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FINDING GOLD AT THE ROARING CAMP GOLD MINE
AND THE CHANCE TO FIND MYSELF IN THE PROCESS
MAY 13 - 20, 2007
The Mokelumne River runs through Roaring Camp, which is nestled in the Mokelumne Canyon
The result after one week of dirt digging, rock hacking, pile shoveling, soil raking, stone washing, sluicing, wissbanging, trommeling and panning - and best of all - having fun!
Roaring Camp - A safe haven surrounded by a rugged landscape of great scenic beauty
Gold Flakes found in black sand
By entering Roaring Camp, our home for
the next 8 days, we also enter a completely different world.
From this moment on we will be "cut off"
from the "real world" and it might just be
the only way to fully reload those energies
that keep us going on a daily basis.
There's a campground with cabins and tent spaces. Each cabin has its own name and is equipped with one or two beds, a wood burner (heater), a small kitchen cabinet, a table with benches and a cabinet for clothing. There is no electricity in the cabin, only a kerosene lamp for light. A cooling box, dishes, pans, pots and silverware are pro-
vided free of charge. Furthermore each cabin has its own freezer storage unit located in a separate cabin. You may buy ice at the Trading Post, but in the long run it's cheaper to fill empty plastic bottles with 3/4 water and freeze them. I also recommend bringing a good flashlight and spare batteries, especially if you need to use the restroom at night. The cabin and campground area are not lit well at night and obstacles such as tree roots, rocks and the mini golf course in the center may make it difficult to find your way in the dark. There are two separate facilities containing showers, sinks with mirrors and restrooms. These units have electrical light and power outlets (on a timer switch) where you may connect your hair dryer, shaving machines etc. A laundry machine is available too. Make sure to bring comfortable clothing, lots of old T-Shirts, good shoes, preferably hiking boots and sneakers. If you are participating in the "Common Operation" you will furthermore need thick gardening gloves to handle the rocks and waterproof gloves (to wash the rocks). If you don't feel like cooking you might want to consider eating at the Trading Post. Meals are served during certain hours and Tammy and Peter, their Kids, and Kim take great care of visitors. However, if you prefer organic foods, like me, or are a vege-
tarian or vegan, then I recommend you bring your own food and beverages because no fresh fruits and vegetables are available un-
less you ask Tammy to bring you some while she's running errands in town. Visitors are not permitted to leave the camp during their stay, therefore planning ahead is crucial. Using your own car for this trip has major advantages. You can not only bring your entire camping and prospecting equipment but if your'e part of the "Common Operation" you will also be able to take home that extra bag of black sand containing gold dust.
The convoy of cars and trucks snakes
down the steep, winding, dusty and unpaved mountain road.
Within one hour we go from elevation
2,684 ft. to 951 ft.
Break-cooling-stops include "Hangman's
Tree" and "Fountain of Youth".
The Trading Post from the outside and the inside
Some of the daily chores: Washing dishes and doing laundry
at Roaring Camp
We can hardly wait to get our hands on shovels and gold pans and immediately head to the river after arriving at the camp.
Bill from Australia has quite some experience with gold panning and he generously offers advice and gives some of us our first lesson on how to use the tools correctly.
Working on the "Common Operation" we later also learn about sluicing, wissbanging and trommeling.
SLUICING (Instructor "funnyman" Neil Dixon)
A huge pile of rocks and dirt awaits us at the
Sluice Station. During the course of the week
we filled and carried hundreds of buckets with
the seemingly worthless gravel, always in the
hopes to find some gold among it.
The buckets were emptied into the Sluice
Box where the material was rinsed and
washed. Because gold is heavier than dirt it
will instantly sink to the ground and get
trapped in the wire mesh and "miner's moss".
WISSBANG (Instructor "Sir" Robert Machris)
My wissbang(r) (Water Induced Surface Sluicing of Bedrock Allowing Natural Gold Removal) experience was a rather frustrating one and I didn't take pictures that day. We basically tried to widen an area in a "cliff" wall until reaching bedrock. One person would hose off the soil and rocks (at least that was the idea - however most of the time the heavy hose would go in every direction but the wall) while another person would suck up the water and the rocks with a device similar to a vacuum cleaner. Yet another person would hack into the wall with a pick trying to "take down the wall". During all this time you are not only soaking wet and covered in mud, but in our case we could barely hold our positions for more than a few minutes due to the water-drenched soil that would constantly cause us to slip or sink in.
