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Lanny in AB

What you can't see just might be . . .

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A continuation of the lake placer tales:


So, after we’d jawed with the rock-pile owner for a bit more, we decided we’d better head up the trail to check out the lake placers. The gold runs up both sides of the lake, so we picked a side and headed on up. We weren’t in much of a hurry that day. My partner had a badly broken wrist he’d had casted just before we’d departed our home base, so we were moving kind of slow anyway, and it was one of those gorgeous, long northern summer days—the warm, calm ones you wish you could bottle and then open on a cold, winter’s day for some radiant relief, as this particular day wasn’t even going to start to darken until after well after eleven or so, and then it would be twilighty for a nice while after that.


Nevertheless, as we walked along the lake, you could see the cutthroat rising, systematically hammering the various winged-wonders that had strayed a bit too close to the surface of that mountain fast food outlet. It was right pleasant, seeing all those ambush experts in a feeding frenzy—now I knew why the locals had never taken the dam out—it was still a great place to catch a mess of trout.


Every once in a while a breeze would stiffen to stir the surface of the water, but it soon gentled down again, and the trout continued their age-old perfected feeding ritual. The willows along the lake would bide their time, waiting for another gust of wind so that they could whisper the news of our coming up the lake to their eager neighbors.


At last we reached the claims we had permission to hunt. There had been a lot of surface mining take place here. The bedrock was exposed in great sheets in many parts. It was a particularly hard bedrock, and the D-8 cat they’d been clearing the bedrock with was only able to penetrate in areas where the bedrock was rather rotten, and this only in small patches. The rest was a solid, hardened nightmare. In fact, the excavator could get no purchase in it either. So, they’d done the best they could—scraping off the bedrock and running the paydirt through the wash-plant to get the coarse gold the area is famous for. And, what do I mean by coarse gold? Well, if you’ll bear with me, I’ll tell you a little story.


About a month earlier, I’d been up on what I can best describe as a gold-scouting, fact-finding expedition—I’d gone up to check out the area and had journeyed with a relative of one of the miners. As a matter of fact, this little claim was the first place we’d visited, once we got in. The placer miners were hard at it, but when they saw us, they shut down to have a well-deserved yak—that’s the way of the north—not a lot of visitors, especially in this remote area, and everyone still wants news from the outside. Anyway, we talked and updated them for a bit, and then one of the miners started to clean up the wash-plant sluice box. He lifted the screen off the header and started to scrape some material into a pan. All at once he stopped, reached in to the header-box and tossed something straight at me. I was caught off guard, and the only thing that saved me was dumb reflex.


I caught what he’d hucked at me, and it was heavy! I looked into my hand atthis ugly black rock, and, man, it had attitude--it was glaring darkly back up at me. Now, there’s no way this could be gold, right? I mean I was standing on a huge pile of washed cobbles and he’d hucked this thing right at me—a complete stranger. If it was gold, and I’d missed it, it would have dropped way down in that stack of cobbles in a jiffy—never to be seen again, without dismantling that entire rock pile! But, I stared back at this fiercely black rock and couldn’t help wonder what it was—it did have a genuine heft to it. So, I asked the gold miner about it. Well, he told me it was a gold nugget. I about passed out.


This thing had to be over an ounce for sure, but it didn’t look remotely like gold at all. He sauntered over to me, took out a pocket-knife and very, very gently started to scratch away at a corner—off came this gnarly black scale and he made a believer out of me right then and there. It was sure enough the glint of gold! It weighed out at over an ounce and a quarter, and it was solid gold—no quartz in that black beauty. Why, with the black gold they found on that claim, they’d just put it in a vinegar bath overnight, and the next day there was this pile of disgusting sludge in the bottom of the bottle with nothing but brand new beautiful gold nuggets perched on top of all that dross.


My apologies, I’ve certainly gotten off track again. I haven’t even arrived at the detector part of my story yet, well—we connected up our detectors and asked the miners where we could start. They commenced to laughing--loudly! They told us to have at ‘er, but that we’d get nothing but grief—all kinds of guys had been up in that gold-field over the years trying to get their detectors to “squeak” on some gold, but all they ever got was grief. That bedrock was too hot—it ate detectors for lunch. (All of this was salted liberally with colorful language, of course. In fact there’s probably still a gauzy little net of it floating out there over that lake yet!) Once again, I mentally debated the merits of pointing out the virtues of the Minelab to these fellows, but stopped myself and just went to hunting instead.


You remember of course that I’ve told you how some of that bedrock was decomposed in small areas—it was all in fragmented little pieces, and it was wet. Well, I went to work on a piece of that and right away I got a nice mellow tone. Once in with the scoop and I had it. I quartered the sharp little chunks of small bedrock and soon had a sassy, most chubby, little gram and a half nugget! That got their eyes popping. They said, “Come here.” And they walked me over to another similar area and told me to try that. I did and got a signal right away—I worked for quite a while but never found a target—only false signal, after false signal, but I chased quite a few and did invest some fruitless time. They soon tired of watching, and shaking their heads, trundled off to get back to the mining. I knew from their body language that they figured that the first find was a fantastic fluke, and that the last wasted digs only proved what they’d known all along—detectors were useless in that horrid black graphite schist. (No, I’m not swearing—it’s a type of rock.)


But, as usual, I’ve now run out of time for the telling, and I’ve still got to get around to informing you about the beautiful things that happened on that awful bedrock, and about the other goodies we found in their test piles—but those are stories for another day—when I’ve freed up a bit for time for the telling.


All the best,



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Lanny your story's are about as good as being out in the gold fields


"Doc" Parsons


Doc--you are a kind soul--many thanks,



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Well, I’ve come up with a little more time for the telling, so I’ll see if I can get around to informing you about the beautiful things that happened on that awful bedrock, and I just hope I get to talk about what other goodies we found in their test piles—but maybe not. For the sake of clarification, I must confess to a bit of a problem with writing down my gold hunting stories—I often get reminiscing about one outing, and it reminds me of details of either a related outing, or a similar experience on a completely different outing, or some kind of collaborated connection amongst outings! It’s a bit of a randomly welded brain dance whose hot sparks and quick movements keep my mind moving, that’s for sure.


So, the intrepid miners left us to our devices . . . . My poor prospecting buddy was struggling with the mega-frustration of his busted wrist. The infernal impediment was nothing but an unholy handicap to him—he was distressed that all this great gold producing ground was right there at his feet, and he couldn’t do a thing about it! Yes, he could swing the detector, but trying to dig, pick, sort, and capture with only one hand is a prodigious pain—to say the least. In fact, we were compelled to work together—one swinging the coil over the ground, and the other picking, digging, sorting, and capturing. There was no way he was going to miss out on all this fun—so teamwork was the only option. At least, that’s what mostly happened.


But, I have to back up here for a moment. You do remember that fractured, wet bedrock that I referred to earlier, not the skunk patch, but the one that produced the nugget? Well, since the placer diggers had returned to their washing, I went back to where I’d found the gold—I’m kind of doggedly oriented that way, because I’ve found through the years that if a trap worked well enough to grab and hold one piece of gold, it would often work its magic on other sluggish stragglers as well.


So, I went back to that Northern Oro catcher and started detecting again. I located on a spot where they’d scooped out some of that rotten bedrock with the excavator, right where it had left a rise of about two feet high, even with the level of that pernicious graphite schist. I started detecting up and down that micro-cliff. Pretty soon, right near the top of that crumbly stone, I got a nice hit. I approached it perpendicularly, and the tone was a reassuring, mellow, low-high-low tone. It wasn’t as strong a signal as the first signal of the day had been, but it was the perfect sound all right. And, since the signal was close to the top, it was an easy matter to get the target response in the scoop. As I mentioned earlier, the material was wet, so it just fell apart in that plastic trap; moreover, it was a most easy matter to separate out that sassy little beauty—a one gram wonder it was—nice and richly yellow, and charmingly bumpy all over its noble surface.


Perhaps I should digress for a moment and tell you what had happened to this area geologically. From what the geologists and the miners have been able to decode about this particular goldfield, the glaciers were pretty much masters of the kingdom of this aforementioned area for untold ages. There were frequent placer concentration sites where six and seven channels had been laid down over each other—all oriented to different directions of deposition. What that means is that over countless years, the area had been glaciated, and then re-glaciated. Consequently, with each sequential birth of a new river’s passage, the glacial streams, due to being re-oriented, dropped their loads on a new, differently angled run.


However, some of those super-streams were carrying magnificent gold content, while other runs were downright stingy, or heaven forbid, outright barren. The ongoing detective work, from the Argonauts down, went into solving the mystery of which runs were carrying coarse gold. Well, here on this particular placer, nature—often the detractor and impediment to man’s attempts to find the gold—had actually helped out some. A super glacier had bulldozed through this narrow spot, scooping out most of the overlying channels as it worked its way down-slope. Then, mysteriously, it hauled the works off to dump its captive rock and gold either on some dim and long forgotten slope, or in the belly of a petulant, Boreal swamp.


