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Dig, dig--miss, miss--Booyah!


Lanny in AB

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To continue my previous gold tale, we worked our way out of the high mountains, and back down to the lower elevations in the valley where the gold field flattened itself out. Well, to shorten things up some, we made it back down off that mountain, scraped bottom with the Dodge diesel a few more times, and even got a quick glimpse of a fat Black Bear hightailing it over a hump right close to the river.

Soon afterwards, when we got to the river, we threw that truck into four-wheel drive and did the river dance all the way across—the river dance where the wheels go to slipping, bouncing up, down, and then squirting sideways over those large cobbles and pieces of bigger river-run. It’s rather like being jiggled around in some giant jello-filled bowl or something—that’s the closest explanation I can come up with. Anyway, we finally got across that fast moving stream and started the uphill climb to the other side of the valley.

But, I’ve got to leave a little reminder right here in this story of an experience about a spot I visited just the other side of the river where there was a whack of exposed bedrock that was being reclaimed by the brush and forest. Because, you see, on a previous trip, a mining buddy of mine pulled his truck over, told me to follow along, walked up a little gulch, took out a screwdriver and went to popping coarse gold right out of a small crevice in that bedrock! But, I’m digressing again, and that little story, and what I did and didn’t do, can wait for another day.

So, we made the climb out of the river bottom to the roadbed on the opposite side and then slowly motored up a rough, winding logging road to check out a couple of bedrock bench claims that paralleled a little trout-filled lake. The body of water was man-made in a pinch point where the old-timer’s had dammed the creek off so they could flume the water to various downstream bench claims for sluicing. Moreover, the dam had been left intact—because it had turned out to be such a nice little fishery. We discovered that in the Great Depression, there were all kinds of squatters camped beside that little lake—you can still see the groupings of foundation pits and even some old plank-cabins. Of course, all that remains of the log cabins from the 1800’s are the indentations in the ground, yet I was too dumb to detect around them while I was there. I had my gold-only brain fired up, and it wouldn’t be denied.

However, we got distracted where the lake met the dam, as it had a huge rock pile just downstream of it. So, I’ll take a side route here for just a minute to tell you an intriguing little story. As I walked over to eyeball that rock pile, one of the miners who was working the adjoining claim walked out of the brush! (Their outhouse was located just inside the bush, in a little clearing.) He asked us what we were doing in the area, and we told him we were working our way up the trail beside the creek to the lake claims we were going to detect. After giving him the claim-owner’s name, he realized we were legit, and that made him right friendly. (There’s only a few dozen people that live in the entire area, and the locals find out real fast if you’re trying to snow them or not.) He asked us what kind of prospecting we were going to do, and when we said, “nugget shooting”, he gave a little chuckle. You see, he didn’t think much of metal detectors as he’d seen nugget shooter after nugget shooter get skunked, as the ground was just too hot for their machines to handle. I didn’t want to tip my hand about the super-technology I was packing, so I let him keep talking. Well, he obliged and said he wanted to tell us a little story.

He motioned toward the rock pile and told us it was from an old dragline operation—one from many decades ago. The former claim owners worked that dragline up the narrow canyon bottom building a huge stack of stream-run and broken bedrock at the head of the works. They’d netted a lot of coarse gold—it was a good run.

He told us that a few years back a fellow had come along and begged permission to climb that rock pile to look for rock specimens—if you know anything about those dragline rock piles, you’ll know some of the rarest rocks from the bottom of old stream channels can be found stacked there. (It’s rather like when I’m dredging—I see rocks that I’ve never seen on the surface before, and sometimes I’ll only ever see one of a particular kind. I think it’s got something to do with the rarity of their specific gravity, perhaps.) Anyway, he told this Rock Hound to have at ‘er. He only asked him to return and show whatever he found—the rock collector was free to keep anything he found—the only requirement was to return and show it. (I’ve run into that request numerous times myself while prospecting on someone else’s claim.)

