By Michael Buhler
Referring to George Rudy’s time mining gold in Alaska this summer as memorable might be a huge understatement.
Rudy and his friend – and claim co-owner Dave Ryan – spent almost a month during June and July camped out near Moore Creek in Alaska, battling rain, cold and bears to bring back some gold and some golden memories.
“We were there 26 days at our site,” Rudy said. “That 26 days went by like it was only a week. The days went by so quick. We’d probably spend 4-5 hours in the water mining for gold and that’s all we could stand – the water was 39 degrees.”
Rudy’s story with gold mining begins four years ago, when he and his wife, Linda, were visiting Alaska.
“When we were in Alaska in 2009, Linda and I met Dave and Marlene at the Gold Prospector’s Association at Cripple Creek,” Rudy said. “Dave got the gold fever and said, ‘I’m going to find us a claim in Alaska. Do you want to go with me?’ And I said ‘Sure.’ He found this claim and bought it.”
Getting to the claim was an adventure in itself. The duo had to get a bush pilot to fly them to and from their claim, and a lot of rain played havoc with their schedule and kept them from mining in the creek on many days – and that does not include the tundra and woods they had to go through to get to the creek.
However, the duo did find gold, finding several quarter-inch and BB-sized nuggets. While Rudy did not specify exactly how much they found, he was pleased with the fruit of their efforts.
“A prospector usually tells you and brags,” Rudy said. “We’ve become miners, so we don’t exactly say what we get.”
Rudy and Ryan also found some success when they explored the northern portion of their claim.
“We had some real nice spots to go to,” Rudy said. “That took us one day and we were wore out after. We walked over 6 1/2 miles that day.”
Gold was not the only thing the duo found. Rudy and Ryan also were visited by several black bears.
“We had bears every day,” Rudy said. “The very first day we were there, we went outside to check the weather in the morning and it was nice. But then here came a 400-pound mama bear and a cub. She kept coming up and came to the dump and cub was playing around.”
Rudy was yelling at the bear in a joking manner, and the bear began walking toward Rudy and their cabin.
“I went in and got the gun and she came and sniffed around the door. We were yelling for the bear to go away and I shot on each side of the bear to make the dirt fly and to scare her away – but she turned around and looked at me like ‘What are you doing?’ So I shot again ahead of her and it didn’t faze her in the least.”
The next morning, the duo was visited by another bear that had a distinguishable cut on its ear. That bear visited the camp four times.
“The fourth time it came into camp, it got up to the window where Dave was and started looking in the window,” Rudy said. “He opens the window, starts talking to it and filming it – and I said ‘Dave! Shut that window. That thing could reach right in and grab you. It was pushing on the side of the cabin like it was trying to get in.”
Rudy yelled out the front door to run it off and when it did not work, Ryan suggested pepper spray. With Ryan standing behind him with a shotgun, Rudy sprayed the bear.
“That thing did a backflip and took off,” Rudy said. “They don’t like pepper spray. We found out that pepper spray was better than a gun. They didn’t care about the gun, but the pepper spray – they’d just disappear.”
Bears or no bears, Rudy and Ryan plan to head back to Alaska next summer, but could head back this fall. Their bush pilot discovered a small John Deer bulldozer 25 miles from their site, and if Rudy and Ryan can rent it to use at their site, they might be back sooner than originally planned.
“He’s in the process of trying to find the people that have that and to see if we can rent it or lease it,” Rudy said. “If he can, he thought he would bring that to our site this fall if possible.”
A black bear gnawing on a log was just one of the sights from George Rudy’s Alaskan adventure.