Return to Blue Phantom Mine near Mt Ida, Arkansas

I`m going to dedicate this story to our good rockhound friend Abbigail Evans of Nashville…bless her heart, she really wanted to go back to this mine with us, she was sick the last time we went in November but persevered through it so that we could def go back then, we had some folks bail out on us after setting it all up and it jeopardized the opportunity to actually go there. This time around, she was recovering from a serious back injury and made the prudent decision not to go with us, due to the very rough road in there and out in the safari type truck. We hope to see her soon and wish her a very speedy recovery !! Chin up girl…you were definitely there in our thoughts both days !!

 

A few weeks ago, I was sitting here at my computer talking to a few rockhound friends by email, enjoying my early retirement from nearly 16 years of fire and police dispatch work in St Louis County. There were several reasons I retired early, and while I do miss some of my co-workers, many firefighters, police officers, and Command Staff/Chiefs, as well as some of the work, there were also alot of things and people there that created a great deal of stress, those things and folks I do not miss at all… and as it turns out, that stress may have been the cause of a serious eye infection that I suffered through from the 6th of February to the 2nd of March.

During those three weeks I was down with the infection and secondary infection of my right eye, I didn`t enjoy much of anything…I pushed through it and got things done with limited vision, albeit at a slower pace much of the time and had to wear extra dark sunglasses when outside or in my sunroom due to sensitivity to bright light, similar to having your eyes dilated and then multiply that sensitivity to brighter light by about 50 and you will have a good idea what I was going through. It nearly cost me a short trip to southern Arkansas as well.

During the first few days of February, one of my rockhound friends Mary Gratsch, of Cincy, Ohio, emailed to ask if I thought anyone would be interested in returning to the Blue Phantom Mine near Mt Ida…I told her there was no doubt in my mind that most if not all of the group, would love to return there, but it would be a matter of timing as to how many could go. She was suggesting we go during February and I told her that it would likely be physically impossible for many of the group to travel down there in February as that was normally the coldest month as well as the snowiest month, especially for Missouri and states farther north and east. I told her I would send an email out to everyone tho, and see who might be interested. Normally, as in years past with the exception of last year, we are digging at a fluorite mine in western Kentucky by the end of March, however we have not received word as to whether we will get the green light to proceed this year.

I sent the email out the next day and about fifteen rockhound friends answered and were interested in returning to the Blue Phantom Mine early March. Everyone let me know when they were free and we narrowed the time frame down to two days in a row at the mine, with the owner`s approval, for March 5th and 6th. Initially we had 15 interested and once we all arrived down there, we had exactly ten of us committed to go both days, however we had to scramble and replace four on Tuesday…the requirement to go to this mine is a group of at least ten people…we were all staying at the Royal Oak Inn, which is under new management, and our Hotel Manager there, Adam, was able to find some replacements for us for Tuesday.  Most of us traveled down there on Saturday and Sunday…I opted to leave Onyx with Mom this trip, since he didn`t like the road going to and from the mine and he probably didn`t appreciate the ride in and out of there itself, either. I left the house about 4:30 Sunday morning, March 4th, and took Hwy 63 down this time….traveled thru Mammoth Spring at the State Line about 7 am, and stopped briefly to photograph and video the fog rising up off the waters at the spring….

 

….this route actually shaves an hour to ninety minutes off my trip due to the passing lanes on 63 and then I pick up four lane Hwy 67 at Hoxie, Arkansas…ninety minute drive down to Little Rock, sashay around LR on 440 and that blends into I-30 South about a thirty min drive and pick up Hwy 70 west to Hot Springs. Arkansas DOT started converting 70 to a four lane highway last year and are nearly completed on it, just waiting on two bridges completion and then stripe it..I was really surprised they did not have it completed yet, but I have to keep in mind when it comes to contractors that build and re-build highways, it`s really hard to find good help these days.

John started texting me about an hour north of Little Rock…he and Mary were just leaving LR after spending the night there and headed south to Mt Ida, and it was raining down there he said….told him I could see dark clouds ahead and it was pretty wet in the fields on both sides of the highway where I was at. There were also some pretty sunbeams showing up to the east of me….

