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Everything posted by flintgreasewood

  1. Chuck, Sure seems like gold mining for a lot of us is one step forward and two back. That kind of life either develops resilience or it quashes dreams. I guess we both are in the first camp, and maybe most of us who have the "fever" put up with an inordinate amount of grief in our quest. Often when I get to feeling beat down I think of the unbelievable hardships and setbacks the old timers faced on a regular basis and then I stop whining. As I read of your trials with the Bobcats and the added difficulties heaped on due to your remote location, I am so grateful for my operation's close proximity to Fairbanks. So here's hoping that 2015 will be a smoother year, a banner year for you and me and all you other "little guys" out there.
  2. flintgreasewood

    Still Hard At It At Cobb Prospect

    Chuck, I appreciate your concerns for my safety. To allay your fears, though, I should tell you that I don't go down in the shaft when I'm using the burner. I couldn't even if I were inclined to...my ladder is frozen over. When it does come time for me to go down in the shaft, I will thoroughly evacuate any gasses and replace with fresh air. I'll most likely take three days running the exhaust fan to be sure it's clear. I certainly want to use steam and I do have everything set up to do that except for water. And, yes, I could melt snow and have considered doing that. I've just not been able to come up with a viable plan to accomplish it. It takes a lot of water to keep my steam coil happy, about 55 gal every 30 minutes. Currently there is about 14" of powdery snow in the valley. It would be very difficult scooping it up with all the vegetation beneath it. Even if I could collect enough snow to melt down I would have to build a sufficiently sturdy platform on which I could place melting vessels under which I could set a wood fire [in writing this I have come up with some ideas]. More on this later.
  3. flintgreasewood

    2014 Mining Season At Cobb

    How it all got started is history. The 2014 mining season has begun and my wife, Alethea, and I have big plans to put into play here at Cobb prospect north of Fairbanks, AK. We arrived with half of our possessions, three vehicles and one trailer a week ago after a hassle free 3000 mile journey from our former home in Colorado. I say "former" as we plan to stay put up here for at least 3 years so we can get our claims proved up and eventually sold. I'd like to have the underground mining experience for a year or two but I'm getting too old to set my sights on 10 or 15 years of arduous work even if the end result is gold. So the overall plan for the summer is to resume work in the shaft where I ended up last summer...67 feet down into the permafrost on bed rock. Along the way I'll be getting my old International TD-15 track loader/dozer up and running so it can be used to make and grade roads and drag around our newly acquired skid mounted BE-21W cable tool drill rig. The drill will be used to put down several water wells this summer and then for sampling the claims after the ground is frozen. I'll also be working from time to time on some claims other than my own to provide some financial help until we can. I'll also be working from time to time on some claims other than my own to provide some financial help until we can begin producing gold from our ground. And that isn't going to happen quite as soon as I had planned. Funny how that goes! Doug had prepared me last fall for the new ice I would find in the shaft. A heavy late fall rain had nearly filled the shaft and it had, of course, frozen through the winter. So the first order of business was to thaw the ice cap and pump out the entire 60 feet of water that remained beneath the ice. Setting up the steamer was new to me as Doug had done that last summer, but it wasn't difficult to figure out. I set the submersible pump in the pond and got it filling the 55 gallon drum supported on the roof of the steam shack [for gravity feed], connected the hoses to the pressure pump and steam coil and placed the fuel line to the burner into the diesel can. When the water reached capacity in the drum, the pump was started, the coil filled and the burner fired up. Within five minutes I had 30 lbs of steam pressure, enough to begin melting ice. It didn’t take but a few seconds to punch through the cap in the center of the shaft but I could not break through on the sides…not good! I honey combed the cap with holes till I was able to open a large enough hole to get my pump down. I set the pump on the bottom and let her rip. It took about five minutes to fill a 55 gal. drum. After drawing down the shaft to about 20 feet I shined a light down to check the progress. To my dismay I could see that the ice had built up thick on three of the walls and in some places covered over the ladder. The opening was barely 18” x 40”, not enough to get my bucket up and down. For several hours I lamented my situation and tried to come up with a viable method of removing the heavy glacial buildup. Then it hit me, I didn’t have to remove ALL the ice, just enough to clear the ladder and to allow for the free movement of the hoisting bucket. In fact, the encroaching ice would actually be a blessing as it would help keep the drifts below colder. Hey, when life serves up lemons…make lemonade! Now I still had a bit of a dilemma…how to remove even a small amount of ice. A small man lift looked to be a likely solution and I had all the materials right there to build it. I designed and built it on the fly and came up with a 16” x 13” plywood platform with 40” side posts made of 2x4’s and a 2x4 rail around the top. 3/16” aircraft cable looped through 4 large eye bolts was brought together three feet above in a carabineer which was attached to a winch cable. Just for safety I also decided to use a fall arrester and harness attached to a 5/8” climbing rope that ran to the bottom of the shaft. To operate the lift I had a remote pendulum switch on a 70’ cord. For illumination I fixed a large LED flood light to the rail. I even attached a lanyard to my rock hammer and tied it to the lift. For an overhead pulley I simply positioned the self dumping bucket carrier over the shaft and used one of the pulleys in it. To alleviate the bounce in the high line I propped up the cable with a spruce pole and a ladder of convenient height. It all looked good so I put on my rain suit, got in the safety harness, gritted my teeth and looked for a way to get in the contraption. If I could have placed the lift on the decking next to the abyss it would have been easy to get in, raise the lift and swing out and down. Problem was that I couldn’t raise the lift high enough before the carabineer ran into the pulley. So I had to enter with the lift suspended. I lowered it just enough so the top rail was even with the deck. I merely sat on the deck and slid myself over into the lift. Fortunately I’m of slender build so I just barely squeezed into the lift with the cables pinning my shoulders. No sweat! I had to keep pulling slack on my safety line as I lowered myself to where I could begin chipping the ice. There was not clearance enough for the lift to descend so I had to first reach down and chip down to the platform. When I had the lift free to descend I concentrated on clearing the ice from the ladder. I got a couple of rungs done and by then it was getting late so I called it a day, a successful day at that. I came up, exited the lift with more aplomb than my entry, called my wife to let her know I made it down and up and out without incident and would soon be on my way home to a late dinner.
  4. This is to any miners in the Fairbanks area who would like to dril and sample their ground but don't have a drill to work with. I have located a cable tool rig in good running condition with a 6" tool string. It is on a skid and sits on truck so it is movable. The price is very reasonable but I don't have enough to buy it outright. So I'm looking for other miners who might wish to chip in to purchase the rig and then be able to use it themselves to sample their ground. If you have an interest, let me know off line and we'll see if we can get the process rolling. My email is flintgd@aol.com.
  5. flintgreasewood

