I think the title of this post might be slightly misleading. When I think of “gold mining” I think of old barefoot, toothless men with beards, crooked backs and pickaxes; or, more recently, I think of the Discovery Channel. Neither of those images paints an accurate picture of the gold “mining” operation that we ran this weekend, but we all do what we have to do for our site SEO.
We had a pretty small scale operation going on. We had been up to the state recreational gold panning site at Resurrection Creek near Hope before, but just for a few hours. At the very end of the few hours, after finding nothing in our pans, we finally moved down river just a little bit, and, Voila! Flakes started appearing. But it was a Sunday and we still had the three hour drive back to Homer looming in front of us, so we had to stifle our gold fever for the moment.
But we didn’t forget about it.
Justin got a sluice box for his birthday (more on that another time… I think I’m going to do another post about HOW exactly to pan for gold but not today), and also made us a classifier by drilling holes in a big metal lid. Then, last Friday, armed with a new arsenal of tools that made us feel a lot more professional about what we were doing (including $11 camp chairs that we picked up at the Wal Mart in Kenai), we headed for the hills once again.
We knew we were taking a chance by leaving late on a Friday night. One thing that I love about Alaska (but that can also be a huge pain in the butt if you want to do anything in solitude) is that EVERYONE loves to do things outside. Every single person has a pair of brown rubber Xtra Tuff boots, a fishing pole, hipboots, a four wheeler, and of course a boat. People really take advantage of the things there are to do here. But that meant that we had to accept that there was a very serious chance that once we reached the campground at the state panning site, there would either be zero camping spaces left, or we would have to fight somebody for one.
As luck would have it (and we really do tend to have luck on our side) there was one camp site open when we arrived. Even luckier, in our eyes it was the best one in the whole campground. I’m still not at all sure why no one else took it. It was nestled off of the road on it’s own little shelf just above the river. The fire pit had a perfect view of the river below and the hill down was covered in fireweed (a bright pink wildflower that grows here). I could have moved in to that camp site.
We had work to do. We dug and shoveled and screened and dumped and panned for hours. It was fun but so tiring!
And holy moly me oh my, I will tell you what, I have never worked so hard for what ended up being about $5 or so. It was worth it because we were outside enjoying the sunshine and getting exercise and just having a good time, but I can’t believe people used to (and still do some places I guess) do that to try to make a living! Now I completely understand why those old bearded miners were toothless and barefoot and hunchbacked.
And this is how we came out in the end. I know it doesn’t look like much, but to me it’s a lot, I was so excited just to see gold in the bottom of my pan at all! We’re going to drive through Chicken, Alaska and the Klondike on our way home (weather permitting) and that’s where the BIG STUFF comes from. So don’t be surprised if you see us on the Discovery Channel sometime on a new show called Gold Rush: Payje and Justin (we tried to make ourselves a celebrity name once, but it doesn’t come out very well- you either get Pustin or Jayje… yuck).
Stay tuned for another post if you want to learn HOW to find gold yourself!