By Sandy Waldie
We had 54 New 49’er members participating on this particular group gold mining project. While this was not as many people as we had on the previous weekend project , they were every bit as enthusiastic and excited as those in the earlier group.
Saturday morning started out at the Lions Club facility in Happy Camp to hear Dave Mack talk about gold, how to find it, where to look for it, its properties, and mostly about how to follow a simple sampling plan in search of rich gold deposits. Since the majority of those who attended were new to the whole mining experience, this led to many questions during the talk. As always, Dave’s presentation held everyone captivated until it was time to break for lunch.
After lunch, we all headed out to K-15A. This is one of the Club’s (many) productive mining properties. We had already done really well out there few weeks ago on a project with over 100 people. So it seemed wise to return to the same location.
Once we arrived there, Dave and his experienced helpers divided everyone into four separate groups, each with their own team leader setting the pace. Then we all launched into a carefully-coordinated sampling program.
Dave really stresses that knowing how to gold pan well is essential to an accurate sampling program. Therefore, several experienced helpers were positioned by the river exclusively to teach and critique anyone who needed help with their panning technique. When the helpers felt comfortable that everyone had a good basic understanding and sufficient practice in panning, those people were plugged into the ongoing sampling program. Pretty soon, everyone was helping to move the sampling program along. With so many people helping, there was an overwhelming sense that we were going to find something really good.
By sampling, I mean that the team leaders were comparing the results of pan tests that were being made in numerous small holes up and down the (very large) gravel bar. Seeing where the better results were coming from, they would then ask others to do more testing in those areas; and step-by-step, they were able to follow the traces of gold into high-grade gold deposits. This is a process which is very valuable to watch play out; because it gives you first-hand knowledge and increases your confidence that you can then go out and find high-grade gold deposits on your own.
Dave Mack and the New 49’ers are very lucky to have so many experienced members that are willing to participate in these weekend outings and show others how to prospect. There must have been at least a dozen helpers out there guiding the sample program along.
Because we had already done so well here, we started sampling in the same general areas that had been worked on the previous project. Once again, long-time member and experienced prospector, Craig Colt (known around the Club as “The Nose“, because some say he can smell gold) almost immediately started bringing up good results out of one area. That particular location was also an excellent place to demonstrate for beginners what hard-pack streambed is, and how to see the difference between storm layers, loose material, sand and the tailings from earlier mining activity. As Dave Mack stressed during his talk, the main key in sampling for high-grade deposits is in knowing that most gold concentrates either on the top or the bottom of hard-packed layers of streambed. Here follows an explanation on video which was given out there by very experienced prospector, Dave Beatson, from New Zealand:
Several other areas were being sampled by the other team leaders and their crews also turned up good results. By late afternoon on Saturday, we were already setting up the high-bankers so they would be ready to go on Sunday morning. We like to end off out there by around 4 pm on Saturday afternoon. This allows everyone some time to clean up and pull something together for potluck on Saturday evening. Most of us walked away at the end of the first day with smiles, with some gold in our sniffer bottles from pan-testing, and plenty of excitement about what the next day would yield from the gold deposits we had found. Some people stayed behind to keep panning, perhaps until dark!
As always, our potluck gathering at the Lions Hall on Saturday evening was lots of fun for everyone, and there was plenty of great food.
Sunday morning, I arrived out on K-15A at 8:15 am,
early I thought, only to find over half the group already there and working hard. Almost all of 100+ buckets were already full of pay-dirt and waiting to be loaded into the high-bankers – which were already running. Boy, were things in high gear!
Long time members, Rich & Connie Krimm, were supervising one team. Also, very experienced and long time member, Lee Kracher had a second team in full production. They were working a deposit of gold side-by-side. Their groups had actually started at 7:15 am on Sunday morning. WOW, talk about enthusiasm!!
Another long time member and very experienced miner, Ray Derrick’s team was also busy working the high-grade deposit which Craig and Dave Beatson had confirmed on Saturday. Here follows a video segment with Ray’s explanation of what they were doing:
Otto Gaither’s team was also working the same gold deposit. Here is what Otto had to say:
Between all the discussion, laughter and some moans and groans, the buckets were filled (only half full to keep the weight down), carried and loaded into the high-bankers, and then carried back empty to be filled over and over again. The weather even co-operated by being a bit hazy and keeping the sun from parboiling us.
Luckily, one of the high-grade pay-streaks we were working was under the shade of a big tree. So that’s where nearly everyone congregated when it was time to sit down for a break.
When we stopped for lunch, we all had our first look at what all the morning’s effort had produced. Clean-up was only done on one of the high-banker scalpers. Wow, we were doing pretty good! Here follows a video sequence of team leader, Richard Krimm, cleaning out the scalper-section of his high-banker:
Seeing all that gold in the black gold pan was more than enough to overcome our aches and pains. Some people were already up and filling buckets again even before I finished my sandwich!
We like to end off out in the field at about 2:30 pm on Sunday afternoon. This allows us plenty of time to back-fill our excavations, put up the gear and get back into town where we can do a final clean-up of the gold and split the gold evenly amongst all the participants.
After the concentrates were removed from the high-bankers, they were carefully fed through a green “Le Trap” gold sluice to remove a large portion of the black iron sands.Oohs and Aahs could be heard throughout the group that was observing the process. The gold was looking really good, and anticipation was high for the final clean-up when we returned to town.
Once all the holes from the digs were filled in and the debris picked up and packed out, we headed back to Happy Camp where we would complete the final clean up and split. A “Gold Extractor” was set up in the shade at the Lions Club. The purpose of this device is to separate even more of the black iron sand from the gold. Afterwards, the final concentrates were dried, and the mixture of black sand and gold was poured into some clean-up screens. These screens separated the gold into 10, 12, 20, 30 & 40-mesh sizes, which then enabled the black sand to be blown away rather easily — leaving only the gold.
We ended up with a total weight of about one ounce, along with two very nice nuggets. This was then split up between the 54 people who had participated on Sunday’s dig. There were a lot of smiles and looks of satisfaction. A lot of these people had never even mined before. Now they were receiving their first golden reward. By the looks on their faces, it would not be their last.
Here follows a video sequence which captured the spirit of all the fun and excitement we share together on these weekend projects:
After hugs, exchanges of phone numbers, and promises to keep in touch, everyone headed on their way. Many people were talking about how much fun they had and how much they had learned over the weekend. There were several who said they would be back for the next weekend group mining project, as well.