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Grawin, Glengarry, and Sheepyard Opal Fields.

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Rockhound stories,field trip reports,regular postings — Gary December 5, 2011 @ 5:37 pm

I bumped into Steven and asked him if he would like to talk about the opal fields near his home.  He submitted this article and pictures.

Hi Gary,
Here is the brief history and present day story about Grawin, Glengarry, and Sheepyard Opal Fields.
Cheers
Steven

The Sheepyard opal field is located approximately 75km west of Lightning Ridge, NSW and forms part of a triangle of opal fields consisting of Grawin, Glengarry and Sheepyard
Opal was first discovered at Glengarry in 1905 by Mr Charles Phipp who was working on Morendah Station at the time, but little mining was done there. The Grawin was established in 1908 with the discovery of the opal at “Hammond Hill”. Further discoveries in 1920 at “Richards Hill” put the unofficial village on the map. Since the first discovery of opal in the region, people have come and gone in tides with each new strike, seeking their fortune in search of the rainbow in the rock. At the time mining was done by candle light with a hand pick and the waste was removed by shovel and bucket and wound up by hand with a wooden windlass. In 1928 an opal weighing almost 450g, and the size of a man’s fist was found at Richards Hill and caused a rush of men to this field. The opal was named “The Light of the Worlds” and is still the best known opal from this area. After the Second World War things began to get more mechanical with the electric generator for light and motorised hoisting gear to make the removal of waste quicker and a bit less like slave labour. Then came the electric jackhammer and the amount of dirt that could be removed increased and the bucket was replaced by wheelbarrows and all sort of inventions to make the job better for the miner and in turn caused an increase in the number of people who came to have a go. The next major rush was started on Melbourne Cup Day in 1985 when the Sheepyard Rush was found. The Sheepyard area was named after a stumble on of opal near the fence of the old Sheepyard. By now the piles of dirt were starting to fill the landscape and this lead to the Short Throw self tipping hoist and tip trucks to remove waste. This led to the invention of the rickshaw to wheel waste to the hoist bucket. By the time the 90′s came along a new rush called Carters Rush had started and Blowers (Giant Vacuum Cleaners) were in use as well as underground hydraulic diggers and mini loaders and as many different inventions as there are miners are now being used in search of the thing that all miners, young and old lust after, “The Rainbow in a Rock”

Prospecting_with_drill

Prospecting_with_drill

Opal

Opal

Although mining at Glengarry was also going on for some time it was not until about 1970 when a find of some very good opal was made that Glengarry became the new “Hot Spot.” The Mulga Rush, which began in 2000, is the biggest opal rush since the Coocoran was discovered in the early 1900′s.

Mulga Rush (Dusty)

Mulga Rush (Dusty)

The opal fields of Glengarry, Sheepyard, and Grawin. These towns are accessed via the small village of Cumborah. The roadway between Lightning Ridge and Cumborah is now fully bitumen and is bitumen to the Grawin turnoff. This makes it easier to tow the caravan out to the field. (This section is flooded now; you have to take a 30km dirt road detour!) Mining area roads are gravel in reasonable condition and driven at the right speed, are suitable for caravans and the like.

Mulga_Rush_fossickers

Mulga Rush fossickers

You can also fossick in the gravel pits nearby Comborah. Another 17 km along in a north westerly direction will bring you to the Grawin field. You can fuel up here and also get basic provisions. From here it is another 7 km to the Glengarry field where there is a pub and a golf club. Sheepyard is accessed from Glengarry and is the youngest of the fields.

Glengarry_Hilton_Opal_Bar

Glengarry_Hilton_Opal_Bar

Glengarry_Hilton_opal_Chat

Glengarry_Hilton_opal_Chat

Glengarry_opal_field

Glengarry_opal_field

Glengarry-opal-field

Glengarry-opal-field

Glengarry Hilton is the oldest pub on the Opal Fields and can be a great place to grab some lunch or a cold drink after your hard work driving and fossicking. You can grab lunch there from 12to 2pm daily and dinner is from 6 to 8pm every day. There are showers, toilets, and even backpacker accommodation if you are too tired to drive any further. If you manage to catch any yabbies in their dam they will even cook them up for you. There are locally produced arts and crafts for sale opposite. You can go fossicking at the famous Mulga Rush heaps for a day in another world…Noodling on the dumps is an interesting experience and can be rewarding. It’s fair to say that it can be hard work if you make it so, but there’s a lot of dirt between the good stones. The temps in summer can rise to 40 to 50 degrees Celsius. The opal fields of Glengarry, Sheepyard, and Grawin said to be like Lightning Ridge of 70-80 years ago, great opportunities to see opal mining operations and miners’ camps. Meets the locals on the final frontier of high hopes, tall tales and long beards, see the frontier-style opal field life.
The area is adjacent to the Sheepyard Pub available to campers and as tourists/fossickers in the area.

sheepyard_inn

sheepyard_inn

showers

showers

sheepyard_opal_field

sheepyard_opal_field

Sheepyard-Opal-Field

Sheepyard-Opal-Field

Showers and toilets outside the pub give ready access for those camping. While the toilets are typical of those in the outback areas, the male and female showers are very functional. You need to gather your own wood, which is abundant in the area, and light the chip heater which heats the water very quickly. After the dusty dumps, the shower is much appreciated. The cost for the shower is $2 as the water has to be purchased by the pub owners and transported in, this is a fair price. There is no charge for camping. Of course, being near the pub had other benefits. Mobil phone coverage, satellite TV in the pub and a cold drink if you needed one. You need to supply your own power and gather firewood for a campfire as you would in any other free camp.
The Sheepyard Pub has an active role in the mining community and is a meeting place for the community. A theme that runs within the pub and the community is respect for our ex service men and women. Visited ex service people are invited to sign their names on whiteboards, which are displayed throughout the pub along with armed service and Australian flags. The Memorial Committee along with the Walgett RSL has constructed a War Memorial honouring those serving in all wars.

Grawin_opal_field_old_camp

Grawin_opal_field_old_camp

Grawin_opal_field

Grawin_opal_field

Grawin General Store, next to the “Club in the Scrub”. The Store has a very good range of groceries and supplies suitable for the mining area and fuel is also available there. The “Club in the Scrub” is an outback pub and is the Golf Club headquarters. The golf course looks quite challenging with its sands crape greens. A toilet is available for camper’s use but for all other items you need to be self sufficient. Mobil telephone contact can made, otherwise a public telephone is available near the store.

Amateur Fossil Hunting

Filed under: NEW- fossils,Video,field trip reports — Gary December 3, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

Check out this new amateur fossil hunting site.  They plan on giving RockHoundBlog a field trip report every time they go on an expedition.  Check out their site!   Can’t wait to read what they send me.   Check out the fossil videos at bottom of article!

www.ukafh.co.uk

UKAFH

UKAFH

UKAFH is an amateur fossil hunting group formed in October 2010, founded by Craig Chapman and Rob Allen from Kettering, Northamptonshire.

Craig and Rob

Craig and Rob

With a keen interest in fossils and the prehistoric world Craig and Rob took an Open University degree in ‘Fossils and History of life’. They decided to attempt a couple of hunts in their local area to see what they could find. The first hunt was in April 2010 at Tywell Hills and Dales in Cranford, Northamptonshire. They began to search for other sites in the area but realised that there was not much information available for enthusiasts.

After some discussion they decided to create a website (www.ukafh.co.uk) with the aim of meeting other people with the same interest and provide somewhere for people to share their knowledge, experience, thoughts and opinions. So finally KAFH (Kettering amateur fossil hunters) was born. Aidan Philpott joined UKAFH in November 2010 – he helped develop the UKAFH forum and developed a strong friendship with Craig and Rob. Craig and Rob decided to promote Aidan to co-head of UKAFH.

Kettering amateur fossil hunters

Kettering amateur fossil hunters

In September 2011 – after celebrating its first birthday – KAFH became UKAFH (United Kingdom Amateur Fossil Hunters) as the group had swelled beyond the realm of Kettering and become far more of an international affair involving members around the world and regular hunts organised across the UK.

