4 for a Tenth!

Although the Lake Havasu weather has continued to be unseasonably warm (70′s – 80′s), the gold has been hiding!  As the title suggests, the last four outings to the local Bison area, has yielded a measly 1/10 of a gram!  During those 4 outings I must have moved over 3 yards of dirt for what comes out to be about $4.00 for my efforts!  After all is said and done, I got out of the house and did some serious exercising, which I really needed!  Because of the gorgeous sunny days, I’m starting to get a bit of tan on my face too!

Today began with some metal detecting in an area significantly outside the gold-bearing 1 mile radius in the Bison wash area.  On previous tips, I had noticed an old claim marker and the telltale cobblestones, exposed bedrock and scattered quartz on the hillside, all prompting this prospecting effort.  After just minutes, 12 guage buckshot shells were blasting off on the other side of a ridge, so I knew I was safe, but definitely shortened my detecting efforts!  After digging up several bullet fragments, it was time to head back to my most bountiful location in Bison, The Big Hill.

gold prospecting in lake havasu

Samurai parked on Big Hill

Since I had the metal detector with me, I figured I’d go over my previous tailings from the last couple trips at the base of Big Hill, to see if I missed anything.  After all, my buddy Chad found his biggest picker to date by doing this.  By the way, he found a 3 gram nugget in his tailings by swiping my Goldbug2 over his tailings.  I did not have very good luck, as all I found was more ammunition!  I put the Samurai in 4WD and headed up the steep, jagged trail to my most fruitful digging spot from the past.  I unloaded, setup my drywasher on one of my old giant tailings piles and began digging and digging and digging.  All-in-all, I dug 4 different locations, totalling 30 5 gallon buckets, and found flour gold in 2 of them.  Today’s efforts netted me only half a tenth, combined with that same amount, still in the vial, from my last 3 subpar outings, to account for today’s monumental cleanup 1/10 of a gram!   Once again, it was a beautiful, sunny, upper 70′s day and I got some great excersise!  Beats the hell out of the day my Chicago area friends witnessed today!

Diggin’ The Havasu Winter!

After this weeknd’s exhbiting of my wood jewelry and turned bowls and vases , I was anxious to make it back out to the Bison area for some prospecting. I decided to go back to the very first place I found gold, over 3 years ago…the base of the “Big Hill”. This is an area beneath a well dug and vacuumed red rock hillside, one where it is nothing but exposed bedrock all the way down. When it flattens out at the base of the hill, there are many little twisting and turning tributaries from this hill and 3 or 4 others. Lots of red clay in the little “creek beds” too. My first two trips of this season were to this area, but despite those trips being less than average (only a tenth of a gram or less!), I thought this time I’d try applying more out-of-the-box thinking.

Through time, where these multiple hillside gullies have washed down, mounds of dirt have been created in the middle, in a sort of catch-basin style, before the “creek bed” made any abrubt turns. I figured this mounded area would be a good place to start. There was no immediate evidence that anyone in recent years had dug there and luckily, there was only about 6″ of overburden to clear before I started to get to the clay layer on top of the bedrock. I cut a space about 6′ x 8′ and about 18″ deep. I figure I moved about 2/3 of a yard before hit bedrock, then emptied the riffle try of its concentrates, and headed to my wash-up station. This is comprised of a 5 gallon bucket that carried my water that functions as my seat and a plastic tub. I usually turn on the Samurai’s stereo at this time, to give me music to pan to. It was yet another unseasonably warm day this Havasu winter (sunny and in the 70′s), albeit, a bit windy, but when I recall how much my Chicago-area friends have been bitchin’ this winter, I was more able to enjoy the day, as I panned the black sand, hoping for some yellow.

The first cleanout did reveal some micro-fine specks. Although it was encouraging my out-of-the-box process did yield some gold, it was not enough to contiue on in that spot, nor did it warrant setting up the vac. Onto the next spot in this area.

The next spot was where the rocky hillside made it’s first turn into the flattened out “creek bed” area, right on the inside of the turn and up the wall or “bench” as I’ve heard it been called, where any potential trapped gold could have settled. This spot and my 3rd cut on the inside of turn down the creek a bit, yielded only about a dozen or so micro specs. By this time, I must have moved close to a yard of dirt and rocks and yielded a disappointing less thana tenth of a gram of gold! Since my digging time has been extremely limited this season, I am not in good digging shape, thus leaving me quite sore and out of energy after about 3 hours of digging. That combined with the piss-poor results, and the sun starting to set, it was an easy decision to pack it up.

