A story I wrote in 2004 truth or fiction? “FROM THE DIARY OF THE MAD PROSPECTOR” This is a short tale that will begin a new series at my site, some will be true, some will be fiction, and some will have a few names changed to protect privacy and claims. I have spent some time while on trips sitting in camp and just writing and this story and the ones that follow are the results. So here is #1 and I hope you enjoy it!
Gurly Gulch Gold
It was finally cooling off in the deserts and I was sure getting the itch to get out there to go camping trip for a weekend, just the dog and I. Late October in Arizona is perfect for prospecting with cool nights and warm days of the kind that just make a feller happy to be alive. I had told the boss on Thursday that I would like Monday off and with his blessing I was now packing for a 3 day weekend metal detecting and enjoying some well deserved rest and relaxation. During the hot summer months I like to spend a lot of time reading and researching new areas to prospect when the cooler months come around and a little spot called Gurly Gulch was at the top of my list.
This is where I planned to spend a few days nugget shooting provided I could get into the area as planned. Many times when “going in blind” so to speak I have run into locked gates, washed out trails, no trespassing signs, and other obstructions so I try to have more than one route in planned just in case, but most times it’s one way or no way. I think about half of my leads and hard work end up meeting this fate and it’s back to the old drawing board so to speak. Gurly Gulch was a location I found mentioned in a small town newspaper article from 1901 and the story went something like this: An old fellow name of Trevor Gurly prospected the area and would come to town for supplies and was often loaned money by the local grocery to keep him in grub. Trevor would simply come in pick up what he needed and promise to pay as soon as he could and this went on for a year or so. Then one day Trevor came in with a big grin and a nice handful of nuggets to pay off his grocery bill and get supplies for his next trip and the nuggets were described as “goodly sized” by the writer of the article.
Trevor then filed a claim that he worked and lived on until his death in 1922. Now I followed up this story with some good ol’ research and could not find mention of Trevor Gurly or his claim. There were some placer claims in the area, but none in the general area of my search. All this time there was a nagging feeling that I had heard the name Gurly Gulch before, but I could not remember where. There was a general description of the area and how to get there from town, but it was pretty vague. I continued researching through my other channels looking for info to guide me to this old placer area with no luck. After exhausting all my resources I simply gave up and went on to the next location I was interested in and put Gurly Gulch and it’s nuggets on the back burner.
Then one afternoon in late August I was puttering around and came across an old treasure hunting book I had purchased at a thrift shop several years ago for about $4.00. The book is a very limited edition from 1933 and only has 69 pages, but the second story was from the same area that I had been researching looking for Trevor’s old claim and believe it or not Gurly Wash (not gulch) was mentioned in the story I was reading as a landmark of sorts for a lost treasure that was also reported to be in the same area. The best part of all this was that along with each story is a hand drawn map by the author and it showed the exact location I was looking for about a half of a mile from where the lost gold mine is possibly located. That was why I thought the name was familiar, I had read it in this book a while back and put it on the book shelf forgetting all about it.
Taking my newly found hand drawn map I went to my pile of topo maps and quickly located the trail and wash known as Gurly Gulch or Wash back in 1901. The wash is not now named on any map I looked at and that had made things difficult or even impossible without this hand drawn map. Arriving at the turn off from the highway at just about sunrise on Saturday morning I headed into the desert for an 11 mile drive into what I hoped would be Gurly Gulch with high hopes of being able to locate Trevor’s old placer workings. The drive in was somewhat rough with a few washed out spots, but a easy trip relatively speaking. I could see that the road got a fair amount of traffic, but that was to be expected with all the old mines in the area.
The drive in proved to be very interesting and I found myself stopping to look around and scan the hills with binoculars more than once. According to the topo map there were many mines in the area and this was very true with many small mining operations long closed dotting the rough mountain terrain. Man those old boys were tough judging by the location of some of those mines way up the side of a steep mountain with a trail going almost straight up. Taking a load up would be one thing, but coming down would be very dangerous. I was very close now to the wash listed as Gurly wash on the treasure map from the old book and was keeping an eye out for a trail or road exiting from the main one I was on and I found one going off to the South. I was exactly where I was supposed to be from what I could tell and matched the topo map also. So I continued on the trail until it came to a camp area near the wash and finding some level ground I parked my truck.