So, imagine his surprise when around suppertime this fellow showed up with a nugget! The claim owner’s mouth fell wide open because that nugget was huge! Taking it from the finder, he could not believe what he was seeing, nor could he comprehend what he was hefting. The specimen was only a quarter to a third of an inch thick, but solid gold, and it covered the back of his hand from the base of the knuckles to his wrist joint!! It was sure enough flat, and that’s why it had made it through the punch-plates and screens of the dragline’s trommels and sluices. Soberly, the claim holder related what a tough day it was to follow the “you can keep whatever you find” axiom, but he kept his word. After seeing that find, the miner said he’d scoured that entire rock pile, but had never found a thing. Just dumb Rock Hound luck, I guess. Well, I’ll have to tell you the rest of this story, the part about working the lake-shore bench placers, another day.

All the best,

Lanny

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Great stories Lenny,

Sounds like one hell of an area to hunt. :thumbsupanim One could spend a life time there digging nuggets. No need to "leave gold in order to find gold"

Have at it.

Bob

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Great stories Lenny,

Sounds like one hell of an area to hunt. :thumbsupanim One could spend a life time there digging nuggets. No need to "leave gold in order to find gold"

Have at it.

Bob

Ah, yes--but it's the wanderlust to see new goldfields that makes me want to see what's down the road, and want to know what's around the next bend . . . . And, it's the chance to make new friends--there's none better than gold prospecting friends.

All the best,

Lanny

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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,

Lanny

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Thanks so much Terry! Here's another installment:

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,

Lanny

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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,

Lanny

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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,

Lanny

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  • 1 year later...

Hello again to everyone. If the snow melts soon up at the mine I'll be at it again right quick. If not, I'll still have a while to wait, as this weekend there's more moisture on the way--which means snow at the higher elevations.

I'm getting DAS(detector anxiety syndrome); therefore, I need to get into the mountains and swing the dang thing. I was down in Nevada and Arizona last week, where the weather was gorgeous, but I didn't have my detector with me, and my wife didn't want to venture in to the desert anyway, as the snakes were out in force. Oh well. . . .

All the best,

Lanny

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Hello again to everyone. If the snow melts soon up at the mine I'll be at it again right quick. If not, I'll still have a while to wait, as this weekend there's more moisture on the way--which means snow at the higher elevations.

I'm getting DAS(detector anxiety syndrome); therefore, I need to get into the mountains and swing the dang thing. I was down in Nevada and Arizona last week, where the weather was gorgeous, but I didn't have my detector with me, and my wife didn't want to venture in to the desert anyway, as the snakes were out in force. Oh well. . . .

All the best,Lanny

Lanny,

I just spent the best part of my morning reading this thread...you Sir are one great storyteller! beer.gif

You are saving all these articles/stories to combine into at least one book, right?

All the best to you, and I look forward with anticipation of the tales your future ramblings may hold!

Mike

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Lanny,

I just spent the best part of my morning reading this thread...you Sir are one great storyteller! beer.gif

You are saving all these articles/stories to combine into at least one book, right?

All the best to you, and I look forward with anticipation of the tales your future ramblings may hold!

Mike

Mike--thanks for your encouragement (on the book) and for your much appreciated generous compliments. I appreciate the time you have taken to share them with me.

All the best,

Lanny

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Nice story Lanny, but I see this type of thing happen often! Lest we do a complete cleanup- ourselves "all the time" :thumbsupanim

HH rokdodger

Thanks Rokdodger for your kind words.

All the best,

Lanny

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Well, it’s time for another story about bedrock and gold. But, I have to backtrack a bit and fill in a few details.

I had a chance to head up to the goldfield a couple of weeks ago. The problem was, I was only going to be there for part of a day, spend the night, and then I would have to come right back out.

So, the main reason for the trip was to make my way in to camp to check things out, to see how all of the camp items had wintered. (I’d tried to get in to camp two weeks earlier, but the ice and snow at the upper elevations had turned me around.) Everything looked fine on the outside of the two homes away from home, so I opened the first one, the camper, and it checked out just fine. All tight, dry, and undamaged after sitting through nearly six months of confinement, high in the cedar and pine covered mountains in the Rocky Mountains.

Next, I hustled over to the trailer to see how it had wintered. As soon as I opened the door, I knew all was not right with the world—not by a long shot. I immediately noticed that there were bits of foam all over the floor. Moreover, a glance at one of the cushions that surrounded the table let me see that a large corner of the cushion was torn open, with pieces of foam scattered on the other cushions near the table.