    Need A Sample Drill Rig In Fairbanks?

    Hey, Dick How did you score that beautiful piece of machinery? Connections, connections, connections! I'd give my last remaining nut for one of those. Hey, I'm 69...a good drill is of much greater use than an ole nut at this stage of the game. Have fun. We'll be beating ourselves to near death with that 3/4 ton string of tools.
  6. flintgreasewood

    Need A Sample Drill Rig In Fairbanks?

    Hello Bob, Actually a 6" cable tool rig is great for sampling and we now have one ready to move on to the claims later in the winter.
  7. flintgreasewood

    2014 Mining Season At Cobb

    Dick, I don't have a claustrophobia issue but at first I was uncomfortable with the thought of being so far down with barely enough room to turn around. Hard work in a situation like that helps take your mind off those thoughts. Also troubleshooting problems from the ladder 40' or 50' above the bottom, hanging by one arm around a rung is not as difficult as it might seem. One needs to do what needs to be done and you don't let it get to you.
  8. flintgreasewood

    2014 Mining Season At Cobb

    Hello, Dick I plan to post another report on progress, or lack thereof, at Cobb prospect soon, but I'll answer your question now. The shaft as originally dug by the old timers was approximately 6'x 3.5' and 67' deep [to bed rock]. My first two summers of work on the shaft were spent mainly removing all the ice that completely filled the shaft and small drifts. Last fall the shaft refilled with rainwater after a big storm and I wasn't there to pump it out. Consequently, it nearly froze completely back but there was barely enough room to lower myself down on a skip so I could chip enough ice out to get a bucket down. So right now the shaft is roughly 4' x 2.5' with one end rounded and the other with the ladder against the wall. Working at the bottom I have a little cavern thawed out that makes it just a bit easier to operate, but with a half of a 55 gal bucket, pump, jackhammer, ladder, and hoisting anchor weight sharing the same space, it's not very roomy. I'll try to post some photos soon. Hope that helps.
  9. flintgreasewood

    Dexpan Usage

    Thanks, Robert, for your response. I'll check with Dexpan.
  10. Does anyone have any experience using Dexpan or other non explosive fracturing agent in permafrost muck? I'm considering it as an alternative to anfo.
  11. This is a unique opportunity and one that few will be able to take advantage of but I'm guessing that in this great group of readers there will be at least several who are able and willing. I have underground permafrost placer claims north of Fairbanks, Alaska that are in the heart of historic and current gold rich territory. The prospect I am presently developing is likely to be quite rich based on gold left behind by the original prospectors 100 years ago and from known geologic reports and neighboring mine production. At this point I am working on bed rock at 67 feet and have the 2 original drifts nearly ready to follow, though in virgin gravel. My biggest issue is that I am currently working alone and that is not good for a number of reasons that I'm sure you can imagine. So, I am offering one of you out there an opportunity to come work with me. You would need to be free to pull up stakes and move to Alaska as this will be a long term adventure and you would need to be able to support yourself until such time as the gold we produce would be sufficient to provide for our needs and more. You would need to have a 4 wheeler for summer conditions and eventually a snow machine for winter [if you chose to stay on]. And very importantly you would need to be willing to work down underground in 29 degree temps [which is very comfortable when the above ground temperature is -30]. It would be helpful if you are mechanically inclined, inventive and resourceful, of easy going disposition and a non smoker. If any of this sounds appealing to you write me and we can discuss the opportunity in full. Thanks, Kurt [write me at flintgd@aol.com]
  12. flintgreasewood

    Trying To Reach Allan Coty

    Hey Allan, Can't find any contact info for you. Give me a call asap. Thanks, Kurt 303-507-9502
  13. flintgreasewood

