In the Dirt: Clash of the Trommels
By: Dominic Ricci
*For the list of all 2020 Dirt Parties / Digs / Expeditions, scroll to the bottom of this article
Riddle me this, prospector people: What do you get when four high-volume, pay dirt-eating trommels get together to play In-The-Dirt? That’s right! One heck of a carnival…where 25 participants worked hard day after day, feeding all four unique trommels like never before, as much as they could process.
Sometimes joking around causes…
Back in September 2018, LDMA member Rick Denton took me out to his claims in eastern Oregon. He has graciously shared his claims exclusively with LDMA for its members to utilize.
As he shared his mining plan, I joked back that this would be a perfect place to have a few people out and mine like back in the day if George “Buzzard” Massie, our founder, was still around. Get a small group of people, the right equipment, and the excitement of gold!
The two of us planted the seed of the idea. In the next few weeks, it grew into reality. Digger’s Expedition – Clash of the Trommels!
We would work inside the scope of Rick’s “Plan of Operation,” but would ask the BLM (Bureau of
Land Management) for permission to have three more trommels for the one-week event. They approved and it was time to promote it to the GPAA-LDMA network of members.
Wait, I need big trommels! Rick had his “Junk Yard Dog” ready to use, so that was one down, three more to go.
The next conversation was with Jim and Pam Haney, LDMA caretakers at Burnt River Camp, since the Expedition site was 9 miles down the road from their camp. If this was going to happen, I needed help, and who better than the Haneys since this was going to happen in their “backyard” and the Burnt River Dirt Party – Common Dig was going to happen the week after the Clash.
We talked about the right equipment for digging and hauling the pay dirt. They would line it up. Then I dropped the trommel Bomb on them…“How about bringing your trommel (the Grey Ghost Trommel) out to be one of the big trommels?” They agreed. Two down and two to go.
That brought me to a thought (scary, I know)! LDMA member Bradley Dover from Georgia had been working on a big trommel, testing, improving and most importantly…braggin’! I called Brad and explained what I was putting together. I didn’t finish explaining and he interrupted me with a “Hell, yes! I’m in!…and the AuDraggin (his trommel) is in, too!”
We could get away with three big trommels, but what if one broke down? Three down and one more to go.
Calls came in with people offering their trommel, but they were not big enough for what was needed. I even had one person say they were going to fabricate one from scratch.
A month later, while at the Stanton Dirt Party, LDMA member Fred Dickinson brought out one of his trommels for the common operation. Two days into the Dirt Party I asked Fred, “How would you like to bring your trommel to Eastern Oregon to battle three other trommels?”
After I gave Fred a few details, and the other trommels’ names, he said, “Ahh…Cyclops and I will be there!”
Four big trommels down, 25 participants to go!
Over the next seven-plus months, I promoted that the trommels were going to chew up material and spit the gold out. Which trommel would capture the most gold? The smack talk started…and it was fun.
Just like in the movie “Field of Dreams”—“If you build it, they will come”—people started signing up for The Clash of the Trommels.
It’s Gold Time…
The first (yes, I said first) backhoe was delivered to the site a few days before the Clash was to start. A day and a half in it stopped working. Wait for the new backhoe to be delivered. Rick and Jim got the settling ponds dug and then it came down to diggin’ pay dirt.
Ronnie and Mike start the bucket brigade. »
We rented a dump truck to bring the pay dirt down the hill from the dig site to the processing site. PROBLEM! The hill was too steep for the dump truck to make it up. Are you kidding me?!
It would take 45 minutes for the backhoe to go up to the dig site, get a scoop, and make it back to the Clash site. That wasn’t going to work.
What do prospectors do when the “pocket” runs out (in this case challenging to get the pocket pay dirt to the trommels)? We went prospecting and found a few new areas. They tested good so we started running the new pay dirt.
The “smack” talk was present, and some had their favorite trommel to work on and some shifted from one to another.
What I saw happen after months of smack talk was if something went wrong with one trommel, it didn’t matter whose, but it was fixed. Tools and parts were being shared.
At the end of Day 2, we decided to let one of the participants take his UTV and trailer up to the original dig site to fill buckets with the pay dirt and bring it down for processing. The “bucket brigade” started.
The material up on that hill was so much better. Day 3 the participants decided to get two full-size trucks going up to bring down 40plus buckets at a time. That meant a team of people shoveling into buckets, lifting them into the bed of the truck, and filling more buckets for the next truck.
Why would they do this? The gold was good, and people were motivated.
John and Nanette Mathis, caretakers from LDMA Stanton Camp, didn’t want to miss this event so John
2019 Clash of the Trommels 4.15 ounces » offered to come up and
help in any way they could: “Our belief is to make sure our members have a great time. This was an amazing area for the Clash. I spent a day looking over the ground and getting information from Rick, the claim owner, and Jim Haney. I took all the information and started to prospect for more pay. I dug up an area on a hill that ended up being an ancient riverbed. After testing the pay layer, it was phenomenal. It was some of the best I've seen in a long time. With four trommels running and all the participants working together, I knew we needed an abundance of pay dirt!”
Was it really a CLASH?
What most think when the word “clash” is used is 1) to fight or argue; 2) a hostile encounter; or 3) to battle.
What I witnessed at the Clash of the Trommels was really revealed toward the end of the week— Team of Trommels!
Everyone worked together, helping each other, filling in Wherever needed. Sharing tools, parts, and laughs.
It was an opportunity to see four totally different trommel set-ups in action. Two trommels could run a few yards of material a day, and two could run a lot more!
Fred Dickinson, owner of Cyclops, shared, “What got me excited was the competition between the trommels. Seeing them side by side. Running a much higher volume of material than we can go out and dig up ourselves is exciting.”
Participants were tired and worn out. They were working eight-plus hours a day in the dirt. When it came to the last day, we were only going to work the morning so there would be time to clean up and start the reclamation process. Half the participants went to breakfast extra early so they could be running pay dirt an hour early.
Participants running the Junk Yard Dawg »
Was the gold worth it?
There was an 0.89-gram nugget, a 0.71-gram nugget and a 0.59-gram nugget unearthed in the Clash, along with a lot of chunky gold and fines gold. When you weighed it all up, there was 4.15 ounces of beautiful, delicious gold recovered.
Participants came from Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado, New Hampshire and Georgia.
I do believe the memories outweigh the gold that was recovered, but the gold is a great second.
Sorry you missed it? See what Digger has planned for next year…
Participants running Cyclopes
Not only are we going to bring back the Clash, but we are headed to the desert for a little mayhem. These will both be one-week intensive mining adventures, and you can sign up for multiple weeks … if you think you can handle it.
Team - AuDraggin »
Desert Mayhem – Stanton, AZ
Week #1 – May 16-23
Week #2 – May 23-30
Clash of the Trommels – Burnt River, OR
Week #1 – June 13-20
Week #2 – June 20-27 Interested?
If you want to be a part of any of Digger’s 2020 Expeditions, call Digger’s Hotline at 888GOLD(4653)-717 and get registered.
This is the real deal, real prospecting, a lot of pay dirt to process, and real fun! We have all the equipment you will need for an exciting adventure!
Hope to see you out In-The-Dirt and sitting around the campfire!
ALL DIRT PARTIES FOR 2020
Dominic Ricci is the Executive Director of Operations for GPAA/LDMA and can be reached at 800-5519707, ext. 163, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.