But, the beauty of this spot was that it was only about six feet from where the fir and pine trunks intersected the green and yellow carpet of moss, down to the bedrock proper. Moreover, this lowest run, right close to the mother rock, had been carrying hefty amounts of distinguished, nugget gold. Furthermore, this honey-hole appeared to have been a side channel gush of higher than average velocity, one that had been cheerfully rolling large boulders and golden goodies.


Anyway, I got one smaller piece, about match-head size, from those crumbling slabs, and then it went silent. Well, what to do next, right? So we wandered back to the hot zone, and we just couldn’t get a thing out of that perplexing mess but multiple false signals. (I’d love to hit that spot again with one of the newest generation of Minelabs, just to see if I couldn’t exorcise some of those black devils out of that hotter-than-the-hubs-of-Hell bedrock!) But, after finding only bits of blade on the surface, we wandered down-slope to where there was a four to six-foot wall of virgin rock and dirt. It was the spot where the bedrock dove under the forest floor—the farthest point of advance of the miner’s efforts.


At this location, there was a slump of maybe a foot or two in front of the aforementioned wall, and then there was a sheet of that atomic-bunker-worthy black graphite schist fronting it all. To my dismay, this spot was superlatively, electronically hot as well. The detector would not run on both sides. Well, you know what that means, you lose depth when you cut to one channel—you have to sacrifice depth to run on the other side, but at least you can detect.


Even then, the battery-powered ballyhoo sounded like a catfight set off against the screeching of tortured train brakes gone wild! Regardless, I soldiered on. My buddy wasn’t familiar enough with the nuances of the machine, nor with all of that racket, to feel comfortable enough to run the detector, so he waited there much like an expectant bird-dog on point, ever eager for the game to flush. And, he didn’t have to be on point for long. For, out of all that cacophony of electronic din, there came the unmistakable low-high-low sound that hammers the primitive brain like the sudden yank of a ten-pound rainbow running hard away on four-pound test! And, it is at this point where I must swift away, so that I may write for you, yet again, another day.


All the best,



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You’ll remember that in the last installment, my buddy wasn’t familiar enough with the nuances of the Minelab, nor with all of the electronic racket being thrown off by that super-heated bedrock, to feel comfortable enough to run the detector, so he just went on point like a nugget pointing bird dog waiting for a piece of gold to jump up and flush (fly into the air). Well, he wasn’t on point for long. For, out of all that electronic din there came the unmistakable “oohh—weee—oohh” sound that gets any nugget hunter worth his salt hyper-engaged in a big hurry.


So, I approached the target at right angles from the last sound signature, and all at once I heard this series of terrible high pitched wails, followed by screeching sounds I’d never heard before while detecting. I thought the bedrock had finally won the battle until I noted it was only my partner’s sudden reaction to his discovery that a squadron of black-flies had crawled down the front of his shirt and left a bright, red, oozing raw patch of skin right in the middle of his chest! (If you know nothing of the evil denizens of the North—the scourge of the Boreal forests—Blackus-Flyus-Disgustingus-Annoyus—you know nothing at all of weeks of pain, scratching, and imminent madness.) Well, after noticing that there was now a heavier tapestry of colorful words hanging over the aforementioned lake and its previously referred to metaphorical net of inventive adjectives, and after hosing my buddy down with what amounted to a bug dope shower, I got back to detecting.


Once again, I approached the target at a right angle to the last response, and through the racket came the unmistakable sound of a good response. So, my partner scraped as well as he could with one hand, and I used the flat side of my pick to clear the rest of the residue of stone and clay right down to shallow pockets in the bedrock.


My dim brain remembered that the DD coil might be much quieter than the little 8-inch mono-loop, so I made the switch, and then got back to analyzing the bedrock, but before I got down on my knees to investigate, I swung the DD in a wider arc and heard several quiet signals—things were rapidly getting interesting. Putting the detector aside, I knelt down to scrutinize the rock. What faced me was a perplexing visual mystery. It was solid bedrock. I mean there were no crevices at all! I couldn’t fit a knife blade in anywhere. So, immediately your brain begins to second- guess the soundness of electronic wizardry, and you assume that it’s another patch of ground noise, or series of false signals. Writer’s note—at this point, I’ll paste in parts of my actual journal entry (with annotations in brackets, [ ]), for that day (some of you may have read accounts of this part of the story on other forums years past—if so—scan ahead). Included in this journal entry are references to how we’d tried out different manufacturers’ specialized gold-hunting VLF (Fisher Gold Bug, Whites Goldmaster, Garret Stinger, two Minelabs—16000/17000) technology on this horrible bedrock, and none of them would even come close to maintaining a threshold (as a side note, I contacted a trusted Treasurenet Forum friend from Arizona before heading up on this referred to trip, asking his opinion on what he thought would handle such extreme ground, and he flat out told me the 2100 would do the job, if anything in the world would—so I hauled one up with me to try it out):


“After learning to run the Minelab SD 2100 on the one patch of hot black bedrock [this is an account I have not set down in story format yet], and finding four nuggets imbedded in the bedrock (some kind of mineralized calcification in ancient crevices, I believe) I thought of another patch I had visited . . . with five different gold detecting metal detectors--only to be shut out due to the extreme mineralization. So, my partner and I headed off to see how well the 2100 would hunt. [To an area with this same kind of black bedrock--this is the reference to the account you’ve been reading.] The first thing that was evident was that the machine would not hunt with both balance one and balance two operating--the ground was way too hot. So, I balanced the machine as closely as I could in balance one. (There was still some interference in balance one but it was easily identifiable after studying the bedrock.) [After visually studying the varying shades of coloration, and intrusions of quartz-stringers lacing the surface of the rock, and then syncing the visual clues with the audio output, you could predict with quite a bit of certainty when the machine would head off on an electronic tirade.]


After scanning the area, I got several weak signals that peaked in the middle of the tone (characteristic of gold near the surface) so I dug down with a little pick and hit solid bedrock again. After scanning again, the signals had increased slightly. We already knew that hammer and chisel work had liberated nuggets in the other area, so we flew at it again. After going down about four inches into the solid matrix, a black chunk flew out of the hole and we saw the nugget gleaming where the rock had fractured. [it stuck out like a fat raisin in a thin cookie!] I scanned the hole again and got another signal. I dug back (uphill) another couple of inches and liberated a five-gram nugget! It looks like a fat little couch potato. Scanning the hole again produced no signal so I moved on. For the next four hours I chased weak signals and whispers [some only an imperceptible disruption in the threshold actually]--all of them wound up in the hard stuff and all of them had to be chiseled out. We wound up with thirteen nuggets freed from the country rock. (I used the eight- inch coil after I had used the 11inch double D—the eight-inch was noisier [much!!]—but it did find three I missed with the eleven inch.) I spent about an hour scanning old piles [test piles]. Then it started to rain. The 2100 doesn't like rain, so I quickly got it in [headed down-trail to get into] the truck and retired for the day, very tired--but very happy with my little poke of nuggets.


It's hard to believe someone finally came up with a technology that allows a detector to hunt in such awful ground, but my little success is proof that they did. The best part was that the machine was relatively simple to use. I had one more successful outing on my summer prospecting trip with the 2100--but that's a story for another day. [i’ve still to write that one in story format yet!]”


By way of enlightenment, that bedrock was hard! I don’t really deal with many details in my journaling entry of how hard it was. I’ll see if I can describe it in greater detail for you:


We had a small sledge back in the truck, and an assortment of rock chisels; as well as, one of the most useful little mining tools ever invented, the Estwing pry-bar that has the pointed chisel end, and the flat L-shaped head on the top, with the sharpened chisel-edge on the L that can be used to scrape or to hammer into a crevice—absolutely beautiful little tool.


So, I hustled back up the trail to my drooling, still on point, partner. As I’ve stated—the surface of that bedrock had dips and hollows as all bedrock will have, but there were no visible crevices. The most amazing part was that once I started to hammer out chunks of that mother rock, you could see that it was a two-part natural vice. It was clear to see that the original bedrock was that graphite schist, but the other part that was just as solid, was a combination of fine-grained, crushed black slate (I assume, as it’s the most ubiquitous rock in the vicinity—I’m not positive . . .) that had obviously been running in that glacial gush that had propelled the gold down to the level where we’d found it. However, there was something else in that run that acted as a concrete binder of some sort—some chemical catalyst that caused the bits of slate to bind solidly to the schist, and it was an exact color match. Nature had done a masterful job of caching this gold.


So, I’d take the small sledge, one of the various chisels or the Estwing bar, and I’d carefully (well—not always carefully—I was rather excited and somewhat overzealous in the beginning—but gravity and the natural laws of physics and mass soon took care of that) tap my way down well outside the edge of the signal’s midpoint. I usually had to go down two to four inches to get below the signal, and then I’d insert a longer bar, reef on it, chisel down on either end, insert the longer bar, and reef on it until the piece popped out. Sometimes the piece, if it was shallow in depth, like the one described in the journal entry, would simply bust out and fly up! After that happened, we always made sure we had one of those big green gold-pans in front of the predicted angle of launch. We had no inclination to propel gold bearing bedrock chunks into a cobble pile just so we could experience the unknown adventure of a heart attack!


