BLAZING SADDLES, PART DUEX
This story is not fiction, but fact. But then again, a lot of the memories have gone south. I searched and searched and finally found a map of Calaveras and the Tuolumne Counties and it's marked in highlighter of where we went. Let's drift back a little bit in the time machine. After joining the Treasurenet Forum, I befriended a really nice person, let's call him Jim. He was a great guy but after many years we drifted apart, not for want to but these things just happen.
My story begins with our first email responses. He decided to drive down from Bakersfield and hook up to do some basic detecting in some of the old parks in Los Angeles, he had lots to offer. We were looking for old groves of date palms which would establish a date. After hooking up with him, we ventured into Downtown L.A. where we found a school that the yard had been totally torn up and demolished. We decided to inspect it but at that time, things were a little bit crucial about unknown persons on school property, but we detected anyway until the school principle came out and asked us what we were doing. After explaining to her, she allowed us to detect until the school was allowed out and that was fine with us. We didn't find anything bar a few wheat pennies, wire and undistinguishable objects.
Now this is where things get fuzzy, I don't know if we continued on or hooked up for another day. But we headed to the LA Coliseum, it was currently being renovated, a perfect opportunity. We pulled up totally prepared... we had hard hats, we had vests illuminated with every color under the sun, we totally looked official. We walked on site without any problems. Then all of a sudden, we had a visitor, he was a nice guy but very alert. He asked what we were doing and we truthfully told him that we were detecting. He responded that you don't have permission to be here and that we must leave because it was a dangerous environment with all the construction going on. I conceded and apologized and I asked him what alerted him to us. He said you would have gotten away with it, but your buddy here was wearing sneakers on a construction site, not the proper footwear. Boy, did he cop an earful from me after that one.
Well, we don't let these little issues come between us and we decide to venture out. This time, I was coming to him. We must have planned a month and half for this big occasion. My concern was to keep us with full bellies and happy, his concern was to get us in there and get us back. So we decided to meet up at his place, Bakersfield, I would leave my truck at his house and we would take his. He had one of those old square looking Jeep, maybe Jeep Cherokee? But it was a fine vehicle and you'd see he had taken care of it.
Meanwhile prior to me leaving El Segundo, the night before I prepared a menu, I wish it had've been simple but I suppose I was just trying to impress him as well as banquet like a king in the boondocks. Arriving at his place in the wee hours of the morning, we proceeded to shift stuff from my truck to his truck, a really stiff coffee, a double check and a big kiss to his other half, we proceeded on. We were heading north into the unknown, I know for me it was and I'm pretty sure it was for Jim as well.
So we're heading into Gold Country, we pass Lake Don Pedro and head along Hwy 132 to Coulterville. We decided after Coulterville to drift on some back roads down to Virginia and then we returned back to Coulterville. Now we started to branch out, we're headed down Dogtown Road out to Kinsley and then to Deer Flats. Now keep in mind, my memory is a little vague and I'm trying to recall the areas. They could be upside down, back to front, in between, but you get my drift. Now prior to arriving there had been some heavy rains, so the tracks weren't the greatest. In fact one of the areas we went through, 2 wheels were on the side of the mountain and 2 wheels were on the side of the track. I suppose they don't allow a Jeep on a donkey trail.
Anyway, we made it to a bridge that had some I-beams welded across it, apparently somebody had got a little pissed off with intruders and dynamited the bridge. About mid way there was a big chunk of concrete taken out of the side of the bridge, it looked like pac-man had been there. So there was no way of getting through, so we decided to camp, set up tents and I started cooking up a storm. We had 2 tents because Jim had already warned me about his snoring which was really nice of him, I'm a really light sleeper. While cooking dinner, some local Hispanics wandered down the track with lots of 5 gallon white buckets. I gathered this was a family affair, mum and dad stayed up top and the son ventured down to the river which was no easy feat. At a guesstimate, 30 - 50 feet at a really severe angle. They had a rope tied to the buckets, they were tossed down to him, he would fill them up with whatever he could dig up between rocks. Once the bucket was half filled, they would haul it up. This continued on until the sun was about to set and we all know when that sun goes down, when you're in the boondocks, it's instant black out!
Just before they were about to leave, I tried to communicate but my Spanish is not very good. Jim's was pretty good and apparently this was a regular thing for them and actually managed to feed their family with what they brought up. So we continued to eat like kings and I said to Jim, "I'm a little worried, there's a lot of signs around here that have been hammered with bullets. I think I'll sleep with one eye open tonight." And he turned around and said, "Don't worry. I sleep with a .38 under my pillow." That was the first time I realized he actually carried a gun. At first I was a little complacent, a little fearful and a little pissed off he hadn't told me. But I let all that go because I realized that he came prepared and I actually felt safe.
