Looking back to my claim from the “road”.
I’ve been attracted to treasure and adventure for as long as I can remember. Growing up I was always hiking through the woods behind my house, camping, backpacking, canoeing, exploring abandoned farm houses and walking the creek. I loved watching the “Indiana Jones” movies and one of my all time favorites of course is “Goonies”. I loved the idea of looking for treasure. When I was older I bought my first metal detector. I found a lot of old coins, jewelry and even some civil war relics. The excitement of finding something lost for over 100 years had me hooked. It connected me to history in a tangible way. Fast forward awhile and life with its responsibilities has a way of derailing pursuits of happiness. Every once in awhile I had time to get the metal detector out and treasure hunt but for the most part it was work, work and more work. So fast forward a bit more (20 years) and we arrive at the story of how I came to own a gold claim in California and my first experience there.
By this time I’d clearly had enough with the daily routine. It was August of 2018. I didn’t know it then but a random thought about metal detecting and a completely random eBay listing would change the course of my life in ways I could only imagine then. So I was just doing some random browsing on eBay I came across a listing for a 20 acre Gold Claim in Northern California. I’m honestly not even sure how I ended up there. The listing caught my eye and I clicked on it. I read the description and clicked through the pictures. I was hooked. It screamed adventure and treasure. The gentleman listing them had a few different Gold Claims listed. I was drawn to the most remote one….I figured that would have the most gold because it was hardest to get too. It was also smack dab in the California Mother Load area! The listing had 3 days left on it. So I had a little time to research. I had zero idea what went into purchasing a gold claim. I’ll go into what exactly that entails and what it actually means to own a claim later on.
So at this point I needed to talk to the lister on the phone. I sent a message and we connected the next day. I think he literally thought I was crazy. In fact I know he did. Here was this guy 2,500 miles away in NY asking about his gold claim and to boot he had little to no experience in mining for gold. He nevertheless took the time to answer my questions. He repeated over and over it was 23 miles off the main road down a forestry road that was “rough” in the good parts . The trip usually took 2 hours. It was also another 1/2 mile hike from there to get to the actual claim. He really went out of his way to explain how difficult it can be to get there with equipment and basic essentials. I got the sense he was actually trying to talk me out of it. So at this point I was satisfied with his answers and had a sense that he seemed trustworthy….who would try to talk someone out of buying something if they weren’t legit?!
The next step was calling The US Bureau of Land Management to make sure the claim was filed and in good standing. It was and the owner listed matched the dude I talked to. Next I called the county clerk where the claim was located. The claim was in good order with the county too. So stepping out on a limb I explained why I was checking and just happened to ask if she knew the person that owned the claim. Well it turned out she did! She had nothing but good things to say and provided a few additional details about him being a great member of the community. I was actually able to use those details to verify things a little further by searching online. So now I was really excited and my dreams that night were filled with gold nuggets and retirement. Something told me I had to have it. I had to change my life and this was the first step.
The next day I waited till the auction had 15 minutes left and made the first bid. I thought I had it free and clear but two different bastards tried to snipe me in the last 5 minutes! Of course we all know what its like to be bidding on something we really want. I was jumping up and down, mother fuckin the other bidders. Refreshing the bid every 2 seconds. Death lock stare on the screen. All while “California Love” by Tupac was blasting in the background. I was hopped up. I wanted it more than anything else I had wanted in a long time. In the heat of the moment I went about $500 over the limit set in my head but I won that auction and never looked back. I didn’t win it by much either.
The reality sank in rather quickly. Fantastic!!! Good job Wolf!!! You own a gold claim 2,500 miles away in California. You have no equipment and very little experience. At this point I’m telling anyone that will listen about my awesome purchase. For the most part I was met with blank stares and a few cautious good for you statements. It was somewhat discouraging at first. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t doing this for anyone else but me. It was something had to do. I felt like if I didn’t see this through then I might as well just resign myself to a routine life.
Now I needed a plan to actually get there. I made a list of gear and prospecting equipment I would need and went about purchasing it. Some equipment would have to be purchased in California. Packing shovels and pry bars on a plane is kinda frowned upon. Within three weeks I had most everything I needed and hopped a plane to Reno where I rented a small SUV. I drove to California to meet up with the seller, who went above and beyond to help me out. I purchased the extra equipment I thought needed that afternoon and spent some time exploring the local area. We went out to dinner later and I stayed at his house for the night. He personally wanted to show me how to get there and help me get my gear down to claim.
