It was time for another Rye Patch trip. It was a group outing this time and I had invited Chet. He was already there when I showed up out in the field about 3 on Wednesday afternoon. It was an 8.5 hour drive and I had added a couple of hours onto it getting checked in to my cabin but I was there! Chet had not found anything so he said I'll follow you.
We got set up and he said he would catch up on some things and it was near the end of the day so I headed up. Before I got up too far my first target gave me that nice, warm sound. Even with the little sleep I had I thought it was a good target. I scraped and it didn't move and down a bit farther it didn't come out of the hole and then down about 7" I had it in the scoop. I sometimes overestimate so I put on my 7000 navigation that it was 1 gram but later not to be. It is just .72g. It is the nugget on the top left on the scale.
I looked around the area and saw old dig holes so I knew I had to stay. I circled and gridded in the late afternoon sun and I got another signal. This one was a little deeper at 8". The size slightly larger at .75g. That was it for awhile until another repeatable signal. I don't remember the exact depth but I think 5" and I didn't really know if it was gold. It is and it is .11g! I didn't have my phone with me but that was it. I was beat and so was Chet so we took the 35 minute ride back to camp.
Overnight it was pretty cold at 17-19 so I left the lid on my coolers open in my car and outside. When I got up the drinks had frozen in both of them but we were off for the same location.
This time Chet hit the area where I found those three nuggets. I walked up the hill as I had intended. We didn't move the cars all day. Chet was working the little bowl and I was up on the sides of the big gully and anything else that looked promising. I heard a promising signal in a little dry, side run and it had shale type rock around but the signal would go away when I scraped and scratched. I was into some harder rock and it stayed and stayed and then I blasted it with my pick and it was out. It is the nugget in the middle. A solid 1.5 g nugget! I didn't have my phone with me as it was affecting my detector.
Down in the distance I could see Chet working his 17" X Coil very slowly over and over the area from the day before. He had been digging some deep holes. When I made it down to him he said he had found one down about 10" that I didn't get. He also found another smaller one. In addition he had dug some really deep holes where some type of metal pieces had sounded off for him. It was a good day. I had a nice nugget and he had a couple.
Friday we started at a different location but soon I wanted to get back to 'the area' but a bit higher. We both walked a long ways checking piles, pushes and holes. I was heading back up the hill and hear that nice sound again. This was only 4 inches or so and out came a nice flatter nugget (.84g). When I looked around I saw someone's recent filled in dig hole but they didn't get this nugget. The trash was hiding it!
Things die out in the desert but not like they do in Australia! Australia is one big kangaroo graveyard!
Here is the total for this trip. (I didn't find anything with a half day Saturday.)
If I add in the two nuggets from my last trip then I have about 1/4 oz of Rye Patch gold.
Thanks Chet for the companionship and the stories. You have some really great ones about gold, jobs, life and I wish others could hear them.
By Steve Herschbach
This in many ways is a repeat of my 2018 UK Adventure except two weeks this time instead of three. The 2018 thread is loaded with details and very many local photos that I will not repeat here. Go to the link for the "full tour" with location and travel details.
I booked the trip last year as is pretty much mandatory for the Colchester trips. There are only a limited number of trips available in the spring and fall and with so many people returning every year you really have to plan ahead. Mindy had a 10 day opening so I jumped on that as a week is just not enough in my opinion.
With the benefit of last years trip experience I was able to weed my suitcase down to 40 lbs including two complete Equinox with 15" coils. Had it about perfect except for a couple shirts I never did wear. I was packed well in advance, and had great connections, so was looking forward to a relaxed trip. I had an afternoon flight out of Reno connecting in Chicago with an overnight to London. Perfect for me to sleep away a lot of the 10 hour overseas portion, and arriving in London in the morning.
The plane was half boarded when they announced boarding would halt while they evaluated a flight advisory just in from Chicago. Massive thunderstorms, all flights in delayed for three hours - just enough to miss my connection! I have to give American Airlines credit, they automatically booked me into another flight just two hours later than the original connection, still arriving in London plenty early.
We land at Chicago and the plane taxis forever. Finally the pilot announces the gate is blocked and he has driven past it twice. I'm looking at my watch thinking "this is going to be close!" Luckily the gates were close together, but I literally got off the one flight and walked onto the other. I was pretty sure my bag was not going to make it.
Well, the flight was fine but less seat space than any overseas flight I have had yet. Price was great though so oh well. I can't say I was shocked to find my bag had been left behind in Chicago as did prove to be the case. Still, all we were doing was booking into a hotel next to the airport before heading out next day, so I hoped my bag would follow on the next flight.
