Have you ever been excited to be in the cold, pouring rain panning for gold? Surprisingly, I have. It was like I had gone through a time portal and ended up back in the days of the California Gold Rush at a camp called Rock-N-Water located near Coloma, California.

My 4th grade class left from home on a sunny, warm Monday.  The camp was set in a huge area with a wide, rushing river right behind it. There were pine trees scattered all over the camp’s campus and we couldn’t wait to explore.

As it got dark we all gathered around for delicious lasagna together and then off to bed. My sleeping bag kept me warm throughout the night. One tip, don’t wear three jackets to bed or you will wake up very hot.

Father and daughter at camp at picnic table outside

The next morning we played some games, and made a bracelet out of seeds from a plant called Job’s Tears, and a leather pouch for the gold we would hopefully find in the American River.

Later in the day, Anna, our leader, surprised us and explained it was time to pan for gold in the American River. We put on our extra tennis shoes and ran down to the water. Anna showed us the process of finding the gold in all the dirt. First, we scooped up a pile of dirt from the river and put it in our pan. We shook the water around and poured the dirt on top of the pan. We kept at it until there was only a little bit of dirt on
the bottom and hoped we would be able to yell “Eureka”.

I stepped into the water and quickly jumped out. It was freezing! Still I wanted to strike gold more than I cared about being cold. I kept at it, my feet turned blue. Then it started pouring rain. I was obsessed, and it paid off because I got to yell “Eureka” five times.

father and daughter inspect their gold pan for gold on a 4th grade field trip

The next morning we woke up a bit uncomfortable because the rain made a small river under our tent and soaked my friend Sammie and me. The others in our tent were perfectly dry. (Another tip, put the tarp under the entire tent or you risk having some unhappy campers). But even wet, we were still happy and having a blast.

We came home missing camp, and actually, we still do. I am happy that this year there will be more happy campers from my school traveling back in time with Rock-N-Water.

By Carly Schwaab: 2016 Writing Contest