It’s that time of year again…

Today is February 1st. To be positive, it means spring is just around the corner! On a less positive note, winter still has a firm grip, days are still short, we’re all still recovering from the holidays, and the first two months of the year it just seems like ‘the place’ is dead! That’s one reason I like to go to Arizona in mid-late January, which I did, and it was a blast, but that’s not what this post is about.

Same Plans, New Year

I have articles and research information on lost treasures that, for some reason, I get most interested in somewhere just after Christmas each year. These are stories that I’ve researched and have elements of truth to them, and were on my ‘list’ to check out back when I had a treasure hunting partner. The cool thing about these stories is that even if the main treasure weren’t to be found, there would be smaller, yet still interesting treasures to find, no matter if the original story was even true or not. Settings like old river crossings, campsites along the many old trails that were used by bandits, travelers and even military convoys ‘back in the day’. How would you like to be the one that found the actual location of a trading post that was known to exist, but nobody has been able to pinpoint for the last century? What do you think you could find there with a metal detector? In my opinion, a LOT. I have information on several of these within a few hundred miles of where I sit right now. That information has a layer of dust on it from the last 5 years of no activity on my part, and the sites have a corresponding accumulation of leaves and other overburden that keeps them hidden as more years stack up. ‘Well go check it out’, you say! Right…I want to…but the truth is it would just be more fun with somebody else to go with me. That’s where the wheels fall off! Everybody DREAMS of hunting a treasure, even expresses the DESIRE to hunt treasure, is willing to make loose PLANS of hunting treasure, and might even volunteer to participate in research. HOWEVER, it ends there. Too much work, family obligations, money is tight, my back hurts, knees, eyes, pick the poison…which means the expedition will be me, myself and I, and I just don’t feel like embarking on these adventures alone. My family already knows I’m crazy, but I at least owe it to them to be safe and efficient in such endeavors. After all, it costs money to launch such expeditions, which has to come from the budget. Next there is the danger that comes from the environment, people you may encounter along the way, and the nagging realization in the subconscious mind-if I find this treasure, problems will follow!

A Good or Bad Problem?

What do you mean, ‘finding a treasure will cause problems’? Well, first off, you have Uncle Sam. The IRS will want to tax you on the value of what you find, in some cases whether you actually converted it to cash or not (see the case of the California couple who found a rusty old can of gold coins). Next you could face ‘original owner’ issues. Wells Fargo, not even the same entity that existed in the 1800’s has attempted to lay claim to any strong boxes bearing the ‘Wells Fargo’ logo, the US Mint still owns any shipment of gold coins hijacked along the way to it’s original destination. Then you have the burdensome regulations that bureaucrats have enacted regarding antiquities, salvage rights, etc. that essentially have overwritten laws that exist saying that YOU have a right to what you’ve found. Bureaucrats…the lowest form of life…we’ll save that for another time! Anyway, the reality is, a treasure is worthless till you convert it to cash! Oh, and that process will involve tax documents from refineries or coin shops, if you use them as a source to cash out. So search away, and know that you WILL face many entities that will try to take everything from you, and might even try to legally punish you just for finding what you found. There is so much more to discuss here! Believe it or not, the whole notion scares some people off. Finding jewelry at a beach, coins in a park or old homesite, relics in old battlefields, all of those just come with less hassle!

Did You Say Something About Risk?

Glad you were paying attention. I’d like to point out that poking through old woods, river crossings, deserts, mountains, caves, wherever a treasure was hidden, is NOT like loading up your backpack full of ultralight gear, hiking a designated, maintained trail, and taking in scenery. These places are in rugged environments. Think about it-if you wanted to hide a treasure would you put it in an easy spot? There were no huge cities. Banks had not been started yet for many of these tales, and certainly weren’t trusted when they did first start. After all, the FDIC didn’t start insuring bank accounts till so many banks got robbed that the entire institution was at risk from lack of trust (that’s only one aspect and a very simplified version BTW).

Add in the fact that the people were tougher and braver than you are. Period. In fact, a common joke I make is that the pioneer women would beat the snot out of most of our ‘manly men’ today! They weren’t scared to roam into areas that would raise the hair on the backs of our necks. Those people faced death every day from critters, indians, bandits or the law, the elements, and a variety of other things. That especially includes caves or old mines that were sketchy even back then, after all, where would YOU hide a treasure that nobody would either be able to find, or would dare to look? And who knows what those places would be like NOW?

So here I sit, thinking about whether I should bother to try to recruit people again, for expeditions that will fall through at the last minute because ‘life happens’. Well it does happen of course, but I’ve heard it all by now. Maybe this is the year I decide to just do it myself.

Your First Metal Detector – Which One?

I’ve been asked a lot of questions in my life. Anything from personal secrets to whether or not I had any hidden money anywhere that I had not disclosed – true story; IRS agent, and I said, ‘if I had hidden it, why would I tell you?’. Yes, I had legal protection already in place, lol! ANYWAY, I’ve faced some hard questions, but I’m not sure any of them are harder than when people ask me, ‘which metal detector should I buy?’. This question makes me want to run for the hills!

