12 posts in this topic
By Steve Herschbach
I spent a couple months in Alaska prospecting for gold in the summer of 2014. That adventure was chronicled as it happened here on the forum at Steve's 2014 Alaska Gold Adventure. It was a great trip and a great adventure, but when I told it I relayed the fact that it was actually part two of the story. Part one happened in 2013 and for reasons you will now discover I kept quiet about it until now.
Those interested in the logistics of making the trip to Alaska and details on where I stayed, etc. will find all that covered in the 2014 story so I will not repeat that stuff here.
2013 was a momentous year for me. My business partner and I had sold the business we started together in 1976 to our employees in 2010. My partner immediately retired but I stayed on a few years to oversee the transition. Things seemed to be going well enough that I announced my retirement to take place in the spring of 2013. My wife and I had purchased a new home in Reno, Nevada and so plans were made to sell our home in Alaska and move south.
At the same time, some partners and I had acquired some mining claims on Jack Wade Creek in the Fortymile country near Chicken. Alaska. My plan was to move my wife south then spend the summer gold dredging with my brother. The disaster struck. I screwed up the paperwork and the claims were lost. That mess was described online at Making Lemonade Out of Lemons and I even wrote an article for the ICMJ about it. I was not to be deterred however and made plans instead to go metal detecting for the summer. Unfortunately, my brother also had a change of plans and so was unable to make the trip with me. Just as well as I ended up having my hands full.
The house sale was in progress and time running out so I boxed and palleted everything we wanted to keep and shipped it south. Then I loaded my wife and dogs up in the car and drove them to Reno. Next I flew back to Alaska and had a last big garage sale. I sold everything I could by the afternoon and out a FREE sign on what was left. Worked great - the house was empty, I cleaned it up, and pretty much left it to the realtors at that point. Finally, on June 16th I jumped in my fully loaded truck and headed for the Fortymile!
On the way up just past the town of Palmer on the way to the town of Glenallen you pass Sheep Mountain in the Talkeetna Mountains. It is a very colorful, mineralized peak and it was a beautiful sunny day so I stopped and took this photo.
Sheep Mountain, Alaska
From the USGS ARDF file at http://mrdata.usgs.gov/ardf/show-ardf.php?ardf_num=AN080
Early Jurassic greenstone and minor interbedded sandstone and shale is intruded by numerous mafic dikes and at least one body of unmineralized Jurassic granite. Greenstone has been hydrothermally altered and contains at least 6 separate gypsiferous deposits in altered zones along joints and shear zones. Deposits composed of pods and stringers of gypsum, quartz, alunite, kaolin minerals, pyrite and serpentine minerals (Eckhart, 1953). The gypsum-bearing material averages 25 to 30 percent gypsum, with a maximum of 50 percent.
In addition also reported from same general area are: (1) small irregular quartz-calcite-epidote veins in greenstone containing chalcopyrite, malachite, azurite and possibly bornite and chalcocite (Berg and Cobb, 1967); (2) disseminated chalcopyrite in greenstone over 5 ft thick zone subparallel to bedding (Martin and Mertie, 1914); (3) trace gold in samples of pyritic greenstone (Berg and Cobb, 1967); and (4) minor anomalous concentrations of copper and gold associated with some of the alteration zones and nearby veins (MacKevett and Holloway, 1977).
Large area of south flank of Sheep Mountain is stained dark red from oxidation of pyrite in greenstone (Berg and Cobb, 1967). Oxidation of Cu minerals.
The gypsiferous material averages 25 to 30 percent gypsum, with a maximum of 50 percent. The six deposits indicated and inferred reserves contain about 659,000 short tons of gypsum material, of which about 50 tons of this material had been mined (Eckhart, 1953). In addition, about 55 tons of clay was mined for the manufacture of fire brick and boiler lining. Samples of pyritic greenstone assayed trace gold (Berg and Cobb, 1967), and nearby veins in alteration zones show concentrations of copper and gold (MacKevett and Holloway, 1977).
