After we parked on the landing near the road contractor’s trailer near the trail head, and geared up to head out to the Bacon and Beans claim along comes 2 ATV’s. After the dismount the two Forest Service men, Rob and Kory told us they were there to see that the forest was being taken care of.
We assured them that we were there as Gold Prospectors Association of America members checking out the claim. We wanted to see what it was like and what we could find. They assured us that they understood the difference between recreational prospecting and mining. They were very cordial and helpful in understanding what to expect. When authorities know that your intentions are good, all things fall into place.
Along the trail we moved over for a mini motor bike with a young guy coming out of the claim area with his sluice and bucket on the back of his bike. We both noted that the statement made in Zortman Memorial Day weekend that you needed an ATV to access the area was not true when you go out on site. This was good news to see that there were other ways to enjoy the claim.
When we were prospecting in the creek bed, along came an ATV along the upper level of the road with the shout out, “Are you all right down there?” He identified himself as the road contractor hired to make the road better as it crossed the creek way too many times; we shared with him we learned details from the Forest Service personnel.
He informed us that there was bear activity up further and the road was closed for quite a ways due to bear activity. Wasn’t worried as I know you can speak from your heart to animals and they can sense your motivations and or the lack of fear. The message to the animal spirit that we meant no harm to them or their environment spoke loudly as we were allowed to be safe and out of harm’s reach while prospecting. Dangers can lurk while prospecting, but it can be handled readily as well.
People in the woods add to your knowledge we found while prospecting.
Along with the joys of the fresh mountain air come the sites of forest life in full bloom. August must be berry season as we saw ripe chokecherries, wild raspberries, mini strawberries, and snowberries all ready for the picking.
As we traversed the mountain trail, off to our left was a deer resting with her ears perked up high just checking us out unafraid as we rounded the bend and moved on down. She watched in her safety with interest but no fear. Sweet baby of mine!
The hillside was abloom with wildflowers like phlox, bluebells, and purple daisies. The decorative element of the splash of color delighted us to stop and take photos of it all through the slippery mud and sharp rocks. It is the pause that refreshes to savor the blooms of your trip through the trails to the claim.
In the city one doesn’t always see the caterpillars anymore like you can see cross your trail. The fuzziest one is a precious image to have on your computer when you get home to see the miniscule detail of his every move over the middle of your pathway. Black and orange spikes wiggling in its movement said all life enjoys the woods.
While my gold pan sat along the creek bank, a black mini critter crawled through the matted grasses beside me. I thought it was a mouse but upon search learned it was a demon black mole afraid of the sunlight when we wanted a closer check.
Upon leaving a spotted, freckled quail came strolling along to check out what was of interest to his visitors to his happy home. He learned it was just us packing up to leave peacefully.
There is no comparison between being there and imagining what to expect when you go to this claim. It was agreed that even though we saw a google map of the area and then looked at a youtube video of it, there was no real, truthful knowledge of the access to this claim without traversing the mountainside on foot.
There is ample parking for many rigs at top of the trailhead. Then when you head out expect to go about a mile downhill on a road that is passable with a car maybe. You crisscross the mountainside to take a 90 degree turn that is for mainly an ATV. Then you go downhill on a twisty, turning trail down into a ravine that is so deep that when a fire came through there it jumped over the area and left it green and unharmed. Much of the mountainside has been burned out from a gigantic forest fire across many ridges as far as the eye can see.
From the top entry point you have no idea of where you are going to end up for the claim which is especially accessible if you have a GPS system as the claim lays across a funny angle of the ravine.
At the bottom are remnants of foundations and outbuildings from what seems like the turn of the century where old prospectors must have lived. The hauling of supplies for building and surviving would have been done on a wagon with mules and horses. Old rusty parts of the home still are strewn around. Even when you pan on the creek there are rotted boards that jut out making you think there was a place underground where some old prospector stashed his hidden treasure.
The color of the rocks varies according to where you are along the trail. Up on top the rocks are grayish green, midway there are red rocks, and at the bottom it is a golden color.
You hope to not carry out too much gravel if you are on foot as the climb back up is arduous while carrying a heavy load. There was proof of silver and gold but there is said to be platinum there as well. You will enjoy your trip to this claim.
Upon our arrival and talking with the Forest Service Park Rangers we were getting rained on and wet before our trek. Donned with umbrellas and some warm wraps we headed out down the trail. Hail accompanied the caravan of supplies. Thank heaven my car is loaded with a variety of sources of supplies as we didn’t expect winter weather in the middle of the summer.
Soon we discarded our extra padding as the sun came out and heated up the countryside. The breeze helped keep the temperature down.
Traversing the stream good waders came in handy to keep the tootsies warm. There were not many bugs at all so the bug spray was never used. The water from the riverbed filled our bottles with the freshest tasting water.
Walking sticks were not taken but certainly shovels acted as a brace from sliding downhill on the trail and security going uphill.
A GPS helps tremendously to check out the storms brewing and going. With the proper app you can know what inclement weather will stay or leave. “There is a storm brewing,” I heard, but it was soon to pass and leave us high and dry. But what would you do if you were drenched and had to work in the rain? Our canopy tarp we planned on using between two trees to give us cover if we needed it. Planned but didn’t need.
A collapsible umbrella stuck into the ground was perfect to stay dry while classifying gravel on the river bank. We brought recycled garden soil bags to carry out our gravel in to lighten the load instead of buckets when you are walking uphill. It worked well.
Planning to get out of the area before dark is a good idea. You might want to stay a long time, but watching the clock is important. We thought it would take us 1 ½ hours, but rather it was 2 ½. You wouldn’t want to be caught in the dark leaving. Now if you had an ATV, life would be different. The adventure of traversing the land makes you think of many things to expect. You don’t want too much and not enough; finding your balance with supplies works. It did on our trip.
As we approached the gold claim on Bacon and Beans, background information made for a more informative view of where we were about to go.
From information on the internet it was learned that men other than the Gold Prospectors Association of America own this claim. We figured they must be granting permission to the club for its members to mine the area. Thanks for the generosity!
The Bacon and Beans claim named after the staple food of most miners must have been a part of the Montana Gold Rush days of the late 1800’s. This claim must have been handed down to the relatives so they could continue in the prospecting tradition of Montana’s cultural heritage. Nice way to go.
The claim is a 59-acre active mining claim in Sweet Grass County in the Gallatin National Forest of southwest Montana and is owned by Bill G. Jones Dave W. Jones, and Jeffrey G. Jones. It is a placer claim with a $465 maintenance fee annually that is paid regularly to maintain ownership. Bacon and Beans is not a lode claim. This claim has bedded or layered deposits. The maximum size of a placer claim is 20 acres per locator—with a maximum of 160 acres. This 59 acre placer claim is well within acceptable size for the state of Montana.
Ownership and use of this claim is overseen by the Bureau of Land Management's Billings Field Office and is under the serial number MMC204474. The last action for this claim—case microfilmed/scanned—occurred on October 8, 2002. Information on the claim was last updated on August 21, 2015. If you would like to pursue more information on this claim see the management staff over this area. There is much history and there are a variety of minerals that can be safely discovered here.
It is yours to enjoy if you are a member of the Gold Prospectors Association of America.