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A Gold Prospecting Story

Well it’s been another one of those long dry spells without finding a nugget.  I’d gone back to all of my old haunts, I’d prospected, and basically I was convinced all of the Gold had obviously been found already in the Gold Basin area of Arizona.  Well, as is usually the case, once you think you have it all figured out, life jumps up, smacks you up along side the head, and you learn something new.  I’ve been waiting to tell this story thinking that there might be a little more to add to it, but I didn’t want to wait too long.

Around the first of September Sabra Jim (Jim French) came down to White Hills and we had occasion to go out and swing our detectors for a while.  Jim camped out in an area where I had snagged a couple of nuggets and I showed him the various areas that had given up a gram or two now and then.

After an initial introduction to the area, and the places where I had been finding nuggets, I took him prospecting.  I told him that as he was going to be camping down there for a while so he could always go check out the spots I had already showed him later, but today I thought it might be fun to find a new place.

We drove over to the East side of the Basin and into a wash that I had never been in, but had always thought that it looked pretty interesting.  Well as we traveled up the wash we discovered that there was an actual road that picked up out of the wash and followed the wash back into the hills.

As we wound our way up this little dirt road we rounded a corner and there was the proof that I wasn’t the only one that thought this area looked promising.  There before us were piles and piles of over burden, where old prospectors had dug out the wash attempting to get close to the bedrock and the gold that usually was found on or near bedrock. Some of these over burden piles were 15 feet high.  All around, were the remnants of the “ol’ timers.”  There were old rusty tin cans everywhere, and evidence of a pretty good size camp site.  There was no doubt about it, the old prospectors were here, and they stayed here quite a while, and there was only one reason to stay that long; GOLD!

Jim and I passed the overburden piles and went as far up the wash as we could go.  We then proceeded to give the surrounding ridges and gullies a good going over for the better part of the day.   There was that great looking rusty quartz, and that ironstone.  Quartz outcrops and blowouts all around and that beautiful rusty red looking dirt.  However, as good as the area looked, neither of us found any gold.

We ended the day and I took off back to Las Vegas leaving Jim to the glorious quiet solitude of the desert.  I envied that fact that he would get to spend the evening inside his tent trailer listening to the coyotes sing him to sleep.  What a life!  How blessed we are that our hobby takes us to such beautiful parts of this land of the free.

Jim stayed on about a week but only found one nugget.  As luck would have it he found it right where I had put him to camp and where I had found two nuggets.  I hadn’t hunted there for quiet a while because, after all, I had hunted it out!  That was until ol’ Jim came around and found that one I missed.

I got caught up with some overdue work at the office so it wasn’t long before my thoughts turned towards getting out into the fields one more time. 

Do I have gold fever?  Not really!  It’s fun to find the gold, but I’m never disappointed when I don’t, and I never consider the day a loss if I come home empty handed.  On my trips to the gold fields I’ve seen a momma and a daddy deer, with their baby.  I’ve seen eagles soar for what seemed like hours without ever flapping their wings.  I’ve felt the cool morning breeze on my face one minute, and the next I felt my face warm as the morning sun started to creep above  a distant mountain range.  I’ve coaxed a wild coyote to within three feet of my car as I “baby talked” her, and threw pieces of cookies out of my car window. Each time I’d throw the next piece a little closer to my car, until finally there she was, right outside my car window, waiting for her next treat.   Needless to say, I didn’t have any cookies left for lunch that day.  And what about the folks that are involved in this crazy hobby?  I’ve never met so many nice and helpful people.  I’ve never met so many people that I have become good friends with over such a short period of time.  Oh my dear fellow prospectors, the things I’ve experienced since I started this wonderful hobby but a mere 5 years ago, are so much more valuable than the little bits and pieces of gold that nature blesses me with from time to time.  I’m hooked all right, but it’s not the gold, it’s what hunting the gold does for you.  For me, it’s a religious experience.

