Monday, August 16, 2010

Gold Fever

by Anita Mae Draper

Can you believe I was once struck by gold fever? I’m not talking about the put-a-gold-ring-on-my-finger-or-else kind of gold fever, but real gold fever. The kind where I searched out a creek and actually panned for gold.

It started while my husband, Nelson, and I were on a holiday in British Columbia, Canada. We only had one child back then, Crystal, a toddler. We’d already crossed the province from Banff in the Rockies to Vancouver Island and were on our way back to Alberta. Because I love history, we stopped at every museum and tourist spot along the way.

We were driving a 20 foot Class C motorhome (RV) which had all the comforts of home except for a TV. Or a microwave. Of course, a microwave wasn’t a common household item back in the early 80’s so that didn’t count. Anyway, we enjoyed being tourists.

Somewhere between the town of Hope, where one of the biggest landslides in Canadian history occurred, and Merritt, we ended up at a tourist attraction where you actually panned for gold. It wasn’t in a creek but in one of those sluice jobbies where they add river dirt on a regular basis and teach you how to pan for nuggets. We drank in the tales of the surrounding ghost mining towns and listened to stories of recent finds. One of the biggest panning rivers lay to the south where it was still possible to find nuggets washed down from the mountains. Armed with official gold pans and guide books, we headed south to Granite City.

I’m not sure how it is today, but back then the road was a narrow path that hugged the mountain with a sheer drop off one side. I couldn’t find any of my old photos to back this up, but this photo is of the Dewdney Trail which overlooked the Tulameen Valley back in the 1880's. At the time, it was the only way to get to Granite Creek.

I remember sitting in the RV, at the table, and looking out the big window – way down to the river below. The road was so narrow, it was only possible for one vehicle to go at a time. At one point, we saw a vehicle up ahead and literally panicked. What to do? By the time Nelson slowed the RV, an opportune sign (or Divine hand) designated a passing zone just ahead. We reached it in time for the car to pass slowly by before continuing on. After another bunch of hair-raising minutes, we reached Coalmont, in the Tulameen Valley.

We crossed the old wooden bridge and I couldn’t believe it. The landscape matched the photo of Granite City in 1890 just like in the book, Gold Creeks and Ghost Towns. Well, not exactly because the photo in the book had tents and cabins as it was taken 100 yrs previous and all that was now left was one derelict log cabin.

Nelson parked the RV and took a breather. I figured out where the RV was standing and made a notation in my book, but even the broken buildings in the photo had ceased to exist. When I stepped outside, a deep sense of history pervaded my being. I stood in the silence of today, hearing the sounds of yesterday. Men yelling. Mules braying. Miners sloshing through the river. Even now as I write this, I’m taken back to that moment in time when I felt like I’d transcended the ages.

Nelson and Crystal emerged from the RV and we headed down to the river to pan for gold. (The photo isn't ours, but it's pretty close to what happened there.) I really don’t know if we were allowed to pan there, but the guy who sold us the books and pans seemed to think it was okay. We panned for an hour or so, enjoying the solitude. When dusk drew near and Crystal grew tired of throwing rocks into the water, we emptied our pans and shook off the drops. Panning is hard, back-breaking work and it takes time to get the feel of decent sluicing. For all I know, we let granules of gold slosh out while trying to get the rhythm down.

It didn’t matter, our history quest had been satisfied. Hours would pass before we felt foolish for following a dream where thousands upon thousands had failed to succeed.

I still have my miner’s pan and guidebooks. No, I haven’t panned for gold since, but while researching this post, I found a company who is selling mine claims for the same area. Five thousand dollars will buy you 160 acres along a river in the area where gold and platinum still flows down the creek.

I guess if it'd been in God's plan for us to find gold we would have, but we didn't. It's amazing to think something as precious as gold and platinum can be found sitting in a creek. Or that more washes down every spring.