UKAFH are not only an online group but fossil hunts are regularly organised with all members invited to join in. We have been to many sites including the Isle of Sheppey, Kings Dyke, Wrens Nest, Charmouth, Irchester Country Park, Grafham Water, Yaxley, Aust and and Tywell Hills and Dales. On these hunts we have found Reptile remains, sharks teeth, vertebra, seeds and plant remains, ammonites, trilobites, fossilised wood, coral, coprolite and lots more.

fossils

Reptile remains, sharks teeth, vertebra, seeds and plant remains, ammonites, trilobites, fossilised wood, coral, coprolite and lots more.

In October, we held our first UKAFH Weekender on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. This was great fun and highly productive, consisting of campsite merriment combined with two days of hunting the London Clays.

UKAFH has become an social community and educational resource for young and not so young alike – not only are we an expanding online community, we also host monthly fossil hunts and we have been into schools and local community groups with our museum grade collections to discuss and explore fossiling and prehistory with an informal, fun and interactive approach.

finding fossils

finding fossils


All with an interest – whatever age, experience, background, belief, geography, beginner, amateur or professional are welcome to join.

Montana/Idaho RockHounding Trip

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens,Rockhound Travel,Rockhound stories,field trip reports — Gary September 1, 2011 @ 10:54 am
Hi Gary,
The article for my Montana/Idaho trip is attached.  I look forward to seeing it on your blog. Thanks!
Jim
Thanks Jim for submitting!  Here it is!
Montana/ Idaho Adventure
June 1st – 12th, 2011

Hi Everyone!

Our big adventure of the summer was a trip to Montana and Idaho. I had planned this trip for 2010 but scheduling problems forced us to postpone it. This time everything fell in place, and our trip was on! My wife Litha took detailed notes along the way.

June 1st

We left at 7:30am on a warm Wednesday morning, and drove all the way to our first campground near a lake which turned out to be a mosquito nightmare. We spent about two hours killing the little vampires inside the van before we could get some sleep.

June 2nd

The next morning we drove into Wisconsin where a deer almost darted in front of our van, but wisely turned at the last minute. There was lots of road construction in Duluth, and I decided to take US2 to 200 west which seemed like a much more peaceful drive than through the Minneapolis area. We drove through the north woods of Minnesota, and on through Fargo all the way to Bismarck, North Dakota, where the campground I had planned to stay in was right next to the now flooding Missouri River. We found a hotel for the night instead.

June 3rd

I told Litha that this would be a ‘day of wows’. Neither of us had ever been to the Rocky Mountains, and today we would see them for the first time. West of Bismarck we started seeing the buttes that the west is so well known for. Driving in western North Dakota the buttes continued until at one point the road curved and the amazing badlands formation of the Painted Canyon opened up before us. We couldn’t help but stop at the National Park overlook area and get some pictures. This area was in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
NOW we knew we were out west!

On into Montana where the road passed the Yellowstone River, known for its Montana Agates. You could tell the river was much higher than normal. Trees don’t normally grow in the river like that. Here the hills started looking more like mountains until just a little way west of Billings we had our next ‘wow’ moment. The snowcapped Beartooth mountain range came into view.

snowcapped Beartooth mountain range

snowcapped Beartooth mountain range

Our campground for the night was about 50 miles east of Butte, called the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. Another beautiful area surrounded by low mountains with a river, train track, and lots of cattle.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
June 4th

The morning sun warmed the eastern side of the mountains.

Eastern side of the mountains
Eastern side of the mountains

We drove on past Butte and over the continental divide at an elevation of 6393ft for the first time. On into north west Montana toward the Idaho panhandle. Lots of snow capped mountains. Near the Idaho border we stopped at a rest area, had lunch and fed some very tame prairie dogs (at least I think that’s what they were).

Near the Idaho border

Near the Idaho border

Practiced the art of downshifting on the long steep “Lookout Pass”. Saw signs for a street fair in Wallace, Idaho and stopped to walk the town. Beautiful historic little mining town.

Beautiful historic little mining town.

Beautiful historic little mining town.

After shopping around for an hour or so we moved on and found State Highway 3, “White Pine Scenic Byway” which is an adventure in itself; lots of blind curves, hills, steep grades, lakes, and even an area called ‘Hell’s Gulch’. This two lane highway led through Fernwood to the logging road to the Emerald Creek Garnet area.

Much of this logging road was washboard bumpy, and I got a bit concerned about the van being rattled to bits this far from home.

We got our site at the Garnet Creek campground and then drove down to the parking area for the collecting spot. We were surprised to see spanish moss hanging from the fir trees and realized that this must be a temperate rainforest.

Garnet Creek campground

Garnet Creek campground

I knew it was a little late in the day to start sluicing for Garnets, but I wanted to go up and get acquainted with the place, so we walked up the road which is gated making it a foot path only, stopping once to catch our breath, and met the young forest service people who were running the sluicing area that day. I saw the big stock pile of yellow sandy clay that the Garnets are found in; and checked out the sluicing area. It looked pretty simple, and I was eager to get started the next morning. We returned to our mosquito infested campsite, where I found a stack of firewood a previous camper had left, but recent rains had made everything wet. I had a heck of a time getting a fire started to cook dinner. Eventually, with dinner finished we escaped back into the van to get away from the little bloodsucking monsters.

June 5th

We were awoken early by some little critter chewing on the van. I stepped out to scare it away but never saw what it was. We had breakfast and drove down the bumpy road to the parking area.

Emerald Creek Garnet Area

Emerald Creek Garnet Area

We hiked downhill from the parking area for about an hour. Trilliums and trout lilies were blooming, and spanish moss hung in the cedar and fir trees. We returned just in time for the sluicing area to open up and took the half mile uphill road to the check-in area. The forest service staff were friendly and helpful, and in no time we were sluicing like pros. Here’s a picture Litha took of me in the sifting area.

Here's a picture Litha took of me in the sifting area.

Here's a picture Litha took of me in the sifting area.

You can see the clay stock pile on the right, and the sluices on the hillside at the left. We sluiced through the morning and returned to the van for lunch, then
hiked back up and continued. Fill up your buckets, sift, sluice, dump your tailings in the proper spot and repeat. We were told that this was a slow day, but at times people were elbow to elbow at the sluices. I met a nice guy named Harlan, told him our next stop was Gem Mountain in Montana, and he showed us a typical Sapphire you might find there. He had just been there the week before. He told us about hunting for Sunstones in Oregon, and even gave me a little Sunstone he had with him. I continued sluicing until about 4:00 when my back decided it was time to quit. Between us, we found 13 ounces of Garnets that day and found at least one ‘woo hoo’ as Harlan would say.

Emerald Creek Garnets

Emerald Creek Garnets

Our plan was to return for a second day of sluicing, but my back would be the judge of that. At camp I found some drier firewood and made a decent cooking fire. The mosquitoes soon drove us inside for the night.

June 6th

We woke again to the sound of a critter chewing on the van, and I got a bit concerned. If whatever it was chewed on the wrong wire we could be in trouble. That and my sore back made me decide to head back toward Montana, but first we would make another stop in Wallace. On the way from the campground to hwy 3 I stopped to get a picture of this blue flower I later would learn is called a Camas Lily.

Lily

Lily

Back in Wallace, we got some groceries and found a laundromat to do some washing up, and while the loads were running we shopped around town. Wallace is right in the middle of silver mining territory, and there was an investment office that sold silver stock and other investments called Pennaluna & Co.

Investment office that sold silver stock and other investments called Pennaluna & Co.

They had silver ore samples in the window for sale, and being a silver lover, I couldn’t help but go in and get a few specimens.

Silver Ore

Silver Ore

Silver Ore Lucky Friday Mine

Silver Ore Lucky Friday Mine

He even sold me a vintage mine stock paper he had in the window.

While in town I found a t-shirt for the local school sports team, the “Wallace Miners”, and at an antique shop I found a nice antique miners lamp for my collection. When the laundry was done we headed back to Montana. Lookout Pass with its long uphill slope gave all six cylinders in my van a work out. Lots more road construction. One thing we noticed was that just about any gas or fueling station in Montana has a casino of sorts. Still some wild in the west…

From expressway 90 we turned south on hwy 1 toward Philipsburg, and on the way we saw a unique sight. This area, like most of Montana, is cattle land, and in one village there was a dead tree COVERED in cow skulls. I wish we had taken a picture.

