Tag Archives: prospecting

Recapping the Lost Gold Mine Search

I think I’ve posted most of this before in earlier posts, but for those who weren’t here to read it at the time, I’ll do it again. 

A longtom sluicebox axed out of a 3 foot diameter log, a spring 75 feet above the sluice, an arrastra below.  I’d been walking past the arrastra a few years before I recognized it for what it was.  One day I was leaning against a deadfall aspen getting my breath, gazing at it, when it dawned on me that 500 pound rock had a reason for being shaped the way it was.

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 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.

Dozens of places upgrade where the man worked the quartz outcroppings.

Symbols carved into rock faces long ago on the upper-west face of the mountain below the most heavily worked quartz outcroppings near the crest.  None of it made a hell of a lot of sense.

One day I was climbing around up there with my lady friend of the time, Jan.  Following the guy around, trying to figure out what the hell he was doing and why.  We came to a rock face with a quartz outcropping he’d been working, but stopped, obviously half-done.  Not like him at all.

I stepped back a few paces studying it, mildly confused.  Glanced at the ground at my feet and there lay an arrowhead, quarter-inch of the point broken off.  I believed I was looking at the reason he quit before the job was done.

But that long tom and that sluice were testimony the man [or men] working there were in a production mode.  They weren’t prospecting, they were processing ore.  Scrapings from the bottom surface of the sluice, burned and panned didn’t turn any signs of anything heavy.  Downstream just below the V-bottom of the canyon went 100 yards or so to a stricture might have once had a beaver dam, landslide, something clogging it so’s there was a flat bottom with maybe 7-8 feet of sediment.  Along one side a channel had been cut going through the sediment, but not all the way to the bottom of the V.  It would have been a major job getting to the bottom for sampling, never got around to it.

But from the bottom of the existing channel the pans showed a huge amount of heavy, heavy, heavy bead-like material, rusty brown.  Eventually spectroscopic assays showed what was mentioned a couple of posts ago.

And there was considerable more of it in other nearby canyons.

But we never found the source of whatever the guy was running through that longtom, what he was crushing with the arrastra.

Old Jules

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Gamblers, Gambling and Risk-taking

Previously blogged May 17, 2005

Saturday a recently acquired friend and I revisited one of the sites I spent a lot of time puzzling over during the search for the lost gold  mine.  The place was the focus of the ’98 search  and a good many years prior to that.  Sometimes it amazes me how many times I climbed and unclimbed the west face of that mountain, always finding something new and puzzling.  I spent most of a month camped at the top, friends coming in for a week or so, then heading back to their lives elsewhere without finding what we were looking for, but finding enough adventure, fellowship and mountain air for a while and remember as one of the good times.This was Jim’s first time up there.  We went in mainly to look at a rock pillar that’s peeling away from a cliff face.

It’s a formation that fascinated a man I’ve come to know awfully well by his work; a man I never met, but whom I followed around that mountain puzzling over what he did, how he did it and why he did it.  A man who lived and died 150 years ago, roughly.  A man who knew a gamble when he saw one, went into a canyon spang in the middle of Apache country at a time when the best he could hope for if he was a quick death, or if his luck was bad, hanging upside down over a slow fire.

I’ve been wearing the arrowhead that almost certainly killed him hanging from a leather thong around my neck for a decade or more.  The ruin a few charred logs high, a long-tom sluice he carved with an axe out of a three-foot diameter log, a 400 pound rock he chiseled down to use as an arrastra and a hundred or so signs and symbols he made on rocks, along with his various diggings are all that’s left to tell what kind of man he was.

A gambler, he was, gambling on being caught by Apaches, gambling a broken leg in a place where such a thing was sure death.  A man who believed in himself so thoroughly that in that setting that he pecked away at the base of a 50 ton pillar of rock trying to get at what was underneath until it gives a man the fantods even today to walk beneath it.

One of the things I’ve spent a lot of time contemplating as I watched Orion chasing the Pleiades across the night sky to the background music of wind in the treetops is the thought of how a man of that sort would feel about a world where low-level risk-taking is a criminal offense.

