RockHoundBlog

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.

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.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_0975c.jpg

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.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_0983c.jpg

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.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_0989c.jpg

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!
http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_0990c.jpg

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.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_0991c.jpg

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

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_1118c.jpg

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_1120c.jpg

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_1122c.jpg

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.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_1002e.jpg

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.

http://i49.photobucket.com/albums/f291/Adamsgallery1/Montaho_2011/img_1006c.jpg

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.

World’s Largest Emerald- Bahia Emerald

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens,Rare Gems,Rockhound stories — Gary December 5, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

Ownership Disputed Over 840-Pound, $400 Million Emerald

Bahia Emerald

FoxNews.com has picked up an article from The Wall Street Journal that reports a story about an 840-pound emerald.

In the article, “Five People Claim Ownership of an 840-Pound $400M Emerald” we are told of a man who had original ownership of the large diamond. And, he kept it in a storage box.

Then he reported it stolen.

Lt. Thomas Grubb is in charge of the investigation. He was notified of the “theft” by the emerald’s original owner, Larry Bieglar who is a gem broker and real estate investor who had a disagreement it seems with two other men.

The men, Todd Armstrong and Kit Morrison, are two businessmen who claimed they paid $1 million for diamonds but Bieglar didn’t deliver. They went on to say that he had put the 840-pound emerald up for collateral.

Bieglar has a much different story. He claims that the two guys offered him $80 million for the emerald and he accepted; he felt that $80 million was a fair price. He also says these guys didn’t pay anything.

As the article goes on to report, Armstrong and Morrison placed the emerald in a warehouse and agreed to turn it over to the police until the matter was resolved.
The Los Angeles based police traveled to Las Vegas to retrieve the emerald.

They found the emerald and were surprised. It looks like a big black rock. It is all in one piece.

It turns out the emerald is actually a Brazilian emerald and when appraised in that country only came in at $372 million.

When you start getting to these sizes of gems it is difficult to know the correct value.

In the case of the emerald, unless a person is going to “break it down,” it really isn’t much good other than for viewing as in a museum.

Diamonds tend to be the most expensive gem. I found the largest to be possibly 7,000 carats. If I took a value of two thousand dollars per carat and multiplied it by 7,000 I get $14 million; that is a far cry from $400 million. Of course there may be extra value because of the “uncut” size but how is that figured?

I think an excellent point is made by Maarten De Witte who suggests that either the diamond is worthless because of size or out of everyone’s ability to purchase for the same reason; it’s too big.

For a lot of us the only experience we have with diamonds is when we give or get one upon engagement.

I was told by a dear friend of mine that he purchases diamonds because should our economy ever become worthless with respect to our currency he would have something to “barter with.”

People are interesting especially when it comes to wealth.

More pictures here.
References:

http://diamondwiz.blogspot.com/2007/11/what-is-value-of-largest-diamond-ever.html

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,503808,00.html

Tonopah, Nevada – Silver mine.

Filed under: Rockhound stories,Video — Gary October 17, 2010 @ 10:01 pm

Came across this article on a silver find in Tonopah Springs.  Very interesting!

Tonopah, Nevada

Tonopah, Nevada

Tonopah Springs, later the site of one of the richest booms in the West, was an Indian campground for many years, long before Jim Butler spent a chilly night here. A number of stories exist as to how Butler discovered the ore. The most popular version is that Butler’s mule wandered away and when Butler found the ornery critter, he noticed an outcropping that appeared to be heavily laced with silver. Butler took a number of samples. The date was May 19, 1900. This quiet start belied the actual importance of the discovery. Butler firmly believed he had discovered an important silver deposit but he had trouble convincing the assayer he visited in nearby Klondike. The assayer told him the samples were worthless, consisting mainly of iron, and he threw them into the back of his tent.
Butler was still convinced that his find was genuine. On his way back to his Monitor Valley ranch, he stopped at Tonopah Springs once more to gather samples. Back at his ranch, Butler put the samples on his windowsill. Not too much time passed before Tasker Oddie, later to be governor of Nevada, stopped at the ranch and spied the ore samples. He offered to pay for another assay and Butler agreed to this. Butler, in turn, offered Oddie a quarter interest of the assay. Oddie heartily agreed. He took the ore samples to William Gayhart, an Austin assayer, and offered Gayhart a quarter interest in his quarter. Gayhart found the assay ran as high as $600 a ton. When Oddie was notified of the value of the samples, he immediately sent an Indian runner to Butler’s ranch to alert him of the rich find. Butler did not react rapidly. He stayed at his ranch to complete the hay harvest and did not even bother to file claims on the lode site! News of the discovery traveled to Klondike and soon, scores of eager prospectors were searching around Tonopah Springs, to no avail, for Butler’s lode. Butler finally went to Belmont, and on August 27, 1900, he and his wife filed on eight claims near the springs. Six of these – Desert Queen, Burro, Valley View, Silver Top, Buckboard, and Mizpah – turned into some of the biggest producers the state has ever had.