In Philipsburg we stopped at the Gem Mountain shop and got directions to the mine, and we were told there was free camping right at the mine. We bought some dry firewood in town and drove the 17 or so miles into the mountains to the mine. On the way we had one of our best wildlife sightings of the trip. Right on the steep cliff beside the road we saw this Bighorn sheep.

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It looked like it had found a spot in the cliff that had some tasty minerals. We moved on and found the drive to Gem Mountain mine.

Gem Mountain mine

Gem Mountain mine

We picked out a campsite and I started to prepare a fire for dinner, when a very talkative older couple from Washington came over and introduced themselves. Long story short, we now have new Christmas card trading friends. Eventually we were able to get some dinner and retire for the night.

June 7th

We were up early and running low on good water, so we drove back into Philipsburg and found a grocery store, and did some shopping in town. We stopped at Opal Mountain Gems and talked to the guy in there. I bought a couple bags of potential Sapphire gravel from him. I mentioned that we would be going to Spencer, Idaho for opal, and he knew the town well and suggested the best places to shop. After that we drove back to the mine and got our introduction in sluicing for Sapphires.

Sluicing for Sapphires

Sluicing for Sapphires

I caught on quickly and soon we were finding several nice small corundum and sapphire gem stones in each screen. I also found one lime green stone I was told is called Limetite, and decided to keep it.

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

At one point on this cold rainy day, a bus load of lucky school kids pulled in and they all got their chance to sift for Sapphires. After sifting two buckets we had found four small vials of Sapphires and other corundum. When finished, we drove back into town to the Gem Mountain shop and found a sweatshirt my size, and then took hwy 1 southwest through a winding mountain pass with steep cliffs, and then on to the city of Anaconda, where we found a Subway and got our dinner. This town is a story in itself with a huge mine including a giant smoke stack and great architecture down town.

From there we connected back up with expressway 90, and then south to 15 which would take us down to the eastern part of Idaho, and the Opal town of Spencer. On expressway 15 we stopped at a rest area to eat our subs where we saw a sign about the history of that part of the country.

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The sign reads:
“Along in the 1840s the Americans were like they are now, seething to go somewhere. It got around that Oregon was quite a place. The Iowa people hadn’t located California yet. A wagon train pulled out across the plains and made it to Oregon. Then everyone broke out in a rash to be going west.
They packed their Prairie Schooners with their household goods, Gods, and garden tools. Outside of Indians, prairie fires, cholera, famine, cyclones, cloud bursts, quicksand, snow slides, and blizzards, they had a tolerably blithe and gay trip.
When gold was found in Montana some of them forked off from the main highway and surged along this trail aiming to reach the rainbow’s end. It was mostly one way traffic, but if they did meet a back tracking outfit there was plenty of room to turn out.”

After eating dinner we continued south past Dillon, and north west of Monida we must have been climbing in elevation because there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground. Garfield Mountain and the Lima peaks were beautiful, classic snow capped visions of what you expect from mountains in the west.

After re-entering Idaho we found the Targhee National Forest and Stoddard Creek Campground with its fantastic valley scenery. It rained throughout the night.

June 8th

After breakfast we drove into the small town of Spencer, and following the advice we got in Philipsburg, stopped at the first rock shop on the right called “Hot Rocks” where I found a type of Opal called ‘Ice Cream Opal’, white with swirls of pink, which should make some very nice cabs. I also found a couple of Opals with some thin layers of fire, some blue agate from Montana, and an unnamed type of picture Jasper. We moved on to the Spencer Opal Mine and Cafe and tried our luck digging in their stockpile without much luck. I found one small piece with a little fire. Next we moved up the street to the Opal Mountain Mine owned by Bob and Susan Thompson, who are trying to sell their shop and mine. There I bought a jar of pre-lapped rough Opal, each stone showing really nice fire. I’ve also learned how difficult it is to photograph the fire of a good Opal. Here are my best attempts.

Opal Mountain Mine

Opal Mountain Mine

I also got some quartz caps for the future triplets I intend to make.

From there we went to the south side of town to High Country Opal ‘The Opal Store’ and bought a nice specimen with many layers of fire.

Unfortunately none of the Opal mines in town currently allow digging at the actual mine, so after that we drove back to Dillon, Montana for some lunch, where we decided to drive up into the mountains and give Crystal Park a try. Crystal Park lies along the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway, south of Wise River, Montana. It is operated by the National Forest Service, and during the summer months there is a minimal fee to use the parking area. I had been warned ahead of time that even in early summer you might encounter snow at the park. At an elevation of 7,800ft the snow can last quite a while. Up and up we drove, seeing more snow as we went. Wonderful mountain landscapes! Eventually we located the park, but there was about two feet of snow blocking the entrance to the parking area! Still, there was enough room to pull off the road, so I decided to give it a try.

Crystal Park

Crystal Park

Crystal Park lies along the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway, south of Wise River, Montana

We walked into the park, over slippery ice covered snow drifts. Breathing is noticeably more difficult at that elevation, and for us lowlanders it can be hard to catch your breath even standing still. I found a likely spot where someone had started a hole and dug into the wall.

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I must have spent a couple of hours digging in that spot and found a few nice crystals including one very nice little scepter.

Quartz crystals

Quartz Crystals

The day was getting on, so we left to find a campsite, intending to do some more serious digging the next day. That night it rained most of the night, but early in the morning the rain stopped tapping on the top of our van, so I had my hopes up about the coming dig…. until I stuck my head out of the sleeping bag. It was COLD. I got up to start up the van for some heat and got a shock looking outside. The rain had just turned to snow, heavy snow!
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This changed everything. I didn’t intend to get stranded up in the mountains during a snow storm, so we quickly ate breakfast and, as much as I hated to leave, got the heck out of there. Here’s what the road looked like going north to Wise River.

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By the time we got down to the elevation of Wise River the snow had changed to rain, and it was time to make new plans. While researching the 2010 trip that didn’t happen, I looked for other Sapphire mines in Montana, and one place I found was the Spokane Sapphire Mine near the state capitol of Helena. Going on two year old memories, this was my next planned stop. After a bit of searching I located the sign that led to the mine.

Going on two year old memories, this was my next planned stop. After a bit of searching I located the sign that led to the mine.

Going on two year old memories, this was my next planned stop. After a bit of searching I located the sign that led to the mine.

Spokane Sapphire Mine near the state capitol of Helena.

Spokane Sapphire Mine near the state capitol of Helena.

Here they sell different grades of Sapphire gravel starting at $75.00, so we bought the cheap one and began sifting our gravel.

 began sifting our gravel

began sifting our gravel

It was a cold, raw, windy day and I only had the tolerance to sift one bag of gravel, but we found a few nice Sapphires. When finished, the attendant inside separated out the best faceting grade stones, pictured here.

Sapphires

Sapphires

… and the rest of the Corundum and Sapphires we found.

... and the rest of the Corundum and Sapphires we found.

... and the rest of the Corundum and Sapphires we found.

At this mine there is always a slim chance of finding gold nuggets in your gravel, but we didn’t find any in our bag.

When we were done, we drove back into Helena and found an International House of Pancakes for lunch, one of the best meals we had on the whole trip, and then headed back in the direction of home. East of Helena we saw an antelope in a field next to the road. Outside of Billings the mountains turn to buttes and mesas. We stayed at a Sleep Inn in Billings for the night.

June 10th

We awoke to a sunny 51F degree day, and were out of Billings by 8:00am. All the rivers we crossed were over their banks. Near Forsyth we saw a hand made sign along the expressway selling agates, so I pulled off and we found the house of a very nice man named Perry. He had literally tons of Montana agates filling old bath tubs and around some small buildings. I found a small box of pre-cut agate slabs and bought them from him.

Here are some of the nicer ones I’ve found in the box so far.

Montana agates

Montana agates

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He also had a few antiques for sale, and I found a few interesting pieces, including an old 1950s bug sprayer made in Saranac, Michigan that wanted to come back to home with me. We thanked Perry and headed back east.

