Gold panning in the creeks of the Sierra Nevada mountains has been a mainstay since the Gold Rush of the mid-1800s, but for decades it tended to draw only hobbyists and small-scale speculators. Now, gamblers, romantics, and crusty entrepreneurs are joining the old-timers down by the river.
“Some people are prospecting for gold in order to survive,” says Finkelstein. “They had lost jobs, couldn’t find new ones, were freelance, or were struggling during retirement. Many have abandoned their permanent homes in order to live out of RVs and tents in the woods to prospect. Living a bare-bones or pared-down existence, some of them (without house payments, utility bills, etc.) are able to support themselves.”