The 19th Century Anglo-Celt took a 19th Century attitude toward the Mexicans (Remember the Alamo!) and the Indians (Damn redskins! They killed Custer!). The 20th Century Anglo-Celt is an enlightened 20th Century bundle of complexes and he is so loud in confessing his past sins against those two defeated peoples that he can’t hear the historians tell him that there’s guilt enough to go around. That maybe the Mexicans and the Indians should have their share of the sackcloth and ashes.

For if many 1880 Americans believed that the only good Indian was a dead one and that the children of Coronado should live on the downhill side of the railroad tracks, the Mexicans and the Indians had their paraphrase of that opinion.

The pioneer Mexican believed that the only good Indian was an enslaved one, or one whose scalp festooned the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. The frontier Indian believed the only good Mexican was one tied to a wheel of his set-afire wagon or a tied-down one whose bones had been picked clean by the voracious, venomous black ants of the Sonoran Desert.

Despite this mutual hostility, the three groups adjusted uneasily to one another in frontier Arizona and they achieved a precarious sort of co-existence. It was so precarious that a thoughtless word or act, or sometimes deliberate ones would bring the ancient feuds back to flash-point.

The on-again, off-again truces and vendettas marked many of the lost mine stories, like this one of the Little Horn Gold.

Juan Bautista Alvarado had been a California governor in the days of the Spanish colonization. During California’s troubled transition from a colony of Imperial Spain to a state in the new Republic of Mexico, the titles of his estates became clouded and his heirs sought new lands. In 1878 one of them, Jose Alvarado, was a prosperous rancher at Palomas in the Gila Valley of Southwestern Arizona.

The warrior tribes of the Colorado River often camped on his lands and despite their hit-and-run warfare with the white settlers, Mexican and Anglo, they became friendly with Alvarado. One of the Indians believed he was in Alvarado’s debt (the rancher had taken the Indian’s desperately-ill son to a priest, who baptized the boy. The boy recovered. “You white men value gold,” the Indian said, “I will take you to a rich gold mine.”

Alvarado by then was old and crippled, but for gold he could endure a hard ride into the mountains. He and the Indian set out for the mine. Alvarado brought along two friends and there was immediate trouble.

The two friends, both Mexicans, made no secret of their hostility toward the Indian and their contempt for him. To them, he was only a servant and guide and not fit dinner company for gentlemen whose ancestors had brought the scarlet and gold banner of the Spanish king to America.

The Indian was a proud sub-chief of a warrior tribe and to him the two Mexicans were parasites, free-riders. He went to Alvarado and told him he would put an end to the unpleasantness. He would kill the two.

Alvarado talked him out of it. But the expedition, by then only a few miles from the promised mine, was over. If the Indian was not good enough to eat with the two Mexicans and associate with them, he was not good enough to share his gold with them.

To prove to Alvarado that he had not lied about the gold, the Indian slipped away that night and returned at dawn with a rock heavily laced with gold.

Alvarado did not live to try again. On his deathbed at Yuma he told his son, Jose jr., of the trail, as he had followed it and as the Indian had told him of its last miles.

The gold-hunters left Palomas and rode in the northwesterly direction, the old man recalled, and kept to the west of the Palomas and Tank mountains. They followed an old road into the Kofa mountains, turning east through Engesser Pass and north again to Alamo Springs. Alamo Springs was the end of the trail, as Alvarado had followed it, for it was there that the Indian refused to go farther.

To find the mine from there, Alvarado said the Indian later told him, “go east toward the next mountains {the Little Horns). The trail crosses an old river bed. Go down the arroyo for maybe 50 paces and there are rocks in the wash, put all together in a circle to catch rain water. Soldiers put the rocks there a long time ago. Go on another mile and a half to a side arroyo. In there are many rocks, all full of gold.”

The younger Alvarado had family responsibilities and a thriving dairy business. He had no time to go gold hunting. Many years later , when he tried, he found the trails and maybe his memory of the story too dim.

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It Took me About a Year!

When I picked up my first gold nugget detector back in the early 1990s I was expecting big things and had dreams of handfuls of nuggets. Thing is it wasn’t quite that easy and I got off to a slow start and spent most of my detecting time digging nothing but crap you know nails, bullets, wire, boot tacks, etc. I would get easily frustrated and give up to run my trusty drywasher which would always at least get me some gold for my effort. Each time I went out it seemed to get worse and I became more impatient giving up earlier and this I would learn later was one of my biggest mistakes.

I sold my first detector after several months of this and then bought a Fisher Gold Bug because it was proving itself as the “next big thing”, but I met with the same results and once again quickly went back to other methods. But I am not one to give up easily and began to read everything I could find about metal detecting. This is how I cam across a book written by my now good friend Jim Straight called Follow the Drywashers, The Nuggetshooters Bible and this book changed everything.


After reading this book through a couple times I learned there was much I was simply doing wrong with first and foremost being lack of patience. Now I still spent some time digging nothing but trash and went back to running my drywasher, but one thing I began doing was checking my header piles with my detector and then it happened. I found my first nugget almost exactly a year after buying my first metal detector in my own tailing pile.

