Dipping and Shaking for Gold


Thank you for the warm welcome to Petticoats and Pistols! It’s an honor to be invited as a regular blogger and to share the same space with these stellar writers. I’m looking forward to chatting with all of you. As some already know, my stories are set in both the American and Canadian West. I’m currently writing about the Mounties.

Have you ever wondered what it was like, panning for gold? On my trip to the Yukon to research the Klondike Gold Rush, I tried my hand at it. (The photo above is one I took of the Yukon River.)

Here I am, giving it a shot. Gold is nineteen times the weight of water, so it naturally sinks to the bottom of the pan. The tricky part is washing away the gravel into smaller and smaller portions while still hanging onto the precious stuff. There’s quite a skill involved. They have a name for the proper technique:  dips and shakes. Never mix these motions together or you’ll lose the gold. Dipping the pan creates waves like an ocean tide over the pebbles. A gentle shake rattles them free until all you have left are nuggets or flakes. Easier said than done!

My arms started to feel heavy after only a few minutes. Imagine standing in a river for hours, or days or weeks till you found something of value. Another thing I hadn’t counted on was the iciness of the water. In the Yukon, spring thaw occurs in May, but the rivers remain frigid. During the Gold Rush days, I’m sure fingers went numb within minutes. How about a person’s feet and legs?

These are the flakes I came home with. They’re suspended in water. Each flake is roughly worth two bucks, and I found five. Some of the nuggets the stampeders discovered in the Klondike were the size of men’s fists–the largest the world has ever seen. And they were plucking hundreds of them from the riverbeds!

I couldn’t help myself–I brought home a gold pan as a souvenir. Most Klondike stampeders did not strike gold, so the pans themselves were more often used to wash socks or to fry fish. I accidentally left mine under an open window earlier in the year. It got rained on, hence rusty.  But now I feel like a real old-timer. Cost of pan: $12.95. Predicted selling price in future garage sale five years from now: 50 cents.

I try to imagine what it must have been like to strike gold big time, but the closest I come to feeling the excitement is when I watch the TV program, “Antiques Roadshow.” 

Do you have any hidden ‘nuggets’ at home? If the “Antiques Roadshow” were coming to your town, what’s the one thing you’d stand in line for, to get appraised?

I’ll start. From my husband’s side of the family, I inherited this ladies antique wristwatch. I believe it’s from the late 1800s. It was brought over from Germany, but may have been made anywhere in Europe (it doesn’t have the maker’s initials, but an emblem). The cool thing is it’s actually a lady’s pocket watch that some ingenious person designed a strap for, so it can sit on the wrist if the lady didn’t want it pinned to her blouse or sitting in her pocket. It must have been the way they first came up with an idea for a wristwatch.


The watch sat on my desk the whole time I was writing my first novel, THE DOCTOR’S HOMECOMING. It became the watch my heroine, the first female doctor in town, owned. Every time I touched it, I thought of Emma. From my search on the internet, I don’t believe it’s worth a huge amount, but it’s fun to imagine it’s worth a fortune.

How about you? What have you got buried in that trunk? Whatever you do, don’t wash or clean it. Experts say getting rid of its natural patina (signs of aging) decreases its value.

In honor of my first official post on Petticoats and Pistols, and in celebration of my current release now in bookstores, KLONDIKE FEVER, I’ll be randomly choosing a winner from someone who posts a comment here today. Prize:  One Mountie T-shirt (black, XL, 100% cotton) along with a compact RCMP pen, perfect size for a purse.

P.S. You know what the latest treasure is in northern Canada? Diamonds. They’re finding lots of them on the bottom of the lakes, equal in quality to those found in Africa. 









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38 thoughts on “Dipping and Shaking for Gold”

  1. That is so cool. The trip to Yukon was research for your book? Do you do alot of research by going to different places? What other places have you researched for your books? The watch is neat. I love the bookcover and the tshirt is really nice. Well at least you had a good time.

  2. Good Morning!

    The Yukon River looks very beautful. Panning for gold (hard, cold work), but I guess Gold Fever is pretty bad too.

    Have a great day.

  3. HI Kate!!!

    That was a really cool post you made! It’s amazing to me to learn about different things and your blog definately taught me something about panning for gold…I didnt actually realize it was that much work!

    As for my own little treasures..I dont really have anything that has big monetary value, but..I have a few things that are of great value to me! I have my daddy’s wrist watch that he always wore and my pappaw’s watch and my pappaw’s walking cane that he sanded on for hours to make smooth! I have my mom’s ceramic baby pig..she loved that thing! All of those things mean alot to me (all of them have passed away)

    BTW: I really love your book cover for KLONDIKE FEVER!

