Monday, August 19, 2013

Adventures in Gold Mining

My husband and I took a short camping trip over the weekend to try out our new sluice box. Yes, you read that right, we bought a sluice box.

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated with finding treasure. Probably runs in the family as my mother was the one who took us places when we were kids to 'find' things: yard sales, gold panning in California Gold Country, etc.

Over the years I have searched for emeralds in North Carolina, diamonds in Arkansas and now I'm into gold. Probably because I happened to live in an area of the U.S. where there is lots of gold to be found. Or at least, there USED to be a lot of gold to be found.

A few years' back, we took a trip to Montana and did some gold prospecting in an area where you were allowed to try your hand at panning on public lands. We found a few itsy bitsy flakes and brought home a bucket of dirt that we meant to pan through at our leisure. It's still in the garage, but, hey, we can take our time, right?

This weekend, we headed out into the wilderness to camp in a meadow that is near a decent-sized stream. At the end of this stream there are the remains of a gold mining town. So, there is definitely a reason to believe there is gold along this stream. How much and where it can be found is the mystery.

We bought the sluice intending to power through the pay dirt and find ourselves some major gold. After reading the very basic instructions that came with the sluice box (basically, 'put your sluice box in the river and dump dirt into it'), my husband tried to find some useful instructions on You Tube. We were looking for angles or water speeds or *anything* that might actually be helpful. What we found:

1) Lots of videos by scary-looking men with bad facial hair that claimed everyone else's videos were crap.

2) Lots of videos by scary-looking men with bad facial hair using mike set ups that only picked up the sounds of rushing water, rather than any helpful advice.

3) Lots of videos by scary-looking men with bad facial hair giving no useful advice whatsoever about: how to keep your sluice box from filling up with dirt, how to set up your sluice box in the stream so that water funnels into it properly, how to angle your sluice box with rocks to keep it at the correct slope and to keep it from floating away.

After several hours of trying, we did end up running dirt through our sluice. It did result in a lot of black sand in the carpet beneath the metal grid. We maybe found a tiny flake of gold that we proudly brought home in our snuffer.

I gave up around 2 o'clock. My husband kept going (as men are wont to do when they have a goal in mind) and finally moved to a new spot on the stream that afforded him lighter material with a lot of visible black sand and a better set up for the sluice that resulted in less dirt build up.

To some, the experience may have been a failure. But, instead, we have renewed enthusiasm to keep trying. Once we have mastered the sluice box, we just need to find the right spot on the stream to start raking it in.

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