Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Gold Mining in Chicken, Alaska, Provides Unexpected Meeting with Distant Relative

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Gold miner Gene Gildart now considers Chicken, Alaska his permanent residence.

©Bert Gildart:  Pick up a telephone book most anywhere in the United States and look for the name “Gildart.” Most likely you won’t find a soul. Imagine then our surprise when Janie and I met a gold miner on Meyer Creek, several miles outside of Chicken, Alaska, by the name of Gene… Gildart.

Gene is from New Hampshire and is one of the many who has always wanted to visit Alaska. Several years ago he found himself free of encumbrances and decided to make the leap. To make a long story short Gene found himself working for Mike Busby at Chicken Gold Camp-and to me that makes the encounter with Gene even more improbable.

POPULATION DROPS TO FIVE

Chicken Gold Camp is in turn about 80 miles from Tok, Alaska, Chicken is an isolated area to say the least… In winter the population of permanent residents is about 5, but in the summer it swells to about 15. Included in the winter count is a post mistress, her husband and their daughter, whom they home school. Rounding out that population are two men, Toad and Digger.

And then there is Gene, my distant relative, whose permanent mailing address is Chicken-and who sometimes makes for a sixth permanent resident. This small group forms the backbone that accommodate the thousands who brave the Taylor Highway, some planning for a long stay in Chicken, others simple overnighting on their way from-or to Dawson City, located about 100 miles away in Yukon Territory.

GOLD COUNTRY

Gene works for Mike, who came into this country as a gold miner. Though Mike still operates a mining operation, he has expanded his base and now operates an RV park, and a general store that offers quality meals and sells items reflecting the region. He offers tours of his Pedro Dredge, which is on the National Historic Register.

Part of Mike’s mining operation is on Meyer Creek, which serves more to accommodate those interesting in mining. It requires a little doing, and we followed Mike in our Pickup up an old dirt road. We passed the tiny Chicken post office where Robin, the post mistress,  was watering plants that grace the front of the walk leading into the door. We continued along the dirt road, soon passed a spur road leading to the home of Tisha (famous for her book, Tisha), then crossed a rock-strewn creek still running with water. Along the way old mining implements flanked the road.

Following our 15 minute drive, we pulled into a grass covered parking lot where Mike parked his Four-wheeler. We parked our truck, then followed him several hundred yards to an area that had been carved out by a CAT. Here’s where we meet a met a tall lanky man with a trim beard, whom Mike introduced as Gene. In turn, he introduced us as Bert and Janie.

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Gene explains the techniques used to optimize gold panning.

We guessed Gene to be in his late ‘50s and when he spoke he did so with a distinct New England brogue, and the way in which he chose words made him seem well educated. After a bit Mike departed leaving us with Gene, who set us up to pan for gold. On request, he also explained a bit about how he came into the country.

COMING INTO THE COUNTRY

Gene was thorough, and described the various type of mining that could be performed at this placer mining location. He told us a bit about himself, saying that back east he had owned several businesses, to include a painting company. He said he had been a commercial fisherman, but that eventually all the regulations had gotten to him. “They say ‘we’ have to do this, and ‘we’ have to do that. But they never explain who ‘we’ is. I just got tired of it. ” And so about 1991 he left.

Gene said that after several years of traveling ‘round, that he’d found a home in Alaska and that he hoped to find a cabin, do a little trapping and then do a little mining.

Mining had obviously gotten into the man’s blood, as it seems to do with so many, and as the hours went by he helped us with the job of searching for gold.

“MEATY LITTLE FLAKE”

“We’re looking for nuggets,” said Gene, “and sometimes we find them along with smaller gold.  In fact, our guests have found several nuggets in the ounce-plus category. Panning is hard work, but it seems to fit my current life style, and I thoroughly enjoy it. You can forget everything else but the job of looking for gold.”

Janie had, in fact, taken to gold panning and as she swirled water in her pan, Mike interrupted her with a broad smile. “There,” he said. “That’s a meaty little flake. Better get it now,” which he helped do using a small suction tube.

We liked Gene, and toward the day, thought that he was a man with whom we’d like to keep up. I offered a business card, which he studied for a several long moments, but with a gradual smile. I then asked him for his surname.

“It’s the same as yours,” said Gene Gildart, with a puzzled look. “And now you’ve left me with a great deal to think about.”

Here in Chicken, Alaska, we’re finding many wonderful people, and enjoying a multitude of experiences, which we’ll soon be describing.  We have a great deal to think about.

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THREE YEARS AGO AT THIS TIME:

*Mackinak National Park

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3 Responses to “Gold Mining in Chicken, Alaska, Provides Unexpected Meeting with Distant Relative”

  1. Rich Charpentier Says:

    Let me know when you run across a Charpentier or two. :)

  2. wes Says:

    I’m heading to chicken in 6 days for the season, fist one. I’m curious about winter??? I will see the folks you mentioned, thanks.

    Wes R.

  3. Kaylene Thrune Says:

    Keep up the dredging :P nice read.

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