By Randy Lunn
This past weekend I participated in my first outing with the Southwestern Prospectors & Miners Association (SPMA) club. We met at a gas station off I-8 and headed to one of their large claims in the Cargo Muchacho Mountains west of Yuma on the California side of the Colorado River. It took just under an hour on desert dirt roads to get there but the drive was not bad. There were six other guys and we all bonded well. After discussing the area we split up with half trying their hand at dry washing and the other half metal detecting. I suited up with my GPZ and tool belt and headed out. The rugged terrain with 104 degree temperatures was challenging but felt great. I have not been able to get out much this year. I got lucky. On a moderate slope about four inches down in a crevice of schist I found a 2.1 gram nugget. Yahoo! My best and one of my few nuggets for the year.
The history of the area is interesting (from westernmininghistory.com):
“Mining was first done in this region by Spaniards as early as 1780-81, when placers in Jackson Gulch and oxidized ores in Madre Valley were worked. This is believed to have been the first gold mined in California. Later, mining was resumed under Mexican rule. The district received its name of Cargo Muchacho, or Loaded Boy, when two young Mexican boys came into camp one evening with their shirts loaded with gold. American miners became interested in this district soon after the end of the Mexican War in 1848. Mining became firmly established in 1877 with the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad to Yuma. Large-scale mining continued from around 1890 until 1916 and again from 1932 until 1941, with intermittent activity since World War II.”
I don't know how it happened but it looks as though my post "Sourdough Scott Survives Encounter With Big Cat" seems to have been mistakenly read as having something to do with wild animals. Perhaps this photo will provide needed clarification. This beast was a Deese' Ven.
Call them what you will- Mountain Lion, Big Cat, Cougar, Deese' Ven, Puma..... Until you encounter one real close you cannot comprehend the size and awesome power of these man-eating beasts. Sourdough Scott had such an encounter.
I gave him fair warning. As we drove down a steep, narrow trail to our destination I ask him if mountain lions made him nervous while detecting. He said "Not at all. My dog will let me know if anything is amiss." His dog "Rooster" is one of the best detecting dogs Ive ever been with so I didn't worry. When we arrived at our destination the first thing we noticed were it's tracks. They were huge! The pads were bigger than any cougar tracks I have ever seen. Sourdough grabbed his detecting gear and head off while I was looking for my pick (and headphones and battery). When I caught up with Sourdough, there he was, within the clutches of a Big Cat!
When it comes to heroic bravery I am one of the the bravest among mortals and I also posses uncommon wisdom. Which told me to run like hell, so I did. When I got back to the mining rig I got to thinking "this isn't right to just abandon my prospecting partner to a painful death. So I scrounged around in my backpack until I found my Kodak Instamatic camera.
I know that gruesome and disgusting photos of human misfortune are all the rage these days so I figured a few photos could be worth thousands.
When I returned to what I thought would be the scene of a tragedy, there was Sourdough Scott grinning like a conquering Gingus Kan and the Big Cat lay torn to pieces. Boy was I disappointed. There went my thousands.
We continued on our detecting trip with beautiful scenery and perfect fall weather and found enough gold to justify a return trip before winter sets in.
A good time was had by all.
By Erik Oostra
Expanding my gold horizons
During the last few months, I’ve been looking for gold beyond the horizons of Magnetic Island. It’s not that the island’s gold diggings have failed to live up to expectation (far from it, the pleasure of exploring them is worth its weight in gold), but rather my son has now really caught the prospecting bug and he’s got his heart set on finding a gold nugget (no matter what size). He laughs at me mucking about on beaches looking for coins or rings, he’s after the real thing. So much so that we’ve invested in a couple of sluices, pans, sieves and an Equinox 800 (backed up by a Nox 600 and a Chinese Gold Bug Pro).
First, we spend a few weeks exploring old gold mine sites in rainforest country along the Barron River, Closhey River, Musgrave River and Davies Creek. I would usually go ahead with the Nox 800 and try to get some good readings (mainly on the side of hills and along the bedrock of little creeks flowing into these rivers) and then we’d run the soil from any likely patch through a sluice. Following local knowledge, we didn’t expect any nuggets but it’s always a bit sad when you need a strong magnifying glass to see the yellow stuff. Still, our efforts yielded 2 tiny little flakes in the upper Barron River which my son got in the pan, unfortunately we lost them on the way home (my fault).
Over the last few weeks, we’ve been going much further west. Dry country full of flies and wild cattle, following unmarked dirt tracks to get to old gold mines. In these places the evidence of gold fever is everywhere; huge scars in the ground, enormous tailings piles and mining machinery. It’s hard to describe just how good it feels to be in these places, not just because of their history but mainly their geology and seeing the landscapes that produce gold. It’s pretty bloody mind-blowing at times. So far, we’ve concentrated on the hills and gullies surrounding the mine sites. This strategy hasn’t been successful and we’ve come to realize that because of the huge amount of rubbish in the ground (especially bullet castings and pellets), that we’re much better off in country further afield but where the geology is the same.