I crossed the large and wide White River soon after and thought to myself it looked more like the brown and muddy river instead. It was out of its banks and fields north and south of it for a few miles were under water at least a foot deep. I drove thru some short spotty showers about 30 minutes later and that lasted all the way to Hot Springs and then it cleared off to just cloudy skies. Every creek between Hot Springs and Mt Ida was up and rolling pretty good and I saw several waterfalls, the pretty one across from the old Monte Cristo Gas Station and Rock Shop was up about a foot and looked really nice. I heard from Fred and Mark just west of Hot Springs, Mark was waiting for me at the Subway on the west side of Mt Ida and Fred was about ten minutes from the Subway. I stopped off briefly at Burl`s Country Smokehouse to get a couple of sandwiches for my lunch the next couple of days and some pork jerky as well. Love that place !! 

When I pulled into the Subway at Mt Ida, I found Mark and Fred finishing up their lunch and we loaded up and headed over to the quarry to meet up with John and Mary…they were already there and looking for wavellite, but finding alot of planerite so far. I texted Justin to see where he was…still at home in Hot Springs, but said he would be on his way soon and see us there as well. We arrived at the quarry soon after and there was John, in his blue rainsuit and floppy hat too, over by the quarry pond….

…we parked, got our gear on, grabbed our buckets and tools and walked down to the pond where John was busy digging very pretty and colorful wavellite pieces out of a few small veins….

…he and Mary had been looking around and found some stuff before we arrived…Mark found some nice stuff and was quite happy about it too….

….Mary was doing well looking thru the piles of rock….

…we also walked over to the other side of the pond to an area we had found some thin veins of wavellite or planerite, last fall when there….

….this time Fred walked over and started finding some big stuff right away…

…while poking around and digging near Fred,  we also found some gray colored orbs, some clusters of them, and John identified them as Crandallite, psuedomorphs of wavellite balls sort of…meaning they started out to be balls of wavellite but didnt make it to that stage, is how I interpreted John`s explanation of it…

John also found a vein of quartz with either planerite or wavellite in it, a bright turquoise color in seams…sure was pretty stuff and even prettier when wet….

…naturally, we all liked it so we all took home lots of it as well…by this time, I think we all had at least a bucket full of pretty stuff…we kept digging into the thin vein of it and it was going right into the pond, we pulled several pieces out of the water that were quite nice too….

here is one of the nicer wavellite pieces I found, in and around a pretty quartz vug as well….

 

…we were waiting on Justin to get there so he could take us to a special spot where it could be found in mass…he showed up shortly and we followed him to the spot, where we all agreed, there was some very nice stuff to be found there…here are a few that Mark found…..

….we had been there a couple of hours by then and relatively cloudy skies and dry, but from the looks of the horizon, that was going to change soon…the dark skies were northwest of us and I figured moving northeast or easterly, however it turned out they were moving counterclockwise, so they were moving southeast and headed right for us. I think we missed the brunt of it tho, as we only suffered under a short steady sprinkle for the most part…or at least, that is all I remember of it, we were finding so much good stuff at that time, I prob just blocked the rain out of mind…

…the view above is to the northwest, and the view below is northeasterly toward the entrance of the quarry where that valley on the left side would be straight north….

By the time 6 pm rolled around, we were all quite happy with our finds and getting hungry, John and Mary headed for town to get something to eat,  and the rest of us drove over to visit Mr. Manley at his Rock Shop and see if he still had some of the smokey quartz crystals from Shane and Tony`s new mine near Jessieville…he had told us about them back in November when we were down there, and he invited us to come by and take a look. John stopped by there on the way in earlier in the day and told him we might be by that evening and he told John he would be around there all day.