We did a talk radio show for many, many years at our company. The latest of several "radio personalities" to work with us on the show was Kurt Haider. He had expressed an interest in metal detecting so I invited him up to look for gold. I met him along the way just before we got to Glenallen and headed on to Tok for a bite to eat at Fast Eddie's. Then on to Chicken and finally Walker Fork Campground by evening. This is a very nice, well maintained BLM campground at the mouth of Jack Wade Creek where it dumps into the Walker Fork of the Fortymile River. The campground hosts this summer were a very nice couple named Pat and Sandy.
Walker Fork Campground
Steve's Camp at Walker Fork Campground
The next morning Kurt and I ran up the creek to find Bernie and Chris Pendergast. They were spending the summer camped along Jack Wade Creek prospecting and I was anxious to see how they had been doing. Not bad, they already had over an ounce of gold found before we arrived, and that got Kurt and I all fired up to go look for gold. I had told Kurt, a total newbie, that I had a sure thing. We were going to hit a bedrock area I had detected the previous summer and where I had found a lot of nice fat little nuggets. There was rubble and little piles of dirt, and I thought all it would take is moving the rubble and dirt aside and we were sure to find gold I had missed. We got started after lunch on a steep slope where it was easy to just rake material off and then check with a detector.
Kurt Looking For Gold With White's MXT Pro
The location turned out to not be very good, but Kurt did manage to find one little nugget, his first ever. He was real happy about that! We did not work at it all that long though with the late start, and Chris and Bernie had invited us over for moose stew. Chris is a fantastic cook so we enjoyed both the stew and a DVD packed full of Ganes Creek photos from the couples adventures there. Finally we called it a night and headed back to our camp.
Now time to get serious! Kurt and I grabbed the picks and rakes and spent the whole day tearing into some berms left behind by the miners bulldozers on the bedrock bench area. I just knew we were going to find gold for sure. We would both do hard labor for awhile, then I would put Kurt on the ground with my Gold Bug 2.
Working Bedrock With the Gold Bug 2
We worked a couple hours. Nothing. No big deal, just need to move a little more. Nothing. More digging and scraping. Nothing! I would have bet $100 we were not only going to find gold there but do pretty well. The spot had produced quite a few nuggets before and I had refused to believe we couple possibly had cleaned it out. But by the end of the day it was a total bust. We finally just wandered around a bit detecting and I lucked into a little 3 grain nugget. What a letdown. No big deal for me but I was really wanting Kurt to do well and this was not working out anything like I had thought it would.
The next and last day for Kurt we decided to hook up with Bernie and just give it a go like we normally do. And that means hitting the bushes and tailing piles wandering around looking for gold. Kurt had his MXT Pro and Bernie and I our GPX 5000 detectors, so we had a horsepower advantage for sure. Still, I was hopeful as we put Kurt on the best spot that Bernie knew of from his extra time before us.
Bernie Pendergast and His Trusty Minelab GPX 5000
Very first beep, Bernie digs up a 3 pennyweight nugget! Yeehaw, we are going to find gold!! We all hunt away, with Bernie and I checking in with Kurt periodically. Kurt, it seems, just was not destined to have any beginners luck at all; Bernie and I each found a couple 1-2 gram nuggets by the end of the day but Kurt came up dry.
I was feeling kind of bummed out but Kurt insisted he was having a huge adventure, and come to find out he rarely ever got out of town at all, so this really was a big adventure for him. I just wish he could have found more gold, but he was up early and headed back to town the next morning. I was on my own now, so I rigged my GPX 5000 up with my Nugget Finder 16" mono coil and hit the tailing piles. All day. For no gold. However, just by myself that is really no big deal at all. It happens all the time and I do not think anything of it. If anything, the pressure was off trying to help a friend find gold, so it was a relaxing day wandering around.
Saturday, June 22 started out sunny with a few clouds. There were some tailing piles across the creek I had been wanting to detect. I had hit them a bit the year before and just dug trash, but had not put in more than a couple hours at it. Still, they looked real good and I had been thinking about them all winter and decided it was time to give them a go. I started out with my GPX 5000 but immediately got into some old rusted metal, like decomposed and shredded can fragments. I just was not in the mood for it that morning, so went back to the truck and got out my Fisher F75. The F75 had done well for me in the past hunting trashy tailing piles and was along on the trip for that reason.