    2014 Mining Season At Cobb

    The next time down at the mine I was a bit more adept and confident in my entry into the lift. It had proved itself a trustworthy and functional piece of equipment and one that I will probably use from time to time in the near future. When everything was fixed in place I began lowering myself to the level at which I ended the previous time down. For a few feet the shaft ice was thick enough that the lift had to be swung over to a place that was just wide enough to pass through. However, when the opening became a bit more spacious the lift would swing and spin when I tried to apply pressure with the hammer drill. This was quite frustrating and a substantial waste of energy so I had to resolve the problem. I noticed the ladder rungs were now free of ice so I reached out and placed my right foot on the solid footing of the ladder which forced the lift a foot or so to the opposite side of the shaft where it was held fairly securely. I now had both unobstructed space to work with the lift styles out of the way and a good platform from which to chip ice from all directions. It wasn’t long before I had a good system for hitting both side walls, taking off 3 to 4 inches three feet at a pop in just a few minutes. I was delighted with the speed at which I was able to zip through and by day’s end I had removed almost 40’ of ice. It all lay glistening 15’ below me ready to be transformed to liquid by the steam point. Once the steam coil was stabilized at about 55lb. of pressure I was free to attend to other small jobs that didn’t take me too far away from the area immediate to the steam shack. There is always house keeping, ie, coiling ropes, cords, wire and hose, putting up tools that get spread all over the place and cleaning up mess of various sorts. But I always must keep my eye on the water level in the supply barrel and refill it from the reserve barrels. These also need to be refilled from the pond using the sump pump that also fills the supply barrel. So that requires shuffling the pump back and forth from barrel to pond along with the hose and power cord. After 4 or 5 hours of steaming I turned on the submersible pump and pumped out over 200 gallons of water. There was still a layer of ice over the cavity created by the pumped out water so I climbed down and stomped on the ice till it crumbled through to the bottom. Then it was back in the lift to do more chipping, followed by another steaming and pumping. I did this two more times till I was finally standing on the floor of the shaft and able to begin widening the area at the entrance to the iced in drift. To do this work I had to sit in a combination of ice water, chipped ice and muck. Of course I was wearing my rain suit so I stayed dry, though not very warm. Though the quarters were very cramped, it was rather enjoyable working my way into the drift. But now it was time to get the new hydraulic hoist in place. I had brought the 340 lb hoist down to a staging area with my pickup but from there it would have to be transported a half mile in a sled towed behind my four wheeler. I secured it in the little sled as best I could with ratchet straps but the rough trail I had to negotiate with such a compact mass took its toll on both straps and sled and I had to retie several times. In one particularly boggy section of trail the sled flipped upon hitting a small stump and dumped the hoist, half submerging it in the mud. Fortunately this particular hoist is built for the most extreme weather conditions so a little water and mud is of no concern. With some difficulty I was able to reload the hoist in the sled but the Polaris, which was also partially stuck in the bog, could not move the sled. I had to drive ahead to more solid ground and winch the sled free with a come along attached to the hoist as well as the sled. I pulled my load up as close to the place the hoist would be secured as possible and then winched it the remaining distance using a small birch to lift it into position. I held the hoist in place with straps around the tree to which I had already fixed small logs that the hoist would ultimately be bolted to. The two hydraulic supply hoses were ready to connect as soon as I swapped out the fittings from my old defunct hoist. The 16 hp engine fired right up, I moved the valve control lever and the drum turned. I reversed it and that worked too. But just as I had expected, the engine and pump were set up for a hoist ¼ the size of the new one. I quickly calculated the hoist direction at about 22 feet per minute and lowering direction at a whopping 15 feet per minute…agonizingly slow! So I’m currently searching for an engine 25 hp or larger and working on converting a large hydraulic motor to a pump. But for the time being I’ll just have to live with slow and steady. Next was to install 500 feet of ¼”’ wire rope. I first, unsuccessfully, tried to hang the 60lb spool from a birch stick chained to a black spruce and spool it off. Next, I grabbed a piece of pipe and held the spool in front of me while I walked it out through the mossy tundra. The only consolation in that method is that each step made the strain on my arms a few ounces lighter. It felt so fine to reach the end of the line. Since only 250 feet of that cable would be needed as hoist line I measured off that much in 25’ increments, placed a bit of tape at the proper point and loaded the hoist drum with the remainder. Then I climbed the gin pole, fed the cable through the snatch block, then back at the shaft, fed it through the bucket pulley and up into the carrier to where is was fixed with cable clamps. Though slow, the system worked just like it’s supposed to in the hoist mode. However in descending, the carrier was so slow that there was not enough force to move the latch over the catch pin. A faster moving hoist will solve that problem. While operating the carrier I noticed that the high line was sagging significantly and that even without a load. The line had to be tightened. I went to it’s anchor point and began turning the turnbuckle. Things were going well when suddenly all went slack. Upon investigation I discovered the 3/8” eye bolts I used at the gin pole had pulled the eye straight on the high line side and almost straight on the opposing guy wire. I’ve now resolved that problem with forged eye bolts. I also took some of the surplus 1/4” cable and replaced the far too short and badly positioned opposing guy wire with one three times as long and in direct opposition to the high line. Tomorrow I’ll tighten up the high line and see how strong the new setup is.
  14. flintgreasewood

