Wickenburg, AZ is a pretty good little town. It has a Safeway with nearly everything except sprouts and pate, an old classic diner, and a good Arizona-Mex café. Unless you’re a golfer (Kat doesn’t play often enough to be good: it’s expensive, even when you’re willing to look an hour for a lost ball) there isn’t much else to do here. Oh, the Del Webb Centre for the Performing Arts offers all kinds of pricey entertainment (“Starting at $55!), but we’ve done pricey and we’ve done otherwise. You know which I prefer. But one of the RV blogs turned Kat onto an easy hike into a box canyon with a water feature that sounded fun and easy.
It turned out the drive was a long way from fun. Try seven miles of corduroy dirt road, so rutted you struggle to average 12 mph. Even then I wondered if the truck, which heretofore had no rattles, would acquire some courtesy of this hammering. It reminded me of my National Guard days riding in the back of a 2.5 ton truck: everybody back there gets so beat up by the vibration they allow us hourly pit stops because you need ‘em.
But along the way we got a good look at a Gambrel’s quail rooster in mating colors, a long-eared jackrabbit, and a ground squirrel who wanted to race us. El Trucko couldn’t keep up, even though Secretariat Squirrel ran in a straight line. That’s how bad the road is.
But the hike was a lot of fun. We saw cliff swallows – brightly colored, acrobatic little bug catchers – and watched them building their mud nests. We witnessed serious gold mining. It seems that technology, or modern marketing, has opened up multiple paths to gold mining riches. $1,600 an ounce helps too, but when you’re harvesting but a few flakes a day, can you really make a living? It was a Monday. Maybe these guys do.
Miner Bubba insisted we take a bottle of his water, and he offered some tips on finding gold that I later learned The Google agrees with. “Look for black sand. It’s nearly as heavy as gold and almost as hard to move. Erosion brings gold to the surface every year, and that includes wind over desert sands. This river brings gold up, and trees close to rivers like to grab it; now and then one dies and eventually lets go of its nuggets. If you have water and a good claim, mine there. I like dry mining. Set up a series of screens, shovel your ore into the top, and turn on your blower. The light, worthless stuff blows away leaving the gold behind, if any’s there.”
Bubba doesn’t seem to be making a killing, but he’s a third generation full-timer. Sounds as nutty as full-time RV’ing, but both are more rational than buying 100 Lotto tickets a week as a way to save for retirement. After all, when looking for nuggets – or lost golf balls – where there’s one, there’s often dozens.