Upon liberation of the golden hopefuls, I took the chunks of bedrock and I’d turn the small sledge on its side and very carefully tap on the bedrock-matrix concretion until it started to fracture and crumble. (The interesting thing is, the matrix and the bedrock were of the same hardness—you never knew where it was going to fracture.) Then, I’d break it into smaller pieces, pass the pieces under the coil to ascertain where the signal lived, discard the dross, and repeat the process until I had the gold-bearing chunk in my hand.


Then I’d carefully tap away with the aforementioned technique until I’d liberated the nugget. But, these were no ordinary nuggets—they all had wonderful character—oh, but they were gorgeous. A sassier troop of nuggets has never been routed from their foxholes and trenches—it was laborious, time-intensive work, bit it ranked extremely high on the fun scale. By evening, we had well over a dozen nice character nuggets and they were all the size of my various fingernails! It was incredible fun—very heady stuff.


Did I smash any fingers with all of that robust pounding and hammering—absolutely. Did it hurt? If your fingernail goes black and falls off later—is that an indication of pain on the smash-scale? Regardless of the minor inconveniences of bloodthirsty bugs, tortured limbs from hours of kneeling, or the unnerving alien sounds emitted by my partner, the gold adventure was well worth the effort.


But, I forget myself again—I’ve yet to tell you about the test-piles farther up that placer claim. Well, that’s definitely a story for another day.


All the best, until then,



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After chiseling over two dozen of those pesky, entrapped nuggets out of that scorching hot bedrock the day before, we moved on up the claim a bit. The increased elevation allowed us to see all the way to the end of the stream fed lake. The sky was a perfect, faultless blue, and in the touchless distance, the hills and mountains undulated peacefully to where they seamed in majestic oneness with the unblemished horizon.


The halcyon water of the lake was bordered by twisted ranks of toughened Aspen, taller companies of leafy birch, all guarded higher on the slopes that led away from the lake by stalwart battalions of ramrod-straight pine and sturdy green fir. Besides the scenery, another bonus was that up-slope like this as we were, there was a lake breeze that kept most of the bugs at bay. The strange, unnatural screeching noises I’d heard the day before had almost ceased—my partner was achieving some level of respite from his winged persecutors.


We were now in an area where the bedrock rose in steps and then ran under the forest floor. Along the edge, there was a bedrock drain dug all along the side closest to the trees. It contained some standing water, but revealed areas that were dry as well. The bedrock was shot through with quartz stringers; moreover, that gray-black schist was once twisted and reformed by incredible forces. Furthermore, the rock was so tortured back in its formation and transition days, that there were frequent “S” curves snaking down its length! There was such a high level of graphite composition in it that the graphite floated on the surface of the water like oil—quite a rare and curious sight.


Well, I detected the entire stretch of that bedrock drain. It was only about thirty feet long, and I hunted up little bits of blade, pieces of rusted tin can, snags of ancient wire, and heads and tips of square nails. Detecting these metallic outcasts gave me the tip-off that the old-timer’s had worked up at this elevation, quite a different detecting challenge from the lower, much cleaner area we had so recently left. I continued detecting up past the bedrock drain and found the remains of some old cabins, and I’ll tell you, I hit the mother lode of trash!


If you can imagine almost anything that anyone could have thrown out, it was there—in excess. I finally gave up and returned to some mesomorphic test piles I’d passed on the way up. These stacks were about six to seven feet high, and they were formed of piled, ancient, rust-colored river-run from the bench channel. The miners weren’t going to process the piles just yet as they’d finished their current run (they told me I could detect the outside of the piles, but not to knock them flat), and that they were quickly taking apart their equipment so they could move it up a canyon, over a mountain, and down to a river claim, one staked in a steep bedrock canyon on the other side.


In fact, they’d been getting excellent test results from a wash-plant they’d set up over there, and maybe some day I’ll get around to telling you the story of the sacks of gold they recovered from that deep-canyon operation. It was incredibly rich dirt! (Anytime you can look in the pay-seam and see the nuggets and flip them out with your fingers as you work your way along the seam, you know you’re into extremely rich dirt! It blew me away--I’ve only ever seen dirt like that once. But, not only did I have the opportunity to flip coarse gold out of the seam, I got to pan the dirt and keep the gold too. As well, they let me detect for nuggets after they’d finished mining it all out. It was phenomenal stuff.)


So, here I was, facing these three piles of dirt, spaced about ten feet apart—issuing me a silent challenge. Well, I fired up the detector and started to scan their sides. Almost at once I got a screamer that about blew the headphones right off. I figured, because it was so loud, that it had to be steel or iron. But, I dug into the pile anyway (dig everything is my philosophy), and not long afterwards, I had recovered a length of curled and twisted strap-iron, very rusted, and very obviously junk worthy.


Now, scanning those piles wasn’t a lot of fun. If you’ve scanned hills or piles before, you know it’s a much harder function than scrubbing the coil along the ground as you’re using an entirely different set of muscles to keep that detector running in a vertical fashion. Plus, it was getting hotter, and those headphones were forming rivulets of sweat all over my steaming ears. In other words, I was getting a bit cranky, and when you get cranky, you should quit detecting for a bit. So, I did!


I pulled off the phones, wandered down-slope to a settling pond, sat on a cream-colored boulder, and had myself a refreshing break. I’ve found through the years that if you’re getting a bit fractious, it’s best all around to throw your mental-mining-machine out of gear—shut the fine-tuned engine off, and let the radiator cool for a while. Eventually, your mind comes back to a clearer thinking mode, instead of its annoyed, dimly seeing mode, and you’re much more efficient when you head back to the hunt. After watching the trout do their slap and scrap water-dance of primordial ambush tactics for a while, and after enjoying the territorial aerial battles of those fearless, miniature winged combatants of the Northern Boreal Forests, the brightly hued male hummingbirds (this happens whenever there’s a prime feeding location nearby), I was ready to get back to hunting the noble metal.


As my arm and shoulders were now rested, and my metal detecting melon well cooled, I was able to make nice, slow sweeps of the sides of those piles, vertical and horizontal passes. As a reward, I received a very faint tone in the headphones. The sound was weak, but it had the proper signature. I scraped away several inches of gravel and stone. I scanned the hole with the coil, keeping it the same distance away from the target response as it was before I removed the river-run. The signal was much clearer now.


I poked the leading edge of the coil into the hole—louder still, and very rich in audio purity. I scooped out more dirt and widened the hole. The signal was sharper and harsher now—I knew the object was close. I took my plastic scoop and dug where I anticipated the target would be. The scoop came away and the top of the hole flopped in. No target in the scoop. I had to widen and deepen the hole again—however, scanning once more, I got a crisp retort. I scooped once more, and this time whatever its composition, it was nestled in the scoop. I started shaking the material to settle anything heavy, scooted the lighter pieces to the nose of the scoop, dropped it in my hand, and then scanned the material in my fist—no response.


I tossed the waste bits away, and then I repeated the gravitational classifying process until the signal was in my hand. I started to sift the material onto the coil head until I heard a “whap!” and a scream. My partner was smacking the bugs again? Nope. It was not my buddy getting cuffed by a grizzly bear either; it was a beautiful 3.2gram nugget with nice, chunky character. That little beauty also held some of that black matrix, tightly packed in a couple of little pockets on its surface; however, the rest of the nugget was that glorious golden hue that all nugget shooters dream of seeing.


It was long in shape, about equal in circumference along its entire length, and rounded. I stashed it in my plastic bottle and stored the container securely in the button-down pocket on my shirt. I kept hammering the piles electronically and teased out two more nuggets—one weighing in at 2.8 grams, and the other at 2.3 grams. All in all, over eight grams of nice, chunky, sassy Northern nugget gold just cached in the edges of those piles. Remember, I was only able to detect the outside of those stacks of ancient river-run—makes you wonder what a field day I’d have had if I’d been able to rake them down and hammer the works!


But, that’s not the only regret I have about that area. Remember the spot where I chiseled out the poke of nuggets? I know it’s hard to believe now, but back then, there was a slump of a couple of feet on that bedrock sheet running down from the bank at the base of the trees, and we didn’t clean it off so we could detect under it!!


I don’t know what we were thinking, but there’s more--all of that matrix that we broke up and crushed to get the nuggets out—we didn’t pan one bit of it out—just chucked it away. (I have another story somewhere about a similar experience on another sheet of nugget-embedded bedrock where my partner finally convinced me to pan that crushed matrix out—it was full of gold—chock full—I about puked when I saw what was running with those nuggets and thought back on what I’d tossed away. And, it only makes sense—now that I can think clearly.) I don’t know what our overriding reasons were—if we were too tired to think about shifting more dirt—too excited to get to the new, incredibly rich placer pit I’ve referred to earlier in this post—I really don’t know what we were thinking.


And yet, there’s more to this sorry part of the current gold tale. There was a second placer excavation above the one where we detected and retrieved all of those nuggets. The pit was flooded by about a foot and a half of water. The entire bottom of that excavation was iron-hard rock. It was made up of a formation the locals called pinnacles—where the bedrock rose in kind of cone-shaped rises, and there were lots of places the miners could not excavate between the more closely spaced pinnacles. All we had to do was pump the water out and detect it, but once again, we declined—we were a bit obsessed by the lure of that bonanza gold over the mountain, down by the river.


