Field Trip to Clear Creek Saturday, 13 April

Last Saturday we gathered at the FG Senior Center in anticipation of our first field trip of the year. The men told stories of past hunts and mother load finds while the newbies listened raptly and the old timers nodded. Yes… this was going to be a trip to the promised land of treasure hunting. A real adventure.

Our Field Trip Chairman, Brian True, passed around a sign in sheet and explained some of the rules. No digging in the creek bed, sign out before leaving and be out by 4 PM when the gate would be closed and locked again. There were other details, but those were the important ones. Then, at 8 AM sharp, we began our caravan to Clear Creek.

More members were waiting at the entrance when we arrived. The gate was opened, and we all drove in. At the first large clearing, we stopped and had another rules review and sign-in for everyone who wasn’t at the parking lot earlier. Brian did a great job and was clear and thorough about what to do, where to go and when to be out.  He really took charge of things, and with the help of his dad, Dave, the day went great. Poor Dave though… he was often called away from the dig sites to check on the gates. It seems they were being locked by loggers, who were still working in the area.  When they would leave, they would lock the gate behind themselves (like they always did). Dave spent a good portion of his day making sure no one was locked in.  Thanks, Dave. I followed the first few trucks over to the ‘top ridge’ area where we knew there were large Quartz Crystal beds from past digs. Not owning a truck, I was one of a handful of car drivers braving the dirt and gravel roads of this area. Several times we had to stop to move fallen trees from the roadway. On the final hill, the mud proved too much for my little car and I my tires just started spinning. I was stuck… only 600 feet from where I would have parked anyway. Oh well. So with 5 gallon bucket, shovel and probe in hand, I finished the climb on foot. At the top of the ridge, There was a vast clear-cut area below us. I picked my way through the underbrush and tangles of branches to an area of promise and began poking the ground with my probe. It didn’t take long.

As I plunged my probe into the ground… here, there, and there, it made various sounds as it hit hidden objects below. Wood and roots would make a soft dull thud, hard clay, sandstone and ‘leaverites’  (as in ‘leave ‘er right there) would make sharper thuds, and then there was the magical ‘tink’ sound of hitting agate and crystal. I soon heard my probe sing out ‘tink’, and about 1 inch down, started unearthing the quartz crystal rocks I had come to find. The brown dirt was so moist that it clung stubbornly to the rock, obscuring all detail. Other than the sound it made, the only way you could tell it was crystal was to scrape it and see it was white or clear under the dirt. No matter… it would get washed later. I began filling my bucket.  I didn’t move from the spot I was in… just continued to dig deeper, and kept pulling them out… some about the size of my palm, others two to 7 lbs in weight. It wasn’t long before other hunters joined me in this area. They also began finding crystal. Brian True worked a little area right next to me and filled more than one 5 gallon bucket.  I was happy with one 5 gallon bucket though… knowing I’d have to lug it back up the hillside and then down to the car… one 50+ pound bucket was quite enough for me, thank you. So when my bucket was full, I asked if there was anyone in the area who had not found a good dig site yet? One young man said yes, so I called him over and gave him my shovel. I told him ‘Dig right here, and you’ll have all you can carry’. Soon, he was making a pile of keepers on the ground next to his hole. Soon, his dad came over with a bucket for him to put them in.

A light sprinkle of rain began falling, but didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the group.  The hoodies came up and everyone got a little dirtier as the excited chatter of ‘got another one’ and the oohs and ahhhs of appreciative examinations continued. I took my bucket and began the laborious trek up the hill. The ground now moist but not quite muddy. It was soft and on steeper angles, you feet would sink into it a ways.  Add the stumps and tangled branches to that and it was sometimes a precarious balancing act to keep the bucket upright. I stopped frequently to plan the next dozen steps so as not to get boxed in by all the obstacles.

I soon realized that one trip was not going to be possible. I took about half the rock out of the bucket and made a pile on a stump. Then, with a considerably lighter bucket and one that wouldn’t spill it’s contents so easily, finished the trek to the top. As I got there, another club member who was loading his own truck, offered to help me get my load down to my car. “Great!” I said, and happily took him up on his offer. Once I got the rest of the rocks loaded, we drove down to my car. That sure was easier than carrying them by hand.  He told me his name but I can’t seem to recall it now. Anyways, a big ‘thank you’ to him.  I’ll get the names down eventually.

Getting my car back down the hill was simple enough… just let it coast backwards down the road till I found a turn-around area. Then it was mostly uneventful driving back. I occasionally bottomed-out in the ruts and would hear the god-awful noise of gravel against my undercarriage.

Note to self… catch a ride with someone driving a truck next time. This is definitely truck country.

On my way out, I decided to try for Carnelian along the creek bed. I had rubber boots with me so I could walk the shallows, but I soon learned the creek was flowing a little high. Too high to really allow the walk. Also, this area had been picked over by others earlier in the day so there was nothing to be found. I went back to the roadway and had my lunch.

While sitting there, eating a sandwich in my folding camp chair, other vehicles would occasionally come along and members would stop and show me things they found. I saw some large Carnelian and Crystal boulders…. 20 or 30 pounders… that looked pretty spectacular, and heard stories of other finds. That was a very pleasant half hour, and the rain had pretty much stopped by then.

Back at the main gate I found Dave True… diligently getting sign-out signatures and making sure the gate was open for people leaving. Dave and his son Brian did a really nice job putting this thing together, so be sure to let them know it was appreciated.

At our last regular meeting, Beverly Berkholtz had issued a strong warning that tics would be everywhere in this area and how dangerous they could be if you didn’t find them and remove them. Well… I tramped though a lot of brush, and to my surprise, I didn’t find any at all on me when I got home. If I didn’t get any, they sure as heck weren’t ‘everywhere’ like she said they would be.  I was happy about that. But Bev’s warning was effective at getting me to check thoroughly, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. So thanks, Bev.

I let the rocks soak overnight and then power-washed them the next day. I was pleased with what was under all the dirt. Some great crystals and interesting fortification patterns. I’ll bring the best pieces in for show and tell at the next meeting. See you all there.

–            Mitch Metcalf

If you were there, we’d love to hear about your own experiences. Write and share them below.


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