Where in the USA is the CoCo Locomoto? travel blog

Cracker Creek

Panning in the creek


CoCo taking it all in

Mike wading the creek

Digging up the pot of gold?

Well that was certainly true back in the 1890's when there was over 300 mines in Baker County. We were told that some of the richest deposits came from Cracker Creek on the west edge of the old mining town of Sumpter (now pretty much a ghost town except for four day flea markets on Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day weekends). Gold pan, shovel and bucket in hand on our day off we decided what fun it would be to try our hand at, for the first time, panning for gold. Driving along Cracker Creek on rough and dusty gravel roads, we headed up on Forest Service land to try find a spot that didn't have a claim staked. Once we found a likely spot we pulled out our gear and headed for the creek. And what did our eyes see...little gold flakes shimmering in the water all over in the sand and we thought "well this is going to be easy." Not so much! All the gold flecks we were seeing sure didn't stay in the pan like we had learned. WHAT were we doing wrong, we asked each other? CoCo was no help either, just laying in her stroller watching us get wet and I'm sure thinking we were a couple of nuts! We swirled and swirled but nothing stayed in the bottom of the pan. We had learned to dig in certain places where gold would settle down in the sand so Mike rolled up his pant legs and to the middle of the creek he went to what we thought was a likely spot. He would dig up shovel fulls of sand and wade back across the creek to dump them in the bucket where I would swirl and swirl the sand to remove everything from the pan but the gold. Gold is heavy and sinks to the bottom of the rims on the specially designed pans but not ours. We started picking out the gold flakes as we saw them (most about the size of a match head) and carefully placing them into our little "gold" vial thinking we must be doing the swirling wrong. When I picked up one and it broke in two we knew we hadn't found gold at all but MICA! What a disappointment that was :-(. We had read that if it still shines when it's cloudy, it is the real deal but if not it is mica and well I'm sorry to say when our little vial was in the shade there was nothing shiny about it. Tired, with fingers and feet numb from the cold water, sore backs, shoulders and thumbs (they say your thumbs do most of the work when panning) we called it a day vowing that we would try again soon. On the way home the discussion turned to those 1200 or so miners in the 1890's who toiled for hours day after day in all kinds of weather hoping they would be one of the lucky ones. How addictive it can be when you think you have found that precious metal. If most of them had the same kind of luck we did, it's no wonder they became shop owners and started providing goods and services to those who had been bitten hard by the "gold fever" bug. Pan, bucket, shovel and sunscreen less than 30 bucks, the fun of trying...PRICELESS. Next week it's on to mining for something we understand is just about as priceless. The huckleberries are ripe so we're going to fight the bears and see if we can find them. We hear they are selling for $40.00 a gallon...another form of gold?????????? We report, you decide!

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