Tuesday, November 28, 2023


RV Prospector: Finding solitude and gold in nature’s splendor

An RV trip that mixes boondocking with prospecting is my camping ideal. Far from towns, campgrounds, and crowds, the boondocking prospector lives in freedom, tranquility, and peace.

My Labradoodle, Bebe, and I were headed out on the first boondocking adventure of the season. The road trip took us north through Sandpoint, Idaho, then south down the eastern shore of Lake Pend Oreille, through the small towns of Hope and Clark Fork.


We left the highway at Clark Fork. Outside of the town, we entered the Kaniksu National Forest. The road was open, but this was very early in the high country. The weather and the road conditions were marginal. We took it slow, not wanting to beat our little travel trailer to death on the gravel road. After two hours, we arrived at the confluence of two major creeks near where we would be placer mining for the summer.

“Boondocking in the purest sense of the word”

We would be boondocking in the purest sense of the word and could pull off the road anywhere that was open and flat enough to park. I had a particular setting in mind. I’d been thinking of this spot all through the long winter months. It was just a few yards off the main Forest Service road and down a couple hundred feet of logging road in a clearing right on the creek.

I backed and maneuvered the trailer parallel to the creek about sixty feet from the bank. The creek was still full on its banks but well below the high spring runoff level. A few minutes later, we were parked, chocked, and leveled.

river wild

Listening to the sounds of nature

Bebe and I stood next to our little house on the creek bank and listened to the sound of the water on the rocks and gravel. There were a few bird sounds from high in the evergreens and, for the moment, nothing else. She looked at me in wonderment and sniffed air redolent of cedar, pine, white fir, and high-country creek verdure. We were more than twenty miles from the nearest paved road and thirty from any town. Though there were a few isolated cabins here and there on private parcels scattered amid the more than 2.5 million acres of U.S. Forest Service land, the sense—and reality—of wilderness isolation was profound.

We unpacked our Solo fire pit and set up a small camp table, a patio mat, Bebe’s camp lounge pad, and my camp chair. I plugged a gas cylinder into the Coleman stove and built a fire out of cedar tinder in the Solo fire pit. It was still early in the day. We spent some time dragging big red fir deadfall in and sawing them up with a Swede saw. I was keeping an eye on Bebe. This was wolf and bear country, not to mention deer, elk, moose, coyote, martin, and badger. But she was cautious and stayed close. I quit worrying about her taking off after wild animals.

Campfire dinner

Still early by the clock, the sun headed over the horizon, and wilderness was instantly plunged into deep shadow. Dusk would not come late or last long here. I hustled up our first camp dinner tonight consisting of beef organs for Bebe and a campfire-seared steak, camp beans, and sourdough biscuits for me. In no time, it was dark. We spent a while in the bright circle of the fire pit, tired from travel and living in the moment.

This is camping.

No campgrounds. No silly rules. No Check-In or Check-Out time. No people, noise, music, smoke, or pulsating disco lights.

We bedded down and gave in to sleep, lulled by the melody of the creek and the ambrosia of the dense night airs of the wild.

Dawn arrives early

Approaching summer in the northern latitudes, dawn arrives early. I awoke to light on the window shades, though it was just past four a.m. It was cold. I couldn’t reach the thermostat and didn’t want to leave my cocoon to do it, but I finally made the long reach, knowing any movement would rouse Bebe to the start of the day. As the furnace roared to life, a cold nose and a heavy paw confirmed that morning had come, and there would be no snooze waiting for the warmth.

We cautiously exited into the boreal cold dawn, checking for wildlife. I got about building a fire. I lit the camp stove and filled the coffee pot with creek water. Bebe stayed close, but a low growl warned of unseen fauna in the woods. I kept a close watch—and my Winchester rifle handy. Nothing approached. Soon the Stanley percolator puffed steam and filled the air with the aroma of fresh coffee. After our breakfast and before the sun had risen, we were ready to begin our placer mining workday.

Our plans for the summer

This season, we would work, for the entire summer, on a bench of an ancient streambed dating from more than 14,000 years ago—prior to the Missoula Floods that created Lake Pend Oreille. My plan was to undermine the old stream gravel at approximately the level of the current stream on bedrock. This season, we would make but a small divot in the massive stream bed.

The beauty of the setup was that the old bed adjoined the current stream so that I could set up a Grizzly Sluice as well as one or more Keene sluice boxes and feed them all from material close enough to move by a wheelbarrow. The whole setup involved no more than a half-dozen pieces of equipment, all hand tools. Having studied the geology of this ancient stream bed for years, both on the ground here and using Google Earth satellite imagery, I had very high hopes for the placer gold probability in this known mineralized area.

This is the first in a season-long series of chronicles of RV boondocking and prospecting, so stay tuned.