  4. Kate, BIG Petticoats & Pistols welcome on your very first day as a true Filly. Yee-haw!

    You’re going to fit right in at Wildflower Junction, and we’re looking forward to having you with us!

    Great blog! Great prizes, too!

  5. Good Morning Kate, It’s great to have you on P&P!!

    My family emigrated from Greece in the 1940s with just the few clothes they had and a little bit of money so we don’t have a lot of material objects, just some family photos which are worth a lot to me.

    But we do have a lot of family history passed down by word of mouth which we are trying to preserve by writing it down so that future generations will know the struggles,hopes and dreams that my grandparents had.

    Thanks for an informative post. I really enjoyed “Klondike Fever.”

  6. I love wading in cold mountain streams, but can’t imagine standing in one for a long time…but the ‘get rich quick’ of gold fever did get people to do stuff they probably wouldn’t have thought of under normal circumstances. Guess the cold might be why we see all those pictures of miners crouched on the shore. 🙂

  7. Hi Kate! Even though I have lived in Ontario now for many years, I was born in Alberta and I remember going to the Klondike Days once or twice. They had a “game” there where you could try your hand at panning for gold. Completely contrived of course, but I was eight.

    I love your photo of the Yukon River. It’s a place I’ve planned to visit in the near future.

  8. Your trip to Yukon sounds like it was amazing. Your watch reminds of one that I have though not has old. I’m really not sure how old it is. It was either my grandmothers or my great grandmothers. It is an old wind up Bulova with tiny diamonds in it. It is so old that the face of it is showing alot of brown with age. Unfortuntely the wind up part broke and I’m to scared to take it in. I have no idea what it is worth since it is an antique, but it is worth the world to me and I don’t want it to go missing. I heard that can happen when you take old pieces in to get them fixed. I hope that someday I will be able to get it fixed and use it. Thank for the great post, I found it very interesting.

  9. Welcome to the Fillies, Kate!

    I’m crazy about collecting vintage items, from linens to dishes. But my favorite things are those with sentimental value. I wear my great-great grandmother’s wedding ring on my left thumb and my dad’s wedding ring on the middle finger of my right hand.

  10. Hi Kate. Your trip to the Yukon sounds great. I think it would be fun to pan for gold.
    Your watch is nice. I don’t have any treasures like that.

  11. Good morning, everyone!

    Thanks for all the comments, already! I’m sipping on my tea and enjoying the read.

    Kimmie L–Yes, the trip was specifically to research the books. It started out as a 3-book deal and has now turned into 9 stories altogether to be set there. It was the first trip I took as an author, and had to save up to do it. I’ve lived in Alberta, so my first 8 Mountie books were set there from memory, and old photos and research books. It’s a lot of fun to travel to a place, and my family came with me as my trusty assistants (husband driving, young daughter racing ahead in museums to tell me what else she saw that was interesting.) As for future trips–I’m going to California for the RWA convention next month, so I’ll be taking lots of notes and pictures for possible future use.

    Sherry–hi! The Yukon River is really breathtaking. That’s the real color of the water, there weren’t any filters on my camera. What the photo doesn’t convey is how pure and clear the air smells.

    Melissa D–your treasures sound wonderful. It’s the things that are passed down that have meaning. That walking sounds very cool–and I bet he got it very smooth.

    Pam–thanks for the big welcome! You are a friendly bunch of gals, and I appreciate it! It’s really great to be here!


  12. Melissa D–I see I left out the word walking ‘cane’ but I think you knew what I meant…:-)

    Hi Za! Nice to see you here. My family emigrated from Europe, too, and we didn’t have a lot growing up. That’s really touching about writing down your family history. I’m sure everyone will appreciate it, sometime down the road.

    Lizzie–that’s funny about the miners crouched on shore. I bet you’re right! And it’s crazy what people did—and would still do–for gold fever.

    J.K. Choi–Howdy, neighbor! 🙂 I remember those Klondike Days in Edmonton. When I was there back in the 80s, Princess Di and Charles came over to visit, and they attended the events. She had a designer make her the most gorgeous palest pink outfit and matching hat…she was giggling all the way through it. Must’ve been fun!

    Rebekah–Your Bulova watch sounds precious in more ways than one. I didn’t realize they could break if someone took them apart, but that’s a good point. I’ll be very careful with mine, too.

