Truckee treasure hunter in search of the Superstition Mountains | SierraSun.com

Truckee treasure hunter in search of the Superstition Mountains

Tim Hauserman
Special to the Sun

Eric Delee likes to go tromping around in the Sierra Nevada woods searching for gold.

TRUCKEE, Calif. — Legend has it that the secret location of the Lost Dutchman's gold mine in the remote and dangerous Superstition Mountains of Arizona went to the grave of the Dutchman himself who supposedly found it.

Reputed by some to be the largest gold mine in history, for hundreds of years folks have been searching for it without any success.

Now, starting Sunday, Feb. 8, the History Channel presents the first of six episodes of "Legend of the Superstition Mountains," in which, "five brave treasure hunters defy the curse and tackle the deadly terrain to unearth the secret of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine," according to the show.

One of those five treasure hunters is Truckee local and gold miner Eric Deleel — or, as he is known on the show, Eric "Real Deal" Deleel.

In 2007, Deleel obtained a degree in journalism from Plattsburgh State University in New York, but was unable to find a job as a journalist.

So he left his hometown of Messina, in the farthest reaches of upstate New York, to spend a winter working and snowboarding in Lake Tahoe.

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He got a job at the Olympic Village Inn, and while his work at the hotel is rewarding and pays the bills, what Deleel really likes to do is go tromping around in the woods searching for gold.

FINDING THE JOURNEY

In other words, Deleel has caught Gold Fever. But he says it is not just about the gold: "It's not the destination, it's the journey."

He spent the day before we spoke tromping up and down the steepest California foothill terrain imaginable searching for a bit of gold.

When he took a wrong turn he also found a mining shack from the late 1800s with an ancient woodstove inside.

And he found a tunnel into the mountains in an area with clear and surreal evidence of 150-year-old hydraulic mining operations.

"We saw stuff yesterday that unless I had this hobby I would never see," Deleel said. "My dream would be to make it as a full time successful gold miner. But it is very hard to be profitable since they banned dredging five years ago."

Instead, Deleel has combined his love of mining with modern technology. With a friend they have produced a series of YouTube videos about mining and gemstones.

"I'm not an actor. We started doing YouTube videos regarding gold mining," he said. "We made a little extra money to pay the gas bill so we kept doing it."

The key to making a living via YouTube videos is for them somehow to become popular. The more viewers, the more advertisers pay.

The gold mining videos led the producers of the show, Go Go Luckey, to decide this gold miner would make a good choice as one of the five explorers searching for gold on the show.

HELLACIOUS AND DANGEROUS

Eric "Real Deal" Deleel is the Jack-of-all-trades character on the show.

"Legend of the Superstition Mountains" is a combination reality show/documentary that tells the tale of the search for the lost mine.

The goal is to educate people about the colorful story and history of the mine, but to do it in an entertaining style.

"We spent six weeks in September and October in Arizona filming," he said.

There are episodes every Sunday for six weeks at 10 p.m. Deleel hopes if the show goes well it will be around for more seasons.

"It was a hellacious and dangerous adventure," he said.

I of course had to ask whether they found the mine while filming the show, and he, of course, had to say that I would have to watch the show to find out.

While we suffer through the third year of a horrendous drought, Deleel says gold miners are the only group of people who benefit from the lack of water.

"You can access places you otherwise wouldn't get to because they would be underneath the water," he said. "But I'm still praying for snow."

Aren't we all.

Tim Hauserman, a nearly lifelong resident of Tahoe City, is a freelance author and cross-country ski instructor. He may be reached at writeonrex@yahoo.com.

Digging for gold

The days of thousands of prospectors eagerly combing the Sierra foothills in hopes of finding Shangri-La in deep piles of gold are long gone.

And much of the gold is most likely gone as well, but there are still plenty of folks willing to work the creeks and rivers in an effort to find a few specks of golden happiness.

Most are like Eric Deleel, enjoying the chase even if they don’t find a pot at the end of the rainbow.

To find out more about gold mining, you can check out several of the many Eric “Real Deal” Deleel gold mining videos on YouTube.

There, you will find titles like “How to find gold in creeks and streams” or “Bear River gold cleanup.” His Instagram is @realdealdeleel

And visit history.com/shows/legend-of-the-superstition-mountains” target=”_blank”>Bold”>history.com/shows/legend-of-the-superstition-mountains to learn more about the show.