Monday, June 19, 2017

Searching For Real Thing: Gold

June 12, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

We all are searching for something in life. Some of us find the reality of this world a bit offensive and choose another endeavor. This endeavor becomes an object, hobby, or way of life. Looking for gold is a wonderful and sometimes rewarding hobby. I have spent more than thirty years writing about those who search for gold or treasure in the Superstition Mountains. Not too long ago, somebody asked “why do you choose to write about such a group of individuals?” I have decided it is time to explain my interest and why I write about this topic. Nyle Leatham introduced me to the world of writing for a newspaper three or four decades ago when we spent eight days on the Colorado River together rafting between Lee’s Ferry and Lake Mead. You might call the trip an “adventure of a lifetime,” but I have had many more. Of those who are constantly having an adventure of some kind—whether it is searching for Bigfoot or gold—the search for gold appears to be the most popular with them. The following story should peak your imagination.
John Wilburn and I examining placer gold
from the Superstition Mining District c. 1977.

There are those who will tell you there is no gold in the Superstition Wilderness Area and that may be true, however, there is certainly gold deposits around the region’s interior. I have witnessed gold being recovered within five miles of Miner’s Needle. This was a placer deposit worked by an old prospector named Robert L. Garman. Garman started finding placer gold shortly after 1955. He wasn’t really interested in the placer—he believed there was a rich ore deposit nearby. He spent thirty years looking for the origin of his placer gold in the Hewitt Canyon area. He sincerely believed the “Peg Leg” Tumlinson map was accurate and authentic. He had acquired a copy of the map and used it faithfully for more than twenty-five years. There are those who believed Garman found the rich “Peg Leg” deposit believing it was the old Dutchman’s mine. Garman certainly had some very rich samples of gold in quartz with similarities of the quartz in the metamorphic prong of Hewitt Canyon.

There are several individuals who know and understand the geology of the metamorphic prong of Hewitt Canyon. A lot of prospects have been dug in the area and some have been extended to depths of 75 feet or more. Almost all of them have exhibited mineralization, some gold and some silver. However, none have produced any large quantity of gold or silver. The Hatches, Woodburys, Rogers, and others have tried their hand at mining in this area in the 1890’s to 1930’s with little results. The work at Roger’s Trough was brought on by the discovery and development of the Silver Chief Mine just west of Roger’s Trough. There was a good spring in the area and the mine owners set up a mill at Roger’s Trough to process the ore from the Silver Chief. The Woodburys sunk a shaft near the base of the mountain and found a little gold, but not enough to pay for their operation. This was true with other mines in the area. None ever became producers like the Silver King north of Superior.

Monte Edwards and I inspecting a gold claim near Weaver Needle in 1981.
Robert Garman left quite a legacy in his search for gold in the Hewitt Canyon area. He eventually wrote a book about his exploits titled Mystery Gold of the Superstitions (1975). Robert Garman was by no means the first man searching for the real wealth of the Superstition Mountain region. John Wilburn came to Arizona in 1967 searching for gold. He immediately eliminated the Superstition Wilderness Area in his mind and decided the gold had to be in the Superstition Mining District because that was where gold was discovered in the 1890’s. Wilburn devoted the next fifty years to searching for gold in the area around the old Mammoth Mine. He discovered a couple of sites and sold his claims for a good price. He proved there was still gold in the immediate area of the Superstition Mining District. He wintered at the Bluebird Mine working for the Ruizes. For many years he could be found on the veranda of the Bluebird. It was there that people sought him out to hear his stories about gold mining in the area. In recent years I have seen tapes on Facebook of John Wilburn being interviewed about the gold of the Superstition Mining District. Yes, there is still enough gold to attract people to this region in search of it. However, few have found any that has been worth their effort, or the investment of their money or time.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Searching For Bigfoot In Reavis Valley

June 5, 2017 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

Many years ago I received a call from a man in northern California who was interested in Yeti or “ Big Foot.” He had heard of the Reavis Valley, a landlocked biotic island high above the Sonoran Desert floor, that supported a dense Ponderosa pine forest. He wanted to know how to get to the Reavis Ranch.

I must admit I had heard everything now. A story of “Big Foot” in the Superstition Wilderness Area was preposterous, if not down right laughable.