I decided to do some off-roading a bit to checkout old spots, especially atop the Big Hill. There was no evidence of anyone extending any of my previouis spots there, conversely, many of the areas showed signs of filling in after heavy rains that happened many months ago. Since I was already up to this high spot on the trail, I figured I’d take the trail on the ridge line for the first time ever, to see how it was. Once on the high ridge trail, there is no turning back, because it is barely wide enough for my little Samurai and filled with treaturous dip and turns. This became more evident as I ventured forward and came to the first rise where I couold not see what lied beyond it! This is usually pretty scary, because beyond the peak couold go straight ahead or make an abrupt turn, one where if you did’t see it, could land you at the bottom of the valley below, 100 plus feet down, in a crumpled mess! I made it through this pass, which did end up going straight ahead, then down to an abrubt right, substantially banked turn, where my right wheels straddled the crumbling edge, where if miscalculated, would result in another 100+ foot tumble. I had to continue on, without hesitation, because momentum is your friend in these banked turns, high atop a crumbling mountainside! I finally made it off this trail, that ended up on the main trail to the main digging areas, just in front of the entrance to my old “Swimming Pool” spot and almost had to check my shorts, but after all that, I can say I did it and will never do it again! Nothing like a bit of adventure!

Because I ended up where I did, I thought I’d get out and hike around this old familiar area to look for my next prospecting spot. I saw my old, numerous giant holes and snowbird Tom’s old spots and it looked like noone else had touched them. After all, these areas have been dug extensively! I then came upon a couple areas in close proximity to these spots where noone had dug since I’ve been prospecting. I now have my next destinations ready for digging.

 

I’m Back!

After a long absence, I have been able to find a bit of time to hit the desert a couple times and pick up where I left off last spring.  First off, this is what I have been up to since my last post: etsy.com/shop/donburdadesign.  I have been designing and fabricating wooden jewelry (with and without stone inlay) and turning bowls and vases on the lathe.  Have a look, the wife might enjoy my work!

Enough with shameless self promotion and onto my last two outings.

My first trip was to the spot where I left my half bucket last June.  To my surprise, it was still there!  Looks like being on top of a steep hillside was deturrent enough for anyone to dig in my previous excavations.  This spot had produced a few grams in the past, so I thought I’d give it another shot.  While plunging my shovel into a gulley wall, I looked down into the dirt and saw something moving.

severed baby rattler

severed baby rattler

After moving some dirt aside, I quickly recognized what it was wiggling around…a baby rattler that was awakened from hibernation by my shovel severing its body, almost completely in half!  There was nothing I could do except to toss it into a neighboring sandy wash and hope it recovered.

The day was gorgeous, sunny, in the 70′s and after spending the holidays in Chicago, a welcome change of pace!  I moved just

fine gold

typical return

short of a yard of dirt that day that yeilded a quantity of fines so small, that I didn’t even bother to weigh it.  After loading up the Samurai, I decided that it was finally time to move on from this gold-producing spot and look for another, so I hiked up the gulley one more time and after nearly 6 months, removed my half bucket from its hole and chucked it in the back of the Samurai.  Time to move on!  Yes, this spot had produced about 3-4 grams of gold, but an average outing was maybe 1 to 2 tenths of a gram, in exchange for moving close to a yard of dirt and about 4 hours of time, each time.  Based on curent spot for gold, that’s about $3 to $4 per tenth for all that effort, which amounts to what…$1.00 per hour for the punishing hard labor on my 53 year old body!

Second outing of 2014 took me to new spot near my best gold bearing location of all time, The Big Hill.  I drove the Samurai around back of the foot of the Big HIll,

Samurai in new spot for gold prospecting

Samurai in new spot

past a spot wahere I found my very first gold.  I set up the dry washer on the only semi-flat bit of ground near the gulley, which meant I was going to have to bucket brigade my dirt to it!  Not my favorite set of circumstances, but I needed the excercise!   After a 6 month hiatus, it was comforting to see the old home made drywasher and leaf blower working flawlessly!  I guess maintaining the blower every couple outings has paid off!  After a 5 bucket sampling, it was time to run the dirt through the dry washer, then pan out the cons.

gold in the pan

color in the pan

I was please to find some color, and was encouraged to continue on in this new spot.  Through the course of this outing, I moved about 30 buckets of dirt, a bit shy of an entire yard and recovered a measly 1 to 1.5 tenths of a gram.  Yeah, same old, same old!  But…once again, it was a beautiful day, sunny, in the 70′s in January and…I needed the excercise!  After a couple washouts that yielded onlu a small amount of color, albeit, a couple small pickers in the process, I felt compelled to venture out to adjacent gulleys, just to have a look around.  So I carried my pick, shovel and a couple buckets to a nearby spot that was full of black sand in a little valley of a gulley.   Sounds like a perfect spot…right?

gold from day 2, 2014

gold from day 2, 2014

Well this just goes to prove that gold is never where it is supposed to be, in fact, it’s just further proof that gold is where you find it!  This photo to the right is a shot of what I recovered from my second day of prospecting, 2014.   Once again, back-breaking labor for tiny reward.  Only someone with gold fever would go back for more!  Guess I’ll be back! ;)

Man, It’s Hot!

