Itching To Get Out

The advent of Spring has left us dying to get out; maybe go on a hike on solid soil. My husband and I love the outdoors and we live in the woods but we’d like to see some different trees.

Morel season is quickly approaching but not fast enough so we settled for a drive up the road to DNR (Department of Natural Resources) land near us the other day. The DNR owns a ton of land that they manage for recreation and various other commercial and governmental type uses.

This area is well laid out with dirt roads threading through forested hillsides and mountains. There are a couple of silver mines, plentiful sources of wood that some hardy locals take advantage of to make a living (they are a special breed), and hidden huckleberry patches known only to some inhabitants. We’ve been promised to be taken out to pick but have been warned that the bears love huckleberries also. We’ll be sure to bring our bear spray as we always do The Man, the Bear and the Truck.

While in town the other day I stopped by the Colville station of the Colville National Forest for some advice as my husband has been chomping at the bit to go on some overnight backpacking trips. I asked if there were really Grizzly bear in Washington state and in Stevens County and the answer was “yes”. The ranger said they hung out closer to the Canadian border and at higher elevations so I think we’ll stick to the lower. I was instructed to spray our bear spray in a half-moon pattern horizontally to create a sort of wall in front of us before the animal gets close if we are unfortunate enough to have an encounter with a predater. Good advice. I would have just sprayed straight ahead.

I asked about Morel hunting in previously burned areas of the forest. The staff warned of hidden holes and falling trees as dangers so I think we’ll stick to safer places. There’s plenty out there as it is.

When I asked about road conditions the ranger recommended a phone app called Avenza which is free but you can download road and recreation maps of various sections of the national forest in addition to being able to navigate off-line. We could have used that a couple of years ago when we got lost in the Snoqualmie National Forest Lost In The Woods; Twice In One Day.

There is wild asparagus coming up although I have yet to find a single sprig, and crawfish waiting for my pot although I have yet to learn the spots they like here locally. We knew the other side of the mountains fairly well (except the time we got lost) but here is a new story. We’re still plying the locals for their secrets; more like begging.

Lastly, I have gold fever again and have been all over our property crushing and breaking promising looking rocks and I dug a hole right into what, to the best of my knowledge, is a geological fault. Our own private one. How’s that for a selling point? Our property has the perfect geology for possible gold and comes with natural springs . Couldn’t get any better for a geology/nature fanatic! Take a look at the map I found showing the fault. The photo is crummy but you get the point.

The back of our SUV is crammed with gold panning/prospecting stuff just in case; classifiers, my pan, my sluice, a shovel, the Fish and Gold Pamphlet required by the state to have in our possession so there are no excuses should we be caught out in the field breaking the law. 🙂

Prospecting

Our quest for gold.

I can’t figure out how to use my expensive metal detector. Steel signals the same as gold, iron signals the same as gold, bottle caps signal the same as gold, nails signal the same as gold. I’m exaggerating of course but not by much.

From what I’ve read, metal detecting unto itself, is almost an art form. So is prospecting for gold. So far, gold has totally eluded my husband and I. You could point us to a gold rich river and we would come up with only pyrite no matter where we dig, how deep we dig, how much we dig, how far we dig, how big we dig…you  get the idea.

All I ask is for a few little grains or flakes of that bright yellow stuff in the bottom of my pan. Just a few. I could die happy then.

I downloaded some maps from Gold Maps Online for Google Earth. I was satisfied with their product. It’s on overlay of gold claims and mines along with data from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management). You can plan ahead to find closed and open claims, check to see if they’re on private or public land (although that’s not always easy to ascertain). You can check terrain and roads beforehand. Like their website says, you really can do a lot of the footwork ahead of time virtually and save yourself a lot of gas and disappointment.

Our property even has what might be a perfect environment for discovering gold. Iron rich soil, quartz; white and greyish. Springs; I read that springs and faults and sometimes gold go together. Nothing so far though.  I even tried divining. Nothing.

I’ve gotten decent at panning though. My husband bought me a sluice which I’m pretty sure I’m using properly but alas, we both concede we need to learn from a pro.

Untitled-1I’ve gotten some ideas for improving the sluice as has everyone else and their uncle Charlie. I just don’t have the means to make prototypes nor a way to test them without help. If anyone out there would like to join me in testing my ideas, I’m game. I think they’re sound and are based on my limited experience in the field and just some thinking about the matter of “how could this work better”.

We panned all summer near Snoqualmie Pass and around North Bend, WA. to no avail. Denny Creek near the pass is supposed to bear gold but we came home empty handed.

One thing we did find recently is garnets. I was panning and found a bunch of reddish looking sand with small reddish/brownish rocks. They were heavy as they were the only thing left with “the heavies” as prospectors say. We took them into a local jeweler and they confirmed they were garnets. They said most creeks and rivers around these parts contain garnets.

I’d give up but I’ve been bitten by the gold bug as they say. I’ve heard even seasoned prospectors sometimes go long periods without finding anything so I figure my day will come. The husband isn’t so interested as myself. He contents himself with exploring the area while I prospect. He found a wolf skull just last week while exploring.

If anyone knows of a really solid place in Stevens County to pan, let me know. We need a guide, also.

🙂

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The wolf skull my husband found last week while I was panning.