Then I thought for a moment about another tale about a strange encounter more than eighty years ago when two prospectors hiked into the area of Pope Springs to search for gold.
Are there such creatures in the Superstition Wilderness?
Photo is an artist’s enhancement of a frame from
 the Patterson-Gimilin film.

Late at night something attacked their camp, killed and hauled off their burro before they could even fire a shot. Both men got a good look at the towering beast as it dragged their burro away. The two prospectors stayed up for the rest of the night scared out of their wits. The only thing they could think of capable of carrying off a burro was a large Grizzly bear. Their burro weighed about four hundred and fifty pounds. It would require a mighty large animal to carry off a four hundred and fifty-pound burro.

The story, as I recall, stated that the prospectors described the intruder as a large, smelly, strange animal with a matted, coarse and tangled hair coat. They said it walked on its hind legs and towered at least eight to ten feet in height. When the prospectors told their story, many old timers figured they ran into a large Grizzly bear.

The prospectors said they could not identify the beast as an animal or a human, but did say it smelled like feces and urine and was unusually agile on its hindquarters. They estimated the animal weighed between 400 – 800 hundred pounds. This description could easily fit a Grizzly bear. This same story could have fueled the imagination of noted Big Foot hunter C. Thomas Biscardi.

The Phoenix Gazette on Monday, May 11, 1981, announced, “Explorer Plans Capture of Big Foot.” C. Thomas Biscardi, of northern California, was making an exploration trip to the Superstition Mountain of Arizona to search for Big Foot. Biscardi claimed his latest encounter with Big Foot occurred on Mount Lassen in Northern California. He said he took photographs of the elusive primate but concedes the front-view images of a large hair figure emerging from a clump of trees may not be enough to convince skeptics.

Biscardi reported there were more than eight hundred fifty sightings of creatures matching the descriptions of “Big Foot” in the Soviet Union, Canada and the United States. Biscardi planned to prove their existence and he said he believed these creatures could be the possible missing link.

The researcher had two reports of large human-like creatures in the Superstition Wilderness Area and spent two weeks in the Reavis Ranch area reporting no sightings. He did report finding signs of “Big Foot” in the region. He pointed out Ponderosa pines with scratch marks thirteen feet above the ground indicating a mighty tall animal scratched on the tree. Biscardi also stated there was a sour-sweet smell associated with “Big Foot.” This smell was reportedly found in several locations south of the Reavis Ranch in tall timber.

Biscardi’s exploration trip into the Superstition Wilderness Area may have been a serious attempt to prove the existence of “Big Foot” in the Superstition Wilderness Area, however “Big Foot” was not found. Biscardi said his expedition was disappointing and he concluded in the final analysis that the wilderness area was not large enough to support a population of these unknown creatures.

There was another update in 2007 on “Big Foot” in the Superstition Wilderness Area. It was recently reported that a large upright animal spooked a rider and packhorse near the head waters of Rough Canyon along the northern edge of White Mountain. This story surfaced about five years ago. Rough Canyon is almost impossible to hike through. The area is extremely remote and ignored by many. The rider who reported the large upright animal, was trying to get to the head of Rough Canyon to set up a camp and explore the area for archaeological sites. He claimed he was studying the pattern of inhabited areas north of White Mountain and south of Reavis Mountain. Recent years have produced a lot of interesting characters who explore the Superstition Wilderness Area trying to explain what exists there, whether it is archaeological, fauna, flora or just plain tall tales.

The Superstition Wilderness Area has always been a region that attracted the unusual and unexplained tales and stories. If “Big Foot” exists, it still remains to be proven. I must admit I was riding horse back north of the Reavis Ranch in the fall of October 2000 when a friend and I spotted a large Black bear. The animal ran in the opposite direction from us. I could easily see, if a person had an imaginative mind they could have envisioned Big Foot running across the old pasture in tall grass. The scratch marks on Ponderosa pines reported by Biscardi could have easily been caused by Black bears. Black bears can climb pines like squirrels almost. Often when bears are playing they will slide down trees using their claws. If nothing else, the Big Foot story created interest in yet another Superstition Wilderness Area legend or myth.