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Golden Grams Of Goodness: Nugget Shooting Stories


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A desert gold-hunting misadventure

I've worked that dry desert dirt chasing gold in Arizona, and it taught me I much prefer using water! Yet, that desert gold sure is truly, beautiful stuff. And, that’s why I was out there looking for some.

While I was working a dry wash on the side of a hill, I found myself wrapped up in a frightening misadventure.

To begin, there were old dry-washer piles everywhere. So, being a likely place for gold, I picked a spot with bedrock outcroppings that looked more promising than the rest (I have to tell you at this point in my tale that I can’t stand spiders, of any size or kind.), and I started to dig.

As I prospected along the wash, I started to see these round holes located in the bank. Well, I'd seen some of them while I was detecting in flatter areas (and of course, those holes went straight down), and I'd spotted a tarantula crouching in one of them, the front appendages wiggling, those blood-thirsty eyes boring directly into the terror center of my brain! You get the picture—that was enough for me.

I quickly changed locations—with about the same speed as a jacked-up sprinter on steroids does. Only, sprinters are far slower it appears, because I'm certain I broke several Olympic records as I raced through that unforgiving region of plant life where everything pokes, stings, or bites! (I'm thinking of a full Kevlar body suit the next time I have to run from a tarantula. It might save me from the nasty bite as well as stop me from picking spines from my hide for two days afterward.)

Despite my escape from near death, I went off digging in a new spot, a little wash among the grease-wood and creosote. I started working my way uphill, and when I saw those same, round holes I've mentioned earlier, I started to have freaky flashbacks. However, I overrode my brain's early warning system. (I'm quite famous for disabling my body’s hard-wired survival systems and that has allowed me to have some truly wild experiences that spice my otherwise bland life.)

Motivated by the fact that I'd traveled well over a thousand miles to get myself some desert gold, I wasn't going to let some hairy, fanged octo-ped drive me from my diggings, not on such a fine desert day.

So, I stared at those holes for a moment longer (there were three of them, about head height--ranged across the hill close to a foot apart, with the middle of the three just about dead center with my body), and I decided that I would go about loosening the dirt that covered the bedrock wall in that spot.

With my pulse back to a normal level, and my formerly panicked brain calmed to a benign state, I hefted the reassuring weight of my pick, and drove the pick into the ground.

Like a blast from a rocket-propelled-grenade, something came flying out of that center hole!! It flew at me so fast that I had no time to react. I was the perfect, paralyzed victim.

On a side note, if you've ever been in a car crash (as I have), you may have experienced this phenomenon: time and action slow to a crawl. Every minute detail is recorded by the brain which is somehow temporarily rewired to Star Trek warp speed factors. This allows your melon to record every little detail at hyper speed, thus generating a slow-motion recording mode. This lets the brain capture the entire event perfectly so that you can micro-analyze it in perpetuity.

But, I need to backtrack to the moment when the unknown terror shot forth from the hole. It was heading straight for my chest, and it had a leathery head with several colors. It was wagging from side to side. The tail was long and it was swaying back and forth, acting as a rudder, driving the horror relentlessly toward my paralyzed body.

I watched immobilized as it dropped below eye level, then caught the bizarre object again, just to the right of me, as it plowed into the desert dirt. Sensing this was no spider, my brain switched out of panic mode, and it returned to recording at normal speed.

This flying menace was only some kind of stinking, pea-brained lizard! Although this rotten reptile was launched from the underworld to give me a heart attack, quite obviously, the desert plot to frighten me had failed miserably.

For, I have no fear of lizards or snakes you see (Strange huh? I mean, the snakes may kill you, but the hideous tarantulas will only tease you a friendly bite that feels as if liquid fire is lancing through every cell and nerve ending of your entire body. So, no wonder snakes don't worry me. . . .), and because I don't fear reptiles, I was able to laugh.

The fact that laughter sounded much like a pack of deranged hyenas is irrelevant. It was a healing event for me, a wondrous catharsis. Who cares if the aforementioned laughter terrorized the nearby city of Phoenix and jammed every available 911 circuit with panicked callers.

On a reflective note, in a bold act demonstrating my supreme daring and courage, I abandoned that hill-side and headed off to a flat, wandering trail I'd spotted earlier in the day, one that leisurely led across a level mesa, about three miles distant. . . .

All the best,


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4 hours ago, Rick N. MI said:

You should start writing books if you haven't already. Had me laughing reading your great story.

No one tells them better than Lanny; I've been reading his stories for years.

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1 hour ago, Jim_Alaska said:

No one tells them better than Lanny; I've been reading his stories for years.

