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He Made His Living With a Gold Pan

Gold Panner
It was the early 1980s. I was sniping for gold throughout California’s Mother Lode country, rolling out my sleeping bag wherever it suited me best, while scraping out a living from isolated rivers and creeks that favored me–mostly at the bottom of deep, narrow canyons.

One midsummer day, while scouting, I stumbled upon a scanty camp in the backwoods of California’s Plumas National Forest. The camp’s sole inhabitant was a reticent, aging hippie, with a stiff, guarded demeanor. He gave his name only as Clair—based out of Portola, California–he said.
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Does Metal Detecting Pay?

Well, Does It?

If you broadly define profitability as simply a positive return on your investment, then my short answer is yes, definitely—it pays! However, if you narrow it down to strictly time and dollars invested versus dollars returned, my answer is still yes—but rarely! Read on for details.

What Qualifies Me as an Authority?

I supported myself for years as a roving, full-time detectorist living solely off the gold I recovered, often in remote, hard-to-get-to locations primarily in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains and to a lesser extent in Nevada, Arizona, and Alaska. It was an exciting, independent, free-wheeling lifestyle. With every new day came the thrill of the hunt—the inspiring prospect of discovering a life-changing bonanza. [continue reading…]

With the onset of a particularly cold, wet winter, I quit my job as a welder in a Seattle shipyard and headed for California’s Gold Country. I was clueless but eager to develop the skills to pan enough gold to realize my dream of becoming a free and independent miner. Because my bankroll was perilously thin, I would need to learn fast or be forced to slink back into the city to resume punching a timeclock.

I rang in the New Year of 1979 freshly camped in the Tahoe National Forest, beside the North Fork of the Yuba River. I had arrived with a carload of gear and supplies and immediately pitched my canvas tent mere feet from the riverbank. Reasoning that my tent would leak at least a little during the heaviest storms, I opted to transfer the car’s cargo into the tent and convert my Datsun station wagon into my sleeping quarters, where I thought I could count on warm and dry slumbers. [continue reading…]

Simple Answer: Absolutely!

In skilled hands metal detectors detect metal. Gold nuggets are metal, therefore, yes, metal detectors can detect gold nuggets—however, the design and quality of the detector, size and depth of the gold, prevailing ground conditions, as well as the skill of the detectorist, are all critical factors that can significantly affect one’s level of success.

Every year, thousands of hobbyists and professionals all over the world target and recover gold nuggets with their detectors. However, realize that much of the gold found in the field is tiny, under a gram in weight, and some detectors are more suited by design for targeting small gold than others. If you hope to maximize your gold recovery in the field, you must be armed with the best detector for your purpose and for the conditions under which you hunt. [continue reading…]

Running Against The Tide

I had been bouncing from state to state, job to job, and saloon to saloon for two years, ever since my marriage had wrecked in 1977 and sank as far from rescue as had the Titanic. Now bored and restless, craving purpose, freedom, and adventure, I quit my job as a welder at a Seattle shipyard just shy of New Year’s Day.

Thus, I became committed to the fulfillment of my lifelong dream—becoming a full-time gold prospector. I would pit my will and scanty resources against the magnificent, unforgiving, Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.  I would arrive in the dead of winter, an utter greenhorn, gambling on being dealt a winning hand—whilst just a-knockin’ on poverty’s door.
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So many of us freshly retired seniors, abruptly cut off from our jobs and our society of work friends, go into a sort of shock. Enmeshed in our funky daze, we lose our sense of purpose and wind up becoming depressed, withering, couch potatoes. It is an insidious trap from which many of us never escape—let alone recognize. If caught in that forlorn predicament, it is critically important to get off your keister before it turns to mush and get back into living. Produce! Do something, anything, that challenges your mind and body. There are a gazillion activities that will fit the bill and zap that old spark of purpose, joy, and accomplishment right back into your life. However, I am here to highlight just one that I love and know well—metal detecting.

What Do I Know About Metal Detecting?

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