AMERICAN PROSPECTOR & TREASURE SEEKER
8/24/2011 5:41 PM
Greenhorns gain hands-on experience at outing
By KRISTIE JEFFREY-WHITFIELD
To many, it’s a surprise to learn that we still prospect for gold. One of the most common questions I’m asked (other than ‘Where can I find gold?’) is ‘Are people actually finding it’? The price of gold these days — more than $1,800 per ounce — has drawn more and more people to ask this exact question and how to get started in the hunt.
Although American Prospector Treasure Seeker has an interest in the retail end of prospecting as well as the hobby itself, we feel strongly about the importance of educating a beginner and make the reality well known that the likelihood of “striking it rich” is slim. Still, the wealth to be gained from enjoying the outdoors while prospecting with your family is priceless.
Because we have the opportunity to supply prospecting equipment to both rookies and seasoned prospectors, we often hear about the “need” for some hands-on instruction and experience in gold prospecting.
My parents, Jim and Sue Jeffrey, had the pleasure of leading a trip to the east Fork of the San Gabriel River, which is known for its gold, in Azusa, Calif. in late June with a group of about 35 people. The experience level ranged from a greenhorns (novice prospectors) to those with several years of prospecting under their belts. The youngest participant was three years old with some in their teens and all ages on up. The turnout was great, friendships were made and helping hands were lent throughout the day.
My mom, who owns the store, remembers her first days of prospecting for gold with my dad, heading out to the river with their new equipment and not a scratch on their sluice, their how-to book that both of them still refer to as the ‘Prospecting Bible’ in hand and not an ounce of experience. As they reminisced about those good ol’ days, they took the time out of their morning to help others with their setup before readying themselves for a prosperous day.
One of the participants, Vance Davis, a 43-year-old rookie prospector of Murrieta, Calif., dropped by the store the day after the outing. When I asked him what he thought about his first outing, he smiled and said, “It was fun, yet tiring. It was great to get back into nature like I was as a kid, but don’t expect to get rich.
The fear of losing gold was a little setback as I was learning the panning process, but once I realized that the gold would settle and not wash out, I just went for it. It was a beautiful day. I enjoyed the scenery. I found some gold all while I was enjoying a cigar. When asked if there was anything he would do differently on his next trip, Davis said he would lighten his load and make sure it included more necessary equipment — maybe less buckets, but more tools for crevicing.
“The flakes that I did find were behind rocks. I only dug down about six inches and about a foot wide and I was
happy with what I found, especially for my first trip,” he said. “I’d like to be better prepared the next time around
with better digging tools.”
Curious as to what advice a newbie would give to a greener greenhorn than himself, I asked Davis what tips he would offer:
“Go with the intentions of having fun and enjoying the outdoors. If your expectations are to find a lot of gold, you’ll potentially come away disappointed,” he said with a laugh.”
“It’s kind of like gambling; You can’t go expecting to win big all of the time. Hope for the win and be happy if you win big. My few flakes were a big win for me.”
Steve Gudmundson, 49, of Norco, Calif., his wife, Annette, and two sons, Garrett and Alec, enjoyed the opportunity to be outdoors as a family. With about a month of experience, the Gudmundsons found some gold and said they felt the rush when they saw color in their sluice.
Three-year-old Alec, the youngest prospector at the outing, took a liking to the squirrels and found some “nuggets” (rocks) to put in the sluice box.
Although nervous about going out with a group of people, Steve was thankful for suggestions from other prospectors about different techniques and how to set up equipment. His nerves were quickly calmed and to his surprise he found fellow prospectors to be friendly and helpful in sharing and teaching techniques rather than close-mouthed and territorial as he had once feared.
When asked what advice he would offer to a first-timer, Gudmundson replied, “Introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more opportunity you’ll have to find gold.”
Asking questions and gaining knowledge along with hands-on experience are all the necessary elements to becoming a successful prospector. Joining a local GPAA chapter is another great source of knowledge and experience as well as an opportunity to meet some prospecting partners.
Members of two GPAA local chapters, Treasure Seekers of San Diego and Temecula valley Prospectors, as well as a private club out of San Diego, Southwestern Prospectors & Miners Association, attended the recent outing.
In addition to outings to gain experience, American Prospector Treasure Seeker offers free “how-to” classes and
videos on site. We ask for a $1 donation to support Public lands for the People as they continue to support our outdoor way of life.
Kristie Jeffrey-Whitfield is a freelance writer based in Temecula, Calif. She can be reached at American Prospector Treasure Seeker. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / Website: www.aptsgold.com