Cleveland National Forest, Buckman Springs Area
U.S. Forest Service Descanso Ranger District Office,
3348 Alpine Boulevard, Alpine
Is there still gold in them thar hills? "Yes sir," says Donald Sheckler, 86, who's been mining for gold hereabouts since he was a kid. "There's lots left in this county." His pick: Cleveland National Forest, in the public lands west of Buckman Springs. "Other day I found a dried-up rivulet coming off the side of the mountain there. Black sand. I panned it. Had a lot of gold in it. Ten, 100, 300, 600 foot up the canyon is the 'lead' that the gold washed out of." Look for quartz rock, he says. "Quartz will come white or yellow. More coloring, more likely there's gold." First, though, call the U.S. Forest Service to get your $5 "adventure pass," -- basically a national forest parking permit -- and "wilderness permit," a (free) sign-in in case you get lost. The Forest Service okays recreational panning. Just don't start bringing in backhoes and wrecking the environment. And find out where gold claims already exist. Claim owners tend to be very protective.