Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spring Time at the Gold Mine

Spring has finally come to the mid-Atlantic. Spring's timing worked out perfectly for a long anticipated trip my prospecting club had been planning for a number of months now. Anna was more than ready for the task.

About 20 of us headed south to Thermal City Gold Mine in western North Carolina. I was astounded by the great turnout we had. Considering half of our active members made the 1000 mile round trip journey, 20 is a great turn,out. 

Our first full day, Friday, turned out to be a rainy one. Almost all of us went up to the panning troughs to try our luck. It takes a serious amount of luck to pull gold from the dirt they supply. In one pan there would be 4 or 5 nice sized flakes, getting everyone excited to keep panning. The next twenty pans would lead to not even a speck. Personally I found four specks out of 50+ pans. I didn't have the luck to pull out a pan from the pile where the gold had been put. Sorry, I know that sounds like I am saying the pile was salted. I feel it had been. All the gold found in the troughs was the exact same size. It was either a large flat tear drop or a very fine speck. I think the latter was native, but the flake gold was just too consistent in size and shape. When the gold was found, everyone got a new wind and kept on panning even though the inclination was to go drink a beer at the campsite or take a nap.

Ramero was in hog heaven, or maybe rockhound heaven. There are lots of rocks to look at. I was, however, only looking for the ones that glowed yellow.

Ramero was not the only rockhound there. Carrie and Ben took home a number of gems to add to their collection.

Anna made for a great base camp for three of us hearty miners. Breakfast was served from under her awning. Saturday night we had a cookout, too.

Most of us were there to get some gold. William and Ben spent a good deal of their time running screened material through their sluice boxes. Both of them seemed to be grinning a great deal even though it was hard work.

Many of us ran the unscreened dirt through our high bankers. Overall, this material had the greatest yield for the dollar. The mine sells it by the scoop and dumps it for you on their beach where you can process it however you chose to. 

This photo was taken later in the day on Saturday after most people had cleared out already. At 9 am, the beach was elbow to elbow with hopeful miners. Everyone was hoping to find that one giant nugget the miners of the 1800's had left behind. This entire area had been worked heavily back then. Mining started here on a commercial scale before the 1849 California rush occurred. Lured by the stories of immense riches in California, most North Carolina miners dropped everything and headed west. 

Mike was hoping that he had a giant nugget in this high bank. Like everyone else he came very close to breaking even on the cost of dirt versus current gold values.

This is my take for the weekend. I know many of you are thinking it: not all gold in the pan. Much of the gold recovered is coated in mercury. It escaped the amalgamation process back in the day and is now being collected back out. One of the greatest things about finding gold is that no one has ever seen it before. You are the very first one ever. However, in this case, you are the second person to see the gold. The first guy seeing it was only focused on the big stuff and he was sloppy enough to allow some to remain for us today. Gold is where you find it. Gold is also where others have found it before.