We crossed the peak and it’s relatively flat terrain pretty quickly. Not carrying 5 gallons of water definitely helped, and I was feeling like the weight of my pack alone really wasn’t that bad. Then again my legs were definitely tired from the steady climb we had just done. At least it was all about to be downhill, right? Hmm. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that downhill can be WORSE! Much worse.
During my exercising back home I climbed lots of hills. I would load up my pack with plate weights ranging from 20 to 30 pounds on whichever day, based on how I randomly felt that day. I hiked several miles a week for several weeks, hoping this would prepare me for our epic backpack prospecting trip. In spite of how I was feeling, as I reflected on my preparation, or lack thereof, I was just happy just to be there at all! I knew I had Advil in my backpack, and after all, the hard part was done, right? Heading downhill, I noticed it was pretty steep-at least as steep as it had been going up the other side, but there was a nice breeze to cool me down, and the beautiful view of the narrow, steep walled canyon several hundred feet below was somewhat mesmerizing.
I don’t know what kind of sound I must’ve made as my hiking boot slid on some loose scree, and I struggled for balance, finally tipping over due to the weight of my pack, right into a lovely catclaw bush! I’m sure it was hilarious and would have earned ten thousand dollars on America’s Funniest Videos, or at least gone viral on youtube. It just wasn’t very funny at that moment! Especially since catclaw likes to get hold of you and the harder you pull away, the deeper the spikes embed themselves. Still, after escaping and taking stock of myself, I was relieved to find that I hadn’t broken or twisted anything, and aside from looking like I had just tried to hug a bobcat, I was in good shape.
We slid, teetered and picked our way down the tight trail, occasionally pausing to take pictures or discuss some feature that had caught our eyes. We were way the heck in the back country. In our hour long drive through backroads of the mountains before beginning our hike, we had passed one ranch. That ranch was far enough back that they had an airstrip and Owen told me that they probably flew to town for groceries or especially if there was any kind of emergency. But we were at least a 30 minute drive down the trail from there! Even though driving an old desert road isn’t a fast proposition, it would be a very long walk back to that ranch if we needed help. It was awesome. There was almost nothing manmade to be seen aside from a water catch on the side of one mountain, and one faraway peak containing large antennas. I could almost envision the gigantic gold nuggets we would find. Would my glass vial gold poke be big enough to put a large nugget into? I quickly took mental inventory of what was in my pack, remembering a prescription bottle with some first aid supplies. Yep, I would need to empty that bottle and carry it with me while detecting! I couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of that mountain!
Finally after reaching bottom and finding the spot cleared many years ago for a camp, I was able to shed my backpack! I couldn’t believe how light I suddenly felt! I knew what the guys on the moon must’ve felt like, when a normal jump might propel you right off the surface into space. Getting back to business, I looked around a bit. This place had been used by one of the legendary gold hunters back in the day, right after PI machines were made! It had been prospected by a few of our friends, but the general consensus among those that knew about the place was that it was relatively untouched. Considering what it took to get back there, I was sure they couldn’t have made a dent in the supply of gold that must be lurking at every curve of the wash. Even though I wanted to fire up my machine and take off, I had to set up my tent and unload my stuffed backpack. I guzzled some water, ate a protein bar, and set to work.
It didn’t take long to set up my bivy tent, toss in the sleeping bag, and unload my cooking supplies. I hung my pack high on a tree branch, and assembled my detector. At that time I was using a Minelab SD2200v2 with an 11×17 elliptical Nuggetfinder coil. It certainly wasn’t the most modern technology, but it was still a very capable, powerful machine. Owen had his SDC2300 and his GPX4500, and Curt had his GPX5000. We were definitely loaded for bear! Well, bear sized gold nuggets anyway.
Firing up our detectors, we split up and began our search.
The view from the top
Owen and Curt at our camp