A prospector, checking the lay of the land, becomes a surveyor, a geologist and often an historian. By the very nature of his activity, he is a hard worker and an outdoorsman. However, prospecting does not have to be a solitary pursuit. It can also be a family affair.

That gleam of gold peeking from among black sands has never excited me. But rather than become a prospecting “widow,” I began to go along with my husband. After a thousand whys and how comes that I didn’t receive a satisfactory answer to, I found myself enrolled in a geology class at the local community college. Far from answering many of my questions, I discovered more and found that geology is not a staid and static science. In California and much of the West, it is a living discipline as the earth slips, slides, shifts and changes each day.

If geology isn’t to your liking, perhaps you will discover the exciting world of rock-hounding! I don’t believe there is a person alive that doesn’t enjoy precious gems, and you’re sure to discover a garnet or two in the dredge tailings. A drab desert rock may turn out to be jasper, opal or fire agate. Armed with a good book, you will soon become adept at identifying many rocks and minerals. I would recommend Simon & Shuster’s “Guide to Rocks & Minerals,” or my favorite field guide, the “Audubon Guide to Rocks & Minerals.” A visit to your local lapidary store or prospecting shop can supply you with additional information and equipment.

All kids like camping, and soon you may find that you have an amateur naturalist in your midst. Again, a good book will help to identify lizards, flowers and other fauna and flora. You may get tired of hearing what everything is, but after a while this slows down and the knowledge remains.

If dredging is your thing, you’ll also find improved fishing in the areas where you’re dredging. Chances are, someone in your family would willingly use a fishing pole and supply dinner for a couple of nights.

Simply being outdoors is reason enough for prospecting to be a family affair. In the springtime, the desert comes alive with wildflowers. Many people in the Los Angeles area make an annual pilgrimage to the deserts to view the riotous colors. But if you are a prospector, you are in the midst of the flowers. From a car, it is difficult to view the tiny, fragile flowers carpeting the desert floor or smell the scent of some of the perfumed varieties.

In the summer, mountain streams run clear and cool. If you choose your area with care, you may find quiet and solitude. In today’s hectic urban environment, this alone is reason enough to bring the family along on a prospecting trip.

Wildflowers and cacti, rocks and precious stones, and history! Most of the productive areas today are the same as those mined by the old 49’ers. Research adds to the enjoyment of finding gold in these areas; and often you will discover a place new to you. Many books have been written about the early gold rush camps. Whether you become a real history buff or not, you may enjoy reading about the early days of mining.

My son’s special interest began at the age of ten, when we gave him a metal detector for Christmas. At the age of 13, he has entered several hunts; and although not in the trophy category, he has had some success. Once again, research plays a part in metal detecting. He has a good knowledge of our city’s past from searching out good places to find treasure. Of course, for him treasure is more like a “Hot Wheel” rather than a silver coin. Come to think of it, I know some older guys that feel the same way.

For our family, as well as other families, prospecting has definitely become a way of life. It’s fun and you do meet the neatest people-PROSPECTORS!