North Side joggers and lakefront dog walkers got all the media attention Tuesday when, for a brief few hours, winter eased its icy grip on Chicago.
And that’s just fine with Chris Gros, treasure hunter.
I spotted the out–of-work union ironworker at a South Side beach. He was shin-deep in icy water, dragging a metal detector along the sandy bottom hoping to strike gold — silver, too.
For Gros, the break in the weather created the perfect conditions for his search.
“When ice on the beach melted it pulled up sand exposing the beach bottom and that’s where you find the good stuff,” he said while lighting a smoke. “I really don’t want anyone to know that I’m here. So, you know, it’s best if you don’t give up my spot.”
Gros has been hunting for treasure in Chicago parks and beaches for about three years — and he’s found some pretty cool stuff. He has uncovered golden coins and a rare Canadian dime worth about 50 bucks. A few weeks back scored a cluster diamond ring.
“Last year, I found 424 pieces of silver including 377 silver coins and quite a few silver rings,” he said. “But that was a lot of hunting. I’ve been laid off. It’s pretty slow in my line of work.”
On Tuesday, he pulled about 2 pounds of metal from the beach bottom.
“A lot of it, most of it, is junk. Bobby pins, nails. Garbage,” Gros said. “But it turned out to be a pretty damn good day. The conditions were perfect.”
He scored a sterling silver bracelet, two mercury dimes, a silver cross pendant, a gold men’s ring, a silver-plated medallion and a Victorian-era silver ring with topaz and sapphire stones.
“The Victorian ring could be something really special,” he said.
The rest of the haul, Gros figures, is probably worth about $60 — not a bad take for a January afternoon at the beach.
On Wednesday, Gros headed back to the waterfront for one last hunt before Old Man Winter makes his inevitable return to ruin all his fun.