Rye Patch
Spring Trip April 1999

1999 G.M. Lousignont, Ph.D.

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The Gold Buggy Loaded for Rye Patch

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Loaded and ready to go

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So I needed a little push

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The Official Rye Patch Trip Report
Day 1

I arrived at the camp site at around 6:30 p.m. Saturday evening. Out in the middle of desert were various scrapes done by dozers in order to get at placer gold. The motley crew of rag tag treasure hunters had selected one of these scrapes as their encampment.

Rather than appearing to be a group of modern day electronic prospectors, this group appeared to be a bunch of poor Hell’s Angels rejects. There were all forms of two wheeled motor cycles all around. And is with every outlaw motorcycle group there is always the one big bearded dude who has the Harley that has been cut and heavily modified into a three wheeled version. This obviously has a two fold purpose, the first to accommodate the girth of the rider, that, for some reason, is always considerable and second, usually the three wheels are a necessity because the poor chap never learned to balance a two wheeler and at age 17 was still riding a bike with training wheels.

In this group the traditional three wheeled Harley had been replaced with a three wheel ATV. An item that has been deemed so unsafe that its sale has been outlawed for years. Yet this group had one brave soul who didn’t care, a rebel, a risk taker, a man who spit in the face of danger and laughed. Who was this mad man? It was Chico Jim. A maverick whose name by the end of the trip would be modified slightly to "Drunken Chico Jim."

I had traveled some 550 miles by now in my much maligned but beloved Suzuki Samurai. It was a vehicle that had served me well despite it’s unsightliness.

Loaded and packed with every conceivable item to prepare me to face the days of uncertainty, I had traveled 550 miles without incident, that was until I was about 20 feet from camp.

As I approached the group and started to get a feel for the type of human anomalies that had come together, via the Internet, uncertainty raced through my mind. Perhaps they hadn’t noticed me. Perhaps I could just drive on by and get a motel room with a warm shower and room service and a good bed with color TV and HBO. But no, it was too late, because Digger Bob had already spotted me and was taking videos. He waved me on into the camp.

I tried to smile and carefully followed his directions which included directing me across someone’s 2 foot deep unfilled dig hole. The Samurai went in head first, then with an unbelievable surge of power from it’s four wheels it grunted and jumped from the hole. As my head snapped back onto my shoulders from somewhere in the back seat of my rig, people started screaming that my water had broke. This was very confusing as I wasn’t even pregnant.

What they had meant was that the two 6 gallon tanks of water that had been tied down to the back of my car for 550 miles and been violently dislodged by my trip into the dig hole. They had been launched off the back of my car and I was now dragging them into camp by the remnants of the attached bungee cords. Both suffered irreparable damaged and were leaking badly.

For 550 miles I had safely negotiated all manner of terrain from Las Vegas to Hells front porch, but in a moment of insanity I had allowed myself to turn my navigational duties into the hands of Digger Bob. The result? I was now in the middle of the desert with no water. A predicament that apparently was lost on my fellow campers as they were all laughing hysterically. Obviously these were the same type of people that would have a hand in killing Kenny in each and every episode of South Park.

After the laughing died down, each of my fellow treasure hunters presented themselves for introduction then quickly hurried away when they realized that I might need help in trying to set up my tent in 80 mph winds.

Let’s see if I can remember all of them. There was Mike from Colorado I believe. Chico Jim, Digger Bob, who has more hats than my wife has shoes. I saw him in a Cowboy hat, a golf type hat, and a large sun bonnet of some sort. There was Slow Poke, and Clark and Chuck from the Mid-west; Illinois area, Tom McCorkle, Sabra Jim French from Hawthorne Nevada, and me, your humble author.

Not remembering what happened the last time I took directions from Digger I listened as he told me where to set up my tent, as I was eager to get settled before night fall. This tent location later proved to be directly down wind from the huge campfire that was built every night. Digger said he felt that the sparks from the fire flying into my tent during the night would help keep me warm.

I was troubled by what I had heard as I set up my tent. My fellow hunters had arrived early in the afternoon set up camp quickly and had already been swinging their detectors. Digger had already found a nugget. I, on the other hand, being the loyal friend that I am, had covered Hoss’ booth at the Reno Gold Show while Hoss gave his talk on how to find gold. This didn’t allow me the luxury of getting to the Happy hunting grounds earlier in the day.