To begin maze, start HERE:

There are a lot of really good metal detectors on the market right now. I’ve only had experience with a few of them, and I do have strong recommendations based on that. However, I do realize all those other detectors out there really shouldn’t be underestimated, and I’ve wished many times that I could get my hands on them just for a test run. Features such as precise discrimination, ease of operation (important with all the menu driven systems on detectors these days), weight and ergonomics, the ability to go underwater, adaptability to hunt for various targets in the unique environments that all pose challenges to the electronic operation of any machine….and the biggie-COST.

A Previously Enjoyed Companion – No Stigma!

Man oh man…look at HER! Lightweight, sleek, looks fast just sitting still…but she has some marks and blemishes. Looks like somebody else has ‘been there, done that’ with her. Hmmm. Sure looks fun though. Why are you blushing? I’m talking about a used metal detector here! What were Y’ALL thinking about? LOL..

Yesterday’s models of metal detectors are still fantastic machines, highly capable of unearthing whatever treasure you seek. The technology of ‘detecting’ has not advanced much in terms of ability¬†to detect metal, but in features that give you the ability to separate the unwanted metals from the ones you’re after. Keep in mind, the huge advances in that particular capability already happened a few years ago, and the current offerings are refinements to that amazing capability. But still, how do you figure out which detector is right for you?

If You’re Looking For Treasure, You Have To Be Willing To Part With Treasure

The reality is, it starts with your budget. This may be a ‘save up for someday’ proposition. After all, hunting for treasure CAN pay you back quite well, but most of the time it doesn’t, and that’s why 99% of people in the detecting world are ‘hobbyists’! Not only that, you may just decide that the work involved isn’t as much fun as you envisioned. Will you find some cool stuff? Heck yes you will. Will you be able to pay for your machine with what you find? Yes/maybe/not sure, but usually not right away. Will you just be able to go straight out and dig up old silver coins, gold jewelry and neat old tokens? Again, not usually right away-there’s a learning curve here! What I mean by all this is, BE REALISTIC. Don’t break the bank to buy the fanciest machine you can get, thinking that you will find riches and pay yourself back in short order. Has that happened? Yes. For how many people? VERY dang few.

So be willing to start small. The world of detecting is huge, and I haven’t even mentioned accessories yet!

What Is Your Quest?

Do you want to search for gold nuggets like I do? Lost treasure hidden in some cave or forest somewhere? Sunken treasure? Civil War relics? Old coins in parks or old homesites? You need to define your dreams. Sure, we want to do ALL of these things, back to back adventures preferably. However, if hunting lost jewelry on the beach is your dream, but you live in the middle of the country, that ‘special purpose’ machine you just bought is gonna sit, collecting dust, till you save up enough to go to said beach, and hopefully find a handful of jewelry like you saw some guy do on the internet. This is the exact reason so many great detectors end up for sale! So keep it real, consider what types of adventures are within easy reach, not forgetting those ‘someday’ adventures, but not putting your focus on the unattainable to the detriment of the easily attainable. Trust me on this-been there, done that.

By the way, I know the answer to all that stuff I just typed above – you want to do as many things as possible with the one machine you can afford. Well, you’re in luck! The big focus of metal detecting companies for the last few years has been in the ‘general purpose’ machine, go anywhere, do a little of everything, and do it fairly well. Enter the ‘previously enjoyed companion’ you got all worked up about a few paragraphs ago. Why would anybody sell a great, general purpose machine though? Was there a problem with that particular machine? Did it not live up to the advertising promises? Is it of a brand that some people like to bash online as ‘cheap’ or whatever other criticism they can level? It’s scary buying a used electronic device! By the way, ‘consumerism’ is the answer to the question I posed above. Some people have to have the latest and greatest. Others are upgrading to specialized machines for the niche they have chosen, and others might be moving to another general purpose machine that is just a bit better in one of the niche areas than the previous model they had. The last reason is that sometimes people overspend and never really use their detectors like they thought they would. This is good for you and your budget!

Alright, so ‘all hail the general purpose machine’! NOW, which one? I could tell you which one I have, but if you’ve been reading my blog you already know. Do you need that exact machine? That’s for YOU to decide, based on your own criteria and budget. I’m not going to give you an answer here because the blessing is also the curse here-there are so many great machines to choose from! Luckily the internet is here to help! Now I’ll warn you-the decision of which machine is not going to be easy, even after hours, days, weeks and months of research and comparing! That’s because there are so many dang good detectors out there. I can think of at least 5 brands that offer fantastic options, especially if you pick one up for a good, used price. Do some homework, the dividends you’ll gain are just as valuable to your enjoyment and continuation of the hobby as the treasure you seek!

A few great general purpose machines you can find used at great prices –

Garrett AT Pro, Ace series

Minelab Xterra series, Explorer, Safari

Whites MXT, and other models

Tesoro Vaquero, Bandido, Eldorado, others

Fisher/Teknetics F series, Patriot, others

Nokta/Makro many models, I’m not real familiar with these, but people like them

Features you want to consider –

Waterproof

Built in programs

Specific modes for certain types of detecting

Ergonomic design

Customizable programming

Adjustable discrimination levels

Here’s where you go for great information on general purpose machines –

http://www.findmall.com

http://www.treasurenet.com

http://www.metaldetectingforum.com

And there are others I haven’t mentioned. Oh, and don’t blame me if you find yourself calling in sick to work so you can go look for treasure with your new magic wand!