Unfortunately, this only dawned on us when we got back home from our last trip but we’re planning to hit these areas next. I know that in this sort of country we’re a bit out of our depth without a PI detector. The ground is very hot (I thought it was hot on the island but more fool me) and even the mighty Equinox 800 with a 6’’ coil (yet alone the Chinese knock-off) doesn’t make much of a dent. As much as I would like a GPX of any description, I’ll settle for a QED. I keep hearing very good gossip about these detectors (including a favourable comparison to the GPX 5000) and I like the fact that they work with many other coils. If anyone knows of one for sale please let me know, I’d be mighty keen.
I’ve included a few pictures below of some of the places I’ve mentioned. Is the last one of a smelter?
As many of you are aware, I have been 'accused' of driving a lot and not staying in one place long enough to find gold. I'm here to tell you that is TRUE. Here is an example.
Tuesday afternoon my wife reminded me that Pat Keene (that Pat Keene) might be up on his claim in Downieville. I said "The Forests are CLOSED!" I called anyway and sure enough he was in his second week of his annual pilgrimage to the Downieville area and said come on up. That is a 500 mile trip for me but I said I'll leave tonight and be there in the morning.
My wife and I have fond memories of this trip as we went to this about 5 years ago and had some success. She found a 5 gram button on a trail near some old workings using a Gold Bug Pro and I found a 1/3 ounce nugget using a 3030 sniping the Yuba River. Now I have an 800 and the 6 inch coil and thought I could find what was left.
After a bit of packing in the late afternoon it was time to go out to the 4Runner and wipe off the cobwebs and see how it looked. It needed a bath so I could see but it also had a low tire. What? It was too late to go to a tire store so I stuck some of the tire seal in and when to a gas station and filled and checked the tires all around. I gave it a bath and my plan became to find a tire store on the way and get it fixed.
My original plan was just to take the 800 and the 3030 as backup but as I got closer to 11 PM and a nap I decided I'd take the 7000 and the Xcoil in case I had time to make it to the old WSPA claims in Sierra City. I laid out all my stuff and tried to take a bit of a nap. About 12:30 I got up and packed the car and knew if I got to Auburn at 8 AM the America's Tire Store would be open and I could get my tire fixed and all of the rotated. It would be over an hour and a half to Downieville from there.
Staying on schedule and making pretty good time I followed my familiar route up I-5 and I-80 to Auburn and arrived there about 8:15 with a still inflated tire! When I was asked why I was there I pointed at the tire and right on top was a screw head. I said I think this is my problem! I bought these Cooper Tires from America's Tire because Fred Mason told me his good experiences with them. They told me I should be out of there by 9:30. Well, because of some 'training' and scheduled appointments I didn't get out of there until 10:30. They showed me the screw and it was about 3 inches long. They plugged it.
Now I was on my way. Going up Hwy 49 to the northern Sierras. This particular 70 miles of road is 'lovely' but I learned to hate it with my 4Runner because it doesn't like turns. The anti-swerve gets activated because it is old and needs a new R&P and it grabs. Most of my friends will not pull a trailer on this road. So with all of this 'behind me' I arrived at Downieville about noon. My plan was to stay in the hotel with the other participants that night. When I got there Pat was making a video about some of his innovations to a sluice they produce in Canoga Park. I took off with the 800 and 6 inch coil.
My first stop was going to be where I found my nugget. When I got down to the back of the river it had changed. This is to be expected of rivers that flood and are subject to snow runoff but the conditions now didn't leave me much bank. In addition there were panners and sluicers set up all along the area I wanted to detect. Hummmmm ... I chatted with a few of them but I wasn't there to pan.
I walked around them and found some areas to get to work. It was more difficult for the 800 than I thought it was going to be. I've used it for thousands of hours now on the beaches but these hot rocks were making me take the sensitivity way down from my normal 23. I was down to 17-18 before I could make it ignore some of the rocks. I was trying Gold 1 and Park 1. This bank area is not that big and it is steep with green moss on it but I worked it for 3 hours. I couldn't get into the water because it was too deep. This was one of the changes. It was now time to check where my wife had found her gold button on the path up above.
While looking for anything up there I did come across a 'mini-spill' which was 3 pennies and a dime but nothing more. At the end of this it was about 4 PM and it was time to check on a room at the Inn.
More later ...
Later has become 2:40 PM on Sunday the 27th.
When I went to check on my room ... there was none available. My original plan was that I would sleep in the 4Runner but I saw the setup and I said I'd go on up to Sierra City and get a room there. That is about 12 miles. I passed by Sierra Pines on to an old club claim and saw they had been working on the forest to thin it and had disturbed the soil. This now became the area I wanted to detect. A new 'plan' had replaced the old plan because I could stay near this location. The problem then became gas. Sierra City and Downieville don't have gas stations any more. I had to drive to Graeagle and get gas and that would also be a place where I could use the phone.
