albuquerque, wrapped in a blanket on the floor of her downstairs because I wasn’t strong enough to climb them, burning with fever, shaking with chills.  She, nursing me with herbs and leftover antibiotics from her medicine cabinet.

“There are some people missing out there where your claims are.”  She was sipping coffee at the table, looking over the paper at me.  “A man and his wife.  The State has people out searching for them.”  She shook her head.  “They must have been right near where you were.”

The couple lived across a basin at the base of the mountain.  I could probably see their dwelling through binoculars from the mountaintop.  They were woodcutters, but I’d never encountered them, to my knowledge. 

As I recovered in Albuquerque the search died away.  The local sheriff announced the couple had probably just abandoned their house and gone somewhere else.  They were nobody, outsiders.  He refused to treat their vanishing act as a possible crime, didn’t allow the State Police to investigate their home.  But the time on the floor in Albuquerque weak as a kitten, tended hand and foot is one of those tender, grateful memories of my years with the lady.

Over the next several months I continued, sometimes in company with Keith, sometimes with other friends, sometimes alone, exploring, sampling, puzzling over what I was finding there.  Then, the first day of elk season that fall I encountered two elk hunters with their truck stuck in a stream bed.  When I finished towing them out, we introduced ourselves.

“Did you hear about those bodies they found in the canyon over there?”  He gestured to the mountain indicating a canyone one over from mine, plus one.   Renfro Canyon on the rock map sketch.  Less than a mile from my claims.  “A bear dug them up.  They were buried in an Indian ruin and a hunter found them this morning.”

The bodies turned out to be the people who’d turned up missing while I was giving myself pneumonia.  I felt reasonably confident the police would be contacting me with questions about whether I’d seen anything, because I was probably the only person on the mountain besides the victims and the murderers at the time it happened.

The Bureau I worked for, Emergency Management Planning and Coordination [EMPAC] was part of the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, though a step-child and somewhat separate.  I went to my Bureau Chief and explained what had happened, asked whether he thought I should go over to the State copshop and volunteer to talk to them about it.

“Man, I wouldn’t touch that.  Let them come to you.  You might be the best suspect they’ve got.”  A lawyer friend gave me the same advice, informally.

So I kept quiet and waited, and they never came.  I kept working that mountain, homicides and multiple-homicides continued to happen over the next couple of years remaining unsolved and generally thought to be uninvestigated, and the entire county became a quagmire of paranoia.  Everyone carrying firearms, nobody trusting anyone.

Meanwhile, the mountain echoed the weirdness and pressure the county was experiencing.  Somewhere during that time began the strangest chain of events and experiences of my entire life.

Which I might describe in a later blog or series of blog posts.

Old Jules

33 responses to “Cold Mystery, Fevered Romance and Lost Gold

  1. damn….now we are ready for chapter 2…!!

  2. Yep, I too, can not wait until I read chapter two. BTW, did you find any gold? I have prospected some in Arizona, but never in New Mexico.

    • DizzyDick: Thanks for the visit. Assays from various locations on that side of the mountain showed enough to keep me searching, but enough to tell me the location was somewhere upgrade. Spectroscopic assays showed some gold, platinum and various rare, somewhat precious metals. But the lost mine descriptions in the legend weren’t something a spectroscopic assay would be needed to identify. Samples from below the cabin from the streambed and from several other traps were loaded with material so heavy it floated the black sand, though it took me a while to discover that was what was happening. Nowhere near as much black sand as what it was floating on. Gracias, Jules

  3. So, Jules, when is the novel coming out…followed by the movie?This is great material.

    • charlessides: The book’s been in print for several years, still out there on Amazon, etc. But I don’t name it on this blog and I don’t name the lost mine here. Old Jules is a pseudonym. My motive for handling the blog in that way is in the fact the blog isn’t, never was, and never will be intended to promote the book. The book and the gold mine search is just another segment of my life. One folder, as it were. The blog bounces around all through the file cabinet. Thanks for your interest. Gracias, Jules

  4. I’m waiting anxiously for the next installment. I so enjoy reading of your adventures and especially in that area of the country…. I had land (no longer have it) about 50 miles south of Grants, down BIA 125, about 2 miles southwest of where the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary is located today. I wish I had gotten to spend more time in that part of the country, so I’m really enjoying reading of your adventures in that area.

    • Jools: So you owned land in Candy Kitchen? Wow. I’ve done a couple of posts here about happenings in the area and nearby people. Curtis Cohoe and his folk were just south on the Pine Hill Rez, and Skin Walker Valley runs through a part of Candy Kitchen. Small world. Thanks, Jules

  5. Aaaggghhhh, I’m on the edge of my seat… No No fair keeping us in suspense like this!

    • Miss Molly and ladywithatruck, : Thanks for the interest. I appreciate knowing the posts and subject matter people find to be of particular interest. But this post covered a lot of territory. The search for the lost mine, the homicides and strangeness over the next few years, maybe other things that don’t come to mind at the moment. Was there any single part of it over other parts you’re referring to? Just asking. Thanks, Jules

      • Jules, all of it for me. I have a real fascination for anything to do with the outdoors, prospecting, artifacts, romance and any kind of mystery. So I think that pretty well covers everything in the post.

        And now I want to know the name of your book because I want to read it.