Many thanks Jim, kind words indeed.

All the best,


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Old Trenches--A Missed Nugget Opportunity

So, I thought I'd post a little story about one of my infamous missed opportunities, a chance gone by to metal detect for some sassy nuggets. But, what else is new, right? I’ve left lots of gold behind due to my long nugget shooting learning curve.

Well, at the time, I was pretty green, although I had (the previous summer) broken the rookie metal detector's curse (You know, when you swing the detector forever and only get the coil over trash. Which means, all you dig is trash day, after day, after day. . . . However, I broke the rookie curse and found my first nugget "The Africa Nugget", which then led to a dozen or so nuggets all the size of your fingernails. On a side note, it’s always amazed me how that worked out—nada, nothing forever, then once the curse was broken, I couldn’t keep the sassy nuggets from getting under the coil!)

I guess that was enough digression, so I’ll get back to my tale. As I was pretty green, I'd been detecting a huge excavation, one worked around a massive boulder, that boulder the size of a small house. It was so huge, you could look under it where the Chinese had tunneled (a lot of silt and debris had washed in closing most spaces up) and see where they'd left their, short, stout and round posts to ensure the boulder didn't drop to the bedrock to crush them. It was quite the sight, and I can't imagine the work done to excavate it, let alone the courage to tunnel under it!

Anyway, I was detecting around the boulder’s basin, and I was getting all kinds of trash. I was having flashbacks to the previous year's "Rookie Curse" mode, so my enjoyment level dropped fast.

As well, because I'd hit so many nuggets the previous summer, I was in a bit of a hurry to start hearing that "low-high-low" golden tone once more. Well, it didn't happen at all in that spot, and the bugs were exceptionally blood-thirsty down there away from any breeze, so I moved on to windier realms.

I happened upon some long rows of hand-stacked cobbles and small boulders, and then I came to some sheets of bare bedrock, but I couldn't get a peep out of the bedrock. It was completely smooth and iron hard, the wrong type of rock to trap gold, which made for discouraging hunting.

I walked down closer to the river and detected along a bench, but all I found were more heavily rusted pieces of tin can, bits of lead, snips of small gauge iron and copper wire, broken chunks of cable, boot tacks, and lead meat-tin keys. It was Deja-vu all over again.

By this time I was hot, sweaty, tired and felt four times dumber than when I'd hiked in there. (I say I was much dumber because of what happened next.)

I decided I'd hike out through the pines and aspens in a different direction from the way I'd bush-whacked my way in. I got partway through, heading uphill about a block and a half away from the boulder basin, and all at once, the trees opened up, and I was in a clearing. Well, that should have been my first tip-off (a clearing), but like I said, I was a bit grumpy, hungry and looking forward to cooking some grub on the wood-burning stove back at camp in the wall-tent, about a half a mile away. Nevertheless, my little prospector brain (the one much smaller than my big, dumb prospector brain that wants nothing but food, and easy finds) lit up and overrode my big dumb brain, and recognition set in.

This area was clearly not natural. (I know it's hard to believe, being so easy to understand for a pro, but at the time I was such a green rookie my brain had almost no gold logic.) Anyway, my two opposing brains quit fighting and made me do a double take; my hunger was briefly forgotten, and I started paying attention to what I was walking through.

Off to my right I spotted disturbed rows of forest floor. And, sure enough, there were rows of trenched forest floor, which cut down to bedrock! (Now, any prospector worth his salt, his bacon, or his beans would have spent time carefully checking this entire area, but no, at that time I was a sausage-brained rookie.) There were chunks of broken bedrock, tree roots, cobbles (clearly indicating the existence of channel underneath) and smaller water-worn stones cast up everywhere. In addition, some spots had been trenched wider than others, leaving exposed bedrock patches. (It was about two to three feet to bedrock.) Other cuts were slumping back in, and many had grown over. This was old work, likely done by the early diggers around 1870.

So, what did I do? I followed those trenches around in the forest, peering down into them from time to time like a sappy tourist. Towards the end, It dawned on me to fire up my detector (That it took me that long proves how dumb newbie dumb can be) and detect around a bit. There were old square nails, bits of decomposing tin can, and much rarer tiny square nails. What did this mean to me at the time? Well, I figured someone had been digging around, had left some trash behind, and had moved on to bigger and better opportunities, of course.

