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informal: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group [count] ▪ Hockey is a religion in Canada.▪ Politics are a religion to him. [noncount] ▪ Where I live, high school football is religion.▪ Food is religion in this house.

Therefore, in Real-ity, prospecting for gold is a religion of mine. So, this time I thought I’d change up a bit and let y’all in on my second favorite hobby/ pasttime. I have one or two more; fishing being my favorite, my passion. Now, this has nothing/ little to do with my realationship with Jesus Christ- because it is just that, but not ‘just’ that. My very first in this life is my relationship, and it is a relationship with God and Jesus. Jesus is my Lord and Saviour, as He is with many others, but I do not consider it a religion. A religion can just be too many things to too many people.

I picked up my hobby of gold panning, prospecting as an exercise to help strengthen my back muscles; because of my chronic back pain. They got stronger, but I had to pay dearly for every trip I made to the (I’m gonna call them the) Gold Mountains. Pain, with all caps!! These mountains are a huge area of, mostly untamed wilderness. It was my aim (and still pretty much is) to come out from the creeks up there with a full 5 gallon bucket of ‘gold material/dirt’. On a good day, I could do just a bit more, like another half a 5 gallon bucket full.

First, it’s best to wait until November, December before going in. That way, mosttimes, the leaves would all be fallen off and there would usually already been a big rain to wash those leaves out of the creeks and down to the river. Besides, after the summer is good and gone, there are Very few people coming and/ or going. But you need to wait for a big rain, a wash-out, to break loose any gold that was left untouched. And, in my case, I would pick out what I thought was a good , gold-bearing creek, park by the road and get my tools. The tools consist of 2- 1 1/2- 2 gallon buckets and a curved trenching shovel with a long handle. And don’t foeget to put your cell in your pocket; that way it’s safe, unless you fall in the creek or river. I learned the hard way by dropping, without noticing, my phone in the creek and continuing on with my venture. I’ve also fallen into the river while it was 30 dgrees F. outside. Yeah, lots of fun.

I’d take my tools and walk Up the creek. When I got about half as far as I planned to go, I’d drop off one of the small buckets. Then I’d walk maybe another 1/4 mile up the creek and work my way back. The object is to dig as little as you have to, but get down to a large solid rock, no more than a foot down. Then dig out a couple of scoops of that material and empty it into your bucket. Go a ways down the creek, do it again. The first bucket will be full after about 3 diggings. Then you can carry that little bucket on the handle end and throw it over your shoulder. You simply repeat this with the other bucket you left halfway and when you get back with both buckets (very heavy because the gold-bearing material is wet), you dump them into the 5 gallon bucket. Oh yeah, you cannot fill either small bucket to the brim for you’ll lose a third while walking back, with some always trickling down your back.

Be sure to have a lid for the 5 gallon bucket, so you can fill it all the way up, and it helps if you’re in a pick-up because when you get toward the top, it sloshes a lot as you pour in your material. There may be rules limiting you to one or two 5 gallon buckets, if you’re lucky or blessed enough to be in a place that allows even that. So, when you get your limit, you need to sluice the material to get the bad stuff and larger stuff out of your material. Then you’ll wind up with about 1/5th to 1/8th of what you started with. Then comes the fun part. The average 1 gallon left from 5 gallons has to be panned, by hand. Hopefully you’ll have some gold flecks or placer gold in most of the pans or this turns into a non-paying chore. And if you don’t have a sluice, then you will have to wash-screen off the large stuff until you have the material small enough to pan. I usually get some gold in every pan, but I had to find out how to get the good material. And, as with me, it’s always the hard way.

I have a home-made sluice at home and a small hobby-size  sluice at our lake place. You really have to be prepared when you are trying to get gold, so you can tie up 2 – 5 hundred dollars in small-time tools, such as the sluice(s), a pick-hammer (hammer-size), a metal-detector, sluices, screens, scoops, buckets, small bottles to suck the gold up into, magnets, magnifying glasses, a pouch or two to put small, interesting rocks into. Since I built my own sluice, I’ll have to post another time with directions on how to build one at a cost of about 20 dollars. The one I bought is a top of the line one, that you can atually carry into the creek and sluice the material right there on the spot. It costs about $200. You should be able to find one on EBay for half that. I lucked up and met an old-timer who bought one and never used it, nor wanted to. I got it for half.

Unless you really luck up and find a Nice nugget ot two, you’ll want to consider this a hobby that pays you back some. If you have to drive a few miles, and you will, then it can get expensive. Another thing is you will have to invest time in finding out certain facts. Check with the officials to find out about their rules/ laws. Some places allow you to use a metal detector, some won’t. Some allow taking of material, some don’t. Others allow sluicing on the spot, some don’t. For many, this hobby will have to be a vacaion thing, because most people who are interested, don’t live within a reasonable driving distance.

Being I only do this during the colder months, I’ve had my share of wet cold feet, so it may behoove one to carry an extra pair of shoes and socks. I had to walk almost a quarter of a mile, once, soaking wet with it being below freezing outside. That was fun; a wonder I didn’t catch my death of something. But, being out in the fresh air, with no others around, except maybe a raccoon or possum, maybe a bear, there’s nothing like it. The exercise is un-matchable. And it’s almost always some kind of adventure. You may find some interesting rock or get bitten by a copperhead snake like I did fall before last. Yes, I was out in the middle of nowhere with no signal. And yes, I still do it, at least once a month. I have a few buckets of material I haven’t even sluiced yet, so I have plenty to do and plenty of panning to do yet. I also do what’s called rock-hounding-where instead of digging material, I go looking for interesting rocks, artifacts.

I have found immense pleasure in my gold-prospecting and rock-hounding. There are many palces anyone can go to do some rock hounding and you could be pleasantly surprised to find things of old, things of value. All this while getting back to nature, being one with nature/ getting close to God. It would be best if you could find a camp-site near one of these places and really enjoy what God has allowed us. Nature has much to share even in the winter. Really, there’s nothing like it.

Can it get any better than this?