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A New Discovery In Idaho
 

“We need to get the Hell out of here!”

As with most, very primitive areas, knowing the weather conditions is extremely important.  Rain, snow, lightning and wind can be very dangerous in these wide open spaces. Unlike my other claims, near or at Graveyard point, which are fairly close to populated areas, Whiskey Creek is not. At my other claims, getting stuck in the mud, having to go to the store, taking a shower or having an emergency, you can feel pretty confident that help is near or available. Whiskey Creek, on the other hand, is not close or near to anything. I have to be self-sustaining for the entire two weeks of mining. The nearest store is 25 miles away, with rough dirt road, and then another 15 miles on the highway. The nearest ranch is 10 miles, the way the crow flies, and only manned during cattle grazing seasons. So, trying not to get into troubling situations is a constant thing that nags on my mind. As I said before, mining here is completely different than what I’m used to.  In fact, now that I’m finished at Whiskey Creek with all the trials and tribulations I had to go through; digging at Graveyard Point is more of a nice vacation.

We have only four days of digging left, so we concentrate on getting out, as much as we can. By-passing the harder rock and leaving it for some future time, we go for the “easier” stuff to dig out. Scott’s Hole is fairly productive, so we concentrate our efforts there. Clouds start to roll in, relieving us from the sun’s heat bearing down on us all day and the reflective glare from the light colored rhyolite. Sometimes, I can get phone service at this location.  I decide to check the weather radar for our area. I see a storm front is moving into our area and I try to get more details of it, but then I see my phone says, “No Service.” I’m sitting in the excavator, as Gene and Brian dig in the pit. I look up and see dark clouds in the sky. I yell down, “Hey, we might get some rain coming our way. Think we should head out?” Both Brian and Gene stand up and look up at the sky. Brian says, “Looks like it might go around us. Let’s keep digging.” We all decide to continue digging.  You really can’t see the horizon from the spot we are digging at. You can only see the tops of the hills, which make it difficult to see what might be approaching.  We continue to dig. After about 30 minutes, a loud thunder clap reverberates in the air.  Then, it starts to rain. A curtain of rain quickly envelops us!  We run for cover. It becomes too late now to take the excavator out the same path as we came in on. The only way out and back to camp is our ATVs.  After about 15 minutes, I yell down to them, “We need to get the hell out of here!” We are going to get soaked on the way out, but it’s gotten to the point, that it really doesn’t matter anymore. It’s pouring! We quickly get on the ATVs. I’m taking Gene with me and Brian is “leading” the way. By now, it’s hard to see where we are or any other land marks. The rain has washed way the old ATV tracks that lead us the way out. The Excavator track out is too muddy and steep, in places, for travel.  We decide (Brian decides), to go cross country and take off looking for a way out. I had no choice but to follow. He was too far ahead to hear me say, “HO!” The down pour deluge was upon us, and only getting worse. Our ATV was having a hard time maintaining traction, so I opted to go over the large sagebrush, hoping for a little more traction.  Of what I could see, Brian was ahead of us, going down a steep hill. When I stopped at the crest of the hill and looked down, I could see him 100 yards away at the edge of a great torrent of gushing water. The small, sandy, cute, little stream that had separated us from camp was now an angry river that we needed to cross. However, it was still impossible to see exactly where we were in relation to our camp. There was no way Brian could get back up to us with his ATV, I can see that he knows that too. I turn on my headlights and he sees me, abandons his ATV and begins to walk, slipping and sliding all the way up to us. Brian is soaking wet and his boots are caked in mud. He says, “Good thing you turned on your lights. I couldn’t see anything. My glasses are all wet and I couldn’t see a damn thing through them!” My Boy Scout training kicks in and I say in a loud voice, “I need to get to higher ground to see where we are. I will drive up to the top of this hill and see where we are. Gene, you stay here with Brian. It will be a little easier for me to drive, without you on the back.” Being so heavy from the rain, we had to pull Gene off with great effort.  I leave both of them there in the pouring rain. Looking back at them as I go up, they look like two, sad wet, rag dolls standing in a curtain of rain, arms down and dripping water from their  fingertips. It was a lot easier without a rider on the back of the ATV though and it took me no time to get to the top. Damn! The camp is very close, but the river was too high and fast to traverse at the normal crossing point. I could see the only way was for us to go up stream or “river” from where we were, as the stream seemed to become narrower the further up it went. Normally, it wouldn’t be too much of an issue for us, but the rain and accumulating water was becoming an ever increasing problem. I rode back down and told them what I was able to see. They agreed to the option. By this time, our ATVs will get stuck if we try to ride them out. We decide to leave them. We walk downhill towards the river’s edge, and then up the stream trying to find a narrow crossing. After about a quarter mile, we find a good spot to cross. Brian and I stand in the rushing water, him in the middle and I am near the water’s edge.  I can see Gene is a little apprehensive, standing there at the water’s edge and thinking about having to cross it.  I grab him quickly and pull him into the water, all the time holding onto him firmly and quickly handing him over to Brian. Brian grabs hold of him and sets him on the opposite bank. Then, Brian pulls me across the stream. Then lastly, I pull him across.  Safely on the other side of the stream, we slop through the mud over to camp about 200 yards away.

It rained most of that night and the following day. Of course, it was wet and muddy everywhere, but the sun was shining! That day was wasted, but there was nothing we could do about it. I stress thinking about all the implications and what may have happened.  There was no way anyone could have come to rescue us, if that were needed. When it rains like that out here, no one gets in and no one gets out, until the ground dries out. So, we wait. The next day is a little better and the ground is nice and firm. I made the decision to stop our digging and we start reclaiming the disturbed areas and closing up the pits.  I make the ˝ mile walk to my ATV and drive it over to the pit. I test the road for firmness, as I drive.  The path out seems to be drying out quickly due to the wind picking up and shouldn’t stick to the excavator tracks on the way out. I pick up Gene and head to the pit, as Brian begins his walk back to his ATV and to drive back to the pit. We close up the pits. Most of the water in our camp has dried up and we start preparing to break camp. We begin our long walk of the Excavator out of camp.

There were so many other things that happened during this dig that made it such an incredible and a very important learning experience for me.  I have many more humorous and exciting stories to tell from this adventure, but those I will leave for a future night campfire among friends.

I’m very grateful for Gene and Brian’s help in making this a successful dig. I am thankful for Gene’s vast experience, knowledge and advice and Brian for his way of keeping me centered and committed, along with his badger-like digging that never ceases to impress me.  Finally, I thank Scott, whose trust in me to awaken his dream of bringing Whiskey Creek to the world.

Cheers!
Philip-

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