    The night before I planned to go back out hunting, I really had not given much thought to exactly where I would head in Gold Basin the next morning, however, that night I had a dream.  I dreamed that I went to those large overburden piles and climbed on top of one and started to detect, and then scrape off the top.  Then I would wave my detector, and rake down some more dirt, and so on.  Naturally in my dream I came home with a poke full of nuggets from those over burden piles.  I awoke a 3:00 am when my alarm clock went off.  I put my things together and grabbed my sandwich and water and jumped in the ol’ gold buggy for another day of fun and relaxation.  After getting gas I was on the road by about 4:10 am.  I arrived at the overburden piles at about 7:05 am and headed right for the top of that over burden pile in my dreams and started swinging and raking.  Me and my trusty Minelab SD2200d with my 14 inch Coiltek Manufacturing Mono coil, I was invincible.  By about 7:20 am I had a poke, I mean to tell you this poke was almost, I mean it was so full, bursting at the seams, that’s what was happening, I mean I couldn’t have gotten another piece of trash in there with all of those nails, and bullets and every manner of crap, if I had wanted to!

Well so much for that dream.   Funny there wasn’t any trash at all in that over burden pile when I was digging nuggets out of it in my dreams!  Oh well, the ridge directly above those piles looked pretty good, so I started to work my way up a little gully that had been dry washed near the over burden piles.  As I reached close to the top of the ridge I got a very loud signal.  Well, what do you know, a sardine can lid with key intact at about 6 inches.   A few more feet up the ridge and another sardine can with key about 6 inches.   A few more feet and I spent a good ten minutes digging a hole 20 inches deep and found three sardine cans, minus the lids.  I was halfway tempted to go looking for that other damn lid so I’d have a matched set, but I remained focused.

Three feet away I got a nice solid signal and dug a button that said, “CROWN OVERALL”, with a little raised crown on it.  This I dug at 10 inches.  Three feet away and I got another solid signal, aha!  Another button!  Obviously I’m not the only guy who likes to hunt gold naked!  At a measured 10 inches, I pulled a pretty little .9 gram gold nugget.   I’ll be damned, it was actually a gold nugget!  It was sort of shaped like the letter “L”.  I looked at my watch, it was 7:45 am.  Hey, that’s some kind of a record for me, a nugget within the first hour!

Well I tried to buckle down and grid the area but the trash was really a challenge.  I decided to walk parallel to the top of the ridge just off to one side and see if I could get out of the trash.   Sure enough it wasn’t long and the trash was behind me, but all the signals appeared to be as well.  I went to where the ridge started to end and drop steeply off into the wash.  I turned around and dropped down on the ridge a little and once again started to walk parallel to the top of the ridge only I was a little lower on the side and heading back from where I came.  I figured by the time I finished this little walk I’d be getting close to my car and it would be time for a sandwich.

I was about 100 yards from where I dug the first nugget when I got a screamer.  It really sort of shocked me because I hadn’t gotten one signal on this little ridge walk.  No junk, no buttons, no sardine can lids, nothing.  The signal was on the uphill side of a little scrub bush.   Not under the bush, but sort of where the dirt had backed up behind the bush.   No doubt a .38 slug.  It was way too loud for a .22 slug, it had to be a .38!   I dug down 2 inches, just sort of clearing the surface rocks and figuring I’d probably get that slug out within a couple of inches; they usually don’t go very deep.

At 6 inches, I’m thinking, “This bullet must have washed down a little and got covered up some.”  At 8 inches, I’m wondering, how can this be so darn loud if it’s so darn deep?  The other sardine can lid I bet!  All right! A matched set, it would be good for a joke!   At 12 inches it wasn’t funny anymore.  I had obviously mis-pinpointed, the bullet was obviously in a side wall of the hole.  Well enough of this non-sense, I had dug a hole so deep I was running into fortune cookies.  I decided to take a little jaunt down the hill and get my 3 inch Coiltek Manufacturing pin pointer.  These are the situations that little baby was made for!  Back to the hole, hook up the pin pointer, put it in the hole, WHAT?  It is in the bottom of the hole and not the sides?  I proceeded very carefully to clean out the loose dirt in the bottom of the hole to make sure I was not simply carrying the target with me each time I dug the hole deeper.   Now I had undisturbed dirt in the bottom of the hole, and the signal was still there,  and still screaming.

