Friday, January 24, 2020

Day 39: The Gold Miners

August 23: I took my time getting packed up and ready in the morning for, once again, the post office didn't open until 8:30am and I needed to mail my laptop ahead. Then I left town struggling under the weight of 12 days of food.

One disappointment I had leaving town was that I had never been able to contact Gypsy. He had offered to hike with me through the Pasayten Wilderness--a destination I was now heading toward--but I had never heard back from him again. I was hoping even as of this morning I might still get a last-minute call and work something out, but it never happened. I assumed that the fact it took me over a week to get his email with the proposition meant he gave up on me and had already headed into the wilderness himself and he hadn't replied to my calls or emails because he had been out of the reach of cell phone signals the whole time. Nope, it seemed that I'd be hiking through the Pasayten Wilderness alone. Maybe I'd get a signal on my phone up the trail and something could still be worked out, but it seemed unlikely at this point. If I saw Gypsy at all on the trail, it would probably be him hiking back out back to his vehicle!

You can lead a horse to water... but that's not what's happening here!

The trail followed some roads a short way out of town before reaching the trailhead for the Similkameen River Trail where I ran into a group of PNT trail supporters who were discussing future plans for installing a halfway marker on the trail. They were a friendly bunch and seemed excited to see an actual thru-hiker on the trail--I'm sure they've seen them before, but it had a feel like they had spotted a rare creature on the trail.

The Similkameen River Trail is a rails-to-trail route following alongside--no spoilers here--the Similkameen River. The PNT only overlaps it a short while, however, which I found disappointing. After a couple of miles, the PNT goes onto a paved (but not especially busy) road for the rest of the day. The road also follows more-or-less alongside the Similkameen River so I could see the rails-to-trail on the other side of the river for most of the day and it looked loads more comfortable to walk on than a paved road. Unfortunately, it appears to dead end not going all the way through to the small cobble of buildings called Nighthawk. The trail supporters I talked to said they hoped someday to extend the trail to Nighthawk which would then become the PNT. I'm not entirely sure why it's not done already because the trail looked great as far as I could tell. Maybe they hadn't gotten the official right-of-way at a key place on the trail. The river trail also goes through a tunnel in the mountain and maybe the tunnel is dangerous or needs repair before it can be opened to pedestrians. I'm not sure, but it was a little disappointing to see the trail and know I can't (or at least I'm not supposed to) use it.

Similkameen River Trail treailhead

By the afternoon, a light sprinkle started which was a little problematic for me because in the haste of packing back in Republic, I accidentally packed my umbrella with the duffel bag that Amanda took home. I had no umbrella! And there was no rain in the forecast so I didn't even bother to look for a replacement when I was in Oroville. It proved to be a challenge to take photos with my camera while keeping the camera dry! I sat down under a tree for protection against the rain hoping it would pass quickly and when there was a break, I resumed walking.

But it started up again. Eventually, I just started getting wet. It was impossible for me not to. Ugh. I wore a rain coat and stored my camera under the coat to keep it dry, then used one hand to provide cover for the rain when I took it out for a photo. It wasn't a perfect system, but it allowed me to keep taking photos. I took a lot fewer photos, however!

A couple of hours into the day's hike the trail passed a dam on the river creating a long, narrow lake behind it. Then just past the lake where it became a river again, I noticed a boat on the river. It was a dredge! I totally recognized the sluice box on the back as water and dirt ran through it and emptied back into the river leaving a small trail of dirt washing downstream. The dredge didn't have anyone on it, but it was running and it appeared that someone with a wetsuit was underwater sucking up the river bottom with the large pump running on the dredge.

It's a gold-mining dredge in action! See the bubbles in the water to the right of the dredge? I think that's where there's a diver scouring the river bottom with the pump on the dredge, then the tailings coming off the sluice box are streaming out from the dredge. I really wished I had my 300mm zoom lens here--I could have gotten a much better photo!

Then I noticed another dredge further up river. And another. There were dredges everywhere! How much gold was in this river anyhow?! Not all of the dredges were in use. About half of them were stopped and resting onshore seemingly abandoned although I'm sure they weren't truly abandoned. I had a million questions running through my head about how they got into this business, how successful they are (or aren't), do they need to file permits to do this, how long they've been out there and more! I couldn't really talk to any of them, however, with them being underwater or next to a noisy pump far out in the river. In all, I counted 14 dredges. Not including the one that went past me in the back of a trailer during the road walk.

I neared Nighthawk--a town that used to be big enough to host a post office until 1970. A large sign describing the history of the old mining town also says the entire townsite is now private property--perhaps one of the reasons the rail-to-trail doesn't quite reach it.

That's Nighthawk on the other side of the road. Today, there are absolutely no public services available.

As I approached the town, the rain started coming down relatively hard and once again I stopped under a pine tree to take cover. I sat on the side of the road for the better part of an hour before the rain diminished enough that I picked up on moved on.

I decided to cut the day's hike a little early due to the bad weather and set up camp alongside the river about 1.5 miles past Nighthawk. It was a nice, out-of-the-way location and almost immediately upon setting up camp, the rain stopped and even the sun popped out. Sometimes, I think nature just hates me. *shaking head*

I hadn't made it far today--a mere 15 miles--but I was okay with that. I got a late start out of town, the weather was miserable, and my pack was a monstrosity and tortured me with the 12 days of food it carried. And since I needed to camp at three specific campsites nearly two weeks in the future, I planned for shorter days that I knew I could make rather than more moderate days that I might have preferred but would have increased the changes I couldn't make it to my assigned campsites on time.

So I didn't expect to do a big mile day and I knew that tomorrow, my pack would be a couple of pounds lighter after eating a diner and breakfast out of it. I should make it a big dinner and a big breakfast as well. I needed to get my pack weight down! All good reasons to stop after a short day. =)

The rest of the evening I mostly spent reading my Kindle under my tarp and relaxing.

My home for the night!
The old Oroville Depot is now a museum.
The Similkameen River Trail was wonderful to walk on, but the PNT got off it much too soon!
The trail passes a gold course, and I found this golf ball on the road. I left it there. I picked up golf balls last time the trail went past a golf course but this time, I was hiking out of town--and my pack was already far too heavy with 12 days of food in it.
Still in cattle country!
You can see the Similkameen Trail on the other side of the river--entering a tunnel. I really wanted to hike through a tunnel!
There's a dam on the river, but I couldn't get a good photo of it from my vantage point on the road walk.
And the dam created this long lake.
It's not hard to figure out where a lot of the gold miners set up camp!

The view from my campsite was pretty nice!

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