GPAA Conducted Field Test

As seen in the Jan/Feb 2019 edition of the Gold Prospectors Magazine

Kevin Hoagland is the GPAA Director of Development

When Felix Paydirt contacted the GPAA about a field test, I immediately jumped at the opportunity and here’s why. In the past, I have ordered gold bags from Felix as gifts. They had no idea that they were sending a bag for me. In all cases, I was called by the gift recipient thanking me for outstanding gifts that were absolutely golden.

I had little idea of what the final products that were going to be shipped to me for a field test were and I generally do not care what I receive. I do my best to have no contact with the manufacturer until I have completed my field report and only then if I have additional questions about a product.

In the case of paydirt, it is pretty simple. Get a bag, grab a pan and get after it. So, when the delivery driver showed up at my door with a rather large and heave box (yellow Heavy Warning Tape affixed), I was mort than curious as to what I would actually be testing. It is rather humorous, though, that my driver and I have become friends of sorts around prospecting, and he commented on the box, “Must be full of gold. It’s pretty heavy.”

Opening the box, I found a great deal of goodies, including a Felix Paydirt T-Shirt that didn’t fit (my fault because they didn’t know my size) and an offer to join their club. Reading over the club details, it is an opportunity to get Felix Paydirt automatically delivered right to your doorstep every month. Plus, as a club member, you receive Alaska Airlines miles—one airline mile for every dollar spent on paydirt—and gold treatment to Jackpot bags where Felix randomly drops in quarter-ounce nuggets, and a punch card. Both Motherlode and Bonanza purchases earn a punch and after 10 paid bags you get a free bag. I also received a scratcher card with a chance to win some of Felix’s “Private Cache” vintage paydirt. You really need to go to their website to see the details on all of the offers that came in the box.

Oh yeah, there were two bags of paydirt and a crazy-heavy bucket in the case. I knew that in order to get this done in a timely manner for the magazine, panning was out of the question. I was very familiar with the two bags that I received. One was from the Bonanza claim and the other from the Motherlode claim. The bucket, on the other hand, I was not familiar with and had to go to the website to see what I had actually received.

I believe that knowing the history of Felix Paydirt is very important. 2018 celebrates 20 years of Felix offering paydirt to the (as they say) discriminating prospectors all around the world. But to really know what it is, we need to go back to July 1902 to the first Felix—Felice Pedroni, an Italian immigrant better known as Felix Pedro—and a little place called Barnette’s Cache.

For a number of years, Felix and his partner, Tom Gilmore, prospected around the Circle District in search of that one major strike. In the spring of 1902, unsuccessful at finding the Motherlode and the partners running low on funds, it was decided that one would stay and prospect while the other returned to Circle. Now, whether the decision was the short straw or paper, rock, scissors we may never know. But Felix stayed to chase his hunch that there was a major strike just over the next hill or across the creek.

Then sometime around July 22, 1902, while prospecting “Pedro Creek” near Gilmore Creek, about 12 miles outside of Barnette’s Cache, Pedro hand dug a 14-foot shaft to bedrock and began working the bedrock surface and found a pay layer of gold. After years of searching, Pedro was on the gold and quickly got his partner, Gilmore, back onto the site.

Word spread quickly and in a short order more than 1,000 miners were prospecting the area. Although this area became a major mining district in Alaska, many coming into the area were not equipped to dig to the depth of the gold and left for more shallow ground.

In all of the haste of the rush, the small camp called Barnette’s Cache became the largest city in Alaska’s territory and would be renamed after U.S. Sen. Charles W. Fairbanks. Unfortunately, this part of the story does not have a golden ending. Exactly eight years to the day of discovering gold on Felix Creek, Felix Pedro died of what was believed at the time to be a heart attack. Felix’s body was sent to California, where he was buried in Coloma, the site of the California Gold Rush.

Alaska went on to become a state and mining has never ceased in every known district. 90 years later, after the death of Felix Pedro, the modern Felix, armed with historical knowledge and a quest for gold, set out to discover what thousands of prospectors walked away from and discovered the first gold claim to become Felix Paydirt—the Motherlode Claim.

