I think just about every kid who grew-up in the 60s and 70s watched any number of Western movies and television series, like Gunsmoke or Bonanza, that often depicted life in the Gold-Rush towns of the late 1800s.
The storylines of many episodes went something like this…
A miner works long hours in the hot, sunbaked mountains panning for gold nuggets in a slow flowing creek. He discovers a lucrative spot and finds a small fortune. The miner then packs-up his mule, with gold in a small felt-pouch of course and heads to the nearest town to cash-in his nuggets. He then goes to the local saloon to drink way too much whiskey, loses most of his money playing-poker, and once sufficiently drunk he gets a hot bath from Miss Kitty and who knows what else. After a few days in town, the miner is completely broke and heads back to the mountains to seek another small fortune!
The excitement of a miner with nothing one day, striking it rich the next, makes for a great story today just like it did 100 + years ago. Who wouldn’t like to be hiking along a mountain stream, look down and find a gold nugget the size of a grape?
I remember those storylines well and have always wanted to try my hand at panning for gold!
Last week I spent a few days with my friend Stan panning for gold along Lynx Creek in Prescott, Arizona. I certainly didn’t expect to find nuggets but I thought with a little luck, I may find some specks or flakes of the shiny stuff. Lucky for me, Stan has been panning for gold for years! He’s extremely knowledgeable and was kind enough to show me how it’s done. After a few hours of instruction on proper panning technique, I was able to slowly work my way through a 5 gallon bucket of riverbed dirt and in the process found a dozen flakes of gold. I didn’t exactly strike it rich but I had a great time and learned something new! It’s not always about the money! I spent a few days in the fresh mountain-air, surrounded by tall pines and listened to the sound of fresh water rushing over granite rocks… not a bad way to spend a few days!
Life Lesson: After day two of panning, I asked Stan… how do you know the best place to find gold? He said, “… there are numerous signs indicating where you are likely to find gold… but basically… gold is where you find it.” Kind of like anything in life… you can find gold wherever you are, if you look hard enough!