"From the tales of the Mad Prospector"
It's not like we even expected to find the old foundation with a solid rock floor we were told about after hearing so many stories that turned out to be dead ends, but there it was nestled into a small opening in the wall of solid rock like we were told. Now if this cabin site with the rock foundation was actually here could it be that the missing placer deposit was also in the area? Jessie and I set up camp near the old homesite and began going over the story again. There was an old timer name of George Charles used to work this area in the late 1800s and always showed up in town with a handful of nuggets to buy supplies. This always got the attention of the locals and many a man tried to follow George back to his digs and although everyone knew of the cabin the sly old fox was never seen coming or going to the area where the nuggets were found. Any watchers soon lost interest as it seemed the old codger never went anywhere except about the homesite doing the various chores a hermit must contend with.
George had befriended the Apache Indians in the area by saving a member of their tribe somehow and no one really knew the whole story, but friends with the Apache he was and they were rumored to have showed him a place where the heavy yellow pebbles littered the ground. He soon built a small cabin on the solid rock floor at the base of the high cliffs 22 miles West of town and lived a quiet secluded life. As time passed and more white men came into the area the Indians began to get more hostile and after a trapper raped and killed the Chief's daughter the Apache braves were out for blood...Still George was not bothered, but following him became much more dangerous for those trying to steel his secret.
For a couple years this went on and even with constant attempts to follow George he was was always able to elude pursuit to his secret placer. As many a lost mine story goes after one of his monthly trips to town one of the locals came upon several young Apache braves standing over the old man while another took his scalp and along with it the secret that George had so successfully kept from those trying to follow him these past couple years. There was no telling what happened to set them off and once they tired of being friendly it was just the way with the Apache. After the story was told in town a posse was quickly formed to track down the Indians to avenge the old mans death, but the Apache braves had left the area and were never found. There was no one to write to and nobody knew where George came from so he was burred near his cabin somewhere in an unmarked grave. Of course the folks in town were quick to look for the source of those nuggets exploring every wash in the area and they even dismantled the small cabin looking for a map or anything to give a clue, but again they failed and the placer remained lost.
So now it is the year 2004 and here Jessie and I stand at what appears to be the very spot of George's cabin and once again a search will be made for the lost placer that produced all those nuggets. The day was spent hunting nuggets and exploring all around the base of the mountains and into some of the draws to the point where it became just to rugged to hunt as this is some rugged rocky country with no trails into the cliffs that tower above you here. So the gold placer must be to the East into the pediment and that is where we searched first in the drainages and then on the slopes and small depressions looking for a pocket deposit. All day we hunted with Jessie picking up the only nugget about the size of an apple seed in a small drainage. Not quick to give up we would try again tomorrow and we still had dreams of locating this supposed lost placer.
Now it would seem that there must be a way old George could leave that cabin without being seen, or he left at night which is very unlikely in the desert with all the hazards of night travel without a light of any kind. So how was he able to get to and from his mine without attracting attention of an observer that could be in the hills at any given moment? We began looking around the cabin the next morning and noticed a small area near where the fireplace would have been and noticed a low area in the floor. Brushing and digging away the dirt we found a large flat rock tilted at an odd angle that had separated from the other rock of the supposed solid rock floor or was this floor never really a continuous slab, but made to look that way? It looked as though water had flowed between the slabs causing the rock to sink some over the last 100 plus years. Now it didn't take a genius to figure out that if water was flowing down there had to be an opening.
Jessie and I stopped what we were doing and just looked at each other and realizing that this rock was just big enough to let a man slip into a hole if removed we began to remove more soil to allow us to lift the rock. Could it be a stash of gold, our imagination, or perhaps something else all together. After some effort we were able to lift the slab to expose a hole in the floor forming a small tunnel or cave where water had once flowed for a very long time. It looked like a mine shaft except that it was only 6 feet deep then went straight tword the rock behind us. I entered in a flash and using a flashlight looked into the tunnel to see that it went about 10 feet and ended at what looked like solid rock. I crawled into the short tunnel and puzzled looked at the rock wall in front of me and noticed that it wasn't solid! There was a crack about 4 feet wide to the left that was blocked from view at the mouth of the tunnel and I could see light at the end. It was much a larger opening after getting past the entrance and what originally looked to be a solid wall was what actually was a large slab of the cliff that had slid into the opening to seal most of it under tons of solid rock but for a small space big enough for a man to slide through. Not sure about entering I went back to let Jessie in for a look.
