Saturday, December 25, 2010

In Search Of Geronimo And Christmas

Dateline: Christmas Eve Day 2010. We’d heard the story of the hideout of the legendary Geronimo. It was said to be down the wash and through the canyon just below the claim we have been working on here in Arrey, New Mexico.

For those of you not from here- it is pronounced “a RAY”, not “Air ee”, even though the town of Derry shares the same highway sign. One would think that “Derry Arrey” would sound like derriere and so…oh… never mind!

Anyway, supposedly you can ride an ATV down through the canyon until you come to the convergence of any number of gullies, washes, canyons, ravines, and gorges that were once the super hideaway for Geronimo. At one time in the not too distant past, so much water filled the hideaway “hole” that some enterprising prospectors dragged a dredge into the location and promptly were rewarded with 200 ounces of gold for their effort. That is the kind of story, however believable or unbelievable as the case may be, that has driven folks to prospect in the past and keeps them prospecting and exploring to this very day.

So we, along with Stonewall and Jules, Nancy and John set out in search of Geronimo‘s special place in the desert. The first part of the ride down the wash was easy and scenic. All too soon the sides of the wash gave rise to the sides of a canyon and the path that could be traveled narrowed considerably. Before long the floor of the canyon was too narrow to continue, but even if it had been wide enough, the steps and dry waterfalls that the floor turned into would not have been traversable by vehicle. Perhaps in a distant time when the canyon floor had not eroded so deep…......., Perhaps it was in fact the terrain that made the hideout so great.

At first we just gazed down through what we could see. Then the canyon called to us and we set out on foot so as to “see around the bend.” There were black sands sitting atop the rough hard-pack beneath our feet. The kind of sign a prospector might be looking for. We walked a bit further and the signs that gold may be just beneath our feet was too great to ignore. Back to the bikes for a bucket and a shovel and a whisk broom. The “half bucket” of sample I collected was so heavy it was difficult dragging it back to our base. Surely there would be gold in this river of black sand….

Following our sampling, Gene, Jules and I headed out again on foot to see where the trail might lead. Winding deeper and deeper, the sides of the canyon got steeper and steeper to a point we might not have been able to climb out in places. Narrower and narrower. More and more caves in the walls. Havalina (a small pig-like desert dweller) tracks were everywhere. Signs of a mountain lion had us looking up and over our shoulders as we proceeded. Well- Gene and I looked up; but Jules, ever the rock hound, mostly looked down. We had it all covered! At one point, Gene expressed that he felt there could be an Indian attack at any moment. It’s true- that feeling from another time does wash over you in a place like this. It is spiritual to say the least.

As time and energy slipped away, we turned and headed back. Had we found the hideaway? Would we know it if we had? Time and desert winds and flash floods can change the landscape here at will. There were no arrows, only animal bones and rocks. No deep hole full of gold, only that shallow river of black sand beneath our feet. Let’s head back to camp and see what we have found.

As the temperature began to drop and the sun set, we finished up panning out the sampling we had taken from the canyon. It was rich with particles of gold, even some wire gold- gold pieces that have been shaped by nature into what resembles small pieces of wire. There was no real evidence that we had found Geronimo’s old haunt…but we surely had the feeling we did.

The campfire Christmas Eve was toasty warm and comforting against the cold night air. The fellowship around the fire was as special as the crackling of the Mesquite flames. A “nip” from a clay jug helped to ward off the chill. Otherwise, a silent night. And so this is Christmas!

Christmas morning. The smells from around camp gave hint of what would be out at the pot luck hosted by camp owner Rick later in the day. Gone was the smoke from the campfire; replaced by the wafting scents of chili and enchiladas and tamales. This is gonna be GOOD!

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