My concern mounted when I looked at the sleeping area in the rear of the trailer. The curtains above the windows, on all three sides, had holes all along the tops of them! Some even had smaller holes in their mid sections. Moreover, the bed cushions had pieces of the fabric torn loose. However, there was no strong, overpowering rodent smell like there always is when a packrat has set up shop in a dwelling. That stumped me, as the place sure looked like a packrat had just started to tear it up.

So, I began a search of the entire trailer. I noticed that one of the curtain rods at the front of the trailer, over a side window by the table, was knocked completely loose from its brackets. To investigate that area thoroughly, I removed all of the cushions, opened all of the forward compartments, but discovered nothing amiss. As a matter of fact, even the stash of toilet paper was unmolested, as were all of the other items stored in the front cupboards.

I checked out the bathroom, and absolutely nothing had visited there. It was exactly the way I had left it in the fall.

Next, I opened the drawers by the sink and stove. Well, things were not in order in those drawers—no, not one bit. There were all kinds of things stuffed into them that had not been there in the fall, and many of the items had been rearranged, moved to different drawers in fact. So, I stuck with my investigation. I opened the cupboard doors under the sink, and I made a significant discovery. There, on the shelf under the sink, was a nest about the size of a basketball! It was round, made of soft ferns and moss, and the vegetation was fresh and moist.

Well, I removed all of the nesting material, dumped and cleaned the drawers and then set about to discover if I could find the intruder. I opened every space in the trailer and searched every nook and cranny with a powerful flashlight, but I was the only living organism present. This only deepened the mystery.

However, I was determined to discover the point of entry, to find how the intruder had gained entrance. So, I crawled under the RV with my turbo-charged three-watt L.E.D. flashlight and searched the entire undercarriage from stem to stern. It was all covered in solid metal, and there were no penetrations whatsoever.

Well, I returned to the interior of the camping trailer to see if somehow I’d missed something. Just after I’d started searching the compartments under the bed, I heard the sound of little running feet above my head. “Oh rats”, I thought. “Whatever it is must be in the ceiling!” But, as I listened to it running around, the unknown entity was moving much too fast for something that was plowing through the insulation in the ceiling compartment. So, I hopped outside and quickly scaled the nearby camper ladder to access its roof so that I could see what was scurrying about on top of the trailer.

Well, there on the roof of the trailer was a squirrel with a pinecone clutched in its paws, frantically running all over the roof, peering over the far edge, but looking quite distressed. I quickly hopped down and ran around to the other side of the trailer, and there I saw something I’d completely missed when I’d pulled in to camp. A small spruce was bent over (most likely by the winter’s heavy snowfall) and it was leaning up against the small vent window on the side of the sleeping area. I saw with alarm that a hole had been torn in the window screen, the little window (which had been cracked to allow a tiny bit of circulation) forced open, and all of a sudden it all made sense to me—the mystery of the break-in was being quickly solved.

At that moment, some details flooded back to me. The absence of any rodent smell in the trailer, the fact that there were numerous pinecones stashed in the drawers beside the sink, the building materials for the nest—fresh ferns and moss—the frantic squirrel on the roof packing the pine cone. It was now certain. I had been the victim of a squirrel home invasion, and it had only happened a few days earlier or the trailer would have been torn to bits. Thank heavens there had not been a nest of babies to deal with, or heaven forbid, an entire family of squirrels living in the trailer. It had simply been a lone mama looking for a safe place to raise her young.

In retrospect, I could tell that she’d had a lot of fun tearing around on the curtains (probably much like an amusement ride) and pulling up pieces of the cushions (probably like stress therapy after a long, uncertain winter), and it was most fortunate I’d made my way in to camp that weekend or it would have been far too late to patch things up with a little duct tape, and thoroughly clean things up with a little bleach solution. Moreover, I was very lucky it had not been a packrat or I’d have had to set fire to the whole outfit—nothing gets rid of the disgusting smell, and the insensible destructive insanity of packrat.

So, after I’d secured the camp, I had only a couple of hours of daylight left to try out my shiny, new GPX 5000. But, that’s a story for another day—I’m off to a meeting.

