A lot of holes in the desert - April 2012
"Mitch" Greg greets me as he answers his phone
"Greg" I exclaimed.
"Where you off to now?"
"Arizona. The Harquahala mountains. Going to have a look for gold in the desert" I answered
Greg chuckled "A lot of holes in the desert Mitch."
I laughed at Gregs reference to Casino. "I saw that movie too Greg"
"The Harquahala mountains is the area of the Lost Squaw Mine." Greg said.
'What the hell am I doing' I thought to myself while in flight to Phoenix.
'I am going into a foreign country to meet a foreigner. Travel into the desert of snakes, scorpions and tarantulas with a traveling militia of Texans and...I didn't get health insurance?'
I sighed accepting whatever fate would befall me the next four days and did my best to enjoy the sight of Mt Rainier from above the clouds.
I had never seen the USA from the air and here I was seeing the entire country from Vancouver to Phoenix...Fascinating!
A stranger wandered over and asked if anyone was going on the Grand Canyon tour. Everyone said no but I ventured that I was in need of a guide familiar with the Harquahala mountains. He gave me a phone number of who he considered the best.
I gave Kerrick James a call. As fortune would have it he was available the next day. He also had a degree in geology. He suggested I check out the world of maps store.
Here I was able to get some Topo maps of the range. I splurged and bought a lost mine map of Arizona. I was amazed at how many stories of lost fortunes were in this state.
Next we went to Cabela's for snake boots and then the boot barn where I finally bought a hat that I could wear in any weather even back home.
We got underway in the late morning. Kerrick brought along some books for me to have a look at.
Within those pages was another lost mine called the Lost Belle Mckeever. What gave me pause was the last name Woolsey was also mentioned in this book.
"Interesting" I replied with a curious tone.
"The Lost Squaw Mine is about a native women who refused to disclose where she found some gold rich ore to the Mexicans. They beat her but she managed to slip away in the night."
"If she told them, they probably would have killed her" I said
Greg continued "They probably would have. Later these Mexicans and other Indians told Ed Schiefflin about their encounter. Ed came across more info that led him to this mountain range. He searched for the mine several times unsuccessfully."
The Hyatt hotel was to be my home for next 4 days. I checked in and the receptionist offered to have some ice delivered to my room.
I smiled thinking how snow would be foreign to them and said "I just got out of an ice age"
This time she smiled "How about a bottle of wine to go with it?" she asked
"Perfect" I replied.
The next morning I enjoyed my coffee sitting at the hotel patio. The sun was shining and there was a dry heat.
The gold in this area is referenced as the size of Blackberries.
"Harquahala means water up there" Kerrick said.
He went on "There was no glaciation in this area. The erosion of the rocks is from wind, sand and flash floods."
The rocks of the creek appeared almost bleached white.
All these geological forces was a lot to take in. In some ways completely the opposite of what I was used to. However, the principals of placer deposits still applied...Start with the history.
We found several tunnels and a shaft from the 1930's or so. The shaft was two seconds deep or about 40 feet. After a thorough visit of the historical workings we moved onto the creek itself.
The layers of sediment in the sidewall of the creek yielded clues on the water flow over the ages. A magnet was used to reveal high concentrations of iron in the gravel bed.
For all the hard rock mines, there was very little evidence of old placer workings. The scarcity of water would make any placer operations challenging. However, It could be done and it could be worth it...
Leighton Woolsey (AKA) Mitch Mortensen