 

Is there a treasure hidden in SE Oklahoma?

Treasure? Well, I’ve looked 3 times and I sure haven’t found one! Honestly, I guess the first two times didn’t really count because we didn’t get to what I would call ‘ground zero’ to search. Either through lack of preparedness, roads that didn’t match the map, or fences where we didn’t expect to find any, our terrestrial based efforts could never get us to the right spot to begin our search. But somewhere near the old military road there is supposedly a cave with guns and gold in it!

If you go up the Little River from Pine Lake, there are still the remains of a river crossing on an old military road dating back to the early 1800’s, in Pushmataha County, Oklahoma. The legend goes that some guys were camping, one split off to hunt for squirrels, became lost, found a cave just before a storm hit, found his way back after the storm passed with a few treasure trinkets from the cave, and they all went back every year for the rest of their lives, with one even dying in those very woods, still on the quest! Now you have the cliff notes! The legend is easy to find through a google search, and Okie Treasure Hunter (Jamie Dodson) has a great write up in his blog about it.

So on my birthday in October 2011 or so, we appropriated an old Ranger bass boat and headed up river to find our fortune. The weather was perfect, a little cool, sunny and not a cloud in sight. Perfect for exploring dark woods looking for a small entrance to a cave. We had multiple detectors, backpacks full of gear, flashlights, and were armed to the teeth. Did you know SE Oklahoma is meth country? Well it is, and most of the trash you’ll find in those woods seems to come in the form of chemical containers or outright lab trash. While you hate to encounter that in the woods, it would be way worse to stumble onto an active operation, so according to a suggestion from local law enforcement, we were armed just in case.

Our research had been a two-pronged approach, first trying to determine if the people actually existed, and then using topo maps and google earth to help find the most likely terrain that would support the narrow box canyon leading to a cave that was central in the story. Being so close to the old military road, the tale made at least some sense because everybody, not just the military, would have been using that road at one time or another. It would also have been completely normal for boxes of Springfield rifles, still in brand new grease, to have been transported down that road. Further, we knew from information about people’s habits at that time, that if the river was high or the time late in the day, travelers would frequently just set camp till conditions improved to cross the river. Everything seemed to make decent sense as to why a treasure would be there at least. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that we didn’t research the people of the story very heavily. We all just wanted an adventure and this one was close!

There’s nothing like a treasure hunt. Searching the woods for visual clues, navigating to points of interest picked out on our topo maps, encountering wildlife along the way, the quietness and darkness of the woods…just being on the quest. In the course of our 2 day hunt, we would normally split up, each carrying a radio to stay in communication, already having agreed to meet back at the boat in 2 or 3 hours depending on how early we made it to our hunt area. It was easy to see how a cave could stay so well hidden amongst the layers of leaves, dense tree growth, and terrain changes. Our main focus was to find a small box canyon, not much wider or deeper than maybe 10-15 feet. The only problem was that the terrain didn’t support such a feature in the area the lost hunter supposedly found the cave, unless it was an actual feed channel for Terrapin Creek. We later remarked at just how difficult it was to effectively search in the first place, then try to figure out if possibly the direction taken by the lost hunter was even remembered correctly by him.

Each night back at camp we pored over the topos, planned new spots to hunt, and relived the day’s adventure. Sitting up late around the campfire, we heard coyote howls, and deeper howls that my buddy swore was bigfoot. It didn’t help any that we would hear knocking sounds intermittently, which really freaked my buddy out! Yes, that area is prime bigfoot territory! People go there just to look for the world’s hide-and-seek champion. Slightly intriguiged, I commented that I’d ask him if he knew of any caves nearby, lol! Just business mind you, go back to hiding and we’ll pretend this never happened!

Each day was mostly the same routine, split up, search, mark areas off our maps, and grumble about not being rich already. After 2.5 days, we never found the cave! In typical fashion for Oklahoma, and the second time Okieland tried to kill us with weather, conditions took an extremely nasty turn, resulting in a high speed boat ride downriver, almost making it back but still doing about a 1/2 mile in drenching, cold rain, crazy close lightning, and gusts of wind that practically lifted us out of the boat!

Dejected, we were all ready to head home. Had we engaged in a fool’s errand? Maybe. What we did know was that we had so much fun it almost defied description. We discussed how much area we just couldn’t cover, and the possibility that we could just hunt for things lost along the road and probably have better luck. That will definitely on the list next time, especially considering I found an old rusty pocketknife-most likely carried by whatever famous outlaw you can imagine-beside the old road next to a massive oak tree!

Looking back and having lived through it once, I know I’d like to go back. The two friends I went with are no longer involved in treasure hunting, and we’ve lost contact. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. So it’s time to round up some new Argonauts and try again. Y’all know how to reach me.