I continued to take small little amounts of dirt out of the hole, 13 inches, 13.5 inches (measured!) and finally the bullet was in the pile of dirt.  It was a cinch to pin-point with the 3 inch probe and I got it with the first scoop of dirt.  Maybe it was another button, or maybe, as it turned out, it was a 4.1 dwt nugget!  Man oh man was I surprised!  A 4.1 dwt at 13.5 inches that screamed from the time I waved the coil over the ground and didn’t stop screaming until I was holding it in my hand.  Then I took over the screaming; like a 12 year old girl!

All rightly then!  I looked at  my watch; 10:45 am.  Time to act like a professional, I have to grit this area!  NO that’s not it, it’s GRIP the area!  Yeah that’s it, get a GRIP on this area, yeah that’s it, GRIP it, with both hands!  Don’t let loose until you choke all the nuggets out of it, no wait hold it, that’s not it, GRID, yeah that’s the ticket, I have to GRID the area.  Hell, I’ve never had a reason to GRID an area before; I mean except for that missing sardine can lid!

Work up hill, GRIP, I mean GRID the area!  No stone unturned, no bush unchecked, no inch of ground left unmolested; yeah that’s it, hunt naked and molest the ground!  Low and Slow, Low and Slow, (sounds like my wife!)  When she’s telling me how to mop the floor that is.  OK, yeah, I’m the man, I’m gridding now, watch me grid, I am gridiferous, I am the epitome of gridiosity, the gridman, gridomania, wo!  Hold it, that was a target nit wit, go back.  Four inches down on the down hill side of a big ol’ bush and I’m holding a .4 gram nugget in my hand.  I look at my watch, 11:15 am. I was about 30 feet straight up the hill from where I had found the 4.1 dwt nugget.  Oh yeah baby, whose your daddy? Whose your daddy?  Three nuggets in under 4 hours!  I’ve never done that before!  This Gripping stuff really works!  I mean GRIDDING!

I had the weirdest feeling that there were four nuggets there and the one that I didn’t find was even bigger than all the others.  BUT, as fate would have it I didn’t find that fourth nugget!  NOT THAT DAY!

I even went home that night and told my wife, “I had the weirdest feeling that there was another bigger nugget there.”  I was chastised severely!  “Geez, can’t you be happy with 3 nice nuggets?  That one is really big, it’s even a little bigger than that South America nugget!”  Oh, hey I’m delighted with those three nuggets, I couldn’t be happier, it’s just I had this really weird feeling that there was a bigger nugget there.   “Oh, you’re a psychic now?”  Obviously not, I didn’t find the nugget did I?

Well, there’s always the next time.  But the next time would have to wait for a little while, as I had a 4 day ocean scuba diving trip planned for the opening of lobster season.  I was living on board an 85 foot scuba boat from October 3 through the 6th.  Once I got back home there was catching up to do and I didn’t get back out to my little slice of heaven in the desert until October 12th I believe it was.  Here’s a couple of my shipmates with some bugs that weighed over 9 lbs.  Mine weren’t quite that big!

I was back at the scene of the crime in the morning around 7:30am.  I started working a little gully heading towards the top of the ridge being I was going that way anyway!  I was hunting in earnest, not just fooling around, I think I was almost afraid to go back to the scene of the 4.1 dwt filled hole, I was fearful I would detect around and not find anything else.  But I learned several things that day, one of them is gravity apparently not only pulls our bodies down, it apparently pulls us sideways as well, because eventually I found myself gravitating back towards that fateful spot where I had found that 4.1 dwt nugget.  I stood there looking at that covered dig hole, and surveying the surrounding area.   Where did that thing come from?  There were quartz outcroppings everywhere, it could have come from anyone of them thousands of years ago I guess.

