Tag Archives: nugget

This is gold mining..

“This is gold mining. You love ALL of it, or you love NONE of it!”  

These were my husband’s words to me when he noticed the color drain from my face as 14 thousand pounds of bulldozer came slamming down on the tilt trailer.  He was teasing, but he’s not wrong.

I absolutely love the spring. I love dreaming about what we might accomplish this year at the mine.  I love seeing the first leaves come out on the trees.  I love seeing how the river has changed.

I don’t particularly enjoy hauling all our equipment down winding mountain roads 70 miles from our home.  The price of getting to mine in the National Forest is that everything has to be removed at the end of the season, and staged again in the spring.  So we pay that price.



But we survived, we got all the equipment there. Then it was time to stage the trommel, muck out the settling pond, unroll the hoses.  Getting the level right on the sluice box and trommel is always an exercise in trial and error.  “Where is ____ tool?”  “Did you remember the ______ .”

There’s nothing like when that first water comes down the sluice box.  That’s when, in my mind anyway, it’s really mining season.

We got the water going, the only thing left to do was run some dirt.  We had our friend the welder make some plumbing changes to the trommel, and it seems like it’s really going to make a huge increase in our production.  The trommel processed the material as fast as I could feed it.  I never once had to use my trusty 2×4 to push a rock through the hopper, or get off the excavator to undo a jam.

We decided to call it for the evening. We enjoyed the first campfire of the year.

The next morning, we loose the pump seal, and everything stops.

I don’t care how big your mining operation is, how shiny and new your equipment, it can still come to a grinding halt over something as simple as an o-ring.  And so it did.

This is gold mining.

And I love it.



The Mountains are Calling..

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.” –   John Muir

Welcome to the start of the 2017 Alaska mining season!  To those of you just joining our story, we are a family of gold miners from Alaska.  For some reason that I will never understand, folks like to hear about our trials and tribulations while trying to dig our fortune out of the ground.  For those of you who have followed us in the past, thanks for tuning in again!

I understand what Muir was saying about the call of the mountains – I’ve been hearing it for some time, though the snow didn’t seem to be cooperating.  Thankfully though, Spring is finally upon us and its time to start setting up.  First piece of equipment – the recently repaired backhoe- is on site.

While there is still snow in places like the creek – there are some signs of Spring – we even found a patch of violets.

The camp looks pretty lonely right now, looks like we shouldn’t have left our supply tent up (we lovingly call it the taj mahal) I guess we had a big snow load here this winter!

The dog couldn’t resist a wallowing in the settling pond.  We’re not the only ones excited to be back at the mine!

Both our new and old dig sites are not quite thawed out, but that is ok, as we still have a bit of staging to do.  You may remember that last year we had a magnetometer survey done to help us find that “good pay”  and we are really looking forward to following up on one of the “hot spots” from the survey and seeing what kind of values are there.  This spring I can tell you why there is most likely good gold there – the water is just pouring out there, draining from up on the canyon rim.  You can literally hear the water trickling down.


More to come – just thought I’d let you all know the news.  IT’S MINING SEASON!!!!

We now have a newsletter!  If you’d be interested in receiving blog posts and promotions to your inbox – please feel free to sign up.  You’ll get a conformation email – be sure to check the Junk folder.



Just the two of us


The leaves are starting to turn, and thus begins the bittersweet chapter of mining season.  With the kid back in school, and most of the rest of our crew gone, its up to just my husband and I to save what’s left of the season.  Thanks to grandma for getting the kid to school during the week, we are able to work as long as we have daylight, skip lunch, and get up early.

Mining in the fall is not so bad; less bugs, more bears.  Though we haven’t seen a bear yet this season (knocking on wood).

little dump truck

The backhoe is still in pieces at the mechanic’s shop, but we simply couldn’t wait anymore.  Time to try out the little dump truck that we’ve had for a while but never taken up to the mine.

It takes a little longer because we  first have to use the excavator to load the truck from the dig site. Second, stockpile the stuff at the washplant. Then third, drive the excavator back over to load the washplant. But it worked pretty well.  In fact, we might make this truck part of the process for next season and save the miles on the backhoe.

Also, thankfully, we finally got the report from the geologist on the magnetometer survey.  There are a lot of very promising prospects including possible some bedrock source gold.  I think I’m going to work on the permits to expand the place we were testing last time, as the report agreed with our test results.  We really can’t tell anymore about this spot until I get permission to clear some trees and make some road improvements.  In the meantime, there’s a couple of small hotspots we’re headed towards at in our current digsite that we hope to break through too soon.


I’ve been fighting with this dang rock for days with the excavator, but I bet it’s where the gold is coming from.  I’ll get it soon.

black mat IMG_0620 (2)

Pretty good results, less than usual because the process is a little slower, but better some gold than none.

Also more of the crystaline gold in this cleanout.

2015 and we’re off – sort of

We got an early start on the season, we had very little snow this winter, which meant we didn’t have to wait for the thaw.  Armed with a couple of new toys, including a mini excavator and a sluice we had welded just for us.  The sluice  has four leveling jacks, and a nugget trap.

The excavator is the best purchase we ever made, I don’t know how we lived without it.  It loads faster, and has the ability to easily go up in the woods to dig test holes.  We run more material in a day than we used to in three, run the dirt more evenly, and are much less worn out at the end of the day.  We found a new test spot up in the woods that looks promising.

The first week we were going great until the water pump died, back to town, but we managed to rent one at a reasonable price from the folks who were repairing ours.  Next, we had a mishap with one of the controls getting caught on a piece of clothing, and rammed the bucket through the grizzly, sigh.. back to town.

We had our friend the welder weld us a new grizzly like we always wanted with a steeper angle, everything was going great.  This is a short days find.gold










The next day, I’m ready to move from the digsite to the washplant to start running material, and the excavator wont move.  Final Drive is shot.  Let me tell you, removing the track so we could take the part to town was not fun.  I knew there was a reason I bought that three ton hoist!

broken excavator









So here we are with nice weather and nothing to do, we decided to try out the hooka and dry suit we got off craigslist and do a little dredging.  There is a short window of time we are permitted to do this so as not to disturb the salmon fry, we’ve never had the conditions be right to give it a go.  If you are interested in dredging, take my advice and try on the suit you are going to buy.  It was too small, it took three people to squeeze me into it, and leaked like a sieve. In these mountain fed streams, I believe that the water temperature is somewhere approaching the liquid temperature of nitrogen.  Got about twenty minutes in before the current and the cold temperatures defeated me.  Its a whole new world under the water, I forgot how much I loved doing that, I just need a better suit.










Now we are waiting on the new final drive, a little broker, a little wiser, but still damn greatful we get to do this.



Look at the size of that mosquito

Things going well here. Nice little picker we got the other day. Nice of the mosquito to pose for reference. I think we have discovered through test hola that we have a depression in the bedrock ahead of us. Old waterfall maybe? Only problem is the only safe way to get the loader in there is dig from where we are. May as well process the dirt while we are at it.

All has been going pretty well. We keep breaking the pull strings on the pumps for some reason, but we can deal with those kind of fixes.