It’s consistently in the 100-teens in Lake Havasu and there’s no escaping it.  Night time lows are in the upper 80′s, low 90′s, so waking up at the crack of dawn and getting to the dig site by 6:00 am has little-to-no advantage.

placer gold, fine gold with pickers

4/10 of a gram and 112 degrees!

So it figures that on what just might be my last prospecting trip of the season, due to extreme heat,  I have a very good outing…for me.  I ended the 4+ hour gold digging adventure with 4/10 of a gram!  Lots of fines and 6 little pickers!   One tenth of a  gram an hour certainly works for me!  With monsoon season just around the corner, bringing with it high humidity (60% humidity is  high for Arizona, especially when  it’s in the 100-teens), it will be tough to make it back into the desert to continue on with a fruitful new placer gold spot, that has, to date, yielded over 3 grams!  I am certainly gold bug bitten, but I hate to admit that the common sense bug will probably prevail.  We’ll see how long the extreme temps can keep me away from a nice gold producing spot.  I’m also very curious to see if leaving behind my bucket with a big rock on top deters others from digging in my well-excavated gully.  I hope desert prospecting courtesy works!  To date, I have surpassed my 2012 totals and I still have 6 months left until the end of the year.  This is shaping up to be my best year yet!  I suppose this is evidence that experience is the best teacher!  I’m sure I have made close to 100, if not slightly more, gold prospecting trips since I began in late 2010.

Hot Prospecting

I had no work booked for the day, so I planned to wake up early and head out to my new spot and see what happened.  But first I had to replace my home made drywasher’s fan bearing, despite it being a “sealed bearing”!  I also had to service some of the hardware on the riffle box, due to all the shakin’, rattlin’ & rollin’ it has been doing this year.

Because we in Lake Havasu are now in the 100′s from now until late September, one needs to start digging around 6 am to have enough time to dig before it gets too hot.  This time of year, the early morning temps are still in the upper 70′s, so until that changes, (morning temps will eventually only get down into the 90′s), I’ll keep digging.

desert prospecting is hot and dusty

Dusty and hot!

The only issue I have in my current new spot, which is atop a series of gullies, fully exposed to gusty wind, is when the wind does start blowing from random directions, the dust from my drywasher sometimes blows right in my direction.  When I’m digging and sweating, the windblown dust sticks to any exposed skin.  In a matter of minutes, you have a caked-on layer of dirt!  So far this new spot has yielded over 2 grams of placer gold and even a few nice pickers, which have been pretty scarce this season.  So the price I pay (hot, sweaty, dusty, etc) is almost worth it…almost.  Spending on average 4-5 hours digging gold and coming back with an average of 2-3 tenths of a gram really does not constitute being worthwhile, but, as any placer gold prospector can attest, you never know when you’re going to find a nugget.

Sweaty and dusty placer gold prospecting

Sweaty and dusty

Maybe today will be that day?

As the morning  progressed, I did my usual routine, which entails processing about 8 – 10 buckets of dirt from more than location in my current gully, then walking the bucket of concentrates down the hill to my little base-camp, where my ice-filled cooler of Powerade, and water await, as well as my pan and tub of water. After digging and drywashing for an hour stretch up in the gully, in the hot desert sun, I like to turn on the stereo in my Samurai and pan to the music!  The first couple washouts yielded the normal multiple bits of flour gold per pan, which isn’t a bad thing, but you always think that the next pan will have one of those elusive little pickers that we all desire!

Since I’ve visited this new spot about half a dozen times so far, I had only found one nice picker amongst the normal bunch of fines, so I realized that finding more would be rare.   These trips are really noting more than filler trips, where I intend only to add to my total of gold.  During the third washout round, there it was, voila, a nice picker poked its head out of the black sand in the pan.

