It’s hard to write when I’m distracted. Work being slow and budget being tight is enough to distract anybody, and especially adventurers who need money to go on adventures! That being said, it doesn’t take much for me to get out west, so it’s never far from my mind! So as I sit here muddling around with social media ads and marketing tips that are guaranteed to bring me my first million in the next 30 days, in the background my thoughts run to how I would spend that money if I got it!
Meanwhile in the desert..
I keep up with my buddies in Arizona through weekly phone calls. There’s always the small talk about how things are going, etc. but we’re all so focused on the ONE thing, that our conversations turn to gold within the first few minutes. So I get the weekly update- ‘we went out Saturday morning to XX and hunted X number of hours and recovered X grams of gold. These conversations motivate me, sometimes make me jealous, keep me up to date on areas of exploration or claims that have been producing, or even at times let me know that nothing noteworthy has been happening. Generally the amount of gold found is in the multiple gram range, sometimes with a nice nugget thrown in that may weigh anywhere from 2 to 7 grams or so…typically.
So about two weeks ago, as the phone was ringing, I was settling in with my coffee for the ‘typical’ update and expecting ‘business as usual’. What I got instead was an excited conversation that skipped the customary 2.38 minutes of small talk and went straight to, ‘you won’t BELIEVE what I found!’ As I poured fresh coffee and put in my headphones, the story unfolded.. ‘You remember the patch I found last time you were here? Well I went back up to that hillside but hunted about 60 yards downhill, forced my way through the dense manzanita bushes, and found ANOTHER patch! This time I got 23 grams!’ Thinking I didn’t hear him correctly, I said, ‘What? Are you telling me you’ve now found over an ounce of gold in that one area?’ ‘Yes! That patch must’ve extended down the hillside and we just never covered that area when you were here.’
Well crap. I mean, congrats to my buddy of course, but CRAP, I wasn’t there. That’s the downside of living far away from the goldfields, I get only a few trips a year to have my opportunity to do my very own Walter Huston dance.
So when do I get to find a patch of gold nuggets? Usually my trips are planned out and we do some scouting, but in order to try and be most successful we hit areas that have typically produced in the past. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a nice amount of gold to show for those efforts! We’ve become good at planning our adventures and usually work very hard and get results for our work. Still, striking off in our own directions, at random (sort of) in search of an actual patch of gold…has become the new quest! My buddies and I have already decided that we won’t go anywhere else but this area. We will scour the hillsides and unexplored areas that we’ve discussed for so long now…till we find more patches of nuggets! Man I hope I find one.
Mysterious Hillside Placers
Gold found in the first foot or so from the surface is considered ‘placer’ gold. As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, gold tends to weather or be broken out from exposed veins, and then begins it’s gravity fueled trip downhill to wherever there is something solid enough to stop it, like bedrock or ‘hardpack’. So where did this gold come from? Higher up, right? Well, we did look higher up last trip and found nothing. Hmm.. Now this gold is very rough, typically indicating not having traveled very far. It also has small bits of quartz in it, which also means it hasn’t traveled enough to be smashed flat or deformed enough to pulverize the quartz from the gaps and voids in the gold. So what does this tell us? Well in the case of these hillside placers some rules have apparently been ignored! First the rule about gold having traveled to the lowest point-nope, these were in a place they could easily continue downhill. What about gold being deep if the soil is loose (kind of the same lowest point scenario)? Nope-this gold was found in loose soil within a few inches of the surface! Really the only thing holding that dirt and gold on the hillside are manzanita roots! We’re all scratching our heads about why those nuggets have been found there…but we know what we have to do!
The new quest is shaping up as an off-kilter, hillside hiking, ankle killing adventure worthy of spending time running bleachers, stairs and anything else I can attack to get in some sort of shape! Good thing I sprung for those Salomon hiking boots last year! This mystery gold is doing exactly what all gold does-making itself difficult to find by hanging out in hard to reach places, with the added twist of defying ‘the rules’. They say ‘gold is where you find it’, and we can do our best detective work to learn how it got there and why, only after we do exactly that. One thing for sure, it will be a lesson we will remember!