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Gold Rush!


Mining vacations take America by storm.


Bahamas? Caribbean? Europe? Forget it. Vacationing in those places costs money -- big money -- and worst of all, it's almost impossible to make any money while you're there. Which is why more Americans are opting for a different kind of vacation: The gold mining getaway. After all, nothing spells relaxation like being knee deep in mountain mud while looking for shiny golden flecks in a ceramic pan.

According to The Bureau of Land Management, 2,274 claims of gold discovery have come in this year, compared with 132 in the first quarter of 2005. Membership in the Gold Prospectors Association, which sponsors a $2,350 gold mining expedition, has surged 40% in just a few years. The secret's out: Mining for gold isn't just a money making scheme, it's fun for the whole family!

So what changed to inspire this new wave of recreational mining?

For starters, while the U.S. dollar and economy are taking some well deserved time off, the price of gold is at all-time highs. A few weeks ago, gold crept to over $1,000 an ounce. In 1999, that figure was around $250. Good news for Newmont Mining (NEW), Barrick Gold (ABX) and Streettracks Gold (GLD).

Now before you point out that platinum is well over $2,000 an ounce and you don't hear much about a surge in platinum mining excursions, there's something else you should know about this precious metal: Experts say about 80% of the gold in Californian fields is still out there!

That's right: The original 49ers -- about 300,000 of them -- only succeeded in mining about 20% of California's gold. Risking death and disease to go west, the vast majority of these poor prospectors ended up with little to nothing to show for it. But what really mattered wasn't the gold, right? It was that whole American Dream schpiel about staking your claim, building your future and finding your fortune.

Feeling inspired? Good. Now you're ready to take the plunge. Fortunately, booking a recreational mining vacation has never been easier.

Shoot on over to Gold Prospecting Adventures for great packages. Beginners will want to start by going on a Sluice Box tour. Once you've mastered it, you're ready for the Humdinger tour. Intermediate gold diggers will love this trip, because "after hand digging the overburden [they]use dredge components and refill the hole with water, and you get to dredge the bedrock hole."

I know what you're thinking: "I get to dredge the bedrock hole?" Yes, that's right: You get to dredge the bedrock hole.

Experts may want to skip the guided vacations and just get a membership with The New 49ers Prospecting Club. For $2,500, you'll get lifetime access to claims on a number of rivers in California. Plus, you'll enjoy being in a community of likeminded gold miners who understand and cherish the "challenge of gold" (read: the terrifying prospect of never finding anything).

If you need further assurance about why a gold mining vacation might be right for you, just look around. These days, banks come and go, interest rates fluctuate, jobs are lost. In a world of instability, gold won't let you down.

Now before you start checking your calendar and booking flights, you'll want to know whether or not you can actually expect to find any gold on your gold mining vacation. Rest assured the answer is yes.

According to Gold Prospecting Adventures, "Gold has always been found on guide[d] expeditions and time passes quickly when you're finding gold!"

Not only could the trip pay for itself, but it'll go by fast. In other words, the perfect vacation.

For more on gold, check out Hoofy & Boo's always astute report.

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