Memorable California Moments
California Expedition, 1999
As appearing in The Gold Nugget, August 1999
by Leonard Leeper, "The Golden Optimist"
(See Leonard's website at

Hotel Nevada

Our first night's stopover was at the Hotel Nevada and a seemingly endless stream of 99-cent Margaritas resulted at the bar. Every time I got ready to leave for my room, more Margaritas appeared and you know I'm too cheap to let them go to waste.

The "Boot Tree"

The boot tree is 48 miles west of Fallon, Nevada. It is filled with hundreds of pairs of shoes decorating every limb. Next to it, but on a much smaller scale, was "The Bra Tree." You probably couldn't guess what decorated its limbs.

Nancy's tent

Nancy's tent had a double bed, carpet on the floor, a veranda, and if I would have looked, probably pictures on the walls.

Nancy's spaghetti dinner

About a dozen of us showed up and there was spaghetti left over for 2 days. It was great. Thanks Nancy!

Dave #1 and Dave #2

This year both Daves were there at the same time. They are Dave Nickerson (Dave #1) and Dave Nicholson (Dave #2). The night before they had to leave, we decided that we needed pictures of them together. We took one picture with them standing close together but then Dave #2 said, "Wait a minute! How can people tell us apart?" Another picture was in order. After much discussion about a identification process, as we didn't have the materials for two signs, Dave #2 said, "I know--we'll signify our numbers with an uplifted finger!" The picture was then taken. Dave #1 raised one finger and Dave #2 raised two fingers. Dave #2 had to use both hands to signify Dave #2 with their selected fingers.

Note: Dave #1 has absolutely no hair appearing on his head or face. Dave #2 has lots of hair all around his head and a beard, and outweighs Dave #1 by about 50 pounds. I guess it would be an easy mistake to identify one as the other without them using the number signs.

The dog's big river crossing

Dave #2 decided that the river's water level had gone down enough that he could take his dog, Hobbes, across the river to the other side to where he was dredging. Hobbes was taken to the edge of the river where Dave grabbed the dog's collar in one hand and the crossing rope in the other hand, and then proceeded to wade across the knee deep, swift water with no problems. Once on the other side he released his grip on Hobbes' collar and proceeded to get ready to go to his dredge. Hobbes calmly walked about 50 feet up the river and waded out into the swift water and swam back across to the other side. Dave said "I'd better go back and tie him up." On the way back across he slipped, disappeared under the swift water, came up once without his hat, submerged again and came up one more time with his hat proudly raised above his head.

I had captured the entire event on videotape as I had told Dave, the nice sensitive guy that I am, "I want you to have something to remember Hobbes by when he gets washed down the river." The only problem with the videotape was, I was laughing so hard that I had trouble holding the camera still.

Dick's defective chicken

Dick, another Colorado prospector, invited four of us to eat dinner with him. He carefully prepared barbecued chicken and it was great. As we were eating it, Dave commented, "Dick, I think this chicken was defective! It's falling off of the bones."

Chris' nugget

Chris got the award for largest nugget. It weighed nearly a pennyweight.

The censor dog

One couple from the Valley Prospectors, California, had their dog with them. One day, one of the other dredgers was having a bad day. His dredge wouldn't run correctly and it kept getting plugged up. Finally, in disgust, he threw his equipment down and stood there cussing out his dredge, then left. After he was gone, the dog walked over to the dredge, backed up to the floats, lifted his leg, made a deposit, then left. About five minutes later the dog returned, backed up to the floats, and this time made a much more substantial deposit on the float. From then on, no one cussed out their equipment around the dog.

My first bedrock dredge crack

I found my first crack to clean out. It was large, positioned just right with respect to the water flow, and was full of old packed material. I had hopes of finding the big one in it. I didn't but I was able to see small gold flakes sitting on the bedrock. I picked 3 flakes out with the tweezers. It took me several hours to clean it out. That day I picked a pennyweight of flakes out of the front of the dredge.

How did it all pan out?

There were many more unforgettable moments. The gold was just a small part of the great time that I had. How much gold did I find? About 1/2 ounce for 17 days of dredging. Not a lot when divided into each individual day but these were the pieces large enough to pick up with tweezers. The small stuff hasn't been worked out yet. Imagine in your next pan finding pieces large enough to pick out with tweezers instead of snuffering. That's the real reason to return next year. Not the gold quantity, the gold quality!

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© 1999 Gold Prospectors of the Rockies