This past summer, after spending the better part of the past two decades scouring the hills to find it, my longtime trail-building buddy—I will refer to him henceforth as “Gramps”—managed to locate, file notice for and eventually acquire legal title to a legendary, 115-year-old gold-mining claim at the 4,200 foot level in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.
Audacious as this was, I can’t pretend I wasn’t surprised. If any of my dirtbag friends was going to do it, it was a historically astute, anachronistically inclined throwback like Gramps.
Not only had his grandfather been a hard rock miner, his great-grandfather had also been a hard rock miner and—with the current price of gold hovering right around $1,600 per ounce—it was time for him to become a hard rock miner too.
“What’s the difference between hard rock mining and all the other types of mining?” I asked the fledgling industrialist over the phone.
“Well,” Gramps said, “if you agree to help me and my partners prove up on our claim this weekend, you’ll find out firsthand.”
And so, during one of the hottest, muggiest, most black-fly-infested weekends of the year, that is precisely what I ended up doing.
“Remember,” Gramps told me as we bashed our way up through a seemingly endless front-country maze of ruinously rutted-out ORV trails, “this is not a large-scale, corporate-sponsored, open-pit operation. It’s strictly a small-scale, independent reclamation project. We’re not blasting any new tunnels up here.”
“Then what, pray tell, will you be doing?” I inquired as we veered off deep into a remote, long-forgotten valley full of pristine, old-growth timber.
“All we’re going to do,” Gramps said, “is scoop an existing 110-year-old ore pile off the mountainside and haul it out of the watershed for processing at a faraway location. But in order to access the ore pile, we need to re-blaze the old pack trail leading up to it first.”
Although both the scenery and the overall atmosphere improved dramatically from there, the sheer number of hellacious-to-completely-over-the-top obstacles we encountered hardly made the going easier.
“Jam your pry bar under there!” Gramps growled at me, pointing out a desired fulcrum point as he attempted to heave the bar of his badly stuck chainsaw out from beneath the seventh consecutive gigantic, wind-fallen log over the trail.
“Throw me the rope!” one of Gramps’ business partners soon commanded, furiously swatting the black flies away as he set up to anchor a hand line across yet another perilous stream crossing.
“Give me a hand!” another one of Gramps’ business partners demanded, pushing strenuously back-first against a talus boulder of stupendous weight and punitively massive proportions.
On and on we went, slowly but steadfastly trail-clearing our way toward their precious, long-coveted glory hole from one sweaty, crisis-inducing “improvement” to another.
By the time we finally reached the base of the cirque, I was ready for a bath. But, apparently, we still had 1,500 feet of elevation to gain.
“Don’t get too comfortable down here yet,” Gramps advised as I began repeatedly dunking my grimy, completely overheated head into the icy cold creek.
“That’s O.K.,” I said, resolving to stop right there and cut my losses. “You guys can keep proving up wherever you need to. But I’ve got far more important business matters to attend to down here.”
The European Soccer Pyramid is full of “hams.” In England, they have football clubs based in Fulham, West Ham, Tottenham, Oldham, Rotherham, Nottingham, Gillingham, and Birmingham.
Meanwhile, here in… more »
When I’m peddling my Trek cruiser to work—or to play—pretty much the only thought I give to what I’m wearing is to ensure my butt crack isn’t going to be… more »
For more than a few years now, I’ve been itching to haul my tree- and rock-hugging, landlubber hide to Blaine and slosh out to sea on the second-oldest foot ferry… more »
Last year, the amount of tomatoes I harvested from my backyard garden was unprecedented. While part of the credit for the bounty went to the weather—it was dry enough that… more »
Baking cakes and putting candles in them is always nice. And handing out presents is awesome. But, as far as I’m concerned, nothing says “Happy Birthday” quite like throwing a… more »
It’s been hardly a year since the last concrete remnants of the Elwha Dam were removed and already the rebirth of the rainforest river is underway.
While most people… more »