Bleak? You bet. Here, we've scraped off the overburden, pushed it up the hill to the left, and the Terex is ready to scrape a load of supposed paydirt up to the sluice. The box is on the left, connected by several hundred feet of hydraulic pipe to a pump in an ice-free eddy in the creek. The sluice itself runs down to the impoundment in Butte Creek on the right.
And if it looks bleak, it's hard to describe how far things deteriorate when you add another sense. Placer mines stink. There are a lot of places where you can be overwhelmed by Diesel, but placer mines add a pervasive stench of thawed Pleistocene organic material that's been munched on for centuries by anaerobic bacteria. It's a memory that never leaves. Well, maybe never. It's one of the things I look forward to with Alzheimer's.