Continue reading the article here: Tonopah, Nevada


Graveyard Point Plume Agate

Filed under: Rare Rocks!,Rockhound Travel,Rockhound stories — Gary September 29, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

Philip has submitted an article to Rockhoundblog about Graveyard Point Plume Agate.   http://rarerocksandgems.com/

Grave Point Agate

It was a beautiful June rock hounding day in the Owyhees. Gene Stewart, his son, his son’s friend and I thought we’d go out to the Graveyard Point area and see what Gene Mueller, Jake Jacobitz and Thom Lane were digging up at Gene Mueller’s Regency Rose claim. Thom Lane was out in these parts for a few days before, spotting at the mine for Mueller. He came into town and stayed a few days at my house to get cleaned up and relax, before heading out with us. Gene Mueller is, of course, famous for his rock shop, The Gem Shop, in Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He is also a miner of various rocks, including Morrisonite, Laguna and Agua Nueva Mexican agates. Thom Lane is a well known dealer in the agate world and long time friend of Gene and Jake. Thom dug Morrisonite with Jake and Gene in the last years that the Christine Marie Morrisonite mine was producing. In later years, he dug Mexican agates for three years with Gene. Jake Jacobitz, best known for “Jake’s Place” Morrisonite Claim, and well known to all Northwest miners as, “Crazy Jake”. Diving out to the Graveyard point area is relatively easy in dry times, but all week it has been raining cats and dogs. This makes the dusty, powered-sugar, consistency roads, greasy slick. However, the past two days, the rain has stopped, just enough for the sun to dry up the roads a little bit.Jake Jacobitz driving his truck, heading to camp with a load of diesel.

Graveyard Point

Gene Muller's big Cat

Gene Stewart (Right) and Jake Jacobitz catching up

Gene Stewart (Right) and Jake Jacobitz catching up

Heading up the dirt road to the claim, we see Gene’s huge Cat sitting idle.  It’s large bucket, for gouging the hill for agate, empty. We get out of my Suburban and there to greet us is Jake. Gene Stewart and Jake go way back and two friends meeting after many years, always makes for a cheerful reunion. Gene and Jake share a few funny stories and catch up on who’s still around and who’s not.  This was my fist time meeting Jake, after years hearing some pretty wild stories about him and visualizing what he looks like. I was pleasantly surprised, that I was not too far off, as to what I expected. Very likable, easy to talk with, and very willing to share his insights, places he’s dug before and what’s still out there.  Jake has a slight accent, I can’t quite place…Minnesota? Wisconsin? I’ll have to ask Thom later about it. Kinda gives him a down to earth persona, a little more color to “the miner” character I envisioned.

Angel Wing

Heading over to the big pit and looking down into it, I see Gene Mueller digging in a large hole in the side of the pit, almost like a small cave. Gene stands in the hole surrounded by Angel Wing and veins of agate. Angel Wing is formed basically, like how stalactites form in a cave, by thousands of years of ground water seeping through, then dripping off the ceiling and walls, leaving minerals behind to accumulate. In this case, the cave is a large vug hole in the ground. The Angel Wing can be removed in plates, because the surrounding host rock is softer. Therefore, carefully using a chisel and hammer, the delicate plates can be extracted successfully.

Looking for pink plume agency rose

I jump down into the pit with Jake and we head over to the hole. I greet and shake hands with Gene Mueller. He begins to elaborate on what he’s doing, and how he’s going to get most of the Angel Wing and the gem plume out. Sitting on the edge of the hole, Jake and I inspect the seams Gene pecks out and throws up to us. Jake looks at one and says, “Hey, here’s some plumes,” and then gives the seam a long lick to wet it. I look at him and raise my eye brow. “Geez, Jake! Looks like you’re eating a damn ice cream cone. Is that how you test to see if it’s good plume or not, by how it tastes?” He laughs and says, “ya, don’t ya know that? I thought all you smart young fellers knew that”. After an hour or so of pulling out seams of agate and wing, Gene begins to dig again. This time on the other side of the pit, with his Big Cat excavator, looking for that elusive pink plume, he calls, “Regency Rose”.

