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Gold panning for the first time

I went gold panning for the first time was when I was 11 yrs old. My dad had been a prospector and hunter for as long as I could remember. So, it was the summer I was going to turn 12 that my dad said, “alright, lets go”, and I asked “where?”…….”you’ll see” was his reply. We jump into our rusty, white, 4-door, 1965 Mercury Comet heading towards Spencer Hill, out of Grand forks B.C. and at the top of the hill we turned off onto a dirt road. I was really curious. We drove for about 2 miles over a very rocky road and I was thinking dad was crazy.

Finally we came to a dead end and there were three big 4X4 trucks there, and I remember thinking “we got there in a car”. I asked dad “where are we” and he told me that we were at May Creek. I was wondering what we were doing there and when he opened the trunk I knew!! There on the floor of the trunk were two REALLY old, rusty gold pans, a small wick broom and a small army shovel. We were going gold panning!! I was excited as I grabbed the gold pan that was my size and we started walking up the creek. I could hear a motor and as we got closer I could see three “really old guys” digging into the side of the hill and putting dirt in a triangular shaped, wooden box that had a sluice box attached to it. I could see all the stuff was homemade except for the pumps in the creek. I was in awe at how much stuff they had and how many huge boulders they had moved. Dad introduced me to Rudy, Al, and Jim and they were all friendly and “pleased to meet cha”. After a little chit chat they wished us luck and we went about 200 feet further along the hill before dad said “ok, this is where we will dig”. He showed me that the dirt was in layers and I was able to see what he meant and at that time I had no idea that dirt wasn’t just dirt. He explained to me that the overburden was junk and didn’t “carry”. We had to get down on top of bedrock and to the pay layer of pea gravel. I was able to see that someone had already done a lot of the overburden removal and saw exactly what dad was talking about. There was a layer of gravel about 4 inches thick on top of a layer of clay about 1 inch thick on top of the sharp shale bedrock. So dad showed my how to dig and what to put in my gold pan and I set about digging, scraping and sorting the material. Dad told me any rock over 1 inch we didn’t need to put in the pan and that I was to scrape the clay off of any of the bigger rocks and put it in the pan. I remember the shale bedrock was sharp and that we had a flat screwdriver to poke and prod and break the shale apart to get into the cracks where dad said the real pay streak could be. Finally after what seemed a long time and very hard work, I had a pan full of paydirt to take down to the creek. Down at the creek dad said “well son, your gonna get wet, so you may as well get wet” and he sat down on a rock by the creek and put his legs and feet right in the water. So I did the exact same thing. He then set about showing me that first we place the pan in the creek flat and let water flow into the pan so we can start washing rocks. The first thing I noticed was how cold the water was…brrr….but being 11 yrs old, out with my dad, and about to pan my first pan I wasn’t about to complain, and didn’t. I just kept following what dad was doing. He would pick out bigger rocks and with gravel in his other hand he would “scrub” the clay off the bigger ones, and then throw it in the creek. So wash, scrub, chuck we did until we had mostly smaller rocks in the pan. We then set about washing the clay out by keeping the gold pan in the water and carefully swirling the material around allowing the flow of the stream to wash the clay and mud away. Once that was done, dad then showed me how to shake the pan back and forth with the gold pan tilted slightly forward to allow the lighter rocks that come to the top fall of the end of the pan. Dad explained to me that I could do this pretty quickly as gold and gold nuggets being really heavy sink to the bottom of the pan as long as I keep the material loose. He showed me how after shaking the pan that the finer heavier material settles to the bottom and packs tight. I learned how to loosen the material and to continue to wash away the gravel to get down to the black sand and gold! So what seemed like a long long time dad showed me how to “finish pan” the material which was a gentler shaking of the gold pan and gentle washing of the black sand. Once I got down to where it looked like just black dirt dad swirled the pan to see what I got. Wholly cow, there I was 11 yrs old and 5 nuggets jumped right out at me!! I let out a yelp and couldn’t believe the baseball sized gold nuggets (ok, I’m 11 and it’s my first pan so they looked like baseballs when in fact they were match head sized nugget. And along with the 5 nuggets were a bunch of smaller gold flake. I was jumping up and down asking “is that gold, is that real gold?” and dad said yep and I could see the look of pride and happiness in him. I was hooked at that moment in time and have never ever lost the passion for gold, the gold fever, the gold lust or the gold adventure. I am forever grateful for my dad introducing me to this incredible hobby of gold panning and prospecting and since that first day I have traveled the world literally and will post more stories about that. That is how it all started.

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