Denver, Colorado, Thursday afternoon, 3:45 p.m. I'm sitting in my office at work in a meeting. I should have been on the road on the way home by now. Somehow these meetings always seem to stretch on past my quitting time. It has been a tough day and I'm looking forward to relaxing with a cool one.
My pager goes off. I can't even get away from the work grind before they start paging me again. Looking at the display, I read about 15 numbers, none of them making any sense. Oh well, that's one page I don't have to answer. Back to the meeting and going over a problem that we had gone over only about 100 times before. The pager goes off again. Looking at the display I read about 12 numbers this time. The first three make sense as the area code but what to do with the rest of the mess. Forget it and back to the meeting. The pager goes off yet again. Maybe the third time's the charm. Looking at its display one more time, anything to get away from the meeting, I notice that this time the number makes sense. Excusing myself from the discussion, I dial the number. "Tomahawk Truck Stop," the voice on the other end of the phone says. Maybe the number isn't good after all. I explain who I am and that someone has paged me. I hear the voice on the other end yell, "Did anyone page Leonard?" Then after a minute I hear "Leonard, its Mike." Suddenly I remember. Earlier in the week I had seen a posting on the alt.mining.recreational newsgroup on the Internet with the itinerary for Mike's Arizona Expedition. It had listed Colorado as pass-through. I had e-mailed Mike and asked what towns he was passing through and he had replied "Denver." I had given him my pager number and said, "Give me a page when you get in town; we'll go out for a beer or two."
Back on the phone Mike asks, "Where can we meet?" I interrupt the meeting and ask everyone, "Where's a good place to meet someone who doesn't know the area?" After a few minutes discussion we settle on a spot and I relay the directions to Mike. We would meet at a bus park-and-ride right along the interstate. The meeting finally disintegrates, I change clothes, and I'm off to the meeting with Mike. Thanks to leaving work late, the traffic sucks and I arrive late. I'm in a parking lot with about 200 cars and searching for Mike's car. I had planned to beat him there and stop him at the entrance. Oh well, nothing else has gone right today so why should I expect this to be any different. As I look for a parking spot, I see someone approaching me. "Leonard?" he says. Mike has found me.
Mike introduces me to his wife, Kim, and we decide to go to a bar for a cool one and a place to sit. This isn't my part of town so I say, "Follow me. A bar shouldn't be too hard to find." Off we go and for once I am right. We drive about four blocks and stop at the first bar we come to. The afternoon weather is perfect! We sit in the sun on the patio and Mike drinks a local beer (because he is in Colorado, he has to try one). I have a passable microbrew, and Kim, has what must be, from the color, lemonade. We discuss prospecting in our local areas and possible routes to take to his destination. When Mike orders a second beer of the same brand, I begin to question his taste in beers. I definitely know he can't be a serious beer drinker (BillBrew, his dry washing partner, will confirm this a week later!).
Mike had planned to break out the gold pan at various locations on his trip so what better to do after a few drinks than go panning right here in the heart of Denver. I had dredged previously in several locations right in the middle of town on Clear Creek and the creek wasn't more than several hundred yards from where we sat.
We load into the cars and drive off. I'm looking for any road that goes in the direction of the river. Once at it, we could find a parking spot and try a little panning. Not very scientific sounding in theory but, in actuality, not bad as there is flour gold almost anywhere in Clear Creek. Sometimes there are even some good-sized flakes. (Some people might argue, though, that the really big flakes are the one's with the gold pans in their hands...) I find a road and after turning onto it, we come upon a sign: Prospect Park. Fate is with us. This has to be a good spot.
We park near the water and eagerly remove our boots and panning supplies from the car trunks. As we walk to the water, I ask Mike, "Where's your shovel?" He replies, "I don't have one!" I begin to seriously doubt his prospecting experience until he explains that BillBrew was going to supply all of the digging equipment.
We finally find a small hand shovel and eagerly head into the water. Mike wants to try his rain-gutter sluice on our flour gold and that leaves me with his gold pan. I had forgotten about our meeting so I don't have any prospecting equipment with me.
The creek bed at this location is solid clay with gravel over it. I wade into the water and nearly fall. The bottom of the creek is rough and, where the clay is exposed, very slick. Soon, one of my boots begins to leak. Then I squat down too far and get my back pockets wet. Oh well, if you are prospecting, you have to expect to get wet, right?
I select a likely looking spot and dig out a pan full of gravel. Carefully selecting a good spot to pan from, one where I won't fall on my rear end in the water, I pan out the material. Luck is with me and I find a small speck of gold hiding in the black sand. Carefully we transfer it to a sample bottle. At least Mike will have some Colorado gold!
We continue to pan out material for a while as the sun keeps getting lower in the sky. Soon it is nearly dark and finding gold in the black sand is difficult.
I was expecting passersby to ask what we were doing. I thought I'd tell them we were testing a theory that gold is nocturnal and comes to the top of the gravel at night. (As far as I can tell though, this theory doesn't pan out...)
Since it had become dark and Mike had a long way to travel to Arizona, we decide to call it quits. We say our good-byes in the parking lot and head our separate ways home, Mike and Kim on to their further Arizona Expedition adventures. Come on back any time Mike. I'd love to do some serious prospecting with you!