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Ray and I had an unexpected mini-adventure in Alaska. On the day that we took a day tour of Denali National Park, the tour bus stopped for lunch at the Kantishna Roadhouse (a restaurant owned by a Native Alaskan corporation). After lunch the staff gave us the choice of a sled dog ride or a chance to pan for gold. Since we had taken a sled dog ride in Anchorage, we decided to “go for the gold.”

Our gold panning leader was a young homeschool graduate from the lower 48. She and her twin sister were spending the summer working at the Kantishna Roadhouse Resort.

Our group included about ten “prospectors.” Just like teenagers at a skating rink, we gave our guide our shoe sizes. She gave us wellies from a wooden shed. Since I didn’t know how long my boots had been sitting in that shed (and assuming that spiders live in Alaska, too), I gave mine a good shake before I slipped them on.

Our gold panning leader gave us a brief history of gold prospecting in the area, before walking us over to Moose Creek.

Alaska with Fuji 1160
Moose Creek

I was under the mistaken assumption that the gold which people found when they panned in a stream actually came from the stream itself. It turns out that you can pan for gold in a sink or a wash tub, a bathtub or a swimming pool–any container that has water in it.

First, you dig up some dirt in an area where gold has been found. Then, you pick out the big rocks that are mixed in with the dirt. For our gold panning education, we skipped the dirt digging step. Our guide handed each of us a bag of pre-dug dirt, and we started from there.

Alaska with Fuji 1158
My favorite prospector pours his dirt into his pan.

We poured, we picked, and we prepared to pan. The idea is to dip an edge of the pan into the stream so you can mix water with your dirt. After that, you swirl the water around, not too hard and not too gently, while letting some of it slosh out of the pan. As you continue this process again and again, the dirt mixes with the water and flows out of the pan. Since gold is heavier than dirt, it falls to the bottom of the pan.

Ray and I both found “fool’s gold,” but nothing real.

Alaska with Fuji 1163

One girl in our group actually did find gold! I saw it. It was the size of a medium freckle and about as thick as a freckle is, too–not big enough to buy a new house or anything, but big enough for the staff to laminate on a card so she could take it home!

In earlier days in American history, thousands of prospectors rushed for gold–to California in 1849, to the Black Hills in the mid-1870s, and through Alaska to the Klondike region of Canada in 1898. The pull to do what so many others were doing was strong, but only a tiny (make that itty-bitty) percentage found great quantities of what they were seeking.

It is good to stop from time to time and to remember your family’s early days when you began to homeschool, to think back to the goals you had then, and to examine whether your “school days” of today are a fulfillment of what you hoped for back then. It’s never too late to make a mid-stream adjustment.

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true;
they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold,
yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey
and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Psalm 19:9-10

A special note. It makes my day to hear from you. Sometimes one of you tells me how un-techie you feel, so I’ll share two ways you can make my day, with apologies to all you techno-savvy mamas.

1. Leave a comment on the blog site.

  • If you read the blog on the Internet, simply scroll down to the bottom of the blog, type in a comment, and click “Post Comment.”
  • If you are a blog subscriber and are reading the blog in your morning email, simply click the word “Blog” under the photo at the top of the email. This will take you to the Internet blog site. Click on “Continue reading,” scroll down to the bottom of the post, type a comment in the space at the bottom, and click “Post Comment.

2. Send me an email.

  • You can keep my email address ( in your address book, or
  • Click on the “Contact” button at the top of either the blog site or your morning email. Then click on the pink words which read, “send me an e-mail.” They’ll turn blue when you click on them, or
  • Fill out the form at the bottom of the Contact page.

It’s not as complicated as it sounds. Believe me, I’m no techie either. If I can do it, you can do it.

Go ahead! Make my day! I’ll cherish hearing from you!

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  1. Was just reading this skipped blog entry. I usually get to them every day but this one was missed. Darryl and I “panned” for gold in the Black Hills of North Dakota. Like you, we didn’t find any real gold but we had fun trying. It is so amazing to think of all the people that swarmed spots like that in the 1800’s, hoping to find their fortune.

    So glad you got to have so many amazing experiences on your trip to Alaska.

    In Him,

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