Sure enough, we found him there with some other folks who were buying some stuff from him, so he naturally invited us on inside and showed us the smokeys that he had on hand…some beautiful stuff, let me tell ya, he had clusters, single points, small clusters, some double terminated crystals, big points, small points, and he had flats for sale as well as singles. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he also had some drusey quartz crystals there, too, likely from some dealers that had picked some up in Missouri near me….gorgeous stuff for sure. We told him we would be back the next evening and then we all headed to the motel to get checked in before finding some place to eat supper. John texted to say that the Mexican Restaurant was closed, so he and Mary had wandered next door to the PIzza Shack…I told him we would prob go to the Dairyette, near the motel…Justin drove over there to wait for us. After getting checked in at the motel, Mark, Fred, and I joined Justin at the Dairyette and found out they still make great sandwiches there. We were all tired and wore out, but if today was any sign of what was to come, we were all looking forward to the two days ahead.

We met at the Mt Ida Cafe the next morning at 7 am for a great breakfast….that cafe reminded me of my teenage years heading to deer camp and stopping off at the Lazy L Cafe in Houston, Missouri, great down home atmosphere and good cooking…. before driving down to Wegners to sign in for our trip to the Blue Phantom Mine. Just like last fall, we saw alot of deer grazing in the pastures as we drove down Owley Creek Road, always a good sign in my book. As we were getting our gear, tools, buckets, wraps, and lunch/water to take with us to the mine, our driver pulled up alongside our vehicles so we didn`t have to carry everything so far. We gave Mary our waiver forms and money so she could go inside the crystal shop and take care of the paperwork for us. Her husband Pete and her sister Judy made the trip down this time with her and they loaded her stuff up while she was inside.

It turns out that I knew our driver, Mike…his Mom used to have cabins for rent down on DeGray Lake years ago, and my dog then, Missy, and I stayed at one of her cabins for a family reunion at the State Park nearby. I met Mike there back then, he was collecting quartz and selling it on Ebay at the time, even purchased some from him back then and he even gave me some just to get them out of his way for newer stuff. He was the driver last fall first week of November, the week before we arrived, for the MAGS Club, and they were telling me they really liked him as their driver.  The gals rode up in the cab with Mike and us guys rode in the back, we had plenty of room, removing the middle bench seat with Mr. Wegners approval. Today it was Mary, Pete, and Judy from Ohio, John and Mary from NW Illinois, Fred from Tyler, Texas, Mark from near Dallas, Texas, Justin from Hot Springs, Phil from Central Kentucky, and me from Central Missouri. I had my camera with me, but left it in my backpack, so Mark shot a few with his phone of the trip in the truck…I think he took these on the way back tho…

It took us about 35 to 40 minutes to get to the mine…Mike took it easier on us this trip across one of the roughest Forest Service Roads I have ever been on…I swear, I think the FS roads in Colorado are generally smoother than the Arkansas FS roads are…this time we were riding in the biggest truck they had, so we would have optimum room for rocks and tools and riding room too. Our worst concerns were confirmed while we were loading up tho, when Mr. Wegner told us that the pit was full of water, after they received 18 inches of rain the week before, so we knew there would be no way we could get down into the pockets we were anticipating. We would pretty much be confined to the large tailing pile and the smaller one, however they believed all the rain had washed off the crystals in the tailings and should be easier to find stuff. We were looking forward to it no matter what. We also took our rain jackets as the skies were cloudy and we didn`t know if we were gonna have showers yet or not, even tho the weatherman down there said the skies would clear by noon. As it turns out, he was correct, the blue skies returned and it actually warmed up to 70 degrees that afternoon. Everyone headed out in different directions on arrival, I grabbed my first bucket and headed down the old tailing piles by the entrance road in……

…..and found several nice small clusters all over the place…everyone else headed to the large pile on the other side of the truck and spread out….

…that is Mike our driver on the left above and John on the right….and Mark showing off one of his finds below….

