Sunday, February 20, 2011

Treasure Hunting: Blunders

It happens to every one from time to time. We go through what we think is a well laid out plan for a trip or project, only to find that we missed something very important. With this kind of hobby I require a lot of traveling to get to many of these places and this means that there is always a possibility of me getting lost trying to find  a good place to prospect. Much of the time these roads are way out in wilderness areas. Once such time i was traveling around Georgia in search of some good gold bearing land to prospect on, when I happened upon a National forest area. I decided to give it a shot and see what kind of place it was and if there were any spots to start panning around from. As I went further into the national forest it became a wilderness area, which means a lot less travel and upkeep on the roads. Now at this point I should mention that I tend to be very stubborn. The road I was on narrowed considerably. On the passenger side was a drop off of a cliff. On the drivers side was a sheer rock wall, with no room to turn around between the two. Was it wise to start on a road like this? Probably not, especially since I'm driving a 2000 pontiac grand am. But I did it any way. Pretty soon the road started getting very rough with very large rocks jutting out of the road and random places. As I slowly went down the road every once in a while those rocks would bang up against the under carriage of my car and the briers growing along the edge of the rock face would scrape down the side of my car, but I kept going for about 5 miles like this. Eventually the road went around to the other side of the mountain and there was a slight wide spot to stop at. At this point I decide to stop and get out. I needed to see which way was the best way to get out because I knew by that time I had screwed up. So I started walking down the road I had not yet been over. As I went along I kicked out as many of the big rock in the road as I could and threw them over the hill. Along the way I found part of the road was washed out and had a trench in it that was at the very least three feet deep. So i took as many of the big rocks that I could find and put them in the trench for when I came through later in my car. Further down the road i found that there was a water fall that actually came down onto it. The part of the road closer to the downhill side was weakened by erosion quite visibly but I decided that it would be okay to actually drive under the water fall. All in all it was about a four mile walk and it seemed the safer way out, and I found some camp sites at the end so I would have a place to rest since it may take the rest of the day to get the car out. When I came up to the trench in my car I actually had to approach it at an angle and only two of my tires were touching the ground at once going over it, but i made it. The water fall was even easier as all it seemed to do was was all the dust off my car for me. When I finally got out to the other side there was a sign waiting for me. "High clearance 4-wheel drive vehicles only" This sign wasn't on the other end of the road or I would not have taken a grand am through it. But hey, I took a grand am some place many people would be afraid to take a truck. Me 1 Bad Roads 0

Now you would think that I would have learned from that past experience, but again I'm very stubborn, so no I did not learn anything. My case in point. This week end I went to visit my father in West Virginia. I stopped along the way and bought a bottle of Smirnoff vanilla vodka and Pepsi so I could make some Vanilla Pepsies and get drink with my father. Whilst we were drinking he informed me of a spot that he had heard about from the DNR where I could possibly locate some gold. I decided that the next day I would set out to try my luck. And set out I did. All he had was the street name and the town it was near. So I punched that into my Tomtom and set out. Upon arriving I noticed what appeared to be snow on the road. Again stubborn me I decided "screw it, I'm going!" and started down. Did I get out and check first? Nope. Did I ask a local about the condition of the road? Nope. Very quickly I found out that the snow was not snow at all, rather it was five inches of solid ice that was smooth as glass. Since the road was a down hill slope, there was no stopping. Even dropping it into lower gears I was still accelerating because I was just sliding down the ice. The rear end of my grand am started to kick out a bit which is when I started to freak out a bit. Luckily the ice was only in the center of the road and once tired touched dry dirt I was able to avoid going over the bank. Not knowing how far the road runs or how far it was like this I decided it would be prudent to turn around and GTFO. So once I got to the bottom of the hill I some how managed to turn around and start back up the hill. I knew I needed a good running start at it because as soon as I slow down or stop I would not be able to start again on that ice.
 I got enough of a running start to get a good way up the hill, but eventually my forward momentum petered out and I came to a stop. To top it off the spot i stopped at had a spring draining into the side with no ice. So I had to dig out a small hammer from my trunk and start busting ice and tossing it over the hill. As I did so I was reminded of that time in Georgia and how both times I had that flash of a thought stating "Hey this is a bad idea" But as in the former case I did it any way. I ended up busting around 400 yards worth of ice and getting with in 300 to 400 yards from where I started before is started to get dark. So I did the only thing I could do and walked out in search of a phone to let my father I wouldn't be making it home tonight. After returning to my car I decided to build a fire. I rummaged through my things and found a small lighter, some purel hand sanitizer, some kabob stick which I had intended to use as sucker sticks but never did, a few empty medicine boxes, and a rag. With this stuff in hand I went out and got as much dry wood as I could find and set up a fire right on the ice in front of my car. I soaked the rag with the purel and put paper on it and the kabob sticks on it all, then built my fire base around it with the wood I had found and lite it all up. It burn very well for sitting on 5 inches of ice. By the end of all my wood there was a good pile of hot coals which I scattered over the ice to melt a bit more of it before turning in for what would be a very cold and not very restful night. The next morning I was awoken by the sound of a four wheeler coming down the road to check up on me. With a lot of luck we were able to get my car out with no damage. This time around the bad roads beat me. In the end I found out that, that road isn't even the one I was supposed to be on, so thanks tomtom for guiding down the wrong path, I'll be switching to garman very soon.

So what did I learn from all of this? While I would like to say "Check the road you're traveling" I think we all know that eventually I'll repeat this same mistake again. Albeit probably not on an ice road. I did learn how ever that I should always keep a sleeping bag with me in case I end up stuck in the car over night. Fire starting tools are nice to have as well.

So if you want to travel to new and unknown places for treasure hunting you should make sure you have a good idea what roads to take before hand and be prepared if you get lost or stuck.


  1. I can't get enough of this story... I read it every morning with my coffee

  2. haha, well thank you. I'm glad my adventures are entertaining. :p