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My nephew David and I went back to the same place we were last weekend. Our primary objective on this trip was to determine the source of the gold. We were curious if the gold we had found last weekend and was coming out of the high bench, or was just gold traveling down river. This time we brought in a couple of small highbankers, which would enable us to work a lot more gravel and take a better sample of the area.
David decided to set up right where he left off last week and I decided to head further downstream. I wanted to check the area downstream of the bench. First, I located a suitable area to setup my pump. I only had a twofoot long intake hose, so I had to find a spot close to the water to position the pump. I found a great place to set up the highbanker, which was about 30 feet away from the pump, in a bowlshaped area that would work great as a settling pond. The discharge water from my high banker would have to flow through some rocks and sand before it could get back into the main current of the river. I always like to filter my discharge water whenever possible. I’m not really sure what the rules are on highbanking, but I've heard so many different things from different people and I'm not sure if anyone else truly knows what the laws are either. But I figure if you can clean up the water a bit before you put it back into river, why not. There may be someone downstream enjoying the river too and it’s just common courtesy.
After I got the highbanker set up and leveled, I started sampling gravel from different areas. I dug up several buckets of gravel from a gravel bar which was deposited by the river. After running those buckets through the highbanker I idled down the motor and cleaned out the sluice box. I was surprised to find very little gold in the first clean out. With no gold in the box yet I decided to move to a different area where the runoff from the bench had been accumulating. I dug several buckets from that location and ran them through the highbanker. After I cleaned out the sluice box again, I had the same results, very little gold. So I decided to clean out the only crevice that was close to me, and ran that through the highbanker. This time when I checked the box there was finally some of that yellow metal gold.
Now I had a problem; I had positioned my high banker in a great area for working the gravel, but wasn’t finding any gold in the gravel. It was also lousy area for cleaning out crevices because there were almost none to speak of. The day was also dwindling, by this time it was already 3:00 PM and I knew I didn't have the time needed to relocate the highbanker to different area. So I decided to start metal detecting some crevices. I planned to cover as much ground as possible and only pan out the crevices that had targets in them. I broke down the highbanker and packed it back up to the landing area. I stopped where David was working to see how he was doing and he was kicking my butt on the gold. He showed me his vial of gold which had some small pickers that he had plucked out of his highbanker. He had dedicated the entire day to working the crevices just below the high bench area. Most of the gold that he found had come from fairly small crevices, less than a halfinch wide which were packed very tightly with gravel. He was trying to process as much material as possible before the end of the day.
After dropping off my highbanker at the landing area, I grabbed my detector and headed back downstream. I quickly found a couple of nice crevices that had targets in them and started digging. It took a bit of effort to get the gravel cleaned out of the crevices because they were packed extremely tight. After cleaning them out I was rewarded with enough fine gold and one nice picker to save the day. As the evening approached I knew it would be time to leave soon so I began packing my things to head back to the landing area. Just as I threw my pack over my shoulder I saw David who had hiked downstream to check my progress and let me know it wasabout was time to go.
After I arrived home I cleaned up my gold and weighed it. I had found 2.5 grams or 1.6 dwt (pennyweight). I called David who had just finished cleaning out his gold and he said that he had a total of 3.3 grams. We were both were pleased with the gold that we had found that day and felt it had been a fairly productive trip. After prospecting around the area, we’re still not exactly sure where the gold is coming from. It could be coming directly from the bench or it could be travelling from upstream, or both. We did determine that the best place to find gold on this section of the river is packed in the crevices, even the really small crevices that don’t look like they could hold much of anything. Although this area produced a decent amount of small pickers and fine gold in the crevices, there was not much concentration of gold in the gravel bar itself. Like I’ve seen on most rivers, gold needs to find a place to fall out of the current and concentrate, and the more tightly packed the crevice the better chance you’ll find gold at the bottom.
