Camp McKinney Jimmy introduces his memoir Chasing Stolen Gold, a treasure hunter’s adventure to locate the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney, east of Osoyoos, British Columbia. The robbery occurred in the summer of 1896. The amount of bullion taken forced the bandit to hide the two larger bars in the forest. When Mathew Roderick returned three months later to retrieve the bars, he was shot dead in a bungled attempt to follow him to the treasure. The gold bars whereabouts remained unknown, until now. The highly illustrated book comes complete with a detailed treasure map.
Residents of the Camp McKinney cemetery should include Mathew Roderick, the man who robbed the gold shipment in August of 1896 and was killed in October as he returned to retrieve most of the bullion. In fact, he was buried twice after two separate autopsies and his location is unknown. The two fenced graves are Morris and Galloway from 1950.
With the help of a local guide, I visited the cemetery. I appreciated seeing that a chain link fence had been installed to help preserve the site but more needs to be done. More on that as the seasons progress. To find the location, begin slowing down after driving downhill passed the twelve kilometre signpost. A small opening into an area strewn with garbage holds the key. There is a driveway of sorts, parking for one. With straight ahead as noon on a clock, head for two. There a well-travelled path starts an uphill climb and within fifty yards, give or take, the chain link fence appears to the left not long after crossing an overgrown trail. More photos to come.
After two years away from the search area, I rented a Jeep, accepted the high cost of fuel, and enjoyed my return to the area of the search. The cost of the Jeep dropped substantially from the initial booking but fuel kept rising to offset any savings. Changes to the stream banks of both Jolly Creek, shown here, and Rock Creek were greater than on any year prior. The spring melt must’ve been quick or combined with heavy rains. Even some area trails were scarred and gouged. Silence reigned supreme and nourished my soul after too long in the noisy city. As I continue to age, I miss the silence of the countryside more and more.
Another year of fires rage across the country, more proof of global warming on display for all to experience. In the United States, tornadoes and hurricanes seem to be a daily occurrence. As if that weren’t enough, idiot leaders of some countries only have the small focus to wage war on others. How do they justify that to their children, if they are fortunate enough to have any?
I have been too long away from the forested area of the gold bar adventure. Despite a continual list of minor health troubles, I need to be there, this fall if possible. Skipping a visit last year only happened because I had chosen a point in my life to write about the adventure up to that time. But the ending doesn’t work like it should. The ending should include at least one gold bar and so the thrill of the adventure is on again.
With high vehicle rental prices, high fuel and food costs, the desire to go should be curtailed for a better time. But as the world population surpasses more than eight billion people and food production grows ever more limited by global warming, will there be a better time?
Chasing Stolen Gold contains a few rare gems of information and this map certainly falls into the category. The creator is unknown but Jackie Franks discovered it and donated it to the Clayton/Deer Park Historical Society in Clayton, Washington. The map is a virtual treasure trove of historic routes, trails, and forts. The accuracy appears good and it’s interesting to note that the return route of the Lewis and Clark Expedition was still known. Also marked is the Rawhide Railroad, a thirty mile line connecting two communities. According to the author of a book by the same name published in 1916, George Estes, two steam locomotives were shipped around the horn and used on railway tracks made of wood and covered with rawhide to minimise wear from the heavy trains. The story goes on to say that the system worked well until a severe winter when starving wolves ate the rawhide strips. (That’s a great way to end a story).
The book, reproduced by Leopold Classic Library, informs us that the story came to George Estes through a series of interviews conducted with “an old Irish section foreman” who worked on the railroad. Estes believed the story due to “the wealth of detail and circumstantial accuracy” revealed. After reading the book, I had a difficult time finding those same details. The idea that hardwood rails covered in rawhide could withstand the train’s tonnage for any length of time seems to be a stretch. Those were not fully rounded logs like some forest companies used in the early years, with special rims that cupped over the log. And those were trucks hauling logs, not trains.
