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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Treasure of the sierra Olympics

I was researching the history of the Dungeness River by driving old-timers around their old stomping grounds and listening to them argue over what happened where. 
These informants became my best friends. 
You couldn't trust them. They had a disturbing habit of dying. Time spent with these living historic monuments was extremely valuable. 
One of them, Harry, said he thought he was having a stroke on our way to go fishing. He wanted to go fishing anyway.
It was February. The Dungeness was loaded with steelhead. I was young and stupid. 
I drove Harry up the river instead of to a hospital. 
No fishing trip with Harry was really just a fishing trip. He was on a treasure hunt. That's why he brought the metal detector along. 
Harry found all kinds metal tools and stove parts buried under the sod of long abandoned homesteads. 
This was not an accepted method of surveying archaeological remains, but I was in a hurry. 
Many of these homesteads were soon obliterated by a logging industry that had no appreciation for cultural resources. 
Harry was my guide to this lost world, a walking, talking treasure map. I listened. 
Harry was convinced the treasure of The Golden Hind was buried on the Olympic Peninsula. 
It is known that Sir Francis Drake sailed past here in his ship, The Golden Hind, in 1579 after looting the Spanish of treasure they had looted from the Incas. 
And it is generally accepted that Drake buried 17 tons of treasure to lighten the ship before crossing the Pacific Ocean in his circumnavigation of the globe. 
Harry thought he knew where the treasure was buried. 
I figured the 17 tons of treasure probably wasn't worth as much as it used to be, but even if they just buried the tacky and tasteless treasure, it gave new meaning to the phrase valuable cultural resource. 
I told Harry I would do the driving and digging. All he had to do was say where. 
Following his directions, we found the probable location of the treasure, in a Native American graveyard. That made sense. 
Drake was a pirate. They often buried treasure with the dead, who were left to guard it. 
Harry had dug clams commercially with the Native Americans. He had been adopted into several tribes and knew the rules concerning Native American burials: 
"The Dead are not powerless." 
That stopped that treasure hunt. 
We shifted the focus of our research to another treasure, The Lost Frenchman's Gold Mine. 
The Olympic Mountains do not contain gold. The gold that has been found here was brought by the continental ice sheet and deposited when the glaciers melted. 
A Frenchman allegedly found one of these placer deposits. 
He must have wandered into Dungeness or Blyn once too often with a bag of fine gold dust. Someone may have followed him back to the mine. 
The Frenchman was alarmed and disappeared. There was a large explosion. The entrance to the mine was obliterated. 
The Frenchman was never seen again. 
Harry thought he knew the location of the mine, but he was having another stroke. I was hoping he'd spill the beans before he kicked the bucket. 
We made it to the river without incident. 
Harry talked about his faith. He said he didn't go to church much. His church was the river, the woods and in the mountains. 
But what about the gold mine? 
Then Harry saw a fish roll. 
It was a bad time to bring up the lost mine. 
I never did find out where it was, but Harry caught some nice steelhead that day.

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