Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Candidate Statement

[One more document for the STC election in March...]

Candidate Profile: Garret Romaine, STC Director-at-Large

Looking to the Future

My credentials, experience, and passion for our profession make me an excellent choice as an at-large director on the STC board. This short article reviews my background, explains some of the challenges as I see them, and explains my goals for our future.

I hope your career as a technical communicator is rewarding, whatever your expertise. Most of us make a good living, and salaries are holding up. Having thrived during the boom in the technical writing field of the late 1990s, we have expanded our expert skills and abilities. Our toolset is incredibly robust, and those of us in the technology world have core capabilities that rival software engineers. We have come a long way as a profession, and part of that is thanks to the efforts of STC members.

Significant Issues Ahead

At the same time, though, our professional organization faces serious issues. There is a continuing challenge to deliver value to individuals. We need creative solutions if we are to expand the organization. The economy is slowing, and our members will need the most current skills and abilities in order to compete.

We face this opportunity from the vantage of a Society with many moving parts. We are more than just cutting-edge XML experts in high demand; we are also the academics who keep classes relevant and send forth graduates of interest to hiring managers. We are writers in the public sector, facing tight deadlines with dwindling resources. We are the editors who mark up text and make others look good in any media. We are the illustrators and designers who marry visuals to words and shimmer across platforms. We are the managers who send employees to annual conferences as wise investments. And—finally—we are the members who show up at local meetings or log on to virtual communities and participate. Our needs are different, but our goals are the same: we want the time we spend as volunteers to directly benefit our careers.

We all rely on STC for expanded networking opportunities, cutting-edge classes, lectures, and workshops, and enhanced professional advocacy. Through STC, we have the opportunity to share ideas, learn new tools, and make ourselves more productive and efficient. New and prospective members ask me all the time, and sometimes in just these words: “What’s in it for me?” It takes longer and longer to answer that question, because there are so many different STC communities to join.

Relevant Experience

My experience as an educator, active STC volunteer, and experienced technical communicator is relevant to this election. I have taught technical writing and editing at the university level for the past 12 years. My goal has been to deliver information that bolsters the careers of neophyte undergraduates as well as seasoned communicators in graduate studies. I have taken advantage of STC volunteer opportunities as chapter president, mentor, employment manager, competition manager, and workshop organizer. I have presented at conferences, written for Tieline, Intercom, and Technical Communication, and served as a judge for local and international competitions. In 2005, my colleagues both honored and humbled me as an Associate Fellow, and since then I have attended board meetings, worked on the Fresh Eyes team, and served on a committee. I am ready to step up to the job of director.

While teaching and volunteering, I have worked steadily as a senior writer, lone writer, author, contractor, consultant, and manager. My STC experience has been a key talking point for me, and I am sure it has on occasion led directly from the interview to the job offer.

Helping Your Career

I hope you can say that STC has made a positive difference in your career. Knowing STC members, I would expect to hear from you if that has not been the case. High expectations are good; none of us should be complacent.

I thus ask for your vote—and I also ask that each of you help move our profession forward. We are all in this pursuit together.

Gold Panning in California's Mother Lode

[Latest Gold Prospector magazine column]

Mining the Internet: California’s Motherlode Country

By Garret Romaine

The Motherlode country of California, situated along state Highway 49, is thoroughly represented on the Web. In fact, there is probably no other gold prospecting area on earth that has so many Internet resources devoted to it.

This issue, we’ll take a look at some popular starting points for virtually exploring California’s golden heart. It doesn’t matter what your background is: if you are a seasoned, professional dredger, a long-time hobbyist, or you are planning your first trip to the area, there are plenty of places to research the Motherlode on the Web.

Getting Started

Probably the first thing you should do is make sure there is a folder for your newest gold links. If you are in Internet Explorer, place your cursor on your Links folder and right-click the mouse. You should get a large menu of options, with one that lets you create a new folder. Call it something catchy like “2008 California Gold” or similar. Now you have a spot for all your new links.

Note that you can drag old links in here, or you can make another folder specifically for those older links.

Before going any further, I’d like to make sure you have links to my favorite spots that I use no matter what area I’m researching:

  1. for topopgraphic maps
  2. for satellite images
  3. for expired and current mining claims

[Here’s the full link for the Land and Mineral Use Records Viewer at geocommunicator:]

Now, on to some specific California links.

Lately I’ve been haunting’s geology pages quite a bit. There is a pretty good set of links for “California geology destinations,” as they call them. You can download an excellent 3 MB geologic map for the state, or jump over to details about the Sierra Nevada batholith. At there is a good group of field trip stops, including Stop 27 at the “auriferous gravels” that are so famous.

Mining Gold

This is Bill Westcott’s old site, and I have mentioned it in the past. Web keepers with more time and money may have more up-to-date formats, but one of my favorite spots for information about places to pan is the user-entered information on gold locations. The following is one example, but is not attributed to a specific reader:

“The American River was mined very early in the gold rush since it is where gold was first discovered in Northern California. A few years ago, the state bought up most of the claims and private property on the lower stretches of the river (below about 1100 feet elevation) in anticipation of the construction of the giant Auburn Dam. The dam was never built and hopefully never will be so most of the area is now the Auburn State Recreation Area. Here you can pan, sluice, highbank and dredge all year. You can get a little color almost anywhere you look. There is exposed bedrock everywhere with a wealth of cracks and crevices to clean out. Many of the gravel bars always contain fine flood gold even in the top layer. And don't overlook the bedrock and benches high above the river. I have found small nuggets forty feet above the water level.”