It weighed just over a pennyweight and was right on top of the pile and was just too big to go through the grizzly into the hopper and ended up in my tailings. As I sat there with my hard earned prize I remembered “Follow the Drywashers” and started looking at all the drywasher piles up and down the wash. I began hunting them and started finding nuggets almost every day, many in the 1/4 ounce and above range.

But the book said more and I began studying about the areas I intended to detect and learned about the gold deposits and how they were worked by the old timers. I learned that they simply took the easy gold from washes and hillside deposits leaving much behind because it was just impracticable to work many yards of material for just a couple handfuls of gold nuggets. Yes they knew they were missing them, but was not worth the effort so they would move on to easier pickings. This left allot of gold to be found when metal detectors were invented and refined to work gold deposits.

Well I was now on my way and had learned what to look for, where to look, and to slow the heck down and dig EVERYTHING my detector told me was there. Yes everything! I mean when I am in an area where I know or am dang sure there are nuggets why in the world would I walk away from a target because I think it is trash? I can not see into the ground, I can not be sure by the sound even if I do guess correctly 60% of the time before I dig. The only way to be sure and avoid leaving gold behind is to dig all targets and look at them with your own eyes, if not you leave nuggets behind. Yes it takes much patience, but this is not easy simple as that.

Trash has also shown itself to be a useful tool when I am out in new areas looking for evidence that perhaps long ago there was placer activity in an area even though there is little evidence left due to erosion erasing it. You see those big headed tacks we find were often used to hold the canvas material used as bellows on old drywashers and would pop out while working. Those old cans sealed with lead solder are pre 1921 and tell of folks being there early on, square nails were used to hold wood items together, etc. I have actually found spots where the old timers simply walked away leaving their drywasher to rot and can tell by the assortment of old nails and hardware left long after the wood has rotted away.

These are a few of the things that have helped me become successful as a gold nugget hunter (Nugget Shooter) and to be able to consistently find gold nuggets and new areas others will likely never see. But anyone can actually do it and by reading articles and studying like I did you can get a big jump on the crowd if you apply what you read. I will continue to add information here and at my website as well as Facebook mainly because I really enjoy sharing information that may help you be as successful as I am.

Shorty’s Tunnell

It was August of 1998 and I was driving the back roads of Western Arizona with my trusty mutt DJ in my 1978 Forest Service green 4WD Ford F150 truck. I finally had a week off and planned to spend it prospecting for new nugget hunting turf since pickings were beginning to get a little lean nearer to home. I had just gotten my hands on a brand new shiny Minelab SD 2100 to use for the week and I was pumped to score some gold nuggets to add to the poke.

We were in route to an area I found information on while clearing out an old rental trailer a fellow had died in at the trailer park I manage. He had been a miner all his life and retired in 1980 with bad lungs which made him unable to get around much due to shortness of breath. His medical problems were directly related to the time he spent in his drift mines near Quartzsite Arizona breathing the dust created as he slowly tunneled along bedrock deep in the cemented gravels recovering gold left there long ago.

Every now and then Shorty would come up to the store in the old KOA building that used to be at the front of the trailer court when he ran out of coffee and have a few cups, never would buy any and said my boss’s price was highway robbery and I guess it may have been true. Sometimes he would show pictures of some of the gold he found over the years, but would never even give me a hint as to where.

As time went on we started getting along pretty good and it was really sad to see his health failing so fast and soon he couldn’t even get out to do any shopping etc. without collapsing so I along with some of his neighbors helped bring him groceries and talk with him now and then.

Than one day I knocked and no answer, Shorty was dead….

So after the State and County went through everything and took anything left worth money to pay for his burial expenses since there was no family I as park management get the unpleasant job of cleaning out the old trailer so it can be rented again. That was when I found an old tobacco can, the pocket size one often used by miners to put claim papers in and it was under the couch when I moved it. It had been hand painted like an Arizona flag and had my name on the top.

Inside was a map with marks on it where Shorty had worked his drifts and found all those nuggets I saw photos of. At the bottom it simply said “Thank you Billy Goodbye” I kind of did my best to say thanks and went back about my business and never got around to making the trip for over a year. Now here I was with my trusty partner DJ at the first mark on the map and sure enough there were drywasher tailing piles around the entrance to a drift on a rotted platform with a wood hand crank winch and very scary looking ladder.

So I detected around the entrance and not finding anything but trash and not having any plans of entering that 25 foot deep hole that could easily trap me without much hope of rescue we headed to the next area marked on the map. This was even scarier and the winch, platform, etc. was gone and the tailings surrounded a shaft covered with only rotting sheets of plywood covered with a thin layer of dirt. If someone stepped on this it could be like an old style bear pit trap. Detected here as well with no gold.

The next spot was a little different and the drift followed very rough bedrock as a tunnel with extensive tailings spread around the entrance, Shorty had worked here for a long time. It was now late afternoon so I made camp before doing any detecting. I then started working the drywasher tailings since so many nuggets end up in the header pile of a drywasher simply because if they do not fit through the screen allowing dirt into the hopper they end up in the tailings. The old time miners knew this, but were getting enough gold that a few lost nuggets were just accepted as a given.

My very first detected target was a 5 gram nugget!