What does it all mean to me now that I’ve been chasing the gold for many years? Someone did a ton of back-breaking work hand-trenching chasing the gold, and because of the different sizes of square nails, they were there most likely had some kind of recovery system set up to get the gold. Moreover, as they were following the bedrock, they were probably finding enough to make it interesting. (Have you ever trenched in the forest two to three feet to bedrock? Cutting through those roots and rocks is zero fun!) Yet, with the clearing not worked to bedrock, it likely wasn’t rich ground (gold was around $19 an ounce in 1870). Or, they could have had water problems or lacked enough funding, etc.

Regardless, I should have reopened some of those trenches and detected that ancient bedrock. Instead, I overruled my tiny prospector's (developing) baby brain that had tipped me off in the first place and only gave the ground a superficial working.

The location of that forest trenching is a gruelling eighteen-hour drive north and west of here, and I may never return (thick with bears and bugs, and a road that really beats up vehicles). Nonetheless, because I've learned much better how to find the gold now, if I ever do return, I’ll know where to explore and what to exploit as it would be a fantastic opportunity to detect virgin bedrock as well as virgin (thrown out) dirt.

I've since found beautiful gold in areas like that one, as the prospectors a hundred and fifty or so years previous had no way of knowing what they were throwing out (unless they ran all of the dirt, which they did not) during their testing. Moreover, they had no way of knowing what they were leaving in the invisible cracks and crevices of the bedrock, but a premier gold detector, put to good use today would do the job very well indeed.

So, there’s one for the someday, if I ever return list, and a lesson that’s stuck with me since that’s produced nice nuggets when I’m out tramping around old workings.

All the best,


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No nuggets in smooth bedrock?

Most of the time, smooth bedrock doesn't hold gold, but I have run across some spectacular nugget finds in smooth bedrock. Even if the surface has been pounded smooth or weathered flat, it doesn't mean that there weren't cracks in the bedrock before those massive re-shaping and smoothing events occurred. So, when I'm in gold country, I always check smooth bedrock with my detector as well, and I have been rewarded, from time to time, with some incredible results because the worn, smooth sheets are often overlooked, with most nugget shooters giving them a pass.

What new shooters don't realize is that any bedrock in gold country has an excellent chance of holding gold. It's not as likely as rough bedrock for a trap; but, due to untold years of change and weathering, any bedrock in placer areas offers a chance I don't pass up, as the rougher bedrock has usually been hammered to death.

All the best,


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On 1/20/2022 at 5:21 PM, Lanny said:

Old Trenches--A Missed Nugget Opportunity

Wheeeeewww!!! Does this story get me fired up to go prospecting!

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Suction Eddy Gold, Part I

I prospected a river quite a while back. It was far to the north, down in a steep canyon lined with lots of alders, pine, and fir. Rugged slopes led down to the stream, and I was trying to find a spot where I could detect or pan for some of the nice coarse gold the area was known for.

I took a wrong step and got smacked in the face by an alder while trying to get down to what was clearly an active suction eddy during Spring Flood.

The eddy was straight down the mountain slope from where an old placer tunnel went in, about a hundred feet up slope. The mine (called a “drift” mine by the locals) went into the mountain on a bedrock hump, about seventy feet above the river. The Oldtimers had seen the hump and drifted toward it along the up-sloping bedrock that rose from the river, hitting the hump then driving underneath about fifty feet of boulder clay (almost exclusively clay, yet sprinkled with boulders and lesser rock dumped from the long gone Ice Age glaciers). [The mine entrance is still there, but the tunnel is caved in.]

Some modern miners had come in with big equipment and made a road around that bedrock point on the hill, cutting into the bedrock as they widened the road, while slicing across the drift mine entrance.

Now, what a dummy I was--I didn't detect that scraped off bedrock hump where the drift mine had gone in! Instead, I went over to the entrance, and hauled several heavy buckets of material down to the river to pan.

What a miserable time I had getting those buckets down to the river, skidding down that 30 to 40-degree slope covered in broken bedrock and loose cobbles. Fun? Not as much fun as a double root canal, but just about. Still, I was way over the legal-limit for fun.

Every bucket held gold, but only flakes. And, as I was chasing coarse gold, after lugging three five-gallon buckets of clay goo from the mine entrance to the river, I'd had enough fun.

But, since the eddy I’d picked to prospect was exactly below that bedrock hump, I dropped into the spot, a truck-box sized hole high water had cut into the river bank. It was littered with bread-loaf sized cobbles.

I was in my own little enclave down there, and I couldn't be seen from the equipment-trail above, nor could I be seen from up or down the river on my side of the stream.

I had packed down my old VLF detector and a shovel with me. I fired up the detector and scanned the cobbled section. I immediately got a loud signal.