Moreover, the bad part of that pinnacle pit is that the miners with the rock pile—they let one of their cousins high-bank in amongst the pinnacles in one of their pits they’d finished mining, and he took out ounces of gold!! I have a little story about that pit as well, but that’s a tale for another day, as is the story of the gold on the other side of the mountain.


All the best,



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I posted this a while back on another forum--the link is now inactive.


Gettin’ High On Placer Diggin's


Sorry in advance to those of you into illegal substances, or those of you hardy enough to have actually smoked gold, or ground placer gravel finely enough to inject, or snort it, because this tale does not deal with banned chemicals or hallucinogenic brain-rewiring substances. However, the effects of this prospecting tale are nonetheless mind-altering, and worthy of deep reflection.


One summer, when the snows had melted and the rivers had receded, so that the roads were finally passable, I headed up North to the gold fields. Up north means a sixteen hour drive from my home. Why drive sixteen hours when there are other gold fields much closer? Far less people that’s why. In fact, the local population where the pay dirt hides out is less than thirty souls.


Furthermore, it’s the irrefutable truth that some of the local boys have test-pits dug right in their front yards (where they run little sluices to wash the precious metal from their domestic gravels), because their cabins are built on good gold bearing ground.


But, I digress again, and I'm pretty good at digressing, but before you start distressing, I'll get to my story. Anyway, there are far less people up north, and tens of millions of bugs—a very healthy population in fact—nasty, awful, ferocious blood sucking and miserable beasts-with-wings they are. The bears are of a lesser concern by comparison, mainly because they can’t fly. But, because many of the bears are of a huge size, and possessed of an overly cranky and often smelly nature, they deserve honorable mention—one worthy of a healthy respect from any sane prospector.


However, to continue this high tale, the gold field setting consists of low mountains, lots of streams, thick northern boreal forests, multitudinous swamps, and countless mounds of glacial till. Moreover, because some of the ancient glaciers were miles thick and thus generated multiple rivers as they melted, some of the local placer pits contain seven or eight different stream deposits, ones that intersect and overlay each other at different stratographic levels. Furthermore, the glaciers really made a mess of the watercourses by dramatically and regularly changing the watersheds, often stranding streams far above those of the present day. Which brings me to my sterling story of mining enlightenment.


I was sitting at the wash plant one day, fixing a broken six-inch pump, when I looked up the mountainside opposite the placer operation. I noticed a line proceeding along the side of the mountain. That line denoted an ancient riverbed that was perched atop the bedrock, about sixty feet above the existing stream channel.


In places, sections of the deposit had sloughed off. I took out my binoculars and scanned the hillside. I was definitely viewing an old channel, on top of the bedrock, but that old riverbed was resting under about another eighty feet of boulder clay, further topped by thick forest.Therefore, my pea-sized brain, seized upon by a giant, yet golden, brainwave was not to be denied. I was going up the mountainside to sample that channel—no arguments acceptable!


I grabbed my 20-liter plastic pail, my shovel, and a digging bar and small sledge that all fit neatly in the bucket; then, I shouldered my way into my prospecting backpack. I keep all of my essentials in that behemoth, so it weighs just a tad less than a fully loaded B-52 bomber, but, as will soon be obvious, I should have packed a back-up brain, or some other fail-safe lifesaving device.


My first obstacle was to ford the river. Now, in Canada, even in mid-summer, which is what time of year it was, the rivers that far north just NEVER get warm. In fact, if you plunk your head anywhere under that water in any part of the stream you get an instant and excruciating case of freezer-brain. But, I had the clever idea I'd just pick my way across the stream in my rubber boots, lightly hopping from rock to rock, with airy, acrobatic maneuvers. That worked quite fine, thank-you, until I put all my weight on a nice slippery cobble, and then prospector, pail and pack took a spectacularly frigid dunk in the river.


So, now that I was wet and cold, I didn't mind the rest of the crossing nearly as much as I’d predicted. In fact, it was quite refreshing in a somewhat masochistical way, because it felt quite wonderful when I finally drug my soggy, slightly blue carcass out of the water. In fact, it's downright amazing how much easier it is to walk after you've dumped eighty or so pounds of ice water from each boot as well.


Regardless, feeling fresh and sassy, and smelling remarkably better as well, I was now ready to tackle the slope. But, at the base of the slope was a new obstacle. Remember the boulder clay I mentioned earlier, that stubborn mass of glacial-dumped boulders mixed with acres of nasty clay? Well, it has an obnoxious way of sloughing down the hillside when it's wet. It solidifies to the consistency of the LA-X runway.


Moreover, it's dandy stuff to try to get a foothold on. But I was prepared—after all, I had my shovel; I began to cut steps into that stern impedimenta. I worked my way up about a third of the slope this way, but then there proceeded to be a bit of a wash, generously supplied with many smaller boulders disgorged from the boulder clay, and an ample nest of scheming, broken tree limbs. I managed to fight my way, regardless of the exceptional and alarming non-traction of those still squishy rubber boots, up the slope amongst nature’s clever hazards.


At last, I arrived at the high placer diggin's, the site of the lofty ancient riverbed. It's quite the trick to perch one rubber boot on a three-inch ledge of protruding bedrock, and carve three feet into the face of the boulder clay overburden, while the other boot powers the shovel. Anyway, I did it.


I exposed a nice patch of bedrock forming the bottom of that channel. I got out my sniping tools from my backpack and cleaned all of the bedrock cracks, took some nice looking material, then placed it in my bucket. Since it was quite a haul back down to the river, and because I had no driving relish for a return trip, I figured I'd load up as much gravel as I could.


Sometimes my brain tries to warn me beforehand of imminent danger, but I happily override and outwit it while I'm in my prospecting delirium. In any case, I packed up all my stuff, and turned around. That slope had gotten a lot steeper, now that I was facing a trip back down it! How the heck had I even got up to where I was? Had it been an out of body experience that deposited me where I was?


As a matter of fact, that's one of the marvels of prospecting lunacy, getting in to places you have no business getting into. All the laws of physics and probability just go right out the window while I’m searching. But not the law of gravity . . . oh no, it maintains an iron, tenacious grip on reality.


Well now fellow adventurers, I had to get back down, because I certainly couldn't go up. You can't climb a boulder clay cliff, no matter how high on prospecting, or any other heady northern stimulant, you are. So, I took my first step down.


It actually wasn't so bad. I just leaned back into the hill and put all my weight on that still-squishy boot heel. Miraculously, it held, and I took another step forward with that bucket of gravel. It was incredibly heavy and felt like it was mostly gold! Or, I was just an idiot that had severely overloaded it, but no matter; this was going to be much easier than I thought. I was now in amongst the smaller boulders, the ones that had dogged me on my dicey uphill climb.


I took several more steps and then one of those aforementioned lurking tree branches snagged my boot. That bucket just kicked out in front of me like it was on rocket-assisted autopilot. Well, Newton sure was right about gravity—that nasty property grabbed me right then and there. I don't know the mathematical formula for what happened, or the principle of physics that took over, but it all occurred at about twice the speed of light.


My brain frantically went into disaster-salvation-correction mode, and I promptly, yet gracefully yanked myself back as hard as I could, yanking the bucket toward me. The problem was that my feet had already headed down the mountain, and all I did with my serene corrective maneuver was succeed in launching both feet further away from my point of most-precarious equilibrium.


At a distance, say from the other side of the canyon, I'm sure it looked like someone had shot some strange, forest creature on the side of that mountain: some ugly beast, a raging bull-moose, or some other type of smelly obnoxious varmint (any of which category I easily qualify for after three glorious weeks in the bush), but nonetheless, it must have appeared that some tortured savage form, in the last of its death-throes, was now hurtling down the slope to certain destruction.


The real truth is that I was magnificently in control, supremely in command. The fact that my rubber boots were throwing off more smoke than a good smudge fire was only my clever attempt to keep the bugs at bay--it was simply an afterthought that I desperately tried to find my brakes amongst the boulders. The fact that the three spare gold pans in my backpack were absorbing more shock than a crash-test-dummy doing mach V into a concrete wall was only a minor annoyance, a brief test of my invincible prospecting mettle.


At last, much more battered, but still breathing (though hot and ragged those breaths were, I can tell you), I came to a sudden stop. In fact, it just so happened that some far friendlier branches, much more amiable than the evil one that had originally tripped me up, had halted my avalanching, yet quite ballet-like, plunge.


For those with a sense of the divine in nature, this was the penultimate moment—the human at one with the mountain—and somehow still alive. Yet, more remarkable than alpine survival, none of the dirt had spilled from my bucket on my downhill boogie. Yes, that is the true heroism in this high placer tale—not a stone lost from the bucket, not a single grain of sand!


However, rearranging all my joints took considerably longer than I thought it should have, but soon, with all parts more or less functioning, I was on my way again, with renewed confidence in my abilities. This time it was only the enigmatic boulder clay, quite laid out like a sinister lava flow, but boulder clay nonetheless.


