For the last eight years, I’ve been searching the rugged forest in southern British Columbia for two bars of gold stolen in 1896. At the age of 61, I took up the challenge to find the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney. The adventure cost me dearly; a great relationship, expenses I couldn’t afford, and took a toll on my health. Yet I couldn’t stop, especially after finding more than twenty pieces of hardware directly related to the theft.
I drove more than fifty thousand kilometers in all seasons to a forested area east of Osoyoos, BC. During my two hundred plus days hiking the rugged area, I reconnected with nature and learned the value of ‘forest bathing’. In my quiet manner of walking, I saw deer, elk and moose, a black wolf, a reddish-colored cougar and a coyote. I heard the spring mating call of the spruce grouse and western meadowlark. I watched the American Dipper dive into the cold creek for bugs. Western tiger swallowtails and Painted Ladies visited on warm summer days.
But I never forgot about the missing gold. My interest in BC’s significant gold history began when I briefly managed the Yale Museum and Historic Site in late 2009. Much of BC’s history centered around gold discoveries from the southern interior to the far north over several decades. Miners flooded in from around the world and legends were born.
As with most legends, the true facts often became muddied or lost altogether. As I began to investigate the missing gold, I decided to only trust the details of the British Columbia Provincial Police files. And from those records came the single clue that set me on the right path. Within two years, I uncovered the hard evidence directly connected to the theft. Those artifacts revealed how the thief carried out the robbery; he merely camped and waited on the only eastern route from the mine to the US rail head. When the mine operations ceased for the one-day, monthly cleanup, Mathew Roderick camped along the trail and let the shipment come to him. He chose a sharp bend on the mountain trail where the wagon had to slow. On August 16th, 1896, he stole 656.5 ounces of gold bullion.
Roderick must have been greatly surprised by the amount of gold from the cleanup. In fact, the Camp McKinney mine produced fifty percent more gold than the average BC mine at the time. The weight forced him to make a decision: he would have to hide the two larger bars in the forest and return at a future date to retrieve them. Unfortunately for him, he was followed on a dark night in October and shot dead in a bungled attempt to follow him and retrieve the stolen bullion.
Although I had reduced the search area from the immensity of the forest to the size of a tennis court, success still eluded me. Even two of the best metal detectors available today failed to search deep enough into the heavily compacted gravel bed of the canyon floor. My greatest difficulties were yet to come.
Most of this journey can be found at http://www.campmckinneygold.com.
Please go to http://www.campmckinneygold.com for the latest updates and information.
In my previous blog I sent out an appeal for someone to join me in the challenge. Youth and brawn are needed to help conclude this exciting but slow motion adventure. I met a couple of individuals who seem to be just the right balance of smarts, age, and willingness. However winter descended too quickly and harshly for any development to take place this year. That’s not really a problem for me as I’ve been living in next-year country for nine years now anyways. So what’s one more… It just means Christmas won’t hold any big celebration this year, other than enjoying life in the age of Covid-19.
This isn’t the conclusion I expected. Yet here I am, admitting that I did not recover at least one of the two lost gold bars. And the exceptional high price of gold these days rubs salt into the wounds of defeat. My return to the area of this great adventure buoyed my spirits and enabled my emotions to absorb the silence and calming effect of the natural world. I needed that after the near constant bombardment of excess noise in the urban sprawl of my environment.
I feel the target is correct. The eight years of research and investigation still has me believing I know where at least one bar lies, within one cubic meter. My old body is the problem. At sixty-nine years of age, my ability to work with strength is gone. My lung function is good as the previous few years of walking several kilometers a day has proven. But while digging in ground the consistency of wet cement, my arms and hands ache and I rapidly run out of energy. I admit now that I am no longer a treasure hunter but a writer, one who wishes he were a younger man. Yet I can’t complain about the aging process as the alternative isn’t good. Still, this is not how I wanted the quest to end. “How I Almost Found the Lost Gold Bars of Camp McKinney…..”
Who wants to buy a treasure map? Highest bidder not necessarily accepted. This is a part of BC history and is not meant to be melted into scrap gold. Treasure, after all, is more valuable than scrap gold. After subtracting the smallest bar that evidence suggests had been sold by Roderick in 1896, roughly fifty pounds remains. One bar should weigh about twenty-five pounds and court evidence reveals the Cariboo-Amelia gold bullion, unrefined, ran about sixty-three percent give or take a fraction. That still gives close to sixteen pounds of pure gold at twelve troy ounces per pound for well over one hundred and eighty ounces. That’s for one bar about the size of an old vhs tape.
Perhaps I should’ve had my book ready to hit the market, composed a cryptic poem and let the public have a go at it. If Forest Fenn is remembered for anything in the history books, it should be that he encouraged others to embrace and enjoy the quest for gold. I assure you, despite my age, the adventure brought a lot of excitement into my life at a time when the the looming years of retirement had little to offer.
I hear Shirley Bassey singing the theme song for Goldfinger on the oldies station playing in the background. How appropriate. So dear reader, does anyone out there appreciate a good challenge?
These two years are identical on the calendar. I like that a lot. Seems like the perfect time to end this amazing adventure. I’ve been told that ending the story without recovering the gold would be alright. So many other elements have entered the story the reader might not be disappointed. But I would be. I didn’t start this adventure to write how I almost found the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney.
Mount Baldy had a record snowfall and now the runoff is threatening to cause flooding in some areas. Two years ago a heavy spring flow caused major changes along Rock Creek that hadn’t happened in years, maybe decades. Hopefully the melt won’t last too long and perhaps the force of the water will aid my search.
The planet alignments favour a conclusion this year in what is supposed to be one of the luckiest years of my life. I can’t wait to make that come true.
After more thought and review of my Kickstarter campaign, I have decided not to pursue that route for funding. Besides my small group of family and friends, I would have to pursue all the popular websites to reach out to the public. My very limited skills would take more time and effort than I have. My focus is to write the best story I am capable of and recover the gold bars. With luck, other options may occur.
I have decided to push ahead with a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise the funds needed to finish this quest.
Please visit the address below to see my presentation.
Recent discoveries about my personal nature and the understanding of my psychic abilities have encouraged me to take a bigger step towards embracing and sharing these often mystifying experiences. The theme of the story is embracing the obsession of the lost gold bars while exploring my experiences involving psychic abilities I knew I had but never understood. This doesn’t change the story written to date but merely adds the content to this blog. The mysteries of spirituality and nature are an integral part of the story but weren’t as apparent to me when most of this blog had been written.
One great relationship lost due to my obsession
Two metal detectors bought and used
Three injuries including head trauma, scratched eye lens, torn hernia repair
Eight years involving the quest
Over thirty-five thousand dollars spent searching and writing a novel and screenplay
Twenty-six pieces found directly related to the robbery
Seventy-six trips to the forest
Eighty-four countries shown visited the blog
Close to fifty thousand kilometers driven in all seasons