Prospecting is for families because there is always something for everyone to do, including kids.
At the Big Dig there is even a station along the creek bed that is set aside for the kids to dig in with adults of course. There is no exclusion here and kids are welcomed at the other digging stations as well.
Even though other things might catch a kid’s eye, they can do what the adults do, dig buckets of dirt, put them in the trommel or high banker, scrub rocks, move rocks in piles, empty out the rocks from the washed rocks, or just play in the creek.
Certainly gathering fun rocks is a part of the agenda for kids too as there can be some shiny, colorful, unique, and exotic looking things you never see on your desk at school.
Of course there is always the raffle for the donated kids stuff and the eyes go wild for what can possibly be won, even a giant treasure chest full of rocks, toys, and things to use while play prospecting when the return home rolls around. Kids add to the fun of riding in the back of the pickup with their screams like on carnival rides. Prospecting wouldn’t be the same without kids around.
This is why we all gather in the tiny town of Zortman for once a year, the opportunity to dig together the dirt to see what kind of gold we can find to take home with us either
in the nugget drawing or by our fair share of concentrates from the half day of digging for two days.
Groups of people hop in a pickup front or back with their bucket and shovel and head upstream to one of the four stations stocked with machines and leaders for 4 hours to return home for a nap and rest from the hard work.
The team work to do this is what I cherish, the opportunity to use equipment to find gold is fun and everybody helps. Feeling a part of a big project is fabulous. There are many different jobs at each station that need to be manned and techniques are developed to have everyone have a chance to experience each one.
Sharing is a huge operational ethic of the dig.
Mid morning or mid afternoon sees the coffee and cookie truck as a welcomed visitor.
Each day a backhoe is brought in to make short order of the area and stack a new pile for the day’s digging. It can do what many people can’t in just minutes. It’s amazing.
Lots of ATV’s abound and make transportation with equipment perfect; but there is room for those who don’t own them.
As soon as you register tables are full of donated items for auction, raffle, and purchase in the Zortman meeting area.
Staffers help you choose from tickets for 50/50 drawings, items for the adults or kids, donations, Big Dig T-shirts and an array of dinner tickets and other choices.
It is with the donations and raffle sales that the Yellowstone River Prospecting Club pays for their use of this facility and the expenses for the Big Dig. So you choose wisely how you want to support the club and this event by your purchases.
Even last year’s biggest nugget was auctioned off this year to the tune of $205 to bring in money.
Monday morning everyone lines up outside the office area to bid on a myriad of items. It is hard not to spend lots of money because the items are so cool and attractive. Even brass classifiers were on docket!
Our campground neighbors walked away with over $1000 worth of items for their home and buisness.
One of the best parts of participating in The Big Dig is all the people you meet from all over the United States and Canada.
The meeting up with people you have dug along side with the year before is also a benefit.
There is lots of exchanges of phone numbers, emails, and addresses. Continued friendships with people of common interest is always fun.
While setting up camp in the Camp Creek Campground the neighbor campers ten year old boy said to us "I have never had so much fun out camping before in my life"!
And when our little girl laid eyes on our neighbors little girl they both thought, “Oh, someone like me!” They spent three days running around out in the woods with their "best friend" entertaining each other constantly.
When you see friends from all over the state and you get to talk about local prospecting issues you learn the benefit of networking with those of like mind.
Meeting key people in all kinds of prospecting organizations is a great thing when you can put a body and a face to a phone call or email.
From these physical contacts on site it is easy to go back home and apply the new insights and ideas you got for your future.
We even met a maker of a trommel, got to interview him and learn how to duplicate his project.
When planning your trip to Zortman for the Big Dig, one must consider sleeping arrangement.
Some bring their big campers and trailers, others plan on staying at the motel which is a little non-traditional, and others head to the Camp Creek Campground nearby for a stay in a tent with family and friends.
The campground does not have a shower facility so the only shower is at the Motel where you walk down the patio to the laundry room, pay $7.50 and all the supplies are provided. For sure this option is tantalizing when you smell like a campfire and have worked hard digging dirt.
A local grocery store is used to handling request of those in remote as they host the hunting season as well. Shelves are stock with all kinds of necessities and your needs can be met. A lone restaurant that opens up at 8 AM and closes at 9 next to the bar can feed the hungry.
The grocery store has separate cabins for rent with kitchen facilities and rent starting at $65 a night and can be rented starting in January of the year.
The big feature is the dump!! Scaling the hillside gives you lots of sea creatures and crystals to mystify the eye and make you feel like you have found a treasure. Three trips or more were made to gather these items with frivolity and uniqueness each time.