Author’s note: In the summer of 1947 my father, Kenneth D. Baker, and a friend, Forrest Davis, ventured up Spruce Creek near Seward in search of gold. In their research, they learned that only a couple of miners had previously prospected the area, and without success. From my father’s notes and poems, I have compiled what I believe is an accurate account of their extraordinary activities from 1947-50. In two parts, this story will be interspersed with passages from my dad’s poems, “Pards on the Spruce” and “The Conifered Heights.” The poems appear in italic type.
Part 1- The Spruce Creek discovery
There was no identifiable trail as the pair hiked up Spruce Creek, which enters Resurrection Bay just south of Seward. It was early July in 1947, but they knew there was still some snow up high. They followed the stream’s gravel bars, which required numerous crossings.
“The creek was in wild meander; guttering gravel and stone; and fording that glacial torrent hurt through flesh and bone. Fighting the tortuous alders, coursing beds of boulders, and damning the needled devils clubs higher than head and shoulders.”
Neither my father nor his friend Forrest Davis had any previous mining experience. After arriving in Seward from Pennsylvania in 1945, my dad consulted with veteran miners such as Robert “Bob” Hatcher, who achieved fame for his gold strike in a pass later named after him – Hatcher Pass—north of Palmer. Hatcher offered encouragement, mentioning that he had seen gold in the pan on Spruce Creek’s upper reaches.
“Packs and feet waxed heavy, trudging that creek’s defile, as the water chill and alders got meaner mile on mile…”
After about six hours of arduous hiking, with the occasional bear scrambling up the hillsides away from them, the valley narrowed into a gorge. They quickly realized they would have to climb to their right (north) and out of the gorge to reach the north fork of Spruce Creek, which Hatcher believed held potential.
“We changed our socks at a table rock near the scarp of the waterfall, and gazed enrapt at the splendor of the panoramic sprawl. Scattered spruces spiked the sky their roots in meadowed green, that sloped to crags and nameless mountains with glaciers tucked between.”
They set up camp at the edge of timberline near a small creek, and during the next days ventured up into the alpine tundra along the north fork of Spruce Creek.
“From our camp at timber’s edge where vistas opened wide, we searched eroded gullies and scanned the country side. The naked rock was seamed with quartz—flinty and mineral dearth—that in eons past had bullied its way from the bowels of the earth.”
They worked their way onto ridges that contained large seams of quartz, the parent rock of gold. And without even excavating or blasting with dynamite, soon found a rock that contained a small speck of gold. They would name their discovery “King Midas Mine.”
“The summer had waned ere we found the rock with a glob of gold stuck in it. Locating the lode it came from didn’t take more than a minute. On a striated knoll, a vein of quartz in an epoch feat of yore, had pressured and oozed it’s mineralized magma up from Vulcan’s store.”