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Monday, October 19 2020
Flour Gold: Gold particles that are barely visible to the naked eye. It’s so powdery, like flour, that it sometimes floats instead of sinks like heavier gold pieces.
Flake Gold: A piece of gold that is large enough to easily spot, but is difficult to pick up with your fingers. Use tweezers.
Fines: Particles of gold too small to pick up with your fingers. Combination of flake and flour gold.
Picker: A piece of visible gold large enough to easily pick up with your fingers.
Gold Nugget: Larger than a picker. A naturally formed lump of gold that is big enough to put in a poke and likely won't fit in a typical small vial, depending on its shape.
Specimen: A naturally formed large gold nugget or gold-laced quartz specimen.
Paydirt: Refers to dirt that has enough gold in it to be worth extracting. The term originated in the mid-1800 during the California Gold Rush. Today, you can even buy Alaska paydirt through the US Mail!
Concentrates: All the gold-bearing material left in your sluice or trommel, etc. after using your gold recovery equipment - usually black sand mixed with fine gold.
Fool’s Gold: The bane of any prospector’s existence! Iron or copper pyrites and mica can be mistaken for gold. The quickest and simplest test is to examine your sample in the shade, not in the sunlight. Real gold retains its yellow sheen even in shadow, whereas fool's gold does not. Real gold is soft and malleable; it can be cut with a knife and won't splinter. You can even "dent" it with a pin. Fool's gold, though, is hard and flaky. A drop of hydrochloric (muriatic) acid will tell you for sure. Real gold will not be affected, but if you see a slight foaming action and the sample begins to dissolve, you know it's not real gold.
Color: Slang for any amount or size of visible gold that you find in your gold pan.
Au: Gold is element 79 and its symbol is Au on the periodic table. As a pure metal, gold is extremely heavy with a specific gravity of 19.3, which means pure gold weighs 19 times more than an equal amount of water.
Thursday, October 08 2020
Has Covid-19 put the kibosh on local haunted houses, trick-or-treating, and Halloween parties this year? Not to worry, you can still find some socially distant ghostly fun this season— visit a gold mining ghost town! About 3,800 ghost towns are still standing across the USA, mostly out West. Some of the buildings are in great condition, others are quite literally falling down. Some towns have become well-known, easy-to-reach roadside attractions, others are quite remote. Each town has its own boom-to-bust story that makes a visit both interesting and educational. Whether you’re a ghost hunter or a history buff, please leave everything as you find it. Take lots of photos, but no souvenirs.
Rhyolite, Nevada. Winding throughout the rich and colorful Silver State, Nevada’s highways and byways are ideal for discovering America’s history. Route 374 is a prime example and leads to the much-photographed ghost town of Rhyolite. As far as boomtowns go, Rhyolite is a “newer” ghost town, having been born and busted between 1904 and 1920. What’s also special is that its crumbling yet photogenic buildings are mostly made of concrete, not wood. Since lumber was scarce in the desert, one creative miner even built his home out of mud and 30,000 assorted liquor bottles! But perhaps what is most unusual here is that you are guaranteed to see ghosts as you head into Rhyolite— yes, even in broad daylight! That’s because on the same gravel road heading toward Rhyolite, you’ll find a 15-acre outdoor sculpture park— Goldwell Open Air Museum. Among the unusual pieces of art are life-size ghosts, a 25-foot high pink woman made of cinder blocks, a 24-foot high steel prospector posing with a penguin, and much more.
Bodie State Historic Park, California. When a little girl writes in her diary “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie” you know her destination isn’t a pleasant one— not in the 1880s anyway when she penned that entry. The child’s name is unknown, but her words have became famous throughout the West to describe her family’s move to Bodie, California— once known as the Wildest Mining Camp in the West. From about 1877 through the 1880s, this gold mining town was booming and bustling. The population of miners, merchants, gamblers, entrepreneurs, and their families exceeded 10,000. Some people got rich. From the onset of mining through about 1941, the 30 different mining companies that operated in the Bodie Mining District produced close to $100 million in gold and silver (gold was then about $20 an ounce; silver was less than a dollar an ounce). The Standard Mine was the most profitable, yielding nearly $15 million over 25 years. It was actually this mine’s success that caused the 1878 rush to Bodie. Today, the lawlessness is long gone. Now a State Historic Park, Bodie is the nation's biggest unreconstructed ghost town, and provides an authentic look back into California’s mining history. What's left of Bodie—about 170 buildings and the Standard Mill— represents just five percent of what was standing in its heydey. There are no re-creations or restorations here. Everything is officially in a state of "arrested decay," meaning only minimal repairs are made on the remaining structures.
Oatman, Arizona. If you’re out to get some kicks on historic Route 66, stop in the ghost town of Oatman, Arizona. Born as a tent camp for gold miners in 1906, the town boomed, then busted in the 1940s, and has since come alive again. Over half a million tourists visit Oatman each year, greeted by friendly resident burros looking for a carrot snack! Although there are gift shops, staged gunfights, and costumed entertainers strolling the streets, Oatman takes pride in keeping the flavor of the town as authentic as possible. You won’t find newly renovated buildings here—Oatman’s historic buildings are definitely from a bygone era. As you stroll through town, watch for signs and painted murals. One particular interesting sign shares the history of the Oatman name. It was originally named Vivian, after the Vivian Mining Company. It was later renamed Oatman in honor of Olive Oatman, a woman kidnapped by Indians in the 1850s, and released five years later for a ransom of one horse, four blankets, and some beads. Signs also tell you that the town appeared in several movies such as How The West Was Won, Foxfire and Edge of Eternity.
Bannack State Park, Montana. Although the old-time prospectors are long gone, many mining relics and over 60 buildings remain at Montana’s Bannack State Park. Most are so well preserved that you can actually go inside them— a rare treat when it comes to ghost gowns. Bannack’s rich history began 150 years ago with John White’s discovery of placer gold along the banks of Grasshopper Creek. In July 1862, Mr. White filed one of the first recorded mining claims in what was later to become the state of Montana. Good news traveled fast and by fall of that year, “Grasshoper Diggins” was home to 400 prospectors. By the following spring, the population had swelled to 3,000 — the Gold Rush was definitely on! On the southeast end of Bannack, the Bessette House is believed to be haunted by the children who died here during an epidemic of scarlet fever. The site is nicknamed the Crying Baby House because of the sounds some visitors have reported hearing.
Keep the old timers in mind as you stroll through these or any other gold mining ghost town. It will give you a new appreciation for modern gold mining equipment and metal detectors that makes gold recovery so much quicker and easier. It really puts into perspective yesteryear’s impact on the gold mining we do today. Find more information on ghost towns, gold mine tours, and travel articles on historic sites here.
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