Well a couple of hours later in total darkness the deed was done. I was as prepared as one can be to sleep on the ground in the middle of no where without a shower, or color television. I skipped eating because I couldn’t find my canned food in the dark. As is usually the case with men my age, I suddenly had the overpowering urge to relieve myself. At this stage of my life it is often like that. You have no urge to tinkle at all one second, and the next you feel as if you’ve been holding it for two weeks.

The most disabilitating thing about this condition is that you dare not move too quickly to the privacy of a bathroom less you jar yourself and lose what little control you have over your aging bladder.

I managed to do the two step shuffle over a ridge or two in order to find a place of privacy to do what my two broken water jugs had done earlier. There, in the middle of the desert, in total darkness, I answered nature’s call. As I stood there I raised my eyes to the heavens and marveled at the multitude of stars. A scene that I had long forgotten as the stars are barely visible in Las Vegas because of the over abundance of neon pollution from the strip hotel casinos. I lingered there, my head tilted back towards the evening sky, I marveled at the majesty of the celestial light show that God had prepared just for me. It was then, in the darkness of the desert, that I realized that I had just pee’d all over my foot.

I managed to make it back to camp by following the hooting and the hollering and listening for which direction the singing of dirty lyrics of Louie Louie were coming from.

Determined not to let the group get one up on me, I quickly pulled out my headlamp and detector and went off into the desert in search of gold. I’d never looked for gold at 11:00 pm at night, it was sort of fun.

I wasn’t 50 yards from camp and I got a good signal. I dug it only to find a bullet. Three more feet and another piece of trash. Two more feet more trash. 6 more feet and I dug up a damn metal tent stake, oops! Sorry Mike let me hammer that back in for ya’.

Enough is enough, it was time to get snuggled down in my bed. Before retiring, I filled a squirt bottle with what little drinking water I had left. Something of a make shift fire extinguisher to put out the small tent fires I would fight through the evening as sparks from the bon fire made their way into my tent…..

The Official Rye Patch Trip Report
Day 2

Morning came way too early Sunday when I was awoken not by the sun streaming into my tent but by the hoots of Digger Bob. "Damn nothing feels better than a shower in the morning!"

I stuck my head out of my tent to see Digger spritzing water in his face from a windex type spray bottle. If this was his idea of a shower what’s a bath, sitting on his coffee cup?

It was about 6:10 am and everyone but me, apparently, had been up since 5 am and had already eaten breakfast and had coffee.

As I emerged from my tent and tried to get my joints to unlock, and wipe the cobwebs from my eyes I was struck by a sight that will forever be burned into the neural synapses of my memory.

American ingenuity and the entrepreneurial spirit are still alive when it comes to Digger Bob. I noticed one of our fellow hunters and Digger whispering back and forth in what appeared to be a heated negotiation. Apparently I was right because finally the fellow camper threw his hands in the air in resignation to Digger’s superior bargaining skills. With reluctance the camper dug a wad of money out of his pocket and shoved it in Digger’s hand.

Digger dug into the mysterious cavernous darkness of his camper shell and produced a contraption which at first baffled me. Was it an electric chair? Oh my god, no, it was one of those toilet seats on a metal frame like you see in an old folks homes. But Digger had shortened the legs on this seat to make it fit into his camper shell. I guess it’s shortened height made it easier to pack, but personally, I’d just as soon not have my knees up around my ears when I’m trying to perform, what is considered by most men, the holiest of all bodily functions.

I have come to find that toilet seat height is critical to, well, you know, the comfort of the experience. If the seat is too low, then your knees get in the way of the morning newspaper when you are trying to read it. If the seat is too high and your feet don’t touch the floor, (like some of those public handicapped toilets) you can’t get any leverage. Leverage is critical if one is to probably brace oneself. Otherwise you risk being violently blown off of the toilet. And none of us want that!

Apparently my fellow camper was too desperate to negotiate a better deal because he snatched the "toilet from hell" out of Digger’s hand and ran to his car, grabbed a digging pick and a roll of toilet paper and sprinted off across a ridge heading south into the desert.