When we first came west through Montana, we saw a sign for the Glendive Dinosaur Museum and decided that if we had time we would stop, so on our way back east we stopped to check it out. It turns out to not be a real scientific museum at all, but I will save that discussion for another time and place…

At 1:47pm we passed back into North Dakota, and stopped again at Painted Canyon for t shirts and photos, and right in the grassy area in the parking lot there were two beautiful Bison resting in the grass, and I got this great picture out the window of the van.

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These wild beauties can get up to 2,000 pounds and sprint 3 times faster than a human. NEVER approach one on foot!

Driving through Bismarck Litha snapped a quick photo as we drove over the now flooding Missouri River.

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My outdated road atlas showed a campground at Lake George, near Medina, so we turned off to find it, but its not there anymore. Driving back to the expressway a Fox crossed the road in front of us, being chased by a Deer! LOL!

We drove on to Jamestown and checked into a Holiday Inn Express and ate dinner at the neighboring Pizza Ranch; good food and a great hotel to rest for the night.

June 11th

East of Jamestown there were no more buttes, just flat agricultural land with lots of standing water. We were back in Moorehead, Minnesota by 9:56am, and stopped at a nice park in Nevis to eat lunch. It was a lakefront park with a changing house and playground from the 1950s. There were even some hardy folks swimming in this cool weather (it was only 62F degrees out). At 3:17 pm we passed through Duluth and over the bridge into Wisconsin. In Wisconsin we stopped at two antique shops to hunt for goodies. Next we stopped at a Subway for dinner, and an A&W drive-in for rootbeer floats. We made it back into Michigan to our campground by the lake I’ll refer to as Mosquito Hell. This time I was ready for them and not so many followed me into the van when paying the camping fee.

June 12th

We awoke to cold temps in the 40s, with the Mosquitoes still active outside the van and left at 7:15am.  Along US2 we saw a Coyote, and with no traffic behind us, I slowed down. The little guy co-operated for a photo shoot.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_1011c.jpg

We were over the Mackinaw Bridge and back to our ‘palm of the mitten’ home by 7:30pm. I drove 4,664 miles and we experienced some less than perfect weather, but had no serious problems with the van, and did everything we had intended and then some. It was a trip Litha and I will always remember.

Thanks for checking out my report!

Jim Adams

Humboldt Coast Rockhounding. Agate Beach and Trinidad Beach Jasper

I bumped into Stephan and asked him if he would let me put his adventure on my blog.  Here it is…enjoy !!!

Northern_California

Northern_California

Vacation on the Humboldt Coast, August 2011

Patrick's Point/Agate Beach

This year, for our vacation, my son, Justin, and I decided to explore a portion of the Humboldt Coast. The siren songs of Agate Beach and Trinidad Beach jasper have been in our ears for some time now. Additionally, a dear friend and fellow photographer has been extolling Trinidad’s virtues ever since I have mentioned a desire to visit. Her pictures of the area certainly piqued my interest further….

For my pictures, please see:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/36618387@N06/sets/72157627474355616/

08.12.11:

Justin returned from his mother’s house at 8:30 AM. I finished packing the car, and we (including Buddy and Buster, the wonder-wieners) were on the road by 10:15. Heading north in I-5, we were filled with excitement. In spite of the mild summer we have been experiencing in Davis, the air was hazy, and it became quickly evident that the northern valley (which does not receive the cooling Delta Breeze that we do) has not enjoyed this to the same extent. Within an hour from home, the temperatures were in the mid-90s (Davis had a forecast high of 88°F for that day), and the Coast Range, quite close to the freeway, was not clearly visible. The Sutter Buttes, also, were only visible in silhouette. When we reached Redding at 12:30, it was a sweltering 99°F, and the only thing I could see of Mount Shasta was a fuzzy outline of its snow-capped peak.

We turned west into the Trinity Alps. The three hour drive through the mountains on highway 299 was gorgeous and surprisingly hot. The temperatures hovered in the mid-to-high 90s until we were within about 10 miles of Arcata, at which point they dropped rapidly.

For lunch we stopped at Bagdad, on the Trinity River. I wanted to do a quick search for jade, but the area was designed for boat access of the river. Reaching the rocks would have required a swim.

All along the drive I saw numerous possibilities for future camping trips along the Trinity River (jade hunting kayak-trips, perhaps?). I imagine near Willow Creek will be the place, as it closer to the coast and somewhat cooler.

We arrived at about 5PM and set up camp. The campsite was nice: large and relatively private, secluded in ferns and bishop pines.

After set-up, we took a quick trek to Agate Beach (about a mile from our campsite), and found some goodies – mostly jasper.

08.13.11:

I woke up at about 6:00, mainly to the sounds of crows, ravens, Stellar’s jays, spotted owls and woodpeckers as well as a few unidentified birds. There were very few human sounds. The noisy revelers were still asleep and the early risers respected the quiet. I stayed in my sleeping bag, listening, until about 7:00, and then got up for breakfast. I realized then that I’d forgotten to bring my coffee (d’oh!), but green tea was just fine.

At 9:00, Justin woke, and had his breakfast. Afterward, we proceeded to Sumeg Village (a model Yurok village), where a program was put on by local Yuroks. A tour of the village was performed by Skip: a Yurok as well a Park Ranger, which provided an interesting perspective (and one that was more accurate than the usual anthropological approach, I imagine). We learned, for instance that Yurok houses have small round door designed to keep bears out. Yurok tools were chiefly constructed of elk horn, rather than stone. Also, since Yuroks consider all things alive and imbued with spirit, represent physical features in things they build. For instance, every Yurok canoe has structures representing a nose, heart, lungs and kidneys – the essential organs.

Following the tour, we were treated to Yurok songs and prayers to prepare us for a salmon feast. The salmon was delicious, slowly spit-roasted over a redwood charcoal pit. I even partook of what is considered a delicacy – the head, which was moist and quite delicious, particularly the cheek meat.

Well-fortified after lunch, Justin and I biked into Trinidad, about 5 miles away. This turned out to be slightly more challenging than I imagined. Although Justin and I are both avid bikers, I did not have my regular bike – a cargo bike is too large for my roof rack. Instead, I was riding Justin’s “spare” bike, which even at its tallest setting is too small for me. Unlike Davis, Trinidad actually has hills, which are quite tough to bike when your knees are nearly smacking you in the chin.

Patricks_Point_Beach_Agate

Patricks_Point_Beach_Agate

Upon returning, we headed to Agate Beach for our first serious agate hunt. We hit a beach packed with agate hunters, over half of whom were armed with “agate scoops” – essentially three-foot-long slotted spoons. Most of these were identical and presumably purchased. A few, though, were creatively home-made: one was constructed of a golf club handle and a small kitchen sieve, another of a wooden dowel and a kitty litter scoop. These folks had a distinct advantage as they were able to reach agates that were further away without diving for them. Most of these folks also seemed focused only on agates. Many had pint-sized Ziploc bags significantly filled with agates.

I, on the other hand, found two agates. This is probably due to several factors. I do not seem to have “the eye.” Many of the hunters have been coming here for years and know what to look for, and take only agates. I, on the other hand, was distracted by the amazing array of jasper and jade that can also be found (in fact, they are more plentiful than agates). Also, without a scoop, I simply could not reach many of the agates that I did spot, since they do not remain in one place for long before the next wave moves them again.

Blue Trinidad jade

Blue Trinidad jade

Speaking of jasper, I found one piece of classic brecciated tan and pink Trinidad jasper with a gorgeous seam of agate running through it. More common are pieces with brown or tan landscapes and blue sky in colors reminiscent of Rocky Butte jasper from Oregon.

08.14.11:

At Justin’s insistence, I woke him up early for some just-past-sunrise, low-tide “agateering.” The beach already sported the hard-core hunters. As we searched, I chatted with a few of these old-timers. One was a San Francisco man who has been coming with his family every year for 40 years. Amazingly, he was not aware that there is also an Agate Beach in Bolinas. In any case, he shared some of his hints: the area where the water is an inch or two deep is best. The agates are briefly still, and give off a blue “glow.” This did not help me greatly, as every blue glow I saw was either 20 feet away, in someone’s scoop, or a “false positive” – grey chert. I again found jasper and jade more frequently than agate (once again, I found two agates, which were slightly larger than the previous day’s finds).