I found 2 more small ones and a bunch of Shorty’s bits of wire, nails, rusted decomposing cans, and an old rusted pocket knife. It was a good day and I was sure I would really score tomorrow. As I was getting the fire started just before sundown I thought I saw something move in the entry to the tunnel and while looking got to wondering how many nuggets were still in the cemented gravels on the ragged bedrock within. I quickly blew it off because I know well the dangers of entering these death trap drifts where the slightest bump or vibration can cause tons of earth and rock to fill it in a instant. Not a pleasant thought and a very slow and horrible death if you are not luckey enough to get crushed by the rock and dirt.

Well next day I found no more gold in the tailings and in this area gold is mainly on bedrock under several feet of gravels limiting productive detecting to previously disturbed gravels or working the washes and this was what I did. For 2 days I went to his old sites and worked washes without finding a single nugget and this led me back to the spot with the drift tunnel to see if I could somehow scrounge up a few more nuggets. I hunted for a couple hours and again found myself looking into the mouth of the tunnel. I walked over and stared into it…

The opening was big enough to easily crawl into so I poked my head and shoulders into the hold and swung the detector across the floor, instantly I got a signal. I had to crawl in a couple more feet to dig the target and it was a gold nugget and a nice one at that weighing a little over 11 grams. I started moving a little further in and DJ began to whine a little which brought me back to reality and I quickly backed out of the hole heart pumping like a drum because I also heard w weird groaning sound from somewhere.

I sat looking at the gold I had found here and knew I would be going back in the tunnel…

After regaining the foolish courage to go back in I did and I had well over an ounce of nuggets within the first 20 feet and I was digging them from the lower part of the tunnel’s sides right on the bedrock an just above using a flashlight to see. But digging into the sides was making a substantial amount of dirt and a few rock fall from above, one hitting my head and making me wish for a hardhat. Then I heard the groan sound again and DJ was barking into the tunnel entrance irritating the crap out of me. It was right then a big chunk of wall feel in, but not into the tunnel I was in. There was an opening and a second apparently very long forgotten drift right next to this one and there on the pile of dirt was a gold and quartz specimen as big as my fist with the gold glowing in the flashlight beam.

I was getting scared a bit now and after hearing that odd sound again it seemed to be originating from the newly exposed tunnel and louder and more stuff was falling, but the worst part was a visible crack in the cemented gravels with material sluffing off it into the other tunnel and as I watched it slightly widened and made that groan.

It was the Earth making that sound… Moving!

Crap I gotta get out of here I thought to myself and drew my detector back to me and damned if I didn’t get several signals stopping my retreat. I dug nugget after nugget most small, but one was just over an ounce and solid gold. The Earth groaned again and this time I felt it making me exit that drift like it was on fire. I was shaking from fear as well as the handful of gold I had.

The thought of going back in terrified me, but I knew I would…

It was late enough that I rested into early evening looking at the gold I had found and trying to drum up the courage to try again tomorrow as it was nearing time to return home. Next day was the same and I found 12 ounces of nuggets by noon and was plumb silly with gold fever, I would be rich! I went back in after lunch and was finding more and more gold, but DJ was having a fit barking into the tunnel and making it very hard to concentrate. So I crawled out again hearing and feeling a slight movement of the ground and decided to put the dog on a leash. I leaned my detector against the truck and weighed, cleaned, and stashed my gold.

Still had a couple hours I could work so went over to get the detector and the dog had chewed the coil cord in half! I was mad and couldn’t believe it as he never does stupid stuff like that. Lucky I had another coil in the truck. I went and grabbed the coil and sat on a rock near the tunnel to remove the ruined one and install the other when I heard a low long groan from the drift tunnel.

Then with a roar and huge cloud of dust it was gone…

The whole side of the hill slid in and covered the opening completely almost as if it was not ever there and actually created a depression in the ground above where the drifts had been. If not for DJ chewing my cord I would have surely been in there…

I got a new respect for my dog that week as well as just under 22 ounces of gold nuggets and I do not go into tunnels or shafts if I can help it, but I still think about that spot though it is now off limits since it is on the expanded Indian Reservation now.

2012 the Mad Prospector

The New Blog…

I had another blog several years back and somehow lost all access to it except online as a reader and not administration which quickly became frustrating so I built this new one and hopefully will not lose it as well, but who knows. So if you see some stuff from time to time that sounds familiar it is because I am migrating some of my older writings over to this new site to re-share in my never ending quest to help others find gold nuggets.

So bear with me as I rebuild and I as before hope to lend a hand in helping you get over that first gold nugget with education, photos, ramblings, and some BS. I like to write and having a blog to post to helps keep me busy anyway….

So follow if ya want to read some of the stuff I don’t post elsewhere like Facebook or the Nugget Shooter Forums

I hope to see you in the goldfields….

Ed and the Dirty Jackass

This is a story I came across while doing research on the Harquahala Mine a few years back. There is probably a moral to the story but is escapes me. An old time miner by the name of Ed and his burro, Millie, got along pretty well. Ed knew when Millie was tired and wanted water. Millie knew when Ed was discouraged and needed to be nuzzled a little. Together they traveled the west looking for gold.

One summer they settled in a lush area atop the Harquahala Mountains. Ed had a small stash of gold that kept them in beans and bacon for several weeks. When the pouch began to flatten, he figured on taking a job on the railroad for a while.

