Sunday, July 30, 2017

A New California Gold Rush

This will warm your heart a little.

If folks are willing to go panning for gold up in NoCal, maybe there's hope for this lame state after all, lol.

At LAT, "A new gold rush is on, sparked by California’s post-drought snowmelt: The heavy winter rains have stirred echoes of the gold rush in Sierra Nevada foothills":
The state’s historic drought has ended. Riverbeds, once dry, are torrents, and California’s Gold Country is living up to its reputation.

Standing on a narrow bridge over Eagle Creek, weeks before the Detwiler fire ravaged the foothills to the south, Robert Guardiola watches nearly 40 miners spread out. Wearing knee pads and waders, they have begun to organize their equipment — buckets and classifiers, hog pans and cradles — along the edge of the stream.

Some cut into sand bars with their shovels; others adjust their sluices half in and out of the flowing water. A few have begun swirling mud in their gold pans.

“Everything begins and ends with a pan,” says Guardiola, pleased with the activity. He helped organize this outing, a monthly foray for a local prospecting association known as the Delta Gold Diggers.

Settled in a nearby folding lawn chair, Russ Tait is doing his part. A latte-colored slurry circles the perimeter of his emerald-colored pan.

With a floppy hat, ponytail and a white beard that hasn’t been trimmed in 18 years, the 72-year-old looks like a refugee from Knott’s Berry Farm. Even his blue eyes behind silver frames have a bit of a twinkle.

Tait has bone cancer, so getting down to the creek isn’t easy. But even if his days are numbered, he isn’t above dreaming. He peers into the murky solution, hoping to glimpse something shiny.

“I guess you call it gold fever,” he says. “You get out there, and there’s times where you get tired and you don’t want to quit.”


Since first smelted almost 6,000 years ago, Au 79 — one of the 118 elements on the periodic table — has inspired an enduring madness.

Ovid tells the tale of Midas, John Huston of a similar malady in the mountains of Mexico, and television cameras bring home the frenzy on the Bering Sea.

But gold is admired not just for its beauty and worth. In a chaotic world, it speaks with evangelical zeal to values less ephemeral. Populists and politicians champion it as a stabilizer for the dollar. Survivalists see salvation in its worth when civilization collapses.

But on the banks of Eagle Creek, the talk is more about the poison oak, twining its way through the brush, as unwanted as the mining regulations that have come out of Sacramento.

In 2009, the miners complain, a state judge issued an injunction that put a temporary moratorium on the use of motorized equipment near the state’s rivers and streams, putting an end to dredges that suction rocks, sand and pebbles from the bottom of a creek and pumps that circulate water into sluices located high on river banks.

A coalition of tribal, conservation and fisheries representatives said such practices compromise riparian habitat, and the judge ordered the matter to be studied. A final ruling has yet to be made.

But what regulations have prohibited, nature has allowed, and with all the water blasting through these mountains, prospectors have a new kick in their step.

Geological gumshoes, they search for ancient rivers, for rounded boulders tumbled together, for orange soil tainted by rusted iron and veins of quartz hiding gold.

They read streambeds, imagining how the current flowed during floods, hunting for any irregularity — a riffle, a ledge, a waterfall — that could create a backward eddy for the gold to escape the water’s momentum and drop to the floor...
Keep reading.