JAMESTOWN, CA - They call him Miner John and seeing him hunched over the river, swirling the water in his gold pan, he certainly looked the part. He pointed to a small, shiny piece of gold in his pan.
SLIDESHOW: Panning for Gold
"We call this a nuglet," Miner John, whose real name is John Gurney, said. "You're not going to get this in 10 minutes of shoveling. Sometimes (it) takes a couple of hours, sometimes a couple of days, sometimes a couple of weeks."
"It all depends on the area you're in," he added.
Miner John has been prospecting since the late 1980s. Three years ago he started taking people along on prospecting trips as part of his business, Jamestown Gold Panning. For some people, he said, it's more of a tourist attraction.
"All they want to do is learn, do the California experience, find a little bit of gold or gold flake and find out what it's like," Miner John said.
But others, he said, are more serious.
"We have some people this is what they want to do. They're retiring, they lost their jobs, they need to get back outdoors, they hate the activity they're doing. They don't want to go fishing, they don't want to go hunting. They want to do something in a stream and relax and maybe make a little bit of money."
You can do it cheaply with just a shovel, a couple of buckets and a gold pan. For slightly more, you can add a sluice box.
"Don't get a black pan," Miner John advised. "Get a green pan. And those will run $25 to $35 on line. A sluice, smaller sluices from $90 to $125. You can get all the gear you need to get started if you want to buy a sluice, let's say $150 tops."
You need patience to find gold, fellow miner Reverend John Bonilla said. But on the other hand: "It's more fun than fishing half the time," Reverend Bonilla said. "Because you bring fish home to eat, but when you find gold ... you can do a lot with gold!"
by Jonathan Mumm, firstname.lastname@example.org