My dad picked me up on Tuesday morning and we took off for the Porcupine Freedom Festival, way the heck up north in the White Mountains. Before he dumped my bike, my bag, and my butt at Roger’s Campground, we were going to do some goldpanning. So we parked on the side of Rte. 302 and crawled down a cliffside to the edge of the Saco river.


The word “goldpanning” is fun, but I assure you, the act of panning for gold is not so glamorous. Find a river, said my old man, and find a slow bend. Then you go into the inside of the bend and dig a hole all the way down the bedrock. You scoop some of that muck, rocks, and whatnot into your pan and bring it over to the water. Then you swirl and shake the pan just under the water, picking out the big rocks as you go, dumping out the dirt and muck now and then. If you’re lucky, there is gold at the bottom. Tiny specks of de oro.


How does this work? First of all, the pan has ridges inside of it to catch the heaviest items that fall to the bottom, keeping them out of the river.


Gold is the most dense of all the stuff you might find. It will sink right to the bottom as you shake and swirl and shuffle and shimmy in the water.

DSCN2711My dad began to dip his pan in the water and I mimicked him. I was paranoid I was would squander my retirement right into the Saco! I was panning slowly and meticulously. Is THAT gold? No, that’s mica. Is THAAAAATTTT gold?!! No, that is also mica. Fool’s gold for fool Rich. My first pan’s worth of muck lasted over 30 minutes. My dad had run through three, maybe four. He told me to go faster. Faster?!

This reminded me of a story from a book called GOLD IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, this lil’ handmade thing I found in the library. The author relates his first experience panning:

After about 45 minutes on my first panful and half an hour or so on my second…a voice from the other side of the river said “You’re doing it all wrong.” I looked up to see a white haired old guy, white shirt, dark trousers and leather shoes standing on a rock at the water’s edge…He waded right across the river, not pausing to slip and fall as I had, grabbed my gold pan, and dumped it out. I was in shock, certain that he had placed untold riches right back in the river. He sat down on a rock at the edge of the river, and told me to grab a shovelful of gravel from behind a rock just upstream from where I was standing…He took the panful of gravel, put the whole thing completely under water and shook it very hard. He used a combination rocking, swirling, shaking motion. He picked the pan out of the water and poured about half the contents away. I began to wonder if this guy had any idea what he was doing. He continued to swirl and swish and pour…for about 30 seconds. More dumping and then he raised the pan, held it at an angle, and swirled the material in the bottom. “See,” he said, “the gold is right there.” And so it was. Six gorgeous tiny specks of Gold.

DSCN2713My dad told me a similar story of his own experience with a pro. So we went back to the hole and dug a little deeper. Scooped more mucky muck. I panned this one much faster. Maybe 10 minutes. Nothin’. Well….maybe some iron. Little black metallic specks. Cool. He kept them in the pan for later.

This got me thinking: overthinking things can delay progress. And what is overthinking but central-planning! Slowly picking through the muck for rocks, carefully shaking the pan under the water, hounding over every little detail, being “in charge” of the situation. Natural law has made finding gold easier, with its heavy density. There is no reason to overthink it. If you want progress (de oro), you must let spontaneous order lead the way! Just let it happen.

Oh, but we discover one wonderful thing…


The hole we dug just so happened to have a damned sock in it. One muddy, depressing crew sock. “The golden sock!” we preached to the sky as we slapped mosquitoes off ourselves.

Later this summer we are going to wander down the Swift river on the Kancamagus with our tents and some matches and do this the right way. For now, it was northbound to Lancaster to the main event.


After I checked in at Roger’s Campground, we split a few beers before my dad left me there to fend for myself against 2,000 anarchists. I set up my tent and told my dad what PorcFest was, exactly. A giant libertarian summer camp, basically, where there will be lots of talks and seminars and educational activities intermingling with things that will shock normal people. But there is no point in fearing any of them. “Everyone here probably believes exactly what I do,” I said as I explained the Non-Aggression Principle and basic Austrian economics, most of which he agrees with already, but didn’t realize it.

“Is THAT a libertarian?” he asked, pointing at a random person walking by. “Probably,” I replied.

“Is THAAAAT a libertarian?” he poked. “You are the most statist person here,” I snuck back.

Then some dogs started barking at each other. DOGS. My dad doesn’t care for mutts. “Do libertarians love dogs?” he asked. “Only until the state tells us to.” I’m funny. He shook my hand, wished me luck, and off he went, leaving me to the dogs.


I took a walk up front and registered for the event. The Free State Project reps asked me if I wanted to sign the Letter of Intent, but I showed them my New Hampshire tattoo and politely told them I am a pre-stater. I returned to the campsite to find my new pal, bunkmate, and fellow pre-stater/PorcFest rookie Adam Hoisington setting up his half of the camp. Ah, the week was about to begin…