LOOKING OUT OVER THE BERING SEA FROM THE TOP OF ANVIL MOUNTAIN. PHOTO BY SAM SERVETTER
From the January/February 2021 Gold Prosprospectors Magazine
By Sam Servetter
For anyone with an extraordinary memory or an organized stack of Gold Prospectors Magazine you would know my journey with prospecting began in a very unexpected way. For reference, “Cast for Salmon Caught Gold Fever” on page 45 of the July/August issue in 2017 goes over my first experience with prospecting and rural Alaska. Or anyone who has been around the GPAA Gold & Treasure Shows for the last half decade has probably seen me running around like a mad man making sure things run as smoothly as possible. I am Sam Servetter, the director of member relations here at the GPAA.
Travelling around from city to city on the gold show circuit is almost like a circus in a way. Many of the same people are in each city, I get to meet some amazing people and have the privilege to call some of them friends. Going to dinners in different cities and meeting up between shows to get some prospecting or fishing done on the side is always a welcomed break from the travel and constant reminder of being away from home for an extended period. It was during this time I was blessed with meeting the Krutzsch family.
THREE GENERATIONS OF THE KRUTZSCH FAMILY: TY, BETTY, AUGIE WITH SAM SERVETTER OF THE GPAA. PHOTO BY DEBBIE SMIKOSKI
As some of you may know, this family is no stranger to Alaska. The late August (Gus) had been mining in the state since 1933 and the family has been on historic Anvil Creek since 1963 — in the same spot gold was first discovered in Nome back in 1898 by the “Three Lucky Swedes.” That’s a story worth looking into yourself. Having such a storied history and passion related to the area, Augie, Gus’s name sake, craved to do something special, to share the same feelings I felt my first time seeing the overwhelmingly stunning Alaskan landscape, as it was meant to be experienced.
Alaska Gold & Resort, or “AKAU” for short, was born out of that passion and love for life the entire Krutzsch family undoubtedly shares. Three generations of the Krutzsches keep this dream thriving — son Ty, dad Augie and, most important, Grandma Betty — along with an amazing crew of passionate and helpful individuals who keep camp buzzing and always ready for whatever you throw at them.
As many of you know, our beloved Cripple River GPAA Camp is no longer operating. While Nome by itself is a special place to be, almost frozen in time and rich in mining history, one does not fly all the way to Nome for its city life. If you have seen the movie “Inception” you might be able to follow along with what I am trying to portray when I say you can find a little slice of heaven inside a little slice of heaven. AKAU is just that.
I would be the first to admit, shamefully, that since my first magical trip to Alaska I have not done as much prospecting as I would have liked. Life seems to happen faster than you plan at times, as I am sure many of you know. With everything going on in our world today, I was itching for that same feeling I got as soon as I stepped off the plane, when I was up in Nome years ago. Being alone, isolated, away from everything. It’s a surreal feeling, even for those who have been to Nome. It’s not the smallest town in the world, but it sure does make it known that you are nowhere close to anything you are used to.
SILHOUETTE OF DREDGE #5 LOOKING TOWARD THE BERING SEA. PHOTO BY SAM SERVETTER
I knew I wanted to get away, and I had never really shared my excitement for prospecting with anyone close to me outside of the GPAA in the past. My lifetime best friend Brian Pino and I have known each other for more than 20 of our 29 years of life. We have gone on many fishing trips from Mammoth Mountain out into the Pacific Ocean, whitewater rafting through Yosemite National Park and beyond. But there was always one frontier I knew he had yet to experience. Me being the amazing friend I am, I reluctantly let him tag along on this journey.
Getting off the plane in Nome is a smack in the face, if you ask me. It screams small town: no gates, or trams or even walkways to get in and out of the plane. Use the stairs, walk down the runway and into the smallest commercial airport I have ever been to. A short 15-minute ride past the Pomrenke Mining operation and up historical Anvil Mountain, it does not take long to be in the middle of nowhere in Nome. As you come up the drive and turn the corner, Alaska Gold & Resort seems to come out of nowhere, planted beautifully looking over the vast Alaska tundra.