Then three government scientists came up the trail to the mountain top. “We’d like to set up an astronomy observatory here,” they explained. “Well sure,” Ed agreed, a little bewildered. “Only I ain’t got a lot of grub here. I was just thinkin’ about gettin’ a job on the railroad.” “Tell you what. We’ll share your mountain and we’ll share our grub, how’s that?”

That was fine with Ed. The scientists brought up their equipment, and sometimes Ed and the youngest man would take an afternoon off and amble around the mountain, talking about geology. Ed had as much practical experience as the scientist had book-learning. They enjoyed each others company.

When the men were called back to Washington, Ed and his friend took one last walk. “I guess me and Millie will do some more prospecting when you fellers leave,” Ed remarked. “Not up here,” the young man said. “You’d be better off trying someplace else like…see…over there. That shiny spot on the other side of the canyon? That’s where you might find gold.” “Yeah? Well if I do It’s half yours” “No you keep it. Call it payment for your and Millie’s hospitality.”

So a few days later, Ed and Millie set off to explore the spot that had been lit up for a brief moment. Not once had the setting sun illuminated the spot again. But he had the location firmly fixed in his mind. The gold was there, all right. Ed posted his claim, loaded some ore onto Millie, and set off to spend the winter in town

Realizing he wasn’t getting any younger, he took in three partners who could do the actual mining while he collected his share of the profits. In the spring they set out for the Harquahala’s again, full of plans. But on the way up, one of the men called Millie a “dirty jackass.”

Ed ordered his partners to get lost. No one was going to insult his burro and get away with it. He’d mine the ore himself, he would, and they could forget it! Stunned, the men trudged back to town and reported that Ed thought more of that burro than he did of working a gold mine.

And no one ever saw ED or Millie again.

While the story of it’s discovery is a bit foggy, the Harquahala Mine is fact. It produced an estimated $1.6 million between 1891 and 1894, and continued to turn a profit until 1908 when operating costs drew even with the value of the gold mined. Today, the Harquahala Mine is known chiefly for the tale of it’s discoverers – the crusty prospector and his beloved burro.

Gurley Gulch Gold

A story I wrote in 2004 truth or fiction? “FROM THE DIARY OF THE MAD PROSPECTOR” This is a short tale that will begin a new series at my site, some will be true, some will be fiction, and some will have a few names changed to protect privacy and claims. I have spent some time while on trips sitting in camp and just writing and this story and the ones that follow are the results. So here is #1 and I hope you enjoy it!

Gurly Gulch Gold

It was finally cooling off in the deserts and I was sure getting the itch to get out there to go camping trip for a weekend, just the dog and I. Late October in Arizona is perfect for prospecting with cool nights and warm days of the kind that just make a feller happy to be alive. I had told the boss on Thursday that I would like Monday off and with his blessing I was now packing for a 3 day weekend metal detecting and enjoying some well deserved rest and relaxation. During the hot summer months I like to spend a lot of time reading and researching new areas to prospect when the cooler months come around and a little spot called Gurly Gulch was at the top of my list.

This is where I planned to spend a few days nugget shooting provided I could get into the area as planned. Many times when “going in blind” so to speak I have run into locked gates, washed out trails, no trespassing signs, and other obstructions so I try to have more than one route in planned just in case, but most times it’s one way or no way. I think about half of my leads and hard work end up meeting this fate and it’s back to the old drawing board so to speak. Gurly Gulch was a location I found mentioned in a small town newspaper article from 1901 and the story went something like this: An old fellow name of Trevor Gurly prospected the area and would come to town for supplies and was often loaned money by the local grocery to keep him in grub. Trevor would simply come in pick up what he needed and promise to pay as soon as he could and this went on for a year or so. Then one day Trevor came in with a big grin and a nice handful of nuggets to pay off his grocery bill and get supplies for his next trip and the nuggets were described as “goodly sized” by the writer of the article.

Trevor then filed a claim that he worked and lived on until his death in 1922. Now I followed up this story with some good ol’ research and could not find mention of Trevor Gurly or his claim. There were some placer claims in the area, but none in the general area of my search. All this time there was a nagging feeling that I had heard the name Gurly Gulch before, but I could not remember where. There was a general description of the area and how to get there from town, but it was pretty vague. I continued researching through my other channels looking for info to guide me to this old placer area with no luck. After exhausting all my resources I simply gave up and went on to the next location I was interested in and put Gurly Gulch and it’s nuggets on the back burner.

Then one afternoon in late August I was puttering around and came across an old treasure hunting book I had purchased at a thrift shop several years ago for about $4.00. The book is a very limited edition from 1933 and only has 69 pages, but the second story was from the same area that I had been researching looking for Trevor’s old claim and believe it or not Gurly Wash (not gulch) was mentioned in the story I was reading as a landmark of sorts for a lost treasure that was also reported to be in the same area. The best part of all this was that along with each story is a hand drawn map by the author and it showed the exact location I was looking for about a half of a mile from where the lost gold mine is possibly located. That was why I thought the name was familiar, I had read it in this book a while back and put it on the book shelf forgetting all about it.

