[meteorite-list] Old guy braves the snakes and snails to hunt for meteorites!

From: Darryl Pitt <darryl_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sat, 15 Dec 2012 03:47:07 -0500
Message-ID: <C932A826-6091-4B7C-A65A-A80DFE01FA21_at_dof3.com>

Terrific read.

Well done and thank you!

On Dec 15, 2012, at 12:35 AM, Edwin Thompson wrote:

> The summer of 2012 started early for someone from rainy Oregon with a fun trip for father and son to chase after a new fall in Coloma, CA. The first trip to the new strewn field was ten days long and only a few days after the fall. Having the bordello room upstairs at the Sierra House hotel turned out to be a valuable advantage. With a bar and restaurant downstairs and being the only road house in the small, historic gold discovery town, meteorite hunters turned up there every night to compare notes. On the weekends the crew from SETI and NASA Ames would meet there for large group dinners always dog tired from another day of covering ground. The Coloma/Lotus area is on a beautiful section of the American river. It was easy to get to know local residents there. Since the primary activity during the summer is rafting the river everyone in the area is used to the summer growth in population. The town seems to have more than its share of young and attractive girls who often talk about what they know is coming
each summer. They have a common saying in Coloma; you don?t lose a boyfriend, you just lose a turn.
> Except for the poison oak, the ticks, the dreaded star thistle and the heat, this strewn field was a delightful paradise. The smell of bay trees roasting in the hot, dry, mountain air was an olfactory delight. The sounds of splish-splashers laughing and whooping and hollering their way down the roaring rapids of deliciously cool, clear American river water made one feel like this was a vacation. And the gentle breezes that cut through the dry, hot Sierra foothill air were a welcome relief. After ten days it was really hard to return home to rainy, old Oregon. So much so that it was just that easy to rush home, pack up the trailer, reserve an extended stay at the Campground in Coloma and head right back down for the summer. It made sense, the summer was already planned for a lengthy, determined search in eastern Oregon for the fall there some five years ago and this witnessed fall in Coloma was a bird in the hand since pieces were being found.
> Since the summer rush had not yet arrived it was easy to get a camp site just feet from the river?s edge. A number of the camper?s live there year round so it was much like home after the first week, getting to know the neighbors and getting settled in. The only difference was that large bright ball of solar heat supply overhead that comes much earlier in the season for the folks of the Golden State. With the predictable sunshine comes other elements such as blistering afternoon temperatures and the legendary rattlesnakes not one of which was seen by this meteorite hunter in over three months of days out in the bush. This was truly disappointing. The dollars spent on snake gaiters and a go-pro camera seemed a waste. And being a serious admirer of reptiles it was hard to hear all of the stories of sightings and not to get to see one up close and in person. The days were filled with other sightings; king snakes, colorful skinks of all sizes, coyotes, foxes, turkeys galore, loads of deer and one bobcat.
> The hills and mountains were surprisingly steep. Mount Murphy, Mount Clark and Discovery Mountain were all tough going but the most difficult aspect of covering steep terrain were the small oval dried oak leaves that covered the hillsides in several layers and more than once proved to be more slippery than skates on ice. Over time it became difficult to tell which was more painful; blistered feet or a bruised backside.
> Not wanting to join the foray of hunters asking permission to hunt the private land that peppered the main body of the strewn field the decision was made to focus efforts on what might be the area where the bigger masses might have landed. After spending a week in Dave Moore Park and two weeks in Magnolia and on the river trails it was time to focus on Cronin ranch and then on to Rattlesnake Bar.
> Cronin Ranch was work, to say the least. Seventeen hundred acres of hillside, star thistle and poison oak (the enemy). As summer progressed, days flying by like time travel, it got hotter earlier. To beat the heat meant getting up at four a.m. and getting out to hunt at daylight. It was easy to stop by three p.m. as that was when the water in the hydration pack ran out almost with religious perfection. Shower at four, dinner at five, bed by eight and up again long before the eyes were willing to crack open. It seemed like a good waste of summer sunshine and cool sleep time but determination to find a hidden treasure or the hope of doing so can be a massive motivator.
> The days sped by like never before. The occasional hunter or ?zombie? could infrequently be spotted off in the distance. After the second month in Cronin Ranch it was not uncommon to encounter one or more of the regular walker, runner or biker and before long get to know many of them by first name. One fellow named Bruce would speed walk through the ornate network of trails with his dog. The dog wore a bell which sounded there pending passing. Then one scorching afternoon while taking a noon break under the oak trees near the movie house a stranger appeared on a distant hillside. It was easy to see that this person was doing the search thing by the erratic side to side movement. There was a strange white thing flailing to one side which later turned out to be just a plastic bag tied to his belt. A short time later the stranger appeared nearby coming into the grove of oak trees and a familiar smile revealed that it was Dr. Peter Utas a meteorite hunter from Los Angeles. It was great fun to visit there in th
