3PJs4Gold: Searching for Gold in San Antonio Creek
I started off by getting a map a from Valles Caldera National Preserve. This is a very nice ranger’s center with very friendly help. The drive was about an hour and 45 minutes from Santa Fe through the winding twisting mountain roads of Bandelier National Monument. Now Bandelier is famous for the lost hiker and I am very glad that Dal at lummifilm tells us that maybe we don’t need to search Bandelier, because Fenn told us, he hid the treasure in a northerly direction of Santa Fe. Bandelier is honey combed with holes looking like gigantic pieces of Swiss cheese. If I had to search all those holes, it would take forever. Now, someone could argue the same northerly direction rule for Valles Caldera, but if you take the northerly measurement from the Sante Fe airport, the northwestern edge of Valles Calera seems to be fine. Besides, the stone blaze appearance is so enticing, I just have to find it.
So on the road to the Ranger station of Valles Caldera, the Prairie Dogs are double dog daring each other to play chicken with my car. Why did the Prairie Dog cross the road? Ahh, I don’t think they have a clue. I brought this up because it reminded me of when my folks took us on summer vacations and drove all over the west. On one of our trips to four corners, the Prairie Dogs out numbers the trees and so many scampered over the road it looked like a river or rodents. Now I know why my dad didn’t swerve or screech the tires even though we yelled, ‘Dad, don’t hit the dogs’. We would have not gotten anywhere had we waited for a clear road.
So I get my maps and I am ready to roll, when my wife calls me and asks, “Where are you, the iPod shows, you’re in the middle of nowhere”. To ease her concern for my wellbeing, she has been tracking me on the Find iPhone app. I tell her where I am and explain that I am about to go off grid for the rest of the day. The last cell tower is on Rabbit Mountain.
I head back to Hwy 4 to find where Warm Waters Halt and as I am crossing the East Fork Jemez River, I spy a Coyote in the river meadow. Our eyes lock, but no concern, I’m in my SUV, I’m good. 20 minutes later I find Battleship
rock and pull into the entrance road of the YMCA. Battleship Rock is an over powering site which commands attention. This an area, I would love to come back to. I journey down to the rippling river to experience no place for the meek. It’s time for another break and to dress in the proper gear for a long day of searching.
So I am off to drive as far as I can, hopefully 16 miles up the creek without a paddle. I plan to use FR 144 and drive down a route I saw on Google maps. San Antonio Creek is on my right and meanders it’s way through a nice quaint town after shifting under the road to the left and passing back again as I start grinding the motor up a steep incline. I find FR 144 and head up the gravel road confident, that the SUV can handle anything thrown at it. I find out quickly that the Jemez Mountains can throw a whole lot of curves at you. I find snow, carved rock pathways, and confusing labyrinths, maybe this is no place for the meek, there sure are heavy loads everywhere. My mind wonders, but I find a extended patch a snow with a tricky turn, but I figure it’s worth the risk so I push on past. The miles are rising and there seems no end to the gravel. There are pullouts and trails everywhere.
As the miles rise, I approach a melting drift that extends out of sight. I get out of the car and try to gaze around the corner, but it might as well be the artic tundra, the slope is downward and after the war with the white cold yesterday, I am certain that I would not win this battle. I turn around on the narrow route and head back the way I came.
It’s been a while since I searched so I take a break and spy a rock formation. Is this the home of the Brown? Is the tree at the top, the blaze?
I see a man made tree curtain and investigate. This a very impressive area with lots of nooks and crannies for an elephant to explore. I pock through the man made home and I am careful to replace everything. There is a fire pit and all the clues come together except waters high, but this is cool. I find nothing in the man cave, so I search the mountainous motif. There is a promising cave that has branches, sticks, and leaves. After I climb a rock ledge and balance precariously on the growing twig, I start poking into the wood mass. I notice that the top leafs are still greenish brown and layered on top of older crumbling brown debris. This gives me an eerie feeling and a memory leaps into my skull that bears pad their dens with branches and leaves. I know enough to let sleeping dogs lye, so I am certainly not stupid enough to poke a sleeping bear and hurriedly shimmy down the crag. It’s time to search else where. I climb into the SUV and move on down the path off of 144 just to see what I can see. My heart leaps, when I view, an abandoned campsite with full assembled gear, this reminds me of Forrest in Yellowstone, when his dad would leave the Gear in the woods. What a great find. I search the wood pile and I search the campsite as politely as possible, to not rudely disturb the stash. I mill around the area and figure that it is time to go accomplish what I came to do. I work my way back, truly thankful that I rented a 4 wheel drive,
because this climb through the curved snow is going to be treacherous. Shifting down to the lowest gear, the Ford Escape, doesn’t hesitate as if saying, “Is that all you got?”.
Well, since 144 is blocked and I do not have measurement to know exactly where I am I head back to FS 367. To my dismay, the road is closed. It looks like I am going to have to hoof it. It’s 12:15 and I think I have a 5 mile walk in and a 5 mile walk out. That might have been true if I was in the San Antonio Creek, but I am a mile farther than that. Well, this is what I came to do. So I grab extra food, water, and clothes. I lighten my load by leaving the axe and I am off on the hick of a life time. I have until dark, 7 hours to reach my target search and get back.
Find out how far the hike actually was and the other anomalies in the next blog.