It’s Sunday, April 28, 2013, and the Nugget Buggy sits at The Pride, in Tellico Plains, instead of gold camp as I watch the rain for the second day in a row.
The rain seems to be unending and the height of all the streams around the area is the reason a halt has been called to the gold mining.
The return to Coker Creek was a good decision because after arriving and establishing camp in Doc Rogers’ field, big things began to happen.
First was the discovery that Coker Creek is loaded with flaky and fine gold. It takes a lot of work with a shovel, bucket, and feeding the sluice box, but after four hours of steady work, Oro Expedition ’13 was in possession of its first measurable amount of Tennessee gold.
Oro Expedition ’13 has found a major place of operation for what could easily be the next 30 to 60 days.
The second day in camp, I spent on a small tributary of Coker Creek and the hourly wage figured out at $10 an hour…not a bad start. One other thing I found out on that day was exactly how much manual labor is required to make $10 an hour mining for gold.
After a solid 4 hours of sluicing, I decided it was best to return to camp while I still had the energy for the half mile hike. Fairly close to camp was a gentleman standing by his vehicle with his mining equipment spread out on the ground. As I approached, the gentleman asked me if I’d had any luck. The look on my face must have told him that I’d had a good deal of luck in finding those little yellow rocks. After introductions were made, it was easy to tell that John and I were going to be great friends.
Our conversation led us to discover I had already made the acquaintance of several people John mentioned as also being miners, and with that it was easy to see that I was on the right track to meeting the right people to make Oro Expedition ’13 a success.
Through the progression of the conversation, John offered to act as my guide for the area. Over the next several days we covered many miles of the Cherokee National Forest, seeing many of its natural wonders and historical places.
A short distance from gold camp, but deeper into the National Forest, the Nugget Buggy found itself axle deep in a small tributary of Coker Creek. The reason the Buggy was so deep in the water was the road and the creek were one and the same. Once a parking spot was found, John and I proceeded into a small gorge and began our hike upstream. During the walk John talked about ‘The Wall’. Once we got to ‘The Wall’, it was a spot John and Bill from Bill’s Pit Stop, had established as a camp site. John was showing me what later became Outpost #1 for Oro Expeditions.
As the day and the conversation progressed, and the hole in the middle of the creek got deeper and deeper, a few things became clear—that John knew a lot about local history…a lot about mining for gold…and had just ended a journey that began in 2009. It turns out that his journey was a mirror image in reverse of the journey that Oro Expeditions is just beginning.
The next day, a hike half a mile from gold camp, established Outpost #2 for Oro Expedition ’13 at the Blue Hole.
The hospitality and mentoring I have received during my stay at Coker Creek has been overwhelming and fills my spirit to overflowing.
Even though the rain still falls in Tellico Plains, it’s time for the Nugget Buggy to return to gold camp with a stop in at the Welcome Center to visit with Ron and catch-up on more of his stories about gold mining in the ‘old days’.
Many years ago I sat on the front porch of my family’s home, in Swanton, with Grandma listening to the whippoorwills. With the harvesting of timber in their natural habitat, the whippoorwills left Garrett County, and have not been heard from since.
I received a welcome surprise one evening in gold camp as an old friend reappeared. As the day drew to a close, the song of the whippoorwills echoed through the forest bringing the spirit of Grandma and Pop into camp with me. Ibae bae tonu.
Thank you, Pop for all your help.
Oro Cas shares his thoughts and experiences as he travels the country on his Expeditions.