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Valley of Shadows

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Is this the image of the old prospector Is this the image of the old prospector

Gold Hill Ghost

It’s May and bikers, both road and mountain, are getting their two wheelers out, tuned up and taking rides of increasing distance as they get their legs and lungs back in shape. I know I’m trying, despite advancing age.

The following was gleaned from two sources.

It was a crisp, clear late September morning. Trace (not his real name), set out on his Cannondale mountain bike to ride Gold Hill one last time before the snow flew.

From the trail head just off Bottle Bay road it was approximately 3.4 miles to the benches that overlook the Valley of Shadows, Sandpoint, Dover and the lake. Half a mile further up, if you turned left on the old Forest Service road, you’d wind up at Bottle Bay. Trace, though, had a more extensive ride in mind. Turning right and going further up would link him with a trail overlooking Hope and the islands. He’d then take the challenging, but rewarding, downhill, eventually ending up on the semi-private Rocky Road, finally to Sagle/Garfield Bay road about three miles from U.S. 95.

Gaining the meadow area 45 minutes later, Trace ate his protein bar and took a long pull of water from his camel-back as he took in the crystal clear view of Cabin, Pearl and the other two islands.

Ten minutes later, with renewed energy, he started downhill. One drawback, though, to late season trail riding was the fall of tree needles and leaves along with the longer shadows from the lower September sun that could make for a slippery surface, hiding holes and miniature washout gullies.

Coming to his favorite area, birch and other leaf trees well on their way to full fall colors lined the trail. He would soon be at the old gold prospector’s cabin that, according to a fellow biker, had been abandoned by the last of the prospectors in the late 1940s. Or so the common story went. Another version contended that the old prospector had committed suicide and his tormented soul lingered in the area of the ruin, still protecting his claim.

Trace saw what was left of the cabin off to his left, feet from the trail. His attention off the trail for that moment, Trace missed seeing a new washout and his front tire went into it, flipping the bike end over end with Trace landing hard on this back, knocking the wind out of him.

His head swimming, he lay there gasping for breath as something moved, blocking out the tree-filtered sunlight.

The face of a bewhiskered old man, short in stature, peered down at him, mouth opened in a leering expression, exposing oddly large, cracked yellowish teeth.

Trace’s vision faded then as he passed out.

It was colder now, the light dimmer, coming low through the trees to the west. After a moment and with great effort, Trace gained his feet and stood there shaking in the now colder air, head throbbing.

Taking stock, he saw his bike a couple yards away. Unsteadily he picked it up and examined it for damage. The front rim had a noticeable bend, but he thought it ridable. Looking down at his watch, it was a few minutes before 5 pm. He had been out nearly two hours and he didn’t fancy the long walk home.

Painfully mounting up, he turned for a quick look back at the cabin, remembering the last thing he had seen and decided it had been a dream.

But what he saw now wasn’t a dream. There stood the old man in the ruin’s doorway, shotgun in hand; the old prospector still protecting his claim.

Raising the weapon, Trace was sure he heard a raspy voice say: “You’ll not get my gold, no sir.” Then the sound and flash as the gun fired. Trace thought for sure he’d feel the bullet go into his back, but the phantom ammunition was as substantial as the ghost and as unreal as his claim.

It was almost 6:30 when Trace finally rode up to his house on the wobbly front wheel as twilight gathered. He vowed that if he ever rode the south Gold Hill trail again, it wouldn’t be alone.

Next month, the beginning of several hair-raising haunted house stories in the Valley of Shadows.

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Author info

Lawrence Fury Lawrence Fury is an inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer, and a conservative conscience for this area of North Idaho. He's also an expert on local ghost stories, and is compiling a group of them for future book publication. You can read more about him in a Love Notes feature for the River Journal

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