James and I have been looking forward to this excursion for a few weeks… 6 acres or untapped land on private property in Southwest New Jersey. We were told the property had seen some Revolutionary War action and was at one time near an old iron mill. On the property around 1900 was a boat house near the river, and on the opposite side was railroad tracks. In between was a lot of open land waiting to be searched. Wanting to avoid another 4am wake-up time, I drove down to James’ house the night before as he lives a short 15 minutes away from the hunting ground.
When I arrived, we popped open a cold one and popped in ATC’s Extreme Metal Detecting #2 to get us even more amped for the upcoming day. It’s refreshing to see others get just as excited as we do over realistic finds. A seated silver would be ultimate. Would we get one? How about some Indian Head pennies? Tokens? Tools? Something unexpected? Time would tell.
My alarm went off at 6:00am, and at 6:01am I felt like Rip Van Winkle hearing a heated game of 9 pins way up in the heavens. Rain poured down and the sky was ablaze as if Independence Day had come a few days early. But unlike ol’ Rip, my slumber wasn’t a long one. I was up for a bit, amped for morning to come, and it took a while for my brain to shut down and let my body rest. My weather.com app said the rain would pass around 8am, so we relaxed a bit with James’ family and then hit the road.
Soon after arriving at the property we became true New Jersey Toxic Avengers. We doused ourselves in bug spray, poison ivy repellent, and sunscreen. Soon after I had a rich orange glow as the iron-rust-rich dirt stuck to my many layers of lotion. Whoever said metal detectors aren’t cool?
In our heads, James and I had different theories of which areas of the property would be most productive. I first searched alongside the river, and then up the property near the railroad tracks. James focused his efforts on where the pool house used to be, and then in the open, yet scruffy, back yard.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature reached an oppressive 98 degrees. Add a layer of sweat to the chemical mess covering our skin! Yet we persisted… we searched, dug, and dug some more for 8 hours. Luckily half the property was shaded, so we didn’t have to spend all that time in the sun.
On one of my first digs of the day, I decided to hunt in zero mode (this means I didn’t discriminate out any iron, which is usually junk). I decided I would dig it all. When I got a low-tone hit, I knew it was iron. Expecting junk but hoping for something good, I pulled out a what I thought was a revolutionary-era belt buckle. In my excitement I did a little dance and relished in a good find. Thanks to some kind folks like “relic hunter” over at the treasurenet.com forums, I now know that it’s an old lynchpin. Still pretty cool. Over the course of the day I found a LOT of yet to be identified metal (I still have to clean it and investigate), a nifty vintage Rolling Rock beer bottle, and antique light switch plate. And remember how I said this property was close to a one-time iron mill? Well, there was a LOT of iron… junk iron! I had to make a few trips to unload my bag of scrap metal as it really weighed me down. (Upon cleaning the Rolling Rock bottle, it slipped out of my hand and shattered on the ground. I’m still pretty bummed about it.)
James’ theories on what areas of the property would be most productive proved to be better than mine. He unearthed a lot of good stuff including some Indian Head pennies, an old railroad pad lock, a badly worn-down coin, a button, and some other goodies.
Of the six acres, we only scratched the surface. I’d say we still have another 4 to go back and hunt. I may have to get inside James’ head beforehand to see what he thinks the best strategy is.
One of the best things on the property was a beautiful in-ground swimming pool. It was the perfect way to cool off after a long, hot, and grueling day. We unloaded our gear, changed into our suits and dove in. I admit it… we were pretty beat by day’s end and my lower back had just about enough of my passion for relic hunting.
When we got back to James’ house and unloaded the car, he mentioned how his wife set up an area in their garage for all his metal detecting gear. I exclaimed that my wife did the same thing for me in our basement. I have a 3 month old baby girl, and James has 3 young kids, so we understand that disappearing for the day isn’t the easiest burden to put on our wives. They have a lot to cover. We’re both very lucky to have understanding and spouses who support our passion, even though it’s a passion they both make fun of!
We’ll report back next time we visit this property, and all our other digs in between!