For the last 20 years, the Motherlode Claim has produced incredible gold. Everything from fines to nuggets are in great abundance. As the years moved on, Felix, with a prospector’s wanderlust and a need for additional ground, set off to find another claim that offered his customers an alternative or an addition to the Motherlode Claim. That‘s when the Bonanza Claim was found.

So, now that you know the history of how Felix Paydirt came to be, it’s time to get to the dirt.

Again, realizing the need to save time, the thought of panning all of this material was out of the question. Setting up a small recirculating system, I reached into the box and grabbed the first bag, the Motherlode 2-pound bag.

Carefully opening the bag, I poured the material into a dry gold pan. I immediately saw a small flake of gold, which I left in the pan, even though the prospector in me wanted to reach in and pluck it out.

The dry material is made up of small gravels that are both rounded and coarse. The black sand in the bag that I recovered with my magnet assured me that anyone new to panning or those wanting to have material to work for awhile to recover all of their gold, would find this material perfect for a few days of panning in order to get every speck of gold out.

Running the material through the recirc unit was fast and very efficient, but there was loss into the catch pan. The gold is definitely Alaska gold in that some of the finer gold is very, very flat and has a tendency to skip across the riffles and into the catch pan.

I would highly suggest that if you choose to run this material through any piece pf equipment (including a gold pan), that you catch all of your tailings and re-run it a number of times to get all of the gold. In other words, unless you are going to sit the full bag or bucket on the mantel to look at, you have some work ahead of you to get all of the gold out.

After checking a few pans of material in the tailings for loss, I re-ran the tailings and then thoroughly cleaned out the recirc unit. I did a quick panning of the material and, WOW, is all I could say. No wonder my friends that I have gifted a bag to here and there call me the Golden Santa. I was not expecting to have that much gold in my pan.

I decided in the interest of time to not do a final recovery and weigh out. Instead, I took all the recovered material and placed it into a container, returned all of the tailing to the bag to work later and moved onto the next bag of material, the Bonanza.

Opening the Bonanza bag, I found much of the same material as in the Motherlode bag. The magnetics, however, were a little heavier in this bag and I account that to either different packaging or where the material originated. I liked this bag a lot. I had the feeling that the final product was not gold tossed into a bag from the claims with the same waste material sitting in a storage area ready to be mixed in with the bags. But I could be completely off base with that thought. After all, Felix Paydirt is a business and getting the red bags and buckets of gold into the hands of prospectors around the world is their main focus and that dictates efficient processes to do so. Either way, it made me feel like I would be working different material.

Assuring that the recirc unit was clean and ready to run, I began running the material. However, I made a couple of changes in my process. With the Motherlode bag, I had what I would consider more than average loss. To attempt to lessen the loss this time, I practiced what I preach about only running wet on wet material and poured water into the bag to stratify the material. Mixing it to assure that the material was completely wet, I began scooping the material from the bag onto the header.

First scoop and I heard “clank” on the header. Yes, it was the sound we all love to hear of a big piece of gold hitting the header box. After seeing a very nice nugget drop into the recovery area, I almost dropped the scoop and dove into the box. After that, every rock that hit the header caused me to pause and check out what was dropping out next.

Wetting the material prior to running made a great deal of difference in the recovery. The tailings were cleaner, and the loss was what I would expect. Note to self, practice what I preach: “WET ON WET”! The loss was again fine gold that was all but flat. Even with the prewetting, these pieces are hard to recover with anything but patience and a gold pan, which is something I have a great deal of. I am looking forward to those days of just reworking the material.

I know you want to know about the big stuff. There was plenty of that in the pan, and not just pickers. These were what prospectors would consider nuggets. The shape and texture was completely different from the Motherlode bag, which assured me that this was not the same sourced gold. There was no mistaking this gold for gold from the Motherlode claim.