…and below is the pit from my vantage point up on the old tailings pile…the wall directly across is the one that that huge cluster of crystals was attached to, near the top, last fall…the cluster that I could not reach…the water was probably six to ten feet deep there….and deeper still down to the right at the end of the pit…

By the time I reached the end of the pile along the entrance road and turned back to walk along the top of the pile, I had filled my bucket, so I decided to take a break, and wrap up the crystals I had, eat half my sandwich, and then hunt some more. Just as I finished, Fred came over and decided to walk the old tailings that I had not covered yet, and I walked down below on the pit side..in the first thirty feet he started finding small clusters just like I had before, and then spotted a nice larger crystal cluster. I had found a lot of golden healer crystals and clusters in the old tailings pile, even several in hot spot areas where I was finding three or four after I began raking down the sides of the piles a bit. We came to an area of large boulders and Fred spotted a few plates on some and climbed down to remove them from the boulders….

…you can see the back wall of the pit down below Fred…last fall we were able to walk up to that back wall, it was prob thirty feet up from the floor of the pit…very deep down there…btw, Fred found some nice plates while down there….

…in the next photo you see the far side of the pit where that ramp comes down to the floor of the pit…that is where the blue phantom quartz vein is believed to have started and it runs along that far wall down to the end of the pit…they started digging into the grayish brown colored bench above the wall and found crystals, so they drilled holes down that left side and are prepared to blast that out eventually, they tried to dig into it but found the jacks fork sandstone to be incredibly tough on the bucket teeth. Right now there is no time frame as to when they will blast that open…..

…and here is a golden healer crystal cluster that I found with some blue color at the base, partially buried in the dirt…

Mark came down and photographed me in my bib overalls looking along the top of the original piles….

which I really appreciate and my Mom does too, so thanks again Mark…..and by the way, that is an A for Arkansas Razorbacks red hat I have on, not the Angels…lets just get that straightened out right now, lol….and here is one of my buckets full of crystal clusters….

John found a huge boulder, one that he actually left there by accident last fall when we were there, and he re-discovered it still sitting where he left it…this time it went home with him…I didnt get a good photo of it, he sat it down half in sun and half in shade, so I shot it half and half to compensate….bottom half first…

..and the top half below…

…and a couple of large clusters John found in addition….

… above is the top view of John`s medium sized cluster and next two photos of one that Fred found as well….

Mike rounded us all up when it was time to load up the truck, and believe me, that took a while cause John, Phil, Fred, and Mark had a few medium to large clusters between them….they loaded the truck down with between a thousand and two thousand pounds of crystals…Mr. Wegner came out and was quite impressed with the amount we came back with as well…so much so, that he asked to take a group photo of us so he could advertise for his mine. We were too tired to care, and after loading up our vehicles with our crystals and tools, we headed back to Mt Ida and the first stop was the Mexican Restaurant for supper. I had never been there, and when we first walked inside the door, the beautiful and vivid colors of the dining room just jumped out at ya….I was amazed at the color of the booths, tables, and chairs…the booths and chairs had murals painted on them…I have been in a few Mexican Restaurants before, but never one this colorful and beautiful !!

…Fred took the last two photos for me and a friend sent me the first one…btw, the food there was good too and by the time we headed out the door, the place was half full with local folks…several of us drove up to Mr. Manley`s Crystal Shop west of town to see the smokey quartz again, John and Mary along this time as well as Mary, Judy, and Pete, as they missed out on our stop there the evening before. I think everyone was pleasantly surprised at the quality of crystals that he had from Shane`s mine, as well as the material he had from other places as well. He is also a pleasant guy to talk to and can give you the low down on any mine up there, as quartz mining is what his family has been all about for many years. His youngest son Justin was there as well, and we were able to meet and talk to him for a little while as well.

