California gold miners endeavour a different type of brightnes: personality

YouTube has become a noticeboard for an eclectic parish of prospectors to share gratuities and nurture dreams of reputation, with one particular motherlode: actuality TV

In the original California gold rush, thousands of prospectors rubbed the San Gabriel mountains for nuggets, a scramble labelled by antagonism and privacy: recognize a gleaming, impede shtum.

Two centuries afterward, a handful of progenies use similar gear to wash in the same crystal coldnes river, surrounded by the same wilderness, enticed by an additional, different type of shimmer: celebrity.

Instead of masking pay-dirt blots, these prospectors broadcast them on YouTube, dedicating orientations and encouraging viewers to trek out and join them.

In return, if they attract enough online commerce, they gain a slice of glory and meagre payments from Google, which owns YouTube, for eyeballs on ads.

Since I started doing the videos, it went various kinds of addictive, said Robert Ferguson, 52, whose channel has more than 1,700 subscribers and 384,0000 positions. Theres a little of stardom. Beings recognise me. Its not much, but Google pays me.

Ferguson, wearing a singlet, muddy suddenlies and boots, expressed during a escape from sifting rocks and gravel by the San Gabriel river. Three other prospectors toiled alongside him. All, it turned out, had first encountered one another via YouTube.

The video-sharing website has become a noticeboard for the purposes of an eclectic parish of prospectors to share information, show off skill or luck, nurture online adherents, and nurture nightmares of renown, with one particular motherlode: starring in a reality Tv show.

Im terrible at video. My spouse says Im the worst in the world, said Larry Englehart, 67, ankle-deep in burbling sea. Instead of a piece, I establish a guys bellybutton. But people must be carried, because they look at them. The retired industrial painters channel has acquired 822 subscribers and 171,000 page views.

The biggest online success is Jeff Williams, an exuberant, buckskin-wearing reference who boasts 62,000 subscribers and close to 15 m views.

Few, if any, prospectors expect to get rich. Pieces seem long gone from these sections of the river. A daytimes arduous digging and panning for golden dust generally provides about half a gramme( worth $20 ), although with fluke you are able get perhaps 5 grammes( worth $200 ), or with no fluke , nothing.

Robert
Robert Ferguson in the river, prospecting for golden. Photograph: Noah Smith for the Guardian

The possibility of internet fame, or just acknowledgment, spurs relatively new arrivals such as Ryan Reynolds, 28. He recorded a brief portion to his camera phone Hey, the Guardian is here, hopefully theyll draw us sound nice and not like total losers before clambering into a waist-deep pit to heave a stone.

Having only just started, Reynolds has only 98 readers. But he savor honour when a stranger approached him at a gold pact. He said, I know you youre Odd Ryan. I was blown away. Reynolds, whose day position is cleaning bird-dogs at a pet parlour, uses the name Odd Ryan on his YouTube channel to avoid being confused with the famous Canadian actor.

Also in the hole was his partner, Brandon Preciado, 35. A DJ at a Hollywood nightclub and an ultrasound technician, he caught golden delirium after watching YouTube videos and world establishes such as Yukon Gold.

When Ferguson and Englehart turned up to mine nearby, reciprocal esteem flowed, as is prospector etiquette.

Ive interpreted all your work, Reynolds told Englehart. Great to meet you. Englehart batted the words away with self-deprecation but glowed.

Ferguson praised Preciado, saying he had examined a video of him nimbly moving heavy boulders. Preciado almost blushed. All I do is copy Savage, husband. Savage is the nickname of another miner.

At first sight, social media seems far withdrawn from the background at East Fork, a trail in the San Gabriel Mountains national monument, an idyll of wooded canyons an hours drive east from Los Angeles.

There is no cellphone coverage, and there are no resounds except fowls, insects, gale and the occasional hit of metal on boulder. The recognise is home to mountain lions, eagles, rattlesnakes, countenances including a patriarch appointed Baxter and a wild turkey reputation Gobbles.

The prospectors, garmented in ragged jeans and abruptlies, cultivate much as their precedes did during the 1840 s gold rush: shovel and filter grunge into containers, transmit it into sluice chests and tell flow ocean run through it, leaving behind, they hope, amber traces.

Theres nothing like the stimulate of detecting a piece of gem. And thats what we are, treasure hunters, said Nick McKinney, 35, a former drilling rig proletarian who goes by Wyoming Nick.

The mountains are said to whistling from all the holes and shafts, bequest of amber chase by Native Americans, Spanish immigrants and then the 49 ers, Americans and newly arrived migrants from Europe, Asia and Latin America who flocked here, and to other specific areas of California, on wagons, mules and foot.

Gold
Gold flake in a pan. Picture: Noah Smith for the Guardian

My kinfolks recall Im seeds. They say theres no gold left, that the old-timers got it all. But they didnt. Theres plenty left, said Preciado, who goes by DJ Foulmouth.

There are legends of hidden veins and hidden, forgotten fist-sized nuggets, but the reality is pay dirt is so scant it often does not cover the costs of gas. The yo-yo global golden rate currently $1,245 an ounce, relatively high, taking the long view seems an abstraction.

For prospectors, the exercise and frontier find of the mountains notwithstanding mobs of bungee-jumpers who trek through at weekends is its own reward.

It dins weird, digging a flaw by the river. But Im a nature person, said Reynolds, who observes pause from his minimum wage responsibility bathing pampered domesticateds. Being chip suctions. And are working with rich people I cant countenance them.

Ferguson, who is unemployed and attends for a brother with a neurodegenerative sicknes, echoed the sense of flee. Being a caregiver, you get depressed if thats all you do. You necessity a neighbourhood to circulate. This is my place.

For Englehart, hunting amber represented resurgence. Diagnosed with hepatitis C in 2002, he was sent home to expire but objective up enduring extremely vigorous chemotherapy. After detecting Fergusons videos, he started trekking to San Gabriel. I was a clump of jelly with not one muscle to stay in my body. Hiking here, washing for amber, you forget all your problems.

Environmentalists say mining pits and moving embankments represent problems for threatened species like the Santa Ana Sucker and other wildlife. And that quarrying is illegal in a federally labelled wilderness. The miners deny be damaging and demand the existing legislation is ambiguou. Its not: mining is illegal, but governments tend to turn a blind eye.

Lies, crime and slaying marked the original gold rush. Perhaps because the stakes are much lower, its 21 st century sequel is like a subscribe group, with members teaming up and pooling information.

Its almost like a brotherhood. Everyone facilitates one another out all the time, said Reynolds. Englehart concurred. I dont think theres any secrets up here.

The exception is further upriver where hardy prospectors trek late into remote the zones where there is more amber, and more reason to keep quiet.

Ferguson, who makes a few dozen dollars per month from YouTube, said advertising a defect he was working on was not necessarily altruistic. Sometimes I want people to come out there and delve deeper so that when I go back Ill get more gold.

Reality TV creators have reached out to him but he is still awaiting an offer.

His advice to would-be YouTube prospectors: Be real, dont lie, be yourself. Try to show serpents, buds, wildlife. California, said Ferguson, polishing his pitching, was the obvious site for a mining indicate. Its the golden state.

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