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Last year I received an invite to prospect a remote mining property in the interior part of Alaska during the summer of 2012. My companions for the journey were Steve Herschbach, who traveled with me to Australia last year, and George White. Now for those who aren't familiar with Alaska, access to the interior part of Alaska isn’t at all like it is in rest if the US. Alaska has far fewer roads and there are huge portions of the state that you simply can't get even close to by driving a normal automobile. Even the state's capital cannot be accessed by road - it can only be reached by boat or by plane. There are vast mountainous portions of the state with no roads for 100 miles or more. Unlike Western Australia where I visited last year, Alaska is not flat and gigantic mountain ranges block the way. So even if one wanted to drive cross country (as you could in Australia) that is simply not possible in Alaska, because the state is built upon a series of mountain ranges and swamps.
The remote part of interior Alaska is the domain of the bush pilot, where his small plane provides critical access for prospectors, hunters and other travelers. Flying in these little planes is a complete adventure of its own and one not for the faint of heart. There are hundreds of small airstrips located all across the state, and for many mining areas, this is the principle way of access. I have looked on Alaska maps and seen huge regions where every little mine has its own crude airstrip. These landing spots are often nothing more than a small, straight and comparatively flat dirt road which has been created by a bulldozer. Some have gravel surfaces and some are grass, and I've driven on many dirt roads in my home state of Nevada that were smoother. Many miners actually own a small airplane, which provides them the ability to fly in and out of the mine and act as their own bush pilot.
Flying into remote parts of Alaska in a little plane is an adventure in itself. Here the author and Steve Herschbach prepare to take off
When it comes to prospecting, there are advantages in going to remote locations. While it isn't always a perfect correlation, oftentimes the best gold can be found in places that are hard to reach. Most easily accessible mining districts in the US, after the original work by the first group of pioneers, where then gleaned repeatedly by later miners, normally including the Chinese around the turn-of-the-century, and later by depression era miners, prospectors from the early 1980s gold boom, etc. Gold doesn't grow back or replenish during a human lifetime, so in most places once the gold has been mined it isn't available for later workers. In the early days, miners had no bush pilot to bring their goods to their destination in just a matter of an hour or two, and the prospecting season in the interior of Alaska is very short, often only a matter of a few months each year.
Chris Ralph’s Prospecting Encyclopedia
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