    2014 Mining Season At Cobb

    I apologize for the multiple repeats on my initial posting. It happened somehow as a result of copying and pasting from a Word file. I think we got it corrected. More to come tonight.
  15. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    It's Sunday morning and the snow outside my window high in the Colorado Rockies keeps getting deeper and deeper. I feel in the mood to reminisce on my Alaska prospecting experience, maybe the next best thing to actually being up there. In 2005, after reading Norma Cobb's book "Arctic Homestead", I knew I had to get to Alaska somehow. I was already into dredging here in Colorado but I wanted more excitement and better gold, so I commenced doing my research on the last real frontier. A good start came in my joining the Alaska Gold Forum and I absorbed just about everything I read. That lead me to the Alaska Resource Data Files [ARDF] where I homed in on specific areas of interest. Since the Cobb adventures took place in the Eureka/Manley Hot Springs area, that became my focal point. It wasn't long before I was becoming conversant in Alaska geography, geology, and culture even if it was from my home 3000 miles distant. By the end of the summer of 2005 I could stand the anticipation no longer. I suggested to my wife, Alethea, that we take advantage of some low plane fares and take a quick, week trip up to Alaska to see some of the things we had been reading about. I need to mention here that Alethea had read Norma's book first and had been reading other books on Alaska pioneers and remote living in the wild north country. It had been her long held desire to live a homesteading life, so it didn't take any arm twisting to convince her to make the trip to see the land she', too, had been dreaming about for many years. Bill Bohan was my first real contact with Alaska and more specifically with the Fairbanks region. We had corresponded and made arrangements to get together once we got up there. I had been fascinated with his tales of air boating to his claims on Ottertail Creek in the upper Chena drainage. So, fittingly, it was a wild ride on that airboat and a day of working Bill's 10" dredge that comprised my first true Alaska adventure. And I even returned with some gold to boot. During that rainy, cold week with the birches turning gold beneath the ever present low hanging clouds, we ventured out the Elliot highway to Eureka to find Lost Creek Ranch, the Cobb's homestead. To seasoned Alaskans driving 80 miles on a gravel road with almost no signs of civilization is no big deal. Yet for two chechakos from Colorado, it was akin to leaving Earth to visit the moon. We never found the homestead...drove right past it and dead ended on the Rampart Road where Granite Creek passes under an inconguous state-of-the-art concrete bridge. We knew, however, that we were in the vicinity of Lost Creek and that alone fed our spirits. We would be back. Over the winter, back in the lower 48, we began formulating plans to return to Alaska for the summer. I had purchased an older 32' Airstream travel trailer and a fine '93 Dodge 1 ton, diesel, 4wd, dual wheeled flatbed truck to make the trip. In between my full time work as a furniture restorer I built a 7' x 10' box on the flat bed. But it was no ordinary box. It could be completely disassembled into panels that could be loaded on a trailer an hauled into the bush. It had a roll up corrugated steel door big enough to accommodate a 4 wheeler, a man door and an extendable top that could be raised to have a wrap around window on three sides that was insect, weather and bear [maybe]proof. And to do the transporting into the bush I had to have a 4 wheeler. I found an almost new 2004 Polaris 400 that had been rolled and severely damaged that I picked up for $1500. It was mostly frame parts that needed replacing or straightening and armed with a good repair manual I was up for the task of rebuilding the machine. It took me about 5 months and $1100 in parts to complete the job but by spring I was bouncing around our property learning how to handle the amazing beast. Most importantly, my evenings were spent in serious research to find likely places to prospect. My search included territory from the junction of the Tanana and Yukon rivers eastward to the White Mountains. Serpentine Ridge and the Tofty area above Manley was high priority as were the drainages around Eureka. I didn't spend much time investigating the immediate Fairbanks area as I had been told that there was really no decent claimable ground to be staked. I became very proficient at using the DNR's and recorder's office online files and by July I had a couple of notebooks filled with maps, creek and bench geology, regulations and prospecting and mining information. We left Colorado in early July, the big red Dodge towing the Airstream with the 4 wheeler trailer behind it. Bringing up the rear was Alethea driving our old GMC "Jimmy" with a 17' aluminum canoe on top. Quite the train, and illegal too, which we weren't aware of till we were far up into BC. It was a marvelous trip but not without its mishaps. Most notable took place as we were nearing Dease Lake, B.C.. Doing about 55 mph down a long hill I felt a jolt with an accompanying loud scraping noise. Somehow the Airstream had become disconnected. Fortunately, and in large part due to having dual wheels, I was able to bring the truck and trailers to a stop thanks to the safety chains keeping the two vehicles joined. Turns out I had forgotten to change out trailer balls before we left Colorado. With a bit of rough road the 2" ATV trailer ball I had been using before the trip was not sufficient for the 2 3/8" Airstream hitch. A passing motorist stopped and happened to have the proper sized ball in his tool box which he kindly gave us. With the right ball and some wood blocks we got the trailer rehitched and we were on our way, a bit rattled but no worse for the wear except for 6" of trailer jack ground off. Upon arriving in Fairbanks we spent a few days at the Tanana Valley Campground before resuming our journey back out to Eureka. By now we had determined where exactly was Lost Creek Ranch and our first Alaska bush campsite was a wide spot in the Minook Creek valley/ Rampart road. A few miles before we reached that destination we stopped to chat with the occupants of a pickup headed the opposite direction hoping to get more information. The driver happened to be one of the main characters in Norma Cobb's book, life long miner John Shilling. He was cordial but reserved, probably suspecting we were just another couple of "end of the roaders" not likely to be seen again. The most valuable piece of advice came from another valley resident. Mark Exeter, another miner with whom I had corresponded, forwarned us that if we camped anywhere near Lost Creek Ranch Les Cobb would inevitably pay us a visit to determine who was poking around his territory. It would be in our best interest to have a bottle of Jack Daniels to share with him when he showed up. We didn't have anything to grease the wheels, so to speak, but did pick up a pint the next time we were in Fairbanks. Well, just as Mark had warned, it wasn't long befor Les pulled up in his pickup to find out what we were up to. We invited him in and offered him a drink, which, of course, he accepted. He was nothing like the person we had read about in Arctic Homestead. Instead of the brash, wild eyed, woodsman/miner/big game guide, this Alaskan, now in his 50's, was uncharacteristically mellow and welcoming. The relief and elation Alethea and I both felt at being accepted by the "patriarch" of the Minook Valley was immeasurable. To be continued
  16. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    Like many of the "reality tv" gold shows that are about to begin a new season, so we at Cobb Prospect are soon to resume our adventures above and beneath the ground north of Fairbanks. Currently Alethea and I are in Whitecourt, Alberta with 3 plus days of travel till we reach our camp. This time the trip is a bit more serious as we have made the decision to move to Alaska semi permanently. Consequently, we've brought a lot more of our possessions with us this time. I'm driving my Ford F250 converted FedEx box truck jam packed and towing my little 84 Nissan 4x4 also loaded with equipment. Atop the Ford are 4 aluminum pontoons, a 32' extension ladder and a 6' step ladder. At the last minute I had to weld up a heavy duty bar for the Nissan to which I could attach the stock tow bar. I also had to weld a ball mount to the step bumper of the box truck. So far it's all working well. Alethea is bringing up the rear in our 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe towing a 4'x8' utility trailer filled to capacity, a 55 gal. plastic barrel [filled with stuff] riding on the tongue and 4 spare tires and my big aluminum sluice box strapped on top. I'm so heavy in my rig that I sometimes get down to 25mph before I kick into first gear to get up some of the steeper hills. And I don't even look at the gas receipts any longer...it's much too painful. We'll be lucky to get from Colorado to Fairbanks under $2000 which includes food and lodging. Fortunately there's a lot of gold waiting for me to haul up and over to Oxford and then to the bank to cover all the bills...right? RIGHT!!! Stay tuned...there's lots more excitement ahead.
  17. flintgreasewood

