Gold Rush, ADVrider Style

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Mr_Wilson, Nov 1, 2012.

  1. Mr_Wilson

    Mr_Wilson Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Crystal River, FL
    Let me start by saying my friend, Lee, and I are rank amateurs when it comes to gold panning, prospecting or anything related to finding minerals. We were bitten by the gold bug with the proliferation of Alaska gold shows on cable. We had been planning an adventure trip for a couple of years now, and I came up with the idea to combine our new found interest in gold with this trip. So....we bought some gold pans, folding shovels and watched a video, we were ready.

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    We did some practice panning ealier this year while attending March Moto Madness in Telico Plains, TN (a known gold deposit area). We thought we found gold, but learned we were "fooled". Bill at Bill's Pit Stop, Coker Creek, TN gave us a quick demo and pointers ( www.goldpanTN.com ).

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    Our goal was to head west and north (from middle Tennessee) panning along the way, eventually getting to the mother load in Alaska. We quickly realized this was not possible with the two weeks vacation time alloted. We would have to limit our trip to the lower 48. But where do we go to maximize our chances of finding gold, and have a pleasant, memorable ride? Some feverish research came up with this site:
    http://www.goldmapsonline.com/index.html

    The maps available here show active and abandoned gold claims on federal lands in 12 states using Google Earth (we have no affiliation with this company). We could now pick some sites where we know gold is located plus avoid panning on someones claim.

    I would be riding my 2012 BMW F650GS (twin). Lee is riding his 2009 KLR650 which he bought earlier this year for this trip. (poor choice as he would soon learn). We departed September 4th for the first panning destination near Buena Vista, Colorado.

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    Our traveling plans were to avoid Interstate highways as much as possible and do about a 50/50 mix of camping / moteling. Since we would be traveling to some remote areas, and the gas tank on the BMW is limited, I added a Roto Pack gas can to my pannier, Lee's KLR is good with tank capacity.

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    The first two days were uneventful and HOT! We elected to motel it the first two nights because of the heat, first night near Mountain Grove, Missouri, then Dodge City, KS. An interesting diversion just into Kansas off Hwy 400 and related to our adventure since it was used for strip mining, was 'Big Brutus'.
    http://www.bigbrutus.org/about.html

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    Better size perspective, me by the bucket
    :
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    This thing is HUGE! Built in 1962 and weighs 11 million pounds. It was all electric, and had a giant extension cord run to it for power. It was abandoned in place and donated to the museum built on site. We toured the inside of this beast, and it reminded me of a naval battleship.

    It was on a short stertch of interstate during this segment that the first problem with Lee's KLR surfaced. The big panniers, loaded, combined with high winds and large trucks led to buffeting. It was buffeting the KLR so severly, Lee was having a hard time keeping it on the road. We had to greatly limit the speed as a result.
    #1
  2. RedRockRider

    RedRockRider Long timer

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    Looks good. Waiting to see if you found gold! :lurk
    #2
  3. Mr_Wilson

    Mr_Wilson Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Crystal River, FL
    On the third day we made it to our first panning destination, the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation area near Buena Vista, CO. We would be camping near the Railroad Bridge Campground.

    Road to the campground:

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    We set up camp, the only ones at the campsite except for the campsite host, Kathy:

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    It was chilly here, elevation around 6000ft:

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    Here is what the campsite is named for, the railroad is no longer in use:

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    we started panning after getting camp set up:

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    It was very hard to get a pan full of material from this river. It was mostly larger rocks. We did find a few grains of gold, so we were encouraged. After two days we decided to strike out for our next destination, Medicine Bow National forest in Wyoming.

    The morning of our departure, a major problem surfaced with Lee's KLR. Lee hasn't owned this bike thru a winter yet, and with the temperature at the campsite this morning in the 30's (and possibly the altitude), found the bike refusing to start. We decided to double into town for breakfast to let it warm up a bit. On our return, it still refused to start, and by now the battery was flat. Lukily a camper (w/trailer) had arrived, they had jumper cables and were kind enough to jump it off, finally starting. We were off, a little later than planned.
    #3
  4. poolman

    poolman Gnarly Poolside Adv.