When Jessie came back out his excitement was as obvious as mine, what was this secret passage and where does it go? At first we thought about a underground waterway that would be rather risky to explore, but we could see faint light. Well we had a pretty good idea we were onto something here and switching on out two way radios I went in leaving Jessie to keep an eye on things and me. Well it was no big deal and after crawling to the end of the opening I was out in a small valley on the other side with tall rocks all around and no apparent way out from what I could see. Not a big area I guess about 20 acres with towering cliffs for walls it looked as though after walking around a bit that there was no other way in or out except over the cliffs and where the river once was there was a huge side of a mountain that had slid down in some long ago tremor forever closing it off. As we talked on the radio Jessie looked around from outside and said "from out here there is no way to tell there is such a place in there" He then joined me inside. What a neat little place we had found here and the first thing to catch our eye was all the quartz and magnetite laying around on the ground then we saw a pile of rocks that caught our eye. It was what appeared to be a dry wash header pile! It was indeed and there were more and it looked as though someone was working the floor of this little box canyon long ago. We looked at each other and yelled "George"
All kinds of thoughts were spinning through our heads about how George found this spot and if this was indeed the placer that so many others had searched for in vain. After looking around a little we both went back and grabbed our detectors and rushed back to try our luck at finding a nugget. Jessie got the first and it was a 2 gram smooth nugget of solid gold and it was right in a tailing pile. I soon got one as well weighing in at about a quarter ounce and we hunted the rest of the day in that area digging bits of trash and hot rocks as well as a goodly number of nuggets each. Well time flies when you are slow hunting a new patch and as morning turned to late afternoon, food and rest was more on our minds then any more detecting. Figuring our stuff was safe we headed back through the ancient waterway taking only our batteries to charge for tomorrow's hunt. There was allot of happy nugget talk that evening around the fire and let me tell you we sure had dreams of what else may be laying in our hidden canyon and small valley? Was there gold covering the whole 20 or better acres? How has this little spot remained hidden from treasure hunters for so long anyway? You would think someone would have climbed up or flown over and came back to have a look. Perhaps someone else had been here, but were not gold hunting? There were lots of questions in my head that night as we went to sleep.
Morning couldn't come quickly enough and after a hasty breakfast and some strong coffee we were back in the little canyon and let me tell you watching the sun coming over the cliffs and lighting the valley floor was beautiful enough to stop us in our tracks for a moment to look around, but the thrill wore of quickly when we realized out detectors and backpacks, picks, and water bottles were all GONE! Now here we were, standing in a small hidden valley that we had explored the boundaries of to some extent and there was no one here and no other way in except to climb some mighty nasty mountains then down here then out again. Naturally the next step was to find out equipment and we began a cautious search remembering in the back of our minds that the stuff didn't just walk away. This was just downright creepy.... We surly would have heard anyone walking through our camp and going into the hole and coming back out with our stuff. Who the heck stole or Gear?
Well it is like I said "a small valley or canyon" and it didn't take us long to find our gear neatly stacked against what appeared to be a quartz ledge about 3 inches wide running along the rock face. The quartz was a dirty brown rust stained variety that always catches a prospectors eye, but we had missed it in our excitement while exploring the previous day. All this though was in second place to the main question, how did our gear get across the canyon and placed here? We looked at each other knowing it wasn't either of us and there came that creepy feeling again like when your skin all prickles and your neck hair stands up. Now neither one of us is spooked easy and are more apt to try to figure something out than run off so we just began to check out our stuff for damage or evidence as to how it arrived here when I stopped in my tracks. There lying on the ground at my feet was a watch fob that appeared to be gold with the chain still attached and burred in the dirt. Picking it up along with the chain came a gold pocket watch in what appeared to be excellent shape and inside the cover were the initials G.C.C, George C. Charles.
Now you think that would shake us up a bit and maybe it did and I really can't remember how I felt exactly, but me and old Jessie we just looked at each other and sat down quiet and pondering for a while. We didn't say much to each other about what we felt or what that watch meant or even how our gear came to move across the little valley by itself and just accepted it for what it was and as Jess said "stranger things have happened" I guess perhaps we were just to busy digging nuggets to worry about things because after finding the watch Jessie picked up a 3/4 ounce nugget laying on the top of the ground and we were in our gear and finding nuggets, several ounces by late afternoon and there was sure allot of area left to hunt. We still had one more day before having to get back to Phoenix, but already had plans to return the next weekend. The next day was similar to the previous in that we found a lot of nuggets, but our gear was right where we left it this time and we did stop to look closely at the quartz vein, but no gold was viable. Perhaps it was the source long ago for this hidden little placer deposit as it matches much of the quartz rubble that litters the valley floor and the bits of rock still attached to many of the nuggets.
The next trip was also uneventful with no moving objects and we spent time finding more nuggets and enjoying the solitude of the secret valley as we now call it. I still often look at the old German made watch and wonder of the man and the adventures that led him to this placer deposit. How amazing it must have been to see all those nuggets just laying on the ground and although George got much of the easy pickings there were several pounds of chunky coarse gold nuggets for Jessie and I to find with our detectors as well as a very nice gold watch. We looked for the unmarked grave, but never did find it. Said a short prayer for old George anyway and thanked him for the gold. He must have been one amazing man!
This continued for some weeks to come as we gridded the shallow soil in the valley and we took a goodly amount of gold out, but we never could figure out how our gear moved overnight to the spot that we picked up that watch. I know this story sound a bit far fetched and perhaps it is, then again.......
The Mad Prospector