Another nice picker

Another nice picker

Finally!  Finding this new picker was a good boost to my ego as well as my motivation to continue on as the morning advanced near the noon hour, in which the sun is at its peak, bringing with it 100+ degree temperatures!  I had one bottle of Powerade left and with renewed motivation, I trudged back up the hill for the 5th and final time of the morning, in search of another picker.  I convinced myself to dig up more buckets of pay dirt than usual to finish off a productive day with hopefully more pickers.  The effort did indeed payoff, rewarding me with two more pickers!  Not as large as the first one, but they made my sweaty, dust-caked face smile.  the day ended up producing 3+ tenths of a gram.  With the price of gold falling below $1400.00 per ounce, not many reasonable humans would consider that total worth the extreme effort, but to anyone bitten by the Gold Bug, such as I have been, this is a good day!

Today as I write this, our temps topped 110 degrees in Lake Havasu, AZ, and my boat lettering business, Don Burda Design has increased, so I’m not sure how many more posts I’ll be able to write until things cool off a bit.  I can guarantee that in the last few outings of the season, I find something to brag about, you’ll see it posted here!

New pickers!

Still very warm (98 degrees) in the desert, so yesterday I got off to another early start to my new location that has so far, produced 7/10 of a gram in 3 trips.  Instead of hauling my gear up to the gullies origin, where the source quartz veins are exposed, I decided to carry on digging in the very bottom gully that had about a foot of flood overburden on it.  I could see where it narrowed into an impasse, right before it dumped out into a wash tributary.  There was only about 6 feet left to dig before that point, so I had at it.  During my first wash-out, I looked in the distance to see another Samurai that looked exactly like mine.  Even had black custom tubular bumpers!  The guy and his little chihuahua came over for a visit and it turns out he was just getting into desert prospecting.  He said he was from UT and he had some experience with dredging the rivers there, but still had not picked up a dry washer for proper desert prospecting.  As I panned out my concentrates, a few specks of gold appeared.  The next pan revealed the same.  I could see in his eyes that the gold bug was about to bite him.

He followed me into where I was dry washing and continued to watch.  After a couple hopper loads, he had had enough of the desert blowing off my riffle tray and into his face and took off, stating how he just had to buy a dry washer!  I believed him!  Had he stuck around, he would have seen the results of my second washout, which included two new pickers,

pickers in the pan!

pickers in the pan!

one of which must have weighed 1/10 of a gram!  If he hadn’t already been driven to buy a dry washer, this surely would have pushed him over the top!  I shoveled out & panned a few more hopper’s full of gully pay-dirt, all producing some flour gold, then proceeded to vacuum out the remains down to bedrock.  I even vacuumed up the sides of the gullies, because I knew much of the gold had fallen from the source quartz vein above.  Logically, I thought, some gold should have been trapped along the way down, right?  If it did, it must have been dug up in years past, because not a single speck of gold was there!  Since I had exhausted the pay dirt in the bottom of this gully and it was now past noon and 98 degrees, with one bottle of Powerade remaining, I decided to haul my gear back up near the source quartz veins, to continue digging down to where I just was.  This leaves nearly 25 yards of gully to excavate, but I was hopeful to add to my gold take for the day, before I had to leave.

My last trip up there had yeilded 2/10 of a gram, but I discovered an interesting clue relating to where the gold was most likely to be found.  This gully has about a foot of overburden lying on top of it, plenty of cobblestones AND…the source quartz vein was only about 20 yards from where I was digging.  Pretty good odds!  I had dug along the side walls, thinking that before water flow had carved this gully, it must have scattered placer gold somewhere along the way.  However, the only side wall that had any gold in it was where it made an elbow.  So I started to dig in the gully, down to the caliche and through to the bedrock.  I dug up 4 rounds of of pay dirt, creating 4 riffle trays full of concentrate, then closed up shop for the day.  It was already too hot and I was almost out of hydration

3-10-13 gold prospecting outing

new pickers!

.  This last round from up in the gully did produce more gold.  Albeit, only flour gold, but it topped off the day’s totals nicely, ultimately amounting to 3/10 of a gram, which, by my standards, was a nice day, even nicer, because I had a few new pickers, including one very nicer picker, to add to my collection!  To date, this new spot has yielded another gram to add to my total, which is now 21 grams, as you can see by the nifty bar graph, off in the right margin.  I left my bucket in the gully and hope the new guy with a matching Samurai, doesn’t end up exploiting my new find!