I got near the top of the pile with the F75 and on getting a signal looked down and saw a dig hole full of leaves. I try to recover all my trash and get frustrated when I find holes with junk in them. The signal though was flaky, not a distinct trash signal, so I figured I may as well see what the other person left in the hole. I gave a quick scoop with my pick, and gold pops out of the hole!
I am not sure if the person was using a VLF and the specimen gave a trash signal, so they left it after half digging it, or maybe they were using a Minelab, and the signal just sounded "too big" so they left it for trash. Too big indeed, they walked away from a 2.37 ounce gold specimen! To say I was stunned would be a vast understatement. The trip had only just begun. The best part of all was that my expectations for the trip were very low. I had been hoping that a month of camping and detecting would get me a couple ounces of gold. That would be more than enough to cover my expenses and make a few bucks. Yet here I was on the sixth day of my trip, and I had already exceeded that amount. This was just great on several different levels, not least in pretty much taking every bit of pressure off going forward.
Here is that specimen from a more detailed account of the find I told previously at Fisher F75 Strikes Gold Twice in a Row!
2.37 Ounce Gold Specimen Found With Fisher F75 Metal Detector on Jack Wade Creek, Alaska
I had to take a break and go show Chris and Bernie my good fortune. Then I switched back to the GPX 5000 and got with digging everything, including all those bits of rusted cans. Funny how a nice chunk of gold changes your perspective. That, and seeing what somebody else had left behind as trash.
I finished out the day finding three more nuggets, a 2.5 gram "cornflake" nugget, a 3.4 gram piece and and fat round 6.1 gram marble. First week, 2-3/4 ounce of gold, This was shaping up to be a really great adventure! To be continued......
Steve's Gold From Jack Wade Creek, First Week 2013
By Steve Herschbach
Edit: I chronicled this trip to Alaska first, and then told the story of my earlier 2013 Alaska Trip after the fact. I did well enough in 2013 I did not want to tip anyone off to what I was up to until I had a chance to return in 2014. Therefore this story got told first, as if the other had not happened. And then the years story was told at the link above.
My history with the Fortymile Mining District of Alaska began in the 1970's and has continued off and on ever since. Last summer I spent considerable time in the area and have decided to return again this summer.
Here is the basic plan. I leave Monday to drive from Reno to Alaska. I am stopping a day to visit family in Olympia then will continue to Anchorage, where I will pick up my brother Tom who is flying up from the Lower 48. Then we will backtrack to Chicken, Alaska and pitch a tent site at the Buzby's Chicken Gold Camp http://www.chickengold.com
Last year I mostly camped around but did spend a period of time at the Buzby's operation. When I was out and about I had to activate my satellite phone to stay in touch because there is no cell phone service in the Chicken area. The nearest cell phone access is a couple hours back along the road at Tok. There is WiFi access at several locations in Chicken however, one of them being at Chicken Gold Camp. The WiFi access is included in the price of staying there. I am getting a dry camp site for $14 a day (6 days get seventh day free) but it saves me $300 activating my satellite phone, and WiFi allows me to keep on the forum and stay in better touch with my wife than the sat phone. Bottom line not activating the sat phone ends up paying for nearly a month of staying at Chicken Gold Camp. Right now I am booked from June 15 until July 20 but may extend.
Since I will have pretty much daily Internet access for the entire trip I am inviting you along via this thread to see how we are doing plus to perhaps answer questions for anyone planning to visit Alaska. The Internet access in Chicken is not the greatest even at its best, as the satellite dishes point straight at the horizon just trying to get a signal. That being the case plus I will be busy I will not be posting on other forums for the duration. If you know anyone who might be interested in following this point them this way. I will report in at least a couple times a week and probably more often as time allows or something interesting happens.
My brother and I will be commuting to various locations from our base camp in Chicken, with a lot of attention paid to Jack Wade Creek about 20 minutes drive up the road. I have access to mining claims on this and other creeks in the area, but we will also spend considerable time on the public access area on the lower 2.5 miles of Jack Wade Creek. See http://www.detectorprospector.com/gold-prospecting-public-sites/sites/alaska-jack-wade-creek-public-goldpanning-area.htm This area is open to non-motorized mining and we will of course be metal detecting.
