DO YOU LONG TO FIND RICHES IN THE DESERT?
Would you like to strike it rich? You can do just that if you find the right spot and don’t mind a little hard work! There is gold in them “thar” hills still to this day. You must be willing to work to find it, and there is no get rich scheme here. On the other hand (smile) I might be able to find you some cheap land with gold and ocean front property if you want (snicker)?
What does gold mining and ModernJeeper have in common? Most gold miners use some sort of an OHV (like a Jeep) to get to our favorite digging location either in the desert or the water way. Gold mining entails the use of lots of equipment to find that very elusive gold nugget. The different ways of searching for the gold include, dry-washing, sluice box or high banking (in a water course), panning, or using a metal detector.
I am not going to cover how each process is done, as Google has plenty of info on how to do each and build your own equipment if you so desire. Our experience was with dry-washing.
I had the opportunity to go hang out with my Dad and Uncle over in the desert near Ridgecrest, California over the Christmas week. We used their dry-washer to dig in the hills in the area looking for that elusive gold nugget. The dry-washer we used is one that my Uncle had built out of wood and metal. It works well compared to store-bought one.
With a dry-washer you also need some method to push air through the bottom of the unit to float off the light material, as the gold is one of the heaviest materials around. As you will see in the pictures, even the very smallest of gold particles will remain in the dry-washer that you will pan out of the material left in the box. We used a gas-powered leaf blower to provide the air flow that is required to make the dry-washer work.
This is dirty, dusty work, and depending on the time of the year, can be very hot or cold. This part of the desert might be a blast furnace in the summer. Just ask my Dad and Uncle as they tried to work this area last July with raging temps. But for our Christmas trip, we had chilly weather. You just never know in the desert.
One of the areas that we use to mine near Barstow, California had many dirt trails in the area. We would take our Jeeps and go trail riding after we were done digging for the day. It was a nice way to relax a little bit after all the hard work of shoveling dirt into the dry-washers.
This area was also worked by an old miner that has since passed on, and the remnants of his operation remain in the area. This includes some of the old mine shafts that he dug to find gold. We suspect he dug the shafts to get away from the high heat of the day in the summer. These mine shafts are now closed off with gates and structures to keep people out, and from throwing trash down them. Note of caution though: you should never climb down into a mine shaft as the potential for bad air or a cave in is always present.
As you can see in the pictures, we had a successful trip to the desert and digging for gold. I think the easy part is the digging portion. The hard part is after all the digging and manual labor, you have to clean up all your concentrates or material that was left in the dry-washer.
It is an art to keep the gold in your pan during the clean-up process. You’d be surprised how easily it washes out of the pan as you swirl it. It had been years since I worked a pan but I had not lost the touch to keep the gold in the pan.
As you will see in the pictures, there is lots of what we call “black sand” in the pan. This is an iron-based sand that will also sink to the bottom of your pan when cleaning up your concentrates. Usually the more black sand that you find in your pan, the better probability of finding gold. The two seem to run hand in hand.
Most of what we were finding was small flake gold left over from a commercial mining operation that went through the area years ago. They ran a very large dry-washer and were looking for the larger sized gold nuggets but left the small stuff in the tailing piles of their work.
Recreational gold mining is still allowed on public lands in most areas. You must put in a claim though to be able to work the land or water way. Claim jumping is still a problem in many areas and is also punishable in court.
The area that we worked is claimed by a club from San Diego that my uncle is a part of. That gave us permission to work this claim and keep anything that we found. While here for the week, we also took the time to place new claim paperwork in the claim markers on one corner of the claim that identifies the owner of the claim, and contact information.
There are many restrictions on recreational miners of today, like not being allowed to use any heavy equipment to uncover gold bearing soils or deposits. All your work must be done by hand except for small equipment like your dry-washer or high-banker if on a river or creek.
One last thought; no drinking of any alcohol while you are out there because you are a “MINOR.” Ha ha. When you are done for the day, go get a cold one of your choice and clean up your concentrates and see if it was your lucky day!