Taking my newly found hand drawn map I went to my pile of topo maps and quickly located the trail and wash known as Gurly Gulch or Wash back in 1901. The wash is not now named on any map I looked at and that had made things difficult or even impossible without this hand drawn map. Arriving at the turn off from the highway at just about sunrise on Saturday morning I headed into the desert for an 11 mile drive into what I hoped would be Gurly Gulch with high hopes of being able to locate Trevor’s old placer workings. The drive in was somewhat rough with a few washed out spots, but a easy trip relatively speaking. I could see that the road got a fair amount of traffic, but that was to be expected with all the old mines in the area.

The drive in proved to be very interesting and I found myself stopping to look around and scan the hills with binoculars more than once. According to the topo map there were many mines in the area and this was very true with many small mining operations long closed dotting the rough mountain terrain. Man those old boys were tough judging by the location of some of those mines way up the side of a steep mountain with a trail going almost straight up. Taking a load up would be one thing, but coming down would be very dangerous. I was very close now to the wash listed as Gurly wash on the treasure map from the old book and was keeping an eye out for a trail or road exiting from the main one I was on and I found one going off to the South. I was exactly where I was supposed to be from what I could tell and matched the topo map also. So I continued on the trail until it came to a camp area near the wash and finding some level ground I parked my truck.

Now normally I would set up camp first off, but I was not sure yet if I was even where I wanted to be so I gave DJ a drink and we headed off hiking up the wash for a look see. Right away we found where someone had thrown their cans and bottles into a small dig hole and some of the broken bottles and tin cans with the lead solder were from the right time period with some newer stuff mixed in. Further up the wash I found a small tributary that had very old drywash header piles showing along the bank and that was enough to send me back to the truck to set up camp, any more exploring would be done with my detector in hand. Setting up is very quick for me and in no time DJ and I were feeling right at home and while he was content to just lie around all day I wanted to get after that wash with the old workings. Now I had no way of knowing if these were Trevor’s workings, but according to all the facts I had been able to put together I was darn close.

So with that in mind I got my gear together and went to work on that feeder wash up from camp. I began as I always do in a previously drywashed are by checking some of the header piles for missed nuggets and after about an hour without digging anything but trash from the piles I decided to work the small wash and its benches. About ten feet up the wash from where I started I got my first nugget, very small and well worn. Now with spirits high I slowed way down and began thoroughly detecting the little wash from side to side and up the banks. By late afternoon I had managed to snag several small shiny well worn bits from the wash itself and a couple from the bank, but none were over a penny weight. Nice gold to be sure, but not what I was here hoping to find as the source of Trevor’s gold was rumored to have produced bigger nuggets.

I decided to do a bit more looking around before supper this time taking my detector with me and I tried several little feeder washes and managed a couple more small nuggets for my efforts. This was sure getting to be fun and gold is gold no matter what the size! The sun was just beginning to go over the mountain when DJ. and I decided it was supper time and we walked the main wash back to camp. The main wash and the one I think is Gurly Gulch is about 15 feet across in it’s widest spots and narrows here and there with exposed patches of bedrock, just what a fellow with a detector likes to see. On the way back I was swinging some of the more obvious spots that would trap gold and kept pretty busy digging trash all the way to camp. Just before leaving the wash and calling it quits for the day I got a booming signal about 2 feet up the bank that stopped me in my tracks.

I began to get that butterfly feeling in my gut that I always feel when a target has that special sound that is somehow just a little different than that last booming trash target. Well I didn’t have to even dig because when I scraped away the topsoil, sticks, rocks, etc. with the side of my boot out pops a very nice slug of gold, smooth and shiny that would go at least a third of an ounce. What a way to end the first day in a new area and I was thinking I may have found exactly the spot I was hunting from my desk top during the hotter summer months. There is just no bigger thrill for me than to actually score after all the research and planning involved in finding such a spot. It was just starting to get dark with the sun setting somewhere behind the towering mountain to the West of camp that it had hidden behind a couple hours ago. This camp area had been well thought and placed close to the base of the mountain to supply afternoon shade in the heat of the summer, Trevor perhaps?

As I was sitting there looking at a canyon up the mountain a strange shadow emerged from the side of the mountain startling me and it took a minute for me to figure out what I was seeing in the fading light. It was bats! Thousands of them coming out of the side of the mountain from a cave or mine shaft, but I had seen no shaft on the face of that mountain with the binoculars. Perhaps I’d hike up there tomorrow and have a look around since the canyon below was part the wash I was camped next to. Well the rest of the trip was just what a nugget shooter dreams of with a good supply of new well worn smooth nuggets added to my poke and yet another spot on my list for future hunts. I didn’t find any more of the bigger nuggets, but did score several in the one to three penny weight range to go along with the smaller stuff that seemed to be fairly plentiful though a fellow had to work pretty hard to get them.

Funny thing though is that I hiked all over that rough slope where I thought I saw those bats come out and couldn’t find a cave or mine anywhere, but those bats came out each night I was there. Problem was they didn’t come out until the side of the mountain is just a dark shadow well after sunset and the bats show in the failing light filtering through the canyon making it almost impossible to see where they are coming from. Now I didn’t give the bats a whole lot of thought until on the way home I guess because treasure hunting and lost mines are not something I spend a lot of time doing, but what if those bats were exiting a mine that was hidden many years ago as the story goes.