We rose in the morning, damn it was bloody cold. It took us a while to get the blood flowing and set about moving on. We headed on Hwy 120 and toward Groveland, but you must remember that according to the map I have in front of me, we took a lot of off shoots and to tell you the truth, I didn't know where the hell I was until we hit a major town.
We continued to head off on broken tracks, this next one was a doosey. There was a track there at one time, but it was so over grown now that it would have been a problem getting an ATV through there, the skin would have been ripped off your shoulders. And we're taking an old jeep, the pride and joy of Jim. Damn, that sucker took a beating. It gives new meaning to pin striping. I really felt sorry for him. And our next obstacle was a bridge. Well, maybe you can call it a bridge, it was basically a lot of tree trunks laid across this ravine. I got out and walked underneath and immediately said No Way. But there was no turning back, so I walked ahead to the other side of the bridge and tried to guide Jim over it. And to be honest, I really didn't think he was going to make it. All sorts of vivid images were going through my mind. But he did get over it, he stopped got out and we both sat down. I don't know if it was from sheer exhaustion, stress or just the excitement of accomplishing something. But we both decided this road better lead out somewhere because we both agreed we weren't going back over that bridge.
So we continued on and what an adventure! Up and down hills; small tracks and large tracks; many, many mines, collapsed and not collapsed; lots of signs saying Keep Out; some signs indicating the name of the mine; some had dates that went back to the early period of gold mining in California.
But we made it through and thank God we didn't have to turn around. We made it to this really nice open area, it was surrounded by huge mountains and had a really nice stream running through it. As we drifted back from the stream, we noticed huge amounts of hand stacking by the old timers. So we proceeded to set up camp, it seemed like a nice area to stay the night. We were sort of stuck in a little valley, I think we only had 30* of sky to look at, but it seemed really content. After playing around for a while detecting up the stream, as well as a couple of small tributaries that flowed into that stream, we decided to call it a day and set up camp.
It was quite pleasant, the temperature had not dropped that much. We had a fire going and our tents erected. I had the gourmet meal for the night going and we were just chewing over the fat when suddenly out of nowhere a bicycle appeared with a rather strange entity aboard. He seemed homeless but full of spirit, he really didn't have many belongings but he was happy. He asked if he could share the fire and camp the night. We had no problems with that, but as you realize we were a little cautious; he definitely was a strange fellow. He ate and curled up by the camp fire and that was it. We continued on chewing the fat and gazing up at the sky because at that very time, Hale-Bopp was doing it's thing. And in that little canyon we were camped in, there was no light there was perfect viewing and the tail of Hale-Bopp stretched from one end of the canyon to the other. I'll never forget those images.
After chewing on a little bit more food, I brought out some spirits, not the spooky kind, but the drinkable kind. This was our first big party by the campfire and our last because we were heading home. It had been a great trip, lots of adventure, strange people, great food and a true friend to share it with. After a few stiff drinks, Jim decides to pull out a night vision scope. I never really tried one, so we started playing around with it, what a wonderful instrument, just don't shine anything bright when you're looking through it.
Well our visitor was definitely dreaming of the good times. I had a sinfull and I think Jim did too, our bellies were full, it had been a great day. So we decided to call it a night. As the first light of the next day finally climbed above the hills, I put on my warmies and decided to walk outside to have a pee and damn it was cold!! The first thing I noticed was our visitor had broke camp early, he and his bicycle were gone; we never saw him again. And to think about it, I don't think we even got his name; we just chatted like we knew each other. Anyway, I wandered over and fired up the propane stove, just a little one to get some water boiling for a much needed hot coffee.
I was standing at the back of my tent just taking in nature and all it's beauty... just me, what a trip. When I heard a noise up the hill not more than 50 feet away, I thought it was some quail or some birds playing around in the undergrowth and leaves. I kept watching to see who was making a disturbance when suddenly I stopped breathing. Crouched 50 feet away from me was a pussy cat, not your ordinary pussycat but this was a BIG pussycat. The first mountain lion I had ever seen. It was frozen, I was frozen. Time stood still, then all of a sudden out of nowhere comes the most blood curdling, horrific noise you have ever heard. I turned and ran straight into the back of the tent.
The pussycat was scurrying over the top of the hill. When everything had calmed down and I caught my breath, I laughed and laughed. My good friend Jim who was sleeping so well and had eaten so well the night before, let go the most horrendous fart you could ever imagine! To this day, I have never heard anything equivalent to it. He sent me running! He sent the mountain lion running!! When I woke him up and told him the story, the laughter continued on till we reached home. A memory that has stuck forever.
Copyright 2010, By Johnno C.