Quickly recovering the tailings and depositing them back into the bag for further recovery, I cleaned the recirc for the next run. It was time to get to the 20-pound bucket of Bonanza material.

Felix offers gold in many different containers. Although a bucket, it is called a case, which is 10 2-pound bags from either claim delivered to your door in a small, sealed bucket. A really nice packaging idea. Now that I will be looking for them, I wonder how many of these buckets I’ll see over the next year while I am out in the field.

Same process for running the case. I wet the material thoroughly and went for it, with amazing results. In the first three scoops of material, there were two nuggets and one good size picker. The matting in my recirc had hold in the first three drops and more still working out of the header.

Slowing down to keep from dislodging any settled gold, I moved to a slow rhythm of feeding the material into the header and giving it enough time to drop before adding another scoop. I was also checking the tailings catch for any visible gold and swapping out test pans off of the end of the sluice.

Frankly, it has been quite some time since I had seen this much gold in so little of concentrates that I became overly cautious in running the material, even though any loss would be captured in the tailings container. Continuing to feed, pan tailings and wait to reload the header, I took quite a bit of time running the case and with each scoop I saw more gold backing up in the sluice.

After getting to the bottom of the bucket, I reran the tailings twice more as a feel good, and then shut down to clean the box. On the first look into the box without water running, I was pleasantly surprised. Okay, maybe a bit more than that. My neighbor heard me making a few comments out loud to myself and came over to see what I was doing. I pointed into the box. He whistled, shook his head and I think for the first time he understood why I prospect.

Same process as before. Clean up the sluice, store the tailings and get ready for the final recovery in a couple of days.

Taking the time over the next few days and in between projects, I managed to pan all of the tailings and I have to admit, as a person that does not buy paydirt for myself, if I were in a non-gold area, wanted to hone my skills or just have a feel-good day looking at gold, Felix gave me al of that and a lot more.

I considered doing a total weight analysis but then decided against going down that rabbit hole. Simply put, we know Felix adds gold to every bag and bucket but the added gold has nothing to do with or take into account the finds that are already in the raw material that makes up the base of every red bag or bucket coming out of the mine.

In my mind, to say that you should expect this or that would be like saying that every hardrock mine or placer claim I have ever worked paid X dollars per yard no matter what.

I will however add this one weight, the nuggets in the Bonanza Case alone equaled 198 grains and a couple of them would make exceptional jewelry piecers for necklaces.

There were small nuggets in every one of the bags that I received that would be perfect fort inlays on rings and bracelets, and even the smallest of the nuggets would make really nice earrings for the special someone. Or you could just bottle them up and show them off to all of your prospecting buddies.

Final thoughts:

Felix has a 20-year history in supplying gold to prospectors around the world. If they were not doing it right from the beginning, they would not have made it into their third decade. It is that simple.

Prospectors are not folks who will settle for shenanigans. Especially when it comes to spending hard-earned money on something we are passionate about. And, prospecting for gold is more than a hobby. It is a way of life for us. Frankly, I do not believe that it matters whether you are in the field or in the garage. Prospecting is prospecting. You never know what you will have in the pan until you wash away that last bit of dirt. I was just as excited to see gold out of a bag as I am in seeing the fruits of my labor in the field on every test pan or cleanup.

There is an old joke that comes to mind: “Only a prospector would spend 40K on a truck, mortgage the house for gear and drive a thousand miles for $20 in gold.” For some of us it is about the adventure, not the rewards. Paydirt is a convenience item or an easy way to get on the gold. For those starting out, Felix Paydirt is a tool to learn from that offers a fantastic reward and a gateway to experiences. For those who have the experience and the challenges of getting out, Felix is a perfect solution to feeding that restlessness that hits when you can’t get out. In other words, Felix Paydirt is for everyone.

The value in each of the offerings I tested would be well worth the investment to me. I enjoyed working the material as much as I will enjoy dropping the gold from these tests into the GPAA Panning Zone troughs at the upcoming 2019 GPAA Gold Shows.

By Kevin Hoagland GPAA Director of Development