There's Gold In Them Hills!
Gold Fever Stories with Digger Bob
TDI SL – First nugget
After many months of field testing this unit, I finally got out to one of my favorite spots in the high Sierras. This spot has yielded many nice nuggets over the years, but has dried up and produced nothing the last several times I have been there. I hadn’t been back in at least two years.
The first part of the day again produced nothing. After lunch, I decided to see what the TDI could do in a trash infested part that we never hunted because of the trash. I hoped the TDI could knock off at least half of the iron. Well, it did, but there was an abundance of .22 bullets everywhere. I dug one after another, some shallow, some deep. As I was digging yet another one, I noticed that it was a bit deeper than the rest. Finally at about 8 inches it was out and in my hand. As I hurried to pick it out of the dirt in my hand so I could continue hunting, I was shocked to see this big dirty lump glowing back at me. I couldn’t believe my eyes!
There are a lot more “bullets” there that I now have to go back and clean out. It was too late and hot by then to continue much longer. So, just for comparisons sake, it was good solid “wee” sound. Not as loud as the surface bullets, but a very good diggable signal, no wobble or hesitation of the sound.
Pulse at 10, Gain at Max, GB at 6. Loop? The Jimmy 10×6 DF. Depth, 8 inches.
Wt. of the nugget – 2 dwt. with some nice character. It would make a nice hanger.
Here’s a story about some unexpected treasure hunting from Larry Davis:
“It was a hot day in the middle of summer, and I, a recently engaged young man, decided to head to the river with a few good friends. The temperatures were in the 100s, but the water was cool and crisp. It seemed like the perfect time to float lazily down the river, maybe go for a swim, maybe play some football at the beach.
We got in the river and pushed off, and though the water was freezing cold, it took only minutes to feel at ease. “This is the life,” I thought to myself as we floated down the river. I thought about taking my ring off and putting it in my pocket, but the ring was always hard to pull off my finger and it felt safer to be able to look down and see it whenever I wanted. After all, if I lost it, I might never hear the end of it…
We landed at the beach and started tossing the pigskin around. After every catch, I checked my left hand, and every time, the ring was still there.
We had a good rally going, but then I missed a catch and my sunglasses got splashed. As I went to remove them, my fears became a reality – the ring was gone. Cold water, sunscreen, and a little football was all it took. The ring that usually fit so tightly slipped off without me even feeling it.
I panicked. “My ring! I lost my ring,” I shouted. I lost track of where I was standing as I backed up and looked down in disbelief. I looked at his hand, checked my pockets, looked at my hand again, and plunged my head under the water in a futile attempt to find what I had lost.
“Guys! You have to help me find my ring!” We scoured the river for over an hour, but there was no sign of it. We could barely see the rocks as the water rushed over them.
It felt like hope was lost. I swam to the shore wearing a frown so big my face hurt. I called the jeweler, told him what happened, and placed an order for a replacement ring, knowing full well that the replacement would never be the same.
Then I called my fiancée. I expected her to be upset; expected her to say something like “how could you be so irresponsible!” But she wasn’t upset at all; she told me to cancel the order for a new ring – she hadn’t lost hope, not yet.
On the way home, I looked up metal detector rentals, but each place I called sounded less knowledgeable than the last, and they didn’t even know if their equipment could be used near water.
A place in the city of Paradise came up: “COMSTOCK METAL DETECTORS” I called, but there was no answer. The voice on the answering machine spoke with confidence “Hi, you’ve reached Digger Bob and Comstock Metal Detectors…” I didn’t think anything would come of it, but I left a message explaining what happened.
The phone rang a few hours later. The man on the other end seemed to take pity as he listened. “I’ve heard this story before, you’re not the first.” He said he’d rent us a metal detector tonight if we wanted to drive up to Paradise.
As soon as we walked in, it was immediately apparent that Digger Bob was an expert. There were dozens of metal detectors and loops hanging on the wall, a locked glass case full of artifacts he had found, maps of the gold country, and articles on the wall about his big finds. We knew we were in good hands.
