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Lake Creek Mine

The old Spanish diggings discovered in Daniels Canyon by Aaron Daniels, William Foreman and others prove that Spanish and Mexican miners explored and dug for gold and silver there long before Mormon settlers built that first wagon road. Those early-day miners used pack animals, not wagons, and their trail of choice was through Lake Creek Canyon. Just above Curtis Crook's home along Lake Creek, there are the ruins of an ancient looking stone wall, built at the base of an out-cropping ledge of rock. Those stones are carefully fitted together, and the wall is strategically placed, as if it may have been a lookout point or a defense fortification. Perhaps it was a guard post along the Old Spanish Trail, for Crook was told by his grandfather that the wall was old and green with moss and lichen when he first saw it during the 1860s. If only those stones could talk, what tales they might tell!

Curtis Crook's home is located only a short way from the mouth of Pole Canyon, a side gulch leading off from Lake Creek. Some unusual finds have been made there during the past few years. While digging a hole near his sheep camp, "Whiskey Joe" Murdock uncovered a rusted metal box which had an old map in it. Those who have examined it say it is an old Mexican mine map. Dan Allison, a Heber Valley stockman, ran livestock in Pole Canyon for a long time. While following his stock one day, he picked up a fist-size chunk of white quartz, criss-crossed with stringers of yellow gold. He found it along the trail near the top of the dugway, about six miles up canyon. Allison spent some time looking for more of that quartz, but never found another piece. Is there an outcrop hidden somewhere in the oak brush nearby? That gold specimen had to come from somewhere.

Rob Dansie thinks he might know where Allison's quartz gold came from. A south-of-the-border sheepherder who was working for his family found a most unusual pick in Pole Canyon. It is very similar to a prospector's pick, except that it is much larger and was hammered out of wrought iron by someone who was skilled at blacksmithing. It has both a hammer-head and a chisel-point, but unlike manufactured picks, its head is secured to the rotted wood handle by pins driven through holes on each side of the metal head. It is a one-of-a-kind artifact, both unusual and valuable. If you want to prospect in Pole Canyon, start where "Whiskey Joe" Murdock dug up a buried map box, follow the trail to where Dan Allison picked up that piece of gold-laden quartz and pay special attention where that old Spanish mine pick was found. Three clues should be enough for anyone!

Curtis Crook's grandfather, Heber Crook, told him a story of some interest to today's prospectors. Back when Heber Valley was still being settled, an aged California prospector would come to the valley each spring, riding into town on the old Heber Creeper Railroad. He would rent a pack horse and slowly make his way up Lake Creek, often stopping at Crook's home to rest both himself and his pack animal. Crook couldn't help but notice the old fellow's advanced age, so he always offered him a meal or lodging for the night. Crook recalled how the old man would follow the long, open ridge on the north side of the canyon, a ridge which gave easy access to the headwaters of the West Fork of the Duchesne River and Currant Creek. Each year at the end of summer, he would come back down canyon, his pack horse loaded down with two saddle bags, each heavy with chunks of dark brown colored quartz rock, shot through and through with stringers of yellow gold.

After several years of making his yearly journey up the steep canyon, the old man told Crook that he would take him to his mine when he returned in the spring, for he knew his time was short and it would probably by his last trip. He said that he had no family, and that he wanted to show Crook his gold ledge in appreciation for the kindness and hospitality Crook had given him. Spring came again, but the old man didn't, nor did he ever return again. Crook later learned that he had died in California. The secret of the brown colored quartq died with him, but its source can't be very far from the head of Lake Creek, perhaps somewhere along the canyon of the West Fork, or maybe across the ridge at Currant Creek. Your search starts at the old rock ruins near Curtis Crook's old house.--Faded Footprints, pg. 32

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