A time when edging the nose of  a vehicle onto the pavement without fastening the seat belt probably won’t get you hurt, but it will almost certainly get you a conversation with an armed pair of mirror sunglasses.  A time when risk is defined in how many years it might take you to get cancer from whatever you’re eating or smoking.  When excessive gambling is betting the grocery money at the blackjack table.

I wonder if he’d have played a wheel, or just picked a few numbers that suited him and bought a hundred tickets with the same six numbers on them, going for broke on something he believed in, the way he did in life.

One of the ways we define who and what we are includes what we’re willing to give up to travel around the sun a few more times.  That guy on the mountain wasn’t inclined to give up much.

Old Jules

Crazy Lost Gold Mine-ism Re-visited

Crazy Lost Gold Mine-ism

Good morning readers.  Thanks for coming by for a read this cold morning.

The adventurers are getting old and long in the tooth.  I’ve written about this in the past a number of times, but a few days ago I got an email that got me thinking about it again:

Hi J,  I hope this finds you well….cats too.

Age 72. Raised in northern Wyoming. Made my living mostly in electronics and related technology. Army vet.

I have been obsessed with that lost gold mine since 1974 and many years ago received a copy of your CD via a guy I think you know….If you had ever watched him shovel.

Bought your book several years ago. Lots of good stuff but editing sucked on the CD.. Also, someone you might know, Bob Gordon of Dallas went on a trip with us once to the Mangus Mt. area (probably in the early ’80’s) and I think I gave him his first copy of Allens and Byerts.  Excuse me, but I am currently too many margaritas along right now and need to cut this short. I am convinced I have a lot of the story figured out….Yeah, like I’m alone. But seriously. 

I would like to chat with you if only email,  Fergy

I replied to his email saying I’d be willing to discuss it by email.  Back during the day I spent enough hours on the telephone hearing where it was to break me of any desire to ever do that again.  But there’s always a chance someone will come along and add the piece to finish out the puzzle.

When his reply elaborating on his ponderings arrived, he didn’t clear anything up, but it did get me thinking about some things. 

Over the years those phone calls and emails have gradually squeezed down to men of advancing age.  Most of us are getting so old we’re not likely to tromp up high mountains anymore.  And we’re dying off.  Of the hundreds of letters and phone calls I got over the years, every one of the originators had solved the mystery, or was near unto solving it.  As I always was.  Heck, as I still am, though I don’t think about it much anymore.

During the 20th Century thousands of men tried to find that lost mine, as did a similar number during the 19th Century.  There was even a movie made about it in the late 1960s. 

Mackenna’s Gold (1969)

Format:  Mackenna's Gold DVD 
 
Sprawling frontier adventure with Gregory Peck as a sheriff who is given a map, said to show the location of a large cache of gold hidden in a valley, and soon finds he’s the target of every fortune hunter in the West. The star-laden cast also includes Omar Sharif, Telly Savalas, Julie Newmar, Lee J. Cobb, Edward G. Robinson. 123 min. Standard; Soundtracks: English Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital stereo; Subtitles: English, Chinese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai; biographies; theatrical trailers.

 

But as the 20th Century wound down something interesting happened.  There were no new legions of youngsters replacing the old ones, researching, reading, poring over maps and trekking into remote canyons.   Something was gone, and it’s over.

Old Fergy, Keith and I, a few others are still out there thinking about it, but what we are and what we were is something modern humanity has left behind without noticing it’s done so.  I don’t know what that means, but I’m not overjoyed about it.  My preferred view of humanity and youth is going to require some adjustment.