If you could only have one detector – why I like the Minelab Equinox 800

First off, perish the thought of only having ONE detector! However, for most of us, one detector is all we can afford. I’m lucky in that I’ve made some really good deals in the last few years that have allowed me to have multiple detectors, but it certainly wasn’t always that way!

If you’re like me, you dream of types detecting you either can’t, or rarely get to do. Reading forum posts or blogs like this, you hear about people finding gold nuggets out west, jewelry at some beautiful beach somewhere, civil war relics, items from previous civilizations, or rare old coins in historic locations. The tantalizing aspect of many of these tales is the ‘just out of reach’ aspect. Myself, living in Texas, Arizona isn’t THAT far away, nor are the east coast beaches, lost trading posts in the Midwest, or even civil war battlefields. However, if I spent a ton on multiple specialty detectors, I wouldn’t have enough money left to take them to those places! Again, I’ll note the exception that I do have one, highly specialized detector that I got a screaming deal on and sold a big ticket item that I also got a screaming deal on, to afford that machine. Due to the near impossibility of ever being able to replace that machine, it would take drastic circumstances to force me to sell it.

A little of everything

Ok, so you find yourself wanting to do a lot of different things with the one machine you can barely afford, but are willing to stretch to get. So how do you decide which one? I’m going to answer this in the best way I can, keeping it as short as possible-ready? Can you hear the drum roll? Here goes..

THE MINELAB EQUINOX 800.

Boom. I can hear the Deus users bristling, the Garrett owners fussing, Whites and Fisher users and every other brand-loyal detectorist just decided to unfollow me – but hear me out!

The first bit of advice experienced detectorists will offer when a newbie asks ‘which machine’ is simply, ‘what or where do you intend to hunt?’ This is a very reasoned and valid question, and if your answer is only one type of hunting – underwater, salt beach, goldfields, relic hunting, or coin shooting in a park, then it would be easy to pick one machine that will ‘smash it’ in those environments. But remember what I started with? IF you want to do a little of all types of hunting, here’s why the Equinox wins, ACCORDING TO ME:

-waterproof to 10′

-multi frequency operation, selectable single frequencies, both low and high

-light weight

-moderately customizable programs

-multiple factory programs that are GOOD for every environment you want to hunt

-ground tracking or manual ground balance

So what does all that mean? Well, if I want to hunt saltwater beaches, the multi frequency operation allows me to do so without the constant chatter and unstable operation that a single frequency machine suffers from. If it’s gold nuggets I’m after, not only is there a prospecting program, but the higher frequency is a necessity in the goldfields. If I’m relic hunting, I may or may not need multiple frequencies, so I can select from one of several single frequencies to better target what I think I may find, such as coins or buttons, etc. The waterproof capability of the machine means I can hunt swim beaches without worry, out to depths past where 90% of people ‘playing in the water’ will go. There are other features to like with Equinox as well, but in a nutshell, this machine has you covered for anything you want to hunt, up to the point that specialized equipment is required. And it does all this with very little user interaction being necessary. Can you fiddle with it and tweak the performance? Yes, you can, but it’s usually not needed.

For those whose hackles are still raised I want you to understand that I’m not saying other machines are BAD. In fact, here’s a list of general purpose machines that I’ve owned and LOVED, but didn’t have ‘go everywhere’ capability-

XP Deus-#1, hands down lightest machine out there, the Aussies would call it a ‘RIPPER’, and totally wireless! Not waterproof. Extremely customizable programming.

AT Pro-great general purpose machine with good depth, fast recovery, extremely capable in most scenarios. Can’t handle mineralized salt beach well, nor extreme goldfield mineralization. Allows slight customization in programming.

Minelab CTX3030-the powerhouse. Does it all minus the specific prospecting programming/frequency. Extremely customizable programming, and the best discrimination of any machine.

Short list, I know! NOW, here are some specialized machines that I’ve owned and loved-

Minelab Excalibur-this is still my all time favorite Minelab machine, no screen, speaks it’s own language, waterproof to 200′, undisputed saltwater beach powerhouse.

Minelab SDC2300-folds up for backpack carry, ergonomics are decent, great in mineralization that even other PI machines struggle with. If you don’t find gold with it, it’s just not there!

Garrett Sea Hunter MKII-crazy deep detecting in saltwater environment, waterproof to 200′

Tesoro Tiger Shark-freshwater gold killer, waterproof to 200′

Others I have owned or tried but didn’t keep-

Garrett ATX

Garrett Infinium

Teknetics T2

Minelab Xterra 705

Garrett Scorpion

Tesoro Silver uMax

Tesoro Diablo

Tesoro Bandido

Garrett Ace 150 and 250

Minelab Go Find 60

Minelab Explorer SE Pro

 

So as mentioned, the Equinox 800 is the ONE detector, if you can have only one, that I recommend. If saltwater beaches or underwater operation, or the goldfields are not interesting to you, there are other great machines that can fill most of the other needs, including many from the above list. Again, remember, even though the machine sells for around $800, the ability to do more types of hunting saves you money-a LOT of money-in the long run! The decision is yours to make, and I recommend lots of research outside this post! Good luck!

 

 

 

Backpacking for gold, part whatever-the final!