God's love is like that. A river of love waiting for us to claim. We don't need special pans to collect it. And the Bible is an excellent guidebook although we don't need it to find our way to God. It sure is a comfort when you think you've lost your way back to the river, though. And, like the nuggets that continually wash down from the mountains, God's love pours down in a constant shower. Unlike precious metals, however, God's love is unending. You can never come up empty-handed like we did, because it's a renewable resource.

Have you ever panned for gold?

Photo Credits:
BC Map - Wikipedia
Gold Panning -
Man & Child -
Horse on Dewdney Trail - The Guide to Gold Panning in British Columbia by N.L. Barlee
Granite City (2) - Gold Creeks and Ghost Towns by N.L. Barlee
The  above 3photos along with the Similkameen map and Gold Creeks and Ghost Towns book cover are scans from the actual books with the notations I made at the time of our visit.


  1. Well, I just happened to be up and awake waiting by the computer for your post, Anita Mae!

    Anxious to see what vacation you'd be talking about and your story amazed me. What a history lover's trip! Great material I can hope to see in an upcoming manuscript!

    Thanks for sharing it and the reminder that we don't need any special equipment except a willing spirit to receive the precious love of Christ into our lives.

    Reminds me of the George Beverly Shea song, I'd rather have Jesus than ...

  2. Hey Deb, sorry to have worried you. I couldn't find my photos of the actual trip and so had to go searching for others. I'm missing a box of albums somewhere because I could only find 6 of them. At one point in the 80's, we switched to slides because it was becoming too expensive to print my pics, but that box has been misplaced as well. Too many moves, I guess. Thank goodness for digital! So much more efficient.

    You even popped your comment up there before I was officially finished. LOL. But I'm done now and heading to bed - as you should be. But, thank you for keeping us on track. I appreciate you.

    Anita Mae.

  3. Enjoyed your post, Anita. Can't say I've ever panned for gold, but I love your spiritual tie in.

  4. Gold panning IS hard work. I remember trying it with my parents when I was really little.
    LOVE your spiritual analogy here, Anita! And hey, if you ever get down this way, we've got more than our fair share of ghost towns and old mines to check out! I'd go with ya!

  5. Hey Lisa, isn't witnessing similar, though? You've gone out into the missionary field and searched among the people to find ones who are ready to be 'found'. Like finding nuggets.

    You could say, you've panned for people. :D

    Anita Mae.

  6. Actually, Niki, you don't know how little it would take to have me jump on your offer. :D

    Well, except that I need to finish my manuscript, so that's my first priority right now. But as you know, I love taking research trips and Colorado has a rich history in precious metals. Someday.

    So, did you or your parents ever find anything?

    Anita Mae.

  7. Wow, Anita! Wow!

    I've never panned for gold. Hnm. now that I think about it, maybe I have. When I was a kid, we lived in what was at teh time West Germany. I have this vague memory of us visiting a mining camp. So maybe we did pan for faux gold.

    However, spiritually speaking...

    A few years ago I did a Bible Study that, for the life of me, I thought was dull as dirt. Only I'd bought the book so I felt obligated to finish the study. It was one put out through MOPs.

    I remember beginning each day's study with a prayer, "Lord, help me get something out of this today and not think 'the woman who wrote this was a simpering idiot who's enabling these young mothers to whine about how sucky their lives are.'"

    Yes, I truly thought that.

    Yes, I probably shouldn't admit I thought that.

    Well, I didn't get squat out of it. Day after day, I shake my head and write somethign down because I was determined to finish the devotional no matter what.

    Oh the easy answer would be "you didn't get anything out of it because your attitude."

    Well, no. I remember crying at one point because I wanted to have some deep insight into parenting and balancing life and motherhood.

    I was digging for gold, and finding nothing.

    When I finished I realized maybe the gold to be found wasn't in the book but in developing the perseverance to stick with the devotional to the end.

    That was the first devotional I did EVERY day's lesson.