I chucked a load of bread-loaf cobbles into the river and scanned again. The target was still there. Moving the underlying loose stuff, I exposed a nice square nail. What the . . .? That wasn't what I wanted, but square nails were everywhere on that bank!

Well, being the dimwit that I was, I never made the connection this was a good sign (heavies dropping out during flood stage). So, I scanned more bank, got more signals, then gave up detecting because I KNEW every signal was a square nail. (Dumb yes, but I was quite a rookie back then.)

I cleared the rest of the loose stuff from under the cobbles and chucked the stream-run back into a hole (eight-foot deep) in the river. That hole lay downstream from a series of bedrock drops, it being the only calm water in a long stretch. This clue should also have lit up my gold-getting brain, but my rookie mind was a steel trap, and once shut, no helpful gold logic was getting in.

What I found after clearing the overburden was friable rock standing over a layer of soft decomposing bedrock. So, I scraped the shingle-like pieces off and panned it all out. Immediately I had coarse gold in my pan! What the . . .? My rookie brain began to make connections.

All along that eight-foot section of bedrock, there was fantastic, coarse and sassy gold!

Sitting down, I looked at that river eddy excavation. The bedrock, where the eddy had dumped the heavies, rose up into the bank. At that moment, my brain finally made another connection. (Part II to follow)

All the best,


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Suction Eddy Gold, Part II

My brain at last connected that directly above me was the bedrock hump, and here was steeply rising bedrock trending in the same direction. Talk about a cross-wired brain (and one snapped shut, remember?)!

In hindsight, the eddy exposed a shelf that must have connected to the hump. Of course, there were tons and tons of overburden between me, the rest of that rising bedrock, and the hump. Anyway, my brain at last tuned in, and I scraped the exposed bedrock and sluiced the remaining material. (I had an aluminum river sluice in my vehicle up on the cat-trail. Freighting it down to the river, I had a near-death experience from the header I took while taking what I thought was a short-cut; however, I made it to the river in one piece.)

I started sluicing. The first shovel of dirt produced an instant nugget. It was around two grams, and L-shaped. It didn't even get into the first riffle. It just hit and sat in the header, sparking golden in the summer sunlight.

I sluiced the remaining dirt and recovered chunky gold throughout. It was getting dark, and I didn’t want to leave, but I’ve no love for mountain lions or grizzlies. So, I headed back to the safe, comfortable log cabin I called home in that northern land. (On a side note, I need to mention it had been raining for three days straight prior to my first find on the river. This helps explain upcoming details.)

When I floundered my way downslope through the much safer face-slapping route the next morning, I saw the river had dropped about four inches. Seeing a fresh, soft bedrock edge exposed by the lower waterline, I was suddenly stunned. There, winking in the morning sun, was a nugget! (A little sunbather taking advantage of the new beach so to speak.) My mind, now wide-open to prospecting lore, started calculating what had likely happened at the site.

I reflected that there was consistent gold right up to the boulder clay on the bank where the suction eddy had torn into it. Moreover, that gold was being drug down into the pool. So, I scraped with my shovel out into the pool as far as I could I could, but the bedrock dropped off quite sharply into that eight-feet of water. As well, for any that have scraped off river run, while fighting hydraulic pressure, it's tough-sledding indeed.

In spite of the challenge, the coarse gold that came up from the submerged river-run was spectacular! By the time I'd retrieved all the material I could, I had a quarter-ounce of nice rounded coarse gold, and several nice sassy nuggets to boot.

So, what’s the analysis of that suction eddy gold deposit? Well, those early square nail finds were everywhere because the suction eddy had plucked them from flood-level waters, and the bedrock held them fast. Cleary, the gold was yanked from the flood water along with the nails as well. But, the haunting reality to me now is that a whack of those “square nail signals” were feisty nuggets! This leaves me with the uncomfortable reality that what the heck did I throw into that eight-foot-deep pool as I cleared the overburden?

What the heck indeed. . . .

All the best,

Lanny in AB

[Author's note: I heard the next year that some dredgers went into that pool. One of the mine-workers had seen my truck parked on the trail, had walked down to the river to investigate after I'd left, had seen the suction eddy as well as my diggings, and he sent his buddies the next year to dredge the spot. Well, they had a field day in that hole and took out ounces of coarse gold! As I reflect now, It's clear to me that the suction eddy had cut into an old channel that trended up the river bank to that old drift mine. (Likely how the Oldtimers had found the higher deposit of gold in the 1800’s.) This gold tale is just one of my missed opportunities that still haunt me.]

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