This Sunday my nephew David and I had access to a helicopter. Since the helicopter wasn't going to be available until 10 or 11 in the morning, we decided to prospect a river that was only a ten-minute flight from where the aircraft was based. By car it would have been an hour drive and then a one to two hour hike into this remote canyon. The ten-minute flight was an enjoyable trip through a remote and beautiful canyon where people are rarely spotted. David had checked out this area last year and found a little gold, so we thought it was worth a second look.
The helicopter dropped us off on a very large gravel bar on the inside of a slow bend of the river. The most interesting thing about this area was an old bench that had been left by the river. It was on the inside of the turn, and about 15 to 20 feet above the river. It had already been worked heavily by miners from the past. There were several very large piles of boulders stacked above the river indicating that this site was worked very hard and must have produced substantial amounts of gold. From the general looks of the area I'm guessing it was mined heavily in the 1850’s or sixties.
It was hard to tell when the site was last worked, because someone had lived on it for a while in recent years. Unfortunately, whoever camped there in recent years was a slob and had no respect for this pristine canyon because they left trash everywhere. The trash looked like it if only been there for a year or so. They left everything from food wrappers to their cookware scattered throughout the area. They also left a decent pry bar which I was happy to reclaim. People like this slob are the reason we miners get a bad reputation and why we’re continuing to lose access to public lands. Because we have gotten off to a late start, I didn't want to spend the time to clean up this slob’s mess. So I was unable detect the area around the camp site.
As soon as we got settled in, we both started detecting upstream. After an hour or so, I wasn't finding much of anything. I decided to try working downstream for a while. David kept working upstream. As I worked my way downstream the bedrock was getting steeper. After a while it started flattening out again. Now I was able to work a little closer to the edge of the river. I started getting a target now and then. All I was finding were small pieces of iron and lead. The research I had done on this area indicated that there were some large pieces of gold found in the past, ranging from one to two ounces, but most of the gold found in this area was fairly small, one penny weight or smaller. Knowing this, I was searching for any metal targets. As long as it was deposited by the water I was going to dig it. My reasoning is; iron, lead, and gold all travel the same path down the river.
After an hour or so, I got a good reading in a small crevice. The gravel was really packed so I had to chisel and use a pry bar to scrape every bit of it out. As I dug the material out, I put it in into my pan. When I got to the bottom of the crevice I did a quick check with the detector to make sure I got the target. With the target in my pan, I headed down to the river to pan it out. My target turned out to be a lead fishing weight, but along with it I found a few pieces of gold. I went back and checked more of the crevice. I got several good readings along the crevice so I decided to shut the detector off and clean out about five feet of the crevice. It was slow going because the rocks were really packed in. I worked on that crevice for the remainder of the day. When I was done I had quite a pile of lead and some nice gold. It was getting late, so I decided to head back upstream to see how David was doing.
I found David panning at the downstream end of the gravel bar. He wasn't able to find much upstream either, so after an hour of searching upstream with no results he decided to head downstream too. He had been panning out a couple of crevices he found at the end of the gravel bar. The last time he was detecting in here he found a piece of copper wedged in a crevice and after cleaning out the crevice found 1.5 grams of gold packed into the one-foot long by half-inch wide crevice. So even though he did not find any new targets with his PI detector in this area, he decided to sample three different crevices within a 20-foot radius at different heights in an attempt to locate the source of the gold.
After panning out four pans of material, he was finding a lot of black stand and some nice, small gold. Each crevice had produced small amounts of gold and he said that he even saw the gold as he was removing from the crevice and putting it into his pan. This told us that the gold must be originating from the gravel bar and/or the old bench uphill that had been previously worked. All of the crevices that we worked downstream of the gravel bar had produced good amounts of gold for the low volume of material that we had actually processed.
Because it appeared that this area had a good concentration of gold in the gravels we discussed bringing in a high banker on the next trip so we could process more material. It was about that time we heard the chopper coming back in so it was time to pack up and get out of there. Because we had got a late start, we only had only spent five or six hours prospecting, but it was still a great day in the canyon and we were bringing home gold. In my book, anytime you can fly a helicopter into a remote canyon and find some gold, that’s a good day.
