July 9, 2008

On the quest for gold nuggets - in the creek by the house

VALOIS, New York, USA - The Admiral and I took our annual walk up 'Breakneck Creek' Tuesday, a walk that turned out to be a little early in season. The slippery, moss-covered rocks proved, well, too slippery and moss-covered to get very far up the creek right behind the house, but we did find a swimming hole deep enough to take a dip.

It was close to 90 degrees at 4 p.m. and the humidity was probably 90 percent. It felt like 100 and 100.

The creek has great historical significance to the whole family. At one time the entire clan used to climb these same rocks and hike the same trails. At different points, the Admiral shows where her brothers would encourage her to climb up slippery waterfalls first. The stream bed looks pretty much like it did then.

Last summer we went up for a climb quite late, accompanied by Arnold the Wonder Dog, but the mossy rocks were a menace then, too. If we ever get four five days of no rain, we'll make another attempt to get to the really big swimming hole, about a mile up the ravine where we spent a couple of hours in the sun two years ago.

Waterfall near the house

Normally we are the only people hiking in the creek bed, so we were surprised when we stumbled upon a gold prospector - yup, a real prospector out digging in the crevices of the creek bed, pulling up clay and mud that had tiny flecks of gold in it.

I do mean tiny flecks of gold. But he showed us that he had actually pulled out a few nuggets (mostly last summer) and Tuesday he had found a handful of tiny flecks in the crevice where we found him industriously digging.

He retired after 32 years at the U.S. Army Depot north of Valois and said he decided that being outdoors - and searching for gold - was a pretty nice hobby and reward.

Apparently there are a number of hobbyists out searching for gold in all the creeks, where they find not only tiny flecks of gold, but also some gemstones (like garnet), a lot of lead shot (from hunters) and enough arrowheads and fossils to fill a museum.

I think I might add spending some time panning for gold to the 'bucket list' I've been putting together, ever since seeking the film by the same name with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

Catching lake trout off the end of our dock hasn't been much of a success so far.

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