I still have not found the time to get back to the area as it is quite a drive for me to get there from my home and well I have always had places closer to home to find nuggets, but something about those bats and that story keeps nagging at me. I think perhaps this Fall when it cools down a bit I will spend a few more days in Gurly Gulch.

Copyright 2004 William E Southern Jr

Just Pick a Spot

So what do I mean by “Just Pick a Spot” ? Well I run into lots of folks every year that are flustered not having found much if any gold and have been running from placer deposit to placer deposit doing quick 2 day hunts and heading off once again to a place they heard has “greener pastures”. This short article will try to get folks to focus on one area at a time and for good reason.

Even after doing research on a claim or open area you plan to prospect and learning all you can which ups your odds of success greatly you still are in, well, a new area! It is one thing to read and study at home, but getting boots on the ground to learn an area and it’s golden secrets is yet another. There are very few places I have spent hours and hours researching that I have scored a jar of nuggets first time in the field though it has happened.

Just finding the clues as to where to start can take a day or two in a new area and I have gone home empty handed after the first weekend there. So it is as they say “back to the old drawing board” Once again I begin planning my next hunt, where? The same location to try and locate where the old timers worked (if they did) to give me a starting spot. Geology as learned almost by accident as we study placer gold locations is a big help as well allowing one to ID potential spots even if no evidence the old timers were there.

But old timer evidence like these tailings from drywashing are a clue that have led me to many a nugget patch over the years and in many cases easy to spot from quite a distance or even on Google Earth from home.


Why didn’t we find this area first trip? Went the wrong way or whatever, but now we have a place to start metal detecting because as we have learned those old drywashers as well as today’s miss gold and especially larger nuggets that end up in the coarse header piles. Also it becomes evident what type material they were looking for in this area. So the hunt begins and even if you do not score or find evidence others have been here with detectors before learn and work the area hard.

Many of the gold placers we all work are huge and it can take many weeks, months, or even years to work them thoroughly and why do all that research to find a location only to do it all over again after only giving this spot a quick go over? In other words “why leave gold to try and find gold” ?

This is also true of areas a friend takes you into and says “I have found lots of nuggets in this area” So you hunt a couple hours and begin to figure all the gold is gone…. What you figured that out all on your own somehow? Have you ever looked at your detector coil then look around you at the huge area that could hold gold and realize it would take a lifetime to hunt every square inch of ground. In one of those square inches could be a half ounce nugget everyone else missed. Or a small wash full of small nuggets just over the hill.


So my friends learn the closest area to you that is a good nugget producer and work it hard, very hard and it will get a nugget in your poke faster than burning gas to run around quickly checking areas and never really hunting gold….

Good Hunting.


Bicycle Parts in the Desert?

I really don’t know what made this pop into my head, but likely it will help make a point about tracking the old timers some. Years ago in the Yuma area a friend and I were following a lead looking for a spot that had produced nuggets in the late 1800’s and our luck had not been to good all day checking washes and benches with our detectors.

I was working my way back to the truck and was in a new wash when I began finding odd stuff, first a bicycle pedal, some spokes, then I saw a rim with no tire sticking out of the bank. Curious I began excavating what I expected to be an old bike left in the desert for some reason, but why?

As I dug this old relic up it started to be quite apparent it was what was left of an old homemade puffer drywasher and was made from a tricycle since there was one small wheel on a camshaft also hand bent for the bellows and one large with a crank attached to a pedal stem for the owner to make the assembly work. Where the pedal I found had come from I figured. Wish I could have seen it working.

Looking back I wish I would have taken photos, but not having cell phones a camera was not always to hand. After finding this cool old drywasher I slowed down my hunt and after finding some more parts I hit a nice penny weight nuggets in the bank. This are produced some pretty nice gold over the years and still does to those that hunt low and slow.

Guess the point is the trash you find can be a very good indicator of those that passed before and though at first an odd find it turned out to slow me down knowing the old timers were working here too even though time had erased almost all the tailings they had left in the wash instead of on the bank in this steep sided gulch.

Pay attention to what the desert tells you my friends….

Slow Down!

Metal detecting for gold nuggets as I have mentioned in other articles can be very frustrating to the beginner and it can seem like forever before you find that first nugget. There seems to be no end to the trash you are digging and still no nugget. Well not to worry your first nugget will come and with it the confidence that you will find more.

This article will deal with how to search an area thoroughly, a lot of times people will spend a day in the gold fields just walking their detector. What I mean by this is that if you are not searching good looking areas slowly and completely before moving on you may be wasting your time and missing nuggets! If you are in an area that has produced gold the hard part is over, now you need to recover as much as possible without missing gold that should be in your pouch.

Now back to starting your search in a new area you have found by doing research. Now when in an area that I have not previously found gold I will move a bit quicker than if hunting a spot that has already given up nuggets. I start in the most obvious spots such as the washes and tributaries, working all the spots where gold will settle such as exposed bedrock and inside bends. Also work high benches and old dry wash header piles if present. You would be surprised how much gold I have recovered from tailings piles like the ones shown below!

