Gold Trek Origin Story
Originally from The Black Hills of South Dakota, I come from a rockhounding family with a long history of gold fever. I remember the days spent hiking with my grandparents through the woods and around the Badlands of South Dakota looking for rocks, fossils or anything I thought was interesting. After moving to British Columbia in 2008, putting down roots in the beautiful Central Okanagan and having a family of my own, I decided it was time to rekindle the passion that I had as a child.
I spent a while just panning locally, researching and participating in online forums. Eventually, I was invited out by some like-minded prospectors who had their own set of experiences and information that we could combine knowledge and prospect all of our claims as a team. What would take one of us years to learn on our own we could accomplish in a couple long weekends as a group, and we succeeded in finding ground that was productive enough to justify getting some more serious equipment.
I ended up buying an off-the-shelf 10 inch highbanker with a 48 inch long sluice. This behemoth of a machine was mostly made of steel and weighed nearly 45 pounds before including the 20 pounds of lay flat PVC hose and a 24 pound gas pump required to run it. Nearly 100 pounds total but, at the time, that's what was available and I didn't think I'd need anything else. It was big and heavy but, in my mind, the production speed was worth the effort. Hindsight being 20/20, I was flat wrong.
I hauled that system around with me on every prospecting trip for about a year and vividly remember the last time I ever took it out. We were prospecting a buddies claim that required a 800m hike across a narrow game trail on a loose gravel hillside. One slip and it was a 150 meter plunge to the river below. It took me 2 trips to haul it in myself and nearly a whole day's worth of energy. We prospected for 2 days for a meager result and, at the end of the second day packed up for the hike out. We didn't want to make multiple trips out so I carried my pack full of all my tools with the highbanker on my shoulder, one of my buddies had all his gear plus my 20 pounds of hoses and the other carried my pump.
That was the day The Gold Trek was born.
Upon returning from that trip I immediately began looking for a better system to move the amount material I wanted without hurting myself (or my buddies) to get it to the claim. Everything I found was essentially a standard highbanker but scaled down to a degree that it was small enough to carry. These didn't really interest me because I spend a lot of time on the Fraser River and I knew that these tiny sluice boxes with miner's moss and expanded metal weren't going to work. I needed a long sluice run to give me the capture rates I needed but could break down for storage and transport. The problem was, nobody built anything like that and I realized I had to build it myself.
After some time drawing and building a mock-up in cardboard I came to a design that I thought would work and set out to find some help building it. I contacted a local company who manufactured highbankers, paid them to bend me a custom hopper and 2-part sluice run and bought one of their leg kits. After assembly I ended up with this:
It's not pretty but, this whole system and tools came in at around 38 pounds including the 1 inch Makita pump and hoses. The 36" sluice run could accommodate my drop riffle matting and broke in half to allow the whole system to fit into a 5 gallon pail.
After posting these pictures to my local prospector's forum, I had a lot of positive feedback and even had people messaging me asking to build one of their own. That was over 3 years ago and, after dozens of iterations, prototypes, and hundreds of hours of testing, I'm proud to offer The Gold Trek as the most versatile, professionally designed backpack highbanker ever made. If you've ever experienced the frustration of the limitations and physical pain of hand panning all day or hauling truckload of gear The Gold Trek is for you.