Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gold Rush of '97 Part 2

The vision that lured us into this predicament

"There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold..."
Robert W. Service, 
Cremation of Sam Mcgee

In last week’s post I started the true story of how a couple of my friends and I set about to stake a gold claim. As you will see, in spite of our incredible ineptitude and bad luck, we manage to make things worse.

Miner Problems Part 2

After Knucks was swept up in the excitement of becoming a mining baron, the tide of enthusiasm became an inescapable force. Before a sane voice could be raised in objection, plans were set to travel up a steep valley and stake a claim where B.B. assured us the El Dorado of the north lay in wait. B.B. had been to the trailhead just three days prior to ensnaring us into his scheme, and assured us the snowfalls of mid-October had been all but eliminated by the drizzle and mist that had followed.   

B.B. and Knucks were to pick me up early Saturday morning to allow plenty of time for hiking in and staking the claim. The crew would be a foursome, as Knucks’ son, Timmy, would go along. But at the appointed departure time, Knucks called me.

“We’re getting a late start,” Knucks said. “B.B. never connected with his buddy Micah Schist during the week to borrow the GPS and range finder. He’s driving to Kasilof right now to pick them up.”  

“Can’t we just use a compass?”

“We could, but Micah told B.B. the GPS would be more accurate in determining the positions. B.B. said he’d bring his compass, too.” 

Knucks, along with Timmy, picked me up an hour later. We drove to Soldotna, parked in the Fred Meyer parking lot, and waited. And waited. More than an hour later B.B. pulled up. Knucks was a little testy.

“What the hell took so long? You coulda built a GPS in the time it took you to drive to Kasilof and back.” 

“We had a little trouble finding it. Ended up tearing the whole place apart.”

“B.B., I’ve seen Micah’s place. It’s a camp trailer on jacks,” Knucks said sourly. “That couldn’t have taken more than fifteen minutes.” 

“Yeah, but we went over the place three times before we finally found it sitting on top of the TV. Looked just like a remote control. Good thing Micah remembered his TV doesn’t have a remote.”

The hour’s drive to the trailhead put us three hours behind schedule, and left us less than six hours of daylight to accomplish everything. We quickly put on our packs, grabbed the stakes and hammer, and headed down the trail at a brisk pace for the first fifty yards. Footing quickly became tricky. 

If the trail had been this good!
B.B. had been right: the snow was, for the most part, gone. There were only limited patches, scattered about the ice that coated the depression of the trail, turning it into a respectable luge run. The sides of the trail offered no better footing. The frost-heaved sides allowed a hiker to sink ankle deep wherever the ice was missing. To complicate matters, the trail climbed sharply at points. One side of the trail hugged the steep canyon wall, and the other offered a free fall to the creek bottom. Progress was necessarily slow. After an hour of gingerly picking our way down the trail, it narrowed considerably.

“I’ll bet we’re past where the end of the trail is indicated on the map. Just another mile at most,” B.B. commented as we started down a little incline in the trail. “Sure wish I had some ice cleats,”   

“I do,” Knucks replied, “and I’m going to put ‘em on as soon...”

As if to accentuate an immediate need, Knucks’ right foot shot out in front of him, while his left leg curled up under his falling bulk. He sat down hard on his twisted left foot and slid to the bottom of the incline, where he rolled over on his side and curled into a fetal position clutching his left knee. B.B. and I immediately scrambled over to him. 

“Oh, no. Knee?”

“Hargum forbin nurbung... no. Ankle.” 


“Unngg rumbin... nope. Just thought I’d stretch my buttocks a little... Arrgh.” 

“Let me take a look...”


“Okay... maybe we’ll just wait a minute for the exam...”

Knucks quit writhing after a few minutes and allowed us to gently remove his mukluk. The ankle was starting to swell and there was the faintest discoloration. 

“I don’t know, Knucks... could be broken.”

“Naw... it’s just a sprain. You hear anything pop?” 

“No. You feel anything pop?”

“I’m not sure... maybe. But it could’ve been a tendon. One thing’s for sure, I’m not going any farther up the trail.” 

We could have used some help.
A discussion ensued about the relative merits of not staking the claim, and instead, just concentrating on getting Knucks back to the truck. Knucks wasn’t buying into that plan.

“Look: it’s just a sprain. It’s feeling better already. I’ll put my ice cleats on, and head back to the truck with Timmy. We’ll be fine. If we run into trouble, I’ll call you on the cell.” 

It was obvious Knucks wasn’t going to have anything to do with a rescue until the claim had been staked. B.B. and I split most of Knucks’ load from his pack so Timmy could carry it, and headed down the trail to stake the claim.

“You know, we’ve never named the claim,” B.B. commented as we continued on. “Why don’t we name it after Knucks?” 

“You mean something like ‘Mahoneigh’s Dream’?”

“No... more like the ‘Broken Foot’ or the ‘Bummer Adventure’.” 

NEXT UP: No, really, I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t save me.

AUTHOR'S COMMENTS: In actual fact, we did borrow a GPS - and none of us knew how to use it. The guy we borrowed it from gave the following instructions: "Just turn it on. It'll take care of everything else. Just read the coordinates." Knucks truly was mid-sentence about putting on cleats when his leg shot out from underneath him. He fell as described, and slid down the trail an addition fifty feet, or so, before curling into a ball. "Timmy" was nine at the time this happened, so was not much help in carrying things - let alone his father's pack. Lack of space in the paper originally prevented mentioning a wind storm had set in and things were getting nasty. The weather deteriorated rapidly.

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