Tuesday, May 20, 2008

On The Trail of The Lost Dutchman

Having found (and joined) the LDMA, The Lost Dutchman Mining Association, in Dahlonega, GA, we set out on the trail of the Dutchman outings sponsored jointly with GPAA. To that end we traveled to Marion, NC for the next outing. There we met up with some of the members who had been at the Georgia outing and quite a number of new miners from that region of the country. What was a good time in Georgia was a great time in North Carolina. Claim caretakers John and Abbie, for whom I failed to get an adequate photograph to use here, were very welcoming, thoroughly organized and excited to welcome one and all to their camp.

Armed with a new piece of equipment- a highbanker/dredge combination, we set up at the creek right beside the coach and gav'er a try. Worked like a charm. Even found a little color, just like we were hoping to do.Then off to work on the "common dig" with the club. In Georgia I had worked the highbanker with Marilyn and a team you can see on the previous post. This time I signed up for the 4 inch dredge operation hoping to get some first hand knowledge on set up, tear down, and cleanup of that type of equipment. Marilyn signed up for one of the highbanker teams again, so we doubled the number of people we got to work with, got to know and learn from.

Team "crew" Randy and Gina were excellent at both running their equipment and teaching those of us who had never operated the dredge before. Once again, as in Georgia, the largest find of the dig came from the equipment I happened to be working on. I suppose, actually I know, there is some degree of luck involved in finding good gold. But experience, especially in the form of figuring out where to look is certainly important and our team leaders just plain had a good nose for that. The credit surely goes to them for finding gold larger than one normally expects to find on this claim and in this part of the country.
I really like being on the nozzle end of the dredge hose. It's halfway between diving, which I have always loved, and gold mining, which I have come to love. BUT! Being at the end of the sluice for cleanup and discovery of what got captured during the day's run is a real hoot too.

Because North Carolina gold is extremely fine, the club set up a beach gold recovery highbanker. This is the same kind of highbanker used on the beach in Nome to recover the very fine beach gold up there. If you have ever seen them working on the beach on the GOLD FEVER show, this is the machine they are running...You would never believe that gold so very tiny could possibly be caught in the sluice with water moving that swiftly down the slope, until you see it to be true with your own eyes.

But not all is work at the outings. Plenty of fun in a variety of forms is planned to provide entertainment for everyone. Assistant caretaker (and drill Sergeant) Harry, makes sure all his ducks are in a row- and that he knows who crossed the line first in case of a close race. We had duck races two days in a row. Same young man won two days in a row. Had this been a poker game... well you can just imagine the distrust in a gold camp that might have taken place!!!

Which brings me to the Nugget Man. Known to one and all of the Lost Dutchman, Nugget Man Will travels to all the outings. He can tell a story with the best on them and he is, as they say, a very colorful character. Like many of the old time miners and gold traders, he is a joy to be around and learn from. The collection of gold he travels with is sensational. It is from all over the world and in all sizes and shapes, including the two pound nugget which he will let you hold- if he likes you. Let's see. Two pounds. At 1000 an ounce- you do the math, baby!

When the common operation is shut down for the final day, the crew pans out the concentrates and separates the pickers and the nuggets from the fines. The remaining concentrates are dried a bit and divided equally among the operation participants. Nothing is held back. Whatever we find as a group we share equally- or as close as humanly possible. Whatever we find on our own in between shifts or before or after the operation is strictly for us to keep in its entirety.

If we need a break from the physical work we can usually find a workshop we'd like to attend- like this one on various types of sluice boxes and how to set them up for best results, run by Herb Kasold, whose company sells all types of mining equipment. At every session we learn something new and from nearly everyone we meet we learn something new. It might be about mining, it might be about camping, it might be about the region- but there is always something new to be learned.

I couldn't help myself! I had to take a picture of this member miner. Everyday a different get up. Note the camouflage on the 4-wheeler. It's the first camouflage job I ever saw that attracted more attention than it did anything resembling hiding its intended target. Having a sense of humor is a real asset with this crowd.

Field Operations Manager for GPAA/LDMA Ken Rucker displays the gold for the final "draw" at the end of the outing. That's 5K plus worth of gold nuggets in that pan. How sweet it is! Evidence that good things do come in small packages. Every participant gets at least one. Some are definitely bigger than others, so the lottery system is used for the draw.

We worked with Gary, below, here in Georgia on the highbanker and again here in NC on the dredge. He's a great guy, a hard worker, good at camp auctions and not too shabby at raffles either. We have already met many people like Gary we will surely look forward to seeing and working with again around the country. Oh, and did I mention that I entered my first competitive metal detecting contest at this outing. Gary was second at the one in Georgia and took a third here. I finished somewhere around 10th out of a large number of participants- not high enough to call it a win but not entirely out of the "money" either. Just wait til next time....

For now, the LDMA circuit will move to a new claim having its very first outing in Athens, Michigan. Since we missed the state of Michigan on the first leg of our big journey, this gives us the perfect excuse to add that state to our map and see yet another part of the country. And if we find a little gold along the way, well, what's wrong with that? Besides, this marks the first time we have been brave enough to totally depart from "the plan" and head off on a whim and a prayer. And that feels good!

And for a parting shot I leave you with the tale of our provisioning run to Marion, North Carolina, for groceries and a few items at the hardware store. We set the GPS for the Wynn Dixie Grocery Store about ten miles from camp. However, the GPS did not have any way of knowing that store had been closed down by the chain that runs it some time ago. So we asked if there was another grocery store in town and we were told, "Why, yes, of course."
Now keep in mind this is North Carolina. The thing to remember, however, is that North Carolina is part of the South, despite it's name. So in your best southern drawl, read what we were told: "Drive down the road and find you the Baalo."

Having asked to have that repeated more than once we figured we should just drive a bit further and see what we could see- as apparently we did not hear what we had heard- if you get my drift. Sure enough, a couple miles down the road was the BUY LOW (BILO) grocery store.

On the way back to camp, we stopped at Spencer"s Do IT Best Hardware Store. We needed a hose nozzle, a 1 1/4 inch washer, a can of liquid rubber handle grip coater, and a small funnel. Now Spencer's is a perfectly wonderful old fashioned hardware store and they greet all their customers at the door and offer the finest in service. So imagine the look on the clerk's face when he asked, "May I help you with something today?"
And Marilyn replied, with the straightest of faces, " Yes, please, we have never had a free ride in a police car...."
If you have no clue what on earth I am telling you took place, study the sign in the front window of the store in the photo below.
After a good laugh by all, we chatted a bit, collected what we needed and headed back to camp.
There is, evidently, no free lunch...and no free ride in the police car!

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