By about 10:00, the morning fog had almost completely burned away making all the stones on the beach sparkle in a very distracting manner. Nevertheless, after lunch, Justin and I joined a ranger-led hunt. Her presentation confirmed my suspicions about two brown stones I had found in the morning – they are petrified wood. During this hunt I actually found three agates (!), two more pieces of petrified wood (okay, auto complete just tried to turn that into petrified woodpeckers, which would be an extremely cool find), and a fairly large black piece of whalebone (a piece of rib, perhaps?). Justin found several agates and an egg-shaped piece of Trinidad jasper that makes me drool (see the pictures link to see it).

Petrified wood

Petrified wood

That night, our campfire was slightly less relaxing than usual since we had some new neighbors: one family began arguing the moment they pulled in, another had three small squalling children that went on shrieking for hours…

08.15.11:

Monday morning dawned perfectly clear. Justin once again slept in. After a short morning agate hunt (I again found two), we opted for a road-trip to Fern Canyon. On the way, we stopped for pictures of one of the local herds of Roosevelt elk. They were amazing to see, but at about half a mile distant, so I don’t think we got a full appreciation of how huge these beautiful critters are. Getting to Fern Canyon involved driving along eight miles of bumpy and dusty, but decently graded, dirt road and making four water crossings. The ranger assured me that my car (not a four-wheel drive) could make it, but the first one made me a bit nervous. Luckily the crossing contained sufficient gravel that tires did not sink into mud.

The short hike (no dogs allowed) at Fern Canyon (where parts of the Jurassic Park movies were filmed) was totally worth the bouncy drive. We first crossed a meadow with a very clear creek, tall bushy horsetails, prolific wild-flowers and dozens of dragonflies (black saddlebags, I’m fairly sure) that absolutely refused to land and pose for pictures. The canyon itself is only half a mile long: a deep trench lined with four different species of ferns (so that’s how it got its name) and waterfalls. Downed logs were decorated with mosses and unusual fungi, including one growing a red, brain-shaped jelly fungus of some sort. At the end of the canyon Justin and I opted for the loop hike ascending what one kid described as the “endless stairs” for a small wood-land like. We crossed another meadow with numerous dragonflies (some sort of darner this time, I believe), which were equally camera-shy. This is a perfect flip-flop hike: wet and not at all difficult.

After this hike, we decided to head to Big Lagoon, a dog-friendly beach. One of the Patrick’s Point rangers had told us that nearly every beach in Humboldt County, with the exception of Agate Beach is dog-friendly. She had also told that many local search for agates there when it isn’t sandy, since there are fewer people. It was sandy. A sign sported a very amusing typo in reference to dogs (see pictures).

The beach excursion did not last long, since the dogs were being brats, escaping their harnesses repeatedly. Justin and I opted for a hike at the camp-ground instead. We toured the Yurok ceremonial rock, and then explored Mussel Rock, Lookout Rock and the Wedding Rock.

At night the kids across the way cried and screamed for three hours. Lovely.

08.16.11:

Another early-morning agate expedition. It started off foggy, but by 9:00 the fog was down to thin wisps. This was apparently good for Justin’s “agate-eye,” as he found a good 20 pieces, including two that resemble faces. I found four agates, but struck an absolute jade-jackpot. I talked with an old-timer couple, who, like me, had a more eclectic focus, also pursuing jade and jasper. The man told me that the blue and brown Oregon-jasper-like pieces I had been finding could often be cut to reveal black agate in thunderegg-like formations. I will have to try it.

After brunch, Justin participated in a Junior Ranger “slug slam” program where we learned that slugs breathe through a hole in the side of their heads, and we also made artificial “slug-slime” – yellow oobleck.

Next on the agenda was a trip to Trinidad. We arrived to perfectly clear weather and headed to the lighthouse overlooking the bay. I have to say that this is one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. This place seriously gives Kauai a run for its money in terms of sheer, breath-taking scenic beauty. I vowed on the spot that we will return next year. Since the dogs had been brats on the beach the day before, we decided that they would not be going to the beach today. To make up for this, we took them for a nice hike of Trinidad Head. This was a long enough hike to tire them out (Buddy, the 14 year-old, had to be carried for the last bit). The views were stunning, and I saw many wildflowers with which I am not familiar

The next item on the agenda was exploring Trinidad State Beach which contains spectacular boulders of multicolored jasper with tafoni-like features, caves and off-shore sea-stacks, one of which is 10 acres in size and covered in bishop pine. The beach also contains a creek that is the source of Trinidad Beach jasper. I managed to find three pieces. Two look promising, but one revealed many fractures after I cleaned the creek-slime. No worries. We will return here! When I know whether I picked well, I can get more. I also lugged a few 30-pound landscape boulders through a half mile of deep sand. A very good work-out.

Trinidad jasper

Trinidad jasper

08.17.11:

Our last full day dawned to weather that is more typical than what we had been experiencing: heavy fog. Our last agate hunt lasted only about two hours. The fog wasn’t burning off, and Justin was thoroughly chilled. During our time there, I did have the time to speak to an old-timer, who claimed that agates are getting more rare with more people coming. He claimed that it used to be possible to find 100 – 150 agates in an hour, and that he is lucky to find 20 or 30 a day now.

After warming the boy up with oatmeal and green tea, we decided that an inland hike of the big trees would be in order. Once 101 turned inland after Orick, it soon became sunny.

Parking at Big Trees, we found a nice, shady spot for “the boys,” since dogs are not allowed on the trails. We picked a nice 6-mile hike off the map and got going. Evidently this map marked trails “as the crow flies,” since it did not show switch-backs, which expanded the hike to at least 10 miles and made it moderately strenuous. It was Justin’s first exposure to totally wild, dense vegetation, and he became convinced that we were lost, and was visibly relieved with every trail-marking sign.

This hike earned us a substantial dinner, so we headed to eat at the Trinidad Eatery and Gallery, which had been recommended by a friend (the same friend who raved about Trinidad itself). Justin and I shared a plate of calamari for the appetizer, followed by clam chowder for him and an excellent cioppino for me. For dessert we split some dynamite blackberry cobbler.

Justin fell asleep by 8:30, and I read by the campfire. The screaming, sobbing kids were gone!

08.18.11:

Homeward-bound. The last day of vacation is always a melancholy event. I am usually blissful from the experience, but sad to be leaving. This time was no exception. After one last hike of the campground trails, Justin and I packed and headed out, opting for the highway 101 to 20 route, to make the trip a loop. Just like 299, this is a beautiful drive, though much of it seems studded with tourist traps (Bigfoot themed and redwood themed). I saw many possibilities for future explorations of the area, and also managed to lose count of the number of times we crossed the Eel river (Justin insists it was 29).

Much of this drive was quite a bit cooler than the trip in, until we neared Laytonville, and from there until past Clear Lake and Williams, temperatures hovered near 100°F. As we drove south on I-5, it cooled very gradually until we hit Woodland, which is apparently as far as the Delta Breeze reaches.

Justin’s favorite hot-and-sour soup welcomed us back to town. Everyone (including the dogs) took a thorough shower and relaxed in our own beds.

The dogs are still sleeping as of Sunday….

I am very grateful for this experience.

Happy Hunting,

Stephan in Davis, CA.

FRESNO GEM & MINERAL SOCIETY

Fresno FGMS

Fresno FGMS

Most months the club plans field trips to the coast, desert, and other interesting places where fascinating stones and minerals can be found, collected and or worked for tumbling, cutting and polishing. We offer day trips and overnighters for both the novice and experienced rockhound. Our field trips are great fun for the entire family.
Times and dates are posted in our monthly newsletter.

FIELD TRIP

Saturday, March 12, 2011
Quartz Mountain, Coarsegold, Madera County

Come and join us for a day of Quartz Crystal collecting behind the Casino in Coarsegold.  Quartz Mountain is a small BLM area, featuring smoky to clear quartz crystals.  It’s also the site of the historic Narbo Mine, a late 18th century gold camp.  Unfortunately (for the investors and miners) there wasn’t enough gold found to keep the mine open for long.

