Camped in tents along the bank of our sparkling clear creek, we seemed very small in gold miles of wilderness that surrounded us. 1850 were three families, eleven people in all, with children ranging from five years to 21, and this was our first summer together as partners in a mining claim.
The sun was leaving our canyon, taking its warmth. It was a fellow miner mining upstream on his way out of the canyon to visit family and get supplies. He joined us for awhile. He had been coming to this area since he was a boy, with his father, and still returned for a portion of each summer. All mining areas are rich in history, mining this area was well-documented by a local historian. We often went over portions of his book at our campfires.
Signs of the past were plentiful all around us. In the creek, still in place in front of our camp, were two huge logs, the base of a long-ago dam. From that point down, up on the mountainside, remains of a wooden flume, which now provided us with a trail the length of our claim. It was a welcome alternative to the long-hike down 1850 middle of the creek through our narrow canyon, crossing deep pools or scrambling over bedrock and huge boulders. We continuously dredged-up reminders of former miners-square nails and mule shoes, hand-forged picks and other tools, and even old coins.
On this evening, our visitor told us a story that intrigued us all. It was of an old mine just over the mountain. It was worked and guarded by an old hermit for many years, who had disappeared about 10 years before, after a shoot-out with law enforcement officers.