He took out a White’s 6000 DXi with a Deepscan 950 loop and a scoop. He showed us the basics and pointed out about where the meter would read when we went over the ring. We left a deposit with him and headed back home, filled with a renewed sense of hope.
The next day we went out and tried our hand at treasure hunting. One of us manned the metal detector, one watched with the goggles, and the other scooped when we got a hit.
After hours of looking and several bottle caps and tabs, we gave up. It seemed like we’d never find the ring.
We headed back to Digger Bob’s and returned the detector. On a whim, we asked if he had any free time to come out and help us look. To our surprise, he agreed — he would come out this coming Sunday and, with the help of my good friends Dave Peake and Taylor White, do his best to find it.
With a seasoned professional, the right equipment, and a relatively small search space, the odds were stacked in our favor. It took no more than two hours for Digger Bob to strike gold.
No treasure is too hidden for the best treasure hunter in the west, Digger Bob Van Camp!”
Larry Davis - July 10, 2011
The weekend of the Reno Gold show was finally here. I’d been looking forward to this weekend for months because it had been several years since it had been held in Reno. I love browsing around the exhibits to see what new toys were available. It’s also a chance to renew old acquaintances that I only get to see once a year. While swapping stories about the past years adventures and eavesdropping on conversations, I can usually pick up a tip or two on technique or location. And this year was no exception. My only regret was that it was too short. I didn’t have time to thoroughly absorb everything since the second highlight of the weekend was fast approaching.
By 1:00 it was time to hit the road for the first nugget hunting trip of the year into northern Nevada. It was mid-March and a bit early in the year to chance the unpredictable weather of the high desert. But the weatherman was guessing only a 50% chance of rain, snow, wind, and lows in the 20’s. So Reno Jim and I took off to try our luck at the old stomping grounds of “The Patch”. (Need I say more? Well, I won’t)
Everyone who knows this place knows that it has been pounded by everyone and his dog with every kind of detector made. But 20 years of hunting has not exhausted all its secrets since it is such a huge area. Last year we had found a new hillside that produced a few small ones for us and we had been anxiously awaited the coming spring to give it a more thorough going over.
A late start resulted in us getting there and setting up just before dark, so we got no hunting in that day. The next day dawned cold and clear so we quickly geared up and headed out. Eight hours later we returned tired, sore, scratched, and hungry. And needless to say, with empty pokes. We both hunted hard up and down the hill, sideways, over the next hill and the next. Yet besides a couple of bullets, we had gotten no signals at all.
That evening we discussed our options for the next day. Jim had to go into town early to pick up a friend who wanted to see what nugget hunting was all about. We decided to hunt here for the next half-day and then ride our quads over to another area a few miles away and see if we could change our luck.
Sitting around the campfire at the end of a hard day with cold one in hand is the second best part of these trips. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Gazing at the stars, counting satellites, contemplating the mysteries of life, reliving past glories, wondering what it would be like to hit the lottery or find that big nugget you could retire on… I’ve always said that the best part of treasure hunting is the hunt itself, not the finding. It’s the research, the mystery, second guessing human and Mother Nature. And always dreaming…dreaming of the big score. It’s imagination that powers these detectors boys and girls, not batteries.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, the dreams continued. It’s funny how the mind works when asleep. It sorts through the places you just hunted, analyses your technique and plants suggestions in your subconscious for a plan of action for the next day. I dreamed I heard noises outside and perceived the graying light of a new day. Jim was getting an early start to go into town. I put on the coffee and was soon up and around myself. It was chilly and overcast but looked to be a decent day. By 7:00 Jim had left and I was ready to give it another go for a few hours.
I trudged up the hillside out of camp and started hunting. With no conscious thought for direction or plan of attack, I just started swinging and walking still in a dream. I came to a small wash and started working my way up it. Trying to avoid the polka-dot boot prints of the previous day, I detected the bank and top of the wash. Giving a wide berth to a rusted kerosene can in the middle of the wash, I plodded on, lost in thought and trying to warm up. I came to a “Y” where two small washes came together.