Now when I say hunt these areas I don’t mean zig-zag across the center of a bench and move on, take the time to walk back and forth across the entire bench overlapping your swings. Same with the gulches and other likely spots. I can’t count the times I’ve seen finds that others left buy not hunting slowly and thoroughly. I have even found nuggets within a few inches of another detector dig. Now if during this preliminary search I find a nugget I mark the spot and begin a very slow process of gridding and searching the immediate area of my first find.

If the first nugget comes from a header pile I will concentrate my first efforts working all other piles in the area and raking them down to gain depth. Usually the coarse pile is where the larger nuggets were lost along with the waste simply because they were not seen. Check all piles though because sometimes fine tailings were shoveled onto coarse piles or they were mixed together to avoid having to move their equipment as often. This can take a lot of time , hours or even days depending on the area, but the rewards can be great.

Often the sloping sides of gulches can and do produce numerous nuggets to the electronic prospector and these areas often times can produce a patch. In these situations one small area is worked at a time slowly from a couple different directions overlapping swings to avoid missing any targets. Once the first area is worked a new square is marked out and the process is repeated. You must work very slowly and dig all targets and again when you are done with an area you can be reasonably sure you have missed no nuggets within range of your detector.

Obviously there are many different types of conditions and areas where you will find nuggets, but one fact remains the same. Slow down and thoroughly work all likely areas or you will be leaving nuggets for the next guy. There is nothing harder than watching someone pull a large nugget or several smaller ones from an area you thought you had cleaned out. You can avoid that heart break, just SLOW IT DOWN a bit and don’t walk away from gold to try to find gold!

As always I welcome all feedback and questions, Good Hunting!

Greenstone and Gold

That old Ford truck was sure a good old truck, but on some roads it could sure beat me and ol’ D.J. (my loyal mutt) to death. This particular road in Southern Arizona was longer and dustier than many areas I like to hunt and a tad on the rough side as well. I’d guess it takes about an hour to travel the 30 miles into the small placer area although I have never really timed it. Interesting thing is that you travel through several different geological environments and if you are into that sort of thing (I am) it is a very interesting drive and I have stopped several times to just hike and explore some without my trusty metal detector.

This little area was discovered with the help of a fellow I met in my travels named T.J. (not to be confused with D.J. the dog) that told me that he used to go and dry pan for nuggets with his Grandfather and get several each trip. Now believe you me that got my attention, but quick!

I had found him standing beside a old Dodge two wheel drive pickup truck with a hole in a radiator hose out in the boon-docks out of water and in need of a hand. I used duct tape and Shoe-goop to patch the hole then added a hose clamp to keep the patched area from bursting while he played with D.J., my dog. I then left his radiator cap lose to lesson the pressure and followed him to his old camper trailer parked at a small RV park about 30 miles up the highway to make sure he made it home ok.

It was after getting him home safely that I was told all about his prospecting trips with his grandfather when he was young. T.J. had lost his parents to the measles when he was about 9 years old and was taken in by his Grandfather who spent his life prospecting in Arizona and Nevada. He would work long days with him dry panning and drywashing for gold to keep them in food while living in the desert. At night he would get what schooling the old man could give. This went on for 3 years and then the Grandfather and T.J. hit a pretty good pocket of gold in Arizona allowing them to get a better truck and T.J. was taken back East to an Aunt’s house for proper schooling to his total dismay.

When T.J. was 17 years old he got word that his Grandfather had died just a year before he had planned to reunite with him to again search the Southwestern deserts for gold. This was very hard on him and T.J. left school and joined the Army. He fought in a couple wars from what he said and learned enough about people that he understood why his Grandfather lived like he did hunting alone in the desert for gold. T.J. left the army with a pension and vanished into the Nevada desert to hunt for gold…Alone. He had been living off of the gold he finds in Nevada and Arizona ever since. I was just fascinated by this real life prospector and his life story and listened to him long into the evening before crawling into my truck to sleep.

Anyway when we ran into each other T.J. was searching for the area where he and his Grandfather had “hit it big” back when he was a boy and he knew he was in the right patch of desert, but his truck was not 4 wheel drive and would not make it into the area. Mine would though and after a pot of very strong coffee we drove back to where we had met and resumed the search for his placer area.

Now over the years I have been told many a story and followed many a lead some good and some bad, but this time the teller of the magical tale wanted to go with. Now this was a new twist and yes I had a detector T.J. could use and I would teach him to use it to find the nuggets he was so sure would be lying there just waiting for us. It was with him that I made the first trip into the area and was seriously wondering at times what the heck we were doing so far back in no-man’s-land looking for an area he remembered from boyhood. T.J. was by the way about 75 or so and has some pretty serious medical problems at the time which added to my concern.

T.J was having absolutely no problem remembering the way in and was pointing out cactus, rock formations and other things he remembered from trips in as a boy. He told me how he and his grandfather would give things names as they traveled as kind of a game and the landmarks I use today are the same with their names the same as I learned them on the way in that day. These names are not on any map except for perhaps one or two of them, but good names just the same. Then I too began to get more excited as the rocks around me began to change. Geologically I mean and things were looking real good for prospecting with all the tell tale metamorphic material along with exposed Shist and Granite bedrock here and there and then I saw the first mine shaft on a hillside.

