Author Topic: News-Sentinel reporter tries his hand at panning for gold  (Read 258 times)

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News-Sentinel reporter tries his hand at panning for gold
« on: September 01, 2017, 02:19:50 PM »
News-Sentinel reporter tries his hand at panning for gold

By John Bays/News-Sentinel Staff Writer
I pulled up to a combination Kentucky Fried Chicken/A&W in Oakdale at about 1 p.m. on Wednesday, where I met Robert Guardiola, president of the Delta Gold Diggers.

A jolly man with a firm handshake, Guardiola would be teaching me how to pan for gold in the Goodwin Recreation Area of the Stanislaus River.

I changed out of my Adidas sneakers into a pair of well-worn steel-toed Red Wing boots, waterproofed to the ankle, as Guardiola had advised me that I might get wet during our excursion.

After we stocked up on snacks and beverages, I got into photographer Bea Ahbeck’s car and we followed Guardiola’s truck to the recreation area.

Guardiola has been president of the Delta Gold Diggers five years, and a member for nine.

He first became interested in mining in his youth, when his stepfather bought a Gold Prospectors Association of America kit — although the two never did search for gold together.

Later in his life, Guardiola purchased his own gold placer claim in Moccasin, granting him the rights to any gold found on the land. Although he knew nothing about gold mining at the time, he did find a little gold during his first few attempts.

He got a little more serious in 2008.

“I read an article in GPAA’s magazine advertising a local chapter, so I joined and learned how and where to find gold. As it turns out, my claim had a lot of gold,” Guardiola said.

Although gold currently sells for $1,287 per ounce, Guardiola typically prefers to either trade the gold he finds for supplies, or save it for the future. At the height of his mining career, he would find 15 to 20 ounces per year, whereas now he usually finds three or four ounces.

While there are a number of state and federal regulations governing where and how people can mine for gold, including what types of equipment can be used, Guardiola explained that panning is allowed on state lands such as the recreation area where we stood.

“State parks are pans and hands only, but there are no restrictions on private claims,” he said.

After loading up with his 50-pound backpack and collection of plastic pans, Guardiola led our group — including David Mendoza, another newcomer — down to the river. There, he explained that gold always flows in a straight line, even when the river curves, and that inside bends and the center of the river tend to have more gold.

As the Stanislaus River was flowing rather quickly that day, Guardiola said, we would stick to the river bank.

“Gold is where you find it, not always where you seek it,” he said as he dug a small hand trowel out of his backpack.

Guardiola scooped up heaps of sand and rocks from the river into the plastic pan, with ridges on one side to help catch the black sand, which he said is a good sign of gold being present.

Dipping the pan into the water, he tilted it forward, the ridges facing away from him, and began to gently shake the pan back and forth, occasionally using his fingers to brush away rocks until only black sand remained. He then lifted the pan above the river and, with only a small amount of water at the bottom, gently swirled the pan from side to side, moving the sand to leave small flakes of gold and other “heavies” such as copper, jasper and California jade.

Gold does not move when the water swirls, due to its weight, whereas pyrite, also known as fool’s gold, does, Guardiola pointed out. He then handed me a pan and trowel to try for myself.

I made my way to the river’s edge, grateful for my waterproof boots. First, I moved large rocks out of the way with my hands before scooping sand and rocks into the pan, just as Guardiola showed me. It took me a few tries to get the hang of removing the smaller rocks, with Guardiola reminding me to keep the pan in the water until all of the rocks had been removed, but I eventually found a few flakes of my own, which I promptly sucked into a clear plastic snuffer bottle.

As we hiked to the next spot, Guardiola pointed out white spots in limestone along the trail, explaining that the contact zones were a good indicator of gold’s presence in the land. He took the opportunity to dig sandy soil from dry land near the next bank as I honed my panning technique in the water at the next bank.

Although we only found maybe $30 worth of gold between us, it was an enjoyable experience. I plan on taking Guardiola up on his offer to go out for a full day of gold digging in the future.