I should have named those claims the Onyx. Everything about them, start-to-finish was Onyxpected.
Keep in mind, I was looking for evidence of a fairly specific group of legendary dead men who met their demise in the early 1860s. Not just any old group of dead guys. Special dead guys, though mostly nameless.
I’d been compiling, studying the versions of the legend, of accounts handed down by searchers, survivors and a lot of lies I couldn’t afford to judge without checking them out. The evidence I was looking for was a burned out cabin ruin, maybe a sluicebox, something akin to a waterfall. A pair of bare peaks roughly 20 miles to the north the legend called, ‘Piloncillos’. Baldies. Possibly a formation resembling the head of a bear.
Keith and I had been bouncing around that country for a couple of years, chasing dead men. The Zuni Mountains, Santa Rita Mesa, Largo Canyon, Red Hill caldera, Pelona Mesa, the Sawtooths. We saw a lot of fine real estate, had plenty of adventure, but we hadn’t found anything to nail theory to anything on the ground.
Eventually I began assembling fragments of various versions of the legend, each at least mildly supported by some other version. Began drawing circles at ten mile intervals outward from somewhat verifiable points, overlapping circles. I ended up with a slice of orange peel on a map where the circles converged. On a 7.5 minute USGS topo I counted 32 canyons within the orange peel that seemed to have possibilities. Numbered them 1-32 with little stickers on the face of the map.
Keith was tied up in Santa Fe a day-or-so longer than I was, so I headed out, intending to cross some canyons off the map before he arrived, meet him at a camp on Elk Plateau when he got there.
But canyon #3, I learned from a Hispanic rancher I met when I went to cross off Cabin Springs [canyon #2], had a burned out cabin ruin and something he described as a water-trough cut with an axe out of a 3′ diameter tree. Late evening I arrived and set up camp on Elk Plateau to wait for Keith, me in a state of high anxiety.
But I’ve digressed.
I was going to tell this story in full, but leading into the subject of platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium and osmium. How, in those days a person would have a hell of a time even assaying for them, how if located, they had to be sold through the Platinum Consortium, which wasn’t interested in buying. How the melting temperature of the stuff makes a serious challenge of smelting it, in any case. How it takes a special kiln, a special crucible to do anything at all with platinum.
How the New Mexico Bureau of Mines assured me our expensive spectroscopic assay was meaningless, a scam. “There’s no platinum in New Mexico,” they assured me. How at the precise time they told me that piece of fiction, the Platinum Consortium was mining the tailings of 19th Century gold mines near White City, New Mexico, for platinum they didn’t want when those mines were active, maybe didn’t even recognize.
How Sunburst Mining Company opened an operation mining platinum, gold and silver in microscopic quantities on the edge of a caldera within view of the peak above my claims a couple of years later.
I’d figured on telling you how they employed over a hundred people over there for a few years, got crosswise with New Mexico Department of Environment, ran into financial problems in other mining locations, went kaput.
And I was going to tell you how Keith and I found a canyon of maybe the weirdest geology I’ve ever come across. Named it No Name Canyon.
But hells bells, I reckons I’m going to have to save that for another day.
Meanwhile, if you’ve missed the other background on all this you can find it by exploring the tags and whatnot or searching the site for ‘lost gold mine’.