Havasu Heats Up

This time of year, our temps start touching the 100′s, which means prospecting season is coming to an end…until fall.  Today I had no work booked, so I packed up my gear and headed to my local digging spot, here in Lake Havasu, AZ, all before 7 am!  I had tested out a new spot Saturday morning that had yielded 2/10 of a gram so I headed back to that spot today.  This new spot is in a series of gullies, all having plenty of “cobblestones” scattered all over the hillsides, where bedrock is randomly exposed.

gully for placer gold prospecting

gullies in the hillsides in lake havasu, arizona

All the classic signs that make the presence of gold more likely. What also made it likely were the remnants of former tailing piles.  I had previously dug down to the bottom of an elbow of a gully and vacuumed down to the bedrock to gather my 2/10 of a gram.  I still had loads of overburden further downhill, into the inside part of an “elbow”, so I figured there might still be some gold left for me today.  After running several hoppers full of dirt and panning the concentrates, I only had a couple small specks of gold.  Not very encouraging, to say the least!  I started to look around the gullies and saw many of their origins at the top of each hillside, had plenty of the “cobblestones” present.  I looked for likely places to begin prospecting and picked a spot where the path of the gully had an elbow

on top of gulley, placer gold

on top of gulley

as well as a leveled off section, where the water, as it made its way down the gully, could slow down and allow the placer gold to be caught up in the bedrock or accumulations of gravel and / or clay.  Since my dry washer was still setup at the bottom of the gully, I lugged my pick, shovel and 3 buckets up the hill and started breaking through the clusters of crusted together cobblestones.  After filling three buckets with overburden, I lugged them back down to my dry washer and started to run the new dirt.  After panning the concentrates, I was pleasantly surprised that there was a fair amount of color.  Enough to motivate me to pack up the dry washer and its wooden stand and hike it up to the most level spot on top of the gully.  At this point, it was around noon and the temps were already around 100 degrees and I had only one full bottle of Powerade remaining!

gold in the pan

gold in the pan

I was able to process three more rounds of concentrates and ended up having nice pans, all having multiple pieces each.  The photo to the left is a typical pan from today.  Unfortunately for me, no pickers were present, but I knew I had acquired a nice new amount of gold to add to my 2013 total!  By now it was nearly 2 pm and the sun was at its peak hot-ness.  Despite wearing my new swap-meet straw hat, which did keep the sun off my face and neck, I was out of Powerade and water and I was pretty beat from all the digging and walking up and down the hillside numerous times, so I had to call it a day.  Once arriving home, I had a look at a thermometer I had hanging in my back porch, which is in the shade.  It was 103 in the shade, meaning it was obviously hotter in the direct sun, where I was digging!  I left a bucket in a hole where I was finding the gold and since it’s in a pretty difficult place to get in to, I feel confident no one will happen to discover it and exploit my progress.

After drying out the gold, it weighed in at 3/10 of a gram, which for me, based on past outings, equates to a good day.

3/10 of a gram of gold

3/10 of a gram of gold

Since the weather pattern is evolving into steady 100 degree days, I will need to wake up early to dig from this point forward and finish in the early afternoon.  Digging days are definitely numbered, so I feel kind of lucky to have found what appears to be a new, fruitful spot, near the end of the season!

Back to Gold Basin

The gold gods have not been smiling on my recent Lake Havasu prospecting trips. My favorite spots have not been producing much gold and I was even skunked on one trip! Since I have a GSSN membership (Gold Searchers of Southern Neveda), I figured I might as well try my luck out there again. After all, my best prospecting trip ever came out there, this past December. I was completely aware that hooking the tow bar to my Samurai and pulling it over 100 miles one way with my 1975 GMC van would cost me about $100.00 in gas and food, but based on the last trip’s results, 2+ grams, I thought I’d give it another shot.

GMC van and Samurai caravan

GMC van and Samurai caravan

Plus, the last spot I dug in Gold Basin produced nearly half a gram in only a couple hours, so I felt confident that the same spot, amongst a 160 acre claim, would remain untouched 4 months later…right? The night before my journey, I thought I’d have a look at the weather forecast for this part of Arizona. I was leaving on a Sunday morning, where the forecast for the Dolan Springs, AZ area was sunny and in the upper 80′s, but…wind would be picking up that evening and possible strong winds would be prevalent the following day, Monday. The gold bug was really biting me, so I took the gamble and headed to the mountains for a scheduled 2 day, one night adventure.

Upon arrival to the usual campsite, I ran into one of the Dolan Springs guys I met last December, Tony. He pulled out his vial that contained gold from the last couple days of his prospecting. He had a nice little nugget and what appeared to be at least a gram of fines. This was encouraging, so I quickly excused myself, unhooked my Samurai from the tow bar, loaded up my prospecting gear and headed back toward my last prosperous spot from December.

