By Kevin Hoagland
For most Prospectors, social distancing is part of what we do and why we do it. Separation from the masses while out prospecting is our way of social distancing or as I call it, “social decompression”. It is a part of our makeup and getting out there and on the gold is something we embrace at every opportunity. Whether prospecting by yourself or with a small group of friends or family, it has been this way for generations, and most likely for generations to come.
We are also not your stereotypical loner with a gold pan, pick and shovel aimlessly mumbling away into the nothingness with our only friends, a sturdy mule and faithful dog by our sides. In actuality, most prospectors and miners you meet today are socially skilled and adept at working together (or alone) to get to gold. Wanting and willing to share our lifestyle with anyone that ask.
At the drop of a hat we will regale you with stories of what it is like to be in the gold fields enjoying the surroundings of nature. We are quick to share with you our stories of the deer and other animals that pay us little regard as we prospect for gold in our moments of isolation from the rest of the world. Or what it is truly like to live in the moment when there is color in the pan or digging a nugget. It’s what we do and we love every moment of it.
Our passion for being out and on the gold drives our prospecting, and every year there is a great number of us that face a higher than average risk because of our medical issues and the years that accumulate. Undeterred, we head out into the wonderment of nature and our prospecting where we are many times safer than in the social situations that surround us daily. It is these social situations that are being scrutinized during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The cold and flu season arrives every year almost like clockwork and those of us that face very specific challenges rise up by protecting ourselves with common sense practices that lower our risk to viruses and ones that flatten the flu curve with or without medication. We go through the season knowing that we have done the very best to protect ourselves and those around us.
This year we face a different challenge with COVID-19, the novel 2019 coronavirus. Covid-19 is more infectious than the flu and the chances of spreading Covid-19 is much greater than spreading the flu. Yet both the flu and Covid-19 have almost the exact mechanisms for transmission from person to person.
How do you protect yourself and others and help flatten the curve? You take the necessary steps to protect yourself and those around you, it’s that easy. As a high risk person, I have been practicing “safe flu” for over 25 year after being diagnosed with Valley Fever and respiratory lesions. Let’s be clear, I am no doctor, but the standard practices that have been in place for decades to reduce the flu spread have allowed me and countless others digging in the dirt a level of normality that we would not otherwise have.
I do not fret about what I will face when I get to my prospecting spots, it is the trip in and out where I adamantly protect myself by taking complete control of my situation, as I go down this list you will more than likely say to yourself, “I know that already” or “that’s what I do already”, if that’s the case, great! You are in that group that has taken it upon yourself to protect yourself and those you care about, giving you even more time to get out and on the gold.
Before you head out:
1. Fix your own grub.
During the regular flu season, I avoid fast food at all cost. I do not have control of others and knowing that, I have to take control of my world. I eat a lot of PB&J along with tuna sandwiches this time of the year. I have also learned over the years that I can eat Vienna sausages every now and again but only when I am out on a claim and yes, they do taste better warmed up over the camp fire with a lot of hot sauce. I’ll eat things like packaged jerky and chips but only after wiping down the package with a sanitizing wipe.
2. Take your drinking water with you and your water is yours and yours alone.
If a prospecting partner or someone needs a drink, pour into their cup not touching your jug to their cup and avoiding splashes.
On the way to the gold:
3. Carry sanitizing wipes and or hand sanitizer with you.
In case you can’t find any in the stores right now it’s pretty easy to make. I make mine as reusable wipes with microfiber cloths, aloe vera gel, 91% alcohol, couple of drops of soap and vinegar. It doesn’t need to smell pretty it just needs to work. So, don’t use essential oils like many recipes say. Plus, why would I go panning with oil on my hands? That’s a quick way to lose gold. Use your sanitizer after contact with anything out of your control - i.e. pump handles, keypads, handles, you know, anything that isn’t yours, including money. I seldom if ever carry cash, I use my debit card and sanitize afterwards.
4. Don’t shake a lot of hands if any.
There is nothing wrong with not shaking a hand and even less wrong in telling someone why you choose to protect both of you. If you do shake, sanitize. It’s not rude to protect yourself.
5. Do not touch your face after touching anything that does not belong to you or has been out of your control.
This is one of the easiest ways to transmit outside germs and pathogens into your body.
6. Wash your hands often and completely.
The city of Round Rock Texas had a Facebook and Twitter post go viral (no pun intended) after posting a picture of their wash your hands campaign. And I think it is the best advise I have seen to date about how to wash your hands.
Additionally, if you have been in a store or anywhere where there have been a lot of people, don’t take off your boots without washing your hands, watch people, they generally point their heads down to cough or sneeze which you may end up walking across on the floor, yuck. It happens and I can’t tell you the last time I took off my boots where there wasn’t a hot water running in the sink and a bar of soap right there.
I learned a life hack this year that I think is really cool and will save on the disinfectant spray I use on my boots after being in a store.
Mix some alcohol, distilled water and a tiny bit of vinegar in a spray bottle and toss into your truck. After being in a place where there are people spritz your boots before you get into your truck.
All of the commonsense things I have listed are second nature to me and have been for years. Except for the life hack boot spray which will by the end of the week be nothing more than an action over a thought. I found when I was writing this I did have to stop and think about what I do over just doing it and never thinking about the motions.
Of course, commonsense also tells us that if you feel symptomatic or think you may have been exposed, immediately follow the current health care guidelines.
On the GOLD:
I’m here and I am going prospecting. Nothing else matters I am where I belong, on a claim and prospecting. Social distance and decompression are all around me.
I have everything I need, food, water, piece of mind and distance to prospect and explore the claim. It doesn’t matter that I have been to same GPAA claim over and over. Each time is a new chance to find the gold that I didn’t find the last time and to reunite today’s gold with the last trip’s gold.
For me when I need distance there is nothing that compares to the separateness of being on a claim prospecting for gold alone or with a few prospecting partners. There is a certainty about being on a claim that allows me to release all the world and just be a part of what I can only see around me and to discover what is hidden below my feet.
“Social Distancing” may be a new phrase that you are not used to hearing. Yet as a prospector that strives to be on a claim prospecting for that next bit of gold, you know everything I am thinking. I only wish I could truly find the words that articulate what it is truly like to be a part of something so much greater than anything that is going on around me.
If you’re looking for the words yourself or to get back to that feeling, then start planning your next prospecting trip and join the GPAA in the greatest social distancing project out there! One that has been around since the time man first found gold centuries ago. Social distancing not driven by fear, but by the wonderment of the world around us.
Kevin Hoagland is the Executive Director of Development at the Gold Prospectors Association of America and the Lost Dutchman's Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out one of Kevin's favorite claims here: SOLDIER BOY & DOUBLE J J