We have just returned home
(summer, 2004) from a weeklong
trip to northern California, where we camped along the Klamath
River, and Jim got to use his “new” four-inch dredge to look
for gold. We had a
great week! That
is a beautiful area down there, and at this time of year we got to
visit with many old friends, made some new friends, and thoroughly
enjoyed the relaxed pace.
We knew the weather would be warm, but it
really wasn’t bad except for a few hours in the afternoon.
When you are near the river you get the breeze that travels
up or downriver, and it almost always has some coolness to it.
It also cools off wonderfully at night in that area, so
mornings and evenings are “marvelous” as Jim kept saying over
and over. They really
For those of you who are not familiar
with a gold dredge, it works sort of like a vacuum cleaner in the
river, although it is designed not to keep hardly any material;
just the heavy stuff, like gold and black
sand. A hose pulls it
up out of the river and over a sluice box, where the gold is
hopefully trapped in riffles running across the sluice, and then
the material goes off the end of the sluice to deposit right back
in the river. You
work your way upstream, filling in your hole behind you as you
Photo right: Jim's Pro-Mack
For those who are familiar with
dredges, I have been talking to Jim for quite some time about
getting a four-inch dredge that would be much easier to set up and
move than his five-inch triple sluice.
Although he had never seen one of the Pro-Mack dredges we
manufactured while I was part owner of Pro-Mack Mining Supplies,
he was interested when I explained how well they operated, and
why. Few of them are
sold, and we had just about given up on finding one, when one
turned up that had been used very little, and we were able to get
it. This was Jim’s
first opportunity to see it work, and he was impressed (I just
knew he would be).
This was also his first opportunity to
dredge outside of Interior Alaska, and he found it quite
different, as he expected. He
had also never had the opportunity to camp and dredge for more
than a day at a time, and he thoroughly enjoyed all of it.
He especially enjoyed the part about camping without hordes
of mosquitoes and other flying insects, and not having to worry
about a brown bear (grizzly) sneaking up behind you to have you
for his dinner.
we first arrived, we were the only ones in the camping area where
we stayed. It was
very nice and peaceful, and we found a nice, shady campsite under
the trees. Our first
morning there, he did have an “Alaska” moment… we were
sitting outside in our chairs, enjoying the beautiful morning,
when all of a sudden Jim gave a big shout (it really wasn’t
quite a shriek…) and leapt from his chair to land about six feet
in front of it. A
very large shaggy, and very black dog with a huge head had
silently walked up to him from the backside to say “hello.”
The poor dog was scared to death, but accepted Jim’s
apology, and left happy after saying hello to me, too.
Jim was just sure it was a bear, a leftover from his Alaska
camping experiences. There,
you can never relax, but must always be on the lookout for them.
Photo above: Jim and Missy
After a few days there were more people
in the camping area, and a good friend, Mike Higbee, was among
them. He was there with a friend to try out some new equipment the
friend has manufactured. It
is quite innovative, and they seemed to have a lot of fun with it.
In our first few days there, we made
trips downriver to the town of Happy Camp three days in a row.
We had a few things to buy on arrival at the mining store,
and visited with friends there, then the next day attended a large
potluck, and the day after that we attended a large birthday party
for a friend, Jan Stumpf. Jan
is married to my ex-husband, Bill Stumpf, and it is nice to see
them both happy. We
all get along quite well.
We also took an early morning drive
along a country lane that follows the river on the opposite side
as the highway. We
were rewarded by seeing several bucks very close to the road
(great photo opportunity missed, I forgot the camera), and
continued to see deer and fox.
As a climax I looked into a tree on the river side of the
road, and a bald eagle sat there in clear view, not ten feet away,
and made no move to leave, but posed beautifully, looking to the
side…. Darn! That
is such a peaceful, serene ride that it is always enjoyable.
This area seems almost like a forgotten
settled by gold miners in the 1860’s, it is heavily
forested with a mixed forest, thick with blackberries, wild
grapevines and many other vines,
is well dotted with fruit trees that have grown wild. There are many wildflowers there, and in the spring and early
summer the roadsides are a riot of color with the yellow blossoms
of Spanish broom, the pinks of sweet peas and many wild roses,
blues of chicory and lupine, and the whites of phlox, Queen
Anne’s Lace, and more. The
display is still going on there.
