A recent comment by Bedrock Dreams reader and small-scale miner "Ol' Man" Jensen has set me to musing and thinking back to the good old days when I was working northern California's Ramshorn Creek and the North Yuba River, both excellent gold-getting spots. Times change I guess and what once was is no longer.
I Digress as Usual
In a series of posts a while back I tuned you in to a great placer gold recovery location, Ramshorn Creek. Just for shits and giggles you might also want to know that the section of the North Yuba just below Ramshorn Creek campground is also plentiful in placer gold, including small and medum-sized nuggets. We (me and my pards at the time) pulled a quarter ouncer dredging in that section of the river back in the 1980s and that nugget still remains the largest one I've ever come across in nearly four decades of small-scale prospecting and mining. As I mentioned in my "Letting the Cat Out of the Bag" series Ramshorn Creek contains many potential nugget finds, albeit smaller in size. But I digress as usual. As the "Ol' Man" points out in his comments, Ramshorn is a foregone conclusion in this day and age. I suspect the same is true for the section of the North Yuba it feeds into.
"Ol' Man" Jensen Tells the Tale
The last time I visited these two memorable small-scale mining locations was in 2010. Sadly, I found both claimed up although no one was working either the creek or the river. Go figure. As the "Ol' Man" points out, Ramshorn Creek is now overgrown with blackberry bushes and other flora. Those things existed also back in the day, but the creek was not overgrown to that extent nor was it claimed up when one of my old-timer mentors schooled me in just how to go about working it. Ramshorn Creek is still currently under claim according to the "Ol' Man" and apparently lying fallow, all the placer gold it carries resting beneath its gravels and boulders or still cemented into its benches. The "Ol' Man" also states that when he broke out some basic prospecting tools at Ramshorn Campground one of our esteemed U.S. Forest Service rangers cautioned him about harming Ma Nature in any way, shape, or form. Like a cop at an accident scene all I can say about this is that there's nothing to see here folks, so just move along.
(The sign says "Don't move the rocks. Moving the rocks will destroy the homes of many important fish, salamanders, and insects." Are YOU shitting me???)
Hypocrites and Sissies?
Well I have to be truthful here, brothers and sisters. What the "Ol' Man" had to say saddened me. Yes, I've seen this sort of eventuality coming for a long while now but once you're faced with the reality as it is, it's a hard pill to swallow for old timers like me and the "Ol' Man." The "Ol' Man" also pointed out that the same nearby communities (there aren't many and they remain very small in size, by the way) that used to make a living off the miners and dredgers working the North Yuba and its environs in the good old days now pluck the monetary feathers off the hordes of cyclists and mountain bikers who now flock to the area in the summers invariably clad in their skin-tight spandex outfits that in my mind look like rejects from some gay fashion designer's nightmare. These same yay-hoos (the cyclists, I mean) are the first ones to bitch about small-scale miners tearing up the terrain but let me ask you all a question? Have you ever seen what's done to Ma Nature when hundreds of mountain bikers race up and down the same trails over and over again or the damage they cause when they break new trails? Hypocrites and not a few sissies I suspect, especially when they're decked out in those silly suits and helmets. And yes, you're right. I don't care for Lance Armstrong wannabes, mountain bikers or otherwise. As a matter of fact, I could give a shit less for Lance as well. That's the long and short of it. If I piss a few of these pseudo he-men off then so be it. I'm a miner not a bicycle nut.
My Memories Sustain Me
I have many fond memories of my days along the North Yuba. Beautiful memories really. Hot, bright summer days in cold, cold water searching for pockets and paystreaks. Crevicing and sniping both above and below water. Lots of nice gold found including a good number of medium and small nuggets, and ounces of the littler stuff too. Camping out on a long and narrow gravel bar that actually had large trees growing on it. It had been there a long time you see. Getting up before the sun rose in cool, sometimes crisp air. Bringing the camp fire back to life and getting that first percolator of coffee on. Grabbing my rod and reel as the sun came up and casting into deep, clear pools where you could see the trout waiting anxiously for something good to float downstream toward them. Cleaning a small mess of them for breakfast and frying them up in a cast-iron skillet. Kicking back at the end of the day after the box clean up and swapping tall tales with nearby dredgers. Driving into Downieville once a week to re-supply and taking a hot shower and sitting down to a real meal at a local cafe. Real luxuries those things, especially when you're hitting it hard in a remote, steep-sided ravine. Staring unabashedly at any woman who came into view like they were alien creatures! God I wish I could go back to those days but the memories I have of them sustain me and always bring a smile to my face and a good feeling inside my heart.
Writings on the Wall
Now these times have passed and new times are upon us. Tougher times in all respects. The freedoms we all enjoyed back then have been taken away or stultified by bureaucratic nonsense and "progressive" green agendas. Where miners once sold their gold the locals cater to the white wine and quiche crowd who flock like sheep to an area they view as both beautiful and Tobacco Road quaint. Despite the fact that this new wave views the locals with the disdain of big city folk possessing lots of money, supposed superior intellect, and moral certainty on their side, the almighty dollar reigns supreme. The locals need to turn a buck to feed their families so you can't blame them for doing so really. It is what it is. What's even more disconcerting is the fact that many of the "true" locals have been replaced by city slickers who bring their big city airs and snobbery along with them so the term "local" is shaky at best. All of this said, it ain't my thing and I wouldn't give a plug nickel for this sort of change in an area I once found great satisfaction and joy in. No sir or madam. I'm done with that area, as beautiful and gold-laden as it is. I let my last mining claim lapse there back in 2012 because I could see the future for small-scale miners there was written in bold letters on the wall. That was four years ago and the writing on the wall looms larger than ever today.
It's difficult for me to say this, but the good old days are over. At least as far as the North Yuba is concerned. As much as it pains me, I'll never go there again because it will cause me anger and distress. But most importantly, it will break my heart to remember how things once were there and how they are now.
That's all I have to say on the subject.
(c) Jim Rocha 2016
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org