Remember, I had carved steps into it to safely guide my feet back down again. At some point, you'd think the brain would revolt and refuse to command the major muscles in an instance of temporary insanity like this, especially where the whole body has just faced imminent extinction at the hands of an ambitious idiot bent on sampling some nondescript dirt, but no, the brain can always be overridden. Oh yes, I know where the master switch to disarm it is—I've used it many times, and still, by way of a minor miracle I live to tell this tale. This is proof that life is full of mysteries, not easily solved by rational thought, or by rational, predictable theories.


At any rate, about a dozen steps down, the clay remembered one of its admirable qualities, the slicker-than-Teflon one, and off I went again. This time it was only a gentle, sweet-tempered pummeling and dainty bashing that lasted a mere twenty feet, and I came to a feather-like stop on the gravel below, the contents of the bucket remarkably undisturbed.


Nevertheless, after I'd picked a pan full of golf ball-sized gravel out of my teeth, replaced my left eyeball, and checked to see whether the protrusion from my shoulders really was my neck--well--when I'd checked that said neck was still attached to my head, so that I could cleverly nod yes and no just in case I'd lost the power of speech--it was off to the river to pan the dirt!


Three flakes, in twenty liters . . . .


I guess there's a lesson to be learned here, but far be it from me to force preachy dogma, or didactic doggerel on any of you. I'll let you figure its mysteries out all on your own.




Lanny in AB

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Some gold from a past summer, and some gold from this summer. Something to look at in the winter to keep my thoughts alive and my prospecting heart warm.


All the best,



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Nice gold Lanny; looks like some good-sized pickers in there...WTG!

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Thanks Lunk--with the price where it currently sits, it makes me wish I could have grabbed some more, for sure.


All the best,



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Here's a gold hunting tale I'll post in parts as I finish them:


I’m reminded me of a fellow (he's now passed on to the great gold camp in the sky) that I met close to ten years ago. He lived off the side of the road in a clearing, in a trailer that was one step away from disintegration, but one that he had cleverly patched and made very livable. It was a large trailer (more along the industrial size than travel size) and he'd used the salvaged materials available up north where he was working to make it very comfortable (the closest place that had supplies was about four hours away). He was a very interesting bush-dweller--rugged in the extreme. He had callused hands, gnarled fingers, and he smoked like a 24/7 copper smelter. He was tough, determined, and very learned in gold prospecting. As a matter of record, I believe he'd originally come from the East at some time, but he had fallen in love with the vast emptiness of the mountains and forests of the West. He spent his winters in a town a bit farther to the south of where he was mining when we met him.


You see, the area he was working had a year-round population of under thirty people (no electricity, no telephone service, no running water, no law enforcement, only a little combination store and gas station--you get the picture), and it was no nice place to winter over in. In fact, a lot of the trees in that area are broken off about fifteen feet up--the snow gets very deep there in the winter time. Moreover, on a side note (I may be repeating information here), people have had their chimney pipes knocked off in wintertime by people riding their snowmobiles right over the tops of cabins buried in the snow! But, I'm wandering and need to get back to my tale. So, anyway, this fellow rigged up the trailer so he had a comfortable place to stay in the summer. One it's best redeeming features was that it was bug proof--it kept out all of the mosquitoes, horse flies, and the nefarious black flies (blood-sucking terrors of the north doesn't come close to conveying the true demonic nature of these little horrors). So, because it was bug proof, he'd invited us in while he made coffee for a chat (we were prospecting an adjoining claim).


Now, I'd just met him that day on his claim--we'd stopped to ask directions on how to get to a claim renowned for its large nuggets--we were on a nugget-shooting only mission that day. We were armed with our Minelabs and were determined that we were going to get some nuggets. That area is well known for it's chunky gold (never saw a flat piece the entire time I was there--spent several years nugget-shooting up there and got some incredible rough gold). So, we wanted to know the best way to get into the aforementioned claim. Over coffee, he started to talk to us about the claim, but the talk wandered, as most prospecting chats do, to more gold tales than just the humdrum directions we were seeking.


He started to talk about the history of the claim he was on, and then stated that it wasn't uncommon when it was raining to be walking over the fractured bedrock and suddenly see the flash of the tops of one-gram nuggets sticking out from between the standing sheets of slate. He'd picked up more than one coming up the hill from the creek in a rainstorm. (The rain washing down the perpendicular [at a right angle to ground level] broken tops of the bedrock sheets flushed off the crumbled overburden and exposed the gold.) Now, you're probably wondering why we didn't detect that bedrock he told us about? Well, I know this sounds stupid now, but we had other areas in mind, and never really gave it much serious thought or effort. I say effort because we did detect it a bit one day when it wasn't raining and we were driven crazy by all of the bits of dozer-blade, pieces of rusted tin can, and little square nails that seemed to pervade the entire area (the claim had been occupied since the 1800's and it sure showed its irritating trashiness in ferrous magnetic residue!).


So, we did try, but now that I reflect on it, we were sure stupid not to stick with it, and I'll tell you why (fast-forwarding here--forgive my wandering). We detected another patch of bedrock about a hundred feet to the left of the area I've described, got some good signals, and this fine fellow came over and scraped the bedrock with his loader for us! We got busy in there and found a bunch of nuggets in the three to four gram range--cemented in a conglomerate in the crevices they were, but we were so excited to detect that patch that we really neglected the rest of the exposed bedrock I've described earlier. It's strange how that works out when you're actually there (the obvious places you neglect), and how clear your focus gets when you're back home, in the cold winter, with no place whatsoever to detect. Your mind is suddenly razor sharp and you just want to find someone that's not busy so they can kick you in the butt for being so stupid for not taking advantage of such blatantly great nugget-shooting ground!!


But, I've left the trailer and our chat and wandered far off topic. So, back in the trailer, the rain started to pour outside and he put another pot on and invited us to take out coats off and stay a while. He got up and walked over to one of the back-cushions of a bench seat and pulled it up. Inside was a little cubbyhole containing jelly jars filled with gold nuggets! I couldn't believe that he trusted us so implicitly as to pull his gold out right then and there when we'd only met him, and to show us his hiding place to boot. He had us pegged though--he had nothing to worry about--neither of us were the type to ever tell or ever take advantage of his secrets, but it just amazed me that he could read us so well.


To continue, he brought one of the jars over and let us heft it (man was it heavy) and he told us to take some of the nuggets out to have a look. Well, I'll admit happily that we did. Those nuggets were very bumpy and rounded--not a bit of flattened area anywhere, and quite a few of them had bits of that black slate adhering to the mini-crevices their rough shapes held. It was such a surreal experience--all that gold and he just sat there with a soft smile on his face, smoking his roll-your-owns while we drooled and gaped. He even asked us if we wanted to buy one of the jars. Looking back on it, it would have been one of the best investments ever as gold was barely over 200 bucks an ounce at that time. Shoulda, woulda, coulda--the story of my life when it comes to missed investment opportunities. Every nugget in that jar, and in all of the others, was a character nugget--every one individual and unique. Like I said before--no blah, blah boring hammered gold on that claim--no sir.


But, I've not even got to what he told us about the upper claim or about how and why he was mining the claim he was sited on, or about how he'd mined the adjoining claim to the one we were looking for. It's all fascinating, but I've got to rush off to a dinner appointment, or my name will be extra-dead meat!


All the best, and later,



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Well, I’ve got some more time to give some more details about that fellow and his tips on gold prospecting. In fact, now that I look back on it, he told us a whole bunch of secrets that I was just too stupid to recognize at the time. Moreover, he was telling us exactly where to look for the gold, but we were so jazzed to get to where we thought the gold would be, that we missed what he was saying.


Now, that’s not to say that we got skunked, nor is that saying that we didn’t know how to find any of the gold up there, because we did. It’s just that if I’d have recognized what he was really trying to tell us I’d have come home with a not only a lot more gold, but with a lot more big gold. For instance, he told us about the claim adjacent to the one we wanted to detect. It was to heck and gone up a series of canyons, and then down a series of other canyons, ones connected to an entirely different river from the one following the claims he was working on next to his trailer.


Anyway, we wanted to detect the claim adjacent to the (we’ll call it the upper bench claim for simplicity of detail) upper bench claim he had worked before. We wanted to nugget shoot it because we’d seen the reports on how much coarse gold they’d taken from that claim. Well, we waited out the rain and then he said he’d go with us to the upper bench claim to show us how to get there. So, we headed out and about forty-five minutes later we arrived. The whole area was hemmed in by huge up-thrusts of black fractured slate—the perfect trap environment for catching and holding coarse gold.


Naturally we were eager to get out the MD machines and get busy pounding the ground. However, he wanted to show us a few things, and so we indulged him. (It sounds so stupid now—thinking that we should have been spending every minute detecting and not burning daylight by following him around. As a matter of fact, I’d give anything to be able to talk to him today and just have the opportunity of following him around, listening carefully to every word and tip, while taking notes on every detail.) He showed us where the original claim owners had set up their wash-plant (big processing plant with washing screens, shaker decks and sluices).