    Joined:
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    Darnestown, MD
    Nice pictures, I hope your panning ambitions were fulfilled and you enjoyed an excellent trip.


    Cheers,
    #4
  5. AviatorTroy

    AviatorTroy Long timer

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    Very cool!
    #5
  6. max384

    max384 Bandaided

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    Cool trip! Looking forward to the next installment.
    #6
  7. SR1

    SR1 Back in S. Korea

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    Interesting, for sure!
    #7
  8. sTE610vE

    sTE610vE Looking for 7th gear...

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    You should have asked to borrow Big Brutus for a week!:evil
    It's got a little bigger "pan" to work with! Did they let you climb the bucket mast?
    Anyone on 400 just west of Pittsburg Kansas should stop and see Brutus.
    Here's the gps coords 37.273233 -94.939556. copy and paste in google maps for a satellite view.
    Hope you found some gold, looks like a fun trip!
    #8
  9. Phone Guy

    Phone Guy Oddometer: 23,626

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    If you make your way to California I can show you what Gold Country looks like. My folks actually own a gold claim. I don't go often but I can pan.
    #9
  10. 1955BIKER

    1955BIKER Adventurer

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    Virginia
    Hope you found enough gold to pay for the trip.
    #10
  11. Old_Crow

    Old_Crow Been here awhile

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    West Chester, PA
    I was just in southern Medicine Bow last month. :clap Loads of riding on both sides of the border, and plenty of well maintained gravel roads if that's your thing. There was a lot of logging on the WY side unfortunately, but this probably contributed to the quality of the roads. This is the reservoir in Medicine Bow:

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    Edit: you left for a trip like this without jumper cables?!
    #11
  12. Phone Guy

    Phone Guy Oddometer: 23,626

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    The problem with the KLR sounds like the "KACR" Kawasaki Automatic Compression Release.
    #12
  13. mrbreeze

    mrbreeze Long timer

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    I think they must have hit it big, because they have since been seen hitting the upscale eateries around Nashville....

    :lol3

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    #13
  14. sandalscout

    sandalscout blah blah blah

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    Very cool, thanks for the heads up Breeze!
    #14
  15. D-Rat

    D-Rat n00b

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    Am I watching Discovery Channel..? Because I felt like that... =)
    #15
  16. Mr_Wilson

    Mr_Wilson Been here awhile

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Crystal River, FL
    So this travel day would conclude with a motel stay in Laramie, Wyoming. We were lucky to get a room there as it was a home game (Saturday) for the University of Wyoming. Lukily the motel we picked had aa last minute cancellation. This would turn out to be the most expensive motel of the trip. I would be researching the panning site for tomorrows stay at Medicine Bow.
    Over dinner, Lee and I discussed what to do about the KLR's starting issue. We decided the only option was to try some ether starting fluid. Lee found some at the truck stop next door to the motel. The next morning, the KLR again wouldn't start on its own, try the ether, bingo! Lee had previously drilled some holes in the air box, which made spraying the ether in easy.

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    So, off to Medicine Bow National Forest. Soon we arrived
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    This is the Snowy Range section of the forest. Our campsite would be the Pelton Creek campsite. It was about an 8 mile gravel road to the site.The campsite was very remote, no cell service and about 8000 ft elevation. we were the only ones at the campsite (no jumping off the battery here).

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    They did have water (no water at the previous campsite in Colorado).

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    Our view from the campsite. We took a hike up the hill to see if there was cell service there.

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    Looking down atop the hill to the campsite. The stream is the one we will be panning, not here though as there is a claim here. No cell service ot the top of the hill.

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    That night it got very cold. My sleeping bag is rated for 32F and Lee and I were adding layers of clothing during the
    night. We heard coyotes howling nearby (assume that's what they were). We panned a few hours the next day and were dissapointed with the results, maybe two grains of gold. Found some red gemstones of some sort, which we later found to be garnets.