Once I arrived, it was clear others had been digging there! What did I expect? By this time, it was already noon, so I decided that rather than waste more time looking for a new spot to dig, I’d take my chances where I was. I loaded up the dry washer many times, until I had a half bucket’s worth of concentrates to pan out. I began to pan and instantly saw many tiny bits of flour gold. This was not the best news, because these extremely small bits of gold required a much longer amount of time to collect from the abundant black sand. The more-than-average amount of black sand also contributed to a much longer time to recover the flour gold! Despite finding gold, this was not shaping up to be a great day! I could see that this was going to be challenging, to say the least! As the day continued and the sun beat down, I went through 3 bottles of Powerade and a small bottle of water. By this time, I had determined that I would not waste time panning out the gold, rather, keep on collecting concentrates from the dry washer, then pan it out in the evening. By this time, I was not pleased with how things were going at this location and was out of hydration, so I headed back up to the campsite, to replenish my stock of Powerade.

Once there, Tony was hanging around, chatting with a guy who appeared to be living in his pickup truck with a camper shell. I had previously spoken with him and he eluded to the fact that he did not have any prospecting gear. I found this curious, but had no time to ponder this anomaly, because of my desire to find some gold. I mentioned where I was digging to Tom and how I spotted the little tributary washes that emptied into the main wash near where I had been digging and he stated he had done pretty well there. So I drove back to the general part of the valley where I had been digging to setup in one of these tributary washes. By this time, it was nearing 6 pm and there was only about an hour or so of daylight left, so I put it in second gear and started processing dirt as fast as I could.

After packing up my gear and arriving back at the campsite, I noticed the winds had picked up substantially, really substantially! The sun had set, but there was plenty of light left to properly setup camp. This included getting out my generator, whose main purpose was to power a flood light, so I could see what I was panning, getting my firewood together, and making a fire pit. I was now ready to have a seat and start panning some 25 pounds of concentrates. As I panned, it was more of the same, tons of black sand with little bits of flour gold dispersed in it. After an hour or so, I was only about a 1/4 of the way through the concentrates, it was now dark and the winds were howling…so was my stomach, because amidst the focus of finding gold, I had not eaten anything all day, except for a little Nutri-Grain fruit bar! My hunger won, so I gathered up some tinder, kindling and stacked some of the firewood I brought from home. With the wind steady, with occasional strong gusts, it was nearly impossible to start the fire. But I prevailed! A can of baked beans to go with a couple turkey hot dogs, washed down with a bottle of a Starbuick’s coffee drink, really hit the spot.

By now, it was around 8 pm and back to panning out all the tiny flour gold from my concentrates. After about 3 hours time, I finally panned out the last of the concentrates with little more than 2/10′s of a gram of gold to show for my efforts! Now the wind was steadily blowing and the gusts had increased in intensity. I opened up my laptop, inserted my favorite “Jeff Beck from Ronnie Scott’s” concert DVD and closed the side door to my van. By now the van was rockin’ and rollin’ with the nasty wind gusts. The van was literally shaking back and forth, being in a direct path to the now gale-force winds. After an hour or so, I decided to call it a night and tried to get some sleep. With a steady shaking wind, accompanied by the on and off bursts that made it feel like the van was going to be pushed into the gully below me, I found it very difficult to get any sleep!

During the sleepless night, where I could hear things being blown around, some banging off my van, I could only assume that some of the gear I had left out had been blown away.
The morning arrived, and none to soon! Stepping out to have look around confirmed my suspicion. Much of my gear had indeed blown down the hillside. Fortunately, I was able to recover all of it, and nothing was damaged! After another Starbuck’s coffee drink and Nutri-Grain fruit bar, I was off to dig in a new spot, one that was very nearby a spot that Tony had claimed produced about 15 grams, over the course of several months.

dry washing flour gold

dry washing flour gold

As I arrived, off in the horizon, I noticed ominous grey clouds being blown in. Yes, the winds were still pretty stiff, but at least the gusts had subsided. After about an hour of test digging / panning, I started smelling that distinct scent of rain! Well, this sucks! My van’s windshield wipers did
not work and repairing them was not a priority, because it rarely rains in the desert. I panned out less than a tenth of a gram, packed up quickly and headed back to camp. I saw Tony’s jeep in the distance and it appeared as if he had the same notion. He had one of those “diesel-pusher” campers, that is basically a big bus and he too had to hook a tow bar to his jeep. The rain began to come down with regularity and we both decided that this was enough. I started down the 20-some miles of dirt trails that lead to the first paved road, being blown by wind gusts every now and then, on some occasions, strong enough to push my little caravan of my van towing my Samurai, off the road! Combine that with dust caking up
on the rain-pelted windshield, with no windshield wipers and you officially have an adventure!

