Posts Tagged With: panning


Columbia State Park is a great place to visit with kids.  A basic description is that it was a surviving old gold town that had burned down when it was wooden buildings. Rebuilt using brick, it survived. The gold petered out, the town was abandoned. An enterprising real estate person advertised the whole town for sale, without success. As the town continued to deteriorate, locals tried to get the state to step in and turn it into a historical park, which they did in 1946. In the 1980’s, as a journalist I interviewed the last remaining resident of Columbia, Geraldine McConnell. True living history.

The kids liked peeking into the open doors and windows of shops with “weird” stuff in it from the old days. But the Ten Pin Alley is a favorite.  Alyssa takes her turn to bowl…

Dad helps her reset the pins. The ball is returned by setting it on the slot and gravity brings it back for the next bowler.

Amanda really got into it, while Angelo watched.

At the black smith shop, Dad showed his skill untangling those metal pieces that defy you to pull them apart.

Hand dipping candles and learning about how they are made and understanding the dependence on candle light, is always a fun place to stop. The park during various seasons has festivals, music, a Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn fence painting contest, watermelon seed spitting contest, pie eating contest and so on. The old jail, outdoor toilet, chicken pen and other necessities of the old days amaze children.  The artifacts of the Chinese are exotic.  And the hardscrabble life of the Native People who lived here are on display, along with the activities of temperance groups and Fraternal Organizations; banks and hotels.

When the stage rolled into town, the kids got to pet the horses. A daring first for them.

And, a ride on the stage that got robbed when they approached a sharp turn near a huge boulder.  “Can you imagine how scary Aunt Mary?”

Probably the best fun was panning for gold. While even small flakes are scarce, each filled their tube with tiny gem stones in the sand and water. They got garnets, amethyst, turquoise, peridots, crystal, quartz and a few other stones that gave them “color”.  And the fun lasted for hours. They quit for awhile to climb the boulders or just walk around, then came back to it and kept cool until we were all surprised how late the day.

And since it was late, we ate dinner at the saloon where the waitresses and waiters  wear a holstered pistol. “Is that a real gun, Aunt Mary?”  Yep!  Their packin’ ” I told them in my best western drawl.

For information about Columbia, click on the following link:

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Meet JR, of  San Xaviar. He has a couple of gold claims and works at finding gold just about every day. He also prospects for geodes and turquoise and any gemstone he can find. He’s parked here behind the Moose Club and I had to get nosy since gold washing is a  of hobby of mine.  You can check my blogs of 2009 when I had company from my native Michigan and took them out to find gold:

I was pretty impressed by JR’s rig, called a recirculating Gold Buddy, by name. It is an automatic  sluice box that uses about 20 gallons of water. You don’t need a whole creek to wash your gold, nor do you have to stand in cold water bent over. You can sit and get the job done relatively easy in your yard.

After about two gallons  of dirt is washed, JR empties the pan of the cleaned dirt.

After washing about six gallons of dirt, he carefully removes the miners moss, which is the  mesh that catches fine gold, right into his gold pan. He activates the washer to put a small amount of clean water in his pan along with the moss.

He rinses the moss in his gold pan and then pans it in a large container of water to which he has added two small drops of dish washing detergent. (Now you know you are really washing dirt.)

We all know how the pan works. The dirt rinses out of the pan and into the water and the heavier gold particles catch in the riffles of the gold pan.

On his claim, he’s getting gold flakes and dust.  I liked the recirculating pump operation called a  Gold Buddy. I can’t justify buying one at $400. Sometimes you can find them used, he said. He powers it with a car battery sitting on the ground. Pretty simple.

JR’s mom, Bev is a gold hunter, too. She showed me her nuggets, some  of which she got with a metal detector. This big one, though, she won in a drawing.

I took a short video of JR washing his dirt on the link below:

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Not everyone has a Jan Stewart in their life. Lucky me that my neighbor is a gold aficionado and loves to take people out digging for gold. My crew had a taste of panning at Columbia Park and decided they’d like to try the real thing.

We toured an old hard rock mine. Then we dug dirt from an old dry creek bed and hauled it to Murphys Creek were we washed the dirt for nuggets.

We got small nuggets but tossed the many gold flakes since we didn’t figure to sell our gold anyway. It was fun. Even so, my guests learned what the old timer’s learned long ago. Finding gold, digging and panning, is hard work. No one regretted the experience, even if the temperature reached 97.
Earlier in the day, we visited Big Trees State Park. A phenomenal, not to be missed, experience for anybody who visits Calaveras County.
This tree is the Old Bachelor, one of my favorites.
Marie and Bernice stood in the root hollow of this fallen giant. You hear about them, you see pictures of them, but to actually stand beside the giants is an awesome experience. To be a sightseer in Calaveras County is as valuable as our gold

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