Old Jules

Previous posts referring to the lost gold mine search:

Crazy Lost Gold Mine-ism, Wilderness Threats, Adventure, Imagination and Keeping the Juices Flowing, Cold Mystery, Fevered Romance and Lost Gold

Today on Ask Old Jules:

Old Jules, which prophet out of known prophets could make a good philosopher, and vice-versa, and why?

http://askoldjules.com/2012/02/13/prophets-and-philosophers/

Wilderness Threats


A man I went to grammar school, junior high and some high school with, then several decades later became reacquainted and huff-puffed a lot of up and down mountain canyons recently began visiting this blog.  If no other reader enjoys the tale, at least he will, because he was there:

The following is copyrighted material from a book I wrote once.  I give myself permission to use it here. [ Crazy Lost Gold Mine-ism]

I’ve never concerned myself much with the dangers of wild animals during my extensive time in the woods.  Mostly they’ll mind their own business if a person takes reasonable precautions and doesn’t go out of his way to provoke them.  In New Mexico backlands of the late 20th century the real threats usually come in the form of humans.  When those happen they usually come as suddenly and unexpectedly as finding one’s self in the middle of a herd of elk.

Grasshopper Canyon and Stinking Springs are on the northern end of the Zunis below Oso Ridge on the west face of the mesa.  Two canyons run north and south, parallel to the face, half a mile apart, separated from one another by steep, narrow walls several hundred feet high.  These two walls consist of coral reef from some ancient time when Oso Ridge was an island.  The canyons aren’t easily accessible, so I prospected there a while.

The land below Oso Ridge around Grasshopper Canyon is checker-boarded in ownership.  Grasshopper is all National Forest, but immediately south is a section of Navajo tribal land.  Adjacent to the Navajo section is a section belonging to the Zuni tribe.  Fences between these sections allow a person to always know whether he’s on public land or tribal land.

I was working Grasshopper Canyon with my friend Keith, a stockbroker from Santa Fe. We separated and worked the arroyos southward parallel to one another, gradually moving toward the fence delineating the Navajo section.  Occasionally we’d call out through the woods to make certain we weren’t out-distancing one another.  The last thing either of us expected was an encounter with another human in those woods.

I was bent over taking samples from the bed of a shallow arroyo, just deep enough so when I straightened I could view the small meadow around me.  I stood getting my breath and stretching the kinks out of my back when I saw a man dressed in cammies backing out of the woods at the edge of the meadow.  He was being stealthy, carrying a .22 rifle in a ready position.  He had twenty to thirty colorful birds hanging on a string around his neck the way a fisherman carries a stringer of fish.  As I watched, almost invisible to him with only the top of my head showing above the arroyo, his eyes searched the woods to his right where Keith was working.  Keith had called out from there a few moments previously.

Still watching Keith’s direction the man backed toward me until he was only a few feet away from me.  “Nice string of birds.”  I scrambled up the bank while he spun and pointed the .22 in my general direction.

My partner’s in the woods back behind you.  You don’t want to be firing in that direction.”  We studied one another.  He eyed the shoulder rig I was wearing and the butt of the 9 mm automatic showing from the bottom.  “’You out here killing songbirds?”

Mister Songbird was a young man and from appearances, a Zuni.  He stared a moment longer before answering.  My impression was that he was considering whether I was a game warden or other law enforcement official.  “I’m getting them for Zuni New Year.  They let us do that.”

We talked for a few minutes, me accepting what he said at face value, and the tension gradually dissolved.  He agreed to get the hell out of the canyon because we were working there and wouldn’t want any shooting.  Besides, we’d probably messed up his hunt with our yelling and bustling around the woods.  I watched him back into the meadow to the south and allowed myself to sigh with relief.

Back in Santa Fe I called the US Fish and Game Department.  I thought there was a remote chance the feds were really allowing Zunis to kill protected species birds on National Forest land.  If so, I was prepared to be indignant.

When I told my story the fed was silent a moment.  “You are a lucky man,” he observed.  “You confronted an armed man committing multiple Federal felonies and he didn’t shoot you.”

*     The following didn’t make it into the final draft of the manuscript: The fed also observed the Zuni lad would have spent a lot more years in prison for killing those songbirds than he would have for killing me.  I drew a good bit of comfort from knowing that.

Eventually logic won out over the other appeals of the Zuni Mountains as a location for the lost gold mine I was searching for.  Although the Zunis were handy for me, being only a few hours drive from Santa Fe, they were too far from Tucson.

