The majority of the individuals scouring grassy fields near where James Marshall found a piece of gold in 1848, or running metal detectors around canoes on the banks of the American River, did not sign on with the scientists, sticking to a prospector's creed of each-for-his-own and finders keepers. The scientists got 30 volunteers.
Derek Sears, a NASA research scientist and editor of Meteorite magazine, led a for-research group that included George Cooper, a NASA expert in analyzing organic compounds in meteorites, and volunteers Collin Wadley, 12, and his father, Lee, up a steep red-earth trail framed in wildflowers.
"A large piece is out here somewhere," said Sears. "I get goose bumps just thinking about it. We know so much about meteorites but understand so little. They can pull water from space. They may have formed the oceans. They may have seeded life.
"If nothing else, they are a witness ... to when the solar system was first formed."
Earlier in the morning, Sears had encouraged Salveson to ensure that her meteorite goes to science.
"We're paupers, but what can I do to get that meteorite for research?" he asked.
Sears, with a British accent and in a crisp blue shirt, was standing next to Michael Farmer, a commercial meteorite hunter in camouflage and need of a shower. He's the sometimes partner of Ward, the meteorite dealer. They once spent two months in prison in Oman, charged with smuggling meteorites.
"Did my friend with the CIA contacts reach you?" Farmer asked Salveson. "He has a lot of resources. He can pay."
A person's universe can sometimes shift swiftly. Salveson's week went from hoping to get caught up on laundry to having long talks with NASA and offers in the tens of thousands of dollars for the meteorite.
She pointed out that the town of Rescue was named by a man who found a piece of gold that "rescued" his family. But she hasn't decided what she will do yet.
"I went from first hearing how much money it was worth to finding out the awe of it. I'm amazed at the journey it's taken to fall to Earth before I picked it up," she said.
"I'm glad I found it. But I'm also just glad it was found. It's an astonishing thing."