One can only help but wonder what that Satellite picture will look like when it becomes available on Terra Server. Needless to say you won’t want to overuse that "ZOOM IN" feature while observing the satellite shot of an intestinally distressed camper sitting in the middle of the desert in an electric chair with his jockey shorts around his ankles and his knees around his ears making grunting noises that only a moose in heat would appreciate.

I understand the concept behind Digger’s invention. You dig a hole, then position the contraption over the hole, but then what? Is there a built in cross-hair sighting mechanism, or do you have to have bombardier training to make sure you hit the hole you’ve dug? I mean, isn’t that what those multi-purpose 5 gallon buckets are for; they’re a no brainer.

I don’t know a delicate way to segue into the next event, but it was time for my breakfast. After missing dinner the night before I was hungry enough to eat the rainfly off of my tent.

I broke out my propane stove and proceeded to burn up a nice batch of egg beaters and turkey bacon. My worry about where I had stashed my salt and pepper melted away as my fellow treasure hunters proceeded to zoom away from camp on their dirt bikes and ATV’s. The cloud of dirt they left settled on me and gave my freshly cooked breakfast an appearance not unlike pepper and gave it an earthy taste. It was delicious! I guess it really is true what they say about everything tasting better in the great out doors.

My fellow treasure hunters sped off in every direction away from camp, giving not a clue as to where the Mother Load might be located.

By the time I was ready to head out and find that one ounce nugget I was standing in what appeared to be a ghost camp. Not a living soul within site. I quickly jumped in my Suzuki and followed an old dirt road until it ended. There was a spring, and a cotton wood tree with a big nest in it near the end of the road. The view was spectacular as I looked out over the valley where we were camped and further I could see Rye Patch Reservoir and on the other side a snow capped mountain range. The sun was warming the chill in the air and the ridges and small gullies laid out before me looked promising with their abundance of cracked quartz and quartz outcroppings.

I searched there the entire morning with no success. Around noon I returned to camp, hoping to get a sandwich and see some human life form. But alas, I had no sandwich, and the only life form was Clark from the Midwest. Clark inquired where I had been. I told him I had followed a dirt road way up into the mountains. He interrupted me by saying, "Ya’ mean the one that ends up by that old cotton wood tree with the big bird nest? I hunted that all yesterday there ain’t no gold up there!" NO SH_T Clark !!?? Where were you this morning when I could have used that information?

A whole morning wasted. Clark didn’t know where anyone else was. But a few minutes later I saw Digger fly by on his dirt bike. Another innovation in action! Digger has mounted a gun rack attachment to the handlebars to which he bungles his metal detector. It’s a pretty ingenious setup unless you decide to try to ride between two trees that are very close together.

After grabbing a Power Bar, and having a sip of water, I took off in a different direction after consulting my map of the area. There was no sense in heading back to where I had already hunted, and I certainly wasn’t going to go in the direction of the bombing target practice range. After carefully researching the map I was able to ascertain with absolute certainty that I was somewhere within the state of Nevada.

It was time to get serious so I broke out my 18 inch coil. I hunted in the most severe heat of the day, it was really warm now. It felt about 90 and the 18 inch coil was exhausting in the heat. Properly bungied the coil isn’t that heavy to swing, but when you’re in the desert you constantly have to lift the coil up and over bushes. After two hours of hunting I noticed the weight of the coil was starting to take its toll. My right hand ached worse than ever, my right arm was 4 inches longer than my left, and my right eye had been pulled out of the socket and was rolling around on my cheek. This was the first clue that I should switch back to my 11 inch coil.

I searched and searched and finally happened upon a large quartz outcropping that had been excavated. There was quartz everywhere. Some pieces with nice crystals in them. I scanned the quartz lying all around, nothing! I scanned the bottom of the hole and got a good target. I spent the next 2 hours picking chunks of quartz out of the hole and scanned each piece. Finally I got down to the dirt and started to dig. I figured that the miners must have lost the vein they were working and I had apparently found it. I dug and dug. I was down two feet and the signal was so strong I knew it was going to be party time. But it was already 5:30 and I needed to get back to eat and see if I could lick some drops of water from the inside of one of my water jugs that had ruptured.