We were there! “just up the road a bit you will see a piece of cable sticking out of the ground and just past it a old trail, take it” T.J. said. Yup the cable was there and with the ol’ heart beating fast I turned the truck onto a very faint trail down a small hill. I was really believing there was something to this story now as T.J. had directed me in as though he was there last week, not 60 some years ago. “ok slow down and look for a pile of rocks like a claim marker and a old fire pit.” say’s T.J. We went about 2 miles through some real nasty stuff when he said “missed it”. So we turn around and go back, but he didn’t miss it I did, it turns out it was on my side and I didn’t see it, but he was sure it was on the other side of the road. That was the only mistake he had made in his directions, not bad!

As soon as I stepped out of the truck and looked at the wash we were parked near I saw the drywash tailings, lots of them, very old with only small mounds of the larger coarse tails from the grizzly with the fines pile being long gone. T.J. pointed out a wide area in the lower end of the wash where someone had run every inch of ground through a drywasher.

This was where they found their small fortune many years ago while working down the small wash and getting good color all the way. They got into the large natural bowl shaped area and found it to be very rich with gold winking at them from every riffle of their old hand pump bellows drywasher when T.J. stopped his Grandfather from working to come look. T.J. didn’t recall how much gold they recovered from that spot, but it was “several bean cans full” he said!

Heck even the dog was excited this area looked so good. I could hardly wait to get after some gold, but first I had to help T.J. learn to use a Fisher Gold Bug. Well he took to it without any trouble and he found his first nugget within 5 minutes of walking into the wash. It was about a penny weight and very rough laying right on top of a tailing pile at the edge of the wash. After a bit of hooting and grinning I went back to the truck for my Gold Bug 2 and I’ll be darned if T.J. didn’t nail another one before I could get back. This was a very nice nugget weighing in at a quarter ounce, again in a header pile from his Grandfather’s drywasher.

After sitting and chatting again for a bit and admiring the very crystalline nugget I headed down the wash to try my luck. I began working the bank and immediately got into a spot where there were signals everywhere over a small area. I excitedly began recovering targets, but they were not nuggets they were nails, lots of them in 3 different sizes and all very old even perhaps hand made. Possibly where the old drywasher roted away after being left by T.J.’s Grandfather. I moved out of the nail pile and immediately got a signal in a header pile and yes this one was a small nugget again very coarse weighing about a gram or so. After hunting the area for a couple hours and getting 4 more small ones I headed back to see how T.J. was doing.

When I got to the truck he was sitting there with a smile and 3 more small nuggets to show me and after that long drive in it was already getting late afternoon so we spent the rest of the day setting up camp and making a good ol’ steak dinner over a desert camp fire. We got to know each other that night, but we talked like we had known each other for all our lives. T.J. told me that there were several other small washes that had gold in them, but he couldn’t remember how to get to them.

The next day was interesting in that we just couldn’t get another nugget from that first wash or it’s banks up or down and I finally decided to take a hike looking for new areas or perhaps where that very coarse gold was coming from. Walking up a small tributary to the main wash we had been working I nailed another small nugget and slowed down. The little feeder cut through a area with an unusual amount of Greenstone scattered about mixed with quartz fragments and the soil was very red. I began hunting the flat that was covered with this material and immediately got a fairly deep signal and dug a half ounce nugget from about 8 inches deep. Before I was done I had well over an ounce of shiny rough placer nuggets.

I decided to go and get T.J. and let him in on the new patch and on the way noticed another small area with the same type material showing through the desert varnish that covers everything in this area. Yup you guessed it, within a few swings I hit a nugget, then another, and yet another. What a moment it is when you realize that you are in an area that could really produce and there is no evidence of anyone having been there for perhaps 60 years or more. We stayed there for two days and found several ounces each and became really good friends. What stories I got to hear around the camp fires that weekend and what plans we made for future trips.

Two weeks later I pulled into the trailer court where T.J. was staying to pick him up to find his trailer was gone. I couldn’t believe he would just leave after we found his old hunting area. I talked to a neighbor and was told that T.J. had died in his sleep a week earlier and was buried in the local cemetery. I was in shock to say the least and went to see his grave and say goodbye, it felt like losing family and it tore me up some inside.

I still hunt this range of hills and still find gold in the area almost every trip. I sure miss that old fellow in the bib over hauls smoking camel non-filter cigarettes and telling tales around the campfire and although it was only one weekend it seems like I knew him for many years. I still camp in the spot where he and his Grandfather camped year after year and I never forget to say hello and thank you to T.J. for the gold I have found in this spot. Now as I cruise that long rough ride into my camp site with D.J. (the dog) I smile knowing I’ll get to say hello to an old friend and perhaps find some gold. You know I did find a couple more gold producing areas by walking the hills and my guess it there will be more.

Now you may find this next part a little strange, but while talking around the campfire T.J. mentioned once that “the only thing I am scared of when it comes to dyeing is that there’ll be no cigarettes in heaven”. So each trip in I get him a pack of Camels, remove them from the pack and leave them by a rock he used as a chair when he was a boy. When I return whether it is two weeks later or a few months later the cigarettes are always gone with no remains left. Critters or……?