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    The decision was made to pack up and head to our next panning site, South Pass Wyoming. This area is supposed to have the highest concentration of gold in the state. We would motel it this night in Lander, Wyoming.
    #16
  17. Mr_Wilson

    Mr_Wilson Been here awhile

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    There were a lot of dead pines due to the pine beatle, they even had some of the campsites roped off because of the dead trees overhead. There were piles of timber up for bid at the campsite (not to be cut up for firewood).
    #17
  18. Mr_Wilson

    Mr_Wilson Been here awhile

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    Location:
    Crystal River, FL
    The ride to Lander was eventful. Crosswinds! The sky was getting black in the direction of travel. The crosswinds were relentless. I wasn't bothered too bad, but Lee and the KLR were having a difficult time keeping on the road. We had to lower our speed to no more than 55mph because of this. We eventually came to a rest stop, and decided to stop and see if the storm would blow by. Near the rest stop, we encountered this...There are still cowboys (and cowgirls) in Wyoming...cattle drive crossing the highway:

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    Around this time, another problem surfaced. My camera started acting up. The viewscreen image would be shaking while trying to take a picture, making any picture taken blurry. It would eventually stop if left on long enough, but I wouldn't have the patience many times. Some of the images to follow are from my cell phone, which takes really crappy pictures.

    A few miles outside of Lander, we hit the back edge of the storm. By the time rainsuites were donned, it was over. We then checked in the motel, had dinner, toured downtown Lander (a neat little town) and planned tomorrows panning and campsite.

    The morning saw us in town to get supplies (camp food). We then headed to the first panning site before setting up camp since they were several miles apart. The first site was a few miles from Atlantic City. The stream here appeared to be dried up, and there was activity nearby (gold prospecting??) so we were off to the next site. We then ran into this:

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    Perfect, a large campsite right near the panning site. The campsite was deserted, and we set up camp. The elevation at this site is 8300 ft.

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    We since have learned this is a Mormon campsite and they have pilgrimages here. Apparently this site commemorates a historic migration of Willie's handcart company from Nebraska to Utah. Several members froze to death in a storm here:

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    The panning in this area was great. The gold was small like previously found, but the two areas panned had several grains in each pan. As dusk approached, we discovered we were not entirely alone:

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    This place was overrun with the little critters.

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    The overnite turned out to be frightfully cold. I had prepared for it by putting all my clothes on before zipping up. In
    the morning we found our water frozen. I check the temperature on the bike computer.....23 degrees F! The plaque
    commemoration the freeze deaths held more meaning now. We did not anticipate these kind of temperatures. We decided to pack up after breakfast and go to our next panning site in the area.

    On the road near South Pass site:

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    I read somewhere the nearest gas station from here was 60 miles. This road was part of the Oregon Trail:

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    It turns out the next site was on a ranch, private property (out here in the middle of nowhere).
    It was now Wednesday and we had to be home by the weekend. Our next panning destination was southern Montana. The conclusion was made, there was not enough time to get to Montana and pan. We decided to instead visit the South Pass City, http://www.southpasscity.com/ ,state historic site, an old gold rush town. This town is preserved as it was in the 1890's. The historic Carissa gold mine & mill is nearby.

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    While at the South Pass town, we witness a gold panning demonstration (the gold was planted). In talking the the
    demonstrator, he indicated all the gold in the area was fine grain and that panners of old would run 700 pans a day, and would take up to 2000 pans just to get a few grains of gold. Well, that sounded like work and we were happy with our few grains with 20-30 pans worth.

    Another local mine. Don't know if it is active:

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    At this point, we would start our return trip, back through Lander, headed to Casper, Wyoming for the night. Little to our knowledge, we would be in for a memmorable night.
    #18
  19. mrbreeze

    mrbreeze Long timer

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    :lurk
    #19
  20. max384

    max384 Bandaided

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    Come on! I have a short attention span... Let's get the next installment rolling! :D

    I like turtles.
    #20