In Search of Wealth
A Fortune Lost by Procrastination
The Flat Creek Mines
The red stains opposite Horseshoe Basin – Weird and Uncanny Lake Shyall – a half mile slide on a glacier – fine mineral claims on Flat Creek, the extension of the Pershall Claims on the Stehekin – Interesting write up by a prospector
On July 8th, of last year, Hugh McKeever and I arrived at Horseshoe Basin and camped a little below, opposite the large red stain immediately opposite Twin Falls. I noticed the stain, which was much nearer the trail than mineral stains usually are, and asked Mack to go over and see it. He said that it was a nice stain but too light in color and so close to the trail that the Rouse boys, Kingman and Pershall and perhaps many others had been there and if there was anything in it some of them would have located it sure. However, he said if we had a fraction of a day and nothing to do we would go over and look at it. The next morning, we went a mile or so beyond the red stain and climbed a mountain side to a stain which looked very reasonable, and finally made a location. After doing some hard work there our grub became exhausted and we had to go back to Bridge Creek for supplies. Mack remarked, as we passed by it, that the first mentioned stain looked promising, but we were so hungry that we could not stop. We made up our minds to go home and get another grub-stake and come back and take another look at the stain.
We returned to the vicinity of the basin in three or four days. When we got back there Bob Pershall had located the stain under the feminine names of Isoletta and Flora, and offered the claims for sale at the moderate sum of $40,000, saying he did not care whether he sold or not at that price. Then Mack and I went over to see the stain. I pointed to it and said to Mack: “That is a devilish nice stain.” Mack cussed me for joking about it. To tell the truth I was in no mood for joking myself after seeing the body of mineral that the Isoletta and Flora contained. There was a body of bromide silver rock of every color of the rainbow, the pay-streak running from four to six feet wide. Only think of it! I prospected in Idaho with many others where every one digs in on contract and indications – sometimes dig or sink a shaft or run a tunnel in from 100 to 300 feet before they can get a color of mineral. I stood there before Pershall’s big discovery and though of it all – the holes that I had dug and all the climbing I had done and thought how close Mack and I had come to discovering that lead of silver, the richest that I ever saw in my life. I could pick out rock assays from $1,000 to $2,000 on the surface. It all made me wild.
Next morning Mack and I were about starting to trace the ledge to see if it came to the surface again, when we met M.M. Kingman and Al Pershall, who told us they had been on the same trip we were starting on but being unable to trace the ledge further, they were on the return. But they said they had been beyond the lake and up over the glacier to the top of the mountain and had looked down on Flat Creek, where they had seen mineral stains larger than the Blue Devil or Black Warrior, or any other of the stains of the large ledges that had been located and turned out well, but they said they did not know whether we could go down to Flat Creek from the top of the mountain they were on or not. So Mack and I lashed our blankets and five days’ grub on our backs and faced the gigantic mountain. We were buoyed up by the excitement, occasioned by the bright prospect on the other side. We jogged along the base of the mountain till we rounded the point and came in view of the awe-inspiring lake, with hard pieces of floating snow drifting around on its placid bosom.
Now Mack and I had been to this lake before, and I, being a slightly superstitious formation (excuse this rocky allusion), stood in as much awe of it as the heathen did of the mythological river Styx. In fact I frankly acknowledged to Mack that I would rather drown in any other lake than get my feet wet in that one. Mack laughed and said that it was low Irish superstition. However, the lake bewitched me, for on several nights, afterward I dreamed of drowning in it and of how Mack had endeavored to save me at the imminent peril of his life, the last time waking up shivering with cold and finding myself from under the blankets and it raining fine but fast. I actually dreamed this dream over three nights in succession. Then I was honestly afraid of the lake. Whether this dream was a forewarning or not the sequel will tell. However, the lake being a wild, weird looking body of water in a devilish looking place, Mack named it Lake Shyall, because he said that it behooved the sons of Adam to steer clear of it.