No such luck, so next day on the first hunt in the afternoon I was in my travel clothes and on a field with a borrowed Equinox. Thanks Tim! Luckily in a group of seven people somebody always has spares; just as I always travel with a spare, so do others. My very first target that I dug was a full British Crown, I believe a 1937 George VI. Not that old but a large coin and 50% silver. I made some other finds but was hampered a bit wandering around in corn stalk stubble in street shoes. Can't complain though... I was happy to be in England and out detecting!
12th-14th century St Mary the Virgin's Church, Little Bromley
Again, American Airlines came through in the end. They actually delivered my bag that afternoon the 99 miles to Colchester (their limit is 100 miles) at no charge. So it really was just a minor snafu of no consequence, mainly due to good weather and a spare machine being available.
We had a really great group, four guys and three gals including Mindy. Mindy cooks in each evening except for one pub night out. There was also an optional museum tour for one day later in the trip. I wanted to wait and see how my finds were doing before deciding about that. Weather for the first part of the trip was the best I'd ever seen in England, about 70F each day. It made for really pleasant field hunting.
I was as always hoping for a gold coin, with anything else accidental by catch. I was making nice coin and relic finds, including a couple hammered silver coins. A few days into the trip, good buddy Tim, he of the gold ingot from last year, was nearby when he scored his second Celtic 1/4 stater ever, a real beauty. Not minutes later Mindy found here first ever Saxon sceat, a small rare coin that was one of her last "bucket list" items. Lots of smiles and high emotion in the group that day! This may not seem real but the fact is I come very close to liking somebody else making a great find as making one myself. I was right there, got to see the finds right out of the ground, and shared in that "great find high". It's one of the best things about hunting with a group in my opinion. I may never find a Celtic gold coin, but I have been right there when it happened several times now, and that really is about as good for me.
Tim and Mindy's finds - Celtic quarter stater and Saxon silver sceat
A few days later we were hunting a field right across the road from a small town. I was getting some nice buttons and 1800's coins but nothing spectacular. Late in the day I got another typical button signal of about 17 on the Equinox. I proceeded to dig but the hole was getting deeper and wider with no button found. One of the things I like about the 15” coil is I can pinpoint fairly well with the tip or heel of the coil, and nosing around in the hole revealed the target was deeper and larger. At over a foot the target was squealing, and I was sure it was a large iron target or possibly even an aluminum can. There have been times and places where I have kicked the dirt back in the hole and moved on from such targets, but not in England where you never know what might turn up. I was however getting near the plow line now, the point below which the ground turns rock hard and where due to the rules we have to stop digging. I worked round the center of the target and gave a last scoop, and there sitting in the bottom of the hole was a large green item that tumbled out of the shovel full of dirt.
I’m no expert at this kind of stuff, but it looked like a Bronze Age ax head to me. This was not something that I had ever expected to find and so my brain was not really processing it. I wandered over to my buddy Tim who was nearby and asked “is this what I think it is?” I swear he almost fell over, realizing the import of the find more than I had, and assured me I had found an excellent condition Bronze Age ax. Better yet, it appeared to be intact, as many of these that are found have been broken. The final verdict was that my find is a Bronze Age palstave, a predecessor to the modern ax. A palstave is a development of the flat ax, where the shaped sides are cast rather than hammered.
My particular find has been identified as a Bronze Age (circa 1500-1400 BC) cast copper alloy primary shield pattern palstave, dating to the Acton Park Phase. In other words about 3500 years old, and about as old as anything that can possibly be found with a metal detector! I never in my wildest dreams ever thought I would ever find anything so ancient while metal detecting, and the fact this ax is intact and in good condition makes it the find of a lifetime, and that is no exaggeration. I have always been looking for that gold coin, but after all the gold I have found in my life and now with this I am officially saying "good enough". Anything I ever find from here on out in my detecting career is just gravy, my detecting bucket list is complete.
Bronze Age (c.1500-1400 BC) cast copper alloy primary shield pattern palstave, dating to the Acton Park Phase
(photo of Steve by Tim Blank with permission)
This trip was extra good because everyone in the group was making some really great finds, many in excess of what they were hoping for. After many years detecting these huge fields are far from hunted out, with many of the best finds coming from fields that have been hunted well over a decade. Still new ground does come online regularly, and those fields add a little extra fun in the form of the unknown, especially as regards possible horde finds.
There was one set of new fields that another group had found a lot of Roman stuff, including a really nice Roman silver coin and some good condition bronze coins. The trip was over half over and our weather had turned rainy. Not too bad really, just passing storms, with two hours of solid rain the worst I saw. Still, this limits some of the hunting as some fields with a lot of clay content get really nasty. After my ax find I had four days of mostly newer 1700s and 1800s coins and various widgets, but sort of a four day dry spell. So Tim and I passed on the museum tour and braved the rains instead since time was now running short.
