Tuesday, January 7, 2014


A month or so ago, while exploring the basin of a nearly empty reservoir, I stumbled across a “find.”  A chunk of yellow or ponderosa pine log, perhaps eight to ten feet long, had migrated from somewhere upstream and nestled on the shore.   

Then the shore receded.  The low foothills in the region of this find never supported conifers of this type, so I wondered from where it might have migrated.

I walked up to the log for a closer look.  Catching my interest was a rusted rectangle of tin attached to the log.  With the low late-autumn sun casting just the right light, I could see holes neatly punched into the metal forming letters that spelled out “Red Rock Mine.”

A scan through my collection of maps and a quick search on the web indicated that no “Red Rock” mine was listed in the watershed, however a “Redstone” claim had been laid upstream quite a ways.

Curiosity taking hold, I contacted an official in charge of the administration of the reservoir who passed my query onto the state archaeologist.

Today, after the intervening holidays, I received a return call.  The archaeologist proved to be the extremely knowledgeable head of a state department employing, at this time, one person: her.  How gracious that she would find time to return my call!

In the course of our conversation she thanked me for providing the pictures (included with this post) and for my interest in preserving what might be an interesting relic from the past.  She spoke of her growing up in gold country and her knowledge of the mining regions.

She shared some thoughts specific to my theory that the artifact may have tumbled a distance down stream suggesting that many names for mining claims were duplicated throughout the Mother Lode.  She said that aspects from the photographs bear witness to the probable age of the sign and that it may not date back to the earliest of days in the area.

On review of the photographs, it appears she nailed the whole date thing.

Still, the artifact poses some interesting questions.  Where’d it come from?  How’d it get here?  Should it be and how might it be preserved?  Where might one go to trace the historic threads back to its origin?

As a retired school principal, I will be promoting the idea of researching this piece to a couple of schools folks I know.  I see it as a unique opportunity for some hands-on learning involving a multiplicity of curricular areas: history, geography, geology, hydrology, cartography and even government bureaucracy.  Almost makes me wish I were back in the game!

In this post, I have been careful to not reveal the location of the artifact, although frequent readers will undoubtedly figure it out.  So in the strongest terms I would admonish folks that, should they come across the thing, leave it as you find it!  With it now resting on Federal land, one would rightfully have hell to pay should the thing go missing and later be found in their possession.


Further Note:  My conversation with the state archaeologist has prompted me to seek opportunities to volunteer in the location, identification, and preservation of similar finds.  She has provided resources, which I intend to pursue.

© 2014
Church of the Open Road Press

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