I attended the GPAA meetup event on Saturday, June 10th hosted by Kevin Hoagland at Bear Creek (Placerville County), CA. I brought a friend of mine whom is also new to prospecting and was curious about prospecting (between the two of us we have exactly 45 minutes of gold mining experience). Even though my friend is from England I let him come anyway (haha!).
Kevin kicked off the day by having a talk about a critical part of successful gold prospecting - reading the land and geology prior to putting your first shovel in the ground. Ask questions like "Where would the middle of the river be in a flood stage?" and "Are there any natural barriers for which may capture any gold?". During this talk we walked as a group along the river while Kevin pointed out notable features such as natural rock barriers and trees along the bank (both good areas to prospect). Kevin pointed out several places he'd recommend prospecting further for those of us with little to no practical experience and was very helpful in getting the group going the right direction.
We setup our prospecting area in a flat and dry(more or less) part of the riverbank where Kevin identified a natural rock berm earlier in the event. Conventional wisdom would have you pass on this spot (well outside the traditional riverbody) but Kevin had us all look around to identify the flood stage level of the river and take a best guess of where the middle of said river would be in a flood stage. To cut to the chase - it was right where Kevin noted would be a great place to start yet is overlooked by 99% of prospectors. Almost immediately we had color in the bottom of our pans. We were ready to break out shovels and gear but Kevin very reasonably asked "That is great but how do you know if the gold is even better 5 feet to your left?" Given the glaringly obvious answer was "I have no idea" we set out to run additional pans a few feet in either direction (think grid pattern) to gain a more refined understanding of the claim. I'm sure he gets this a lot but Kevin was right and we found even larger percentages of gold moving one direction (and that's why you probably send Kevin to these things...).
After giving panning tips to the group (or more precisely teaching a lot of us from scratch as we had no real idea of what we were doing) Kevin had both my friend (equally as lost as I was prior) and myself sorting material like professionals in no time. Kevin and Aaron (other gentlemen that were assisting Kevin Hoagland) were of tremendous help and generously let us use their sluice box(es) which was a great hands on experience. Most importantly we found gold!
After lunch Kevin hosted a talk and question/answer session on metal detectors. I'm new to that game and he had some good pointers from novice to veteran alike. It's clear he has a very in depth knowledge of which was appreciated by all of the members.
We had a terrific time from start to finish and felt like we received 5 years of prospecting experience in one morning. I'm taking my wife back up to the claim next weekend to give it a shot on my own!
Please feel free to contact me for anything else Anne and have a great day!