That plan paid off for me in a couple more hammered silver coins, bring my total for the trip to four. The hammered silver are kind of the standard prized find on these trips, rare but not so rare that most everyone has a good shot at some. Most date from 1200 to the 1600's after which milled silver coins replaced them. I found them off in one corner of the field and as the day wore on decided to head back to the area where all the Roman stuff had been found. There were many footprints but lots of gaps and so I hunted in the gaps. The day was almost over when I got a strong signal and dug up an odd looking lump. At first I had no idea what it was, but suddenly as I cleaned it a head and shoulders resolved into view. I had what appears to be a small bronze Roman bust!
There is no real way to date the find, but it definitely looks like a Roman noble of some sort, and was found in the middle of a lot of other Roman finds so it is 90% certain to be around a couple thousand years old, maybe 100 AD going by the coin finds. I am in some ways more pleased by this find than the ax head for some reason. It’s almost like I am talking to that old Roman. I wonder who lost it and what it was. Decorative? A child’s toy? There was a Roman barracks in the area so military related somehow? It is just a great find and I am not aware of anything like it being found by the club before.
Small bronze Roman bust found by Steve
As noted I was running the Minelab Equinox with 15" coil the whole trip. In retrospect I wish I had brought steveg's new rod with counterbalance as my upper back would have thanked me for it the first three days, but it was a bit too long for my suitcase. Since everyone always wants to know, I basically used the same settings this year as last year with one minor tweak. Last year I ran Recovery Speed 5 and this year lowered that to 4. I normally run with nothing rejected, full tones, but have the Horseshoe button set up to reject 6 and under. This eliminates small stuff, maybe even small silver cut coins, but anything round will still ring up. Target ID 1-6 gets all manner of really tiny stuff almost always small lead or brass fragments. Stuff that’s also slow to recover. So as I say I normally hunt wide open and dig it all, but if time is limited or I am just tired of tiny stuff I hit the Horseshoe Button to go to “Cherry Pick Mode”.
Noise Cancel 0 (adjust as needed)
Ground Balance Manual, 0
Volume Adjust 20 (adjust as needed)
Tone Volume 12, 25, 25, 25, 25 (Steve 4, 25, 25, 25, 25)
Threshold Level 0
Threshold Pitch 4
Target Tone 5 (Steve 50)
Tone Pitch 1, 6, 12, 18, 25
Reject –9 to 1 and Accept 2 to 40 (Steve Reject -9 to 6 and Accept 7 to 40)
Tone Break 0, 10, 20, 30
Recovery Speed 5 (Steve 4)
Iron Bias 6
Sensitivity 20 (Steve 22 to 25)
Just a really great time with great people and some fabulous finds. I will post a complete set of pictures at some later date when I get the export listing, but for now here are a couple of my favorite hammered silvers from the trip to wrap up this report. Submitted to Minelab for the Find of the Month contest so we will see if I get lucky there also.
By Steve Herschbach
This gold prospecting and metal detecting story takes us all the way back to the beginning - my beginning that is. I was fortunate enough to be born in the Territory of Alaska in 1957. Alaska was still very much on the frontier back in those days. My father was a farm boy from the midwest who headed for Alaska in the early 50's with not much more than an old pickup truck. He worked as a longshoreman offloading ships in Seward, Alaska for a time. He decided to get some education and earned his way through college in Fairbanks, Alaska by driving steampipe for the fleet of gold dredges that were still working there. He spent some time in Seldovia, Alaska working the "slime line" in a fish cannery. He met my mom in Seldovia, the two got married, and finally settled in Anchorage, Alaska.
I came along in 1957. My father had taken a job as a surveyor but money was tight in the early years. I was raised on wild game and garden grown vegetables, and as soon as I was old enough to handle it, I was walking a trapline every winter with my father. Dad was a hard worker however, and Alaska was having one of its many booms at the time - the construction of the oil and gas fields in Lower Cook Inlet. This was the Swanson River oilfield, discovered the year I was born.
The state was prospering and my father along with it as a surveyor on the new Swanson Field. He got the bug for flying early on, and by the time I became a teenager he finally got his dream plane at the time - a Piper Super Cub, the classic Alaska Bush airplane. Super Cubs equipped with oversize "tundra tires" can land just about anywhere you can find about 300 - 400 feet of open ground. A great little airplane and the one I ended up flying to get my own pilot's license.
Super Cub N1769P parked on knoll in Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska
It was in this same timeframe that dad got me hooked on gold prospecting. In 1972 I saw an ad in a magazine "Find Lost Treasure" and had acquired my first metal detector, a White's Coinmaster 4. This must have got discussions going about gold, and my father did have some knowledge on the subject having worked around the gold mines in Fairbanks. He took me to a little creek south of Anchorage, Bertha Creek, and I found my very first flakes of gold! By the ripe old age of 14 gold fever was in the air, I had my first metal detector, and already wanted a gold dredge. My first dredge, a 3" Keene with no floatation, was on the way to me in 1973.
