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

The District of Stewart has adopted a strategic plan for 2020/21 with six focus areas. (District of Stewart/Facebook)
Stewart adopts 2020 strategic plan

Economy, community areas of focus

Kendra Willems, seen here Nov. 5, created a Facebook page to help facilitate social supports such as clothing donations in an informal manner that supplements existing supports and charities. (Jake Wray/Terrace Standard)
Skeena Voices | ‘We could all use that kind of goodness’

Kendra Willems, new to Terrace, founds charitable Facebook page

Firefighters work to cool a semi truck engine that caught fire at the corner of Eby St. and Hwy 16 around 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 26
Semi truck engine catches fire in Terrace

Hwy 16 briefly closed between Sande Overpass and Eby St.

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross at his swearing in on Thursday (Nov. 26), with his wife, Tracey, left, mother, Frieda, and grandson, Parker. (Ellis Ross photo)
Ellis Ross sworn in as Skeena MLA

Ceremonies happening virtually rather than all in-person in Victoria

(Dave Landine/Facebook)
VIDEO: Dashcam captures head-on crash between snowplow and truck on northern B.C. highway

Driver posted to social media that he walked away largely unscathed

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

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
B.C. care home looks to hire residents’ family members amid COVID-19-related staff shortage

Family would get paid as temporary workers, while having chance to see loved ones while wearing PPE

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

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

More than 60 cm of snow has fallen at Ulkatcho First Nation near Anahim Lake in the Chilcotin since a snowfall warning went into effect Thursday, Nov. 26. (Graham West photo)
VIDEO: More than 60 cm of snowfall in Chilcotin since Thursday, Nov. 26

Graham West of Ulkatcho First Nation captures the scene on video

Most Read