All the best,

Lanny

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The first time I took the GPX 5000 for a test drive, it was all about the learning curve. Yes, I know that there are set it and forget it general programs on the machine, but I like to try out new things as well, why else have them on the machine? So, for me, the learning curve was very steep. Do I know everything about the machine now that I’ve taken it for a test run? Absolutely not, in fact, when I go back and spend the time to read through the manual, I realize just how much I don’t know. As well, you have to realize that I have spent a ton of time finding gold with the exceptionally tried and true Minelab SD 2100, and that I will still continue to use it to find gold. I found more than enough noble, yellow metal to pay for that machine, multiple times over. Yes, I found gold with its successive relatives, the 3000’s and the 4000, but I wanted to wait until Minelab came out with a machine that I felt had eclipsed their early mastery, and I feel that the 5000 has done that many times over (as owners of the 4500 will attest). One thing that I still feel is a bit of a disappointment is the iron discrimination. But regardless, the other things they have added are substantially impressive.

However, I’ve wandered away from my story. Having solved the mystery of the squirrel debacle, I set out to hunt some nearby bedrock that had produced nuggets in the past. It was an exposed area in plain sight beside the main trail that nugget hunters had chosen to ignore for many years. There was a lot of trash, and there were a lot of hot rocks; moreover, the bedrock itself was hot—all of the previous items discouraged the VLF shooters from paying any serious attention to this dark, undulating sheet of the mother rock.

By way of reflection, I recalled liberating a nice catch of nuggets from this generous patch of bedrock with my 2100. My buddy had his 4000 at the time, but I’d beat him to the punch. After I hit the first mellow tone (my buddy and I—I’d invited him to investigate the area with me) had to chisel the nuggets out of tight crevices in the rock where they were trapped in contact zones. The crevices were not cemented shut as they were in other areas where I’d chiseled nuggets out, but they were simply so tightly pinched together by bygone titanic forces that there was no other way to get the nuggets out. Nevertheless, chiseling proved to be quite a challenge as the bedrock was very hard, and sharp fragments would shoot everywhere when I’d cut down beside the target signal’s area. In addition, I had to block the direction of travel of any fragments in case a nugget went flying when it was released from its age-old prison in the crevice.

However, that is what had happened in an earlier hunt. On this day, I was armed with my shiny new 5000 and was eager to see what it would do. I started off by trying different settings, different timings, different speeds, and different amounts of gain. Sometimes I had it so noisy that it reminded me of the 2100’s aberrations on steroids! But, other times I had it running so smoothly that I wondered if it was really working! Nonetheless, I took my time and very carefully scanned every portion of the exposed sheet of stone. I got some very faint signals, which turned out to be tiny fragments of steel (and I do mean tiny—this new machine is incredibly sensitive, even with larger coils). Other than those few contacts, the site remained deadly silent, most tomb-like in its quietus (I borrowed that word from Shakespeare—I hope he doesn’t mind. But, then again, he never went detecting, so why should he?).

After completing my search, I wandered off to a place where the large-scale placer miners had been trenching to obtain a bulk sample to test the material that was running tight on the bedrock. This material was very old, orange and red-stained—a sure sign of its ancient nature. However, I soon found that my frustration level was rising in spite of the virgin nature of the dirt I was searching. The detector was balanced just fine, and it was handling the electrical interference in an easy manner. Regardless, I was still having problems, and but they were with what nature had left behind. The troublemakers, made of small pieces of native iron (all encrusted with concretions of small rocks and sand) were very thin, and heavily oxidized (completely black in fact). I kept hitting numerous targets over and over again. So many times did I hit them, in fact, that they started to drive me nuts. I tried ramping up the discrimination, but the pieces of natural iron were so small that the iron ID was not useful—the tones kept coming through as positive dig signals—it would not blank them out.

Well, after digging countless pieces of the aforementioned “junk”, the sun was fast setting, the air was rapidly cooling, and my time with the 5000 was at an end. However, I had learned some valuable lessons, gained some insight of the machine’s capabilities, knew for a certainty that I needed to get deep into the contents of my owner’s manual, and I had realized that I needed to invest some serious time in reading and rereading specific sections of the manual in order to gain an understanding of the many different ways this new machine could facilitate my nugget shooting experience.

So, over the next week, I did just that, I read and re-read. And, the next weekend, it paid off.

But, that’s a story for another day.