Upon arriving back at camp, everyone was already indulging in a gourmet dinner. Why there where tins of cold canned stew, and plastic bags containing MRE’s everywhere. Meals Ready to Eat my butt. The only Meal Ready to Eat as far as I’m concerned is the one my wife cooks and plops down on the dinner table in front of me each night.

Apparently, Clark W. was more concerned about the fact that his GPS had a reading that was significantly different than Digger Bob’s than he was about me eating. He asked me if I had a GPS and I made the mistake of telling him that I did. Well nothing else would do until I got my GPS out and let him compare his with mine. Surprise, Surprise, mine and Diggers agreed, but Clark’s didn’t. But then of course Digger and I both had our GPS set to give read outs in the Degrees, Minutes, Seconds format. Clark had his set to a format that could only be understood by someone who was half Hebrew and half Japanese. As soon as I got into the setup menu and changed the format on Clarks GPS it gave the identical reading as Digger and my GPS. I don’t understand what the big problem was, Clark’s tent was only 20 feet away! Every time we tried to point him in the right direction he would scream, "I want to find it myself! How will I ever learn?"

Chico Jim was already 3 sheets to the wind. Walking around bragging that he had finished two whole bottles of Ripple wine and even ate the worm. I hastened to inform him that Ripple didn’t have a worm in it, and asked him where my broken bungee cord had gone.

 Then it was time for gloating. Tom McCorkle and Digger Bob invited me over to see what gold nuggets looked like. Being that they had them and I didn’t. AHA! But little did they know that after carrying around an 18 inch coil for the better part of the day I had something they didn’t! Hemorrhoids! And they were bigger!

Well it happened again! It was dark and I hadn’t eaten yet. But tonight I wasn’t going to bed without eating so I prepared my dinner. I have no idea what it was, I just kept opening cans in the dark and heating them up on the propane heater until I smelled the stench of burning whatever. Finally my stomach was full of burnt canned something or other and after a while I was able to get the retching that accompanies the dry heaves under control, so I joined the rest of the group around the campfire.

Ah yes that was a night. Talking of gold not found, and gold that was found, BUT NOT HERE. Telling manly lies, about manly things. Gross exaggerations were spoke and each in turn added to the absurdity of the fabrication. There was talk of gold trips that sucked, and some ex-wives and old girlfriends that didn’t; real trashy man talk. The kind of talk that is only shared after days away from civilization when the bonds between brothers of the hunt begin to become strong. We spoke of all the ingrates from the forum that did not have the testicular fortitude to come out here in the wilderness with real men, and do manly things, and use toilets stolen from convalescent homes. ARGH!

Each of our comments was met with a hearty "YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT!" from Chico Jim as a resounding "F---‘in A better believe it man!" answered back from someone out in the darkness.

At last the time had come for manly men to retire to their manly tents with their manly men smells accumulated after a day of gold hunting sweating in the heat and the sun. I also had a spray bottle of water that I used to clean off my hands when needed. I learned that night that when you have manly smells that are a little too manly, using a spray bottle full of water and a clean rag can indeed feel like a shower. Maybe Digger knows what he’s talking about after all.

I learned something else that night. Never turn on your light inside your tent before putting up the screen netting in the door. Not unless you have a desire to add 2000 moths to your insect collection. I had to devise a plan. I put the light outside the tent and waited for the moths to follow the light and leave. Then I zipped the screen netting up behind the moths and my tent was insect free. But my light was outside. It took 2 hours for me to find my damn sleeping bag in the dark, but alas I found the quilted comfort and warmth of my bag. I crawled inside and quickly pulled up the sleeping bag zipper to shut out the cold, only to get my underwear stuck in the zipper. In the dark I was unable to extricate myself and finally gave up and decided to wait until first morning’s light.

The rest of the night was hell. At my age frequent trips to go to the bathroom are a necessity. A necessity not easily accomplished when a person has to leave his tent and go a ridge or two away. Shuffle shuffle, drag the sleeping bag, shuffle shuffle, drag the sleeping bag.

And so a second day of the now infamous Rye Patch trip had drawn to a close.

The Official Rye Patch Trip Report
Day 3

Once again I was awoken early, 6:10 am by early risers at the manly men smelling Rye Patch gold treasure hunting encampment. I stuck my head out of my tent. Didn’t look like a Monday! But it was a Monday, April 19, 1999 all the same.

