Part three of Mike and Jason:
August 18th, 2003 We were up about the time the sun broke over the horizon, and quickly broke camp. By that time it was very hot and we were already sweating. Taking a quick plunge into the river to cool off, we loaded our rafts and towed them across the river into some shade for the day. Here we cooked a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon, savoring the unbelievable scenery. Setting in my chair relaxing after the meal, I took several photos of the serpentine cliffs behind camp, and of Lovers Leap almost directly above us.
Getting ready for the day, we packed 2 bottles each of tang, our panning gear, our snake bite kit, and all of our photographic equipment in our day packs, and set off back up river. In about 200 yards, we came to the deep pool with the rope swings hanging over it. Well, it was such a hot morning and beautiful day, we just couldn't resist. Spending a half hour, we took pictures of each other swinging out over the deep water like a couple kids, having the time of our lives. Directly up the hill from this pool about 40 feet stood a large Fir tree. We climbed up to it and saw where a cable had once been tied around it. We wondered what it could have been used for. Exploring a little further around the tree we found the cable, stretching down stream where it had been strewn in floods. From this tree we discovered the end of the trail we had followed the day before in various places. Following it up river, we quickly arrived at the tailing piles we hadn't had time to explore yesterday. Climbing amongst them, we found where numerous cabins had once stood. The trail wound among them, but we chose to explore the more interesting places off the trail. We found where many mines had been, as the rock work at their entrances was still very neatly stacked. There were high cliffs of gravel and stones that had once been worked with hydraulic monitors, and once again - we were amazed at how much work the old timers had done. We got some good pictures, explored many small gullies which we guessed once had held sluice boxes to catch the gravel being washed down from the high banks. It was hot, the brush was extremely thick in places, and there was a lot of poison oak, but we didn't care. We finally worked our way up river far enough to see the straight stretch where Joes grave was, and turned around and started back. The trail was good and actually went through most of the interesting points along the way. It would be interesting to know how long it has been in existence, whether it was used by the old timers or of a more recent construction. Following the trail on the way back to camp, we saw a very narrow and deep gully we had missed, and turned off the trail to explore it. It was very evident that at one time gravel had been purposely washed through it. Coming to the end we saw that it led up to the high gravel cliffs we had already explored, and we turned to leave, going back down the gully. It was at this point that I did the most stupid thing of the trip. Turning very quickly to exit the gully, instead of being careful, I ran directly into a sharp stick on a bush, and it went into my leg deeply and broke off. We walked back out to the trail, and I sat down and pulled the stick out. Blood ran immediately all the way down to my shoes and socks, and turned the white sock red. Eventually I managed to get it stopped and put a make shift bandage on it, and continued on our way. But soon curiosity got the best of me, and we retraced our steps back to the bush. Sure enough, my worst fears were confirmed - it was a poison oak bush! Being very susceptible to it, I wondered what was going to happen but was determined not to let it ruin the trip, and we continued on. At least my bloody noses seemed to be over!
Arriving back at camp we got a snack, then hiked down the river to an old mine we had found last year. It was only about 200 yards from camp, and we were there in no time. Now last year, this mine was the only place on the trip that spooked us. We were exploring the interior room of the mine, where the miners had penetrated the ancient channel and branched left and right. It was then that we heard a rustling sound, like canvass swishing together on itself. Look as we might, we couldn't locate where it was. It reminded us of someone walking who was wearing heavy denim pants, and hearing the denim swish together as they walked. Then the low tones of voices started, mostly mumbling tones that we couldn't make out, but definitely people talking. We had heard ghostly music every night up until this point but never felt scared or threatened. Infact we sort of felt welcomed by them. But in this mine it was different. Then the swishing sounds moved from the room to the tunnel that led out! It was then we knew we'd better get out of there. It was very nerve wracking actually approaching and walking through the sounds, as they were blocking our way out. But we made it out OK, and figured we had just aggravated some spirits for some reason. Probably for trespassing in their mine! This year, I came prepared with a small pocket tape recorder. I had it with me now and was going to try to talk to these spirits and get some sounds on tape. Entering the mine with our LED headlamps on, we made it to the rear, where it branched left and right. We wondered how deep the river silt was in there, as in most places the ceiling was only 3 to 4 feet high. Turning on the tape recorder I invited what ever spirits were there to say hello, but no one spoke up. Nothing super-natural here this trip! It didn't surprise us however, because up until this point on our current trip, we hadn't heard much of the ghostly music at all like last year, only occasional bits and pieces. We did manage to get a couple good pictures of the interior and also a good shot of a small red and black salamander living in there. Exiting the mine and looking down river from the mine entrance, we could see the pinnacle of rock officially marking the entrance to Giant Gap. On the way back to camp we photographed each other standing on the huge log spanning the river. It was here we found a family river otters living under the huge boulder that the log was jammed up against. They were lots of fun to watch.
Heading back to camp, we spent the remainder of the day fishing, gold panning, taking pictures, and fretting about having to go through Giant Gap again! Jason had brought several of the disposable underwater cameras, and we had fun taking pictures of each other under water. We also got some great shots of trout. I got a great shot of Jason sitting chest deep in the river panning gold, its a classic! The afternoon turned to evening, our bat friends came out and got rid of the mosquitoes for us, and we cooked supper. Relaxing beside the river in my chair after our meal, I enjoyed the fish jumping, the sun quickly fading on the easterly hills, the warm air, but mostly I enjoyed being there with my son. We don't get to see each other that often, and it was a real privilege to be there with him. We lay on our bags talking, and enjoyed a mini meteor shower. It was awesome! Tomorrow we would get packed up early and dive into the depths of Giant Gap, once again........