All the best,

Lanny

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It was a sunny Saturday. The spring had been unusually cold, but the snow had finally melted, allowing me access to the claim the previous weekend. The rogue squirrel invasion was still fresh on my mind as I worked my way along and up the winding logging road that led me to the claim. The mast-like Tamarack were dressed in that fresh, vibrant, first rush of green that signals the end of Winter’s reign. The Spruce and Pine scented the air with that gorgeous, patented mountain smell that I never tire of. The Elk were grazing in almost every main clearing, and they all had that ratty look they always have when they have yet to shed off their layers of heavy winter insulation. The hawks and eagles were busy riding the thermals, keeping a sharp eye out for careless ground squirrels.

Yes, it was great to be back in prospecting mode. Last week’s experiences with the GPX 5000 had left me feeling very under qualified as an operator. I’d read through the manual whenever I could, trying to digest individual sections before I moved on to another section. I realized how much I had yet to learn, as I was in need of intensive preparation because I’d been invited to detect a sizeable section of bedrock that formed the base of a large placer pit. I’d seen portions of this bedrock before, and I knew that there were numerous contact zones where different colored sheets of bedrock came together, creating wide swings in their electronic readability.

Therefore, I knew I’d need to tweak some of the settings on the 5000 for best effect—the switch on and go settings made the machine extremely simple to use, but I wanted to give myself an edge so as to use some of the exceptional abilities the machine possessed to enable me to find some gold.

After unlocking the gate to the claims, I had only gone down the road a ways when the route was barred by a roadblock. However, this roadblock was unmanned—it was formed by a blow down—a big Spruce blocked my path. I had questioned whether I needed the chainsaw with me on this trip, as I’d cut my way in the last trip due to predictable winter fall-downs, but what I hadn’t counted on this time was how the wind had messed things up. However, the discovery of the downed Spruce cemented in my brain that traveling with the chainsaw was a necessity, not an option. And, because you never really can predict what’s going to happen, it’s always best to travel prepared.

In fact, that reminds me of something I’ve forgotten to mention. On my way in on the prior trip, a huge block of rock had fallen from the cliff face onto the logging road sometime in the previous weeks, settling itself firmly right before a main bend in the trail. I’d tried to move it last trip, but it was massive, and all I had with me was a shovel. So, when I’d left home, I’d packed a huge bar. When I reached the bend in the road, I parked in a pullout, and then I used the bar to slowly pry and nudge the stone, bit by bit, in a semi-circular motion until I had it off the road (it was far too heavy to lever it up and get it to flop over).

So, I was lucky I had the bar and the chainsaw—I needed and used them both to clear the trail. Well, after I cut up and removed the Spruce, I went about a quarter of a mile farther down the road and there was a Lodge-pole pine across the road. It was so long (its trunk extending far up in to the other trees) I couldn’t twist it out of the way, so out came the chainsaw again. From that point on, the trail in was clear.

I opened the camper and trailer and checked for signs of any more rodent mayhem, but found none, and so I unpacked my gear, stowed all my supplies, and hit the sack (it was already dark out). I read and reread for several more hours on how to access and modify the different settings on the 5000, and then it was lights out.

The next morning, the sunlight woke me early—it was angled perfectly so as to cut right in under the curtains. Its golden fingers playing on my closed eyelids did the trick. So, I got up, tucked in some grub, grabbed my detector bag and off I went to visit the placer miners at the pit.

More to follow:

All the best,

Lanny

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You have a talent that draws a perfect picture with words, I could hear the chainsaw and see you strain with the boulder.... Can't wait for more!

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Hey Lanny GOOD STUFF!!!!!

You do remember that Discriminate will not work with a Mono coil right? nor will the cancel mode. If you have not tried the DD 11 inch Commander on your 5000 you will be amazed at what you can do in very hot soils... Everyone using the earlier models would throw their stock DD into a box, run out and get a Mono and forget about it. The GPX-5000 is a different animal and works wonderfully with a DD without the drawback experienced with earlier models. So if using a M<ono, give your DD Commander a try on that hot bedrock.

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You have a talent that draws a perfect picture with words, I could hear the chainsaw and see you strain with the boulder.... Can't wait for more!

Thanks for your very kind words El Dorado!

All the best,

Lanny

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Lanny,

I agree wholeheartedly, you have a way with words that brings one along with your every step, I also await "the rest of the story"!! :thumbsupanim :thumbsupanim

Skip

Skip,

I sincerely appreciate your generous compliment.

All the best,

Lanny

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