Digger Bob was just returning from the bombing practice range, carrying his bombardier chair. He smiled that big grin of his and said, "Gee, I forgot there were some other people in an RV camped over there." I don’t know what that meant. Did it mean he "passed" on early morning bombing target practice, or did he just give them a friendly wave and a big toothed grin as they emerged from their camper to find him in the middle of target practice?

Chico Jim was yelling about having a tick embedded in his leg. I asked him if he pulled it off. He said, "I was just gettin’ ready too when the little bugger let go and rolled over on its back motionless." I thought to myself, "Another case of alcohol poisoning no doubt!"

Digger told us all to hurry up and get ready because he was going to take us to where the gold was. I grabbed my trusty machete and hacked at my underwear until they were free from the death grip that my sleeping bag zipper had on them. Apparently in my haste to liberate myself I inadvertently carved myself an emergency exit door on the rear of my tent. I hurriedly took the butt end of the machete and managed to pound my right eyeball back into its socket. I sprayed myself all over with after shave so I would have that perfumed manly man smell. A smell that is guaranteed to keep away all nature of critters from rattlers to Godzilla.

OK, so I don’t get gritty eggs and bacon that morning, I grabbed a cinnamon sugar pop tart and jammed it into the pocket of my jeans, which were standing in the corner of my tent. I went outside and tried to lick some dew off the outside of my tent for moisture. I was ready as I’d ever be.

Digger was very concerned that I had not recovered the target from the bottom of my quartz dig hole from the previous day. He told the others to go ahead, we’d catch up. He took a shovel from the dark mysterious depths of his camper shell bungied it and his detector on his dirt bike and told me to take him to the dig hole.

Before I left I over heard Chuck tell Clark, "Do you need anything? I’m going to go pick up some bread and milk and ice." WHAT? MILK, BREAD, ICE? They still make ice from WATER don’t they? I asked Chuck, "Where are you going to get this stuff at?" He

responded, "The truck stop has a quick mart about 20 minutes from here." TWENTY MINUTES FROM HERE? There’s a quick mart where I can buy water 20 minutes from here and I’ve been drinking water out of the windshield wiper fluid tank on my car for the last two days? "WE HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE HERE PEOPLE!"

 I gave Chuck some money and asked him if he would be kind enough to get me a large bag of ice. He readily agreed and took off down the road.

Digger and I took off and arrived at the quartz dig site. I worked 40 minutes more digging on the hole that I was sure would lead to a rich vein of gold. At about 30 inches the object of my desire revealed itself. The top off of what appeared to be a can of tennis balls. My screams could be heard 150 miles away in Reno. Digger helped me back to my car as I convulsed in tearful frustration. He tried to comfort me, "Now now Doc, we all dig trash from time to time, we just don’t waste two days doing it. I’ll take you to where the others are, you’ll be OK, you can watch them show you how to find gold. Pull yourself together man!" A hard slap across the face snapped me back to reality from the dark deep pit of despair from which I was sinking. "Thanks Digger! I needed that!"

Into my Suzuki and off with a flourish of dust and gravel with a new sense of conviction, I followed Digger like a wild man following a sheriff’s posse in search of a bad guy. Digger took me on a 10 minute ride up a small road into the foothills to a place that looked very promising.

The others were already swarming the hills like ants attacking a half eaten piece of candy. A slight breeze carried the scent of manly men smells everywhere. Cactus were dying and everywhere lizards were heard gagging and gasping for air. Apparently they had never been in the presence of such manly men before.

Digger explained the lay of the land and said that Chico Jim had found a 4 dwt nugget there a year ago. There were scrapes everywhere and lots of crumbled quartz. It looked exciting. I tried to ready my detector but found my right hand was completely paralyzed with pain. I had to use duct tape to secure my useless limb to the handle of my detector. I also used a couple of pieces of duct tape to secure my right eye and hemorrhoids back in place. The stuff is great it works on everything.

I hunted in earnest all morning without success. But apparently I was not the only one who success eluded.