We set out early after a great breakfast and about 20 minutes later arrived at the forestry road to the claim in a National Forest that I shall not name. I’d like to give you more information on the location but Gold Miners are a bit paranoid. It was only after about 15 minutes driving on the forestry road when I realized that I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. I’d been in remote areas and rugged terrain before but this was some epic terrain and we were not even close yet! It actually just made me more excited because I realized this was the real deal. Some parts of the road were actually cleared and for a wagon trail by the original 49’ers that came to find their fortune. I was thinking….well they made it in wagons so what you worried about. Turns out however that rental vehicles are not the best idea for getting up there. We ended up stopping a bit from the claim and loaded the entirely ridiculous amount of crap I had brought into his truck and went the rest of the way in his truck.
When we arrived at the trail head to the claim and started packing my equipment down it was more than a bit embarrassing. Luckily his girlfriend had also come along so we had three people to haul bottled water, canned goods, gear and equipment down. I had been an avid backpacker when I was younger so was aware that packing light was a necessity but I apparently didn’t have my listening ears on when I was told how rugged the terrain was. What a job it was getting my stuff down. I was thinking awww shit its just a 1/2 mile hike. Learned my lesson that day. That mistake led to a totally different camping set up and vehicle the next time needless to say. At this point everyone was exhausted and I felt thoroughly awful about using my new friends as pack mules. So to save further embarrassment I just had him give me just a quick tour of the area and let them go home to rest.
There I was over 20 miles off the main road with my pile of gear and a tiny little shed that was built years ago to store equipment. I was completely alone and the only other person I would end up seeing on that trip was an older gentleman who I fondly refer to as “Neighbor”. To call him an interesting character would be an understatement! He had a claim next to mine but was camped about 5 miles away. He also would become somewhat of a gold mining mentor to me. His experience and advice has probably shaved years off my learning curve. I am grateful for the help he provided me on this trip and my subsequent one. My claim is actually remote enough that I’ve never actually seen anyone else on it while I’ve been there.
I went about setting up and storing my food away from my camp area. Lots of bears and other wildlife friends that would be interested in a free meal. I set up my brand new Hammock tent that could also be converted to a ground bivy tent. I spent one night in it hanging before I set it up on ground. I realized being a stomach sleeper wasn’t a great thing for a hammock tent. I called my tent the “Flying Vajayjay” when it was hanging ….just because. On the ground I called it the “Bear Burrito”…just because. I actually had a bear wander in that night while I was cooking dinner. Ran off as soon as it realized the dinner wasn’t for him. Always excited to see wildlife none the less.
Well to wrap this story up I obviously survived. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I spent 10 days hiking, exploring, prospecting and mining. A little side note….people often associate mining with a dark cave and taking gold out a solid wall of rock. In fact there are many ways to mine. I definitely didn’t get rich this trip. At least not financially. I did find the six tiny nuggets pictured below metal detecting and a bit of speck gold while panning the creek. The potential is there however….said every gold miner alive. More importantly the sense of accomplishment I had and the escape of routine life changed me forever. It would have a lasting effect.
So a little about owning a claim. Without getting to technical there are claims that you can purchase or lease the mineral rights to the property. That doesn’t mean you own the actual land. In fact many of these claims are on State and Federal Land. Much of the land is managed by a Federal agency called the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or the Forestry Service. This means that while you own the mineral rights and no one else can “legally” look for minerals on that parcel, they can however camp, fish, hike or do whatever else is allowed for that area. This is the type of claim that I own. It’s located in a National Forest area and there are annual maintenance fees, taxes, proof of labor and other paperwork associated with it. It usually comes out to less than $100 a year. How much did I purchase the claim for? I ended up paying about $3,500 for the claim. Some are more, some are less. There is quite a lot of money, labor and paperwork involved in initially setting up a claim. I am not knowledgeable enough to comment on that process. I can sell my claim again if I keep it in good standing with the BLM and County it’s located. There are also claims that you can actually purchase the land. These are private owned parcels and their value can vary greatly depending on the land and the potential mineral value on it. This is a very basic overview on a rather complicated subject but it should give you some context.