Sunday, October 19, 2008

California's Mother Lode

Most people think of The Mother Lode as quaint little towns along Highway 49. That just ain't so. This is what the Lode really looked like to the 49ers as they searched for gold back in the 1850s. And believe me, this is some tough motherfucking country - I know from experience. These 3 pictures were taken in Mariposa County, and I've prospected and mined in the locations shown.
In the top picture, I had some decent luck in the gulch covered by the trees, but it was so damned hard to get in there that I never bothered actually filing a claim. It took me a full day to pack uphill the 1000-1500 feet to get there. And by the time I was done a couple of days later I had 2 broken fingers, more scrapes and bruises that I could count, a burst blood vessel in my eye and I was covered in ticks.
The top of the hill in the middle picture supposedly had a couple of pockets of gold but I never found them. I did get a little flake gold from dry panning.
I had a claim down at the bottom of the gulch in the bottom picture but couldn't perform enough work to hold the claim as required by law. I lost the claim and when I decided to get serious about working it again somebody else had filed behind me.
Yeah, it's rough country. I couldn't imagine living and working it full time. At least I had a home to return to after I was wore out. The original miners didn't.

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