By the time it became full on dark, we all headed back down the hill to town and on to the motel…many to re-arrange their vehicles in anticipation of collecting more crystals the next day, Fred and Mark were leaving on Tuesday, Mark early morning headed home and Fred after breakfast with us. I had re-packed my truck at Wegners when we returned from the mine so I was good to go. Justin wasn`t going to be able to go with us the next morning either, so John talked to Adam, and Adam had four motel guests signed up to go with us the next morning…two had been there a couple of days already…Mark and Wendy…they had been to a couple of mines and were looking for another adventure before they headed home to Milford, Pennsylvania. We met them the next morning at Wegners, after another good breakfast at Mt Ida Cafe and bid Fred a safe trip home. The other two from the motel apparently called Wegners that morning and cancelled, and Phil told Mary that he wasn`t going with us that day either…despite being two short and the fact that they waited til that morning to cancel on us, Mr. Wegner allowed us to go to the mine so we loaded up the truck and headed that way. Mike selected a truck with more bed space this time, anticipating that we might just need more space and this one had four wheel drive just in case we needed it after loading it down. We had a good talk with Mark on the way over, found out that he is a hard rock miner like us, so we knew he and Wendy would fit right in well with us, and they did…they were pleasant to visit with and dig with too.

This time when we arrived, Mike drove us down to the end of the road and parked by the machines, as he intended to start up the Case Trackhoe and stir up the small pile first and then walk it up to the big pile and stir it up too. I had asked his permission the day before, to walk down to the ledge above the pit, at the bottom of the original tailing piles, to remove some plates from a couple of boulders down there, and he said it would be okay, just be careful. First thing I wanted to do tho, was check out the huge tailing pile, especially an area about fifty feet in that Fred told me about, was the first area that he actually found some color in the crystals. I grabbed my buckets and backpack and made a beeline for that area, followed by a couple of the gals who wanted to work that pile once again too. Fred was right, I started walking around that area and was finding small cluster and single points that were either golden healer deep yellow/orange, or had the blue color in them, and a few of the clusters had both colors. I stayed up there for about 90 minutes and filled one bucket completely full and found a couple of medium sized clusters. I called Mark over to one boulder, thinking he might want the nice plate on it…to my surprise, he chipped three plates off and handed me one to take home with me…very nice of him and I thanked him for that….it even had a little color on it….

I decided to take a short lunch break and eat my other ham sandwich from Burl`s and photographed a few of the clusters and plates I found in the big pile too…

On this second trip to the mine, I didn`t shoot many photos, which saved me more time to rockhunt this time around. After my short lunch break, I grabbed my other bucket, hammer, and chisel, and walked down to the ledge below the original tailings and found that boulder I had seen the nice crystals on. I was able to chip off a small plate, but the big plate on there, didn`t want to cooperate, so it is still there, maybe the group that is going there tomorrow can take it off..here is the small plate all cleaned up that I removed….

I was down there on that ledge the rest of the afternoon, going from boulder to boulder and finding a small cluster here and there. I was down at the very end of the tailing piles when Mike came over to check on me, he was also looking for a good single point crystal for Judy, Mary`s sister, as she had not found one yet…he thought he might be able to find one down in the area I was at, so he started looking around there with me while we were talking and catching up on old times. I found this small plate down there a few minutes before he walked down to me…

…and I showed him a huge boulder that I found sitting at the foot of the tailings that I thought John would prob like to take home…so when I got back to the truck, I took John back down there to show it to him…

…he seemed to like it…I told him we could carry it up to the road above us and Mike would stop and pick it up to put on the truck on the way out if he wanted to take it home…so he pulled it up to size it up and the next thing I knew, he had hoisted it up on his shoulder and up the hill to the road we went…he sat it down in the dappled sunlight roadside and I photographed him with it…

We got back to the truck and John took off down the road to get his stuff gathered up to load on to the truck…the first two people walking up the road with their stuff, was Mark…

…and his wife Wendy right behind him….

…we started loading up the truck as Mike walked back down the road to make sure we didn`t leave anyone behind or any tools or crates….

…and we finished loading everything and everyone up, by the time Mike came walking back up the road…. emptyhanded of course….