Coming up out of the pit, Gene Stewart and I decide to go over to his old Graveyard Point Plume Agate claim, which he had back in the 70’s which is about 200 yards away. Walking up the road from Mueller’s camp, we detour off and then down along a path for about 100 yards.  We find a shallow hole, where the claim used to be, now filled in with silt from runoff. Gene stands on the top edge of what used to be a deep hole. I can see in Gene’s eyes, he’s deep in thought, probably bringing up some old memories of when he and Tom Caldwell dugs tons of plume out of that hole. Bringing him back, I ask, “Where was that old truck you where telling me about?” Gene told me a story of when he and Tom Caldwell were blasting one day. Seems Tom put a little too much powder in and blew a huge 100 pound seam straight up in the air.  It landed right on top of Gene’s truck cab roof. The roof was so caved in, that you had to lean out the window to drive! Gene still laughs about it. It was so funny at the time, that he decided to drive the truck home with the boulder still on the roof. Gene smiles and chuckles…“I tell ya.  I got a lot of funny looks and people laughing at us, all the way home!”
Heading back to camp, we see everyone sitting around the camper, under the canopy, taking it easy. For me, this is a great chance to prod stories out of these guys. I start with Thom. He tells me the detailed story of how he once owned the great Morrisonite collection that Gene Mueller is currently selling for the current anonymous owner. He went on to say that Betty Warrington was the original owner.   Then, Jake pipes up and tells some long tales, that I can’t really relate here to the whole world, but they are pretty, “thought provoking”. Well, it’s getting late and at the end of this mining day.  Only a few sacks of Regency were filled, in addition to several sacks of standard gem Graveyard-type plume. Gene Mueller said it was a good productive mining day.

Graveyard_plume

Graveyard_plume

Heading back to camp, we see everyone sitting around the camper, under the canopy, taking it easy. For me, this is a great chance to prod stories out of these guys. I start with Thom. He tells me the detailed story of how he once owned the great Morrisonite collection that Gene Mueller is currently selling for the current anonymous owner. He went on to say that Betty Warrington was the original owner.   Then, Jake pipes up and tells some long tales, that I can’t really relate here to the whole world, but they are pretty, “thought provoking”. Well, it’s getting late and at the end of this mining day.  Only a few sacks of Regency were filled, in addition to several sacks of standard gem Graveyard-type plume. Gene Mueller said it was a good productive mining day.

While heading back on the winding dirt road towards town, I see a huge mud hole filled with water right in the middle of the road.  It’s about double the size of my Suburban. The road veers around it, but I stop about 50 yards from it, looking straight ahead.  I start thinking. Everyone in the truck is talking and then realizes that I have stopped driving. Thom Lane is sitting in the passenger seat, looking back towards Gene Stewart, talking.  He then stops, looks around and asks me, “Are we stopping for something?” I look over at him and give him a devious smile…”Looks deep,” I say out loud. Then Gene Stewart says smiling, “Oh shit, don’t even think about it!” Then everyone catches on.  I say, “What would Jake do??”  Thom then says, “Ahh crap!”  I gun it! I hear wale’s and cheers, as we bounce up and down , side to side, on the rough road, heading towards the large water hole. It would have been a great classic scene in a movie…A bunch of old farts, bouncing up and down in a truck, laughing and screaming heading for a mud hole.  Plunging the truck fast into the hole, I feel that it is deep. A large fan of water on both sides, towers over the truck.  As the wheels start to spin, the speed keeps us going forward, up and out of the long, deep hole. Everyone is laughing and whooping it up like teenagers, as we drive down the road, leaving a cloud of dust far behind us…
Decades….decades past on.

