Tom Roper during his expedition to northern B.C. in search of gold. (Submitted photo)

Tom Roper during his expedition to northern B.C. in search of gold. (Submitted photo)

Panning for ‘colour’: Tales along the gold trail

Tom recalls his leave of absence from work to search for the motherlode

Once in a blue moon the planets line up and an opportunity presents itself. One should grab on to it if they can before it fades away.

My chance came while working at Huckleberry mine. The foreman applied for six months off to ride his motorcycle to Terra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. Why can’t I try that? So I applied for a similar leave of absence with a different location. I wanted to head north to several gold-bearing areas and try my luck at finding my motherlode.

The company seemed willing and next on the agenda was to convince my wife that I was going to find enough of the elusive stuff to make wages. Realistically, we both knew that was not possible but nevertheless that good woman agreed that I needed to do this.

So after a great departing party that had one of our friends dressed as a Can Can girl, I pulled out of the driveway heading for Glenora B.C. along the Stikine River near Telegraph Creek.

We had met a neat couple a few years back at their B&B called Up the Creek. Barb and Rick were living along the famous Iron Road and not too far from the old Barrington gold mine. After a brief reunion, I set up the portable sluice in their neighbouring creek and two hours of shovelling later there did not seem to be any gold.

Next stop was at the north end of Dease Lake in an area called McDame. This was a historically serious gold-bearing region in the Cassiar District. Most Miners with a claim will generally let the novice pan in an attempt to find some “colour.”I also tried the method of the road sniper working the outlet of a culvert. I was quite convinced this method would pay. It didn’t. Oh well, next stop Atlin.

Atlin is B.C.’s most northerly community about 70 miles south of the Yukon border. Turning left off the Alaska highway at Jakes Corner you enter a very special section of the province. Gold was discovered in the area around the same time as the Klondike Rush. This is where my motherlode will be located.

Within a few hours of arriving I had set up camp at the local lake, been to the local graveyard, met two sisters who were looking for a plot to place the deceased husband of one of them. I was invited to the celebration of life of said miner husband.

I like this town.

The wake drew out all the area miners and I spent the afternoon and evening swapping stories with some very interesting characters. The next day I spent at the public claim on Spruce Creek.

Panning is hard work and needs to produce to retain your enthusiasm. My colour was somewhat invisible. Oh well, I am having a good time.

On the way back to town, I stopped to check out the Discovery Claim on Pine Creek.

The original discoverer of gold has the privilege of claiming the lot above and the lot below. There were many old buildings and I was in my element. As I was rummaging through I was suddenly confronted by a woman.

“What are you doing?” she demanded to know.”

Seems this was her claim and she lived on the site. I am trespassing. A bit of quick thinking was required.

“I just came by to see if I could work for you on the claim,” I stammered.

“You should be more careful, she said, I shoot claim jumpers. No, I don’t need any miners, I have enough but I do need a carpenter to build me a new outhouse, and I pay in gold.”

Enough said, I am your man. I have my tools and my genset on the trailer, let’s go.

The hole had been previously dug and we proceeded to scrounge framing material and siding from the old buildings on site. A couple of days later, a quite attractive outhouse made completely out of recycled materials stood ready for immediate use.

We negotiated the price of $400, weighed out a nugget and clinched the deal. Yahoo, there is gold in them thar hills.

To be continued, further tales along the gold trails.


Tom Roper in the outhouse he built for the owner of the Discovery Claim during his expedition to northern B.C. in search of gold. (Submitted photo)