As I’ve reviewed my backpacking for gold mini saga, even I’M getting tired of reading it. So let’s finish this adventure and move on to something else! The problem is I’m long-winded when I write…and not much better in person! So today I’m going to try a different storytelling approach. YOU are my guinea pigs in this writing adventure that some call a ‘blog’, so feedback is always welcome.

 

We’re never doing THAT again!

The desert road out was beautiful. We had decided to take the ‘back way’ all the way back to my buddy’s house. We were all so worn out. If somebody had suggested we all be shot back to town out of a catapult, we probably would have agreed to it-as long as we could rest along the way! But we bounced along in silence in Owen’s truck, listening to brush scraping the sides, occasional rocks bouncing off the undercarriage, or hearing the groans from one or the other when we hit some obstacle that gave us a hard jolt.

The problem with heavy exertion isn’t the pain and weariness that accompanies the task at the moment you’re engaged in it, it’s what comes after. We had pushed ourselves way past the limits of our conditioning, and now, relaxing in the truck, we were stiffening up and soreness was really setting in. We were also beginning to realize how many minor injuries, embedded cactus spines, cuts, scrapes, and bruises we had acquired along our hike out. When you’re tired and just want to get back, you just don’t feel like using the extra steps to go around obstacles. I remember looking downtrail and thinking that I could take the pain and cuts from a few catclaw if I squeaked between those bushes, rather than take a detour around them. Or maybe I don’t have to give such a wide berth to that patch of prickly pear. The toll of our heavy packs plus water on the way in, a couple days exploration in steep terrain, and then hiking back out with packs that were still pushing 35-40 pounds had every one of us cringing with every step. First we had to push through the pain of going uphill, then about a minute of relief at a small downhill stretch, only to be greeted with sore and overused muscles, resulting in more of a careening descent than a thoughtful and careful one.

As I sat in the back seat, using my multi-tool to pull out cactus spines, I began noticing how beat up I was. My salt stained heavy long sleeve T shirt had a couple holes in it, and one outright tear. My boots looked like cactuses in their own right, they had so many spines sticking out! And where was all the blood coming from anyway? I had blood soaking into a spot on my right sleeve, and even though I had been wearing gloves, my hands looked like I had been playing with a rabid cat. I knew for sure one knee was going to bother me for at least a week or two, because I could feel it swelling. Were Owen and Curt as beat up as me, or them being desert rats, was I the only ‘soft’ one? Remembering one nasty tumble, I chuckled, and decided that maybe more than my pride had been hurt, even though we all had such a good laugh over it.

It was on a downhill stretch that was covered in loose scree. I remembered us having trouble going up, but it seemed like maybe it was steeper now as Curt walked up to the crest of this small steep spot. Not wanting to break stride he took one step down and suddenly his feet flew out from under him, he fell on his pack, and slid down the hill of small sharp rocks with jutting bedrock points, pretty much keeping right in the centerline where water had eroded a small channel. He reached the bottom with plenty of leftover momentum, gaining his footing and literally using that momentum to stand straight up at the bottom. ‘I’m alright, who’s next?’ he said, kind of chuckling while wincing. Owen was the next closest, and he picked his route carefully, taking a couple steps down…before doing some sort of midair cat-trying-to-land-on-it’s-feet attempt, landing on his butt, and taking off downhill like a bobsledder on fresh snow. I tried to stifle my laughter while asking if he was ok, but Curt chuckling at the bottom of the hill didn’t help! I busted out laughing and said, ‘here, let me show y’all how it’s done!’ With that, I made about a step and a half before my sleigh ride began! I was genuinely surprised, embarrassed, and maybe even a little happy to be off my feet for a few seconds, but I was especially happy to be wearing tough pants with double material in the seat! We all shared a laugh at each other as well as ourselves. Honestly it was a bonding moment in a weird way.

I cracked open the back window as the familiar smell of cigarrette smoke wafted to the back seat and continued to laugh, somewhat quietly, as I tried to envision what my particular ride down the scree covered slope must have looked like. Curt grumbled from the front, ‘what the hell are you laughing at?’. ‘You and Owen doing the downhill sled ride without a sled!’ I said. ‘And at myself too..’ I added. He just grinned a little and Owen suddenly hit the gas a little, making me bounce my head off the back window. I noticed him looking in the rear view mirror and could tell he was trying not to laugh! At that moment, the aches and pains didn’t seem so bad. At least I now remembered how I had acquired so many odd injuries.

Funny how weird things will start conversations about ‘the elephant in the room’. I guess it’s just that ice breaker moment that brings the best opportunity to express your thoughts. I said, ‘I can’t believe none of us found any gold.’, which broke the ice for all of us, almost in unison, to say, ‘I ain’t ever doing that crap again!’. We all laughed out loud. We still had miles to go, several hours ahead of us, including one hour to get the truck unstuck after I picked a bad line for Owen to drive over some loose boulders. It was the best worst time I’ve ever had.

Oh, and I ordered more lightweight backpacking gear when I got home!