INSIDE THE CONTROL TOWER ON THE DREDGE. PHOTO BY SAM SERVETTER
The camp itself is everything you could ask for. The biggest compliment I can think of when describing it is you almost do not notice it. It does not take away from the surrounding beauty, and it is plush to the point that you have all the creature comforts you would ever need. Showers, washer, dryer, TV, Internet, and amazing heaters, which would prove important for us, are all there for you when you want it, not in your face if you do not. Alaska Gold & Resort is as rural and rustic as you want it to be or as relaxing as you want, the perfect combination in my opinion.
Now, no matter how great camp is, that was not what we were there for. From the second we got off the plane I was ready to go. I knew exactly how much we were missing out on, so once we dropped the bags at the cabin we were gone. Ty was waiting for us at camp, eager to get going as well. Hopped in the old Ford pickup and we were gone fishing. A short drive through town to their boat and out to Ty’s fishing hole. Remote, quiet, isolated. Exactly what we were looking for after 16 hours of being stuck inside airports and airplanes. Fishing for silver salmon is some of the best fishing you will ever do; fun intense fish that cook up better than anything else if you ask me. Now if you knew Brian, you would know just about the most competitive human I have ever come across. Not to say the first day of our trip was a competition, but it was a bit of a competition. Fishing is something we have both done, an even playing field I would like to think. Well after we had each caught our limit a few times over, Brian ended up with the two biggest fish of the day. I wasn’t complaining though, I was just glad he was enjoying himself. Besides, I knew he had never prospected before, so I was sure I was going to best him when it came to finding some color.
TY KRUTZSCH INSIDE THE MAIN TROMMEL IN DREDGE #5, LENDING AN IDEA OF HOW LARGE THE VESSEL IS. PHOTO BY SAM SERVETTER
After a few hours of fishing, hanging out, having a blast down by the river it was time we headed back to get on to the next activity. The best part about Alaska in the summer is the long daylight hours. So our short 6-day trip did not feel as short as it was. We were able to fit in multiple attractions every day, and the people at AKAU make it all as seamless as possible.
Part of what made this trip extra special for me personally was having a few others there from my Gold Show family. Debbie Smikoski from Minelab and Mike Pung from Gold Cube were also at the camp for the week, which I could not have been more thankful or excited for. I knew there was no way we were not going to find gold with those two to follow around. Naturally, our next activity was metal detecting. Debbie graciously got us all set up with a pair of amazing Minelab machines for our stay. Mike, Debbie, Brian, Ty, and I all headed down to one of the many — and I cannot stress this enough, many — nugget-producing tailings piles left from the old-timers. I mean they are everywhere. I’m convinced you could go anywhere around MIKE PUNG WITH ONE OF MANY NUGGETS FOUND Anvil and AKAU and find some real dingers.
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, TY, AUGIE, BRIAN PINO & DEBBIE SMIKOSKI OF MINELAB METAL DETECTORS ON OUR WAY OUT FISHING. PHOTO BY SAM SERVETTER
Well, remember that competition I was talking about? That is right, you guessed it. I lost. Within five minutes of Brian ever using a metal detector he hesitantly says to everyone, “Hey guys I think I found something.” Everyone runs over and to our surprise, a nugget! In five minutes! All our jaws hit the floor. I turned to Mike and Debbie and asked if they had ever in their lives seen anyone find gold that quickly into their prospecting endeavors. They both quickly said no. I was convinced Brian could go home at this point. Who invited him anyway? The two biggest fish and the first nugget all within a few hours of being there. It set the tone for the rest of the trip really. There was no going back. Gold Fever had set in. I do not think I could get that Gold Monster 1000 out of Brian’s hands if I tried for the next 48 hours. In fact, the very next day we hit a pocket with that same detector and pulled out at least 15-20 pickers between the two of us. Not to mention my biggest nugget of the trip as well!