The crystals found here aren’t as big or flashy as Arkansas quartz, but the collecting is relatively easy, with mine dump, surface & pocket digging.

If you attended one of our digs there last year, you will remember the “trudge” up the Mountain. It wasn’t bad, but FGMS member Paul has improved the road up the Mountain, and it’s now passenger car accessible.

Quartz Mountain

Quartz Mountain

We will meet at the Chevron Station at Hwy 41 & Picayune Road at 9:30, and proceed to the dig site at 10 am. Please be prompt, since we’re required to close the gate after entering and I prefer digging to running up and down the Mountain.

Be sure to bring lunch with you, so I don’t have to open the gate repeatedly. The Chevron MiniMart has plenty of deep fried junk food, burgers & chips!  Dogs are welcome as long as they’re friendly and able to stay on a leash if necessary.

This event involves requires only very minimal hiking from the hilltop destination point. We will assemble at the Chevron mini mart. If you’re running late, CALL ME so we know you’re coming.

Sorry, no early departures. Departure time from the site is approximately 3 pm at this point, so be prepared to relax if you have your fill of digging.

The amount of hiking you do is up to you. Once at the hilltop gathering area, you’ll be able to start collecting within a few yards of your car. Collecting ranges from surface scratching to hard rock, vein “pocket” mining. We will be doing some (semi) organized mining, and there are plenty of tailings for those who wish to screen for smaller points.

We�re look forward to having a great time! Feel free to contact Kris or Bob with any questions.

Click here for the Google Maps link.

Field Trip Co-Chairman – Kris Rowe – 559-250-5057   Bob Coates – 559-313-0440

http://www.fgms.us/fieldtrip.php

Delaware RockHound Gem and Mineral Show

Filed under: Coming Events,Rockhound Travel,field trip reports — Gary February 19, 2011 @ 11:35 pm
Delaware_rockhounding

Delaware Rockhound Club

Saturday March 5, 2011 and Sunday March 6, 2011

The Delaware Mineralogical Society, Inc. will hold its 48th Annual Earth Science Gem and Mineral Show @  Delaware Technical and Community College @ I-95 Exit 4B, Churchmans Road (Rt 58) Newark (Stanton), DE 19713. Hours Saturday are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. The show features educational exhibits of mineral, lapidary and fossil specimens, displays from regional and university museums, a roster of fine dealers of minerals, fossils, gems, jewelry and lapidary supplies, door prizes, demonstrations of gem cutting and polishing and a children’s table, where youngsters may purchase inexpensive mineral and fossil specimens. Admission is $6.00, $5.00 for seniors, $4.00 for youngsters between 12 and 16, and free for children under 12 accompanied by an adult. The Delaware Mineralogical Society is a non-profit organization, affiliated with the Eastern Federation of Mineral Societies, and dedicated to learning and teaching about the earth sciences, rocks, minerals, fossils and the lapidary arts. Membership is open to all who are interested in these areas. Info and Coupons at www.delminsociety.net or contact gene@fossilnut.com.  Or call Wayne Urion (302) 998-0686.

Delaware_rockhounding

Delaware Rockhounding

Check out all their past field trips!

Arundel Quarry, Havre de Grace, MD
Big Brook/Ramanessin Brook, Holmdel, NJ
Binkley-Ober Quarry, East Petersburg, PA
Burkholder Quarry, Eprata, PA
C & D Canal, Delaware City, DE
C. K. Williams Quarry, Easton, PA
Cornwall Mine, Cornwall, PA
Deer Lake, Schuykill Co., PA
Inversand Mine, Sewell, NJ
J T Dyer Quarry, Gibraltar, PA
Martin Limestone’s Kurtz Quarry, Denver, PA
Lee Creek, Aurora, NC
Libertyville Mines, Sykesville, MD
Meckley’s Quarry, Mandata, PA
Mud – Grubb Lake, Lancaster Co., PA
National Limestone Quarry, Mount Pleasant Mills, PA
Penn-MD Materials Quarry, Fulton, PA
Prospect Aggregates Quarry, Landisville, PA
Purse State Park (Liverpool Point, MD
Ramsey Run, Woodlawn Quarry, Wilmington, DE
Red Hill Fossil Area, Hyner, PA
Silver Hill Quarry, Narvon, PA
Teeter Quarry, Gettysburg, PA
University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum, Newark, DE
Bus Trip to Smithsonian, Washington, D. C.

Fire Agate Mining Adventure at Deer Creek Arizona

Submitted by Jessica Dow…

Please visit her website as well:

http://www.differentseasonsjewelry.com/

This year Mark and I added a bit more excitement to our annual trip to the Tucson gem show with a pre-show detour to the Deer Creek fire agate mine. The mine owner extended a personal invitation to the mine’s “Deer Creek Fire Agate Invitational” that we couldn’t pass up. We stayed at the mine overnight with one of America’s most experienced pio­neers of the gemstone industry, mine owner David Penney, his family, and his mining Partner, Sarah Heather Scholz.

Deer Creek mine owner Dave Penny and S. Heather Scholz

Deer Creek mine owner Dave Penny and S. Heather Scholz

We were able to rent the machine they call the “Gem-A-Nator” for an hourly rate. This is a thrilling experience! The Gem-A-Nator sorts and wets the rough before it comes down a belt where you can grab the chunks of rough fire agate. One of the professional miners will be scooping fresh material into the Gem-A-Nator using a backhoe. The miners take material straight from the best areas of the mine and pour it into the Gem-A-Nator. This is material that has not been touched or picked through, giving a rare chance at getting the best material the mine has to offer.

Mark on the Gem-A-Nator

Mark on the Gem-A-Nator

Sarah and Mark have great eyes for spotting the higher quality rough as it comes down the belt…they had the front spots on the Gem-A-Nator.

Sarah and Mark have great eyes for spotting the higher quality rough as it comes down the belt…they had the front spots on the Gem-A-Nator.

Dave Penny getting another scoop of rough for the Gem-A-Nator

Dave Penny getting another scoop of rough for the Gem-A-Nator

We also were able to explore the mine a bit with Dave and Sarah. We collected rough directly from the base of a small mountain with a wall of exposed fire agate nodules… some were loose enough to grab up and a few had to be removed from the rock with a small pick.

A couple of fire agate nodules Mark found at the base of a mountain at the Deer Creek mine

A couple of fire agate nodules Mark found at the base of a mountain at the Deer Creek mine

Mark could have stayed at the mine for days exploring and hunting for fire agate on the mountain.

Mark could have stayed at the mine for days exploring and hunting for fire agate on the mountain.

Dave Penny, Sarah, Wendell and Mark with a bucket of hand-picked fire agate.

Dave Penny, Sarah, Wendell and Mark with a bucket of hand-picked fire agate.

Our trip to the mine was the highlight of our trip to Arizona… it exceeded our expectations on many levels. We left the mine with over a hundred pounds of rough fire agate in various grades. We’ll easily be able to sell and profit from selling a small portion of our mine run. Our highest grade material will be carved into gems for our custom gold jewelry designs. We’re already planning for another trip to the mine next year!
These are a few examples of the exceptionally beautiful fire agate rough we got from our Gem-A-Nator run~

Fire_agate1

Fire agate

Fire Agate

Fire Agate

Dave Penny and S. Heather shared both their time and knowledge generously with us during our stay. We mined fire agate during the day and had very comfortable accommodations at night.
Were able to rent a fully equipped RV at the mine with internet access, a full size bed, a shower, refridgerator, coffee maker and more. Sarah also offers her delicious home-cooked meals… yummy! She had a small menu to choose from with steak, lamb, various seafood dishes and a vegetarian dinner as well. We had a great night while we were there….Dave built us a fire with wonderful smelling local mesquite wood and we sat comfortably under the stars while Sarah grilled our steaks. Sarah and Dave brewed us fresh coffee in the morning and fed us a huge breakfast to power us up for the day of mining. The mine is nestled in a remote location with a gorgeous view. I sat, drank my coffee and enjoyed the Arizona sunrise:)

I was a bit apprehensive about my ability to be comfortable during our trip to the mine… I am currently 7 months pregnant and thought the rough conditions would be difficult in my condition. They made me completely comfortable and I enjoyed every minute of my time at the mine. Dave and Sarah are very genuine, honest people…. I can’t say enough about how impressed we were with them on both a personal and professional level.