I climbed a large mountain and found numerous quartz outcroppings and shattered quartz all around. I found numerous contact zones between quartz and granite. Surely this was a likely spot for a stray nugget. But alas it was not to be, not today, not on this trip, not this year, perhaps not in my lifetime, this was it, this was near the end. I had read about this is the bible, it’s in the book of Revelations. "And yea I say unto thee that near the end of it all, there will be many signs. When smelly men scour the hills aimlessly, and there is quartz but no gold, and bodily organs leap from their orifices, then is the time to make peace with the Lord for the end is nye."

Suddenly I was snapped back into consciousness as a horny toad perched on a piece of granite schist began to speak to me.. "Are you nuts or something? You’ve had about 4 hours sleep in 2 nights, you smell like the south end of a pack of sheep going north, you got enough cologne on to float the Titanic, and your on the top of the mountain at about 7,000 feet where the oxygen is thin, and you can’t figure out why you’re hallucinating? Get off of this mountain you loser and go home to your wife and kids; that is if they’ll even let you in the house without hosing you off first." I tried to talk but the words dribbled from my mouth, "But, I, I can’t go back empty handed, I just can’t. The shame of it all." Mr. Toad responded, "My god you’re such a big cry baby, stop your blubbering and take this." I bent down as the toad handed me an enormous quartz crystal, the likes of which I had never seen before. It was the size of a small cucumber. I thanked my illusionary friend and placed the precious cargo in my safari vest pocket. I carefully made my way back down the mountain side.

As I descended and the oxygen in the air increased, I began to snap out of it. It was all a sick little trick my mind was playing on me. It was all a fantasy up there where the air was thin. There was no talking toad, no naked Pam Anderson skipping around playfully throwing small pieces of quartz at me and saying, "Follow me I know where you can get lucky."

Wow that was weird! But whatever the hallucination, the toad was right. It was 12 noon and it was time to pack it up and begin the long journey home.

I arrived back at camp to find my fellow treasure hunters, no, not fellow treasure hunters anymore, I found my other friends were also of like mind and were breaking camp.

As if on cue, as soon as I got everything packed except my tent, the wind came up. I heard someone yell, "Hey, get that tent!" I looked as someone’s dome tent went whipping across the desert rolling end over end like a tumble weed heading North going about 20 mph.. Chuck and Clark made a brilliant mid air rescue of the tent. I returned from my car to disassemble my tent only to find that someone had stolen it in my brief absence. Just then Clark walked up, "Is this tent what you’re looking for?" "Ah, why yes, that would be my tent, thank you for bringing it back! I wasn’t really worried about it, I figured by the time it got to Canada Lanny could snag it and ship it to me UPS."

It was all catching up with me now. I was bone tired. It’s pretty bad when you see a tent tumbling across the desert and you don’t even realize it yours. How in the world would I ever drive towards home in my exhausted condition.

About the time everyone was ready to pull out, Chico Jim arrived on his three wheeler. He dismounted and proudly announced that he had found two nuggets. And nice little rippers they were, about 10 grains total! Chico said he always gets hot towards the end of the trip. Or maybe it’s just that hunting with a hang over slowed his swing down some. Actually Chico didn’t look or even act hung over. Man I hate that! There was a time in my younger days when I could pull that off, but not for about the last 15 years. I never liked the taste of alcohol anyway. And when I was in my mid thirties I discovered that on the rare occasion that I would get snockered, usually once a year on my birthday, I wouldn’t be hung over, I’d be sick for three days. That’s when I decided to swear off the demon rum and stick with my favorite drink, Pepsi!

Well the end was near to a rather unique trip. I was ready to pull out and said my good-byes to Clark and Chuck. Mike was somewhere down the road still swinging his detector, and apparently Sabra Jim was somewhere as well. The others had already bid us farewell and had left camp. I began the long 500 plus mile journey home about 2:15 pm.

The driving went easy enough. Traffic was very light. As the sun sank below the mountains and night fell on the snow capped ranges and valleys of Northern Nevada I turned on my headlights and fell into a deep state of introspection. It was really getting tired out now!

I thought to myself, "At the end of this trip I will have traveled over 1100 miles and I hadn’t found a single piece of gold. I slept on the cold ground, I ate burnt food, I was hungry, and thirsty, and dirty, and tired, and sore, and I was a long way from home."