    Signatures Needed!

    I signed.
  18. flintgreasewood

    Blasting Frozen Muck

    Does anyone have any knowledge of or experience with blasting frozen "muck"? I'm considering top hole drilling my permafrost placer and using anfo.
  19. flintgreasewood

    Reef Geology Theory

    Very good article, Clay.
  20. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    About the time Doug was building his steam shelter I was into setting up the self dumping bucket system. A couple of weeks previous I had undertaken the most difficult aspect of the project, the erection of the gin pole. I selected one of the larger spruce, 30 feet long after trimming, near the mine and dragged it over the creek to where I it would stand. The surface muck had thawed enough so digging a 3’ deep hole with a post hole digger was relatively easy. So, now how to raise it? First I attached aircraft cable guy wires to eye bolts I placed at the top and laid out turnbuckles and clamps at the anchor locations [two trees and one driven steel rod]. Then I positioned the butt end of the gin pole over the hole. I cut 6 12 foot spruce poles and spiked the tops along the length of the gin pole, three on each side. I tried raising the pole with the 4 wheeler’s winch but that didn’t work, so I lifted it by hand enough to allow the attached poles to support it. A port-a-power hydraulic jacking system seemed like a good tool to use in that situation. Fortunately, I had one with several extensions of varying lengths that could all be connected together to make a 4’ long jack. Bit by bit I jacked the pole up, continually moving the support poles to keep everything stable. Periodically I needed to also move the jack and adjust its angle. It took me about an hour but eventually the pole slid into the pit. The guy wires were fastened and tightened, and the void area filled with concrete and left to set. I needed to be able to get to the top of the gin pole to bolt in the high line and a pulley for the hoist line, so I alternately drove in 12” spikes that I could hang on to and climb on. My first trip to the top revealed a view of the valley I had not had previous. I just perched myself there and enjoyed the scenery for a while. It was several weeks before I strung up the high line. I double anchored it to a couple of stout spruce with a two foot long turnbuckle between the cable and the chain I used to anchor to the trees. The 3/8” cable passed over the top of the boiler shelter, directly over the center of the shaft and on up to the gin pole 50 feet away where it was clamped to an eye bolt. With the turnbuckle fully extended I used a cable pulling device attached to a come along to remove as much slack as possible. A couple of cable clamps were fixed in place and the turnbuckle tightened and I had a high line. So as not to have to disassemble the carrier, I had passed the cable through it before attaching the cable to the gin pole. The hoist line installation was next. The ¼” cable was run from the hydraulic hoist up to the gin pole and back down to the carrier where it wound over a pulley, down and around the pulley on the bucket bail and back up to where it was fastened to the carrier. The system was ready to try out. I had been overly occupied with trying to get my old Pullmaster PL-2 hoist to operate properly. When at first it didn’t respond when connected to the hydraulic system I had built, I pulled apart the motor and discovered it was full of corrosion. A thorough cleaning did no good so I took it to a hydraulic shop in Fairbanks where they lapped some metal plates and reassembled it. Still didn’t work properly. It would operate slowly in the hoist direction but the internal brake wouldn’t release to allow it to operate in the lowering direction. Still I tried using the hoist and was able to at least determine that the carrier worked. But as far as having a good working hoist, forget it. I left it alone for then and got on to other things. It seemed like I should have been nearing the 47’ level and bed rock, but there was no change in the way the jack hammer chisel was feeling. Then I felt a dull thump. When I cleared the ice away there was a large chunk of frozen muck that had spalled off the wall many years ago as the shaft was originally filling up with ice. By a stroke of dumb luck the steam point had hit that chunk of muck and it was large enough to absorb the steam we put to it without breaking apart. So, I wasn’t on bed rock. Oh, yes, I was disappointed but undaunted in my quest, so I continued chipping and hoisting. By that time I had burned out two battery chargers due to the depth I was hoisting from. The generator power was fed down to the bottom of the shaft where I had a charger hanging from the underside of the little shelf where it was protected from falling ice and muck. The charger in turn fed 12 volt power into the drum switch which was connected to the winch up top on the head frame. To resolve the charger problem I sprung for a commercial converter that was rated for continuous current draw that exceeded what I pulling. About 50 down I hit the top of a peeled pole that angled downward toward the end wall most likely where the drift should be. It took another three feet of chipping only to find the pole ended at the muck wall. Though I wasn’t yet on bed rock, it was some encouragement to see evidence of the old timers workings. Another probe with the steam point stopped dropping at 67 feet, but this time I made certain I was on bed rock by letting it sit for about 15 minutes and plunging it several times to hear the distinct “ping, ping” of metal hitting rock. It was an exciting moment to finally determine the shaft depth but the excitement was tempered by the realization that I was going to have a much deeper mine to work than I had planned on. I would console myself with the knowledge that some nearby drift mines were well over 100 feet deep and some even 300 feet to bed rock. Doug turned over the steam thawing of the remaining ice to me. I would get steam flowing and place the tip of the pipe into the ice, climb down the ladder, lift the pipe up quickly and reposition it where I wanted to begin thawing before the shaft completely filled with steam. Thawing would go on till I had a pool of