    Cheryl–Hi and thank you for the welcome! I think I’m going to love it here. I suspected you like to collect things, seeing how you’re such a great interior designer. That’s nice and very sentimental, wearing your grandmother’s and dad’s rings. 🙂

    Crystal–hi! Thanks for posting. It was fun to try my hand at panning for gold.


  13. Good morning Kate! And WELCOME to Petticoats! You’ll fit right in with us fillies. I panned for gold twice, once at Knotts Berry Farm in their goldmining community. It was an attraction but they had oldtimers teaching you the method. I came home with a little vial too, with bits of gold in it.

    Later in life, I panned for real on the American River, where loads of gold had once been found. That was part of research trip I did in Virginia City, Nevada.

    Loved seeing your pictures and the gorgeous Yukon!

  14. Hi, Kate. Welcome to Petticoats and Pistols.
    I’m amazed that those little chunks of gold could induce madness in people. My first contracted book was set against the Klondike Gold Rush. The stuff I found while researching that was just fascinating and very, very weird.

    The thing I have at home that I think might be a bit valuable…although I’ve never managed to track down any evidence…is this doll my grandmother gave me.
    It’s called a Mary Alice doll and my name is Mary Alice, which is why my grandma picked me out of her eight grandchildren to give it to. (that and because I’m so darn special!)
    It’s dressed in this little sailor suit, including hat, with a cloth body and china head, legs and arms. And it’s in it’s original box with 1911 written by hand on the back. It’s about five or six inches tall. So really well preserved.

    It’s so cool thought. It’d take a lot (in fact I can’t imagine HOW much it’s take) to get me to part with it.

  15. This thing I have is not terribly valuable but it is old: it’s nearly 100 years old Finnish stamp from the time when Finland was still part of Russia. It has two headed eagle on it and everything.

  16. Charlene–Good morning to you! Thanks for the kind welcome. I see you’re an old hand at the gold panning yourself. 🙂 It is kinda fun, isn’t it? Virginia City tour would’ve been great.

    Hi Mary! Nice to see you! Mighty nice of you to drop in. Your doll sounds adorable. And being well-preserved, still in its original box–they’d absolutely love you on the Antiques Roadshow. How nice that you share the same name. I’m sure it would be hard to part with.

    Minna–hi again! Wow, a Finnish stamp when it was still part of Russia, how interesting! Eagles are popular over there, too, huh? It must be a universal symbol.

    Thanks for posting!


  17. Hi Kate!

    I’m so glad you’ve joined us and become a regular Filly. We hope you won’t regret your decision for a second. We sure won’t! You make a good fit. We’re just a bunch of girls who like to have fun and tell the world about our western romances.

    My “old” treasures probably aren’t very valuable and that’s okay with me. I have some late 1800’s silver dollars, a twenty dollar gold piece, and a cup, saucer, and compote made of carnival glass. Of all, I’m sure the twenty dollar gold piece would fetch the highest price. But, I’m not looking to get rid of it. It belonged to my late husband.

    Hope you have a wonderful day and feel the love! Can’t wait to read your Klondike series. They look yummy. 🙂

  18. Welcome Kate,
    It was interesting to read all about your amazing trip and what you learned from it. This fascinating and beautiful locale has many wonderful stories which I love to read about. Your photo captures the panning for gold beautifully. Thanks for sharing today.

  19. Hi Kate! I enjoyed this unique post which gave me insight into your writing. What a great trip to experience life in the Yukon and see this fabulous area. Your series sounds incredible and a must read. I have an engagement ring from my late mother-in-law which was an old European cut so we used one of the large diamonds in it for my son’s fiancee’s engagement ring which she appreciated greatly.

  20. I suppose they are. We prefer a lion. Actually, there are stamps -a couple of years older than the one I have (and plenty of much newer stamps)- with the lion in them. But during the years of Russian oppression it was the eagle decorating the stamps. Guess they didn’t like the symbolism in the lion stamps. Just look at the western style sword the lion is holding and the eastern style sword he’s trampling under his feet:
    Actually, in the earlier version (the once seen in the really old stamps) the lion is balancing on the sword rather than trampling it.

  21. Such a scene showing your wonderful photos of the Yukon. How impressive and interesting to see this area. I have not travelled that far north but have been to the gorgeous Rockies in Alberta and B.C. and love it there. Best wishes on your great series and enjoy your travels.
    I have a pin that is old and antique which I am saving for my daughters.

