Tamara and me have taken to gold panning big time. That girl of mine - she's up for anything, which is one of the reasons I adore her so much.
A couple of years ago we decided to pan on a whim. A customer of hers at Nuru Coffee Bar in New Denver (the name says it all) reminded us that we live in silver country, and that where there's silver there's gold, and, well, you get the gist of it. We picked up a couple of pans at Cabela's.
I watched a few YouTube vidoes on panning techniques (is there anything you can't learn on YouTube?) and soon got the hang of it. We wandered over to a few local streams. Hung in. And, then, like a lightening strike to the head, one evening I got 'color' in the corner of my pan.
You never forget the first color in your pan. It glows amidst the black sands, like a UFO in a night sky, and forever more you'll be hooked. Tamara got impaled soon afterwards. We bought additional pans in a multitude of sizes and colors; wire concentrators (think pasta strainers for rocks); special tools to poke away at streambeds and probe bedrock crevices.
We developed sore lower backs from constantly crouching, and I learned that sciatica is a frequent ailment among sourdoughs. It doesn't matter. Back pain is niggling compared to color in the pan.
But eventually the pans weren't enough for me. I'd watched more YouTube, read a few books, researched the gold rushes. I needed a sluice box - something to up the ante. Made-in-Canada, as it turned out, right here in the B.C. Interior. The Black Scorpion Magnum 45. If that doesn't get your gold juices churning, nothing will.
I love my sluice. Sometimes I just stare at it on the cabin porch, imagining the gold flakes collecting in its riffles, getting caught up in its tangly Miner's Moss. Not to say that that has happened, but it could, and 'could,' as you come to learn in gold prospecting, is the operative word for 98 percent of participants.
Tamara and me decided to strike out for richer pastures when a family visit called. Our destination? The Cariboo - Ground Zero for the famous 1896 Klondike rush and still known to harbor estimable amounts of gold. Our first stop at historic Spences Bridge turned out to be very lucrative indeed. We overnighted at the Inn of the same name, and owners Dorothy and Micheal are gold hounds of the highest order.
Much of the Inn is devoted to gold lore, and Michael has a collection of authentic metal pans - dented, discolored, and, in some cases, having doubled as dinner bowls and wash basins. We highly recommend this historic stay, whether you're a budding sourdough or a cyclist in search of winding and beautiful countryside.
Michael steered us to a nearby spot on the Thompson River where we both panned a few flakes, and that turned out to be our best haul of the trip. From there we ventured north, the raspy voice of Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon booming from the Subaru's CD player. "Gold is enough ..." "I was born under a wanderin' star ..."
We made it as far as 108 Mile and Tamara's niece's wedding shower. We're already planning a return trip, farther north, on up to Barkerville, maybe even farther, maybe even all the way to the Yukon.
Gold tugs at you like a tide, and it's easy to fathom, with that first color in the pan, why so many have succumbed to its allure.