I didn’t even know why I was there, maybe it was to just relive the thrill.  I mean it was sort of senseless, not only had I gridded the area the last time with my 14 inch DD, I even went over it with my 18 inch Minelab Coil, later the afternoon of the day I found the 4.1 dwt to make sure there wasn’t anything deeper.

But then there was still that feeling that I had about a fourth bigger nugget, and I still had that stupid feeling.   Maybe that’s what gold fever is!  Chasing an imaginary elusive mystical nugget.  Oh, well, I was there, maybe I should just run a straight line between the 4.1 dwt and the .4 gram just for the heck of it, even though I’ve been over this ground before.  Couldn’t hurt, I mean I was sort of excited about that 4.1 dwt, especially at 13.5 inches!  Maybe I wasn’t as careful as I thought?  Oh just shut up and swing the damn coil!  Fine, OK, I’m swinging already!  What a waste of time, I wish I could get rid of these voices in my head, I mean I’m an adult I don’t need some nagging voice telling me whatto…  “BOING!!!!”  “BOING!!!!”   What the heck is that under this little scrub bush.  I know I went over this area, I mean I’m halfway between the 4.1 dwt and the .4 gram dig hole, I know I covered this area! I think!!???

WAY TOO LOUD for a nugget.   I push the little scrub bush back with my foot and pull out a couple of scoops full of the loose powdery dirt that had accumulated around the base of the bush.   Basically I was just trying to smooth the area out a little so I could use my coil a little more efficiently.  I probably took off about 5 inches of loose top soil.   I run my coil over the suspect area, GONE!  It’s already in the little pile of dirt.  It has to be trash, TOO LOUD, and very shallow!  First scoop of dirt, and it’s in the scoop.  Split the dirt a couple of times and I’m left with 1/4 inch of dirt and two rocks left in the treasure scoop.  Maybe a nice shallow 2 gram nugget that was close to the surface, oriented just the right way to give a good signal.  I took the two rocks out of the scoop and waved the scoop across the coil.  GONE!   That’s when it hit me like a freight train.  One of those two rocks I was holding in my other hand was awfully heavy for a rock.  I waved it over the coil, “BOING.”  Must be a meteorite!  I’ve found 7 of them down there, but wait, meteorites aren’t this heavy!  I put some water in my treasure scoop and washed some of the dirt off of the rock.  I was then that the little glints of gold from all around the rock started to appear, NO not a rock, a gold nugget, a nugget that ended up weighing 10.5 dwt after cleaning.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  A nugget over a 1/2 ounce in 5 inches of dirt, halfway between two other nuggets I had found on the previous trip.  I looked at my watch, 10:45 am.   The same time when I had found the 4.1 dwt.  Was this that fourth nugget that I had a premonition about?  If not, it will do just fine until I find that other one!

I intensified my search and found a .2 gram at 3 inches about 15 foot the other side of the .4 gram.  That was it, I was spent.  I was also totally amazed by the 14 inch Coiltek Manufacturing MONO coil.   What versatility!  A .9 gram at 10 inches, a 4.1 dwt at 13.5 inches, and a.4 gram at 4 inches and a .2 gram at 3 inches, that one was barely a signal at all, but the Coiltek Manufacturing found it.

I guess the biggest lesson to be learned from this is that you should never be too cocky about your hunting abilities, and always listen to those little voices in your head!  Not the ones that tell you to run naked in the streets and growl like a cat, the ones that tell you that there is gold nearby!

I know I’m a lousy gold hunter, and I knew that it was all together possible that I didn’t grid as carefully as I should have, that’s what prompted me to do it again.  And it paid off big time!  Over 3/4 of an ounce in two trips.  It will probably be a long time coming before I have a couple of days like those two again!

Oh, and just in case you were wondering:  Yes I’m going back, and I’m going to re-grid the same area again and expand my search.  As long as I keep finding gold, I’m going to keep going back again and again and re-gridding using different coils.

You know that old saying?   “When you’re finding gold, don’t go looking for gold!”

Here’s hoping you have as good a time as I do enjoying this exciting hobby,  and hoping that you will always be careful out there!