A very pregnant Jessica, Mark, Dave and S. Heather in front of the Gem-A-Nator This unique experience is being offered exclusively to professional jewelry and lapidary artisans.
Reservation time for this adventure is limited due to the personal attention given to each artist.
Normally many of the people who visit the mine are personally invited or are referred by friends/colleagues of the mine owner. This is a great opportunity to gem collectors, lapidary artisans and professional jewelers wanting top grade fire agate for jewelry designs! Space is limited and filling up fast… for serious inquiries about visiting the mine and rates for mining/accommodations write to Dave Penny and S. Heather Scholz at ep7@xmission.com.

Wendell Thatcher helping us during our time on the Gem-A-Nator

Wendell Thatcher helping us during our time on the Gem-A-Nator

We’d like to thank our friend Wendell Thatcher for personally referring us to the mine owner. Wendell is a dedicated and experienced rockhound and a very talented fire agate carver. Many of the hand carved fire agate gems in our personal collection were purchased through Wendell.

Fire agate jewelry by Jessica Dow and Mark Anderson of Different Seasons Jewelry and Lapidary.

Fire agate jewelry by Jessica Dow and Mark Anderson of Different Seasons Jewelry and Lapidary.

Fire agate pendant collaboration by Mark Anderson and Casey Swanson.

Fire agate pendant collaboration by Mark Anderson and Casey Swanson.

Ruggles Mine

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Video,field trip reports — Gary August 21, 2010 @ 9:01 pm

Ruggles Mine

The Oldest and Most Spectacular Mica, Feldspar,
Beryl, and Uranium Mine in the USA.

Open Weekends from
May 15 through June 6, 2010

Open Daily
June 12 through October 17, 2010

Admission:
Adults $25
Children (4-11) $13
Children under 4 are Free with a paid adult.

Hours:
9am-5pm except
July & August 9am-6pm
Last ticket sold 1 hour before closing

The mountains and valleys of New Hampshire are rich with mineral formations. From the southwest corner of the state near Keene to the northern Canadian border near Littleton there are fascinating deposits of a variety of minerals. One of these deposits is known as the Littleton Formation which was formed during the Devonian era approximately 300,000,000 years ago. The mining of these mineral deposits has been an important part of New Hampshire history from prehistoric eras to the present. The Ruggles Mine, in Grafton N.H., is part of the Littleton Formation and has a rich mining and geological history. It is the oldest and largest mine of its kind in the United States. Minerals such as Mica, Feldspar, Beryl, and Uranium were mined at Ruggles for 175 years.

Minerals and rocks fall into three classes of identification, metamorphic, igneous, and sedimentary. All of these mineral formations are found in New Hampshire. Metamorphic rock is formed under extreme conditions of heat and pressure. Igneous rock is formed when magma or molten rock cools and solidifies. Sedimentary rock is formed when wind or water deposit sediments and the sediments become compacted. Sedimentary and igneous rock can become metamorphic under certain conditions of intense heat and pressure in the crust of the earth. Metamorphic rock can also change into another type of metamorphic rock. Heat and pressure do not change the chemical makeup of parent rocks but they do change the mineral and physical properties of those rocks.

The Littleton Formation is classified as a metamorphic rock formation that was originally sedimentary. New Hampshire was at one time completely covered by the sea. As a result, huge amounts of sediment were deposited. Hadley and Chapman describe what occurred during the prehistoric era in New Hampshire.

How Rocks were Made

In early Devonian time, sand and mud were deposited. Thousands of feet, in alternating layers, accumulated to form the Littleton formation. William Barton explains what happened during the metamorphism. For untold years the sediments slowly accumulated on the ocean bottom. The earlier layers, compressed by continually increasing weight of newer overlying sediments, were changed into the sedimentary rocks called sandstone, siltstone, and shale. Eventually these layers of rock grew to be several miles in thickness. The Great Folding and the Rise of Molten Rock; Sometime near the close of the Devonian period, about 300,000.000 years ago, a period of great crustal unrest set in. Western New Hampshire, which for a hundred million had been dominantly a region of wide spread seas, began to be uplifted, never again to be covered by marine waters. This period was marked by two major phenomena; intense compression of the earth’s crust and the rise of molten rock into the crust.
Great compress ional forces, acting horizontally in a more or less east-west direction, squeezed the rocks and forced them to buckle. Gigantic folds, both upwards and downwards, trending north and south were produced.

The accumulation of buried sedimentary rocks were heated, squeezed into great folds, and shattered. The heat and pressure involved were so great that the mineralogical character of the rocks changed entirely. The new rocks were called metamorphic and were characterized by mica schists. The schishts consisted of mica and quartz, with the shiny mica flakes having formed from the pre-existing dull clay particles Without these enormous upheavals and pressure New Hampshire would not be as mineral rich as it is today.

The Littleton formation is primarily mica schist, and surrounds the Ruggles pegmatite. Although there are many pegmatites throughout the Littleton formation, the Ruggles Mine is unique because of its enormous size. The crystal formations within the Ruggles pegmatite are larger than any other ever discovered here in New Hampshire. It is 1640 feet long and 335 feet wide, and is approximately 250 feet deep.

Pegmatites are very coarse-grained igneous rocks, that is, those in which the grains range in size from 5 millimeters to 3 centimeters. The course grain results from the presence of volatiles during the crystallization, thus permitting large crystals to grow; The Pegmatite is light colored because it consists almost entirely of light colored minerals: Plagioclase and perthite feldspars, quartz and muscovite mica.

Over one hundred and fifty minerals have been identified in the Ruggles Mine. The primary mineral of economic interest was mica. Books of mica as large as five feet in diameter have been discovered. Without human intervention, these mineral deposits would never have enriched N.H

The Discovery of Mica

Mica was first discovered in 1803 in Grafton N.H. by a man named Sam Ruggles. It is believed that his origins were English and that he was probably farming and homesteading when he discovered mica on his property. Sam Ruggles knew the value of the mica he had discovered and set forth the first and one of the largest mining operations of its kind in the United States.

For years it is believed that Sam Ruggles went to great lengths to keep the location of his mine a secret. Ruggles put his family to work extracting books of mica. Then, to prevent his neighbors from learning of his discovery, the mica was packed into wagons along with farm product sand transported by ox-team to Portsmouth, N.H. From there it was shipped to England, where it could be sold without arousing anyone’s suspicion as to its possible origin.

As the demand for mica increased, Ruggles would make special trips to Portsmouth in the dead of night, still hoping to keep the location of his mine a secret. There is speculation as to why Ruggles was so adamant about keeping his mine a secret. One possibility is that land was being claimed and not purchased in the early 1800s and there was an acre limit on how much land could be claimed each year. Ruggles may have been trying to claim enough land to cover the entire mountain top to ensure ownership of all the mica outcroppings. This illustrates the value of these resources to N.H.

In the early nineteenth century mica was in great demand for its use in many household products. Because mica is heat resistant and transparent, it was used for the windows in woodstoves and whale-oil lamps. Mica was also used in ships windows. Basically anything that is now made of glass was made of mica in the early 1800s.

By 1840 it was said that 600 to 700 pounds of mica were mined annually, valued at $1500. By 1869 production had increased tremendously, and in that year it was reported that seventy-five boxes weighing 350 pounds each had been mined, making a total of 26,000 pounds.

The production of mica continued to increase into the late 1800’s. The Ruggles Mine reported shipping 3,600 pounds in January of 1877. By the early to middle part of the twentieth century mica mining began to decline. In 1930 as little as 8,000 pounds of mica was mined annually in the United States.

Despite the decrease in production, the value of mica remained high. Clear sheets of mica were still sold at very high prices, and by the early 1930’s an estimated $12,000,000 worth of mica had been mined at the Ruggles Mine.