Once on interstate 40, not only was I being blown by gusting winds, but semis windshear affect was adding to the drama. Rain ceased once I reached Kingman, leaving only about an hour’s drive to make it back to Havasu! After all was said and done, the gold bug had bitten me hard and all I had to show for it was about $15.00 of gold toward my $100.00 weekend investment. Mother nature kicked my butt! Next time, I should pay closer attention to the weather forecasts!

Is Planet Ranch Golden?

A few years back a longtime acquaintance of mine, Mike, informed me he owned a big chunk of property on what once was the Planet Ranch, along the Bill Williams River, that ends here in Lake Havasu. In the late 1800′s, long before the source of the river, Alamo Lake, was dammed, several cities were formed that served as a supply line for miners and settlers of the era. Among them was called Planet. Around the turn of the century, copper was discovered and mined in Planet and somewhere down the line, a cattle ranch was created into what is now referred to as Planet Ranch. Since Alamo Dam was created in the 1960′s, Planet Ranch has fallen into the hands of many…mainly for water rights. Here in the desert, water is always a popular and controversial subject. Sometime in the 1980′s, the city of Scottsdale, AZ bought Planet Ranch with the plan of using the water resource to aid the continuing growth of its city via the existing Central Arizona Project’s aqueducts that run from Lake Havasu to Phoenix. Unfortunately for Scottsdale, federal agencies denied this plan which forced Scottsdale to find an alternative to cover the loss of their investment in this property. They decided to create vast alfalfa fields, using the river to irrigate the crops.

alfalfa, bill williams river, planet ranch

former alfalfa fields in Planet Ranch

This did not cover the loss, and a few years back, decided to sell this dead-end investment to a mining company called Freeport McMoRan. This mining company intends to pipe water from the river to its mining operartions in Bagdad, AZ. They will do so under close scrutiny by the Fed’s Bureau of Reclamation, so as not to disrupt the natural habitat of the area. This should preserve the habitat for the foreseeable future. Another fun-fact about Planet Ranch is that “low level” nuclear testing was done there!

Moving on to gold and will it be found at Planet Ranch? Mike had given me GPS coordinates of his property and I entered them into Google Earth to have a look. All the signs one looks for were present: many “cobblestone” covered ravines, dumping into a main wash, some areas of exposed bedrock and most importantly, a vivid history of copper mining in the area, with known traces of gold. Mike was nice enough to tow my Samurai for the 70 mile journey and allow me to camp in his “cabin”.

mike's cabin at planet ranch, az

Mike’s “cabin”

We arrived at the entrance to the old Planet Ranch, guarded by a stout gate, to which Mike had the lock’s combination. Nearby was a modern-looking house, where current caretakers of the ranch, John and Patty lived. Much of the heavy equipment used in the harvest and planting of the former alfalfa fields were still here, dying a slow death in the desert sun. They are stilll living a cowboy’s life, in that they have horses, and livestock, in addition to their caretaker’s duties. We stopped by to say hello, the it was off to Mike’s property, just a mile or so down the trail. What he described as a cabin, was no more than a cut into a hillside, using old irrigation pipes, stacked one on top of the other, to form two walls. Dirt floors, with some ceramic tiles placed on top and of course no utilities. As soon as I unhooked my Samurai from the tow bar, I was off to dig my first test hole. I decided to dig my first hole where the wash surface met the hillside. Before I knew it, I was 3 feet deep in sand and no end in sight! finally at about 4 feet, I started finding gravel, then a bit deeper, potato-sized rocks. I processed the dirt along the way, and found absolutely nothing! At this point, I’m about chest-deep, when one of Mike’s neighbors, Bruce drove up. Apparently Bruce heard I was coming out to test Mike’s property for gold and asked if I wanted to have a look around his property. Mike has about 160 acres and Bruce had much much more. Since I had just moved more than a yard of dirt with no results, I agreed to follow Bruce to some spots he thought might be good.

