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Gold prospectors head for Angeles National Forest hills

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gold prices are sky high. An ounce of gold is now selling for nearly $1,700 per ounce.

That's led to a surge of interest in gold prospecting in the east fork of the San Gabriel River in the Angeles National Forest.

In what has become a modern-day Gold Rush, prospectors of all ages there are hoping all that glitters is in fact gold in its streams or embedded in the rocks.

Like the 49ers of the first Gold Rush in California, these amateur miners dream of striking it rich. But for La Habra Heights resident Aida Camalich Lough and her two daughters, a nugget of hope is only part of the experience.

"The way the economy is and the way gold prices have been going up, i thought it may be something kids would be interested in," Lough said. "Good, clean fun. We thought, why not?"

Gold prospecting can be grueling work. Pat Keene, who heads the San Fernando Valley Chapter of the Gold Prospector's Association, says finding gold takes determination. Finding even a few flakes can be rewarding.

"It takes a little blood, sweat and tears," said Keene, who is at the site nearly every weekend. "You come up here with a bucket and shovel, you dig up a little bit of material, you do a lot of sampling and testing. You never know what you might hit."

Keene's family has been manufacturing gold mining equipment out of this sprawling plant in Chatsworth for 62 Years.

As prices of the precious metal soars, business at Keene Engineering is as good as gold. The company sells gold mining equipment to prospectors all over the world, who dream of striking it rich, from basic gold pans, to electronic metal detectors.

In the old days, prospectors had to use a pan to find gold - back-breaking work. Today, technology has allowed for water do most of the work.

For weekend prospectors like Greg Yaensch of Norco, the search for undiscovered gold often pays off.

"I usually get something every time I come," he said. "If you get a picker, which is something you can pick up with your fingers, you've had a great day."

Modern day gold prospecting takes patience. Gold seekers can spend hours in the San Gabriel River pounding away at rock walls, sifting through piles of rocks and dirt and shaking up pan after pan of water and sediment.

While she didn't quite find her weight in gold, 15-year-old Alexis hit pay dirt on her first gold expedition with a few flakes worth about $60.

So, what is she going to do with that gold?

"Turn it in and save money for college and stuff - or for a car," Alexis said.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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