Later on mica was used as an electrical insulator. It does not conduct heat or electricity due to its molecular structure. Early electrical appliances, such as toasters had mica in them. Mica is still being used today in products from building materials to cosmetics. Mica is in cement blocks and asphalt roof shingles. It is also used in lipsticks and fingernail polish. Most anything that sparkles contains mica.

The Development of Ruggles Mine

The ownership of the Ruggles Mine has changed several times over the years. It is not certain who owned the mine after the death of Sam Ruggles and for much of the rest of the nineteenth century. In 1874, a man named J.W. Kelton is said to have owned and operated the mine. By this time the mica was no longer being hauled away in secret by ox-cart, but being transported out of Grafton by the railroad.

Feldspar was the second most predominant mineral to be of economic interest at Ruggles Mine. The American Minerals company began mining feldspar in 1912. Feldspar was used in the making of high grade ceramics. The Syracuse China company used feldspar in the glazes on their fine china for many years. It was also used in the enamel surfaces of early appliances such as stoves and refrigerators. Feldspar was also in the making of false teeth.

The Bon Ami Company owned and operated the Ruggles Mine between 1932 and 1959. They mined the feldspar for use their non-abrasive scouring powder and glass cleaner. The Bon Ami Company extracted approximately ten thousand tons of feldspar a year during their period of operation.

Beryl is another mineral that was mined at Ruggles Mine. Beryl is the principal ore of the metal known as beryllium. Beryllium is lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel. Today, beryllium alloys are used in atomic reactors, electrical components, and as metal on spaceships components used at NASA. At one time during the mining of Beryl, a mass of the mineral was discovered that filled three freight train cars.

During the twentieth century The Ruggles Mine was reworked several times for the scrap mica that was left behind during earlier operations. The large “books” of mica were no longer being mined, but the smaller amounts that were dumped into waste piles during earlier operations. As new uses for mica were discovered, the demand for it increased once again. It was no longer used for whale-oil lamps, as in days of Sam Ruggles, but now in wallpaper (for sheen effect), paints, roofing, molded insulation, lubricants, etc. All the better grades were used for electrical insulation. The reworking of the mine was done by the English Mica Company of New York. They set up an extensive operation that crushed, screened, and washed the rock to separate it from the mica. The recovered mica was then washed down 3,200-foot flume to a mill at the bottom of the hill.

The Mine remained active and productive for 160 years. In the early 1960’s the U.S. government discontinued subsidizing the mica industry though it’s Mica Stock Piling Program. The result was that domestic mica mining operations could no longer compete in price with the mica imported from Brazil and India. Mining operations were thus discontinued at the Ruggles Mine.

The end of mining mica and other minerals ended an important chapter in the history New Hampshire. Mining provided employment and revenue to many people during the early days of our state. It provided our ancestors with an option to farming as means of survival. The Littleton Formation and the Ruggles pegmatite are what is left of a very significant part of geologic history. The formation was a natural resource that provided income and numerous minerals used in many important products.
In 1963 the Ruggles Mine was opened to the public. For 40 years visitors have been able to come and experience a part of this geologic and mining history. When entering the mine today one can still see where the feldspar and mica of the pegmatite connects to schist of the Littleton formation. One can witness the tremendous forces of the earths folding by observing the layers of schist that stand vertically above the pegmatite. The collecting of minerals is permitted at the Ruggles Mine, one can take home pieces of this history. Exploring the enormous caverns and tunnels provides insight into an event that took place 350,000,000 years ago. A visit to Ruggles provides insight into an important part of mining and geologic history.

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine, Virgin Valley, Nevada

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens,Rockhound Travel,field trip reports — Gary August 10, 2010 @ 3:46 am
opal_mine

opal_mine

Welcome to the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine
Virgin Valley, Nevada

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine is located in Northwest Nevada, approximately 135 miles from Winnemucca, Nevada, and approximately 100 miles from Lakeview, OR. The closest town is Denio, NV, which is 35 miles away. Denio Junction has reopened and food, fuel and rooms are available. We recommend that you fill up in either Lakeview or Winnemucca on your way out to the mine. All roads to the mine are blacktop, except for the last 7.5 miles, which are gravel and dirt. During wet weather, the last couple of miles is very bad, and should not be attempted, (looking for opal in wet or very overcast weather is not good anyway).

There is no overnight camping available at Rainbow Ridge. Trailers should be left at the CCC camp, which is 5 miles before you get to the mine. Denio Junction has reopened and food, fuel and rooms are available. We recommend that you fill up in either Lakeview or Winnemucca on your way out to the mine.

Opal Finds

Opal Finds

Very nice field report with lots of pictures of the area and what they found – click here!

The opals from Rainbow Ridge are casts after wood, and are some of the most beautiful opals in the world. We offer tailings digging where many different wood and opal combinations may be found. The tailings are up to eight feet deep. We turn the tailings from time to time, and are constantly adding to the tailings from the virgin ground loads. The virgin ground loads are materials taken from the bank with the loader, and are worked on a flattened area near where you park. Everything you find, regardless of value, is yours to keep. Although luck plays a part in finding opals, an “educated” eye is very helpful. First timers will be given some help in getting them started.

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine

Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine

2010 Season Information:
Opening Date: Friday, May 28th through
Last Digging Day:
Sunday, September 19th.

Please note thet we are closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays during the 2010 season.

Reservations for the virgin ground loads will be accepted by phone only, NO EMAIL RESERVATIONS, begining April 15th thru the last day of the season.

Please call: (775) 941-0270 or (541) 548-4810 to make a reservation.

Virgin Ground Load Fee this season is $500.00, and will admit either one or two adults.

Tailing Fee is $70.00 per person per day, and children10-15 are still half price.

SUGGESTED ITEMS TO BRING WITH YOU:
Small pick (sharp, single hand)
Small garden rake
Small shovel or trowel
Spray bottle with water for cleaning off dirt
Buckets (5 gallon) for collecting specimens, plus an extra one for a seat
Sun block, hat, and gloves

Come visit our rock shop; we have lots of beautiful opal for sale, as well as fossils, minerals, and jewelry. We have digging tools and buckets for sale, too.

We look forward to seeing you at Rainbow Ridge.

Rockhounding trips

Filed under: field trip reports — Gary June 1, 2010 @ 8:58 am
Kentucky Agate Hunting

Kentucky Agate Hunting

One more thing about AgateLady.com – She has some fun adventures about rockhounding on her site.  Check them out…

Kentucky Agate Hunting – April 2010

In April during spring break, friends Gerald and Jill Phillips and I drove down to Irvine, Kentucky to go agate hunting. We teamed up with Scott and Melinda Hardy to learn the tricks of the hunt. I must admit it is totally different than looking for Lake Superior agates.

First of all, you need a pair of fishing waders. Although they call them creeks, in my opinion they are rivers. Not only was the current swift, but we had to portage around deep holes on several occasions. As I also explain in the Mineral of the Month update this month, you search by using sound. When you find round rocks in the river, you hit them with a rock hammer or other metal object. The silica rocks have a certain “ping” sound, as compared to other river rocks.

Grand Canyon

In February, I made the annual trek out to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. For the first time, one of my friends, Kim Amthor, requested to come along. Since she had never been to the Grand Canyon, we of course had to visit.

Last year was the first time in many years that I had been to the main area on the South Rim, since I have gone to Supai the last four canyon visits. However, last year I didn’t take the time to hike down into the canyon.

After arriving on Saturday, February 3rd, Kim and I had planned to stay two nights on the rim and day hike part way into the canyon. Due to the Superbowl, many people canceled their Phantom Ranch visits, so we decided to take an extra day and hike to the bottom.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF HER TRIP

http://www.agatelady.com/photo-gallery-rockhounding-trips.html

Plus other trips below are on her site…

June 2007 (Rockhounding  Minnesota)

July 2007 (Rockhounding Moose Lake)

April 2008 (Rockhounding Mackinac Island, Michigan)

May 2008 (Rockhounding Minnesota)

Summer 2008 (Rockhounding Wisconsin)

September 2008 (Save Rockhounding!)

January 2009 (Rockhounding Michigan Karst Cave)

February 2009 (Rockhounding Tucson, Arizona)

Summer 2009 (Rockhounding Moose Lake, Minnesota)