And in the end? We found one or two tiny gold flakes. Definitely not worth the struggle in my opinion..
PANNING is definitely an art (or science) in itself. It takes a lot of practice to get it right and end up with black sand and hopefully some gold in the pan. But it sure is great fun!
TROMMEL (Instructor Mike Rodman)
Working at the Trommel is probably the most relaxing and "clean" job. The machines take pretty much care of all the hard work. Each one of us is given the chance to work at three different points at the Trommel. The only thing that might happen here is, that you get dizzy from either watching the rocks flying out of the Trommel or observing the "Vertigo Wheel" that separates the gold dust from the black sand and dirt. The results are pretty impressive too, which of course is the biggest plus.
Not to worry - Nobody is being burried at Roaring Camp. But with our great sense of humor we simply could not resist the temptation of giving these grave-like looking piles, prepared for next-week's individual operation, a creative touch of our own.
In this quiet and calm environment with
the constant sound of flowing water it's
easy to forget about everyday problems.
For once we can allow ourselves to
concentrate on the NOW without having
to worry about tomorrow.
Soon after posing with our week's find, the gold is being split equally among the 25 participants of the "Common Operation". Everyone has reason to smile.
The Roaring Camp Crew entertains the crowds with their own special kind of humor :-)
My share of gold
Original photos by Larry Bradford
Now, with a little Photoshop magic, most of us are in the same picture
"Work of Art" by 3Ds
(you know, who you are)
The Gold Wheel ("Vertigo Wheel") sepa-
rates the gold dust from the black sand
By the way: Unlike Becky's commentary in her Travel /
Discovery Channel Blog about her visit to Roaring Camp,
I never heard Jack Neal yelling at anyone during our stay.
On the contrary, he even collected quartz rocks for me :-)
I guess, we must have done something right...!
The California Gold Rush - A thing of the past?
Most definitely not at Roaring Camp, an old gold mining camp on the Mokelumne River located just outside the town of Pine Grove, California. See Satellite Map
Here the quest for gold is alive and well, and with the entering of this remote camp visitors leave their hectic lives behind and time-travel back to 1850. This "culture shock" becomes even more pronounced once the convoy of cars and trucks begin the steep decent of 1733 ft on a dusty, winding and unpaved road, under the skillful guidance of Recreational Director "Foreman" Tom. Several sightseeing stops along the way help cool the breaks and we suddenly realize that we're already in the midst of our new adventure.
At Roaring Camp time seems to stand still. Hundreds of recreational gold hunters flock to this remote camp each year eager to learn all about gold mining and to discover at least one of those famous nuggets. Although finding gold is a great motivator, Roaring Camp is also a great place for socializing - new friendships develop almost instantly. Instead of watching TV we'd rather listen to the colorful stories "from back then" told by hard-core miners or guests who've been coming to Roaring Camp each year for the past decades.
The following is my story and I hope, it will encourage you to visit the Roaring Camp Gold Mine yourself someday.
I had a fabulous time at the Roaring Camp Gold Mine and I especially loved the physical challenges. What a difference to my 18-hour workdays, of which I spend most of the time sitting at the computer or commuting in my car. But what really amazed me was the warm welcome, the instant feeling of friendship and the wonderful team spirit. At some point, finding gold even became secondary. Being surrounded by so many great people was probably one of the most positive experiences ever.
And being far away from technology and the everyday stress, I finally got a chance to reflect on my current situation and think about some long due changes. Roaring Camp was the best thing that could have happened to me at this point in my life and I am most grateful to everyone who contributed in making this a most enjoyable and memorable trip for me.
Although I was initially looking forward to the BBQ marking the end of the week, I eventually found myself trying to avoid it. It made me sad to see this special vacation end so soon - my first real time-out since 6 years (and Tom's beautiful but melancholic songs didn't help the situation either). For the first time ever, I did not want to go back to my beloved home in Hollywood (which is BIG news for those who know me well). I furthermore discovered that a 20-year Phobia had inexplicably vanished by Sunday. Whatever forces were at work here, fact is, that some profound changes have taken place during this week and that I will now have to deal with them and hopefully figure things out soon.
One thing is for sure: I will be back at Roaring Camp next year and work on an individual "grave" pile this time. Many members of our group promised to return as well and I look very much forward to a happy reunion. Thank you everyone - Hope to see you again soon :-) Go to PART 2