This is not a story about a rich piece of float that has been found, or a chunk of ore taken from a rich quartz ledge that has been lost. I found this gold. I know it is still there...
Thirty-five years ago, I was visiting a friend who operated a black sand plant (where gold is recovered from black sand concentrates) across the Kiamath River from Happy Camp, California. While there, I was told the old-timers had mined course placer gold near the head of Horse Creek. Since Horse Creek was only a few miles up the Kiamath River, I decided to go have a look. Perhaps I might find something the old-timers had missed.
I drove to Horse Creek and found an old road leading into a flat, timbered area. I drove to the end of the roadperhaps a hundred yards then left the car and crossed over Horse Creek without getting my feet wet. On the other side, I found an old trail leading up the slope along side the creek.
As I followed it, the trail wound higher and higher up the side of the mountain. Just as I thought it was taking me the wrong way, it dropped down to the head of the creek. As I remember, the distance I walked couldnt have been much over a mile and a half.
The trail led directly to the placer diggings. Rocks were piled up like cordwood on one side of the gulch. The gulch butted up against what looked like a coarse-grained hill which went almost straight up. I decided that the placer gold bad been washed down from the steep hill and trapped in a pocket at the head of the gulch. I wanted to see what the gold looked like whether it was rough or worn smooth, as in an old river channel so I filled my gold pan with a sample from a crevice, expecting to find color. But I found none.
Puzzled, I panned again and again, but still found no gold. I then started down the gulch, looking for anything that would trap and hold small particles of gold. Sure enough, I found somethinga dike or intrusion of what looked like a mixture of calcite, soapstone, talc and mud crossing the small trickle of water in the gulch. Knowing that it would trap and hold any colors that might have washed down from above, I scooped up a pan of the goo.
I started scrubbing, rubbing and crunching the soft slick mixture to break loose anything that might be embedded in it. I finally managed to dissolve a chunk of the stuff and washed the lighter material from my pan to where I could see the concentrates. But, to my surprise, there was still, no gold. Instead, there were four or five globules of metal about the size of a kitchen match head. The little chunks of metal were a blackish-brown in color.
I assumed the metal to be a form of manganese. I crushed one of the small chunks to study it. It was brittle and broke into several pieces. When it did, I was amazed to see a kernel of gold the size of a large pinhead staring up at me. I quickly crushed the rest of the match-head-sized chunks in the pan with my prospectors pick, with the same result.
I then dug into the dike about twelve feet from the gulch. From a foot down, I came up with a double handful of the gooey stuff, and finally managed to pan it down. I was not as careful as I was the first time, for it was, getting late and I wanted to be out of there, before dark.
Careful panning or not, the little chunks of blackish-brown metal were still in my pan. I crushed them and out fell more gold. But there was no free gold at either of the locations I panned.
In the days, months and years that followed this find, I prospected other parts of the country, always looking for the big one (which so far I havent found). As time passed, I often wondered if I had walked away from a rich pocket where I found the kernels of gold, or close to it.
But I have never been back to the place. I made two tries to get back and failed both times.
In 1960, I took a weeks vacation and figured on going in, digging a couple of days, and find out what the kernel gold amounted to. But I made two mistakes. I was 27 years olderand I started out alone. No one knew I was in the area.
I found the old trail just as I had so many years before, but to my surprise it led to a cabin near the creek where there was an old placer operation. As much as I hunted, I couldnt find the trail continuing on up the creek. So I started to walk right up the middle of the creek. I fought my way along for perhaps a quarter of a mile before I realized that if anything should happen to me, I would never be able to get out.
For by then I was pretty crippled up. My arms and legs were skinned and bruised, and I was completely soaked from falling down. The rocks in the creek were so slippery I could not keep from falling occasionally. They seemed to be covered with some sort of slick scum.
So I turned around, managed to get out without breaking a leg, and was too weak and sore to make another try. I went home and spent the rest of the week nursing my wounds.
My second try was made July 23, 1968. I drove to Happy Camp, California, and was there three days trying to find someone to go with me. Believe it or not, everyone in Happy Camp was working and couldnt go. Finally, I located a man who had one day off, and he agreed to go with me.
We drove to Horse Creek. To my surprise, there was now a logging road winding up the hillside and circling around the head of the creek. Looking down from above, I could not recognize the spot where I had found the dike. I decided to go back down and I looked for the old trail.
Once again I was in trouble. The trail had been completely washed away by one of the worst floods that country has ever seenin 1964, according to my companion. By then it was getting dark, the man could not spend another day with me, and once again I had failed to get back to the spot where I had found the gold.
Im more than 60 years old now and will never go in alone as I tried to do in 1960. I will probably never make it back at all. But Im sure the gold is still there, just as I left it 35 years ago. So go in and find it, and when you do, please send this old prospector a few grains of that kernel gold to add to his collection of unusual specimens.