While camped on the lake we both concluded that the Isoletta ledge must cross the lake basin at the extreme west end, but there was so much snow that we could not tell there; so if we found the ledge we had to go south on the course of the lead till we found a place where the hill faced the south, but we could not get over the glacier in direct line with the lead, so Mack wanted me to go down to the glacial canyon that I had dreamed about his coming down head first, but I told him I would rather take my chances and go some other way. He agreed to go any other way possible.
We started around the end of the lake till we came to the mountain horse, which viewed from Doubtful Lake basin resembles a colossal sky-scraping cathedral with a sky-propping spire, which made me feel very little when I looked up at it; but I would rather have tackled anything than that horrid glacial canyon to get over the summit to Flat Creek, so we started up the cathedral rock. The architecture of this freak is very rough, so much so that there are some small canyons in the roof and a large on between the cathedral and the tower, and this latter canyon Mack and I wanted to go through over the summit. We climbed till nearly night, then we got in the canyon on a glacier, which after our being over-heated all day, soon chilled us through and we saw that we could not go over the summit that way, neither could we sleep there, so we had to retrace our steps that evening and when we got back to the lake one of Mack’s feet was frozen and I was chilled so that I had very little use of my limbs.
We camped on the margin of the lake that night, and the next morning started around the lake to try the glacial canyon, which in my dream, was fraught with horror, for I felt sure I was inviting my own doom. But the thoughts of those large stains over on Flat Creek and the fabulous wealth that might be ours if we could only get over the mountain, and Mack being anxious to try it, we came to the mouth of the canyon and started up with our packs. Now this glacier in this canyon is actually a mile long and stands at about half pitch, and runs from the margin of the lake to the top of the pass without a break and very smooth and we could only climb it by sticking out picks in the ice and taking our chances on the slipping back into the lake every time we pulled our picks out to get a new hold in the ice. Mack was ahead of me, for I was not feeling good that morning and was taking it easy, while Mack was laboring under heavy excitement and no superstition, was making his best time, so when he was three-fourths of the way up the glacier I was only about half-way up, as near as I could tell. My limbs had felt cramped all the morning and now they cramped in dead earnest so that I had to lie down on the glacier and hang to my pick with both hands, thinking every minute that I would slide that whole half-mile into the lake quicker than I could wink. There was no place to rest. The walls of the canyon were cut square up a thousand feet or so, so there was nothing for it but to hang to the pick, thinking the while that I could not hang a second longer, because my arms and hands were benumbed; I was shivering fearfully, my entire weight was on the pick, which did not have a very good hold, as I was almost exhausted when I stuck it in and dared not pull it out to get a new hold. Soon however, another cramp took me near the hip which drew my legs up quick and the sudden wrench pulled the pick out of the ice and away I started with the speed of a comet, striking wildly at the ice with my pick in trying to stop my flight, but I was going so fast that my pick would only get hold enough to make the ice fly and – Chelanites! Watervilleites! Stehekinites! and all ye sons and daughters of Adam! – I flew. As I neared the lake, where the glacier became less steep, I managed to turn over on my back, though going at cyclone speed. I was packing all the blankets and when I turned over on my back I had them all under me, and being cramped up I laid square on the pack of blankets with my feet in the air. At that moment all the bad things I had done in my life crowded in my head. As soon as I struck the water I went skipping across the lake as Mack had done in my dream, full of grim humor now, for I was not hurt much and the water seemed to stop the cramps that has assailed me on the glacier. Anon rising in the air and then coming down to the surface of the water and diving far under, I came to a stop finally near the farther shore where the water was not over eighteen inches deep. I soon crawled out on the shore, with my boots full of glacier and my whiskers scattered in wild confusion. I resembled an Irish gentleman that had seen better days, as I lay in the sun thinking it all over and getting dry.
Meanwhile Mack had gained the summit, but soon came down to where I was laid out in the sun, and was very much surprised to find that I was comparatively uninjured. He then remarked that my dream had much of truth in it and I told him it had but that it was the first one in all my days and nights that had come true.
