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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Sluicing for Gold

Went out sluicing this last Sunday. Some folks watched the Super Bowl, but blah! Who wants to be cooped up in front of a tv? My Mother felt the same way, and had a new sluice of her own to try out, so weather permitting planned to join me. The sun was shining, so...

Holy crap! A semi-truck just blew a tire in front of my house! Sounded like a cannon going off!!!

...heart attack aside and back on topic... Phoned up Mom in the morning and she was ready to hit the stream, so headed up I-5 towards my place. I had most of my gear packed already - my little shovel, mattock, buckets, boots, pans, classifiers, new Lectra Socks (battery powered heated socks - happy birthday to me) and of course my sluice box - but wanted to make sure I had a few extra buckets just in case she didn't bring any, so had some dirt and sand to shuffle about and make some empties.

Anyway, ahe arrived and we packed my stuff in and hit the road. Not saying what stream we hit, but it was a new one for both of us. I spent a lot of time this last summer on river downstream from this one, and had done pretty well. This one was supposed to be richer and there are some old mines further up in the National Forest, so we figured it was worth a shot.

Driving out we passed a lot of private property, owned by what must be the most paranoid and/or anti-social people on the planet. Every tree, fence post, mailbox and rock had a "No Trespassing" sign of one variety or another. I wouldn't be surprised to see a house out there using "No Trespassing" signs as siding!

On the other hand, it might just be that the people who visit the area are a bunch of fence jumping, bike thieving, goat shooting (there was a reward sign posted for info about some goat killers at the local market) miscreants this side of the Pecos. Either way, it didn't feel all that friendly, so it was a relief to hit forest land.

We found a spot to pull off, and though it didn't look too promising, I wanted to try a couple test pans. The first area I tried was under the spread out roots of an old fir stump that had been undercut. I figured the fir had been growing for a long time and may have kept the ground underneath from getting worked back in the days when the area was likely worked pretty good. My first scoop panned out a few small colors.

Next I tried an area a bit further downstream. There was a contact zone with old river gravels laying right on some decomposed bedrock. This was right in the bank with the bedrock extending in a shelf out into the stream. The water level had recently dropped and I was hoping the receding water had left some paying material along the edge of that contact zone. If so, I might be able to dig into the bank along the zone and find more. My first scoop panned out 6 or 8 little colors. It wasn't much, but it was gold.

Mom had tried a little further upstream and didn't do so well, so we set up where I was (yeah, I know, coulda' done a lot more testing). She was running a 30" Proline sluice box from BlackCatMining.com and I was running a 50" Gold Gem I got off eBay from Tee-Dee (I think they sell as teedeecacti or something). It was the first time for the Proline, so we were both really curious to see how it ran.

The weather was gorgeous. I think sun lead to our choice of spots as much as the test panning. It was freezing in the shade and t-shirt weather in the sun. Even in the sun though, the water gets cold on the feet when you're in it for a while, so I broke out my heated socks. They worked fine. My Mother wasn't so likely. She had picked up some cheap-ass rubber boots from Wal-Mart last season and after only a few uses, one had sprung a leak!

Is this a weather report? Anyway, I used my pick to break up the hard-pack along the contact zone and and scooped and classified to 1/2" then again to 1/4" before running the material. Mom used a garden trowel in a different part of the bank.

Both boxes worked well, and she seemed to have a pretty easy time doing the clean up on the smaller Proline without any assistance needed. I mean she's not that old, but still a gran. My 50" might be awkward for her to lift out of the stream when loaded with black sands. We also liked how the riffles are hinged at the top and just fold out of the way. Anyway, they're both good boxes...

All in all, we didn't get rich, but came away with a fair amount of fine flour gold and a bunch of concentrates. Gold aside, just had a nice time out on the stream in the sun (in February no less).

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