As I wandered around the tailings piles where we’d set up camp last Sunday morning, it hit me: I was living a dream come true.
It’s a nice feeling.
After a lifetime of chasing this or that, the day had finally come where my dreams and the present intersected. I was living in the moment and I settled in to relish it.
The temperature was mild, the sun had come up to clear skies, the air was still and the only sounds were birds and an angry chipmunk or two. I had over 45 acres to explore, artifacts to find, history to research, nature to enjoy, and of course – gold to find.
We’ve been camping often to explore the place and prospect. It’s an incredible feeling to walk around a place with such a story.
Although it was a working mine with a community over a hundred years before, almost all traces are hidden under decades of fallen pine needles, branches, trees and crumbling rock. If you dig, be careful of the razor sharp edges of discarded ore, blasted from the bedrock and hauled from beneath the crust.
Fir and Larch trees populate the property, their ancestors fallen and rotting while some still stand in defiance of death. Outcroppings shower the steep hillsides with oxidized rock. Don’t climb over one. They’re treacherous.
The entrance to the mine lays sunken within a crater surrounded by rotting timber. The remnants of the shaft house litter the area, having given in to the elements throughout the years.
I’m sure most of the artifacts have been taken but a few things remain buried in the tailings or along trails. A chisel and a mule shoe here and 20 spikes there.
Down the hill, on the neighbor’s claim, a small community used to stand that housed the workers. A road lead from there to town. It’s called The California Mine Road and we aren’t allowed to use it – for now.
The hillsides are steep with access only through a couple of valleys. The neighbors managed to wrangle the keys to the gates – possibly illegally – so we temporarily have to hike up a hill with backpacks to get to the mine.
We are just beginning to explore the place as access is so difficult. We brought camping gear up ahead of time thinking it would be safe on private property, marked by signs, but no…
We put out cellular trail cams so we can watch the place from home. We have a tent and some basic supplies up there now so we don’t have to pack the entire house up the hill every time we camp.
With our little home away from home set up and fairly secure, we can focus on looking for samples to send in for assay. We can explore and appreciate the history and feel lucky for what we have.
If I get up before my husband, I start looking for good ore samples right away while the chipmunks berate me. Let ’em think the place is theirs. I know better.