water surrounding the point and then I would pull it up and reset it. When there was sufficient water it was time to pump it out. I couldn’t get the submersible well pump I brought from Colorado to work and Doug’s 2” sump pump could lift to only 39 feet. I solved the problem by pumping off the bottom with the sump up into a half 55 gallon barrel suspended half way down the shaft. In the barrel I placed another sump that was capable of lifting the remaining distance. The two pumps were nearly equal in their pumping capability but the barrel eventually would get drained and I would have to shut off the upper pump and let the bottom sump catch up. I would know that when I heard water cascading on the aluminum ladder, which also effectively washed the mud off the rungs. With most of the water pumped out there still remained considerable ice left in pinnacles, bridges and holes that had to be knocked down and filled so there would be a semi solid bed of ice to resume thawing. It was a rather precarious situation I had within which to operate with my jack hammer, never knowing if what I was standing on had sufficient strength to support me. I always kept one foot on the ladder and the other as close to a wall as possible, but it was always a relief to collapse enough ice to allow firm footing to finish the task. At 55’ at long last I detected gravel on one of the side walls, and though it had muck mixed in, it was still gravel. Typical for the area is a gravel layer around six feet thick atop the bed rock, but since bed rock was at 67 feet it was apparent this shaft had 12’. I continued thawing, pumping, thawing and pumping till I reached the one foot of mud, gravel and water slurry that lay on the rock surface. Stepping into that mud and touching bed rock was more exciting than stepping on the moon. On the north end of the shaft I could see into the drift just slightly where the steam point had breached the shaft wall. The roof of the drift was a mere 4’ high; the old timers were interested only in the more concentrated gold on bed rock and just above it so they removed as little overburden as possible. As much as I wanted to continue cleaning out the shaft and removing ice out of the drifts [it appeared there was another trending off the south side of the shaft] money had run out and we had to return to Colorado. No worries, it would all be waiting for me in the spring.
  21. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    All summer long seepage at the top of the shaft created problems for me. Not only did approximately 10 gallons of water make its way to the bottom of the shaft and had to be bailed out before any other work could take place, but thawed muck was continually raining down on me. Though normally very small pieces, once in a while a good sized chunk would whack my hard hat or land on my shoulder. In addition, much of the seep water froze to the walls of the shaft beginning about 10’ down. That might seem to be a blessing were it not for the fact that the shaft was a mere 40” x 72”! By the end of summer the sides of the bucket were scraping the build up and making the lowering operation a real hassle. To remove the encroaching ice I suspended myself on the climbing rope using a self arresting device but keeping my feet on the ladder then proceeded chopping away with my rock hammer. Once I overcame my anxiety of hanging 50’ above the floor of the shaft, it actually was a rather enjoyable exercise. In an effort to stem the seepage I dug a trench for three quarters of the perimeter of the area surrounding the shaft. I deepened it below where I could see water coming out of the wall, added a layer of gravel for drainage and filled the trench back up. That didn’t work. Somewhere water was getting through to the shaft and it is a problem we’ll have to correct as we begin the 2014 season. I was surprisingly comfortable working in the cramped confines of the shaft 35 feet below the surface. Climbing up and down the ladder regularly was not much of an issue even though I had recently torn the meniscus in my left knee and had difficulty bending that leg. I was able to receive a cortisone shot at the VA clinic in Anchorage which eventually completely eliminated that problem. An iPod loaded with my favorite music helped alleviate the tedium. Coming up with an efficient progression of tasks was important in keeping any frustration from building up. That doesn’t come easy for me as I am not typically an organized person. But with all the ropes, electrical cords, tools and such cluttering my small space, I had to have a system to be able to get anything done at all. And here’s how it went. We’d arrive at the prospect usually mid morning after taking care of the chores at camp and making the 3 mile trip in by car and 4 wheeler. The generator needed to be topped off and started. I would exchange my leather boots for heavily insulated rubber ones, don my waterproof coveralls and jacket, grab my hard hat with attached sound proofing ear muffs, heavy insulated rubber gloves and walk over to the shaft. The aluminum ladder was suspended from a steam point pipe[not needed yet for steaming] laid across the cribbing. Sitting on the edge of the cribbing with my feet dangling down into the shaft I would get a good grip on the pipe, step on the ladder and proceed down into the depths. Quite often on very warm days I’d be almost sweating in my heavy garb before I began the descent, but within seconds I’d hit the 29 degree cold and relief. I always had to scrape gobs of mud off the rungs of the ladder as I proceeded downward, being very careful to maintain a sure grip with at least one hand. I am usually not of a very careful sort, but in instances like that where severe injury or even death is repeatedly staring me in the face, I pay close attention to my movements. Not once all summer did I ever make a false move on the ladder. Usually the bucket would remain up top during the night so I’d have room to get organized down below. As I mentioned previously there would be water covering the ice which I had to bail out. Two five gallon buckets were stashed on a little movable shelf supported by 4 spikes driven into the frozen walls. One bucket scooped up the water and filled the other which was placed in