On a porch, the old man sits in a chair rocking slowly…frail and purpled veined hands lightly grip the arm rests, as he rocks…The sun is setting… the old eyes glint in the reddish hue of last light…looking long and far out into the distant. He sees the shadowed mountains of the Owyhees…memories…memories of friends long gone…ghosts of voices in his mind…Someone is laughing… His leathery wrinkled face starts to glow and a faint smile folds the deep wrinkles around his eyes. A small hand touches the top of his hand…”Grandpa? What are you thinking about?” He looks down into bright eyes of a child. The old man hears a voice behind him, in the house…”Honey, what’s grandpa Phil doing?” “Oh”, the child says. “He’s thinking about digging up the Graveyard.”  “He’s what?!” The old man gives a light chuckle at the very young child’s response…He looks back at the mountains, which are now only outlines in front of billowy plumes of towering clouds  against the Sun’s faint light, in the new night sky…

Philip-

\

Moose Lake Agate and Geological Center and Rock Dump

Filed under: Rockhound Travel,Rockhound stories,Video — Gary September 26, 2010 @ 9:12 pm

Be sure to stop in the Agate and Geological Interpretive Center when you visit Moose Lake State Park. The 4,500 square foot building, located at the entrance to the park, opened in 2003 and includes a multi-purpose classroom, nature store gift shop, park offices, a resource workroom, restrooms, and an exhibition hall that showcases Minnesota’s gemstone, the Lake Superior Agate. Interpretive displays focus on rocks, minerals and geology of Minnesota.

Hours:

Memorial Day through Labor Day: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Office closed Wednesday and Sundays Oct-April. If you call ahead to the park, special arrangements may be made to make sure the building is open for your visit.

Year-round Camping

Camping is available at this park year-round! Self-registration information for camping is located on the park bulletin board/kiosk just past the front doorway to the park office/visitor center.

Hours

Best time to contact the park: September-April Office hours will vary, Park office phone message answering system out of order, Please call to talk to park staff as available. September office hours variable 9a.m.-3p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., seven days a week and until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Office closed Wednesday and Sundays Oct-April

Contact

4252 County Road 137
Moose Lake, MN 55767

tel: 218-485-5420

Getting There

Located 1/4 miles east of I-35 at the Moose Lake exit #214. The park entrance is off County Road 137. Take the Moose Lake exit off I-35. Then go east on County Road 137 until you see the park signs about 1/2 mile down the road.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 2010. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Web Site (online). Accessed 2010-9-26 at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/sitetools/copyright.html

Moose Lake Agate Days Rock Dump

Moose_Lake_Agate_Days

Moose_Lake_Agate_Days

Carlton County Gem and Mineral Club
and the Moose Lake Chamber of Commerce present…
Moose Lake Agate Days

Minnesota’s Moose Lake High School Gymnasium and Parking Lot

Agate Stampede  (Saturday only) (350 Pounds of Agates & $ 300.00 Dollars in quarters)
Sunday 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M.

And there you have it! A great days event! Moose Lake, Minnesota is the Agate capitol of the world. Stop by and check this one out! This event is usually held on the 3rd Saturday in July.

Other sites to check out…

http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/education/geo…

http://www.topix.com/forum/state/mn/TLSU…

http://www.superiortrails.com/duluth-aga…

http://www.superiortrails.com/rock-hound…

http://www.minnesotabound.com/visit/Moos…

http://mnbeaches.org/beaches/lksuperior/…

http://www.keweenawtraveler.com/agates.h…

http://www.agates-r-us.com/news.html

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.

Rock Hound Run Report 11-8-07 to 11-11-07

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens,Rockhound stories,Video,field trip reports,regular postings — Gary November 23, 2007 @ 10:51 pm

Thanks Dick, baby is 3 weeks old and SHE :) is doing fine.  Having to get used to 4am feedings again but all worth it!  

Hi Gary hope your life is going well, new baby and all. Here is the trip report from my last trip and a link to the video I took as well as a link to my Partner Ron’s photos and a link to my updated web site with all my trips on it. We found some really nice stuff. Found a hole in the side of a hill with a vein of Blue Lace Agate plus lots laying around on the ground, lots of big Limonite cubes and a couple of Citrine Crystals, a couple pieces of Tourmaline. Some geodes some small pieces of fire Agate and lots of Jasper, red, and Agate. A real good trip!!!!!

coon_hollow_2coon_hollow coon_hollow_video

 

Dick Wilimek

 

http://outdoors.webshots.com/album/561407535OQhIeV

 

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3956629913512159115

 

http://members.cox.net/rwilimek/

 

 

Rock Hound Run Report

11-8-07 to 11-11-07

 

 

Another great rock hound/wheelin trip. We had Tom and Sue in there TJ, Jay in his Pinz, Micheal in his Toyota, Rainer and Marianne in there Ford, and Shawn in his TJ, with the run leaders Dick and Ron in a TJ.

