Former Agassiz DJ turned prospector finds treasure, renewed life in Lillooet

Renegade Prospectors co-founders Rick Curiston and Tina Francis pose near Cayoosh Creek. Former Agassiz resident Curiston recently celebrated one year sober from alcohol and eight years drug-free, loving his new lease on life, family and their love for treasure hunting. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)Renegade Prospectors co-founders Rick Curiston and Tina Francis pose near Cayoosh Creek. Former Agassiz resident Curiston recently celebrated one year sober from alcohol and eight years drug-free, loving his new lease on life, family and their love for treasure hunting. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)
Tina Francis makes pendants out of the stones the family finds while prospecting on Cayoosh Creek. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)Tina Francis makes pendants out of the stones the family finds while prospecting on Cayoosh Creek. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)
Rick Curiston and Tina Francis pose near the water. The couple followed through on a sobriety pact and have taken up prospecting near Lillooet. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)Rick Curiston and Tina Francis pose near the water. The couple followed through on a sobriety pact and have taken up prospecting near Lillooet. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)
Rick Curiston and 4-year-old daughter Paisley sift through the dirt in search of gold in Cayoosh Creek. Curiston and his fiancee Tina Francis document their mining adventures on YouTube. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)Rick Curiston and 4-year-old daughter Paisley sift through the dirt in search of gold in Cayoosh Creek. Curiston and his fiancee Tina Francis document their mining adventures on YouTube. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)
Rick Curiston’s daughter Paisley beams as she shows off her latest find. The youngest member of Renegade Prospectors currently holds the family record for the biggest amethyst found. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)Rick Curiston’s daughter Paisley beams as she shows off her latest find. The youngest member of Renegade Prospectors currently holds the family record for the biggest amethyst found. (Contributed Photo/Tina Francis)

A man raised in Agassiz has found his calling among the rocks and clear blue waters of Cayoosh Creek.

Along his journey of sobriety after a long battle with drug and alcohol addiction, Renegade Prospectors co-founder Rick Curiston – now loving life in Lillooet – hopes to turn his prospecting passion into a new career.

Curiston’s skills in video editing and creating content he developed as a DJ spurred him on to create a YouTube channel, documenting his new-found love of small-scale mining and prospecting.

“Everyone in Agassiz would most remember me as the crazy DJ that partied all night, and I was in the festival scene for many years before COVID,” he said.

The name Renegade Prospectors is a reference to his former annual festival “Weekend Renegade.”

“I smoked crack for 11 years,” Curiston said. “I’ve been clean for eight. I found prospecting 11 months ago, and I’ve been sober for a year.”

“I’ll always be an addict, but now it’s for gold,” he added.

Curiston and his fiancee Tina Francis made a pact to get sober together and stuck to it. The Renegade Prospectors logo contains a nod to the couple’s past; the web in the dream catcher resembles the dopamine molecule. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter linked to the brain’s pleasure centre and plays a key role in the forming of habits, both good (socializing, eating properly) and bad (gambling, addiction).

READ ALSO: Local miner eyes Bear Mountain for gold

He vividly remembers the first time he found his first piece of gold while panning along Cayoosh Creek.

“Prospecting takes us to a whole new level,” Curiston said. “The high I got from seeing that [first piece of gold] – shake [the pan] back, and bang! There it was. I jumped right up and yelped.”

Curiston hopes to incorporate parts of his First Nations ancestry in his YouTube channel – also named Renegade Prospectors – speaking on local legends in addition to showcasing his prospecting finds. He hopes to turn his channel and his hobby prospecting into a career.

Prospecting, hobby mining and panning for gold is the trendy new hobby in the Cayoosh Creek area, according to Curiston.

“It’s booming right now because of COVID; we’ve bumped into a lot of people, all newbies,” he said. “There’s nothing else to do!”

After seeing Curiston and Francis’s success, the couple’s received private messages across social media looking for their expertise in the hobby.

Agate seems to be their most common find.

“It’s huge on agate,” Curiston said of the Cayoosh Creek area. Agate is a volcanic rock that melds chalcedony and quartz.

Prior to venturing out, Curiston looks for irregularities and coloration in the land using Google Earth to help him determine where to look next.

“We haven’t found ‘nothing’ yet. Every time, it works,” Curiston said.

Then, off he goes treasure hunting with Francis, 4-year-old daughter Paisley and loyal canine friend Biscuit.

“[Paisley] even has her own hat, vest, gear and tools for digging agates and amethyst,” Curiston said. “She’s still the holder of the best purple piece of amethyst to date! Due to her being so close to the ground, she finds the really nice stuff.”

READ ALSO: B.C. museum receives donation of 52-million-year-old fossils

Among their biggest hauls is a 35-pound piece of agate and amethyst chunks the size of Curiston’s fist. He described the first amethyst find as a “pocket glowing with purple inside.”

“That was it, all high fives,” he recalled. “We started chiseling; it’s took two and a half hours to get it out of super hard, hard rock. It was super, super dense rock, but it was very worth it.”

Francis is enrolled in online schooling for business skills and has been working on building blogs. She crafts pendants – doing everything from polishing to cutting gems to assembling the pendants themselves – from the agate they find while prospecting and has sold a few already to friends and family.

When they’re not treasure hunting, the family likes to fish for trout and hike, exploring familiar trails, relics and old mining sites possibly hearkening back to the days of the Cayoosh Creek Gold Rush in the late 1800s.

Curiston and Francis have been posting videos since late August on YouTube, garnering just under 40 subscribers so far. Their Facebook page is more active with more than 100 followers as of publication; the page features photos of their finds, video briefs out in the field and articles about mining and prospecting. They have also set up a Patreon page for those who want to support their work and content.

“Thanks to those who have helped me, guided me into the world of prospecting and who have supported me along the way,” Curiston wrote on Facebook at the one year sober mark. “I appreciate every one of you. Life has changed a lot in the past few years and I’m so happy I can live every day now, clean and sober.”


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
news@ahobserver.com


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

AgassizFirst Nationsmining

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

49th parallel was an early adopter of Plexiglas shields, and required staff to wear face masks. (49th Parallel photo)
49th Parallel continues to grow in spite of pandemic

The biggest challenge of the pandemic has been keeping shelves stocked at 49th Parallel stores

Freighter anchored off Kin Beach in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
MacGregor to host expert panel for virtual town hall on freighter anchorages issue

Residents can participate through MP’s website or Facebook page Dec. 3

Homes ranging from $400,000 to $700,000 are the fastest sellers. (File photo)
High demand and low inventory drive a competitive housing market in Ladysmith

VIREB’s Susan Perrey said buyers are looking to take advantage of low interest rates

École North Oyster. (Black Press file)
With more student drop-offs during pandemic, SD68 examines safety outside North Oyster school

Fewer school bus trips and more cars accentuating traffic concerns, say school district staff

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read