I have detected on Jack Wade a lot, and I can tell you it is an exercise in hard work and patience. It is all tailing piles full of nails and bullets. The nuggets are very few and far between, with even a single nugget in a day a good days work. However, the nuggets are solid and can be large so can add up if you put in a lot of time. Or not as luck does have a bit to do with it. You could easily spend a week detecting Wade Creek and find nothing. So do not be surprised when I make lots of reports indicating nothing found on a given day. We fully expect that to be the case but hope we hope a month of detecting here and at other locations will pay off.
I plan on relying mostly on my GPX 5000 but will also be using a Gold Bug Pro for trashy locations or for when I am tired from running the big gun and want to take it easy. I usually run my 18" mono coil on the GPX unless in steep terrain or brushy locations and dig everything. And that means a lot of digging! The Gold Bug Pro eliminates digging a lot of trash and is easy to handle in thick brush. My brother will mostly use my old GP 3000 he bought from me years ago. I am also bringing along the Garrett ATX kind of for backup and also to experiment around with. It also will be easier to use in brushy locations than the GPX. Finally, I hope to possibly have a new Minelab SDC 2300 get shipped to me somewhere along the way to use on some bedrock locations I know of that have been pretty well pounded to death.
Chris Ralph will be arriving in Fairbanks on July 8th so I will drive in and pick him up. He will be staying with Tom and I until I return him to Fairbanks on July 21.
High on the list is to visit with Dick Hammond (chickenminer) and other friends in the area.
The road to Alaska is just another highway these days, with the only real issue being the lack of gas in northern Canada in the middle of the night. The pumps there still do not take credit cards so when the gas station closes you are stuck there until it opens in the morning. Do not try to get gas at Dot Lake at 2AM! I will drive to Olympia to spend a night and day with my mom (12 hours) then on to Dawson Creek/Fort St. John (16 hours), then to Whitehorse (15 hours), and then to Anchorage (12 hours). Four days driving, about $500 in gas for my Toyota 4-Runner. Pick up Tom and some supplies and then back to Chicken (about 8 hours).
Anyway, you are all invited along at least via the internet to share in the adventure. You have any questions about Alaska in the process then fire away.
Picked up an SCD2300 for my son from a fellow member of this forum right before Christmas. Thanks Allen!
Finally made it out for just a few hours today with my 9 year old son. Third target, a nice little picker! First 2 targets were the tiniest shot I have ever found with a detector. I am amazed at the response from the SDC on such a tiny target. We were working around a small bedrock outcropping and I was teaching him what to listen for and how to retrieve a target. After the first two targets were lead shot within about 12 inches of each other, the third target had to be shot also (within the same area). I wanted to move on and he said no way let's dig it. About an inch into the decomposing bedrock the target had moved. He grabbed a handful of dirt and had the target in his hand. The target was small and he was having a little trouble figuring out how to split the dirt between his hand and the scoop, but when he finally had a few small bits of dirt in the scoop I could see a glint of yellow. Once he realized it was gold he kept saying I told you we should dig that target! Dad you wanted to walk away! I will probably never hear the end of it. Well, he was right!
We spent about 3 hours out in the Motherload on an absolutely beautiful afternoon. Temps on my truck showed 60 degrees. We moved to another spot that I found several nuggets at a few years ago to give the sdc a go to finish the day. Steve H. you, Chris R., and Steve W., and Mike G. were there the day I found the nuggets at this spot. First target was the tiniest piece of gold I have ever found with a metal detector. It does not even register on the scale. I didn't take a picture of the tiny piece cause it probably would not even show up in a picture it was so tiny. I am amazed that any detector could find a piece of gold so small. I doubt it will even register on my gmt.
We had a great day and my son should be able to really use this detector on his own next time out. He took to it like...on... Funny thing he found some old rusty sardine cans and a broken old flashlight to take for show-and-tell at school tomorrow along with his piece of gold. Looking forward to getting out again!
I keep on having strange things happen at sites I map dowsed for gold and minerals, one time for treasure.