Geological Survey

Although the banner says Department of Conservation, this is the California Geological Survey gold page. There are great links for the California State Library’s gold rush exhibit, the Oakland Museum’s gold rush exhibit, the San Francisco Museum’s gold rush exhibit, and much more. There is also a link to the California Minerals and Mines CD-ROM, full of historic gold mine photographs and related images.

You can wander around on this site for hours, downloading free publications, reports, and maps. You may have to pay for older or more obscure publications, but there was a “special” going on the last time I was there.

Gold Map

Here’s a map of California’s historic gold mines – about 13,500 of them. The document was created in 1998 for the Gold Discovery to Statehood Sesquicentennial. It is available for free download as a PDF, and shows 4,112 placer mines, 9.359 lode mines, and 18 active mines. Naturally, the biggest concentration of mines is in the Motherlode area. There isn’t pinpoint accuracy or great detail, but if you have a little color ink in your printer it might be worth printing out and pinning to the wall.

Gold Fever Prospecting

The Gold Fever site keeps getting better. It has good links, interesting pictures, used equipment for sale, and more. Here’s a nice snip from the front page, about a trip to the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park:

“I picked up a free hiking map and headed into the hills for a view of Coloma Valley before taking a stroll along the riverbank in search of stray gold nuggets…Failing to strike it rich, I followed the highway into Placerville. Hundred-year-old buildings line Main Street, making the town, like Auburn, a good place for a leisurely walk and some prospecting for antiques. At the Wine Smith, which sells local vintages and microbrews, I found the treasure I was after: a glass of El Dorado County Zinfandel that was worth its weight in gold.”

Sixteen-to-One Mine

This is another excellent site to bookmark and come back to again and again. Eventually, you’ll probably want to either buy stock in their mine or purchase a sample of their famed gold in quartz.

Something to really like: a link to one of Dr. Waldemar Lindgren’s papers for the U.S. Geological Survey about the purity of Sierra gold. If you’re not familiar with the name, Dr. Lindgren circulated throughout the western gold fields toward the end of the 1800s, and produced an excellent series of professional papers for the USGS. Here are some of his observations about the quality of the gold found in the Sierras:

“Observations in all parts of the world have shown that placer gold is always finer than the gold in the quartz veins from which the placers were derived. The explanation is that the silver alloyed with the gold is dissolved by the action of surface waters. The purity of the gold becomes greater as the size of the grains diminishes, the explanation being, of course, that the proportionate amount of surface exposed to the action of solutions is greater in the finer gold. The average fineness of the gold of Nevada County is given as 855; of Placer County, 792; of Plumas County, 851; of Sierra County, 858; of Calaveras County, 835; of Tuolumne County, 804. In Sierra County gold from quartz mines varies from 622 to 883.”

Another link from the 16-to-1 Mine concerns Dr. Lindgren’s discussion about pay streaks:

“It has become almost an axiom among miners that the gold is concentrated on the bedrock and all efforts in placer mining are generally directed toward finding the bedrock in order to pursue mining operations there. It is well known to all drift miners, however, that the gold is not equally distributed on the bedrock in the channels. The richest part forms a streak of irregular width referred to in the English colonies as the “ run of gold” and in the United States as the “pay streak” or “pay lead.” This does not always occupy the deepest depression in the channel and sometimes winds irregularly from one side to the other. An exact explanation of the eccentricities of the pay lead may be very difficult to furnish. Its course depends evidently on the prevailing conditions as to velocity of current and quantity of material at the time of concentration.”

Historic Highway 49

This site is rich with information, and is continually updated. Here’s a nice snip about big nuggets:

“In 1854 the largest gold nugget ever found in California was at Carson Hill above the Stanislaus River. It weighed 195 pounds and was valued at $43,534 in the currency of the day.”

Since this is the main highway that connects the Motherlode region, you can plan a trip that takes you along the entire route, or just concentrate on a portion of the area. This website will have you wanting to drive the entire highway.


TreasureFish has an excellent list of spots you can still prospect, although you’d want to check in with the U.S. Forest Service or BLM, depending on the area. The site also mentions collecting areas for gems and minerals. After reading about that big nugget above, let’s look at what the site says for the Stanislaus:

“From Columbia (North of Sonora on Hwy 50), take Italian Bar Road north to the South Fork of the Stanislaus River (canyon). Prospecting area is 700 feet beyond the bridge over 5 Mile Creek for about a mile. Metal detecting, panning, and a few other methods. Dredging only with a permit during a varying range of dates from the spring to fall.”


Once you have zeroed in on a few areas to investigate, you can start to collect geology reports, topographic maps, aerial photographs, and road maps to guide you in. I like to look at the newspapers during the winter to see if there has been any major flooding on the rivers and streams I plan to visit, as that heavy runoff sometimes churns up the gold and reconcentrates it to places where it might be easier to get to. Be sure to use the GPAA Claims Guide to locate open spots where your membership allows you to camp and prospect. The final suggestion is to contact the relevant Claims Committee and the nearby US Forest Service or BLM office for late-breaking information. You don’t want to drive for hours (or days) and find out a road washout or forest fire is in your way.

Garret Romaine writes from Portland, Oregon. His new book, Gem Trails of Washington, lists over 75 places in Washington state to search for gold, gems, and fossils. He can be reached at