the hoisted bucket. A drum switch fastened to the wall was flipped to hoist position and up she went. The little 12 volt winch did not break any hoisting speed records. Moving slowly I always had time to adjust ropes to keep them from tangling and to tweek the position of the bucket as it rode up the rails of the ladder [one real benefit of an aluminum ladder]. As the bucket traveled to the top the guide rope got shorter while the dump rope which passed through a pulley on the head frame got longer. I coiled up the dump rope as it was fed down and watched to make sure the smaller guide rope stayed unknotted. I could tell when the bucket was nearing the top by watching a knot I had placed in the up traveling guide rope. I could observe what was taking place overhead with everything silhouetted in black against the bright sky. At the precise moment when the bucket half disappeared over the dump ramp I hit the switch to stop the hoist. The bucket was now suspended entirely over the ramp. I would lower it just a few inches so it barely rested on the surface of the ramp. I then grabbed the heavy dump rope up as high as I could reach and coiled it around my hand for a good grip. With the other hand I held the guide rope that was attached to the underside and was used to swing the bucket. In one coordinated effort the ropes were pulled and the contents emptied. To lower the bucket back down the shaft I would switch the hoist to the down position and at the same time pull the bucket out and away from the ramp with the guide rope. Often the bucket would get slightly hung up, come free and drop several feet before righting itself for a smooth descent the remaining distance. As it approached the bottom I’d position myself on one side of the shaft or the other depending on what was the next operation so I didn’t have to climb over the bucket. I was ready to tackle more ice.
  22. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    At the creek crossing there was already water flowing beneath the snow and what ice was left was rotten and moving out fast. I should mention that our creek in normal flow is at best eighteen inches wide and six inches deep, a real torrent! In spring thaw it spreads to about 6 or 8 feet at the crossing. A few tussocks stood above the water which allowed me to cross without getting wet and there was enough snow for the sled to follow with no problem. Arriving at Cobb it was apparent nothing had been disturbed during the long winter. I couldn't resist checking out the shaft first thing. Alethea and I had mused at the possibility of finding a frozen moose in the shaft; it has been known to happen. No such luck. What I did see was an additional three feet of ice I was going to have to remove. I set up the equipment tent, uncovered the trommel, checked out its engine as well as the engine on the generator and started them both. With the generator running, I could operate my jack hammer and resume shaft ice excavating and as I was convinced I was going to be hitting bed rock at 25 feet, I couldn’t wait to get going. However, I knew it was going to be a long slog back up to the top of the valley, so I chipped and hoisted only a few buckets. Amazingly, it felt good to be back in the hole. Alethea didn’t come down to the prospect till the snow was nearly gone from the flats, about a week. By then I had the use of Doug’s other snow machine, a Scandic, and was dropping down into the valley from the upper trail, the only route that was strictly trail with no stretches of road. The snow was disappearing fast and turning parts of the trail into serious mud bogs. We made it down past the old mine camp and up valley toward Cobb for a quarter mile. Beyond that point the trail was drifted in very heavily and being located on a north facing slope there was still too much snow on too steep a side hill to risk it, so we walked the final quarter mile. It was apparent that our little camp area was going to be crowded out by mining activity, so Alethea took to moving things to a clearing fifty yards away. I partially disassembled the equipment tent and dragged it to the new camp site. We also strung up a large tarp between 4 trees, placed a pole in the center and had an additional open air shelter where Alethea placed a log bench , a couple camp chairs and set stones for a fire ring. Three weeks after we arrived in Fairbanks, the snow was completely gone from the places we needed to travel and work in, and we were able to begin using the shorter route to Cobb. But melt water was filling every rivulet and depression along the way contributing to a significantly swollen creek. Without question a bridge had to be built to cross it with the 4 wheeler. Nearby was a stand of good sized spruce that would do nicely, so I cut and dragged two of the biggest into place. Shorter ones for a ramp and decking were in abundance and were spiked into place and within a couple of hours we had ourselves a bridge. It looked plenty strong but my first trip across with the 4 wheeler brought a bit of apprehension along with it. The span proved worthy. As summer officially began and the land turned green once again, my main task of ice removal from the prospect shaft went into high gear. It wasn’t long before I was past the 25 foot level and yet there was no sign of bed rock. A good friend and long time miner who had studied our area predicted I would reach bottom at 37 feet. That level came and went too. I was now deep enough that I needed additional light so I bought a high intensity LED lamp knowing that it would give off very little heat, a plus in a permafrost shaft. About that time Doug began transporting the steam generating equipment he had been using at the big shaft over to Cobb. He was impressed with the work I had done the previous fall improving the last ¼ mile of trail and it made hauling tools and equipment from the old mine measurably easier. At first the steamer was set up next to a pond that had formed from the excavation of pay gravel we had run through the trommel. However, Doug wanted to have some protection from rain and sun so he built a pole shelter directly behind the shaft and moved the steamer, hoses and tools into it. He also placed a 55 gal. water drum on the roof that would feed the steamer. The first use of the steamer was to determine the depth to bed rock which was to be accomplished with an 11 foot length of ½” pipe connected to the rubber steam hose. It was exciting to watch the pipe spurt and gurgle its way down through the ice at a very rapid pace, down 35’ then 40, then 45. Still no bed rock. Then at 47’ the pipe stopped dropping. We let it steam away for several minutes and there was still no movement. Finally we were on the bottom. I returned to jack hammering and hoisting with new vigor and anticipation.
