I am going to place myself as the object of a story narrated in the third person here because I do not like the word, “I” or “Me” all that much. Bear with me but do not worry so much about bare-ing with me because that isn’t going to happen. LOL.
It was Summertime in Northern California and The Imaginary Billionaire and his small family were living in or near Marysville/Yuba City, California.
“John” (As you might recall “John” is the name of The Imaginary Billionaire) was planning to spend a weekend in the mountains with some friends ….. roughing it in the demanding environment of Feather River Canyon. His wife was going to spend the weekend with her friend, Cheryl and so everything was working out well.
John often spent some of his spare hours away from work with a screened gold pan in his hand, standing and stooping over the shallows of The Yuba River. Up until the time of this story, the best he had ever done was to bring up some iron pyrite crystals (Fools ‘ Gold) and a few scattered little semi-precious stones of one variety or the other.
But this weekend, he and his friends, Danny, Jim, and Glen were going to drive up to Feather River Canyon, descend the wall of the canyon and spend a couple of days and nights camping smack dab on the small, clear, sandy river than ran through the canyon.
The guys had planned to do some swimming, some camping, some resting, relaxing and eating fresh fish and Louisiana-style “Hush Puppies” made by Glen who was originally from the bayous.
They drove to the edge of the canyon in some wild forsaken place, parked their car and began the tortuous descent to the canyon floor several hundred feet below the rim.
The way was taxing but not too dangerous because they chose to go down the wall of the canyon in a long slowly descending pattern and it was basically just a matter of stepping on a few rocks, jumping across a few rocks and it was all kind of like walking down a well-worn path — but it was a rather long journey — taking about an hour or more — and it was in the heat of the day. There were several rest stops and a lot of drinking water from canteens.
But they finally made it to the bottom of the canyon and John was so tired that he found a large smooth rock in the middle of the narrow, shallow little river that ran through the canyon and climbed up on it, laid down and went fast asleep for a couple of hours. He had never slept on a rock before but has slept on several since.
There was some exploring to do and the guys found an old abandoned mine shaft of some kind but they never entered into its dark interior because of the danger of snakes, pits, wells, drop-offs, toxic gases, and cave-ins. It was obvious that the shaft had been there a very long time and they decided among themselves that it must have dated back to the days of the great Gold Rush in California in the 1850s.
After the exploring was done for awhile, all the guys went into the shallow icy waters of the river and bathed. The water in the river was clear and pure and according to some Rangers they had talked to before departing on their adventure, the water came from a distant glacier up in some mountains a few hundred miles away, rushed over a pure sand bottom and refreshed itself every few yards. According to the Rangers, the river was drinkable without purification and so the guys lay down on their faces and drank to their hearts’ content. There were never any ill effects from drinking this water and as I recall, it was the most refreshing and most delicious water that I had ever consumed.
Since this adventure, I understand from speaking with people in the region where we were camping that the quality of the river water has been impaired since those days by various pollutants and that now it is necessary to process the water in treatment plants before it leaves the watershed and ends up in the taps and faucets of the residents in Oroville and other neighboring communities that depend on it for their drinking water.
I guess I got there just in time to enjoy it all in its pristine and unspoiled state.
The boys and I decided we were going to go prospecting for some gold in these here hills and we had brought along some prospecting pans with the wire mesh bottoms so that we could “Pan” for the precious metal.
So we spent a few hours digging in the soil, digging in the shallows of the river and rinsing our dirt and sand through the sieves that were the bottoms of the gold panning pans.
There were a few minute speckles here and there but no nuggets or anything like that.
Danny fixed us some fried fish and hush puppies for our evening meal and we are and sat around the campfire talking all kinds of stuff that young men talk about … girls … wives. .. the future … you know … Guy stuff!
Sleep was easy because the day had been hot and demanding.
The time finally came when one of the guys put on a snorkel and dove beneath the waters of a deeper pool in the river and dug underneath a large rock and came to the surface excitedly showing off the gold nugget he had found.
The nugget was about 3/4 of an inch in length and about a quarter of an inch in thickness and the boy who found it put it into a small plastic vial and put that into his backpack
All the panning we had done with the pans didn’t produce an ounce of gold but when we started diving in the river and digging under the huge boulders there, we all came away from the adventure with a few hundred dollars worth of the precious metal.
I have to admit that the precious stuff is rare as hens’ teeth because we worked the entire day and only came away with a few hundred dollars worth of gold for our efforts. The work was hard and taxing and I hated the idea of snorkeling under the water and digging around those big rocks. It was back breaking and the reward simply wasn’t worth it.
But the memories we took away from that few days of camping in the great California canyon were worth more than any gold that we could have ever found. The gold is gone today but the memories are as bright and wonderful as they ever were.