“Which way? Right or left?”
There was another kerosene can further up the right wash so I decided, “What the hell? Maybe I’ll get a trash signal and the digging will warm me up.”
I was about 10 feet up the wash hunting the bank, when something happened.
What happened was the detector made a sound!
Now those of you who use these SD machines with the mono loops know that they are prone to making random odd sounds. Whether it is ground minerals, electrical interference, brushing a stick, airplanes flying over, sunspots, static electricity, or leprechauns, the machines wheeze and wah, boink, bing and oo-gah with regularity.
This was one of those sounds. Just a small drop and then increase in the threshold… like a low growl. Usually, you get so used to these sounds that you just keep going, not even giving it a second sweep. But it was early in the day and there hadn’t been any of these so far, so my brain wasn’t tuning them out yet.
Taking a half step back just for a second, I swung over the spot again… grrrROWell. Hmmmm… still there and it didn’t track out. Several swings to pinpoint it and “yep, that sounds like a real target.” Not a good signal but enough to take a second to check it out.
Glancing about, I noticed the kerosene can 20 ft. ahead of me up the wash.
“Oh right.” I said to myself, “I know what this is. A piece of that damn can has washed down and buried itself in the bottom of the wash.”
Still though, the signal was more in the hard bank rather than the soft dirt of the wash. And my fingers were cold and I was still a little stiff and “half” asleep, so I decided, “What the heck, a little digging to warm me up will feel good.”
So down I go. Dig, dig, scoop, scoop, swing, swing. Ah, getting louder! Definitely a target, not ground. Down 12 inches, then 16. Still there and louder yet.
“Must be another whole can down there,” I muttered.
Now, I’m down past the limit my pick can go and it’s still in the hole. Or is it? Crap, I’ll bet it’s in the side and I just missed it. So, I break out my Vibra Probe pin-pointer and run it around the sides of the hole. Nothing.
“Well, these things don’t get much depth anyway. Let’s see if there’s anything in the bottom.”
I stuck the probe into the very bottom and ran it around when suddenly, “Bzzzzz-Bzzzzz.” Ah, so there is something there after all. But I can’t dig any deeper without widening the hole and by now I’m plenty warmed up. Should I just leave it? It’s just a piece of iron.
Naw, I’ve spent 20 minutes on this stupid thing. Might as well finish. After all, it’s only about an inch deeper. So I stuck the handle of my pick down in the hole and scrubbed it around trying to loosen things up a bit. Reaching down up to my elbow, I claw and scoop up the dirt and rocks with my fingertips. I look down and notice the tip of a rock embedded in the bottom. It’s rough but with just a little smoothness on the high points. And the color…it’s a little different from the grey-brown of the rest of the rocks. It has a little orange-red tinge.
“Ah, red, rust. There it is. There’s my can.”
But… there’s no rusty halo around it… I wonder…
And then I did something that I will remember the rest of my life…
I licked my finger, stuck it way down in that hole, and rubbed the edge of that rusty rock.
As soon as I did that, my jaw dropped, I gasped for air, and my eyes literally popped open!
And then I woke up – or did I?
At that moment I wasn’t sure. I couldn’t take my eyes off the yellow gleam of the edge of that rock. I unconsciously looked up to call Jim over and just as quickly realized I was alone…and yes, by now wide-awake.
I looked down and rubbed it again. It’s still there! I was too stunned to move. I could tell it was a big one, but how big? What I could see was about an inch across. What do I do now? No one will believe me. Pictures! I’ve got to get some pictures!
I dropped my gear and ran back to camp for my camera, all the way muttering “ohcrapohcrapohcrapohcrap”! After nervously snapping a few shots and praying they would turn out, I turned my attention back to the hole. I briefly considered waiting for Jim to get back to see what I saw, but just as quickly decided that I couldn’t wait!