  23. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    Before I left the old mine to return to Colorado I needed to secure some important information. I had mentioned previously in these posts that all the old “Fairbanks self dumping bucket” parts were rusting away over at the mine on the right fork. My long range goal is to return that system to working condition and actually use it in the big shaft, but in the interim I had come up with the idea of fabricating a half size version to use over at Cobb. To do that I had to make detailed drawings and tracings of complex parts of the old carrier and take down exact measurements of the positions of pivot bolts as well as taking several photographs. That done I dropped my truck off at a friends equipment yard about a mile from the airport and walked to the terminal in a cold September rain. I like making gadgets and for several years I’ve been in to using plastics for many of my projects. My Eureka Gold Thief is made almost entirely of UHMW [ultra high molecular weight] and HD [high density] Polyethylene. True to form I fabricated my ½ size carrier mostly out of UHMW due to it’s high wear resistance…five times greater than steel. The tracings had to be reduced by 50% at the local Kinkos and frame and bolt hole pattern measurements reduced by half. Since the plastic is very light compared to steel I was able to make the side plates of solid 3/8” sheet instead of bolted strap. Even with exact measurements I had to do a lot playing around with positioning of the moving parts that allow the carrier to stop above the shaft, release from the high line and lower into the shaft. Satisfied with a dry run of the carrier, I turned to making the latching pulley, a big bucket made of recycled aluminum road signage and the heavy steel bail that attached to the bucket. Of course I had to test the system out and fortunately right out my back door were two Engleman Spruce trees that would serve well as an anchor and a gin pole. All fall and winter I had been gathering rigging materials through E-bay so I was well stocked with several diameters of aircraft cable, four large turnbuckles , plenty of cable clamps, chains, a chainsaw winch [to serve in place of a hoist], pulleys and snatch blocks. All set up the system looked quite impressive, but would it work? The chainsaw winch was running rough and if I had been moving a very heavy load it probably wouldn’t have been able to hoist the bucket. I did place three bags of sand and dozen large rocks in the bucket to give me some idea of how the system would work. With great anticipation I watched the bucket rise from the ground up to the carrier where it seamlessly unlatched from its mooring point and traveled up the highline toward the gin pole. It was performing as it was supposed to so I reversed direction and brought the bucket back down to the trip bar, but it didn’t trip. After a bit of tweeking with the bar, the bucket released from the carrier and lowered to the ground. Success! All spring we kept an eye on the weather in Fairbanks. Frequently Doug and I would be in phone contact and we’d get the latest on snow depths around camp and at the mine. The temperatures were moderating but snow remained the big issue. But it was time to leave Colorado and while I readied the trailer 14” of snow fell on our mountain and more was in the forecast. We left just in time as another two storms dumped an additional three and a half feet of heavy, May snow! It was the first time we had made the trip north in an automobile and not the big Dodge. Our 2004 Hyundai Santa Fe handled the trailer with no problem and the journey went without incident. We arrived in Fairbanks the second week in May and significant melting was taking place. It had been a big snow year below the Arctic Circle and spring was a month late in arriving. Consequently, there was still 18 inches of snow on the flat up at camp, more on north facing slopes. The trailer had not been bothered by vandals of either the two or four legged variety. Doug had been watchful for that. Without a hitch we had all the systems a go and housekeeping set up. It was good to be home. Over the winter Doug and his son had done major work on the 4 wheeler, reassembled it and had it ready for us to use. A quick trip over to our new access road revealed it would be a while before I’d be able to get down to Cobb except by snow machine or on snowshoes. Since Doug was using the Bravo, snowshoes it was. My first trip I hauled in gasoline and other items I’d need to open things up on a small sled. Even with snowshoes, the going was very difficult on the road which collected more snow than the surrounding forest floor, so I opted to leave the road. That presented me with a different set of problems…downed trees to stumble over and navigate around, but that was still easier than the deeper snow. When I exited the birch and cottonwoods and got on the “moose trail” at the edge of the valley, I found the snow even deeper and more difficult to pull the sled in. In places it was three feet deep and alternately powdery, crusty and as the sun did it’s magic…soft and heavy on the surface. I’d take a couple of steps, give the sled a yank and so I slowly made my way the quarter mile down valley to Cobb.
  24. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    Great idea, Dick! I'll try it again tomorrow. And thanks...glad you're enjoying the "book"
  25. flintgreasewood

    How It All Got Started

    I can't believe it....I just spent over an hour and a half writing the next episode, hit the wrong key and it all just vanished. I could almost cry! I'll redo it soon, but if anyone knows of some "weird trick" to recover the lost post, please let me know.