How Much Water Again? Backpacking for gold p4

Morning came early. I remember waking up and feeling the fog of dehydration. We had all tried to drink as much water as possible, even guzzling what we thought was too much before bed. But I never got up once to pee…so I guess it wasn’t really enough! We made our coffee and dehydrated breakfast, and suddenly our camp was dry! Curt mentioned that he had already gone uphill and retrieved two of the 2.5gal containers, leaving us with 5 gallons of water for the rest of our trip! Hmm…what happened to having more than enough? I pointed out the heavy salt stains in my shirt. It had been hot the day before while prospecting, and my heavy long sleeve T shirt had been great protection from the elements, but it had also had me sweating like crazy, and drinking tons of water. We discussed how much water we must have drank each, and shaking our heads, accepted that what seemed ‘more than enough’ was actually insufficient. Oh well, we loaded up what water was left, and set out to detect whatever new ground we could get ourselves into.

The Biggest Desert Waterfall Ever

Once again, I decided to head downstream. This time though, Owen came with me. We decided to jump out of the wash and cross the saddle where I had found the camp the day before, and try going overland to pick up the wash much further down, then detect our way back. We knew the wash took a 90 degree turn to the south so we checked our compass and kept bearing west/southwesterly as we traversed the steep hillsides, thick brush, and loose gravel. We got lucky several times and found game trails that we could follow a bit, at least till they went through or under some thick brush that just wasn’t worth the energy to push through.

I was in the lead at one point and pushing through an impossibly thick patch of brush mixed with catclaw. Suddenly I heard Owen say ‘hey I found a flashlight tree!’. I kinda chuckled, not really paying attention to what he actually said, till he said, ‘hey-is this your flashlight?’ Wait, huh? I turned around to see Owen holding out the flashlight that seconds before had been riding, clipped into my hip pocket. ‘How the heck did THAT happen?’ I said. We both kinda laughed and decided that we better clean up whatever clips or extra rigging we had on our bodies and gear that might be pickpocketed by clawing vegetation on our way to finding huge gold nuggets. After all, we didn’t want to have to cash those nuggets in to buy replacement gear! Then again…replacement usually means upgrade…nah, we better be more careful with our stuff! Finally, popping out of the thick stuff, we found ourselves on a precipice overlooking the wash. We took a minute to get our bearings and discuss whether we were ready to drop in and start detecting, or continue further. I checked my GPS watch, and noted that we were one mile from camp as the crow flies. Not knowing how rough the going would be in the wash, but realizing that the bend added anywhere from a quarter to a half mile extra distance, we decided to drop in at that spot.

The wash was brushy down here, and narrow, unlike the portion near camp. Detecting was a little more difficult with my big coil, but manageable. As it was the day before, this wash was ‘quiet’, with few signals to catch the ear as we headed upstream, me in the lead, and Owen behind about 75-100 yards. This is pretty much standard procedure when we ‘team detect’ washes, because I’m the one with the least experience, and at that time, swinging the machine with the least ‘up to date’ technology. If Owen were to find gold, the plan was that he would call me back, he would search for more signals, and have me go over those with my machine to see if it would hear them, and also to help train my ear for what gold sounds like on a PI machine. I’ll give away a secret-it’s not usually going to be a booming signal! Not saying that a large nugget won’t give you that type of signal, but the ones you’re listening for will either be small, or deep, which means subtle, soft signals that are easily missed or even dismissed as random noise. Why would a person dismiss a fluctuation in threshold signal? Well, part of that lies in the power of the PI machines, and part of the equation is in the geology of the ground you’re hunting.

Pay Attention Son…

Yes, I’m still a relative ‘newbie’ to nuggetshooting. However, what follows is the best advice I can give, and follows the advice of veteran nugget hunters, with decades more experience than I! So again, why would you-or somebody-dismiss a fluctuation in the threshold signal of your machine. Well, these machines are super sensitive, and lightning from several miles away can produce a warble you’ll hear in your headphones. Aircraft flying overhead, especially military planes, will ping your machine as their radar scans ahead and down, spurious radio signals, the output of other detectors nearby, and even SUNSPOTS can sometimes affect your machine! What results is sometimes a threshold that can be a bit unsettled. Instead of a steady tone, you’ll have variations, which, when you’re listening for small target tones, can be annoying and lull you into thinking it’s just another bit of interference. THEN we add in geology. The dreaded ‘hot rocks’ can set off your machine as well. They’re usually right on top or very shallow, but still, these cause you to slow down, and sometimes dig for nothing. Since it’s the desert, and conditions are tough, which equals tiring, it’s easy to decide to ‘pass’ on a signal, not realizing this time it might actually be what you’re seeking! What to do? Slow down first of all! This isn’t a race. If you’re A.D.D. like me, I KNOW you want to look around and see what’s around the next bend or over the hill, but do yourself a favor and scratch that itch without detecting at the same time! Seriously, put the machine down and explore away, scout out cool spots that you might seriously want to hit with your machine, take the pictures, wizz off that cliff, gather the cool crystals….but scratch that itch without letting it screw up your detecting! I do this all the time now. You spent the money. You took the time. You’re finally there-give yourself the best chances to focus, and don’t skip signals. Secondly, take a few more swings over the area you thought you had a signal. Is it repeatable? Can you still get a signal if you swing from another direction? Is the signal sound consistent? If the answer to these questions is ‘yes’, then dig it! Now if you suspect hot rocks, you can give a sweep of the edge or your boot to clear those away, then swing again and see what you get. At the end of the day, there’s advil and sleep waiting. Both will work better if you have gold in your poke than if you don’t!

