Itching To Get Out

After months of snow, we can’t wait.

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

Morel mushroom season is 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 area is cross-crossed 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.

A local promised to take us out to pick but we have been warned that bears love huckleberries also. We’ll be sure to bring our bear spray The Man, the Bear and the Truck.

While in town the other day I stopped by the Colville National Forest ranger station 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 areas. If we have to use bear spray, the ranger told us to spray in a half-moon pattern horizontally in front of us to create a sort of wall. I would have just sprayed straight ahead.

I asked about Morel hunting in previously burned areas of the forest where they thrive after fires. The staff told us there are hidden holes and the danger of falling trees so I think we’ll stay away from those. There’s plenty of mushrooms out there as it is.

When I asked about road conditions the ranger recommended a phone app called Avenza. It’s a free download that shows road and recreation maps of various sections of the national forest. You can also use them 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. Crawfish are fun to catch (and delicious to eat) although I don’t know where to find them on this side of the mountains. We knew the back roads and where to look for things where we used to live (except for the time we got lost) but here is a new story. We’re still plying the locals for their secrets.

Lastly, I have gold fever again and have been all over our property crushing and breaking rocks. I dug a hole right into what I believe is the location of the fault running across our property. Imagine having your own private fault line? Take a look at the photo that shows its location. 🙂

The back of our SUV is crammed with prospecting equipment just in case. If you look for gold in Washington state, you have to keep a copy of the Fish and Wildlife pamphlet with you. It has the rules for prospecting in it.

Let me close with an example:

“You can pan in the northwestern upper corner of the easternmost part of whatever creek as long as you use a sluice no longer than your arm but no shorter than the length between your elbow and your hand. You cannot dig more than three feet past the upper waterline of a hundred-year storm nor under the lowest point of a hundred-year drought on Saturdays and Sundays and only on tributaries to every river in Washington state except Snohomish County. You may wear only bright purple and use a shovel rather than a pick ax unless you are driving a Suburu in which case, you may wear purple with polka dots. This only applies to prospecting done during leap years.”

Prospecting

Our quest for gold.

I can’t figure out how to use my expensive metal detector. Steel gives off the same signal as gold, iron signals the same as gold, bottle caps signal the same as gold, nails signal the same as gold.

From what I’ve read, metal detecting is almost an art form and I have yet to create a masterpiece let alone a decent sketch. Prospecting for gold is the same – it takes patience, knowledge and experience to become successful at it.

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 or mica no matter where we dig, how deep we dig, how much material we dig – you  get the idea. We’re rank amateurs.

All I ask for is a few little grains or flakes in the bottom of my pan – just a few. I would be able to finally sleep at night.

I downloaded some maps from Gold Maps Online for Google Earth. 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 and 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 gas and disappointment.

Our property has a lot of geological indicators for gold: iron rich soil and ore, quartz outcroppings and springs, not to mention an actual fault. Nothing so far though.  I even tried divining – still nothing.

We panned all summer near Snoqualmie Pass and around North Bend Washington 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 and rocks. They were the only thing left in the bottom of the pan with “the heavies”, as prospectors say. We took them into a local jeweler who confirmed they were garnets. The jeweler said most creeks and rivers around these parts contain them.

My husband isn’t as interested in prospecting as myself but he always takes me places to hunt. He contents himself with exploring the area while I prospect. He found a wolf skull just last week.

I’ve yet to find any gold but my day will come. I’ve heard that when you see it you know it and that you will never mistake a piece of mica or fool’s gold for the real thing again.