Ghost Creek excerpt from CHAPTER 8 – SACRED LANDS, JUNE (?), 1892 – pages 85-86

Garret’s soul mate the miner finds gold in the Blue River, and now sets his sights on the surrounding hills.

Prospecting his claim was a slow, painstaking process. John Parker found a few flakes and some gold dust in the river, but little else that could be called significant. On land, nothing begged his undivided attention either. However, a few areas, namely Big Bear and Little Bear Mountains, the two knolls he named in honor of the sow and cub black bear he had seen the week or so before, did warrant further observation. These places he would investigate after panning the river one last time. Parker had a hunch that he would find something of value in the river if he only tried hard enough.

Laden with the collecting pan he had purchased from his good friend C.J. McKay, and some burlap bags, Parker walked a little ways downstream to where the river made a slight jog before straightening once again. The discontinuity in stream course caused the current to slow considerably, permitting the water to drop its load in the form of a grass-covered gravel bar. It was here that John Parker decided to pan for gold.

Parker waded into the water on the downstream side of the gravel bar. He hacked into the saturated, matted mass of roots with his hatchet and placed a generous heap of grass, roots, gravel, and muck into his gold pan. He kneaded the mass to loosen the strangulating grip the vegetation had on the rocks and sediment, then began the washing process. Parker’s pulse quickened as he swirled the mixture gently beneath the modest current of the river. Slowly but surely the mass was rendered to a mud slurry. When the water started to clear after the majority of the fines had been washed away, he looked into the pan with earnest. As with his earlier forays in the river, Parker was disappointed. His efforts yielded just pieces of granite and more mica flakes than he could stand. He repeated the process several more times. Each time he was rewarded with the same result: nothing. Disgruntled, Parker picked up his wares and rounded the bend of the bar. There he paused to stretch his tightening back and check on his dog. Satisfied to find Britt chasing a pair of pack rats among the shoreline rocks, he resumed his business, albeit with less enthusiasm than before.

Still he found nothing after what seemed like hours of agony and futility. With a huff, Parker dipped his pan one last time into the sediment and began to swirl. Several long seconds passed, and again nothing. Then his eye caught the glimpse of something that looked promising. Parker plunged a large hand into the broad dish and pulled out a heavy, hickory-nut-sized pebble. From what he could see, the pebble was metallic. Closer scrutiny confirmed that it was indeed metallic, dented, and covered with algae. Feverishly, he scraped the surface with his thumbnail. The stone’s brilliant golden hue soon sparkled through like the star of Bethlehem.

Gold! He had finally found it. It was there all along, just like C.J. said it would be. Parker let out a raucous belly laugh that reverberated off of the mountains. He kissed the large nugget and placed it in his pocket for safe- keeping. Parker then splashed about in the river in celebration of his glorious accomplishment. Britt saw his master’s excitement and hurried to Parker’s side to join in the festivities.

His greed somewhat satiated by the gold nugget and the five others he found just like it that morning, Parker next turned his attention to the two hills looming behind him. He reasoned that since he had already found a significant amount of gold in the river, there must be plenty more where this came from. It was all his for the taking.

Parker scoured Big Bear Mountain for about an hour. The brownness of the rocks intrigued him, but he was neither knowledgeable in geology nor particularly competent in prospecting. Accordingly, their color prompted little more than idle curiosity. Looking up toward Little Bear he noticed that the rocks there, too, had a reddish-brown hue to them. A quick surveillance of several nearby hills and distant peaks failed to show the same earthy tone. These highland areas were colored the characteristic gray or pinkish-gray of the Rockies. The rocks of Big Bear and Little Bear Mountain were just somehow different. Parker shrugged and continued on toward Little Bear.


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