…he stopped around the bend to pick up the boulder that John was gonna take home and then the next stop was the ranch and crystal shop. Back at the parking area, we all packed our vehicles with our finds and then most of the crew headed to the Mexican Restaurant again…John, Mary, and I were the last ones to head out, I was headed north to Waldron to have supper with family, spending the night at a hotel there, then headed home the next morning. Everyone else were spending one more night in Mt Ida before heading home on Wednesday as well.  I am still cleaning up some of my crystals and hope to get some of my wavellite in the iron out this weekend when our temps climb to around seventy degrees. I will post more photos of my in the next day or two, here are a few….

For a short trip down and back, it sure was filled up well with some great crystal collecting, was great seeing everyone again too. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for Visiting My Site….Contact Me For More Information…

Thanks for visiting my site, I am a rockhound in east central Missouri and I have been rockhounding for 50 years…my Mom and Dad got me started and I am glad they did, it`s a great hobby to get into and enjoy, digging and finding new treasures that God created millions of years ago can be as much fun as meeting new people that share that same love and interest, turning into long lasting friendships. I go rockhunting as much as time permits me to, sometimes in state and locally, as well as out of state trips to other locations where other great treasures can be located. I have a core group of friends that join me on many of my travels out of state and I am often asked by others if they can join me and my group. My answer is yes, as long as you meet a few requirements…I am often asked if I am willing to take others rockhunting with me and my answer is the same, yes, as long as you meet certain requirements.

My parents raised me to be a law abiding rockhound, meaning I do not trespass nor steal from others, I have great respect for others and their properties, I ask for permission before entering property of others and if denied permission, I respect that and go elsewhere. I am easy to get along with and I take my dog with me often on my rockhunting trips…if you don`t like dogs, then do not ask me to leave my dog at home, he is a big part of my life and a joy to be around much of the time. Many of my core group of friends are hard rock miners, we put in long hours at locations, digging and breaking rock to find the goodies, we practice safety in doing so…some of my group of friends are more surface collectors…we all wear the appropriate safety gear no matter what role we are in at the locations, basics are hard hats, gloves, steel toed boots, and safety glasses, not all are required at each location, but each person comes prepared just in case.

Some of the locations I go to, are open to other rockhounds, some at no charge and some charge a dig fee, some require rockhounds to wear safety gear and practice safety while rockhunting there, staying off the high walls, behind berms, and following local rules and regulations to avoid injuries. If you are the type of person that can abide by rules and regulations, then you are the type of person I can take rockhunting or provide information to. 

Some locations are privately owned and I cannot take anyone else there, nor provide information on them…. some where I did the legwork to gain not only access to that location but the trust of the owner, and I will not provide that information to anyone else at the request of the owner.

I am a big believer in keeping my word, and I have seen the end result when one does not keep their word on other locations…I have seen many locations once accessible to other rockhounds, lost because someone failed to keep their word and gave out the information to rockhounds who had no respect for the property of others, damaging the property in their pursuit of pretty rocks and minerals. 

In my fifty years of rockhounding, mainly in the last twenty years, I have seen and experienced many of these different types of people, mostly good people and some bad, some I never care to meet or deal with again…I`m a pretty good judge of character but sometimes I have to rely on the word of others til I find out differently about someone…been there and done that too. I do screen folks I have never met or heard of too…there are many tools available these days to do just that. I have worked in law enforcement and the fire service for many years, and worn other hats as well. 

So if you believe in good ethics, following rules and regulations, practice safety, and can meet my simple requirements as a good rockhound, then I would be happy to take you rockhounding, provide you with information on available locations, or add you to my core group of friends. For more information and to get started, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com and tell me about yourself and we can go from there. My name is James…Onyx and I look forward to hearing from you…

Fall of 2017 in Arkansas…PHENOMENAL

Despite cooler temps and a bit of rainy drizzle at the beginning and end of the week, my fall trip to Arkansas this year turned out to be a PHENOMENAL seven days !!  I was able to get a few days of much needed rest and relaxation, and two of the three days over the weekend involved two great locations, one new one, and some GREAT collecting by everyone involved this time around. For those that were not able to make it down to collect with us, you missed out on a great time and some great crystals found and dug. I think everyone would agree with me that the Phantom Mine at Wegner`s was the real treat this time around. 