I widened the hole enough to get part of my pick down there and began quickly but gingerly chipping away at the surrounding dirt. My fingers were numb with cold and excitement and I didn’t even notice I was cutting and tearing up my fingertips clawing at the dirt and rocks.
Soon I had enough exposed that I could get a good grip on it with the fingers of both hands. A two handed grip and it still wouldn’t move! Holy Crap! How big is this thing? Just then I was struck with a depressing thought.
“I know what it is. It’s a big chunk of quartz with a little gold gob on the end. Oh well, no need to be careful then.”
So I got a little more aggressive with chipping and digging. At one point I even pried up on it with the point of my pick and got it to move a little. But I quickly thought better of that nonsense and stopped. But I was making progress. Little by little, I could wiggle it up and down and side to side. Pulling and wiggling I was terrified I might break or bend or gouge it, but I couldn’t stop! Could this, finally, be the dream come true? After almost 20 years of chasing that dream, could I actually be holding that dream in my trembling bleeding fingers?
Suddenly, it pulled free! But Mother Nature had one more cruel trick to play before she relinquished final ownership. Her release was so sudden that I lost my balance and fell over backwards flat on my ass. And of course, I dropped it in the hole to catch myself. Scrambling back, ignoring the dust, rocks, and stickers, I peered back down into the hole.
My God, it was big! I reached down and wrapped a scarred hand around it and lifted it for my first good look. My God, it’s heavy too! Brushing away the dirt revealed yellow, yellow everywhere!
This couldn’t be real. I was holding a solid piece of gold as big as my palm. The dream had actually come true. I was so stunned I couldn’t move, speak, or think. I just sat there in the dirt staring at my hand.
Yes, I was awake now…
After the initial shock wore off, my next thoughts were unbelievably, “How am I going to tell Jim? He’s either going to kill me or die of a heart attack.”
So without a bit of cleaning, I slipped the rock into my pocket and leaving all my gear there, walked slowly back to camp. I needed a drink! And it wasn’t even 9:00 yet! Off in the distance I could see the dust trail coming of two vehicles. Still not knowing what I was going to say, I just sat down on my quad and waited.
When he pulled up, he stuck his head out the window and casually asked, “Get anything?”
Not having thought of anything clever to say, I just held up one finger. He said, “You got one? Good! Any size?”
Still stunned speechless, all I could do was give him a single thumbs up. At this he rolled his eyes and said, “Oh God, here we go. You must’ve found a half-ouncer or something! OK, let’s see it.”
I said, “Let’s wait till your buddy gets here.” He wasn’t too happy about that.
When they had both gathered around, and still with no conscious speech in mind, I just said to his buddy:
“Tom, first of all, what I’m about to show you is not typical of your average nugget hunting trip. I’ve just made the find of a lifetime and you’re not likely to see anything like this again outside of a museum. And Jim ol’ buddy, after 20 years of hunting together, I hate to do this to you. I just wish you were here to see it happen. And I’m more sorry you weren’t here so I could say what I’ve always wanted to say… “Jim, I need a bigger film canister!”
And with that I pulled the rock out of my pocket….
What followed were various blasphemous curses, holy praises, sputterings, adulations, and expressions of disbelief and wonder. The culmination was a hard smack on the back of my head, which I was expecting. That’s a tradition with us. The finder of big nuggets gets a smack on the head and has to buy everyone else in the group milkshakes back at town. The bigger the nugget, the harder the smack.
I was trying to tell the story but kept getting interrupted by questions. I finally gave up and said, “Come on, I’ll show you. We’ve got to take some pictures anyway.”
And so, that’s pretty much the end of the story. We found no more gold in that area after covering it again for another two days. We have been back several times since and have only found one more small one in the area. Still it was a day I’ll never forget and yes, the dream lives on! There are still bigger ones out there for all of us and for as long as you are able, pursue that dream; it just might come true…
Name: “The Growler”
Depth: 20 inches
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