He walked us all over that claim showing us where they’d taken out the pay dirt, where they’d tested ground, where they’d put their foot-valves in for their pumps, every little detail. (He even showed us where he’d seeded clover for the bears!! He had a great love for bears.) But, then he did something extra—he walked us up to the adjacent claim that he’d worked. Well, the whole time he was walking us up that hill, I was only thinking about how sweet detecting that fractured bedrock behind us would be.


A bit later, we walked out onto a large bowl-shaped area that was swampy. There was an old, broken down backhoe (tractor-mounted excavator) parked in the middle of the bowl. He explained to us that it was his, but that he couldn’t get parts for the fuel pump (diesel) any more, so it was just resting for a while. Then he took us out into the bowl. There were a series of excavations that seemed to go everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. I couldn’t make any sense out of it. He explained that what he’d done was arrived at a theory of how the gold had traveled through that upper claim. There had been a massive blowout of a glacial wall somewhere upstream (we’re talking seriously ancient history here—one of the long ago, far-gone ice ages) and a whole whack of boulders and nuggets had come roaring down that canyon. But, the water was moving so fast that no fine gold or black sand traveled with the boulders and nuggets deposited in his little honey hole. So, he’d determined that the best way to find the gold was to move the boulders with his excavator and mine the dirt under them and downstream of them. And guess what? All he ever found were nuggets—three grams and up!


Do you think that I even paid much attention to that huge gold secret—that marvelous free tip on where the coarse gold really was? This was virgin ground—he’d been the only one to work it—lots of ground remained in that bowl. Everyone else to work the area had passed it by. In fact, it didn’t look like a likely spot for gold at all. The place down the hill and behind me sure did, so after he’d finished his story, we thanked him politely, drove him back to his active claim, and then hightailed it back to the bedrock claim we couldn’t wait to pound.


We hammered that bedrock all the rest of the day (up north the sun doesn’t go down until around eleven o’clock, and it’s still light at eleven-thirty) and we got skunked—no gold—not a sniff! So it would logically follow that the next day we’d head back to the upper claim and electronically slam into it with our big, deep seeking coils, right? I mean with our aforementioned tour and explicit information on exactly where the nuggets really were, you’d think we’d simply find the boulders and detect around them, right? Or, at least a person would detect all of the disturbed ground he’d moved while he was mining, don’t you think?


Well, a person with half a brain would have, but we had bigger fish to fry. Yup! For sure—much bigger fish. We already had several other more promising sites mapped out and we were going to hit them hard. We never once detected a single inch of that claim, and I have another related story that proves just how absolutely bone-headed we were for not doing what I’ve postulated. But, that’s a tale for another day as I’ve now burned up all of my writing time and I have to head off to a Christmas party.





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Here's some more of the continuing story:


About a week later, we went back to the claim where we’d been invited to wait out the rainstorm in his cobbled together trailer. As a matter of fact, all over that claim, the friendly placer miner had been digging narrow excavations (no more than two to three meters wide) and working the dirt from the grassroots to the bedrock. There was only about a meter to a meter and a half of paydirt, and the bedrock was soft and flaky. It was very different from the bedrock on the corner of the claim.


If you’ll remember, the bedrock on the corner of the claim had a bunch of bedrock with conglomerate filling the crevices (Conglomerate can be fascinating stuff. Sometimes it holds gold—sometimes it’s barren, just like river-run. If you don’t know what conglomerate is, it’s river-run that’s been stuck together by Mother Nature’s brand of cement. And, it’s good stuff too—very sturdy.) That bedrock was iron tough, and red hot. I had to run the detector (the 2100 technology was brand-new to me back then) on one side only—too hot for both sides, and far too noisy. And, if you chipped any of that bedrock, it would draw weakly to the super-magnet on the end of my pick. That mother rock was laced with iron—not solid metal mind you, but enough iron to mess up the signals and just enough to be attracted to the magnet.


Anyway, that piece of bedrock was right on the edge of a drop-off. The bank ripped steeply down to a little creek choked with short brush, about forty feet below. I kicked a loose rock over the edge into the water, and something went tearing off through the bush—most likely a deer, as anything more aggressive would have been long gone, what with all of the noise we were making. Glancing down the bank more attentively, I noticed that scrub pines, fir, and alders clung to every little ledge on the way down, but the rest was jagged, broken slate. Not a nice place for a misstep, that’s for sure, and not any kind of place to be detected. So, I went back to detecting the hump.


It had rained off and on for a few days, but the sun was peeking out now, and with it came the northern hordes—the ubiquitous black flies, mosquitoes, and horse flies. So, with practiced quickness, we drew out our bug dope and liberally doused all exposed skin, and ensured there was a liberal coating down in our ears as well. Nothing itches quite like a black fly bite down in the ear canal where you can’t get to it!


Regardless, we doped up and continued detecting until we ran out of signals (you’ll remember that we chiseled out some nice, sassy nuggets from ancient, cemented crevices in that spot). Well, now we had to look for new ground, and I’d recalled those trenches right on bedrock. I got the claim-holder’s permission (He always told us we could detect his claims—but I always double-checked. As well, he never wanted any of the gold we found—he told us to keep it all because we were working so hard to get it. All he wanted to know was where we found any nuggets.)


Well, I postulated that the best chance for gold would be on that bedrock, right? So, we hammered every inch of bedrock in that maze of trenches all day long, and guess what? Not a sniff—not a whimper—no zip, zip—no low-high Minelab “ew-woo-ew” either. Nothing. Well, I was stumped. He’d been getting nice nuggets from this ground—we’d seen them. I then took into consideration that the bedrock was soft, and that he’d taken a bunch of it up with each scoop, and run it through his wash-plant. (That wash-plant was quite a creation. He’d made his own spring-loaded screens at the end of his shaker trough so that the stones would consistently bounce right off and not clog his screens. Furthermore, he was energy conscious. Gasoline was very pricey that far north, diesel less so and more economical, and so he’d modified an old Wisconsin hay baler engine to run on diesel! Saw it with my own eyes—a gasoline engine running on diesel--cleverest thing imaginable.)


Anyway, as he’d taken up a good portion of that bedrock, and it wasn’t the kind of bedrock to hide crevices, I got out of the trenches and got up onto the flats where he was working. Guess what I saw? Two large boulders that he’d pulled out of the trenches and rolled off to the side. My mini-brain had an illumination. Why not detect any dirt that had fallen from those boulders. Well, there wasn’t a lot of dirt to detect, but the nuggets were sure in it! Three nice, fat, northern beauties went into the bottle before the sun set that night.


Now, seriously, you’d think we’d have rushed back to that other claim where he’d pulled all of those boulders in that swampy bowl, right? Not!! Thinking back on it now, I don’t know what the heck we were thinking, but I’ve got another story for another day about the gold we tried to give the claim holder—that’s quite a story of missed opportunity too.


All the best,



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(Thought I'd share a poem with you--it's about how I got gold fever.)

The Alder Gulch Virus

In days gone by, when just a lad

My sister’s spouse did somethin’ bad

He took me to a town of ghosts,

The hills yet staked with claimin' posts


The rocker boxes sit there still,

With flumes and sluices on the hill.

The Gurdy girls ain't no more there,

Nor Sourdoughs--the town she's bare.


Montana's queen of golden dreams

Where diggers dug from magic streams,

Where Plummer robbed and ruled his town

‘Til vigilantes brought him down.


But ‘tain’t the focus of this tale,

A germ was loosed within that vale,

An ill struck me from that exposure,

And now my life can have no closure.


A bug bit me that fateful day,

It’s bite took hold, it’s here to stay.

It ain’t no good to take a pill,

There ain't no cure for this here ill.


What ill is that, you’re wont to say,

That carries men and gals away?

Why—fever golden, through and through!

“Tis stronger than a witche’s brew.


I’ve tried to kick it, yes I done,

But dang, that fever’s always won.

It’s always there around the bend,

On up the crick to canyon’s end,


And o’er that rise right over yonder,

There should be gold, I’ll often ponder.

A double curse this blasted plague,

Of that I'm certain, never vague.


Why should I cure it? Shucks to heck,

There’s tougher ways to stretch one’s neck!

Like booze and parties, speed and weed;

There’s wrath and lust—there’s pride and greed.


Well durn it all, I’ve thought about

Until I’ve figured this all out.

It ain’t the gold that got me hooked

It’s lookin’ fer that’s got me cooked!


All the best,



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You know--I thought I'd lost this story forever, but I found it today! It's about one of my dredging misadventures while I was investigating what I thought might be promising bedrock.



Well, here's another tale of summer's fun.


Once, I tried to cross the swiftest part of the stream to get to the other side of the river. I like to think of it (my attempt) in terms of the world famous River Dance—it has a lot in common: both of them require very rapid movement of the feet, clever planning, and lots of spinning and whirling of the body, with accompanying melodious (sometimes) tones.


As I got suited up one gorgeous summer’s day to get into the dredge hole, I looked at the far side of the river. A cliff was rising out of the river--it progressed up the mountain in a series of timbered steps for several hundred feet.


At the base of this black bedrock, there’s a wicked pool of water where the river fires most of itself through a bedrock chute. Just upstream of the chute, the river slams into the bedrock wall, cuts back on itself in a suction eddy, then whirls on in a quick right angle turn to create a channel of about eight feet in depth, yet the width is only a couple of meters across.


