At Rock-N-Water I panned for gold for the first time. My experience changed the way I thought about gold-panning. People on television make panning look effortless. What I learned that day was nothing like I expected.

One morning after a delicious breakfast, Anna, our guide, took us near the banks of the American River. She handed us our black rusty pans, and filled it with loose dirt. I was so excited to pan for gold because I had never seen gold in it’s raw form. I felt the adrenaline rushing through my body. I wondered whether gold was smooth or rough, big or small, shiny or dull. “How much gold will I find? Will I even find any?” I pondered.

As we headed down the small dusty path leading to the American River, I gazed upon the majestic river. It was broad and rocky but the water was calm. The sun hid behind the stormy clouds as we approached the riverbank. I reluctantly dipped my bare feet into the numbingly cold water. It took awhile for my body to adjust to the temperature. I carefully submerged my dirt-filled pan into the water and gently shook the pan to filter out everything besides the heavy debris.

boy with pan full for dirt for gold panning by river

After I repeated this process several times, only rocky debris remained. I handed my pan to Anna. She studied the rock-filled pan carefully for a minute or two as I waited in hope for gold. She pointed to an almost invisible flake of gold. I was overjoyed and shouted,”Eureka!” My friends lifted their heads up, clapped and cheered, and some even whistled. I felt very proud I found gold. My instructor handed me a small vial to insert my gold into.

To my surprise, I found five more flakes of gold later that day. Even though five flakes of gold did not make me rich, I felt rich in my heart from this experience.

By Micah Haugen: 2016 Writing Contest