  22. Welcome Kate, I am going to love your books as I love reading anything from Canada. Looking forward to reading Klondike Fever.
    I have tried my hand at panning for gold in the Colorado Rockies. We did actually bring home a few flakes. The pan we used was old and rusted as we found it along the stream. I like to think that the person who left it got rich and didn’t need it any more. Like you, i found it tiring and back breaking.

  23. Welcome Kate, Your books resound with me. I have a fondness for reading many books that are set in Canada and that area especially. They are enticing and so interesting. Thanks for visiting today. Your post was unique and lovely.

  24. Hi Kate!

    Welcome aboard. So glad to have you — and what an excellent post. Beautiful cover, beautiful pictures. My husband used to be a gold miner — he and my brother-in-law mined gold mines here in California, as well as in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

    Great post!

  25. Thanks for a great blog, Kate. Oh, wow, I’ve had a crush on Mounties for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl I wanted to grow up and marry one. Your book sounds wonderful.
    I have a lot of old family treasures in my house, but none that would be worth much on Antiques Roadshow. I just love them for their stories.
    Giving you a warm, enthusiastic welcome,

  26. Hello, Kate,

    It is nice having you here, joining the Fillies!
    Your blog today is most informative – I just can’t
    imagine standing in freezing water panning for gold!
    I get cold just thinking about it!

    We don’t have anything really very valuable,just a couple of 100 y/o books I found and my mother-in
    -laws 75 y/o dining room set.

    Pat Cochran

  27. Hi Linda–I haven’t regretted my decision yet (lol). You sure are a bunch of gals who like to have fun, and I have been laughing a lot since I joined.

    Pearl–thank you for your comments. It is a beautiful locale, I agree. Hard to get around there even today with planes and cars–I can’t imagine on foot and handmade rafts.

    Anne–Oh, the engagement ring sounds so nice. Very sentimental and full of meaning, passed down like that. It’s not so much the monetary value, like everyone here has said, but the meaning behind it, as you say.

    Minna–I clicked on your link. Very interesting–there are a lot of lions. Cool swords, too!

    Jenna, thanks! The terrain and colors in the Yukon look very similar to those in Alberta–especially the turquois color of Lake Louise, if you’ve been there. The antique pin sounds lovely.

    Connie–thanks for the welcome! That’s funny about the old rusty pan you found. Nice to believe it had a rich history.



  28. I would love to take a trip to the Yukon!

    I have some tea cups and saucers made in Occupied Japan. Also have a carved chest and coffee table brought back from the Orient during WWII.

  29. Alissa–thank you for your gracious compliment, and warm welcome!

    Karen–Hello! Thank you for that big Filly welcome! 🙂 I can’t believe how many gold-mining stories there are today. Hope you’re feeling better every day.

    Elizabeth–LOL on the crush on the Mounties. And thank you for your hello. I’m feeling quite comfortable here in Wildflower Junction…

    Pat–I’m with you on the too much hard work and too much cold. I wouldn’t last as a gold miner. Thanks for posting!


  30. Hi Maureen–nice to see you here! Thanks for dropping in!

    Estella–Very interesting on the tea cups and saucers from Occupied Japan. I bet they’re beautiful.


  31. Hi Kate,
    I don’t have any treasures hidden away, but my mom has a bunch of jade jewelry. They’re in a safety deposit box so I haven’t seen them for a long time.

  32. Welcome Kate! Loved being introduced to your books and learning about your interesting exploration. Sounds wonderful and certainly gives your books a definite authenticity. Glad to have seen your photos which depict the locale. Thanks for being here.

  33. Wow, what a neat post, Kate–welcome! And you’re pulling my leg, right? Seriously, underwater diamonds?? Really??

  34. Jane–Howdy! Oh, wow, jade jewelry. I don’t really know too much about that type of jewelry, other than it’s very pretty!

    Annie–thanks for the welcome, and glad you enjoyed the post!

    Maureen–hey, what are you doing here? 🙂 Nice of you to drop by!

    Fedora–lol, seriously, there are diamonds in the lakes–there was a big discovery in 1998 near Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. There’s now a large diamond mine there. I think the theory is diamonds take a lot of pressure and thousands of years to build up, so I guess the glaciers did that.

    Kate, going off to shuffle her big ol’ bag of names….

  35. thats so cool panning for gold in the Yukon. we have a place in Ballarat its set up like when Ballarat was a mining town called Sovereign Hill and you can pan for gold there also.
    I fell in love with mounties after reading a book set in the west. I do have my mountie sweatshirt I wear alot.
    and my mountie stuffed toys! sounds like a couple of really good books.

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