Jack wrote this in November, 2005:
Like most of the people I’ve gotten to know over the past quarter-century, I spent those years generally knowing the location of the Lost Adams Diggings.
I spent my winter nights researching, picking apart the accounts, studying topo maps and air photos through magnifiers, pondering and speculating. I’d spend a lot of time in archives and libraries reading microfilm of correspondence between Army officers of the 1850s and 60s and newspaper accounts from the late 1800s searching for hints. Then I’d be planning access and egress to whatever place I knew it was, come snow melt.
Chomping at the bit to get out there and check it out. Sometimes not willing to wait, burning up with cabin fever I’d snowshoe in, knowing I couldn’t tell anything about it under all that snow, but just unable to contain myself and wait.
For me it was a lot of different places over the years. Good canyons, mountains, mesas I was glad I went into (with a couple of exceptions), but never the Adams. Which was okay, because I’d no sooner checked one out and found it lacking before another jumped off the map at me and pronounced itself the Adams with the same certainty as the last one.
Those were good years.
But the 1998 search sort of ended all that. I’d made promises to a lot of people who searched with me, who’d grown tired of Fox Mountain, that if we didn’t turn it during that long series of climbs and unclimbs giving it everything we had, I’d concede Fox wasn’t it and try some other places.
We tried a few, though Fox still lingered for me and I couldn’t get excited about them.
Meanwhile my friends were growing old and the fire was going out of their bellies to some extent. The appeal of long climbs and treks with heavy packs, poking and digging around, sleeping on the ground in places where the best rocks under the bag still weren’t soft enough to allow any sleep just dwindled for them.
Then along came Y2K. My attention was diverted and my finances vanished. From that point forward what searching I did came out of the certainties of strangers who knew where it was and wanted me along because of what I’d already done. Wanted me there because I’d searched so long, written so much about it, and partly, I always suspected, to have me there to rub it in that they’d found it when I’d failed to do so.
I’ve always been picky about the people I go to the woods with. If a man drops his trash, kills snakes, makes a lot of noise, doesn’t take care of hygiene matters in a way I approve of, I don’t go with him again. If he does things to cause unnecessary risk to himself or others, or if he’s afraid to take the necessary risks, if he shirks camp duties, I don’t go with him again.
I ran into a lot of those kinds of people after Y2K, and I could never lock onto a location where I KNEW it was, as I always had before.
One night at my Y2K cabin, Mel came out and showed me a relatively flat nugget that must have weighed close to ten ounces he’d picked up in a canyon. He was sure it was the Adams canyon, but someone else had told him about it in confidence, so he couldn’t share the info.
I didn’t get to examine the nugget closely, didn’t get to look at it through a magnifier. It was near dark and I just got to hold it for a couple of minutes in the dusk trying to figure out what it was about it that didn’t feel right.
That canyon and that nugget became a source of contention between Mel and me for the next several years. The nugget went into the hands of the guy who told him about the canyon, who claimed he sold it in Albuquerque for $500, which angered Mel and frustrated me. Mel never went back to the canyon and the guy who took him there wasn’t all that interested. But Mel claimed until the day he died that he was convinced the canyon was the Adams.
So it’s been several years since I’ve burned with an idea about the Adams.
But there’s a canyon creeping back in to my mind. I find myself sneaking around on myself studying maps and thinking about it. It’s not a new place for me. I’ve done some searching within a couple of miles of there, but for some reason my mind was locked on target a bit off center from this one. I just never went over the right ridges, never poked into it during the pair of decades I’ve been around the place.
But it has all the right stuff, or appears to. At least until I can get in there and turn a few rocks over, pan a bit, it’s where the Adams is.
Too bad Mel couldn’t have lived to see it.