While raking larger stones from the sluice riffles, McAfee found a large piece of glass from a beer bottle.
"With this hobby, I bet you come across a lot of these," he joked.
Later, after squeezing clay balls that McAfee said "look like poop" under the highbanker's spray bars to free trapped minerals, the Colts punter realized he was soaked. "I think you brought me out here for April Fool's Gold Day," he said.
"Mom used to kill me for playing in the river," said Kessler, who was equally damp. " But now, it's my hobby."
After running four five-gallon buckets of gravel through the highbanker, club members decided to shut down the machine long enough to pan out the trapped material and check for the presence of gold.
Using a plastic masonry tub filled with water as a panning medium, club member Larry Floyd showed McAfee the basics of using gold prospecting's primary tool -- the gold pan.
"The idea is to let the lighter material wash out, while the heavies stay in," said Floyd, a recreational prospector for 20 years, as he watched McAfee swirl a pan bearing "concentrates," material too heavy to wash out of the highbanker, in the murky water.
When Floyd identified one rock he removed from the pan as a chunk of leverite, and threw it on the ground, McAfee correctly interpreted the meaning of the mineral's name.
"It means you leave 'er right there," he said. The correct answer, McAfee said, proved he was a "linguishan," just as previous comments proved he was a "historoligist" and a "scientician."
As Floyd completed the panning process from the highbanker's initial cleanup, only a few tablespoons of black sand remained in the pan. As he swirled more water through the pan, one tiny nugget and the first of more than a dozen shiny flakes and specks of gold began to appear from beneath the sand, causing a ripple of excitement among club members.
"Is this good?" McAfee asked.
"It's great!" said Smoot, who indicated he would have been happy with finding a few specks of flour gold. "I'm really surprised," said Kessler.
"I found gold, got wet and found out what a highbanker was ... in a sweet slice of Almost Heaven, West Virginia," McAfee said, as videographers and a sound technician gathered around the gold panning area for a parting shot. "And Larry, if I can be anything like you when I grow up, I'm there."
"You'd better keep on with those Colts," Floyd replied. "They need all the help they can get, don't they?"
"They sure do," McAfee agreed.
Patrick said shooting for "Pat McAfee's Reality Road Trip" wraps up at the end of March, with a stop in a bologna factory in the host's hometown of Pittsburgh.
The show will be shopped to television outlets, and it should be known in about one month where, or if, the program will eventually appear.
Smoot said he hopes the "Road Trip" segment will get more people interested in joining the West Virginia Gold Prospectors, or other GPAA clubs that have recently formed in Mason County and Craigsville. A fourth West Virginia chapter may soon emerge in the state's Eastern Panhandle, he said. He said the national GPAA includes 900 members from West Virginia.
Currently, the nearest GPAA-leased prospecting properties are three sites in Ohio. Some West Virginia recreational gold prospectors also pursue their hobby in North Carolina, where non-motorized prospecting is legal in some national forests and privately owned pay-to-prospect sites are available.
"We're interested in helping people learn the legal, proper ways to prospect," Smoot said. He said he also hopes to work with state officials to clarify what constitutes legal recreational gold prospecting in West Virginia.
While gold prices are at near-record highs -- $1,658 per ounce on Thursday -- recreational prospecting is not likely to make anyone rich, Smoot said.
Everyone hopes to find a big nugget some day, but "it's more about being involved in a family oriented activity where you get out and camp and cook out and spend time with your friends," he said.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.