        • Morning Carrie: I’ll see what I can do about posting some future entries I can squeeze into that subject matter then. I’m obliged for your interest in the book. I’d gladly tell you if my conscience would allow it. Gracias, Jules

      • I personally liked how it was all tied together. The murder mystery really has me intrigued… still on the edge of my seat and I really would love to know the title of your book…

        • Miss Molly: I’ll be getting back to it sometime in the future. I tend to skip around somewhat on my subject matter. As for the book, it’s a tightrope walk, the blog, trying to keep it out of the self-promotion arena. I’d be tickled pea green if you read the book and like it, but I’m not going to use this blog as an instrument, even indirectly, as a means of selling you a copy. Gracias, Jules

  6. Way to leave a person hanging and wanting more!!
    Good post,!
    I’m waiting!

  7. Jules, yes, the land was in Candy Kitchen… often wondered why they had Candy Kitchen and Pie Town … both names make me hungry. Yes, I had heard of some bad spirits that were supposed to be around my area (AFTER I purchased the land of course). The name Skin Walker Valley makes sense. And of course Pine Hill was the closest grocery/gas station. Always wanted to get a horse to just ride over there for mail and groceries. (there was no postal service there at the time, although now there are many mailboxes set up in front of the wolf sanctuary for folks in the area).
    I’m lovin’ reading your posts!
    — Old Jool 😉

    • Hi Jools. Candy Kitchen, as I recall, was named so because someone established a candy-making business there just off the Rez in the distant past. But you made a wise choice, thinks I, not living there over the long haul. Candy Kitchen’s where the 80-some year old lady was murdered by three Navajo youths poking a screwdriver into her skull multiple times late in the 1990s. Lots of other unpalatableness going on out there, as well. Gracias, Jules

  8. Even though it’s worth it to go up big and come down little, I really wish it could’ve been some other way but I suppose the story wouldn’t have been as good.

  9. Hey Jules,
    Good story; good decision.
    I was just pointing out how feeling fear when approached for any reason these days is not unreasonable.
    I have always avoided them when possible. On General Pricipal mostly though I can’t honestly say that I never had a better reason.
    I just read a story the other day about a guy who walked into a Police Station to report that he had witnessed a crime. He was arrested immediately because they couldn’t understand his accent. True story out of the Huffington Post (I think).
    Now of course I have less faith in their benifitience than ever.
    Well; perhaps all is not lost………………………….perhaps

    • angrymanspeaks: I’ve generally concluded through a lifetime of experience and observation that the less a person has to do with cops the less he’s likely to wish he hadn’t. Gracias, Jules

    • Hilary: Thanks and I’m obliged. But I’m mystified about what’s being asked or expressed in the form of guidance toward posts of a particular nature. The response I just posted to ladywithatruck and Miss Molly I’ll pose to you, as well. Gracias, Jules

  10. Morning! I’m interested in the Map Rock, and if anything else was ever learned about the dead couple. And of course, odd stories are very interesting and now that we’ve been promised some, well, I’m sure I’m not the only impatient one!

    • heretherebespiders: The map rock’s still an enigma to me. I went everywhere the maprock had a flaw or chip, a couple of places there were things of interest maybe worth an entry, but not obvious why they were marked on the map.

      As for the Wilsons, when the hunter found them the bear had eaten all their soft tissue. I don’t think it’s known how they died, but the grave was interesting enough to be worth the telling. 4x4x4 hole someone removed the soil from, carefully keeping in layers, folding the bodies YinYang style, then re-covering them into the hole layer by layer of soil as it was layered in all around them to match the surrounding soil. Broke their legs between the knee and hip to make them fit the hole.

      The University of New Mexico Forensic Pathology department might still be taking students out to show them that hole because it’s a classic of some kind. Whomever buried them knew a lot about police investigations of homicides, evidently. Jules

      • Good idea checking out the potential points of interest, in case they were prospective prospecting places! Okay then, clearly murdered, and in a fascinatingly complex but still inept manner. All that effort and a bear still found and ate them. I wonder if that unique method of ‘barely’ burying turns up in any other murders?

        • heretherebespiders: I don’t think the method of burial was used on other Catron County homicides at that time. But at another ruin site a couple of miles north there was a 4x4x4 open hole dug and sitting open I found sometime afterward I always wondered whether hadn’t been for me if I hadn’t gotten pneamonia. Jules

  11. Great post! If your not already following my page, feel free to follow at my new and updated blog at Thank you!

  12. So this must be the secretive prospector thing you are always talking about huh? Just enough info to get em addicted!

    • arifmvega: Nothing secret about it. It was a long search for a lost gold mine. I’ve told a number of episodes about it here on the blog, but as nearly as I can figure nobody much has a burning interest in the subject. Keith reads them, likes them, but he was there for a lot of it. I expect it brings back memories for him, gets his juices flowing. Gale was there for the Great 1998 Search, but he only rarely reads the blog – slow connection tries his patience. Mel’s dead, Mike Cosznik’s could be anywhere, probably doesn’t know the blog exists. I dunno about Dana. Maybe dead, too.

      Regular people, I figure, don’t care much for adventures that actually happened.

      In any case, I don’t use this blog promoting the book. Never mentioned the name of the lost gold mine legend, never even gave my actual real name here. If a person wanted the book there’s probably enough info here and there in the posts so’s a person could find it. But I’m not pushing anyone to do so. Not making it easier for them than if they were just looking anyway.

      Thanks for the visit. Jules

      • I’ll find it- also, I am very interested. Stuff like that certainly keeps me reading. As does Old Sol, chickens and random projects. Anyways, thanks for writing!

        • Arifmvega: Thanks for coming by and the feedback. I honestly don’t have a clue most of the time why people read here, what they’ll read or won’t read. Every time I try to second-guess it I’m off target. I used to try to figure out the readers and write subject matter they’d find appealing, but I eventually just blew it off and wrote whatever was on my mind at any given time. Glad to know you find some of it of interest. Gracias, Jules

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