The next morning, we started again and this time got to the top of the canyon without accident, where we could see the mineral stains down along Flat Cree. We commanded a view from the summit as far as the eye could see. We were many hundred feet higher than the Cascade pass and higher than nearly all the mountains on either side of us. The whole valley down Flat Creek seemed to be in full bloom with purple and yellow flowers. It looked to be impossible for us to descend to the valley, as the mountain seemed to drop straight down a few thousand feet, but we concluded to attempt it and started down to locate some claims if we could reach them. We wound our way along the side of the mountain and down little defiles and out on terraces along the side of the mountain looking for some place to go down, till the terrace would narrow down to six or eight inches in width, then not finding any place to go down we would have to go back and look elsewhere for a defile – or a yew tree. There were many yew trees there which grew like night trailing vines and trailing down the side of the mountain sometimes fifty or seventy-five feet from one terrace to another and we sometimes had to slide down these yew trees to the terrace below. We soon got down over obstacles that we could not get back over for our lives, and then we had to go on down or starve there. We kept going here and there, all the time getting a little nearer our goal, until finally we wound around in sight of canyon with its bottom covered with snow, that ran clear down to Flat Creek. If we could only get down into this canyon we would have no more trouble getting down to Flat Creek. We kept on sliding down yew trees and following along terraces but now every terrace we got on led out to a mountain gorge many hundred feet wide. This was an obstacle that we had not figured on, but we retraced our steps along the terrace till we could climb down another tree, an experience oft repeated, and by and by we came to a terrace that we could not get off from down to the next one without jumping into a tree top which grew up form the terrace about one hundred feet below us and towered to about fifteen feet below the terrace where we stood. Mack and I shook hands and talked it all over, but there was no way out of it. We had to jump into the tree top and climb down the tree or starve there.
Mack reverently crossed himself, then closed his eyes and jumped into the tree top all right. Then I followed, without getting hurt, and we climbed down the tree to the terrace, then followed along the terrace til we came to the fissure, and there found a large rock wedged into it level with the top, so that we easily walked across and climbed down into the snow canyon and walked out to Flat Creek without anything more of note happening. When we got down among the flowers that we saw blooming from the summit we found that they were musk flowers and I gathered a large bed of them while Mack got supper and we slept on them that night. The next morning, we started prospecting and made two locations on good leads that day. The following day we wrote the notices and put them up in monuments. Then our grub being exhausted we had to start back to Horseshoe Basin.
During our sojourn in the Flat Creek basin, we looked for old campfires and other traces of human beings and there being none it seems probable that we were the first who were ever there.
McKeever then went over to Rainy Pass to investigate some of Rasnick’s discoveries and I went back to Flat Creek to try to get some claims on the big Pershall lead, found it and located three claims on it, which extend from Flat creek to the Shyall Lake basin. The rock is of a blueish lime formation carrying native silver. Then there are several other kinds of rock in it carrying silver.
When I go up on top of the summit of the ledge, putting up the stakes on the north end of the Siren, I beheld the most entrancing scene that I ever saw. I was in about the same altitude as the roots of the sawteeth between Horseshoe Basin and Park Creek. I commanded an excellent view of them from so great an elevation, and I must stay they almost baffle description, though I think that it would be a good place for the genii to sojourn some Patrick’s day and give us a representation of the destruction of the antique tower of Babel; and I think that the shortest tooth among them would make a solid rest for Jacob’s Ladder with Colonel Wilkeson on the top round.
This chronicle is all right and if any of you doubt it go to the Leader office and see the unique crystal place there on exhibition by me, which was named he Dragon’s or Devils foot by Horton of the Twitsp. I found this crystal in one of my sliver claims on Flat Creek, near the summit of the Cascades; and with the name that Mr. Horton gave it, it is in keeping with my trip and in fact resembles it as much as a crystal could resemble a Flat Creek trip. Very respectfully yours,
Stehekindale, Wash., Jan 13, 1893