    I also realized through the devo how I'd forgotten what it was like to only have 1 or 2 kids at home. No matter how many kids we have or if we work outside the home or not or if we're a single parent or not, life's stresses are an equalizer. Not matter what we're facing, we all still need Jesus. Only in Him can we find true and lasting peace.

    Sometimes we don't even have to dig for gold because God, though His grace, likes to hand some to us.

  8. Anita, I was at the dashboard at 2:50 or so and saw it in draft form! I eventually got back to sleep.

    I really enjoyed the photos. Kudos to those first photographers that lugged around the equipment and chemicals to capture our first glimpses of some of these historical treasures.

  9. I feel like I did pan for gold once, probably at some sort of historical site. Only found pyrite.

  10. Maybe you panned for real gold, Gina. Why would you think faux gold?

    Sometimes we don't even have to dig for gold because God, though His grace, likes to hand some to us.
    I like your spiritual lesson. It reminded me of another precious metal, silver and the old adage, Every cloud has a silver lining.

    Isn't God wonderful!

    Anita Mae.

  11. Good point, Deb. I'm amazed at the tenacity of those early photographers.

    While researching for my manuscript, Emma’s Outlaw, I came across the website of Prof Stephen Jackson at the University of Wyoming in Laramie who studies 'Historic Repeating Photogrpahy'. I’m really enthusiastic about this type of photography because it shows two photos - then and now. In Prof Jackson’s case, he was comparing the rates of growth and spreading of tree species in Wyoming between landscapes from early in the 20th century and those same landscapes today. So many more trees today. But, it makes me wonder what made those early photographers capture the image of a forlorn hillside in the middle of nowhere.

    Thank you, Deb, for bringing this topic up. Oh wait, it's off-topic. Oops.

    Anita Mae.

  12. Hey Dina, pyrite sure looks like gold. My mom has a sample of fool's gold on her shelf from when my dad worked in the copper mines in northwestern Ontario. No wonder so many miners mistook it for the real thing.

    And that reminds me of a song we used to sing in youth. It was a parody of the old Coke commercial except the words were changed to... He's the re-al thing, Je-sus... :D

    And Dina, just think... maybe your output on life would have changed if you had found real gold. I don't know about you, but I like the way you see things now. :)

    Anita Mae.

  13. Great post, Anita. How fun! Yes, I've panned for gold more than a few times. It seems to be de rigeur to take field trips to places that offer panning here. I've been in gold mines, too. Any way you try to get your hands on some gold, it's back-breaking, long, hard work. I loved your reminder that God's love flows free and requires no special equipment, no labor, and no permit. It's there for the taking, and far more precious than gold.

  14. Hmm. Gee, Anita, maybe we had been panning for real gold. Maybe it was gemstones, not gold. After all, Germany isn't known for its abundant gold veins.

  15. Really Susie? Let's see...

    Research Checklist:
    - Visit Niki
    - Visit Susie


    The only actual mine I've seen, though, is an amethyst one on the northern shore of Lake Superior. Oh, that purple quartz glitters, too.

    Thanks, Susie.

    Anita Mae.

  16. Maybe, maybe not, Gina. I thought West Germany was a rich country in the time you would've been a child.

    Nelson spent 7 yrs of his childhood on Canadian Forces Bases in West Germany. He still counts in German to show off to the boys. :D

    I believe it's quite easy to set up your own sluicing operation or even tourist attraction because you can buy the river dirt in buckets or bags and do your own. You're usually guaranteed a small amount but some do find more. I read that on either the Alaska or North Carolina gold panning sites. Sorry, I looked at too many to remember details.

    Anita Mae.

  17. Aside from accompanying our daughter on a class field trip to a gold mine and panning there, I've yet to pan for gold. I enjoyed reading about your experience and love to think about being drenched in the river of God's love! Blessings!

  18. What wonderful imagery, Maria. We're dunked in the river to show the world we choose Jesus, and then God takes the water and wets us down some more in the form of blessings.

    Thanks for sharing. :)

    Anita Mae.


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