Hwy. 96 follows alongside the Klamath River from I-5,
almost to the Pacific Ocean, and almost every bend of the road
presents another postcard view.
The largest town along the highway is Happy Camp, with
something less than 1,000 residents.
At about 1100 feet elevation it is not high, but the
forested canyon walls make you think it is.
It gets warm in summer, but cools off wonderfully at night.
It does get many of the storms that roll in from the
southern Oregon coast, and averages about 55 inches of rain a
year. When I lived
there, we had more than 100 inches in several years, so those
averages may have gone up. It
gets a bit of snow in winter, but it mostly doesn’t last.
There are a number of nice creeks in the area along with
the river, and it is a nice, relaxing place to vacation.
Photo above right: Scene along
Hwy. 96, the Klamath River Hwy. The river is one of the
"Wild and scenic rivers."
Photo below: Our camp, under spreading oaks. The river is to
the right, behind the bushes.
are a number of campgrounds in the Happy Camp area with full
hookups, but that was not what we were looking for on this trip.
We wanted to camp on the river, to be close to where Jim
was dredging. Missy,
our cat, came with us, for her first time camping out, and she
enjoyed the trip, too. She
travels quite well for a cat, and has been on trips before.
She even flew from Alaska with us on one trip and visited
in Oregon and California for a couple of weeks.
She doesn’t like flying, but then, neither do we.
When we moved down to Oregon last winter she drove the
Alaska Highway with us, at temperatures of 40 below.
She has bonded well with us, and has a lot of personality. Jim says she is half dog.
She was a stray cat we adopted from the
Humane Society in Fairbanks, and we luckily got her before
she had to go through a winter up there, so she has no frostbitten
ears or feet. She has
been forever grateful to us for adopting her.
Where we were camped there were two
feral cats, evidently dropped off by someone.
We were never able to catch them (it was a young mother,
and a kitten of about 10-12 weeks), but we did finally get them to
eat. The mother went
off every morning to hunt somewhere, but the kitten stayed right
in our area, and all it took to bring her near was to cook some
meat on the barbecue. She
kept her distance, but after eating she would curl up somewhere
nearby and take a short nap.
Photo above right: Missy in the
tree, guarding camp...
Missy came outside with me on her
harness and a small rope, and watched the kitten carefully, but
did not bother her. The kitten really wanted to come close to her, but Missy
“talked” to her each time, and the kitten decided, each time,
to back up and leave her alone, so they understood each other
the days while Jim dredged, I did a lot of reading, and Missy lay
around watching butterflies and lizards, birds, and anything else
that moved. We napped
each afternoon, and generally just enjoyed ourselves.
Most days it was very peaceful and quiet under our large
oak trees, with only the breeze brushing through to bring us some
We have been so busy lately that it was wonderful to
take a break from all our activities, and fully relax.
Jim did not do as much relaxing, as what he was doing used
a lot of muscles you don’t normally use.
He enjoyed himself thoroughly, however, and can’t wait
until we Photo
above: The Klamath River... can go again.
This was a good learning experience for him, to help him
get used to the very different conditions in this area, and his
will go back next month so he can do more serious dredging, and we
can get some more relaxation time. He has plenty to keep him
busy around here, and will be getting a lot of
"exercise," so he should not be quite so out of
condition when he goes back. This has also served to
convince him that he needs to lose more weight again, a good
photo to the right is of Mount Shasta, and never fails to awe and
inspire me. It is gorgeous, no
matter what time of year you view it. It rises from low
hills, all alone in its majesty and beauty. We drive near
the flanks of it each trip down and back, and I can never resist
taking photos of it. A small camera, however, really cannot
do justice to it.
are so many places that Jim and I want to explore in Oregon and
northern California, that we will be busy at it for a number of
years. It is a fascinating area.
hope you will join us on our adventures, and learn more about
above: the majestic Mount Shasta
July 9, 2004
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All rights reserved
James and Marcia Foley