Didn’t you say ‘waterfall’?

OK, yes, back to the story. In fact, I’ll skip ahead at this point. I won’t discuss the idyllic spot I sat down to eat lunch, finding myself surrounded by large caterpillars in every green leafy plant around me. I will also skip past the time that I took getting pictures of said caterpillars. I’ll also spare you the details of my rock collecting in that neat little spot. So, onward!

I had mostly rounded the large bend in the wash that we had seen on our topo maps. The wash was becoming very ‘walled in’ as the low mountain towered above, giving me the impression that this wash might be inescapable if it should rain, and it was clouding up. Big time. I could see a possible exit ahead in the form of a steep feeder wash, and decided to check it out real quick, but then head back down the wash, where escape would be easiest if the skies opened up. I couldn’t help but feel that I was already taking a risk just by remaining in that wash at all-but I was banking on the main wash being fed by a very narrow and relatively small surrounding watershed, and the fact that I could run and climb like hell as long as I knew what options I had, so I was checking out that little wash since I was so close!

I literally stopped in my tracks as I finally reached a point in the bend that I could see fully ahead. There, about 200 yards ahead was a gigantic waterfall! The rock went straight up about 60 feet, maybe more. I literally said ‘wow’, out loud, and forgot for a minute that I was on a mission. There was a small grotto at the base that you could literally stand behind the slightly dripping water. It was evident that animals of all kinds visited this area to take a drink. With large juniper trees shading most of the wash, the tall waterfall on one side, and steep walls of the mountain in every other direction, this place was literally an oasis in the desert! I thought of my water filter and how low we were on water, wishing I had a container to carry water back to camp. Oh well. Checking the sky again, I decided to continue looking for exit routes.

I found a relatively easy way up and around the waterfall on one side. I cautiously made my way to the top, picking the easiest route, one that I could ascend quickly if need be, because my plan was to go back down and explore some more. I moved very slowly as I climbed, listening and watching for rattlesnakes. I knew full well that I was in the ‘snakiest’ place I had passed through so far! Reaching the top without any serpentine encounters, I stashed the majority of my gear and headed back down the side to the base of the huge waterfall. Once down, I fired up my detector and began scanning. As in other parts of the wash, the overburden was crazy deep, making for slow going. The sky was keeping a consistent level of overcast, and I couldn’t hear any thunder, so I relaxed a bit and focused on finding gold. About ten minutes later, the bottom fell out of the clouds, forcing me to take refuge under one of the huge junipers! It was a little sketchy, since I knew there had to be a snake in there somewhere, but I found a nice boulder that I could sit on to wait it out.

As I sat on the boulder looking at the huge waterfall, I couldn’t help but wonder if I would suddenly see a blast of water come flying over the top, and just how it would look when it hit the bottom, but it just wasn’t happening. As I mentioned, this large wash has a very limited watershed. It was apparent that lots of water moves through at times, enough to push very large boulders around, but with the large amount of loose overburden in the wash, it also seemed that minor flooding was the norm, and it might be years before a serious flood would come along and blow out the excess sand and gravel that had accumulated. Still wishing for a spectacular display of falling water, I suddenly became aware of the sound of movement coming from down the wash. I sat still and quiet, knowing that it was Owen, but not wanting to take away from his moment of discovery at seeing the large waterfall. I also wanted to see his candid reaction! His was about the same as mine, as he paused and I heard him say, ‘huh’. I quietly said, ‘pretty cool, huh’, scaring the crap out of him, lol! Finally we were even now for him almost killing me the day before!

To be continued…

 

Huge Waterfall

Biggest waterfall I ever saw in the desert

Huge Waterfall Top Owen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where da gold at? Backpacking for gold p3

The peace and quiet of the desert is encompassing. Every so often you might get the feeling that something or someone is watching you, or possibly that something might be making a sound nearby. It’s when you pause to listen and look that you realize just how much noise YOU’RE making. The sound of the detector, the coil scraping the ground and bedrock, footsteps in rough terrain, the swish of clothing during movement, digging, and generally just moving around in a non careful way…all make tons of noise! When I get tired and take a break, or when I’ve been hunting for hours without finding any gold, is when I notice such things. And just where the heck WAS the gold anyway?