Now normally I would set up camp first off, but I was not sure yet if I was even where I wanted to be so I gave DJ a drink and we headed off hiking up the wash for a look see. Right away we found where someone had thrown their cans and bottles into a small dig hole and some of the broken bottles and tin cans with the lead solder were from the right time period with some newer stuff mixed in. Further up the wash I found a small tributary that had very old drywash header piles showing along the bank and that was enough to send me back to the truck to set up camp, any more exploring would be done with my detector in hand. Setting up is very quick for me and in no time DJ and I were feeling right at home and while he was content to just lie around all day I wanted to get after that wash with the old workings. Now I had no way of knowing if these were Trevor’s workings, but according to all the facts I had been able to put together I was darn close.
So with that in mind I got my gear together and went to work on that feeder wash up from camp. I began as I always do in a previously drywashed are by checking some of the header piles for missed nuggets and after about an hour without digging anything but trash from the piles I decided to work the small wash and its benches. About ten feet up the wash from where I started I got my first nugget, very small and well worn. Now with spirits high I slowed way down and began thoroughly detecting the little wash from side to side and up the banks. By late afternoon I had managed to snag several small shiny well worn bits from the wash itself and a couple from the bank, but none were over a penny weight. Nice gold to be sure, but not what I was here hoping to find as the source of Trevor’s gold was rumored to have produced bigger nuggets.
I decided to do a bit more looking around before supper this time taking my detector with me and I tried several little feeder washes and managed a couple more small nuggets for my efforts. This was sure getting to be fun and gold is gold no matter what the size! The sun was just beginning to go over the mountain when DJ. and I decided it was supper time and we walked the main wash back to camp. The main wash and the one I think is Gurly Gulch is about 15 feet across in it’s widest spots and narrows here and there with exposed patches of bedrock, just what a fellow with a detector likes to see. On the way back I was swinging some of the more obvious spots that would trap gold and kept pretty busy digging trash all the way to camp. Just before leaving the wash and calling it quits for the day I got a booming signal about 2 feet up the bank that stopped me in my tracks.
I began to get that butterfly feeling in my gut that I always feel when a target has that special sound that is somehow just a little different than that last booming trash target. Well I didn’t have to even dig because when I scraped away the topsoil, sticks, rocks, etc. with the side of my boot out pops a very nice slug of gold, smooth and shiny that would go at least a third of an ounce. What a way to end the first day in a new area and I was thinking I may have found exactly the spot I was hunting from my desk top during the hotter summer months. There is just no bigger thrill for me than to actually score after all the research and planning involved in finding such a spot. It was just starting to get dark with the sun setting somewhere behind the towering mountain to the West of camp that it had hidden behind a couple hours ago. This camp area had been well thought and placed close to the base of the mountain to supply afternoon shade in the heat of the summer, Trevor perhaps?
As I was sitting there looking at a canyon up the mountain a strange shadow emerged from the side of the mountain startling me and it took a minute for me to figure out what I was seeing in the fading light. It was bats! Thousands of them coming out of the side of the mountain from a cave or mine shaft, but I had seen no shaft on the face of that mountain with the binoculars. Perhaps I’d hike up there tomorrow and have a look around since the canyon below was part the wash I was camped next to. Well the rest of the trip was just what a nugget shooter dreams of with a good supply of new well worn smooth nuggets added to my poke and yet another spot on my list for future hunts. I didn’t find any more of the bigger nuggets, but did score several in the one to three penny weight range to go along with the smaller stuff that seemed to be fairly plentiful though a fellow had to work pretty hard to get them.
Funny thing though is that I hiked all over that rough slope where I thought I saw those bats come out and couldn’t find a cave or mine anywhere, but those bats came out each night I was there. Problem was they didn’t come out until the side of the mountain is just a dark shadow well after sunset and the bats show in the failing light filtering through the canyon making it almost impossible to see where they are coming from. Now I didn’t give the bats a whole lot of thought until on the way home I guess because treasure hunting and lost mines are not something I spend a lot of time doing, but what if those bats were exiting a mine that was hidden many years ago as the story goes.
I still have not found the time to get back to the area as it is quite a drive for me to get there from my home and well I have always had places closer to home to find nuggets, but something about those bats and that story keeps nagging at me. I think perhaps this Fall when it cools down a bit I will spend a few more days in Gurly Gulch.
Copyright 2004 William E Southern Jr