RETURN TO GURLY GULCH
Man, time can get away from a feller and you turn around to find years have passed before you get around to “getting right back” to a potential gold bearing spot and 9 years sure can change the look of the landscape. So I was driving about 3 miles back to the fork in the road where I took the wrong turn to get headed in the right direction. The area was slowly becoming more familiar as we drove, but allot had changed. The roads were very overgrown and somehow my memory was playing some tricks on me. Now back on track Joyce and I were only a few miles from Gurly Gulch.
As I said allot has changed and now DJ my 4 legged hunting partner is gone and I am with my new hunting partner Joyce who is human and one of the best things to ever happen to me. It was her idea that we get back out here to look for more nuggets as well as the source of the “bat cloud” from the mountain side. She was also aware of the legend I am about to tell you about and having been born and raised in Yuma this was a common tale and also sought after by her father. Strange two people can meet and find such an odd thing in common along with everything else and we figured it may be something more than chance so here we were deep in the Arizona desert chasing a rainbow and swarm of bats.
The story goes like this, and is what after locating Trevor’s placer claims and seeing the bats rang a bell in my head, plus realizing this was likely the same area my interest was aroused….
The Lost Vampire Bat Mine is a long, long, way from tropical Yucatan, where vampire bat makes its home. Places like Chichen Itza and Tizimin and eastward, at the Bahia Chetumal on the coast of Quintana Roo.The Lost Vampire is in the stark Baboquivari range of Arizona’s Pima County, west of the Altar Valley and marking the eastern boundryof the Papago Indian Reservation. To Anglo ears, the place-names–Gu Oidak, Ali Ak Chin and Chukut Kuk– are more Asiatic than Mexican or Indian.
The bats in this lost mine story were Mexican brown bats, that hid by day in abandoned adobe buildings, old churches, caves and old mine shafts. These little bats would rather eat bugs than suck blood.
Edward Nelson, cheif of the U.S. Biological Survey, wrote in the National Geographic Magizine of may, 1918, that ” at Tucson, I once saw them, a short time before dark, issuing from a small window in the gable of a church numbers that in the half-light they gave the appearance of smoke pouring out of the opening. At the town of Patzcuaro, near the southern end of the Mexican tableland, I saw two rooms of an old adobe house occupied by as many of them as could possibly hang from the rough ceiling. They are plentiful in caves and may be heard frequently by day shuffling uneasily about and squeaking shrilly at one another.”
The hills and deserts of the Lost Vampire story have a long hostory of mining. There is a tradition and a folklore of Spanish mines in the Cerro Colorado. There is an abandoned mine near Three Peaks in the Baboquivaris. In the hills around Arivaca – a scant dozen miles from the Baboquivari range – are a dozen mines: the Albatros, the San Luis, the Brouse, theLas Guijas, the Amando, the Liberty, the Charles, the Black Princess, the Cerro Colorado, the Ajax, the Colorado Clark and the Edwards.Mabye there is one more, a gold mine that was hidden from the white man by an old Papago Indian.
The old Indian had gold nuggets to trade at Aravica and at the Tucson fiesta long after the placer mines in the Altar Valley and the Aravica hills had played out in the late 1800s. The source of his nuggets was a mystery for years, but in an uncharacteristic episode of talking openly with a white man told the storekeeper at Aravica about it.
Years before, the Indian confided, he had wounded a deer and had pursued it into the foothills of the east slopes of the Baboquivaris. At sunset he sat down to rest, on a long ridge running northward to a high peak. Suddenly there was a great outpouring of bats, hundreds of them, from an opening in the mountainside. He looked, and found the small mouth of a cave that had been widened, he found upon entering, into a timbered mine. There were buckskin bags of gold nuggets and coarse gold, mine tools, a small shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe and several bars of gold.
The bats and the hovering spirits of the long dead Spaniards made the old Indian very uneasy. But as he fled, he stooped to pick up one buckskin bag. This he hid in an olla in his hut.
