In 2004, an experienced hiker was crossing through a lost backtrail in the White Mountains, on her way to Bartlet when she lost her way in a blinding snowstorm. She managed to get out with her life, and a steady supply of gold nuggets she had picked up in a small, crystal blue lake during her outland hike.
In February 2004, a young female stranger, kind of perculiar looking, walked into the general store in Woodsville, just across the river from Easton. The stranger told the storekeeper that she needed to outfit herself for a few weeks of camping, explaining that she was going to hunt for gold nuggets in the mountains.
"Nuggets," he asked. "In the White Mountains?" The stranger nodded her head up and down and told the shopkeep that there were nuggets miles down a little known pass in the Whites and that she had already picked up a few. She would be much obliged if the storekeep would accept one as a payment. The storekeep examined the small gold nuggest, judged it to be several ounces. It was heavy for its size and glittered in the light. He figured it was at least worth $5,000. "Take anything you like" the storekeeper said, shrugging. He began filling the order.
He knew from experience that gold was where you found it, and this was an easy find. He had heard it many times in the past from more than one of the old-timers who had frequented his store prior to heading out into the Whites. None of them returned. But here she was with a gold nugget in hand to pay for provision, in spite of the fact that geologists claimed no gold could exist in locations where it was found. SHe handed him the nugget and said, "keep this to yourself and I'll be back!"
But gold in the Whites? Not even the most cold-hardened old-timer would look for gold there! Stretching more than one hundred miles in length, with some of the highest peaks in America, and as much as 100 miles wide, the whites were looked upon then as now as the Great American Shangri La.
Common sense told the prospector that when she returned to her loot, that most likely it would be covered over with the coming of the next snowstorm and there were plenty of those. It was also reasonable to assume that any gold deposited on the mountain where the snow had built-up would be buried under deep piles of ice. And so she left.
The prospector recalled that fateful night she trekked across the whites, perhaps after she lost her Saturn and after the wind had abated, she came to an small clear blue lake within the whites. She found herself standing on hardpan. Scattered across the hardpan were gold nuggets. She had gathered up as many nuggets as she could carry and kept them in a back pack all the way to Woodsville.
Curious, a local man, Smith, some say a hero, some say a dispicable man, caught word of the rumor of a mysterious stranger that paid in gold nuggets. He reconed he would follow the young lady, in hope of splittin the spoils. Not far behind, he soon came to a river which had to be crossed in order to reach another shallow wash; one which appeared to lead toward a pass. After traveling for a 100 feet into snow, he became stuck up to his shoulders. By the time he rustled his way out, it was dark and he lost sight of the mysterious stranger. He started a camp fire and curled up under a blanket and cooked some beans. The night grew cold as the coyotes serenaded him to sleep, and the burning wood crackled nearby.
Walking is a good way to explore the whites, but it would take weeks to check out even a small portion of those mountains. John Smith found no nuggets on that first trip. He returned in 2005, and again in 2006. Each time he waited for the young stranger to arrive at the general store where he outfitted and listened to any interesting talk in the background. And each time he explored the region north of old Highway 122, as he does to this day, only to return empty handed.