April 13, 2015
Gold Panning at Merced River
Since Chris’ retirement, we’ve been doing something fun every couple of weeks. The first week we went to Yosemite to view the dogwoods. This week we drove to the Merced River to pan for gold.
Water is a constant concern for me living in a drought-ridden county and state, but that worry ceased for a short time upon hearing the river’s joyous rage of spring. I had a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the abundance of water before us.
Chris set up near the river’s edge. Up shore California poppies grew between rocks. A swarm of sociable butterflies, so colorful and delicate, crawled on the ground and fluttered from flower to flower.
Chris started to dig and I worked the Nugget Bucket; with a scoop of dirt we began the process. It wasn’t long before my shoes were off and feet were in the cold water, toes curling in the sand.
He poured buckets of water over the rocks that funneled sand (and gold–if we were lucky) into the concentration bowl below.
Washed free of debris, the upper and lower screens caught larger rocks (and nuggets–we hoped).
We panned the pay dirt that gathered in the concentration bowl below the screens. “Look at this, is this gold?” Flecks of fool’s gold swirled like glitter in the pan.
It took a long time to pan the pay dirt, but the more familiar we became with the process, the quicker it went.
Alas, there was no pay in the dirt, but we didn’t really expect to strike it rich. Our expectation was to have a good time prospecting together, and that we did.