What was the sense in all of this? To go to some god forsaken place in the middle of nowhere and get yourself so exhausted that you end up on a mountain somewhere hallucinating about a talking frog or lizard or toad, or whatever the hell it was? A toad that gives you an imaginary cucumber sized crystal for your trouble, what a joke!

crystal.jpg (35294 bytes)I thought I felt a tear welling up in the corner of my eye, and reached in my vest pocket for a tissue. What the.. where, why, what the heck is….., I turned on the light inside my car. There in my hand was a beautiful quartz crystal the size of a cucumber. This couldn’t be real, none of that was real, was it, I mean a talking toad, come on now. I rubbed my thumb over the smooth glassy surface of the crystal. Wow, it was real OK. They say crystals have magical powers, and maybe it’s true! As I rubbed my thumb over the crystal a warm glowing tingle coursed through my body, my mind cleared and my fatigue melted away.

The answers to my questions began to materialize now. I had traveled the long miles to a far away place to look for treasure, and I had found it. There, away from the everyday worries and tasks of life I met new people and made friends whose companionship I will value for my entire lifetime. That was the treasure I went for, that was the gold I really sought, the brilliant shine of golden relationships forged between a brotherhood of people who share in each others accomplishments, and help each other through rough times. Any one that went to Rye Patch just to find yellow metal known as gold was there for the wrong reason. Because I didn’t find any, and yet I was returning a much richer man than when I had left my home because of the valuable friendships that were formed.

Friendships are formed very much like gold when you think about it. They are not found everywhere, and they happen under very specific circumstances when all of the conditions are just right. And they are like that magical crystal. Friendships have many facets, sometimes the reason two people come together in friendship is very clear, other times, like some areas of a crystal, the reasons why individuals find brotherhood with each other are not so clear. But like gold and crystals and other mysteries of nature, one thing can be agreed upon, true friendships are the rarest of rare commodities.

When Digger Bob organized this trip someone on the forum asked why he was taking everyone to Rye Patch. His reply should be carved in stone somewhere to be treasured for the ages. He didn’t say. "To find gold." He said, "… to learn, to teach, and to share."

Well Digger delivered big time on that promise!

I arrived home in Las Vegas Monday night at 11:30 pm. In 30 minutes it would be a new day. April 20th. 1999, my 50th birthday. I unloaded the bare essentials from my car and grabbed a quick bite to eat. I rushed up stairs ripped off my machete hacked underwear and jumped in the shower, turning the water on as hot as I could stand it. I washed, shampooed, and shaved, flossed, brushed. Oh yeah! Clean pajamas! A quick check on each of my kids and a kiss for each from old dad. Within minutes of midnight I was in my own bed snuggling the most beautiful women in the world, my wife. She rolled over and nuzzled closer. "I’m so glad your home honey!" she whispered, "The kids and I missed you like crazy, I love you!" I missed you guys too sweetie, and I love you; you’ll never know how much!" I whispered gently in reply.

As I laid there, the last few days seemed so surreal. I mean some of it was! A talking horny toad, for heaven’s sake. All of the questions that had raced through my mind. Maybe it was the combination of being tired, and being away from home, and being on the eve of turning 50 that caused all of this introspection. It was strange how the answers didn’t come until I was on my way home. What was the treasure in life? As I cuddled my beloved even closer I was overcome with an epiphany. I had gotten the most important answer to my questions before I had even left for home. Like Moses I was given a revelation while on a mountain. Albeit a Horny Toad is quite a step down from a burning bush!

You see it all was made clear to me on that mountain somewhere in the desert of Northern Nevada, when that imaginary toad spoke to me. I just wasn’t listening hard enough. The real treasure, the most precious kind wasn’t in some remote gold placer workings of a time long ago. The real treasure was a loving family, my wife of 29 years, and my 3 children who were waiting patiently for my return. I guess sometimes we have to go in search of treasure to learn that we already have found it, and enjoy its bountiful benefits every day.

The end of my Rye Patch trip really signaled the beginning of new friendships and a new and deeper understanding of how blessed I truly am.

To Digger Bob who invited me and to all of my new found friends who shared this fantastic trip with me, thank you and God Bless each and every one of you! Next time someone else bring the water!

THE BEGINNING!

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