Onyx and I picked up my Mom early on Tuesday morning, Nov 7th, and headed west to Joplin, then south on Hwy 71/I-49 to Fort Smith, where I always drop Mom off to visit with her two younger brothers and their families. We ran into some drizzle about Rolla that continued off and on all the way down there. On the way down, I stopped off at a resale shop in Fayetteville, to check on some smokey quartz from Brazil…I had talked to a guy who collected it there last year and had some for sale at this resale shop…he had a lot of broken stuff, but I found one nice small cluster and purchased it at a good price. We then drove on over the Boston Mountains and arrived in Fort Smith around noon, and after dropping Mom off at the Residence Inn, Onyx and I headed on south in the drizzle which increased in intensity by the time we got to Waldron. I had slowed down a bit since the highway had been resurfaced in the past year with fresh asphalt…that stuff gets a bit slick when wet and this was a cold drizzle on top of that, temps hovering around 42 degrees…however there was a guy in front of me zipping along about 65 mph and one behind me coming on fast, when we all met a state trooper just south of Waldron. He turned around half a mile behind me and although he never turned his lights on, he did pace everyone back there and stayed back there til we reached Y City, where Onyx and I turned east on 270 toward Mt Ida and Hot Springs.

The rain picked up in intensity again as we crossed over the short mountain range fifteen miles down 270 and I slowed down again…and came upon yet another trooper on the other side of the range, this one sitting in a driveway at the foot of the big hill. I was actually glad to see more of them out and about, specially in that type of weather. We stopped off at the Phillips 66 in Mt Ida, where gas was twenty cents a gallon less than the St Louis/Sullivan area. A few min later I honked as I passed by the home of Bill and Faith of Blue Moon Crystals…they live on Hwy 270 two miles west of the Charlton Lake Park area and about a mile west of the old Monte Cristo Rock Shop/Gas Station, which is across the highway from the neat waterfall on Murphy Creek, that sits just below the highway on the north side…there are some lucky residents that live just the other side of the creek and have that waterfall view to enjoy on a daily basis. We continued east on Hwy 270 and I thought about stopping at Burl`s Country Smokehouse at Crystal Springs, to pick up a couple of smoked ham sandwiches…one for me and one for Onyx of course…didn`t stop but wish I had now…and continued on to the Pretti Point condo complex, arriving just before dark. I say wish I had stopped for the sandwiches, cause supper later that evening was not very good, could have been because of the late hour tho.

The next morning, there were a few breaks in the clouds, and I was able to photograph the pretty maples in bloom above the condo….

Believe me…they stayed this color all week and were some of the prettiest trees I saw all week there…found out real quickly that the fall color down there, traditionally much prettier down there, was very disappointing this time around. I guess the leaves on many of the trees down there, had fallen from the trees from the cold rain that was falling those first few days, because many of the areas that I have photographed in the past, were barren of leaves and color both. I contacted my buddy Justin that morning and drove over to his new house to see his home and rock collection. He now has a lot of room and room to grow as well…he had some nice pieces of green wavellite that he had self collected, so I purchased a few nice sized ones from him.

He lives close to my buddy Robert, so I took him over to Robert`s house to meet him soon after.  As it turned out, the two of them had already met at the Spirit Show earlier in the year there, and had talked shop there the whole time. Despite the cold temps and drizzle, we had a great time visiting with Robert and then Justin and I headed to Cracker Barrel to get some lunch. Afterwards, I took him to Walmart so he could get some cat food and then returned him to his house. Onyx and I headed back to the condo to get a good nap in…and believe me, with that type of weather, it was a great nap…Onyx and I had a nice bowl of ice cream for supper. 🙂   

We were up at the crack of dawn to discover sunshine and a foggy sunrise over the lake below….

…that just kept getting prettier with every few minutes….

Robert took Justin and I on a sightseeing trip later that morning and we discovered that there were some pretty oak trees up on the mountaintops that still had some good color to them….

