Irene helps some Vermonters strike gold - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Irene helps some Vermonters strike gold

North Clarendon, Vermont - September 29, 2011

"I am probably getting even more people in here laughing and thinking that I am crazy," Mike Spafford said.

Spafford has been selling gold panning equipment at Mike's Country Store for years, and while some people may be surprised to hear there is gold in Vermont, his customers have proof.

"There is one family who shops here, a mom, dad and the children, and they pack lunch every weekend and go to a local river. And last year from April to October they found enough gold to pay their property taxes," Spafford said.

Jerry Jokinen of Castleton started panning for gold with his brother 30 years ago.

"It's like going fishing without the smelly worms and fish hooks," Jokinen said.

And while he would not say how much gold he has found over the years, he is not hanging up his pan any time soon.

"We just do it for a hobby, but my other car is a Volvo. That tells you something," he said.

While the devastation from Tropical Storm Irene is still being tabulated and communities are struggling with repairs, all the erosion has opened up new places to pan.

"The devastation from the flood goes without saying that is an awful, awful thing," Jokinen said. "On the good side, looking for gold, it moved the gold. It moved a lot of dirt, it cleaned a lot of places where you would have to dig before, so there is a lot more out there than there used to be as far as finding it is concerned."

While Jokinen would not share his favorite panning place, he did share the correct technique. The idea is that gold is 19.3 times heavier than water, so you let the water wash over the rocks, and the gravel and the gold will stay behind. At least that is the theory."

And within minutes Reporter Judy Simpson found what she thinks are a couple flakes of gold.

Simpson: So, in here I have a couple of rocks I think might have some gold in them, but then there are a couple of gold flakes in the bottom. And there you have it-- the start of my gold empire.

"Once you get gold fever, you have it for life, believe me," Jokinen said.

And he may be right.

While gold has been found from Southern Vermont up to Canada, it is important to remember if you do want to do some panning, make sure you are not trespassing on private property.

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