Kaye Lee Brady has always been a collector, particularly of rocks and shells. And just more than a year ago in her rock hunting adventures, Brady struck goldin the form of her now-husband, Kelly.
"He took me to a rock [club] meeting, and we've been rock crazy [together] ever since," said Brady, a nonprofit director by day. "That we were rock collectors â¦ that was the first thing that threw us together."
The two married in 2011 and, along with other ambitious rocks aficionados, formed a club called Rockhounders Outreach for Community Knowledge, in which they now both serve as officers. The group teaches presentations about the value, safety and how-to of rock and mineral collecting, including a community education course through Granite Peaks about gold prospecting.
"My husband and I were members of another club that wasn't satisfying our needs, [as] we wanted to get out and teach the youth," Brady said. "Our [club's] main focus is teaching â¦ and we've had a wonderful response."
Taught at Hunter High School on Thursday evenings, the gold class has run monthly for about six months, with the most recent course on June 14 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. R.O.C.K. also teaches a rock collecting course on the same days and works with the Utah Gold Prospectors for the gold class. The next class will take place on July 19 and costs $39, which includes basic panning equipment to take home.
Philip Yadanza, president of the Utah Gold Prospectors, said one of the group's goals with the class is to educate about prospecting and the environment.
"Back in the day, [prospectors] weren't too conscientious ," Yadanza said. "Now it's more of a surgical prospecting than just tearing things up."
Yadanza cited a recent Environmental Protection Agency study that found that small dredging for gold using a machine to suck up streambed rocks, churn them through a sluice and then redeposit them can help remove harmful metals and protect rivers.
Brady said she approached Granite Peaks with the idea of teaching the course after attending another version that was unsatisfactory, and that the course helps to raise funds for R.O.C.K, which is otherwise 100 percent volunteer. The group also teaches free presentations about geology and rocks to Boy Scout troops, elementary-school classrooms, senior-citizen groups and other organizations.
Boyd Pickering, secretary of the Utah Gold Prospectors, said his primary motivation for gold hunting is camaraderie.
"I get out and take my family with me," he said. "It's lots of fun, especially when outing with the club members. â¦ If you went out for the gold only, it's going to be tough."
Started in 1982, the Utah Gold Prospectors currently has between 350 and 400 members and possesses claims in Utah, Idaho and a few other states. R.O.C.K has about 30 members and will celebrate its first anniversary soon.
The class includes presentations on gold prospecting's environmental impacts, tips for gold hunting like looking for black sand, info about where hunting is and isn't allowed, and demonstrations of prospecting equipment. Participants also get the chance to view an extensive rock and gold collection and try their hand at panning with instructors' help.
Forrest Baker, a computer programmer from Bluffdale, said he came to the class to learn about gold prospecting in hopes of hunting on family land in Idaho.
"Gold's pretty to look at, [but prospecting] is more recreational," he said. "It's also good to learn about environmental impacts."
Barry Barney, a UPS driver, said he wants to learn gold hunting techniques on the chance he'll find something valuable.
"If you look at the history of Utah, there's a lot of gold out here," Barney said. "Maybe they haven't even hit the tip of the iceberg â¦ [and] I'm just interested in getting out in nature."