Also, too many prominent landmarks in the area would have immediately brought the original survivors back.  The route I imagined them following would have taken them within sight of Los Gigantes and enough other one-of-a-kind eccentricities to make the location unmistakable.

Even the Big Notch and Little Notch in the Continental Divide can be seen from miles to the west.  There’s nothing else similar to it in North America.

Marty Robbins – Little Green Valley

http://youtu.be/WT5qegD28Wo

Crazy Lost Gold Mine-ism

This post requires some background to get to what it’s about.  The first part is background.  The actual subject of the post doesn’t start until ‘way on down toward the bottom.

Back before Y2K happened I spent a lot of years and energy researching and searching the mountains of SW New Mexico for a particular lost gold mine.

Doing a thing of that sort, the smart individual would keep his mouth shut about it.  But I don’t qualify in that regard.  I spent several years poring over records and winter nights poring over maps with a magnifying glass, almost always certain of knowing where it was, chawing at the bit to get out into the barrancas to file a claim on it.  But also putting my research into a form others searching for it might find helpful.  Insane.

Eventually I found a location where evidence on the ground fit the legend locations well enough to keep me working the west face of that mountain, climbing and unclimbing it with friends and associates, building up a lot of muscle, finding a lot of interesting rocks, and getting surprising assays, but no joy to speak of on 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.”

By 1998 I’d spent a lot more treasure, worn out vehicles, worn out relationships with lady friends and put a lot of friends to sleep going on about it and spending all my waking hours thinking, searching, or talking about it.  I decided it had taken up enough of my life and it was time to move on to other things after one final effort.

I took several weeks of vacation from work and spent it determined to get that gold mine out of my life, or into it in a way that didn’t include continued searching for it.  During part of it Gale and Dana, another old friend, joined me up there.

But that’s all another story.

During the 1990s I used to get several letters and phone calls a week from other people who were searching for the mine, asking questions about specifics of my research findings, asking questions about various terrain features, or just wanting me to go climb a mountain where they knew it was but didn’t feel like climbing themselves, willing to give me 10% of it if they were correct.  Of course they always knew they were correct.

But gradually that all tapered off.  In 2003, in the desperate throes of surviving the desperate financial aftermath of Y2K I published a book about my research, and the calls, emails and letters started coming in again for a while, but again gradually receded after a few years.  Those guys all got old and everything quieted down.

That lost gold mine slid spang out of my life.

But finally, here’s what this post is about.

Suddenly, beginning a couple of months ago, my old email address box began a new trickle, becoming a stream, of questions about all manner of details about those canyons and researches I elaborated on in the book.  Old guys, some older than I, were suddenly making noises about ideas, searches, evidently studying the book and maps, wanting refinements on what I’d described.

2011, every old worn-out has-been treasure hunter in Christendom  is suddenly wanting me to search my memory-banks about canyons I once stomped around in.  I’ve mostly answered the emails, tried to remember and flesh out what most of them were asking about, but a lot of it’s just too mixed in with too many other canyons, rocks and trails to recover with clarity.

But some of them are actually being subtle but provacative, wanting to argue with me about research findings, value judgements I made regarding 160 year old documents I dug up in the US Archives, military records, and a particular Apache I consider a key in the affair.

Heck, it ain’t as though I found the damned mine.  I don’t know where it is, though I spent a lot of years, treasure, sweat, and women thinking I did.  Now, suddenly I have people coming out of the woodwork wanting me to change my mind about where I thought it was because my reasons for thinking it weren’t the same as their reasons for thinking it’s somewhere I didn’t think it was.

Absolooooodle, incomprehensibly, insane.

Yeah.  It’s real important where I think it is.  If I don’t think it’s where it is, that old gold mine’s likely to switch places with where it thought it was.  Next thing you know it will be where I thought it was.  And that ain’t where these other guys now think it is, so I need to change my mind and think it’s where they think it is.  Otherwise it won’t be there.

I have no idea what the hell this is all about.  Maybe the price of gold combined with worrying about Social Security has the geezers going crazy thinking they’re 50 years old again.

Old Jules

Billy Vaughn And His Orchestra – The Shifting Whispering Sands ( 1956 )