When I got there I called a forum member, Norm but there was no answer. I spoke with my wife and she was ok at the end of the first day and said everything was fine. I drove the 20 miles back to Sierra City, got a room and got on the computer before I slept. I messaged Norm and Klunker. I told them where I was and that I could be around for a couple of days but there would be no way to call me. When I got up in the morning I had messages but Norm was not available and Klunker was working but could consider Friday but he wouldn't know until late Thursday. So, we didn't have any way to set a schedule.
Off I went to the claims where I had found gold before. When I got there I could see that they were still harvesting some trees. This is one area where forest management has continued over the years. When I first prospected around this area over 5 years ago you could see old tree stumps left from maybe the first cuts in the area 60-70 years before. Now they were thinning the trees again. Some was cut for lumber and other was cut to make road access. I gouged the dirt deeply and that was what I thought would be different.
Above was the first area where I pulled into and started detecting. It was about 9:30 and pleasant after the low of about 42 in the morning. I was rested and ready to tackle the area where I know gold had been found before. At this point I knew Norm was not going to show up but he wished me well. I began detecting the ruts as were my plan but that plan soon had problems. My Xcoil was working fine and I was getting these 'targets' but they turned out to be pieces of the dozer blade! Oh, no. Why can't they make these blades and teeth harder so they don't shed. That continued all day. I altered my pattern and detected some unrutted areas. At one point I was walking along (looking out for snakes in the process) and I almost tripped. I went to pull my foot up and it was like it was in mud. It was actually dirt that was so dry and fine that it acted like water and mud. That is one of my lasting impressions of this trip. It was DRY.
There was another problem that I discovered after the first 30 minutes or so. YELLOW JACKETS were everywhere. I could walk along and try to recover one of the little pieces of blade and they would gather around me and then land on my arms and then try to get behind my sun glasses. They were not overly aggressive in the sense of a big swarm but they did sting me a couple of times when I had to get them out of the way. After 4 hours at the first location which included the area where I found my last nugget I had to move about half a mile to another spot.
At this spot I had found the remnants of a pair of Levi's. There was really no material left but the buttons I was able to date back to the 1890s. That meant there was old workings and others in our group had found some nice gold here. They had even cleared the brush when Fred was out with them to get access to the gold. It was not long before I got a couple of targets that included normal trash but then I got a deeper target. I went back to the 4Runner to get my phone to take pictures because I was into the roots.
A new roadway had been scraped here to allow for taking out the logs. I thought this was the nugget of the trip. The Yellow Jackets were around and I was digging down and down and got the target out of the hole and ... a big piece of lead. Sooooo disappointing, just like Australia I thought.
Well, there was nothing I could do other than fill in the hole and keep after it. I went a few feet more and got another good target. This time I walked back to the car and got the 800 to pinpoint. It was an odd number of 10-13 and it wasn't coming out of the hole easily. I used a pin-pointer and found it. A WIRE. Now I'm getting late into the afternoon. Home and obligations started to weigh in on me. I had gone to the areas I knew best and didn't get any gold yet.
I went to another area where the undergrowth had been cleared and tried to get a stray nugget to keep my head in the game but it was not to be. I started thinking about telling the story of forest management with pictures. All of these trees that had been cut down would make some people mad. What I realized was that there can be too many trees. All of the little trees on the ground didn't have enough sunlight to grow in many areas. This was being corrected with management here.
I was done with detecting and I knew it was time for me to go back but I wanted to take some pictures on the way. Here is what I saw on the way from Sierra City to the end of the forest and the valley overlook.
The road above is covered in snow during the winter. A few years ago we couldn't get to the claims where I was detecting until April there was so much snow.
The road below is 49 again. It is maintained through the winter. I wanted to show Simon the elevation and also the ski area but this is not a ski resort as much as it is cross country. I don't know much about it because I don't do it.
As you guys know, I'm a beach sort of guy. If I don't get early, quick results then I'm bored with limited time.
I want to thank Klunker and Norm for taking my call/message on very short notice and trying to help me find some color. I didn't plan the trip very good and once I decided that missing the traffic on Friday was more important than gold I was done.
I did see on accident near Sacramento on the way back. I don't see many and this one was a car had just run into the center.
I was back in Santa Monica about 1 AM on Friday morning. I had been gone 48 hours and driven about 1200 miles. That is a long, short trip.
One day I hope my sons will be able to still read about it here on Steve's forums. Thanks Steve.
My girlfriend got us permission to detect an empty lot owned by her employer. They recently bought the lot and took the early 1900's house down. She's been wanting to learn how to detect, so today was her first lesson. We headed there with the Equinox and my old AT Pro. Set her up with the AT Pro in STD/Coins mode, and went over ground balancing and how the ID scale works. Explained and showed her the difference between solid, repeatable signals and the less repeatable signals with bouncing target ID numbers. All I can say is I wish I would've had someone to show me these few details when I first started. Below is what she dug while we were there...a pretty respectable junk to coin ratio. She's hooked! 😀
I managed a handful of modern coins, couple old Hot Wheels cars, another handful of junk, and the few keepers below. The cooler weather has been nice recently!
Hope y'all got out today...Jeff