I arrived at Coon Hollow at 5:30 on Wed. and Ron arrived about 7:30. Thursday morning Tom and Sue came in with there motor home towing the Jeep. We hung around camp till about 11:00 to see if anyone was coming in late morning, no one showed up so we headed out for a geode bed that I had been to once, we found it without any trouble, did some looking around there. Sue found some nice stuff and I found a couple of small ones. Then I had heard about a seam of Blue Lace Agate that was south and east of the Potato patch, so we went hunting for that, the trail petered out but we could see it off in the distance, so we found our way over to it. There was a lot of Blue Agate there on the ground in and around the hole and in the tailings pile, also some other stuff. It deserves a return trip; I marked it with the GPS so we can find it again. Then we found a old trail that headed north so we took that and eventually ended back on the Hauser Geode Rd. and back to camp. At camp we saw the Pinz coming down the Opal Hill mine Rd. and Jay was there in a few minutes. Since it was around 3:00 by then we decided to call it a day. Micheal came into camp before dark on Thursday, we talked on the 2 meter radio, when he had just turned on to the Bradshaw trail just north of Palo Verde, using simplex that is about 10 miles as the crow fly’s.

Friday morning sunrise was spectacular, reds oranges yellows and a blue sky with some clouds. S0 after some discussion we decided to head for the Opal hill mine and Pebble Terrace. You can find/pickup Agate, Jasper, Fire Agate, Petrified wood and Sea sponge plus some other pretty cool stuff. In fact Jay found a real nice piece of Fire Agate with orange color in the nice round bubble on it. While we were there we helped pull a guy out that was stuck in some soft sand, Jay’s Pinz had no problem with the ¾ ton Pickup. Then back to camp for some lunch. We decide due to a challenge from some other friends that were camped out there as well, to a Potato Gun shoot off. What fun that was, Toms was the most reliable, and mine went the farthest and well Bob’s is fun also!!!! During the shoot off Shawn came into camp and then a little later Rainer and Marianne arrived.

On Saturday we went to the Limonite Cube fields, we tried a different spot, that Shawn had found the previous day and it was great, lots of big ones and some Crystals, Shawn found two really nice Citrine Crystals and some large Tourmaline, green and pink and black and a clear, crystals. We stayed out there for around three hours, then back to camp. Saturday night we all went on a night run to an area a fellow camper directed us to, he called it Jasper Flats, looking for rocks at night with flashlights is kind of fun I must say. When we got back to camp Jay headed for home and we had another camp fire as we did every night there. On Sunday Ron packed up by 9:00 was on the road, Micheal took some directions from me and headed for the Geode Beds, he was meeting up with some other friends to take the Bradshaw trail back to Indio. I packed up by 9:40 and hit the road. Tom and Sue were getting ready also. Rainer and Marianne had planned to stay till Monday, lucky them!!!

Oh yes I almost forgot Jay, Tom and I did a night run on Thursday night we had a good time running down some washes. Thanks to Ron for all his great photos and I hope anyone else who took photos will post them to the run Album. I took a short movie and will get it posted in the next few days. Thanks to every one who made the trip, I think that it was one of the best ones we have done. They just seem to get better every time!!!!!

 

Dick       

 

Field Trip- Ocean View Mine, Pala Gem Mining District, CA

Filed under: Rockhound stories,regular postings — Gary April 16, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

ocean_view_mine

DIGFORGEMS.COM - your link to
The Oceanview Mine – The Last REAL Operating Gem Mine
In the World Renowned Pala Gem Mining District

Chief Mountain, Pala, San Diego County, California
Your one stop source for tours, specimens, jewelry, cutting rough, faceted stones

Thanks Teresa for letting me post this excellent article!

This morning, bright and early, I joined internet faceter friend
Robert Winfield and his daughter Allie for a day at the Ocean View Mine.

We drove up Highway 76, from Oceanside, Ca. into the Pala Indian
area, and up the hill from Magee Road. Check in was smooth, and a
mandatory data sheet was completed before we drove onto mine
property. Once there, parking was very easy, and close to where we
screened.

There was ample and pleasant assistance directing us to a screening
spot after parking. Each individual was assigned a work space which
included a pair of screens, both 1/2 and 1/4 inch, a bucket, and a
small garden hand tool to move dirt and rocks. Between every two
stations was a bucket of clean water, (for now) within which to rinse
off screened material. This was quite adequate, and very efficient.

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