MAY 18 - 25, 2008
Yay - back at Roaring Camp afterall

As promised last year, I returned to Roaring Camp, this time with the plan to tackle my own pile of dirt in the hopes of finding some gold of my own. I figured, now that I had learned all the techniques of gold mining from THE BEST, I'd be ready to disect my pile of rocks, gravel and dirt. Well, easier said than done.
It all started after the welcome, when everyone rushed to their pile of choice to claim it (I believe, that's the true origin of the term "Gold Rush"). Since I was in serious "anti-stress" mode, I decided not to run, which resulted in my lucky number 7 pile being snatched away before I could get to it.
Convinced, this was a definite sign for an unsuccessful operation and poor finds, I hesitantly settled for pile 8, or so I thought. Turns out, pile 8 had been re-numbered earlier and was now number 13! No way!! Was the Universe mocking me?! How was I ever going to be successful with a commonly known unlucky number - hotels and hospitals don't omit floor and room number 13 for no reason... I was crushed.
Our workstation for the week. All pile owners received the same tools to work their piles: A shovel, a sieve/classifier screen, a sluice box, a pan, a cup, buckets, and most important during the 100F heat wave - an umbrella for shade.
So I decided to get some rest, a good night sleep and deal with my pile in the morning. So much for wishful thinking...
If you live in Los Angeles, you might be familiar with its common noises (car alarms, sirens, leaf blowers, barking dogs and shouting people). One reason I came back to Roaring Camp is because of its amazing tranquility. The soothing sound of the Mokelumne River and the singing birds work like a healing patch on a stressed soul. I've always enjoyed the beautiful calm in this "back in time"-like environment, but little did I know, that meanwhile the 21st century had put its claws around this safe haven as well.
The natural, mirror-like "Swimming Hole" formed by the Mokelumne River is a favorite feature at Roaring Camp and its beauty unique. No fishing permitted in this particular area! This is one of the very few rules at Roaring Camp - or in Foreman Tom's words: "We don't have many rules here, because we don't like 'em."
Shortly before 6 a.m. I was brutally awakened by my enthusiastically wood-hacking neighbor, whose fire in the grill created so much smoke, that I gasped for air. An hour (or so) later, a very familiar (and much hated) sound insulted my ears once again - this time it was a leaf blower, which was used to clean the mini golf area. A little later, several kids began using the playground located next to my cabin, screaming and shouting at the top of their lungs and parents encouraging them to do so. Finally, to top it off, a dog began barking non-stop. Was this just a bad dream?! I wish! And when one afternoon an AT&T van parked next to my cabin, I was more than ready to throw in the towel...
But luckily I decided to focus on my pile instead and follow Mike's helpful instructions. I tried hard not to stare at my station's number 13 and instead began to fill my buckets with gravel. The process is as follows: Fill a bucket with dirt from the pile and run it through a classifier screen to get rid of the large, non-gold bearing rocks (but rinse those rocks anyway before tossing them - you never know). Then take a cup and pour the dirt portion by portion into the sluice box. The running water will wash away the dirt and rocks, and hopefully trap the gold before or on the mat between the riffles.
We used 5-gallon buckets and a 1/4 inch sieve to classify the dirt.
I brought my own, slightly smaller black bucket because it's easier for me to lift.
Sturdy gardening gloves protected my hands from the sharp-edged rocks and long dish washing gloves kept my hands clean during the sluicing process.

Here's a helpful link on how to correctly sluice for gold.
We sluiced 1 1/2 hours in the morning and 1 1/2 hours in the afternoon. It's enough time to finish a pile within 3 days if you work in pairs, 4 days if you work alone.

Well, the Universe eventually seemed to feel sorry for me and within the first hour of sluicing, it awarded me with a nice piece of gold. I was ecstatic and now truly motivated to move that pile through my sluice box as quickly as possible.
By the end of the week, my pile had given me

- 2 nuggets
- 2 flat pieces
- 1 picker
- and many flakes of gold.