After what was about a 7 mile journey to Bruce’s land, I chose my first spot to dig a test hole or two. The first was very encouraging, because one hillside was literally covered with gravel-sized quartz. I setup in a little valley, where a crease formed a little tributary to the main wash and started digging.

prospecting at planet ranch, arizona

no gold here

Despite the tons of quartz present, once again, absolutely no trace of gold to be found! Just because there is tons of quartz, does not mean it once housed gold! It was an unusually hot late March afternoon, where temperatures were in the upper 90′s, and I was almost done for the day. But…there were many other areas that had exposed deep red rock, where historically can bode well for gold. You know, “the redder, the better”, right? so I dug and dug some more, processing along the way, to find not a single flash in the pan! time to head back to Mike’s and if I could muster enough energy, maybe dig another hole there. As I passed through the Planet Ranch gate, I noticed everyone had gathered at John and Patty’s. Bruce was eager to see if had had found anything. I told him the bad news and he had told me that through the years, he had done extensive prospecting with the same results, so I didn’t feel too bad…just exhausted.

After a a few minutes had passed, one of John and Patty’s dogs began to bark uncontrollably. I got up and walked over to his caged area to discover the source of the dog’s agitation…a “coon-tailed” rattlesnake!

coontail rattlesnake

coontail rattlesnake

After informing everyone of what I had discovered, Bruce walked up and pulled a little .22 pistol from hi holster. I stated: ” you must be a great shot”. He smiled and shot the rattler. He then revealed his .22 shells were filled with birdshot. Me, not being a firearms expert, was not aware .22′s existed with birdshot in them. This seemed to do the trick, but after a minute or two of gawking, the snake started to move again. At this point, caretaker John grabbed it by the tail, moved it from harm’s way and promptly removed the serpant’s head with a shovel. Later on, I drove back to Mike’s property and despite being physically drained, scoped out a few areas for the next day.

After a sleepless night, due mainly to Mike’s snoring and talking in his sleep, me not being used to sleeping on the floor and burros braying through the night, I moved onto a couple other areas that appeared to be promising. Well, another set of chest-deep holes dug in the middle 90 degree temps, in the mainly sandy overburden, which lead to absolutely not a single speck of gold, I had had enough. I was again drenched with sweat saturated clothes, covered with a layer of caked-on dirt and physically fatigued. I drove up up to the “cabin” where he and his son, who had arrived while I was propsecting, to ride his dirtbike and gave him the bad news. At this time he offered to bring out his backhoe and dig a hole for me! every prospector dreams of a scenario in which they could dig a hole without having to sweat, but I was so tired and out of gas, I just had zero interest. Who knows, another couple of feet down beyond the 4 feet holes I dug, could have been gold? I really don’t think I’ll ever find out. Sometimes one’s physical linitations are more powerful than gold fever…

Divining Intervention

It’s now springtime, 2013, and I have re-visited many of my old dig sites.  The “Big Hill” has yielded close to another two grams and the old “Swimming Pool” location has accounted for close to another gram, while “Black Rock Canyon” gave up only a few tenths of a gram.  While digging at the Swimming Pool location, I often encountered a couple “snow birds” (retired, winter visitors to Lake Havasu),

tom and tom the dowser

Tom and Tom

Tom and Tom.  I had met the first Tom last season, but had not been acquainted with his new partner, Tom.  Tom #1 had told me about his friend and how he was a “dowser” .  I am, generally speaking, pretty open-minded and had heard about dowsers being able to locate buried gold, but had never encountered anyone who claimed to have this capability.  A dowser uses divining rods and a lot of faith and / or focus to accomplish the feat of locating gold.  Kind of a mind over matter situation.  I had asked Tom #1 about the success rate of Tom the dowser and he stated he was about 60% accurate.  When encountering other prospector friends in the desert, I had asked them what they thought their success rate was (success of finding gold, regardless of quantity), without the aid of dowsing and the consensus was, including my own experiences, the same 60%, plus or minus a few percentage points.  One day, I actually tested Tom the dowser, by asking him to work his divining rods over a pan of concentrates I was getting ready to wash out, as well as a small bucket of concentrates.  He said there would not be any gold in the pan, but there was gold in the bucket of concentrates.  I panned out the concentrates in the pan and there was gold in it.  I figured I’d try it again and dumped another pan full of concentrate from the bucket and asked him to dowse the pan and bucket again.  He predicted the pan would have gold and that there was still some gold left in the bucket of concentrates.  This time he was correct on both accounts.  So there you have it, in my test, Tom was correct 66% of the time.  In conclusion, myself and all my prospecting buddies figured to be about 60-something % accurate locating gold without dowsing and Tom the dowser had an accuracy rate that was about the same.  Although Tom did illustrate an ability to be a dowser, the results were no greater than the rest of us, who did not dowse.  Despite that, I was still impressed by Tom’s dowsing ability!