Randall Brink
Randall Brink
Randall Brink is an author hailing from Idaho. He has written many fiction and non-fiction books, including the critically acclaimed Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart. He is the screenwriter for the new Grizzly Adams television series and the feature film Goldfield. Randall Brink has a diverse background not only as a book author, Hollywood screenwriter and script doctor, but also as an airline captain, chief executive, and Alaska bush pilot.



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Diane Mc (@guest_243732)
4 months ago

Loved this. Drew me in and kept me captivated. So great to be able to live a life through you, that I could never do, wishing I could! Can’t wait to read more. Also, what an amazing life resume.

Dennywagaman (@guest_243437)
4 months ago
  • What a nice sweet story. It’s hard to understand why someone would have a negative comment but who knows what trials and tribulations they are going through. We are looking forward to the rest of the story.
Diane McGovern
4 months ago
Reply to  Dennywagaman

Hi, Denny. I don’t see any negative comments on this excellent prospecting/boondocking story. In fact, they’re almost all “rave reviews” and can’t wait for the next chapter. I’m also looking forward to future installments, especially since I have some acreage on both sides of a creek in the Cascade Mountains, and Randall (a longtime prospector) says there should (still) be gold in them thar hills.😁 Just gotta find the time to get up there. Have a good night. 😀 –Diane aka Mountain Mama at RVtravel.com

Dennywagaman (@guest_243554)
4 months ago
Reply to  Diane McGovern

I was referring to the comments about the bad water.

Diane McGovern
4 months ago
Reply to  Dennywagaman

Thanks, Denny. That was the only negative stuff I saw, but wasn’t sure if that was what you were referring to. Have a good night, and a fantastic Fourth. 😀 –Diane at RVtravel.com

Ian C (@guest_243261)
4 months ago

Great article.
With kids in Sandpoint and Coer d Lane, it is truly a beautiful part of our country.
I should have moved there when my kids did many years ago but my wife says i could not bear their cold winters.
Enjoy your summer.

Neal Davis (@guest_243259)
4 months ago

Ha! You have confirmed my own thoughts in this captivatingly eloquent installment of what certainly should be a book (and one that I’ll buy to read and re-read). You are camping in the fullest sense. I travel in the fullest sense (i.e., DP that is essentially a mobile condominium). I enjoy traveling, perhaps because DW and I work and live (in a modern house, not a rustic cabin) surrounded by nature. Robert Service or Jack London could have written this account. I can hardly wait to read more and I wish you well in your prospecting. 🙂

bill (@guest_243255)
4 months ago

Sounds like a good read coming up!

T. Hudson (@guest_243253)
4 months ago

Your writing style is captivating. I, like many others, look forward to your next installment!

Karen Bates (@guest_243248)
4 months ago

I can smell the coffee and hear the stream! What a beautiful morning!!

Steve H (@guest_243161)
4 months ago

Sounds idyllic! However, I am a very practical, former water resource engineer. So, I certainly understand utilizing carefully filtered creek water for drinking water (we have giardia in our Colorado mountaion streams). But what do you do with a summer’s worth of waste water when you are sitting on a permeable gravel terrace only 60′ from your pristine stream? Don’t know about Idaho, but dumping it on the ground is illegal in Colorado.

Tommy Molnar (@guest_243171)
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve H

Back in my tent camping days I just walked off into the ‘bush’ with a shovel and a roll of TP. Just like the wolf and bear and deer, elk, moose, coyote, martin, and badger do. [wink].

bill (@guest_243252)
4 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Montana bears don’t have shovels and TP. (Well, grizzlies have shovel shaped faces)😉

Tommy Molnar (@guest_243286)
4 months ago
Reply to  bill

True. Not nearly as polite or ecologically friendly as me . . .

Sven Yohnson (@guest_243720)
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve H

Steve, I appreciate the concern, and need for proper waste disposal, but REALLY?!
A man and his dog 20 miles from a paved road? A week after he leaves there will be no trace he was ever there (with the exception of his stream bed excavations, which will be erased by the next flood cycle). Nature is the great recycler. Don’t worry about it.
In higher use areas, Yes. Thankfully the multitudes never leave the city (where they belong).
WARNING! The Fun Police are watching!

Andy (@guest_243145)
4 months ago

Great launch of what promises to be a fascinating summer-long read!

Tom (@guest_243144)
4 months ago

Jealous, I am.

Judy (@guest_243134)
4 months ago

Excellent article! Fun to read and to imagine ‘being there’.

Jilly Bob (@guest_243118)
4 months ago

Excellent! I felt as though I was there too feeling and smelling the cool and fresh mountain air. Eager to read the next chapter.

Kenny (@guest_243238)
4 months ago
Reply to  Jilly Bob

Totally agree. Great article.

Eddie (@guest_243117)
4 months ago

What a great article and description of what camping is all about for many of us. Thank you and I look forward to reading more of your adventure.

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