I was in heaven afterall. One nugget (far left) even made the "Roaring Camp Nuggets & Gold" list as it weighed 2.0 pennyweight, the minimum required to make the list (1oz = 20 pennyweight).

It also turned out, that piles # 7 and # 13 were the most lucrative piles of that week.
So, my advice is: Don't give up on number 13 just yet!
By some miracle, peace and quiet was restored at Roaring Camp on the third day and I got a 12-hour sleep every night from then on. I guess, Jerry threatening to hang wood-hacking Jerrold from a nearby tree if he would ever swing the ax again at 6 a.m. helped too :-)
I enjoyed the variety of organic foods I had brought with me this time and even got the chance to read a book.
All was well again in paradise.
Camping food doesn't need to be boring:
Left: Broccoli & Cheese nuggets - Right: Rosemary potatoes topped with melted Swiss cheese.
Even "family goose" (wild Canada geese) felt safe enough to roam the grounds now
... and last, but not least:
Mike's "Wall of Gems",
a collection of unique rocks which he
found while hiking and digging for gold.
Each week at Roaring Camp ends with their famous cookout / BBQ. Wait until you try their fried bread - I could fill up just on that, it's soooooo gooooood!!!!
Below are some pictures of Saturday's event, which had to be held indoors as it had rained all day.
Tom doing what he does best - entertaining the crowds and cracking jokes!
Everyone is busy in the kitchen, incl. Tammy, Elma, Jack, Tiffany and Lamar.
Not in the picture, but working just as hard: Kim, Peter, Mike, and the kids who made that fantastic fried bread!!!
No more dancing for Jack! The sad look says it all.
Don't mess with Neil, our Marshal and "Rattler-Wrangler" - he eats snake steaks for breakfast...!
After helping out all evening, Tiffany and Patrick finally get to enjoy the BBQ.
7 a.m. - It's time to say goodbye and "saddle up". Fran & Tom, Patrick, Sharon & "Pied Piper" Bob
See you all in September!!!   PART 3
Please read  PART 1  first, which introduces the camp, its characters, and the Common Operation.
At the end of the week, we even had a Korean TV Crew come to Roaring Camp trying to capture a piece of the action. So we all grabbed our gold pans, filled them with dirt, sat down by the river and began to act like veteran gold miners :-) What a site!
New Yatzee Rules? Steve & Kelly from Vancouver.
Everybody loves Patrick :-) Here he is with Paul.
More Roaring Camp Idyll - Foreman Tom & Fran's summer headquarters.
For up-to-date information and reservations please contact Kim or Tammy at
Roaring Camp Mining Company, 13010 Tabeau Road, Pine Grove, CA 95665
Phone  209-296-4100   Website

A 49er gold camp with prospecting cabins and camping by the week,
gold panning gold prospecting, fishing, swimming,
All Day Adventure Tours and Saturday Night New York Steak cookout tours.
Open May through September.
The Magic of Roaring Camp has been beautifully captured by writer Sandra Manning.
After her visit to Roaring Camp she wrote Ragtag Rhymes of Roaring Camp, an extraordinary compilation of poems about Roaring Camp and its characters.

My favorites: "Young Wrangler Rodman's Luck" and  "The Pied Piper of Roaring Camp"
More links: 
My Article in the German World Magazine JulAug 2007 issue, pages 28 - 30 
Gold Mining Techniques explained
"Best Places to find Cash and Treasures" by the Travel / Discovery Channel 
The New 49ers 
Gold Prospectors Association (GPAA) 
Make sure to pick up Tom Leftwich's new book

Gold Mining "Come Along for the Ride"
A journey encompassing 27 years of gold mining:
The HOW TOs, the Gidgets and Gadgets, the Inventions,
the Experiences, the Successes and Failures,
and the Humor, Characters and Stories.

Available at Publish America  and
Read my REVIEW on (at the end of the page)

Tom's articles are currently published in the monthly
"ICMJ's Prospecting and Mining Journal".
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