A couple of nice nuggets

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Well, I've been riding a skunk much of the summer. I've had a few great trips, and I found nearly a half ounce of gold highbanking, panning, sluicing and just sniping around. But I've had my detector out a number of times since June, and never found a single nugget with it. All that ended on Saturday, when I returned to a spot that I have been successful at before and hit a real nice nugget. The nugget came in at seven pennyweight. Only about 2 feet away I hit another nugget just a bit under a pennyweight. I was real excited, hoping for more -- but it turned out to just be a two nugget patch. Actually, last fall I had found a 3.6 pennyweight nugget, only about 20 feet from that same spot where the two nuggets came from Saturday. No doubt I'll return there shortly and try a couple of different coils on that same area and hit it real hard.

Here's a little report about the trip in general:

On Thursday I had arrived at Sierra City about noon, and did little sniping on the North Fork of the Yuba after I had my camper in place and set up. I knew were there were a couple of real nice looking crevices at a spot where I had done well last year. I worked down through the crevices and several contained junk iron, (usually a good sign) but all I got was a few flakes and colors out of each little crevice. On the way back to camp I crossed the river, and as I arrived on the other side I looked up and saw some beautiful ripe blackberries and thought of reaching out to pick them. However, as I looked up, I lost my balance and fell backward into the shallow water on the slippery algae covered rocks. Nothing damaged but my pride, I picked the berries, ate them and strode back into camp, soaking wet.

On Friday, a friend and I traveled to the head of a small stream to do a little prospecting, sampling and metal detecting at some old mine dumps in the area. Several friends of ours have prospected in this area this summer and done fairly well. Mostly they were just crevicing along the sides of the stream, and the best nugget found in recent months was one pennyweight in size -- it was crystalline and quite beautiful. The area is interesting and in addition to the hard rock mine, there are the remains of an old stamp mill as well. Bits and pieces of the old mill are strewn along the Gulch. This little stream has been fairly rich and the old timers found a 50 ounce nugget further downstream in the 1850s.

I really think the best potential for this little stream is to come in with a small dredge and work it in the spring when there is a little more water. The little crevices and potholes in the bedrock along the edges of the stream have been worked pretty well now by our little group. The real potential I think for the future lies under the small areas of overburden in the middle of the stream. What little potholes and crevices are there have not been touched and since these lie along the main line of flow in the stream, I would expect them to probably be better than the little spots along the side of the stream -- and the edges of the stream have been pretty good. I'll probably try that next spring. It will be a big project to bring my 4 inch dredge down to that little stream. Somehow if I could get hold of a much smaller dredge to take in there that would make things easier however it would just take that much longer to move the material.

Hey Rob: If you dont go to Alaska next summer, want to sign up for a summertime dredge project in CA?

Saturday, we took a trip out to the spot where I have found some nice nuggets in the past and gave the old detector a chance to shine, and it did!

There are not a huge number of nuggets at this location, but they are good sized and the average of all the nuggets I have recovered here is just a touch under four pennyweight. Since the two nuggets I found on Saturday weighed in at just a hair under eight pennyweight the combination fit perfectly the average of four pennyweight per nugget.

I picked these up with my GP extreme -- I was using a Coiltek wallaby Mono, but a good-sized coil like the wallaby was totally unnecessary as both nuggets were only about 4 inches deep.