The Arivica storekeeper was confident he could find the mine. He knew which arroyo to follow and which peak to climb. Then all he had to do was wait for the bats to fly from the mine at sunset. He found a man to mind his store and, three days later prepared to ride out to for the bat cave gold. He had loaded his gear onto a pack mule and was saddling his horse when the old Indian approached “I was afraid,” the old Indian said, “After I told a white man of the gold. So I waited until all of the bats came back to the cave. I then closed the cave with dirt and rocks. The bats will die and they will no longer signal, at sunset, where the mine is. No white man will ever see it.”
So what if those bats did not die? What if those bats found another exit from the old mine, an air shaft perhaps the old Indian did not know about?
Well we were out there to have a look for that shaft or cave to tell us if we were indeed on the track of an actual lost stash of gold. Yeah I know what you are thinking, but we both sort of had this feeling and if we didn’t do this it would always haunt us. Sometimes you just need to drop everything and go for it and Joyce and I had already done it once when we met and fell in love and it is just right to this day so the hunt for this mine seemed the right thing to do.
Once we got to my old camp spot we set up and got busy cooking dinner since we got in after dark and missed the chance to see the bats exit for the night, but there were Brown Bats fluttering around our camp as one often sees at night in the desert chasing insects. It was a beautiful night and the moon would be full in a couple days making for a bright night in the desert. Sitting by the fire that night we talked about how we would go about looking for this lost stash of gold and actually decided to put it off and metal detect for nuggets the next day instead and wait to try to spot the bats in the evening as they emerged to feed for the night.
It was up with the sun for some oatmeal and coffee then back to the area I last hunted to see what I missed with my older detector. It didn’t take long before Joyce found a nugget and a nice one at that weighing in at near a quarter ounce. By noon we had found just over an ounce total and were living the dream. We returned to camp and got ready to wait out the bats and have a bite to eat quite worn out from a full days hunt.
Just as before right at dusk there they were coming out of the side of the mountain near a huge dead Ironwood tree. Looked like right from under that old tree from where we were sitting and we made plans to make the hike to that old tree in the morning. Piece of cake finding this spot since we could clearly see the bats exit near the tree and there would surely be a cave there. Would this indeed be the old Indians lost mine with the nuggets and bars of gold inside?
Morning could not come quick enough for us and we were off hiking at first light and reached the area we saw the bats come from within an hour of hard climbing. No cave, hole, void, nothing, but a huge old Ironwood tree rotted and partially hollowed out standing partially burried up the trunk by a rock slide that must have been the reason it died. Man some wood carver would love this pile of prime steel hard ironwood. We searched the area quite well then worked out around the old tree and found nothing! Discouraged and baffled we worked our way back to camp, rested and went back to detect for the afternoon.
Sitting in camp that evening right on time those damn bats came out by that old tree again in a cloud. How was this even possible? Then going over the area we had explored in my mind I began to wonder about the fact that this Ironwood tree was buried well past the trunk and was very old and had been dead for a very long time. Ironwood will last dang near forever in the desert not rotting or eaten by insects like other wood. Could it be that the bats were coming from the hollow trunk of that tree? Could it be that tree was in the opening to that shaft allowing the bats to enter and exit? We would check this tomorrow unlikely as it seems….
Turns out that is exactly the case and once we got back up to that spot and looked closer it was obvious that there was an opening into the ground one could look into through the hollow trunk of that old tree and we could see a timber in the void indicating a mile shaft. Well let me tell you it was allot of hard work to get enough material moved to safely enter that old mine and the shaft went down about 10 feet and cut into the mountain. We decided I would wait outside with a long rope tied to Joyce as her smaller frame allowed for easier entry into the old shaft.
In she went with a flashlight despite her fear of bats and all was quiet… For a little too long…. Joyce, I yelled then out she came shaking and grinning ear to ear holding a small Spanish style gold bar. There is more she said, allot more…. There indeed was.