Trip number fifty-two, yes fifty-two and no great reward. Not in bullion anyways. I reached an emotional low point last week so fled to the forest to regenerate my enthusiasm. The contact with nature in the raw served me very well. The butterflies always make me feel welcome. One fluttered to my cheek. Prior to that a brown dragonfly set upon an eyebrow. Even the mosquitoes seemed happy to see me.
One of my first duties after setting up my meager camp site found me washing jeans and a shirt in the cold creek. I’d spilled ginger ale on myself after squeezing the thin plastic bottle too tightly. Sitting comfortably on a small log midstream while washing and ringing my laundry, I appreciated not having to deal with difficult stains or a day’s sweat. Yet the cold water rinse under idyllic conditions was a comfortable moment.
The nights were still cold. When I woke part way through the night, I moved my sleeping bag inside a second one and resumed my dreams in warmer comfort. I chose to not light a campfire on that trip. The forest is simply too dry for the risk. Sweeping the metal detectors throughout my chosen targets only yielded “hot rocks.” How unusual to find four or five. Disappointing even.
I hiked the old wagon road again taking a few photographs in the process. With more knowledge about the mine and the men behind it, I tried to visualize James Monaghan hauling in mining equipment in winter. The government constructed the wagon road quite well in 1893. It ran from Penticton through Camp McKinney and on to Bridesville. The grade is a steady climb so a team of horses pulling considerable freight on a sleigh didn’t have an easy time. Most of the trail appeared to be about eight feet wide with few areas to deviate from the width. And in one hundred and nineteen years only two wash outs occurred. The greater obstacles now are trees. The trail is littered with new growth, dead fall and brush. I realized most of the original trail had been re-purposed in the 1940’s or later. A few traces remain of the original but the overgrown trail as it exists now is not 1893. At some point a dozer widened the trail and made a few wider areas when allowed.
The site where I’m sure the robbery occurred is roughly three and a half miles east of the camp as reported by the BC Provincial Police. The creek and treasure trove found to date were only about five hundred yards down the grade. The wagon carrying the gold bars would have slowed to round a corner and descend to a second, sharper corner. From the first corner I looked down to my where my shovel marker (Roderick) stood below. McAuley had no chance to do anything else. He rounded a corner and slowed the team only to see a masked, armed man waiting below. The bandit held onto the team with one hand while requesting his Winchester with-drawl. Quicker than playing a game of poker, Roderick quickly stole over fifty pounds of gold.
Returning towards the canyon floor, I could see the three treasure pits on my descent. First the main one where most of the hardware had been safely stashed, then the rock under which lay the barrow wheel and finally the stream bed where I uncovered the two frame halves of the barrow. But where did you stash the two gold bars, Roderick?
Some people delight in telling me they have solved the puzzle or are enjoying life on some distant location thanks to the treasure. Given the clues I’ve found and the rugged area where they lay hidden, I seriously doubt it. Most searchers haven’t even been close to the right area. One story I read told of the author’s great dismay at finding the area of his search had been seriously logged and altered. Without hard evidence, all other searches only ended in disappointment. I have at least justified my determination with facts and clues. But I admit one hundred and nineteen years of spring floods has made success difficult.
For the next month I’ll resume writing my story of the search while the stream flow diminishes. Lots of summer remains for the search to continue.