In 1916, the book may have been more believable. After reading the tale, I was more inclined to believe this could be the classic yarn told by a master storyteller over drinks, many drinks. In the days when education was a privilege, story-tellers honed their craft to a fine art. More research is required. Were two small locomotives built in the east and shipped round the horn destined to be hauled by oxen to the Walla Walla Valley? If a ships log could indicate that and the timing is close, then the Rawhide Railroad has a glimmer of hope to be real. Until then, I’d put my money on the clever Irishman who should’ve been a writer. I regret missing the Mythbusters on this one.
Here on the west coast, many older apartments and houses don’t have screen coverings over the windows like I had on the prairies. Swarms of flies, mosquitoes, and grasshoppers made it mandatory there. On the west coast, especially on the sixth floor, the occasional stink bug or bee might error in navigation and pay an unintended visit but not often.
The recent spike in temperature resulted in my windows being open wider and more frequently. Vertical blinds shielded the morning sun but allowed a small breeze to bless the day. As I lay on my bed contemplating the day (I do that a lot in retirement simply because I can), I felt several light touches on my bare leg. Looking down I saw a sizeable wasp moving about and seemingly wondering how to get back out of this ingenious trap. I rose, walked to the window and pulled back the blinds and glass while the wasp followed and waited like a pet that needed to pee. The wasp returned to his tasks for the day while I wondered where it found the good manners shown.
The incident reminded me of a day on the farm decades ago when I endured the ramblings of an implement salesman before I could return to another of my many waiting tasks. The salesman had just entered his truck and closed the door when we both noticed a large, unusual, moth-like insect crawl away from us. Quicker than shit through a goose, the salesman leaped from his truck and stepped firmly on the bug. He returned to his truck and prepared to leave again.
“Are they dangerous?” I asked. He answered that he had no idea, started the engine and drove off. I had never seen anything similar to that bug and wondered if it were the last of its species, trying to survive in a world where man in all his infinite wisdom, reigns supreme. My point here is simply that whether it’s an insect in your home or in your yard, think about its role in nature before you pronounce a death sentence. The species you save in the end might play an important role in nature.
Lately I have been enjoying this Australian television series even though it was several years old. Three teams of gold prospectors endured great obstacles including intense heat in pursuit of gold. I know I couldn’t survive the high temperatures but what I fail to understand is how some could wear rubber boots and heavy felt hats. I could only assume that they were well adapted to the hostile environment. Some of the gold discoveries have been quite stunning.
I have several copies of my grandfathers school notebooks from 1903. In one, there is a study of the Australian continent. When my great grandfather urged his son Gordon to emigrate to a country with a better climate than the coal-choked air of Great Britain, I’m glad he chose western Canada. He raised his family in the dry belt of southern Alberta for roughly twenty years, then moved them to the cooler foothills closer to the Rocky Mountains for another twenty or so, and finally retired with his wife Mary, and youngest son to Cordova Bay on Vancouver Island, BC in 1954. They enjoyed their final decades breathing fresh coastal air and living in a time when the world wasn’t so crowded.
Maybe the Australian gold deposits are superior, but I think the southern prairie of Alberta was less harsh. It’s difficult to imagine the realities gold hunters (and people in general) faced in the 19th century but if we don’t get climate change problems properly addressed, life could get a lot more difficult for us all in the near future.
Springtime brings new growth and the promise of the summer yet to come. I imagine Rock Creek Canyon emerging from the deep sleep of winter to the lush growth of spring and raging snow melt coursing downwards through the canyon. I have seen the results of a spring melt in the canyon and know it can be both terrifying and beautiful. Will the melting snow from Mt. Baldy be early or late? Last year was the first year I missed going to the canyon in eleven years but I won’t miss this year. I need to be there…
This is a view from Mount Baldy, one I have not personally experienced. Even though I have been in the area during some winters, my visits were all focused at the base of the eastern slope searching for clues and gold bars. I have driven by where Camp McKinney once existed but never stopped to look around, unsure of who owns the properties. But I should for no other reason than to visit the cemetery. The call is strong so I will return this year and search once again for the lost gold bars of Camp McKinney. Photo courtesy of Alec Tuura.