In times past, my children used to scramble up the mountains with me.
Once, we walked along the top of a giant water pipe. It was covered with a wooden frame, and in places, we could climb inside the framework. That was so much fun!
Another time, one of my older sons climbed to the top of a different mountain to spend the night. He connected with the sky and the stars. Sort of a vision quest – without the peyote! 🙂
On his way down the mountain the next day, he came to the top of Waterfall Canyon. The descent was very steep and dangerous, so he threw his sleeping bag down first. He came down safely, but never found that sleeping bag!
Years later, this same son brought our first grandchild to the mouth of a nearby canyon to play in the river. He held her in his strong arms and skimmed the water with her, like she was flying. I will never forget that sight!
The end of that canyon has its own waterfall, hot springs, a small cave, and a very large cleft. I think that gorge was the result of an earthquake. It looks extremely dangerous, as if the one side will finish splitting off the main mountain, and tumble with a huge crash to the valley down below.
Back then, we would crawl up that gap as far as we could. In places, it was easier to scale like a real rock climber – back to one side, feet on the opposite wall. Some went higher than others. One or two reached the very top.
This last year, we have had very little winter, and summer has fallen upon us as rapidly as a stage curtain – whomp! Those mountains have not had much snow, and this is our fourth year of drought.
This morning when I woke up, I looked outside at all the blossoms on the trees. White. Pink. Yellow. “Oh, my heck,” I gasped. “It is only April First, and already we are hitting temperatures in the high 70s!”
I decided today was the day to go back to the mountains and climb that gouge one last time. I am almost 70, and I doubt very much I will have another chance. So, on April 1st, this old fool climbed the hill once last time.
Fortunately, I am very active, so I bounded up and down the pathway as if I were 20 years younger. The hot pots are still there. The hot water still spurts out of the mountain as the weight of massive stones push down so very hard. The water still stinks of sulphur, the way I remember. The algae still creates different colors in the tiny streams as they escape the pressure.
I reached the gash without trouble and started climbing. It was obvious there had been many rock slides in the years since my last visit. The way up had changed quite a bit.
A few yards up, the smaller stones gave way to the jagged slabs of great rocks. My mind zipped back to the times when the children climbed with me. They are all grown now, with lives of their own. The closest is over 1200 miles away.
I put my mind to what I was doing. Before I attempted the narrowest part of the climb, I stopped to rest. Then, as I looked down, I noticed something glittering in the morning sunlight. I scooped up a handful of tiny rocks. But were they JUST rocks?
Before we had highways and hotels, these mountains were full of mine shafts. Different ores were dug out of mountains just like the one I was climbing. Could this be . . . . gold?
What if it is gold? Why hasn’t anyone made a claim before me? Had one of those rock slides uncovered a virgin vein? How do I stake a claim? Is this Federal land or State land?
And so my dear friends, I have just returned from the mountain. I am all sweaty and very excited. Those shiny flakes are in front of me as I type, but what do I do next?
Is it really gold, or maybe iron pyrite?
Iron pyrite – fool’s gold.