After I got home, I separated my gold from the black sand and weighed it. I had 1.9 grams (1.2 pennyweights) and David had 1.1 grams. These results were really good considering the fact that neither of us had moved much gravel. In fact, I would say that in total we probably processed less than a five-gallon bucket all day. The next time we go into that canyon we will be bringing in a high banker so we can process much more material and get a better idea of how rich that area really is. We will also bring in a trash bag so we can remove some of the trash from the last jerk who left his camping mess there so we can help keep this canyon pristine for future generations to enjoy.
This weekend I went to finish the trip that Jeff and I started the previous week, which was cut short due to an injury.
I picked up the trail right where Jeff was injured last week and was looking the area over trying to assess what had happened when he got injured. I was feeling quite uncomfortable in the area. I kept looking up the hill, watching for falling rocks and after a while I decided to get out of there before I drove myself crazy.
Changing gears back into detecting mode, I worked my way along the hillside trying to keep approximately the same elevation. Due to the fact that I was finding no old river gravel at all, I was moving along fairly fast and haphazardly detecting as I went. All that I was finding were spent bullets every now and then. After about a quarter mile, I noticed that there were a few spots with some old river gravel. There were also a few spots that someone had dug a small hole and piled the gravel next to it. The test holes were very old and it didn't look like anyone had been there in a long time. The further north I went, the more gravel and diggings appeared. I was starting to pick up some old square nails now.
I hiked to the top of a ridge and on the other side was the main channel that the old miners had previously worked; the area was about an acre. Having never been here before, I decided to check out the entire area before I started detecting, which would allow me to start working in the most promising areas. I left my pack and detector and hiked around a bit to get a better look at the layout. I found a couple of channels where the old miners had cut through the bedrock for their sluice boxes. There were rock walls stacked up on both sides of the channels and quite a large pile of boulders behind that. They must have been finding some nice gold, because I could not find anything that was not already worked. I worked my way back to my detector, then moved to the lower end of the work area and started detecting. I decided to detect my way up the channel to the main work area. The going was tough because of the brush. It was so thick in some areas I could not swing the detector at all. The only targets I was finding were old nails, straps, bolts and trash of that sort. I did find a couple pieces of old glass, which was encouraging. I was working my way along one of the rock walls and wanted to take a look at the pile above it. As I worked my way up the wall the detector sounded off on a large target; it was registering as iron, which I decided to dig because, I did every reading when detecting for gold. After moving a few rocks I found an old, hand-forged fork that the old miners used for removing the rocks from the sluice box. It was worn but in very good shape. I continued working the area the best I could, but there were very few areas that weren't covered with tailings.
After a couple of hours I decided to go down to the river and try working any bedrock I could find. The bedrock along the river had been worked very hard; it was too close to the road. After finding a couple of split shot and a few very small pieces of gold, I decided it was time to head back towards the truck. On the way back I worked the edge of the river the best I could. I did notice that a larger gravel bar had formed just below the old work area. If the courts decide to allow dredging in California again, I may give this area a good look. I continued the search on the way back to the truck and found a few more lead targets and some more small pieces of gold.
After I got back to the truck, I jotted down a few notes assessing the areas that I had just covered. This area had been worked quite a bit throughout the past. Most all the trash I had found was very old. I noticed that I had not found any trash from the 30's, and I think I know why. The entire area was worked to bedrock. I know this because of the channels that had been cut below the bedrock for the sluices. As the old miners worked their way uphill they dumped their tailings onto the lower work area and capped all of the larger rocks with mud and gravel. As I detected the area, I found several targets that were buried under two to three foot layer of dirt and gravel. Under that layer were large rocks with no gravel or dirt around them at all. The targets were usually on top of the rock or laying in the void between the rocks. I think when the miners showed up in the thirties, it was just too much work to remove the overburden to take a chance on any areas that may already have been cleaned by previous miners. The way I see it, nothing has changed. I'm not willing to remove the overburden to take a look either because there are a lot of much easier to sites to work in the area.