The rest of the trip for the most part was like a time loop. But usually in movies being stuck in a time loop is a bad thing; in our case it was quite the opposite. Force yourself to wake up as early as possible, go grab some amazing breakfast from the crew, start your day with some coffee while gazing out over the tundra and Bering Sea, then hit the road and stay out until it got dark, sometimes grabbing some food back at camp or packing a sandwich for the road. Ty, Augie, Betty, and the rest of the crew are so invested into making sure you have the best time possible. Pretty much whatever you want to do they not only make happen, but make sure you get it done in the best way. It made everything for us brainless. It was amazing.
MIKE PUNG WITH ONE OF MANY NUGGETS FOUND OVER THE WEEK!
Now I could go over every single one of the pickers or the nugget I eventually found, but we would be here for quite some time. I’m telling you, gold is plentiful around Anvil. If Brian can find it, so can you. But one of the cooler things we did during our trip, I thought, was going to see some of the old commercial bucket-line dredges left behind from the early 1900s. Dredge #5, built in 1941, was the largest on-land gold dredge to ever operate in Alaska. Not only is it huge, but it is just as spooky. This may be something I shouldn't reveal in a national publication, but the way onto the dredge is to walk across a narrow wooden board that is sitting on top of the water just barely touching land on one side and the floating beast on the other - needless to say, traverse at your own risk! We explored it at night first, then went back the next day to see it during the day. I have no shame to admit I much prefer the day trip.
This was my second time in Nome, about fifth time in Alaska and I was still upset to say I have never seen a moose or bear. So, when we got a chance to head out one morning for the start of moose season, I was ready. The summer temperatures had gone away within our first two days of being there and it was rather freezing that morning, perfect for moose — or so, we thought. Still no moose on the journey. But a ride through the tundra out in the middle of nowhere is always a good place to be. My favorite part about being in Nome is taking a ride into the country, turning off the ATV and just sitting there. Listen to the absolute nothing, grab some wild blueberries and just enjoy being there.
OLD CARD CABIN AND CLEANUP ROOM ON THE AKAU PROPERTY.
Toward the end of our journey I had had enough time on the Gold Monster to last me for the rest of the year and wanted Brian to experience some other forms of prospecting. Augie has his old slick plate that he used to run when he was mining nonstop on the property back before Alaska Gold & Resort was a thing. The best way to describe it is a massive high-banker that takes two people to operate from inside the machine. It is an absolute blast. I recommend doing it on a sunny day — you get wet and it makes it easier on the bones when you are not freezing at the same time.
All in all, between the endless amount of salmon, the nugget hunting/finding, the history, amazing food and scenery, the success of the trip did not come down to those things for me. It came down to the memories you make, and the people you make them with. Selfishly I could not have asked for a better group of people to share those experiences with. Debbie, Mike, Augie, Betty, and Ty all contributed to making our time as memorable and fun as possible. I know Brian and I are looking forward to going back, hopefully sooner than once every five years. AKAU is the perfect destination. Relax, recharge, adventure, thrill. The list goes on. You make the trip what you want it to be, let AKAU handle the rest and you cannot go wrong. They have a saying, “Come as a guest, leave as a friend.” I hope they don’t mind me saying, but I think the word “friend” doesn’t do them justice. It would be better suited as “family;” I could not have asked for better.
GOLD UNEARTHED DURING THE TRIP
A special thanks to everyone at AKAU who made our trip that much more special!
Betty Krutzsch -Johnson
LOOKING OUT INTO THE TUNDRA WITH TWO FRIENDLY FOX THAT COME NEAR GRANDMA BETTY'S CABIN FOR DINNER. PHOTO BY SAM SERVETTER
FROM LEFT TO RIGHT, SAM, AUGIE, DEBBIE, AND BRIAN OUT DETECTING SOME TAILINGS PILES. PHOTO BY MIKE SLATER
Sam Servetter is the Director of Member Relations and can be reached at email@example.com