Meet the B.C. man who’s turned panning for gold into a social media jackpot

A B.C. man has struck social media gold by filming himself partaking in one of the province’s most historic activities.

Paul Larouche, known on YouTube as “PioneerPauly,” has built himself an online following of more than 222,000 subscribers in just a few years panning for gold.

“The feeling is indescribable. It’s finding nature’s jewelry out in nature. To find something so shiny in the dirty earth,” Larouche told Global News, Friday.

“The cure to gold fever is really just to keep finding more gold.”

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Larouche, who describes himself as a treasure hunter, discovered his passion for sifting soil for fragments of treasure by accident.

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The 29-year-old Sooke resident used to suffer from severe anxiety and depression, had trouble getting out of his house and said he couldn’t hold down a job.

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Then one day his cousin invited him out to the river to pan for gold on a whim.

“Honestly, I thought it was kind of ridiculous,” he said.

“I went out there, found my first piece of gold, and from there I was addicted.”

It wasn’t long before Larouche was filming his adventures and uploading them to the web.

He says the response has been overwhelming, both from other amateur treasure hunters and those who can’t make their way into the wild.

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“People fell in love with what I was doing,” he said.

“I’m getting emails where people say they are following me because they can’t get to the places where I can go, or they have a mental or physical disability, which I can completely relate to.

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“It makes me feel like I’m giving everyone else a second chance because now they can live vicariously through me.”

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Not every trip to the river is a success, though.

For every prize nugget or flake of gold, Larouche said he’s found dozens of old nails or pieces of garbage.

But while the quest to strike it rich is always there, he said he’s already found what he’s looking for: a chance to connect with others, and with himself.

“You kind of just bring yourself down to the moment where you’re alone at the river, listening to nature, nothing on your mind,” he said.

“It’s amazing.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.