From Arizona to Greenland and back Prospectors’ rewards weighed in more than gold

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By M.V. Moorhead

Tempe resident Corry Slama goes over plans for an excursion into a little-known prospecting area. [Photo Billy Hardiman/Wrangler News]
Tempe resident Corry Slama goes over plans for an excursion into a little-known prospecting area. [Photo Billy Hardiman/Wrangler News]
There’s all this gold lying around out there; you just have to go pick it up. It’s that easy.” Josh Feldman is being a bit facetious, of course. Getting gold out of the rugged Superstition Mountain terrain, as he and his brother Jesse know, isn’t quite that easy. The two have prospected for the precious metal both in the Superstitions and in the massive arctic island of Greenland, as two of the stars of the Animal Planet reality series Ice Cold Gold. Their friend, Tempe resident Corry Slama, was to learn one recent Saturday how tough even a one-day prospecting excursion can be. Slama accompanied the Feldman brothers into a Superstition canyon to pan for promising traces. The three entered the beautiful but harsh region in the morning, and emerged well after dark. “It wasn’t a leisurely hike,” admits Slama. “It was a strenuous climb. I’m a little sore.” But, he adds, “It was really interesting.” Slama, who oversees contracted professional services for Maricopa County, became acquainted with the Feldman brothers decades ago when, as a teenager, he went horseback riding at OK Corral, the Apache Junction stables founded by their father, Ron Feldman. Jesse and Josh now own and run the stables, but they, like their father, maintain a fascination with the history and lore of mining in the Superstitions, especially that of the fabled Lost Dutchman Mine. Indeed, Jesse has written a book on the subject, Jacob’s Trail: The Legend of Jacob Waltz’s Lost Dutchman Gold Mine, in which he makes his case for the mine’s location. But the Feldmans have more than a historical researcher’s interest in mining. They’re also handson practitioners. The brothers currently own the Mammoth Mine—in the 1890s the area’s most productive gold mine, they say—and have an interest in Goldfield Ghost Town as well, to which they plan to move the riding stables soon. Their reputation for keeping alive the demanding skill of old-school prospecting led the producers of Ice Cold Gold to send them to Greenland, along with some half-dozen other treasure seekers, to look for gold and gemstones during the ironically named island’s briefly tolerable summer season. Despite the hardships of these two-month visits, says Josh, “It’s an amazing opportunity. We have this little niche in Greenland. It’s not just a reality show. We’re really trying to work Greenland.” None of which stops them from prospecting in their own stomping grounds the rest of the year. The Feldmans work the Mammoth Mine regularly, by themselves. “We keep it small-scale,” says Josh. “Take a little bit of gold out of it, have some fun, nobody gets hurt.” But they also haunt the crags and canyons of the Superstitions, seeking new claims for “placer” mining, the sifting of minerals from creek beds and other alluvial deposits with pans or sluice-boxes. About a decade ago, Jesse found a gold-rich sample in the Queen Valley region. “It’s just an indicator, hey, there’s gold in this canyon.” So, after years of delays, the brothers embarked on a day hike, the clear, cold Saturday after New Year’s, into a canyon they thought might be the source of Jesse’s tantalizing find. Slama, himself an experienced hiker in good shape, went with them. So, did they strike it rich? “It was really cold out, and we had to break through sheets of ice,” reports Slama, after his return from the rigorous outing. In the sediment dredged up from the chilly waters below this ice…“They didn’t see anything too promising.” “We didn’t strike it rich,” says Jesse Feldman. However, always upbeat, he adds: “But we got a lot of things done. We got into a canyon I wanted to get to for a long time.” They examined the remains of several old mines and got some pictures of an old mine dump. Still, admits Jesse, had they found what they were looking for in this particular site, “It would have been huge, because there’s bedrock all the way up that canyon. It’s a natural sluice-box, so it would have been easy pickings if there had been anything out there.” But they’ll just keep looking elsewhere, they say. “We will try to walk that [sample] back to its source,” says Josh. “If anyone was doing this to get rich, they probably would have quit years ago. “We’re also in the horse business; we’ve always used gold as our adventure. At a certain point, it just becomes a lifestyle…I might get rich someday, and wouldn’t that be amazing. But even if I don’t, it still takes me to amazing places where I get to see amazing things and meet amazing people. And if I didn’t, what would I be doing, sitting home?” His brother Jesse echoes this, more laconically as usual: “You always find something. Maybe not what you were looking for, but something.”

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