Keep in mind that the price of gold had only recently been deregulated from the old fixed price of $35 per ounce. In 1972 it was around $60 per ounce, and in 1973 made it to just over $100 per ounce. The money was not my motivation at all. I already just loved finding gold, and the connection to the prospectors of old and the historical quest for gold were more compelling than any dream of striking it rich. I just wanted to find gold!
My first metal detector and first gold dredge (my 3502 had the older aluminum header box & a power jet)
A young man with a new detector, new gold dredge, gold fever, and a father willing to fly him anywhere in Alaska on adventure. How great is that? Now there was only one problem - where to go? There was no internet then, so it boiled down to libraries and research. In short order I discovered the United States Geological Survey (U.S.G.S.) bulletin series and the number one Alaska title of the series, Placer Deposits of Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 1374 by Edward H. Cobb. This one book and the references contained in it became my prospecting guide to Alaska. My desired target? Remote locations with large gold nuggets!
I read the book and certain places just jumped out at me. One was the Iditarod area and places like Ganes Creek and Moore Creek - tales told elsewhere. This paragraph of page 114 caught my eye:
"Placer mining in the Chisana district, first of creek gravels and later of bench and old channel deposits of Bonanza and Little Eldorado Creeks, has always been on a small scale with simple equipment. The remoteness of the area, shortages of water on some streams, and the small extent of the deposits all prevented the development of large operations. There has been little activity since World War II; the last reported mining was a two-man nonfloat operation in 1965."
Wow, that alone sounds pretty good. Nothing really about the gold however. The secret to the Placer Deposits series is not so much the books themselves, though they are great for getting ideas, like I did. The key is to use the references listed and in this case the main one is The Chisana-White River District, Alaska, U.S.G.S. Bulletin 630 (1916) by Stephen Reid Capps.
It turns out I had stumbled over the location of the last actual gold rush in Alaska in 1913. It was a small rush and did not last long, but it did mark the end of an era. The world was on the brink of war and the age of gold rushes was soon to be history. The history of the area is covered in the report starting on page 89. It is fascinating reading, but it was this note on page 105 that really sealed the deal:
"The gold is bright, coarse, and smoothly worn. The largest nugget found has a value of over $130, and pieces weighing a quarter of an ounce or over make up about 5 per cent of the total gold recovered. The gold is said to assay $16.67 an ounce."
Gold nuggets a quarter ounce or larger make up five percent of the gold? And that $130 nugget at $16.67 an ounce? Somewhere over seven ounces. That's all I needed to know. Very remote, worked by simple means, and large gold - I wanted to go to Chisana in general and Bonanza Creek in particular. Even the creek names scream gold - Bonanza Creek, Big Eldorado Creek, Little Eldorado Creek, Coarse Money Creek, and Gold Run. Now all we had to do was get there. But when I said remote, I meant remote. Chisana is practically in Canada 250 air miles from Anchorage.
To be continued.....
Chisana, Alaska location map
After 20 years of hunting in southern NM, it's time for a new adventure in Central Texas. I met up with a couple of fellow hunters, Jimmy from NM and Phil from Az for one last relic hunt. It was a pleasure to meet Phil(Bergie), he is one on the nicest guys you'd want to meet and hunt with. Jimmy and I have been hunting together for the last 5 years and I couldn't have asked for a better friend and hunting partner.
Turned out to be a great day to hunt, the weather was perfect and the targets were plenty. Everyone scored some nice buttons and relics, I couldn't have asked for a better way to close out my hunting days here in the southwest. I did manage to find a couple of my favorites buttons, a Dragoon and a Kepi along with the usual pre-civil war relics, bullets, percussion caps, epaulette piece and some small buck and ball lead. Jimmy unfortunately had to head out a bit early to tend to some family stuff. I'm sure he and Phil will post their finds later.
The last picture is what I found after Jimmy headed home, the copper coin is from the mid 1800's, it's a Mexican copper 1/4 reale, we have found 8-9 at this location.
Park - 1
Sens - 24
F2 - 0
Recovery - 3
Tone break set from -9 to +8
Thanks for looking!!
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
Main building at Chicken Creek Gold Camp
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. Visit this link for more information. 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.
This post has been promoted to an article
Hello everyone I'd like to document my expeditions this year.
This will be my first season of being an "Electronic Prospector". I've studied most of the summer and am ready to go. I still need to learn more about Geology but I'm hoping this will come with time in the field.
I look forward to posting my adventures/expeditions with you all 🙂