"Down But Not Out:" Thoughts From a Michigan Miner (Part 4)

(Most of Michigan's gold was derived from ancient glaciers and glacial action.)

Periodically I hear from a loyal reader and a mining friend, "Charlie" from Michigan. "Charlie" checked in recently to let me know how's he's been faring in his search for that precious yellow metal in the Wolverine State.

Here's what "Charlie" had to say:

"Hi J.R. just a little update..."

"Seems at least the glacial outflow I've been working has plenty of iron. I've pulled pounds of hematite from different samples and what looks to be a specimen of ilmenite about the size of a penny. I also uncovered a layer with clay deposited in it, under a coarse sand and gravel mix. The strange thing is (at least so far) it's not really a typical layer of clay, but fist sized clumps... as if maybe the clay was frozen when it was deposited."

"Just Enough Color..."

"The more I sample from this outflow it appears to me to be a 'spur' from an 'esker,' where the material gushed in rapidly in a very short-lived event. As the spur filled and the water flow slowed, its channel to the main stream or glacial channel filled with lighter and lighter material. I know this because samples I've taken that are closer to the 'feed' channel yield finer sand and lighter sedimentary rock."

Where to Find Gold

"Samples from this knob have yielded just enough color to keep me from giving up on it completely. Being able to hit this location without spending gas money works in my favor also, not to mention the sneaking suspicion that somewhere in amongst some of this iron I have a fair chance of finding a Michigan gold nugget. Of all the areas I've worked so far I've yet to see such a small area with anywhere close to such a concentration of heavy materials in it."

"More Color From Clay"

"I wanted to take a good friend out prospecting so we explored a remote stream out in the sticks that I'd put on my list this past winter. We found ourselves a small clay outcrop in the stream bed to work over. We didn't do real well, but at least my friend got to see his first tiny, tiny bit of Michigan gold after working over that clay deposit."

"On a whim, just before we called it a day I left him napping, and went upstream and found an even thicker clay outcrop in the stream bed and the area over it will get some real attention on our next trip to this spot. I only had time for one pan from this spot, but there was color in it."

"We'll Do Better Next Go Around"

"Even though we didn't find a small nugget or even a tiny flake, we bloody well did find some gold! Those little bits of color the size of fly excrement proved that particular stream isn't ready to be scratched off my list until it gets some more sampling."

Carhartt Wear

"I'm sure we'll do better the next go around, and recovering gold that fine with a gold pan was a confidence builder. I expect to recover this fine stuff in my rocker box, but had questions as to my ability to do so with a 15" gold pan I'd never used before."

"Gold and Fossilized Coral"

"The little bit of gold I've found so far leads me to believe that I better get very good at fine gold recovery and find areas with higher concentrations of it. I swear what I've seen so far has been ground almost to dust by glacial action. So, at this point a fine flake in my pan would have me dancing for joy."

"To be perfectly honest, the fossilized coral we found while classifying material was worth more than the gold we found. On the other hand at least now I can look folks dead in the eye and say, 'There's gold in them thar Michigan hills, if your willing to bust your back to get it!'"

"Anyway J.R., I just thought I'd let you know that here in the Wolverine State I'm finally seeing a little color. I'm sure some folks might laugh at the little bit of gold I've teased out of these hills so far, but then again if it were easy it could get a might crowded out here."

"Best wishes, 'Charlie.'"

One Hell of A Role Model

You know, I've been around the mining block for over three decades and I don't think I 've ever come across a prospector or miner with "Charlie's" grit and determination. Although the odds were stacked against him as a newbie to even find a bit of gold where he is working, "Charlie" didn't let that deter him.

He did his geological homework, he persisted, he got out there and got tired and dirty again and again, suffered countless disappointments, and kept the faith despite all. In my view, "Charlie" is one hell of a role model for those of you just starting your climb up the small-scale mining ladder.

"Charlie," you did what you started out to do in an area that most other miners would thumb their noses at. I'm damn proud of you man!

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "'Down But Not Out:' Thoughts From a Michigan Miner (Part 3)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2011

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com