e field and compare thoughts. By the time conversation subsided the day was hot and shot.
> As the days grew hotter the prospects of going back up north to hunt in Oregon for pieces of the Elgin fireball became more attractive. The weather predictions were showing weeks of one hundred and five degree days ahead. After three months in Coloma and not one find to show for the time and effort it was getting tougher to go out each day. Just as rare as finding a Sutter?s Mill meteorite was the chance of buying one from a local finder. In all of the time identifying stones for locals and networking in the area just one 26.5 gram stone presented the opportunity for purchase. This gorgeous individual made its way into a well-known university collection. It is amazing that after over forty years of hunting for meteorites it still boils down to such a simple equation; one day at a time, cover lots of ground, keep the eyes open and maintain high hopes.
> So after May June and July in Coloma, California it was time to pack up and head for the Blue Mountains of Northeastern Oregon. Having hunted there for many years it was like going home. But things were a bit different, never having been in the Blues during the huckleberry season added a new twist to old stomping grounds. Now the worry was not snakes although they are there as well but black bears and judging from all the piles of bear duty filled with huckleberries it was time to carry a handgun and the heck with the snake gaiters! So with .45 caliber strapped to the chest it was off to hike the Blues. Turned out it was just as hot in northeastern Oregon as it was in Coloma but once in the deep forest canopy every morning it was downright chilly. A 100 degree day in the farm fields of the valley below was only 65 degrees in the woods. This was a gift from nature. This late in the summer the snow is gone and the creek beds are dry. The underbrush is fairly rough going and the hillsides of these 5000 foot m
ountains are a test for any hiker. Old logging roads weren?t much use because they are grown over with dense brush and alder trees that grow like weeds wherever the land is cleared. Game trails that skirt the hillsides are the way to go but it can be so tough to go where the four legged critters can go. Well five weeks of early mornings and long days of sunlight produced no meteorites here either. This trip was planned to last until the end of September or whenever the first snow fell but one morning, four hours into the woods a torn tendon cut the trip short and it was time in early September to make the drive home and have the foot looked at. All the ice packs and wrapping with ace bandages did little good and so it was time to let the doctors have their say. Lesson learned; it costs $200.00 to have a foot doctor tell you that there is nothing he can do and you simply have to stay off your feet. It?s called RICE; rest, ice, compression, elevation, exactly what Patrick told me to do in a phone call while st
ill in the field.
> So when the news came about the new fall event in Novato, California guess who was practicing RICE.
> Within days of the event it was off to California to hunt for the newest fall. The Battle Mountain fall was not possible because it fell right smack in the middle of the RICE experience. But this new fall was beyond resisting. The foot was getting better slowly as it still is. But that warm California sunshine was pulling me away from home where the fall rains had already begun. There were a few rainy days but right up and through the last week of November the sun shined and the temperature was around 72 degrees almost every afternoon. It was so different in the area around San Rafael, Fairfax and all the way over to Sonoma. Lots of car traffic to deal with. There were the same steep hills and lots of underbrush in some areas but so much beauty to appreciate. There were groves of redwoods on the sides of mount Baldy, huge oak trees on the hills around the Petaluma River, great hiking areas with networks of trails and no shortage of runners, hikers and bikers. Once again there was abundant wildlife and the
same small grey lizards seen in all three locations maybe blue bellied skinks. Mt. Baldly was quite the challenge that blistered the feet and tested the legs and lungs. Sonoma and the surrounding areas were tough simply because it was hard to find open areas of public access. There were a number of large areas of land that are set aside as land trust but not yet open to hikers and so the search was naturally narrowed down. Eventually after weeks of fruitless focus and effort the winter rains came in with a vengeance and the area went from summer sun to rivers at flood stage in just a few days. It was time to head home and even though empty handed this time the sun will come out again and it will be time to go back to these areas and give it another try. The real value of this time in the woods is knowing where not to search the next time. That and maybe this old man will live a little longer from all that fresh air and good exercise! Many friends were made and some new places now feel like home. It will be g
reat fun to go back again and hopefully next time take home a Space rock or two.
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Received on Sat 15 Dec 2012 03:47:07 AM PST

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