Sunday and Monday were days of exploration and looking for new spots. There is a location in that region which I've known about for years but never had an exact fix on the spot. Historically, it produced a number of huge nuggets over 100 ounces in size and some well over 100 ounces. The problem was that the descriptions were really vague and could could have led you to anyplace for miles around. The area has poor access and to just go out there and tromp around in the deep forest would have been a big waste of time. It's not like Nevada where you can see for miles -- in the dense forest you might come within 50 yards of it and not see it at all. Last winter, while doing research for another spot in the same general area, I came across the geologic map that gave me the one last piece of information I was looking for. Although it did not state the exact spot of the rich area I was interested in, it showed some geology to me which fit the bill for what I expected this deposit to be. I was then able to use aerial photos and pinpoint the spot and hike to it. On Sunday, I got there and it was just what I had expected. There among the trees were tall piles of Quartz and country rock -- yet it had obviously been mined as a placer. The spot was really only about 10 acres in size which is pretty amazing for the number of coarse nuggets it has yielded. After exploring around the area and hiking up the hill to get to the target spot I really only had about an hour and a half to detect before I had to start heading back toward camp. The ground was trashy and I found a bunch of square nails and only one bullet, but the most important thing was that I didn't see one single other dig hole! This is an odd spot and it didn't surprise me that no one else knows of it. I even picked up a couple handfuls of Quartz crystals up to about 4 inches in size -- the smaller ones were almost perfectly clear. Unfortunately, during the time I had available to prospect I wasn't able to detect anything but trash, but I confirmed my GPS coordinates and took photos of the site and I shall return next year when I have more time. This is one of those sites where I may or may not find a single nugget but if I do, it might be huge! This is one of those rare spots were a true retirement nugget is a genuine possibility. Targets that seem like a gigantic piece of trash must be dug!

That high country is wild and remote and on my trips up there this week I saw four different bears -- a mother and her two clubs, plus a young bear on his own probably about two years old. I had never seen small cubs in the wild like that before. That is one of the times when bears are extremely dangerous -- when you come between a mother and her cubs. Luckily for us, at the time we were in the car and we were not between the mother and the Cubs. We were also in the car for the young bear on his own who heard us coming and started running up the dirt road in front of my car. As soon as he found a spot where he could safely go over the side he dropped down into the forest and out of our view. The Bears came and went so fast I never had a chance to even attempt a photo of them before they were out of sight. However, one of the forest citizens hung around for a minute or so and gave me a chance to grab my camera and shoot a few shots. He was a young buck with forked antlers covered in velvet.

Monday I only had a half a day to spend prospecting because I still had to finish packing up my trailer and then haul everything back to Reno. So on Monday I drove with a friend to small canyon known for its gold and we tried to see if we could get access allowing us to go up the canyon. Access and private property are big issues in the California gold country and there are a lot of good spots up there which are just simply blocked off to public access. I'm not trying to argue property rights one way or another -- it's just simply a fact of life that this is an issue California prospectors have to deal with. Anyway, things worked out really well we were able to drive in and find a decent place to park where I could easily turn my suburban around. It turned out there was a trail not marked on any of my maps that led up the stream. We hiked about a mile up this little canyon and came to the site of an old hard rock mine also not marked on any maps nor mentioned in any of the extensive old reports I have on that area. There were also the remains of an old stamp mill and an old miners cabin just off the trail. Next to the miners cabin there were piles of big boulders at the old timers had winched up out of the creek. This little creek has also yielded some very nice gold. My friend found an old Heinz ketchup bottle from the turn-of-the-century -- it was empty but whole and undamaged. The main trash dump at the old cabin seemed to be completely untouched. All along the stream the growth was lush and green with tall trees casting shade everywhere. There were even wild strawberries growing at the site -- something I've never seen in the Sierras before. The little brook had bedrock exposed here and there along it's length with lots of good looking spots to dredge, and some nice spots for sniping as well. I think this spot may be open to claim but I'm not fully sure so I needed check some records and see if it really is. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my camera with me on the hike so I have no photos of this beautiful little spot. We also did not bring pans because we just really didn't have enough time to take any samples or do any real prospecting - mostly we were trying to see about access and what the spot looked like once we got back into the creek. Again, another spot I'll have to explore more thoroughly next year (however, I may drive back to post a claim up there in the meantime!).

The first photo shows a bit of the bedrock I was working on Thursday and some of the crevices at that spot although these are among the smaller ones I worked.

The second photo shows my friend Joe panning in the small ravine we went to on Friday.

Third photo is of the nuggets I got Friday.

The fourth photo shows a shot of these old hydraulic diggings where so many huge nuggets were found. It has become largely overgrown since it was mined by the Americans in the 1860s and later by the Chinese in the 1870s.

The fifth photo shows the young buck who posed for a few pictures.

The sixth photo shows the view from some of the local high country.







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