The rocks and boulders in that hole perpetually shimmy and shiver under the relentless thrumming of the stream.


Nevertheless, my fevered gold cranium had a giant brain wave—a true inspirational melon buster. I peeked across the river--since I was already suited up for underwater gold hunting, my noggin seized on a way to get safely to the other side.


Now, remember, there’s a cliff on the other side, so holding on to that far bank isn’t an option. However, since the weather was nice and hot, and the river level was dropping day by day, I figured it would be a good plan to saunter over and have a peek underwater, right along that aforementioned chute edge to see if any nuggets were trapped in cracks or crevices. Why, I’d just peek around before the snipers did later on in the summer.


As I’ve mentioned, I was suited up for the task anyway. In fact, I had on my two wetsuits, my shorty, my farmer-John with my 7mm cold-water hood, my mask and snorkel, my Hooka harness, and my regulator slung over my shoulder. I was ready.


So, my pea-sized brain (notice how my brain shrunk from earlier on?) decided it would be a glorious idea to secure my arm around an anchor rope and then tiptoe across the river—while keeping constant pressure on the line to maintain my balance in the stiff current. Capital idea. I’d work my way to the far side of the chute, gently lower my lithe, aquiline body into the river, and let the sixty pounds of lead I had strapped to me do what lead does best. This would all take place while I casually examined the mother rock for poor, dejected chunks of trapped gold—poor, little river orphans in need of adoption, so to speak.


That was the plan; that is not what happened.


After I’d fired up the dredge to fill the reserve air tank, and while the motor purred contentedly, I stepped away from the dredge, intent on flushing out the new game of the day (this is a bird-hunting metaphor for those of you that only fish, or, for those of you that--heaven forbid--get your meat at the Supermarket).


Come to think of it, it’s too bad I didn’t have my hunting dog with me, as he’d have absolutely refused to pursue that swift-water game that I was after; he’d have turned tail and crawled into the cab of the truck with a smug look on his face as he bedded down for a safe snooze! Upon reflection, there’s something about a dog being smarter than a human that just doesn’t sit well—maybe I should wise up and pay him a consulting fee to save myself some grief.


Dog brains and canine wisdom aside, I decided that I’d quickly get to the task and ford the stream. So, I walked away from the dredge and immediately stepped onto a slippery sheet of slate. Not to worry, I told myself, for I had ankle weights on as well that would quickly stabilize my precious piggy toes and feet in that torrid stream.


Thinking back on it, there must be some science of river physics that my dim brain hasn’t quite grasped. It must be a ratio or an equation that goes something like this: river velocity x mass + hyper-slippery rocks =stupidity to the tenth power! And, if you divide that by dim-wittedness, you get a very predictable result—with every stagger and stumble, the river exerts an ever increasing degree of control over the flailing foreign body that’s trying to stagger across it (NASA should consult me on bizarre test theory!).


Well, the river's frolicsome control started almost immediately, as the goldseeker's left foot went forward down the slippery rock, which jammed the left foot’s big toe into a cantankerous boulder, thus causing the formerly happy dredger (we’ll refer to this sot in the third person, on and off, for the next while for simplicity’s sake) to launch into a tapestry of glorious, colorful words, with melodious tones (Melodious? If the sounds of boar grizzly attacking a cougar with cubs is so).


This auditory toe-trauma event in turn created a momentary lapse in sanity, causing said golden boy to move the right foot in response to the hopping, hammering pain being emitted by his throbbing left, big toe. Furthermore, the river current promptly seized the complete right leg tightly in its grasp, all as the right foot simultaneously slid down a slippery incline.


This in turn caused the back of aforementioned mega-bozo to twist slightly, creating some sort of physics wonderland where the broad part of the back now acted like a garage door trying to swim the river, all while perfectly upright! This exponentially increasing force utilized the might of untold millions of gallons of playful glacial melt water, water spinning down the river at roughly Mach III (Please do not take this speed as the truth—this is only an estimate as I had no calibrated instruments with me for measurement of the actual velocity). This enhanced force, in turn, acted out its vengeance on the porposing dimwit with the death grip on the safety line!


I must call a brief pause here to say that there’s nothing so annoying as your buddy watching you thrash about as you helplessly flail about in the river. It's not annoying that your buddy is watching. No. What's annoying is that while he’s watching he's laughing such a jackal-like, high-pitched laugh that it's terrifying and frightening off any man or beast for a full three miles, up or downstream—thus eliminating any other possible source of help or rescue!


But, not to worry, after several ballet-like corrections on old pea brain’s part, he’d righted himself by using the safety line. Well, almost righted himself that is . . . As he pulled back hard on the safety line to come upright, his soggy garage door body, now acting like a rudder, began to rocket him back across the river, bouncing him carelessly off of boulders as it propelled him toward, and downstream, of the dredge. In fact, this aquatic inertia gave birth to a modified barrel roll of some notoriety, spinning the twit gleefully on the safety line like a tailless kite in a hurricane.


Oh, did I mention that his Hooka regulator was hanging across his shoulder as he artfully (Yah--like really bad art!) stepped into the stream? Well, now his reg was streaming straight behind him, and since the newly minted moron didn’t have his snorkel in his mouth either, he began to try to drink the river dry.


Oh, ragged drinking it was! For, after his cranium would submerge, he’d re-emerge shaking his head, and smacking his lips. However, he'd then bellow unpronounceable syllables of watery rhetoric, quite like clever beer-hall chitchat—much the same as if he’d been drinking steadily for two days! Nevertheless, he soon floundered (both eyes now felt as if they were squashed and compressed onto the same side of his head) his way up the safety line and stood waist-deep in the placid river, magnificently on firm footing once again.


Yes, the blessed bliss of terra firma was finally his. And then befell the withering shame of trying to explain the purpose of all those careful, aquatic aerobatics to his mining partner.


Nonetheless, after a witty explanation, the dauntless dredger cautiously proceeded to the chute on the other side. Once there, he launched himself into the slack water behind a lip of protruding, protective bedrock, at the head of the chute.


With regulator in place, he stuck his head under water only to see that the bedrock was as smooth as a bathtub in most of its entirety . . . But, there just off to the right was a small crevice, and in that crevice was a chunk of brightly beaming yellow gold. Oh, it was magnificent and glorious in its resplendent beauty, the bright sunshine winking off its sassy, golden self.


Therefore, the salmon-brained dredger quickly put his gray matter in to neutral and tried to reach the golden prize, forgetting about his precarious footing, and his temporary shelter from the stiff current.


This enigmatic act propelled him once more into a form of the River Dance. No, this performance was not in any way connected to the one that played the world for years. No, this was a river dance accompanied by colorful, strangely explosive, disharmonious tones instead of lively, upbeat music.


At last, the soggy, yet intrepid dredger, much refreshed after finishing his audition for River Dance, returned to his gently purring dredge, stuffed his brains back in through his ears and nose, rearranged his eyes, and then quietly went about an uneventful day of boring, ordinary dredging.


River Dance indeed.


All the best,



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Wow you had me rolling the entire tiime I was reading that post. Don't know how I missed it earlier but I must say you have a marvelous way with words, If you have not already you should consider writing a book....LOL... I walways enjoy your post, colorfull and enlightening, and love your expressive ways...Too Funny Keep them coming.


Merry Christmas and a Happy Golden New Year to you and yours.


Very Respectfully



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Old Santy Claus Came out One Night.


The miner bent sat in his shack

T’was Chrismas eve, the sky pitch black.

A blizzard roared outside his place,

A lonesome night for him t' face.


Still, up he gits to hang his sock,

A nail he drives with played-out rock,

And hangs that stockin’ up with care

In hopes that Santy will be there.


Why--ain’t no cookies--nor no milk,

The finer things just ain’t his ilk.

No puddin’ pie, nor Christmas cake

The finer things ain’t his t' make.


His money’s gone; the claim don’t pay,

The vein he chased has pinched away.

Upon this ground he’s toiled his best

His four-score twenty’s now his test.


The things that always easy were

Just ain’t that way, not now, for sure.

Yet up he gits and hangs his sock,

He sez his prayers and winds the clock.


The storm, she smacks that shack about

But it’s built snug—the cold stays out.

So, off he goes t' sleepy land

But comin' soon, a visit’s planned.


It seems a grizzly’s wide-awake,

He’s huntin hard for grub t' take.

Then up he sneaks upon that shack,

This ain’t no Santy with his pack!


He checks the door and finds ‘er stout

It seems the miner’s locked him out.

That ain’t no Christmas way t' awe

Twelve-hundred pounds of fur and claw!


So, Mr. Bear he checks the place

And sets himself a torrid pace.

He’s had no lunch since early fall,

He finds a weak spot in the wall--


It’s at this point where shack meets hill

(The miner’s hid his mine with skill)--

That griz he pulls some stones away

And steps inside t' eat and play.


He’s in a room, but not the shack

(This spot's fer grub and stores t' pack)

His nose tells him there’s food in here

His stomach senses fun is near.


