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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Petrified Forest

Imagine finding an entire petrified forest on your property! A Washington man did just that while expanding his shop. The amazing part though is that the fossilized trees are all still standing upright, where most petrified "forests" found elsewhere are really just a jumble of logs.

Click for article

If you read the article you might first be drooling over the idea of such a discovery (petrified wood can be pretty valuable) and you may also have a few thoughts as to why the trees have no roots. Here's mine:

What if the forest used to be up-slope from where it is now. It used to sit up on a hillside, the trees covered in basalt and the roots resting in clay. Petrified wood is brittle and the roots weren't protected by the basalt cast, so eventually, over millenia, the lava covered hunk of forest slid down the wet clay hillside snapping off roots as it went until finally it came to rest where it is today. Easy enough to confirm or discredit by looking for petrified roots up the slope from the forest's current location...

Anyway, just a thought.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Underwater Viewer

A comment on my last entry asked for photos of an underwater viewer mentioned in the entry before that. I tried emailing, but blogger only gave me a "no-reply" address, so I'm posting the pics here.
There are a lot of underwater viewing scopes on the market, perfect for nugget sniping, watching your dredge partner, whatever, but here's a great viewer you can make at home from a camp fuel can. If you want to buy one, here's a good commercially available underwater viewer. If not, read on...

Sorry the photos aren't in great focus and the flash has washed them out a bit, but you get the idea.

First, start with a camp stove fuel can. One end of the can is removed with a can opener and covered in duct tape or something else to keep the sharp edges down (also good for holding the viewer in your teeth). The other end is cut about a third of an inch in from the edge so you have a shelf on which to seat the lens.

The lens itself is tempered safety glass cut to fit and sealed on both sides with aquarium sealant. Sealing both sides prevents water from getting trapped around the edge of the glass and rotting it out. The lens is just a bit deeper than its seat on the can end, so sticks out 1/16" or so. This prevents bubbles forming on the under side of the glass. My uncle made this one and I know he has his lenses cut for him, so I'd check a local glass shop.

Here are the pics:

I said they were out of focus.

Yes, I do need to clean the lens...

So there you have it, a home built nugget sniping scope, perfect for grabbing gold right off the bottom of the river.

Happy AU hunting!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day Gold Panning

My brother's family came down this last week and we all went camping this weekend. We went out to the Quartzville Recreation Corridor and found a decent camp spot a bit before Yellow Bottom Campground. It wasn't perfect for camping with two children aged 9 months and 1 year (son and nephew respectively), but it was a pretty good spot overall. Nearest other campers were around a bend in the road and the river was pretty nice where we were. Only real drawback was some idiots that kept racing a quad up the road.

Hint, most peoples' idea of camping doesn't involve listening to you roar past their camp every 10 minutes, especially as darkness approaches and kids start going to bed. Next time I hope they bring a fishing pole instead...

The trip started a little late on Saturday. My brother and his girlfriend didn't make it to our place until around noon, but worse still - I forgot the keys to the trailer. I was ready to head back, but my wife volunteered to go back a ways and try my mother to see if she was going to make it out to meet us, and if so, could she stop at our place and grab the keys. She ended up going all the way back to the house. I owe her.

Big time.

After a while of socializing and playing with the kids I popped down to the creek to do some panning. I could tell the near side wasn't going to be any good, but in an effort to avoid freezing started there anyway. I was right. Loose gravels, not a speck of color, almost no black sand, etc -just wrong in every way. So I braved the cold water up to near my armpits and crossed over.


Okay, maybe not eureka, but tons of black sand and a little color in every pan, including one little sesame seed sized chunk. "Chunk" may be too big a word, but it felt good seeing that flash in the pan while working it down. Not long after my boy started fussing, so I crossed back over to relieve his aunt and uncle.

My wife arrived not too long after and I put up the tent-trailer, hooked up the electrics, turned on the gas and made sure we wouldn't roll into the river (not exactly in that order). The next day I did a little dredging in the morning without much luck. Later that afternoon I showed my brother how to pan for gold. He wanted to try the near side, but after several unsuccessful pans agreed to make the crossing.

On the other side we started having a lot better luck, especially the beginner's variety. I taught him where to look and he went and found it... He started working some cracked bedrock and started finding nice little flakes in every pan, flakes that made my sesame seed look small. He even pulled a decent little picker out of one pan. After seeing his first few pans I started working the area too and my first pan had two nice flakes and a lot of tiny stuff. It wasn't the Mother Lode, but it really was a great spot...until our wives got bored... I only managed a pan and a half or so from the good spot before it was time to pack up, but my brother had worked it for a little while and had some really nice gold to show for our two hours of panning.

I think we all had a pretty good time. The ladies got to lay in the sun. My wife took a million baby photos and a couple that may get entered into the ICMJ photo contest this year. The kids ate loads of Cheerios and rice pockets and got a ton of attention. My brother found some nice gold and caught gold bug. And I enjoyed some time in the sun on a gorgeous creek bank. Not a bad trip at all.

Next time I need to remember the keys and those yahoos need to leave the quad at home, but still a great time.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Quartzville Creek Gold

Finally got back to Quartzville Creek today. I've been doing a lot of panning closer to home since last summer, but was inspired to take a bit of a drive and hit up Quartzville again.

I took along all the gear I might need (more really), a sluice box, a couple classifiers (#4 and #2), pry bar, shovels, underwater viewer made from a camp stove fuel can, rubber boots, neoprene chest waders and my Proline 1.5" highbanker/dredge combo.

The battery on my van had died since last I drove it, so took the Subaru instead. I don't ever go crazy, but it can be a fun road to drive in a rally car. Too many drunks out there coming the other way to ever go fast, but it's one of those places where you can feel the car handling.

Anyway, I looked for one of the GPAA claims and found it, but it wasn't marked and the path to the water was arduous. I decided to just grab an obscure looking spot in the recreation corridor and have some fun.

I ended up running the Proline as a dredge and punching a little hole behind a big rock. I didn't get much time in the water, didn't make it to bedrock and had some plug up issues along the way, but I had fun getting more familiar with the equipment and found a little color (plus a pile of concentrates). Here's some of the gold from today's prospecting. It's not in perfect focus and you can't tell that some of it is pretty chunky, but it'll have to do.

I really need to sort out the plug up issues or get a bigger dredge. It's a great unit for portability and little creeks, but I could've moved a lot more material if I hadn't been dealing with clogs. A three or four inch dredge is somewhere in my future. I'll probably still go Proline, I just like their stuff, but a good used Keene could work too.

Happy hunting!

P.S. Some of the camp sites on the way up were trashed, literally. There was garbage strewn everywhere. That annoys the hell out of me. Probably drunken kids being idiots, but even drunk kids should know better...