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Old gold mine still yields treasure

Recently, I perused a book of fabulous old Klondike and Yukon Gold Rush photographs taken by Eric Hegg during the late 1890s and early 1900s. Hegg had tramped around Alaska and Canada with a Kodak box camera and produced some of the most memorable images of the 19th centurys last great gold rush. Hegg documented the madness of the Klondike stampeders and their gold fever when whole families were broken apart and lives destroyed in the hope of finding personal wealth in the black sands of the Klondike and Yukon rivers. And where theres lots of gold, theres bound to be greed, jealousy, even madness. Heggs photos helped put me in the correct frame of mind before joining members of the Rutland Rock and Mineral Club on an unusual outing; the destination was a search for gold at the old Canada Gold Mine site located along Trout Brook in Andover, Vt. I told myself I wasnt going to find wealth, just enjoy a few quiet hours while sitting alone in a streambed on a warm summer day. Of course I knew Vermont had an historic gold rush of sorts, starting in 1855 and petering out by the 1880s. Most Green Mountain gold and some of it in paying quantities was mined in the Plymouth-Bridgewater area. I also knew that 21st century recreational miners still enjoy panning the chilly waters of Buffalo Brook for some of the best pay dirt in New England. But I wasnt quite sure what to expect, goldwise, in the hills of Andover. The Rutland clubs field-trip destination, Trout Brook, was the scene of a semi-commercial alluvial gold-mining operation over 30 years ago. Two Canadian partners owned and mined the site where they worked a rich deposit of placer gold apparently missed by 19th century miners. Today, the site is privately owned and open only to select prospectors all personally known by the mine owner. Entering the humid glen above the brook, club members trekked with mining gear in tow down a narrow wooded path to the old mine site. The place looked more like a one-man gravel pit than a gold mine to me, but I learned that this million-year-old fossil Tertiary river channel has produced a steady stream of gold over the decades. Here was the exact site where the mysterious Canada Gold Mine partners dug out ancient sediments to be washed for gold in the nearby roaring brook. We filled up several buckets of sediment from the old mine and then staked out our panning spots along the creek; then, we began washing out the muck in plastic gold pans in the hopes of finding some color. The mine owner, and an experienced club member, provided instructions on how to properly pan for gold; its not an easy task to wash out the muck and get it down to the black sand concentrate (where heavy gold is said to reside). During the 1849 California Gold Rush, miners considered washing out 50 pans a day to be a good work day. Well, this tyro managed washing out less than five pans in three hours this included a leisurely bagged lunch, time for panning instructions, and several back-straightening and neck-retwisting breaks. Gold mining, at least when done the old fashioned way, involves lots of backbreaking labor. In the end, this latter day 49er can happily report finding a few flecks of gold, not a bad start for a greenhorn who doesnt like to get wet. In the end, I began rethinking my original frame-of-mind before setting out on the field trip maybe there was something to the gold bug after all? With inflationary times lurking about, finding local gold suddenly has gotten some attention. Meanwhile, gold is rising toward the $1,000 an ounce mark; a few weeks spent working in a gold-bearing stream might produce some extra folding green. With permission from the owner, I hope to return to the old Canada Gold Mine site. There may be a nice nugget or two buried in the sands of Trout Brook. And I aim to find them. Editors note: The location of the old gold mine site has been changed to stop trespassers and protect the owners privacy.

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