Finding Nuggets the "Old-Fashioned" Way (Part 3)

(A "come along" much like the one Walt H. used.)

In my last post on this topic I said that I would tell you how Walt H., the first of the two oldtimers, became a master at finding gold nuggets the "old-fashioned" way. So here goes:
Walt H.'s Story
When Walt H. first took me under his wing over 30 years ago I was a mere novice to gold mining, making the usual beginner mistakes and dreaming large without the knowledge or experience to back up my overblown expectations. Walt helped change all that and over time, schooled me up using a combination of one-on-one instruction, vast experiential knowledge (45 years' worth), numerous helpful tips, and what he jokingly referred to as "my little secrets."
Mining Equipment
Gold Concentrates
Gold Concentrators

Walt was a patient, gentle, and kind soul with a generous spirit and calming ways about him. In my mind, he represented the very best of Western gold mining traditions as well as what it means to be a good person. In essence, he was a "miner's miner" and damn good at what he did. I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have been the recipient of his mentoring and instruction.
Large Recoveries Using Basic Gear
What was Walt "damn good" at? Finding placer gold and lots of it. But what really set Walt apart from the thundering herd of "wannabe" gold seekers was his uncanny ability to recover large quantities of gold nuggets and coarse gold using very basic tools and equipment. This gear included the following items:

gold pan and classifier
basic crevicing tools
miner's pick and shovel
large pry bar
sluice box
high banker
"come along"
Most Important Nugget-Hunting Tool
Please note that Walt did not use all of these items all of the time. He adapted his equipment usage to the situation at hand, but one item that was always present when he was hunting nuggets was the "come along" (very similar to the one pictured above). In fact, it was the single most important nugget-hunting tool in his arsenal.

Most of you out there probably know what a "come along" is. But for those of you who don't it's a very simple and ingenious tool for moving or pulling large, heavy objects using a dual "slip" hook and cable and ratchet configuration (I'll discuss how Walt H. employed this tool to great effect a bit later).

Where Walt Worked His "Magic"
Where Walt worked his "magic" was just as important as the tools he employed, if not more so. Although an experienced placer gold miner with many hours under his belt working large gold-bearing rivers, Walt concentrated his efforts on the smaller gold-bearing tributary creeks and "feeder" streams in major gold-bearing districts.
Here is what he looked for in those small streams and creeks in terms of nugget-hunting qualifying factors:

recorded nugget production

gradual slope over distance

stream structure displaying a range of water flow rates (still, slow, and fast) and plenty of "twists and turns" (inside bends, etc.) and small drop offs

sufficient amount of obstructions (i.e., boulders, large rock groupings) in low-pressure areas

physical evidence of flood stages and/or high-water flows

presence of clay layers (false bedrock) or actual bedrock (surprisingly enough, Walt viewed these as beneficial but not mandatory in terms of his own nugget hunting. In his view, the other factors were more important.)

That's essentially it. However the real secret to Walt's success over time rested in his ability to "read" these elements and make them reveal their secrets in terms of gold deposition, especially nuggets and coarse gold.

In my next post on this subject I'll focus strictly on how Walt used this gear and these diverse structural elements to get the gold. Until then, be safe and keep smiling.

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If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Finding Nuggets the "Old-Fashioned" Way (Part 2)"

(c) J.R. 2009

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