A few days after getting settled in at the Lazy J RV Park in Rapid City, SD perched high upon a hill the manager suggested we move spots. If you’ve ever traveled with a fifth wheel you know that this is not always a quick and easy feat to accomplish. He wanted us to be farther away from the traffic at the office, because of the lil one and the dog, and also to give us more privacy; not to mention we’d now be on the bottom end of the row with the better view. We were getting quicker with each move we made in the rig, all of our belongings were beginning to live in their travel spots, there was no need for me to keep adjusting things right before/after a move.
Traveling the way we do, we have to keep our eyes to the skies and stay alert and up to date with the weather. We pay attention to wind speeds/direction while pulling the rig; staying a few extra days if necessary to catch a good tail wind. Also the rain and thunderstorms are major factors in some of our decisions while on the road, you don’t want to get caught downstream on a peaceful creek with a raging storm and flash flooding a few counties north; you know it all rolls downhill, I just don’t want to be in the way when it does. With the weather becoming more and more extreme, I feel we have become even more vigilant in watching and learning Mother Natures’ rhythm in the skies.
It wasn’t but a few days before she provided a spectacle for the lil one to view for the first time, an annular solar eclipse. All day long the lil one watched the clock and the sun to see when it would begin. We had gathered a TON of tinted safety glasses, wishing we had brought the welding hoods with us but knowing this would be the only purpose to have them. Finally the time had come, it was beginning. We loaded up in the truck and went to the top of the hill, as steep as this hill was; yes, I drove up it every chance I got instead of hiking. The lil one quickly got out and sat on the roof top with the favorite stuffed animals that got to witness the eclipse too. We all took turns holding 4-5 pairs of glasses up to our eyes to view the eclipse. It turned out to not be that big of a deal for us, but for the lil one; it was amazing that something could block out part of the sun’s rays. Just as quickly as the excitement grew it also depleted after trying to look through all those glasses just to catch a glimpse of the moon blocking part of the huge ball of blazing gases we call our Sun.
We were back in our rig watching a movie and planning the next adventure before the eclipse was officially over. Gold fever was taking hold of me and my little family. A dear friend from Texas, who just so happened to be a rock hound himself; passed on to us a gold pan, just in case we ever found ourselves in gold country. We gathered maps, searched online for information and started getting the tools we would need together. An acquaintance we had met there took us to one of his hiking spots overlooking what seemed to be a peaceful winding creek in the valley between some very steep and high mountains.
We were HOOKED!! It took us a few days of watching videos, reading maps and gathering tools and such before we could strike out. Our first stop was a small stream on the side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the Black Hills. We thought we’d try it out to get the feel for working the pan, this is a learned technique that none of us had acquired as of yet. One of the very first huge lessons we learned, the water here is extremely bone chilling cold. I only thought our spring fed creeks in Alabama were cold, the water running through the Black Hills in spring is like the Arctic ocean in January. I quickly made a mental note to go shopping for insulated waders for the whole family.
After getting over the shock of the frigid water we started looking for a good place to pan. We had watched numerous videos on where the gold naturally settled at along the creek beds. The hubby started working on turning over large rocks, or gold catchers, and looking underneath. We dug around and panned in the black sands for a while; only finding flour gold, little tiny flecks skimming along the tops of the black sands. It was very interesting to look at the different rocks from this part of the world, they had a shimmer and shine to them like none other I had seen before, not to mention the crystals. The lil one fell in love immediately with all the quartz crystals that littered the stream, just right for picking.
We dug for what seemed like eternity to our numb feet and legs but in reality was only a short 30 minutes or so. Soon it was time for a picnic of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we had prepared, the simplest were always better for me. It is really hard to let your guard down and just enjoy the great outdoors when you know you are not on top of the food chain in this wilderness. We were forever on the lookout for the ever elusive mountain lions that call these parts home; knowing they were more active at dawn and dusk we had chosen lunch time to be in their backyard, but still ever vigilant watching out for them none the less.
With our bellies full and the feeling back in our toes and feet, we jumped back into the freezing waters to dig around some more. Never letting our spirits drop when we came up with empty pan after empty pan, as it was the memories and experiences together as a family that we were aiming for; not gold. Some of the best times of our lives cannot be bought and paid for by any amount of money, they are memories of experiences we have with loved ones while actually living life; this is one of the very important lessons we are trying to instill in the lil brain we are in charge of educating.
Hours later as the sun began its descent in the sky, our very blue and frozen feet told us it was time to head home for the day; also the hungry mountain lions were ever present in our minds. Our plan was to return to the creek in the valley, off of Falling Rock Rd, climb down the mountain and pan in an area that wasn’t on the beaten path and less known to man. The sun slowly set over this beautiful and rugged landscape as the city lights twinkled on below us, it felt as though we were on top of the world, our own personal slice of heaven.
Until next time……
I don't care how poor a man is; if he has family, he's rich. ~Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford, "Identity Crisis," M*A*S*H