He finds a ham just hangin’ there

And chomps ‘er down without a care

He even finds a jug t' try

He rips the cork, and drinks ‘er dry.


He’s feelin’ rather light of head

He picks a spot, then off t' bed.

The world she turns from night t' day

The storm has purged itself away.


On Christmas morn the miner wakes

He checks his sock, his head he shakes.

He gives a sigh, he’s feelin’ poor,

And to his mine, un-bars the door


The storage room ain’t lookin’ fine,

A bruin’s there, he’s all supine. . .

If Santy Claus left him this brute,

Ol’ Santy thinks he’s mighty cute


Fer’ layin’ out this nasty gift,

That’s blockin’ up his minin’ drift!

Well, what t' do? Now that’s the trick

The miner’s thinkin’ mighty quick.


T' tippy-toe around that bear,

Well that would take the greatest care,

And if he slipped, or sneezed, or stomped

The miner’d get himself right chomped.


Then all at once he has a plan.

He spies himself a blastin’ can.

He twists some fuse and strikes a light,

He’ll do this job, and do ‘er right.


A lengthy roll toward the bear,

Then thunder happens everywhere!

Now Mr. Bear is wide-awake--

An exit hole he sure does make.


The bear was gone, but that there blast

Set things in motion mighty fast.

The ground and hill began to quake,

The beams and posts began to shake.


That portal needed new, strong wood

(His Christmas morn weren’t lookin’ good).

“Aw Durn”, he cussed, “She’s gonna’ give.

There ain’t much chance I'm gonna' live.


But he was wrong, and when t'was done

A Christmas gift that miner'd won.

For near the portal, to the right

He saw himself a golden sight.


A vein of quartz all laced with gold

His wondering eyes did there behold.

And to his mind he knew this was

His real gift from Santy Claus!


All the best,




P.S. Here's some background info on what inspired me to write this poem--there's a Charles Russell (legendary Western artist and author) connection, as I believe the story I'll refer to in my following notes is from one of his early collections:


This poem is a compilation of several different experiences--the one where the bear broke into the trailer (through the window) of some mining buddies of mine and drank all of their canned beer--got hammered--and then tore through the door when he came to and wanted out.


Another is an experience from a very old western tale I read where two prospectors are lost in a blizzard on Christmas Eve, and their pack horses stop in the trail, as they know there's a cabin just off the trail that their human companions can't see. So, the prospectors hole up in the cabin for the night, hang their stockings (a token Christmas celebration as they won't be making it to where the celebrations going on) and head off to sleep.


Well, in the back of the cabin (the tumbled-down part) there's a griz a hibernating. The big fire they've built in the rock fireplace awakens him (and the smell of the bacon they'd fried), and pretty soon there's a big bear right in the main room licking up their leavings by the fire. Well, hot lead starts flying thick and fast, the bear becomes Christmas dinner, and after a feast, the boys decide to check out the fallen down part of the cabin where the griz was hibernating.


It turns out that there's a bunk under the caved part of the roof on one side, with the skeleton of an old-timer in it--all dressed out in buckskins, a flint-lock rifle laying beside him--a true old-timer--one of the first. So, that gets them thinking, and they scour the ruined part of the cabin, find a hiding place, and there's a nice, fat poke of gold cached in it! (They gave the weight in the tale--it was most impressive, but I can't recall it right now.) So those two old boys got their visit from Santy Claus.

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Wow you had me rolling the entire tiime I was reading that post. Don't know how I missed it earlier but I must say you have a marvelous way with words, If you have not already you should consider writing a book....LOL... I walways enjoy your post, colorfull and enlightening, and love your expressive ways...Too Funny Keep them coming.


Merry Christmas and a Happy Golden New Year to you and yours.


Very Respectfully




Why Tim--I thank you so much for your kind compliment. No I haven't written a book, but I've been gathering all my stories together--it's a thing I'm considering. A very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and yours as well.


All the best, and thanks for taking the time to drop in,



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I posted this on an Alaska forum earlier today. It's about my wanderings in Arizona near Stanton, and I thought some of your desert dwellers might enjoy it. I'll also post some other desert pictures I snapped while on that same trip.



I've worked the dry dirt in the desert in Arizona--I much prefer using water! But, man is that desert gold beautiful, beautiful stuff. So, the location really is all relative, as it relates to perspective.


As a matter of fact, working in the desert of Arizona reminded me of a little story of one of my digging events. I was working a dry wash on the side of a hill.


There were old dry-washer piles everywhere. I picked a spot with bedrock outcroppings that looked more promising than the rest (I have to tell you at this point that I have a strong hatred and excessive revulsion for anything that looks remotely like a spider.), and I started to dig.


As I prospected along the wash, I started to see these round holes that were sited perpendicularly back into the bank. Well, I'd seen some of them while I was detecting in flatter areas (of course, they went straight down), and I'd spotted a tarantula crouching in one of them--front appendages wiggling, those insane eyes glaring directly at me--you get the terrifying picture; and, that was enough for me.


I quickly changed locations--much like a sprinter on steroids laced with amphetamines is able to do. Only, sprinters are quite a bit slower, I found out, as I'm certain I broke several Olympic records on my lightning sprint through that unforgiving region of plant life where everything pokes, stings, or bites! (I'm thinking of a full Kevlar body suit the next time I flee a demonic desert arachnid. It might save me from his or her excruciating bite! [The fact that I was pulling spines from my hide for two days afterward has no consequence or bearing in this tale.])


Regardless of my aforementioned discomfort, I was digging, as you'll remember, in that little wash among the grease-wood and creosote, and I was working my way uphill. Well, when I saw those same, round holes I've mentioned earlier, I started to have flashbacks to my previously mentioned debacle. Nonetheless, I talked my brain's early warning system out of it's warnings--I'm quite famous for disarming my body's alarm system actually.


Nonetheless, I determined that I'd traveled well over a thousand miles to get myself some desert gold, and I wasn't going to let some hairy, fanged octo-ped drive me from my diggin's--not on this fine desert day I wasn't.


So, I stared at those holes for a moment longer (there were three of them--ranged across the hill about a foot apart, all roughly the same elevation--with the middle of the three just about dead center with my body), and I decided that I would go about loosening the dirt that was overlying the bedrock in that spot.


I'd finally gotten my pulse back down to a normal level, so that the rushing of the blood in my ears didn't sound like I was standing ocean-side during one of those famous Bering Sea beach storms (I'll have to tell you about some of my Alaskan experiences one of these days--no spiders molested me up there, I can tell you that!). Now, please forgive my wanderings, as I'll haul myself back to my story.


Anyway, I hefted the reassuring weight of my pick in my hand, calmed my brain into a flat comatose state, and swung it into the ground.


Like a blast from a rocket-propelled-grenade, something came flying out of that center hole!! It flew at me so fast that I had no time to react. I was the perfect, immobilized victim.


If you've ever been in a car crash (as I have), you may have experienced this phenomenon: time and action slow to a crawl. Moreover, as your brain is somehow temporarily rewired on some sort of hyper-chemical that enhances your gray-matter's processing speeds to Star Trek warp factors, this allows your melon to record every little detail in high-speed slow motion--recording every minute detail of the entire event so that you can micro-analyze it in perpetuity.


But, I need to return to the event: this thing came shooting out of the hole. It was heading straight for my chest. It had a leathery head and colors. It was undulating from side to side. It had a long tail that was swaying back and forth, much like a propelling rudder--driving the thing relentlessly toward my paralyzed body.


I watched immobilized as it dropped below eye level, then caught it again just to the right of me as it impacted the desert dirt. My brain switched out of panic mode--my brain returned to normal speed.


My brain's defensive properties alerted me that this flying menace was only some kind of stinking, pea-brained lizard; nevertheless, this reptile was sent from the underworld to give me a heart attack. But, the whole desert plot had failed miserably. For, I could live with this event, and my sentient brain knew it.


For, I have no fear of lizards or snakes (Strange huh? I mean, the snakes may kill you, but the hideous tarantulas will only give you a nasty bite that feels as if someone is injecting liquid fire into every cell and nerve ending of your entire body, including every nook and cranny of every bit of white or gray matter in your brain! No wonder snakes don't worry me. . . .), and because I don't fear them, I was able to laugh.


The fact that the laughter on this particular, remarkable day sounded much like a pack of hyenas fighting an entire pride of lions over a fresh kill is irrelevant. It was a catharsis--a truly purging and healing event for me. Who cares if that laughter terrorized every woman and child in every suburb of Phoenix and jammed every available 911 switch and circuit--I knew I was safe.


On a side note, for some strange reason I abandoned that hill-side and headed off to a flat, meandering trail I'd spotted earlier in the day, one that sauntered quite leisurely across a leveled mesa atop a hill about three miles distant. . . .



All the best,







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Hi there.


I've started to post some stories again. Anyone here interested in some more gold tales?


All the best,



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Hi lanny Your tall tails and great finds have giveing me some hope that there is stell a place in the world to have a good time and enjoy what time we have left in this world.Keep the tails comeing .

Thanks for the entertainment

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You bet Lanny!


OK Matt--I'll start posting stories again.


All the best,



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