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Fool’s Gold

Has your dentist recently suggested that you need to replace those gold fillings he installed 20 years ago? When he removed them, did he offer to “dispose” of the bits and pieces?

Has that 14-karat gold ankle bracelet you gave your wife on your tenth wedding anniversary suddenly gone missing from the top of her dresser?

Did your son toss aside the new laptop you gave him and ask you if he could take possession of your ancient desktop PC, currently residing under a tarp in the garage?

These and other telltale signs should tell you that gold fever is now infecting your neighborhood.

The price of an ounce of gold, which a decade ago was meandering around the $300 mark, surged past $1,500 this week. Call it a sign of the apocalypse or perhaps a result of the “negative outlook” recently attached to the long-term stability of the U.S. greenback. Whatever the cause, gold is now the hottest commodity on the planet, and it shows no signs of cooling down.

As a public service, we thought you might be interested to know that you don’t have to stake a claim to large swaths of land in California and Alaska to join the 21st century gold rush. In fact, you may be able to get on board simply by visiting the nearest national forest.

Per a letter from the Department of Agriculture, no permit is needed for recreational gold panning and gold prospecting in the general national forest areas, provided no machinery is used. Several enterprising websites offer gold prospecting and panning maps that show many national forests with gold deposit sites.

The gold prospecting and panning maps tell you how to pan for gold, where to look for gold in a streambed and how to tell fool’s gold from real gold. You can quickly learn panning by following the gold panning instructions on your map.

According to one popular panning map site, some people like to pan for gold at public rights of way where bridges cross gold-bearing streams. Treasure hunters use their metal detectors in gold prospecting and to hunt for coins and jewelry at rural churches and schools shown on the gold prospecting and panning maps in the southeastern states.
 Beaches also are said to be repositories of golden specks and more than a few loose coins.

A streak of gold mines and gold prospecting sites is said to extend from near Montgomery, AL to Washington D.C. Now we can’t vouch for the validity of this “geo-historical” record, but our friends at the panning map site say the gold was placed there “when Africa overrode North America about 250 million years ago.” North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Alabama reportedly have many gold mines and gold prospecting sites. These states “were our main domestic source of gold for 45 years before the 1848 California gold discovery,” our panning map experts say. In 1837, the U.S. government established gold coin mints in Georgia and North Carolina, rather than transport the raw gold from the southern gold mines to the Philadelphia Mint.

There are said to be 6,600 gold mining and gold prospecting sites in California and recreational gold prospecting and panning is now said to be the second-most popular hobby in the aptly named Golden State.  If you count prospectors who roll their own, it might even be the number one leisure activity out west. These efforts occasionally are rewarded: the largest true California gold nugget weighed 54 pounds; a 195-lb. mass was also found.

A website called TheRockerBox offers some helpful tips from amateur panhandlers. Here’s a sampling:

–In rivers, gold will concentrate in areas where the water pressure decreases. But gold moves when the pressure is high. Therefore, imagine what the water flow would look like at flood stage, then look for areas where the water pressure would decrease. Typical areas would be in front of large boulders, on the insides of curves and along the banks.

–From “Panhandler Vince” of Virginia City, NV: Due to the weight of the gold, it tends to settle “down.” So, look down into nature’s riffles. The cracks in the flat rock which forms the creek or river bottom may be scraped with a screwdriver, knife, toothbrush and the like.

–Also from Vince: Weeds also grow out of the cracks in bed rock, so don’t forget to pull weeds and wash the dirt from their roots into your pan! Some folks like to collect dirt from such places and take it home to pan later.

–You must have a permit to use gold prospecting equipment if it is powered. It will not be considered recreation if you use power machinery. But anything manually powered is recreation.

Here’s our personal favorite:

“Look for gold where it has been found before.”

Hmmm. Do you think we can get Donald Trump to lift his hair?

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