I may go back to this spot one more time to try to locate some old bottles and do a little more checking to see if they left any of the old channel unworked. However, as of now this area has been crossed off the “gold list” and has been put on the “old bottle list”.
This week is about what we all dread, getting hurt in the hills.
Our plan was to check out some old diggings on Jeff's claim.
I picked up Jeff and his two boys early Sunday morning, after a short drive we arrived at the claim. The area we wanted to take a look at was across the river and upstream about 1/4 mile. We decided to hike downstream and cross the bridge rather than wade the cold river early in the morning. To work our way back upstream we had to hike up the hillside. We couldn't travel on the edge of the river backup stream because the hillside is to steep, it drops directly into the river. The plan was to go uphill about 200 feet, then headed upstream until we reach a small feeder creek, hike down the feeder creek back to the main river, from their we could travel upstream along rivers edge.
We where almost to the feeder creek when I heard one of the boys yell. When I turned to look back I was knocked back forward by Jeff, as he went flying by me. He lit face down on the hillside and was sliding downhill fast. At the same time a large boulder ( approximately 24 inches in diameter ) just brushed my leg as it went by. I wasn't sure if he was conscious or not. He hit a small tree about three or 4 inches in diameter, the impact tore the tree out of the ground. When he hit the tree he almost came to a stop. As we started for him, he started sliding down the hill again. This time I seen his arm move. He slid for another 10 or 15 feet. When he came to a large tree he hooked it with his arm and pretty much stopped himself.
When I got to Jeff he was lying face down and was in the process of trying to raise up. The first thing I noticed was, he was bleeding a very badly. Ask him if he was OK, he replied that he wasn't sure. I look him over best I could to make sure he had not cut an artery. He had a severe cut from just about the center of his head in the back, traveling toward his forehead down the center of his head to his forehead, then angling off to between his ear and eye. The cut was to the skull and opened up to at least an inch wide. I had a clean towel in my pack. I got that out and Jeff held it on the wound to stop the bleeding. I did not notice any other wounds. Luckily he had not broken anything. It was at that moment I realize I had nothing in my pack for injuries.
We now had to decide how to get out of there. I don't know if Jeff would be able to hike up the hill to the road and then ½ mile down the road to the bridge. The road was blocked at the bridge so I was unable to bring the truck up to him. The other option we had was to slide down the hill to the river. All we had to do after that was cross the river, then the truck was up a small bank 75 feet away. The water was very cold, fairly swift and about thigh deep. I wasn't sure if Jeff would have the strength to cross the river when we got there. Jeff decided to try hiking uphill. We took our time hiking up. I think we were all relieved when we reached the road, it was all downhill to the truck from there. The trip to the bridge was down in easy grades. I was impressed with Jeff's stamina, hiking up that hill and then down the road after losing that much blood, with an injury that I knew had a hurt BAD.
The boys kept an eye on Jeff and I went ahead to get the truck, when I got to the truck drove back down to the bridge, we all got there about the same time. The hospital was only 30 to 45 minutes away at that point.
While sitting in the waiting room, I was thinking about what first aid supplies would have helped. With that type of injury, I couldn't think of much that would have helped. The one thing that did come to mind is the first aid training I took 20 years ago. I was surprised that it came back to me, I remembered what to check for and in what order. I remembered after losing a lot of blood that shocked was an issue, and I remembered how to keep an eye out for it. The first aid training helped me keep calm and be able to think. After about 4 hours they had Jeff put back together ,but wanted to keep him a while longer for observation.
At this time all I can suggest is that you carry a few band aids a clean rag or towel and have some tape. The one thing I would strongly suggest - if you haven't taken a first aid course - Do It. I seriously doubt if you would ever regret taking it. If something happens, at least you would know the basics.