Last spring proved to be the perfect time for Patty McCobb, owner of Allerton Framing in Bristol, to try her hand at gold panning when she was faced with delays from suppliers due to the pandemic. With time on her hands, McCobb dug out a gold panning kit purchased ten years ago, took a class, and was hooked when she spotted her first sliver of gold. A long-time metal detector and former lobster woman, McCobb is putting in 75-hour work weeks to keep up with the demand of her framing customers. But once the temperature starts to rise and the ground thaws, she will resume her trips in search of gold in the running waters of New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
STRIKE GOLD: I took a day-long class with American Gold Prospecting Adventures in New Hampshire on the Ammonoosuc River and everyone found tiny, tiny flakes of gold. All you need is a little flake to get you hooked. Once you get the gold fever, it’s over. I would equate it with people’s love of collecting sea glass: It’s beautiful, you find it yourself, and you never know when you’re going to find it. Most everyone keeps their sea glass, which is the same with gold.
ALL THAT GLITTERS: For newcomers, it’s easy to confuse pyrite, which is very lightweight and called “fool’s gold”, with the real thing. Gold is beautiful buttery yellow and is 19 times heavier than water so it sinks to the bottom of the gold pan and sticks. Gold, black sand, and garnets are the heaviest. If you get black sand you are in a pretty good area, though not a guarantee.
NUGGETS OF WISDOM: A good piece of advice is don’t leave the gold to find the gold. If you are in a spot and finding little pieces, stay in that place. It tests patience and is back-breaking work. I wear clamming boots and quick-drying pants. When the black flies are out, there is no bug spray that will keep you safe so I wear a bug hat. I use what looks like an eye dropper – called a snugger bottle – and vacuum those flakes into it.
ROAD TRIP: I try to get on the road by 2am to be set up by 6am. I could be gone for 18 hours and the only person I’ll see is at the toll booth. I’ve seen a lion, black bear, snakes, and wolf spiders.
MORE THAN MINING: When I’m not gold panning I am constantly looking at charts, reading, and researching. I love doing crazy fun things. I got into metal detecting 25-30 years ago and I did lobstering on the Cape. People will say, “I always wanted to do that” – so just do it, what’s stopping you?