Monday, May 07, 2007

A Parachronistic Diversion

Beware the curious historian. Or one with a sudden excess of free time, anyway.

After parting ways with my employer a few weeks ago, I found myself with a great deal of time to devote to my various hobbies. Beyond the normal aspects of unemployment, namely filing for unemployment and looking for new employment, I figured I'd spend some time reading and hitting the nearby forest trails. While tooling around the net in search of new hiking trails, I came across a website offering advice to amateur gold prospectors.

Prospecting for gold seemed rather appealing. I love to spend time in the wilderness, anyway, and what's more important at the moment, amateur prospecting is dirt cheap. The idea of taking a crack at a centuries-old practice and emulating the countless thousands of prospectors that influenced the history of the United States was certainly the most fascinating aspect, and I wondered exactly how I'd stack up against my predecessors.

Just figuring out where gold might be is as important as honing the ability to sift through dirt, so I trolled around the net looking for clues to probable places to find an accessible deposit. Most documents and message boards indicated that glacial deposits are the best bet for someone in Northeast Pennsylvania, and poster pointed to this map indicating where glacial deposits from the correct geological timespan were located. With that information in mind, I found a suitable site in Pike County, shown on this map.

After purchasing a cheap gold pan, I drove up to the state forest and hiked towards one of the nearby creeks. I found a spot where faster flowing water from higher elevations slowed down to form a decent pool, and dug my pan into the dirt. I swirled the mixture of rocks and smaller particles around, using the stream to take away the larger rocks and dirt I didn't want, and eventually ended up with a handful of fine particles.

I sifted through the dirt and found a 1/2 Cm gold-colored flake. Not wanting to get stuck with the wrong mineral, I tried passing a magnet over the flake, which wasn't attracted, leaving me to conclude that the pliable flake was gold. Not bad for a first attempt, I think.

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