I had been hunting the wash as it headed downstream. It was incredibly beautiful and knowing how remote we were added a certain magic to rounding each bend, or descending small waterfalls. Not lost on me was the fact that for every waterfall I went down, I would have to climb back up to get back to camp. I was tired from the exertion of the hike in, but exhilarated about the search, and I was making every effort to be thorough in my coverage of the wash. I had an 11×17 inch elliptical coil on my detector, which is fairly large, but still small when you consider the amount of ground there was to cover. I was getting no signals. I paused again to think a bit. There should be at least some trash here from the old timers. Where would heavy stuff tend to accumulate? I refocused, took a hard look at the wash and tried to envision how water would move during flood conditions. That’s how the gold would move. In a moment of curiosity I decided to dig some of the loose overburden to see just how deep this wash really was. There were large boulders in the area I was, but was I seeing bedrock or just mostly buried boulders? In a few short minutes I had my answer. This wash was deep! I dug two plus feet down without hitting what I thought was bedrock. I dug up large cobbles and realized that the rock I had walked across a few minutes previous, might just be a gigantic boulder silted in by aeons of erosion from the banks above. Taking a look at the steepness of the sides, most of which were too steep to climb, I realized I needed to look for better ground!¬†Moments like this are for learning. Stopping to examine conditions and assess the current approach, strategize a new approach, and make a plan, are what will add up to eventual success in any endeavor. Laughing at myself for taking so long to ‘snap to’, I headed further down the wash to look for areas that might be easier to hunt.

Moving downstream, I had to climb onto the banks frequently to get around areas that were too rough to traverse, or would just take too much energy. It was during one of my detours that I noticed heavy deer activity. Uhoh, A.D.D. moment! I quickly shucked my backpack and detector at that spot, and climbed up the steep, zigzagging trail to see what higher elevation would reveal. I was definitely rewarded in that quest, and not only found a great spot to hunt deer, but the remains of an old camp! So back down I went, retrieved my gear, and right back up again to detect and explore the old camp.

I already made the A.D.D. joke right? Well I spent about 30 minutes poking around the area, looking at old cans to try to determine the age of the camp, detecting the outskirts around any large trees in search of potentially stashed nuggets long forgotten. I had gotten smart at the beginning of my exploration and brought along an old can, the top open, so I had something to stash the ten MILLION nails I was finding with my detector. If you know PI machines, you know what I was dealing with! If not, there are two things to understand-PI’s LOVE iron, and they do not discriminate, so you can’t change a setting to eliminate signals from iron. So broken iron bits from skillets or who-knows-what, nails, wire, boot tacks, it was all there. I wished for the machine I used back home, the CTX3030. Man, if there were a coin or something good amongst all that crap, it would surely find it! Maybe next time. After taking an extra minute to get a pic with a baby horned toad lizard, I stumbled, tripped, slid, and hopped my way back down into the wash.

I hadn’t gone far when I suddenly got a signal at the base of a small boulder! I started digging, the signal getting louder, and the material coming out of the hole a little larger with each scoop. I was into some really rough gravel with small river rocks coming out of the hole, I guess that’s good, right? Excitedly, I dug out several extra scoops of material before swinging the detector back over the hole. I got a booming signal! On about the second gold-crazed swing of my pick, I heard a booming voice above me ‘Whatcha got?’. I jumped so hard I swear my entire innards almost shot out of my mouth! I looked up, expecting to be killed at any moment by a man-bear-pig or some serial killer hermit long separated from society to see….Owen? ‘Ok, first off, you scared the living NUGGETS out of me, and secondly, WHERE THE HELL DID YOU COME FROM?’. He laughed and apologized for robbing me of my senior years to come, and explained how he had found a saddle coming out of the wash and decided to see if he could cut some distance off the hike so he could find me. Oh, ok then. It’s nice to be wanted I guess! My heart rate was settling down and I decided to keep digging. I literally dug one more scoop and my prize came to light! Half a horse shoe. I heard ‘wah, wah, wah, wah’ and the sound they play on the price is right when somebody gets the price wrong. Well crap. I had a gold nugget and Owen scared me and the nugget so bad that it turned itself into a horseshoe!

As it turns out, Owen came to find me because there were storms a few miles away. Where I was, I couldn’t see out of the wash, and when I was at the miners camp, the hillside was blocking my view in that direction. Luckily for us, we knew where the head of the wash was, and also what the drainages were like feeding this wash. However, also taking into account the massive size of the boulders in this wash, the steepness of the hillsides, and the fast dropping terrain, that wash was NOT a place to be during rain! Potentially having my hunt cut short wasn’t really the worst thing, but what he said next was even more disappointing! ‘We haven’t found anything.’ I couldn’t believe that. He and Curt were experienced prospectors and had top of the line machines to boot. ‘Nothing?’ I said. ‘Yeah, the overburden in this wash is insane, and the bedrock flats haven’t even produced for us.’ Well dang. Where were all the giant nuggets hiding anyway? We put in a lot of effort to get to this place and with what we knew about it previously, gold had been found here. In my mind I considered several possibilities – ‘was it all found? Were we in the right part of the wash? Should we have focused on the small feeder washes instead of the main wash?’ I ticked the answers off in my mind as I went, ‘no, it couldn’t have all been found-not possible’, ‘any part of the wash could hold gold’, ‘smaller tributaries can be explored next’… But from the picture I was formulating in my mind, the trip was about to get harder, not easier! Oh well, we would do what we had to!

Later, back at camp, we discussed possible plans for the next day, made jokes and stuffed ourselves with all the extra food items we had brought with us. I made a mental note that extra food doesn’t count as ‘too much weight’ in the pack, and knew I would sleep well that night!

 

CampfireStormcloudsThe wash