Just wondering if this ever happens to anybody else? This last time I am 95% sure I was talking to a ghost woman
in the Maine woods and trying not to be attacked by her snarling white Labrador dog. She seemed to know I was searching for something? I was trying to find a gemstone deposit I had left alone in them woods 30 years previous when I had found this perfect dark blue pointed hexagonal crystal under a rock formation, long as my index finger, and flawless, sun shining thru it but could not bear to break it off...dammit...was in the right place at the right time for a change...might have been a dark blue topaz crystal I am thinking now...
Somehow she knew I was looking to find it I am thinking? This woman looked just as real as anybody else that I see every day and ditto for her dog but I thought it was rather odd she was out in the deep woods wearing short shorts and the ferocious pooch NEVER once barked at me, just was snarling, growling, teeth bared, looked like it wanted to tear my face off, and unleashed, and she did nothing to calm it down...She also had a leather thing on her belt, by her hip, which she kept pointing towards me.It looked too small to be a pistol holster, am guessing it was about 3 x3 inches square.
I had a heavy knapsack of rock busting tools and a 6 foot crowbar in hand but was exhausted from my hike up and down steep hills
and trying not to fall down in the rocks along the creek. I was standing beside the creek, admiring the tumbling mountain waters
when I turned around and the 2 of them were right behind me.
She asked for my name and I gave her my first name. Then she says she was out for a walk in the woods to see who might be out there. I had got all my permissions arranged but she did not accuse me of trespassing. Just wanted to know what I was Searching for? I told her I was kinda lost and my car was parked by the ford. But she seemed to NOT know what a ford was until I explained it to her. So then she points up the hill behind her and says that trail will take you back to your car.
I only took my eyes off her and the angry dog for a few seconds but when I turned back , she and the mean dog had totally vanished
, no branches cracking, nothing...I took this event as a sign I should give up my search for the crystal deposit and hoofed it back to my car. When I went by the shop where I had to get the permissions, I related my tale. One of the workers lived barely 1/2 mile from where the incident happened and told me she didn't have a clue who the woman was?
Dunno if I will ever get brave enough to go look for the crystals again now? Heck, how do you test if you are talking to a ghost
vs a real person and that snarling dog? Heck, I couldn't move a muscle without that beast tensing his hind legs, looking to tear me to pieces... I never heard of ghosts guarding mineral deposits ,only pirate gold....
Robin & I, planned to met our Friends in Las Vegas! After carefully stuffing everything from her high heels, camping gear and detectors into her Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland, we hit the road to the Luxor Casino for a weeks stay. Needless to say, my Partner Mike and I, planned on leaving the Wives back in Sin City with our $, for a couple days of chasing nuggets on the Arizona side of the river. We met up with another friend, who Winters in Glendale, AZ and hit the hills in and around Gold Basin for a fast hunt of some old patches. Mike, didn't let us down and we scored several nuggets with some great Weather and comradeship...it's the hunt and the sweet sound of a nugget under your coil. Nuggets are just the bounus! All good things have to end and we headed back to Las Vegas and our Ladies and finished our Las Vegas gambling, drinking & eating spree. Now, to re-pack that Jeep to head down to 29 Palms to hunt the Dale District with Robin. She has never hunted there with me, but seen the nuggets I'd bring home and the many stories and pictures of some very special nuggets. Well needless to say, she was nursing a very fun last night with her Girlfriend on our drive South. We arrived and I stopped and tossed the Jeep empty and then loaded up our mining gear and hit a nearby patch...Robin, was moving awful slow, lol. So, we went back to our gear and I setup camp before it got to dark. Set the tent up and made it almost as comfy as that Kig size bed back in Vegas, lol. Next Morning, she looked like she didn't sleep a wink. I made some strong coffee to knock the last of her Margaritas out of her and gave her a pointy finger and I set off for the hunt in the chilly desert morning with her sipping coffee. Well every now and then I'd pop up on a hill and I'd think I could still see her sitting there? Couple hours later I look over that way again and see the hatch back of the Jeep was shut, well she must be feeling better and she is hunting? Well 4 hours and no good, but I was hungry. Headed back to camp for a fast sandwich and I hear her say any luck! Robin was in the front seat of her Jeep reading a book! I told her no luck, and there is no gold here, lets load up and drive back home! She was happy and she had that Jeep nearly loaded before I finished my breakfast, lol. Yes, all that stuff fitted into that Jeep! Well until the next hunt...good or skunked, they are all fun!