Finally, north to Alaska, after all these years. May 27 while I was following the Nugget Shooter forum hosted by Bill Southern I saw a post by Steve Herschbach, of Moore Creek Mining, stating his mining claims on Moore Creek were opening to the public. This sounded like the chance to go to Alaska I had been waiting for so long. Besides, going would be a consolation for not getting to Australia this year. I have desired to experience Alaska much of my life, here was a solid opportunity to see a bit of Alaska and hunt gold. What more could I ask for? So, I immediately communicated with Steve via his Alaska Gold Forum and tossed my detector in the ring. Sign me up for the second week in Paradise; bugs, bears and eagle-sized mosquitoes be damned! Alaska, here I come. I sent my money, arranged my flight reservations, reserved a room and now I wait. Initially, I intended to just use my GoldQuest v.2 and take my chances. The Gold Quest v.2 is a great detector made by Eric Foster that uses AA batteries and is simple to use, I love it on the beach and when I have used it nugget hunting but, would it compete with Minelab? I knew the GoldScan-5, also by Eric Foster was due to be released so I went on the list for one â€¦The trip just got a lot more expensive, oh well. So off to Anchorage, then McGrath and then a very tiny plane for the trip into Moore Creek. I am certain my suddenly acquired faith in God kept the plane in the air and safely returned it to the dirt/cobble landing field at Moore Creek.
After an orientation meeting and the delivery of the baggage we went detecting. No gold for me that afternoon but a good taste of the work to be involved over the next week. The next morning we took a forced march to the lower end of the trail and had a go. Just after we all separated I found my first nugget yahoo! This wasn't bad at all, but no more Nuggets that afternoon. Back in camp that evening I brought out the Jim Beam whiskey I bought at Alaskan prices there in McGrath $35 U.S, my new friends all grabbed a cup and saved me from over-indulgence, thanks guys!
The next morning I was up, as usual, before everyone making coffee and enjoying the morning solitude. I thought I heard the sad and mournful howl of a wolf but wasn't sure because of the cacophony of snoring miners. So I grabbed my coffee and hiked over the hill and listened to a wolf that seemed to have lost all his friends, relatives and whatever passes for wolf-possessions. I almost started howling with him so he would not be aloneâ€¦I wish I could have got a look at the poor critter.
Latter that morning I stood by a beaver pond and watched the beavers as they were watching me. Every so often one of the beavers would rise up, look my direction and slap it's tail to warn of my presence. While I was watching them a gang of five otters started playing in the pond. After a bit, they climbed out on the bank and wrestled around then jumped up and disappeared into the alders. Too Cool! They are the jolliest animals I have ever seen.
An hour or so later Steve, Dean and Rich joined me and we went to the end of the trail. As we stood on the top of a dredge pile, I thought to my self that would be a good spot to try, unfortunately I moved to the next visible hill and was soon sorry I did. We had hardly started our detectors when I heard Dean yell, "you won't believe what I just found". Dean had never found gold and had only a little experience with his detector when he found a 6.5 oz specimen that is mostly gold. Beginners Luck, what can you do? I walked right by that pile and missed that nugget and about 6 oz that Rich found on the same pile, they did very well that day.
The next morning I went a different direction. I climbed through brush, up very old spruce covered piles and down to a beaver pond. The water level in the pond was down about 2 and 1/2 feet so I thought I would work the perimeter of the pond and hope. About Â¾ of the way around I got a strong signal at the edge of the water. The piles are steep and digging in the water/ muck is always a challenge, so I carefully dug and pulled the muck toward me. First attempt nothing, second attempt still in the hole; finally the target was in my hand. After carefully sorting and testing I felt the target. I carefully rinsed it and started my celebration dance, a very nice solid Â½ oz nugget without matrix, thank you God!!!
The next day we returned for another search of the far end, I had just got to my chosen spot when I realized the battery on the detector had not recharged. This was very disappointing and I returned to camp. I went fishing that day but didn't get any fish. So I returned to camp and fixed dinner for lack of anything else to do. That evening I borrowed Steve's Lobo ST to play around camp. I got a good solid signal about 15 feet from my tent and started hacking away with the pick. I got a great surprise when I saw the round, flat form of a coin. It was a 1909 fifty-cent piece in very excellent condition, a very nice trophy indeed. I was lucky that the pick never hit it.
Most of the time at Moore Creek we were surrounded by fires that caused an immense blanket of smoke. The smoke made breathing difficult for this delicate soul. The fires caused so much smoke that the bush planes were grounded because of the lack-of-visibility. This meant we would not be leaving on time so, I borrowed a spinner from someone and went down to Moore Creek and tried my hand fishing. Right away I caught my first Grayling- a marvelous fish of the far north. My first Grayling was a whopping 4 inches but no matter. My next Grayling was about 16 inches and they just kept biting. I ended my Grayling excursion with enough fish for dinner. Paul fried them up very tastily.
The next day the smoke was clearing and so we all packed and waited. Thankfully the plane came and retrieved us and our gear. All the rooms in the hotel were taken so 14 of us roomed in the bunkhouse next door. I hope I never have to endure that again, Snoring in non-harmony by most of those men was a trial to sleep through, but I was happy to be in McGrath and waiting for my exit to Anchorage and then Home. I enjoyed my Alaska Adventure and am grateful to Steve Hershback for providing the time and place for me to satisfy a life-long desire to visit Alaska.
By Fred Mason
By Fred Mason