The “Gold Bug” – Gold Fever – Jan 14th, 2020 1

Where does one start to write about one word? Well, maybe two words. “Gold Bug” or “Gold Fever“. My mind says I’m maybe 38 years old but my body tells me I should definitely know better. I’ll be 84 shortly but God has blessed me with a good body that still permits me to hike deep canyons here in the northern California mountains. For my 84th birthday I’ll hike a 9-mile round trip down into a remote, deep canyon of the North Fork of the American River, dropping an elevation of 2200 feet, looking for and likely finding some gold, and then coming back out, maybe the same day.

Yes, I’m a gold miner but what started all this over 50 years ago? Then I was in the computer world in the bay area of California. It all began with a fun trip. It was a life changing event.

This turning point came when my oldest son Evan and I left the bay area on an adventure trip to what was considered then the remote town of Colfax, here in foothills of northern California. Evan was my oldest son, and he was a young tike and I was maybe 30.  Most of my life at that time, after 3 years in the military, was spent in the computer world, and to get a break, I had read this intriguing story about finding gold in California and how to gold pan for it. Well, reading doesn’t make you a giant in the field, but off we went, with an instruction article, a gold pan and some small tools to look for that precious metal.

I had read that down below this mountain town of Colfax was a river, called the North Fork of the American River. The stories said there was gold in this river, lots of it, but it was going to take some work to find it.

Well, we found the town and drove down this 5-mile long, windy dirt road and sure enough there the river was. It was exciting for sure. We got down to the edge of the river, and based on what we had read, started our gold panning. We weren’t finding anything, mostly because we didn’t have the slightest idea what we were doing with a gold pan. We were swishing, swashing, and doing everything one isn’t supposed to do to find that elusive color. Definitely don’t believe everything you read.

We were panning but I happened to look up the river and here comes an elderly lady (seemed elderly anyway, whatever that means) with a back pack on. She was moving along smoothly though and stopped just above us, watching what we were doing. In about two minutes I saw her take her pack off, and her words came across mighty strong. “You boys sure need help”. And with that she came right down to us and in an hour she taught us all the basics of gold panning and sure enough, we found some specs of gold. Now those specs were mighty small, but gold is gold and we were elated. With those lessons done, she gave us a nice smile, a pat on the back, put her pack back on, and she vanished. I mean she literally disappeared. Maybe it was because we were so engrossed on finding some more of those specs. Maybe.

Right there, right then, I decided I was going to change worlds and become a gold miner. I would leave the computer world of hustle and bustle, and become one of those figures I read about! I was going to make a living by finding gold! Well, it was a transition of several years. But my direction never changed, and lots and lots of stories along the way, but I became a real gold miner with gold fever.

All because of one little old lady, cruising down a remote section of a wild river, looking at two green horns, and stepping in to give me the gold fever that continues to this day.

I look back today and wonder if she was real, or was she a spirit, way beyond my level of understanding. She came in a flash of the eyesight, taught us and gave me the gold fever, and was gone as quickly as she came. How she would giggle and smile now to know the Dad she taught would go on and become a very well know miner. Also a competitive panner who is a California State and National gold panning champion many time over, and a few years ago the Captain of a USA National team in a World gold panning championship in Dawson City, Yukon territory. The best panners of twenty-three different nations were there. And so it was that this little old lady started it all. I wonder if, somehow, she knows? I sure hope so.

One Comment

  1. This is truly interesting and I would like to read more about the gold mining life and experiences. I believe myself and others will be intrigued and want to read more!

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