In 1983, my husband, Randy, and his family traveled to Alaska, near the town of Circle Hot springs, to try their luck at gold mining. At that time, gold prices were at all time highs. Since Randy’s grandfather already owned and leased heavy equipment as part of the family business, putting it to use gold mining seemed like a good idea. Prior to leaving home, Randy’s dad Steve built a mining wash plant of his own design with help from friends and family.
Randy received permission to leave school early that year and travel north to the mining claim with his father, Steve, his two uncles and his dog Rags. They set up camp in preparation for the arrival of his Mom, Sherry and his sister and brother who would join them after school was out. Grandpa would join them at the mine later in the season. Randy was 10 years old at the time, his sister Angie was 7, and his brother Court was 3.
The family lived in a converted school bus and a couple camp trailers. There was a generator for power,a gas stove for cooking, and running water for showers and drinking. Randy remembers that they worked hard, usually ten hour days, and he worked alongside his parents. He knew how to run the generator and fix it if it broke down, and he was responsible for running the pan-o-matic. This was a machine that took the gold containing material from the wash plant and further separated the gold fromthe mud and rocks.
The family had many adventures in Alaska, experiencing the extremes of Alaska weather, the challenges of finding gold in the frozen tundra, the joys of spending time with family and the dangers that come with gold mining including bears and claim jumpers. While they did find gold, they did not strike it rich in a monetary way.
Randy, Angie and Court always look back on this time fondly as it was a defining summer for the three kids and solidified the foundation for a relationship that bonds them together to this day.
Randy’s dad Steve, still dabbles in his passion, gold mining, and he is known in many places throughout Alaska and the Yukon as “Klondike Steve”.