We saw a lot of nice scenery that day and started back to Hot Springs about 4 pm…Slade let me know that he had arrived at his hotel two hours earlier than expected, and Ray having arrived the evening before, began inquiring where I planned to eat supper. We decided on Cracker Barrel and I let Slade know that I would pick him up at his hotel….as Justin and I arrived in Hot Springs…we ran smack dab into this sunset downtown….

…after dropping Justin off, Onyx and I headed to the condo to clean up, and discovered these last few rays of the sunset over the lake waters….

    Slade was staying at the La Quinta Inn on Central Avenue. He wasn`t familiar with the area, this was his first trip down to Arkansas for quartz, his hotel was on my way to CB, so I picked him up shortly before 6 pm and we found Ray waiting for us outside the restaurant. After a good meal and some good conversation, I dropped him off and then Onyx and I headed back to the condo for another bowl of good ice cream before an early bedtime. Up again at the crack of dawn, we found another beautiful sunrise waiting for us, and again some fog attached to the pretty colors…

…and this morning, this little guy perched on the boathouse down below my balcony, so I photographed him as well….

After my stretching exercises, which have become a daily routine for me, Onyx and I headed to the Valero Station to meet up with everyone else…finding Fred from Texas, and David Bruce from Georgia….already there…. talking to Slade from North Carolina…. they had already met Pete and Mary from Ohio…Paul & PJ from Michigan arrived soon after, followed by John Oost & Mary from NW Illinois, and soon we were just waiting on Ray from Louisiana to arrive…he pulled in just as I was texting to check on him. I let everyone know I was going to stop at Burls and get a couple of sandwiches…those smoked ham sandwiches that I should have stopped to get the other day, and then we all took off heading west to Tony`s mine. Tony let me know while enroute, that he was going to be running a few minutes late, as he was having some work done on his new house and would likely arrive a few minutes behind us. As we crossed over the small bridge over Hwy 270 at Denby Creek, which enters an arm of Lake Ouachita at that point, on the far side of the bridge we spotted a four point buck with his nose to the ground, trailing half a dozen does…he was headed north and as we passed by him, not three feet from the sides of our vehicles, I looked left and spotted the half a dozen does I just mentioned, huddled together down in the ditch on the south side of 270, nearly right across the roadway from the buck…and trust me, he had no clue whatsoever….deer hunters will know what I am talking about. 🙂

We pressed on and soon after turning south on Hwy 379 west of Mt Ida, we started seeing deer everywhere, on both sides of the highway..it was the morning before the opening season and it looked like several scouting parties…scouting for cover. We pulled up to the gate soon after, and about five minutes later, Tony pulled in with his girlfriend Blondie and their two pups in the cab with them. After driving on up to the mine and parking, Tony showed us several smokey quartz crystals, some in baskets and some in flats, that he had been harvesting on a daily basis from his new mine with his partner Shane…they were beautiful crystals, many of them big and lustrous points. He told us they were hoping to be into some clusters soon as well, had been finding a few here and there sporadically. After paying our dig fee we all headed up to our favorite spots and began searching for quartz crystals.

Onyx and I drove on up to the top and found Pete, Mary, Slade, Fred, Paul, and PJ already up there….

I showed Slade the wall that Chuck had worked over back in July for the plates, and he set off in that direction, intent on removing a few himself. I got my boots on, grabbed my gloves, apron, bag, and tools…while doing so I was talking to Paul, who was searching the huge piles on the right of me…..

I then headed for the old tailing piles on the south side, intent on checking out some information from Adam regarding some beautiful stuff he had found in the old piles years before. For the next couple of hours I zig zagged through the pine trees and short brush, surface collecting the top of the old piles and finding quite a few small plates and clusters that were quite pretty, and small single points all over the place as well. I then headed for my truck to get a bite to eat, Onyx joining me for his sandwich break too….I set a small cluster next to the sandwich that I found first off….

Slade and Fred were working the rocks of the wall on the far side and appeared to be doing quite well too…Fred told me later that he was finding a few pockets of plates in this rock….

During the afternoon, I found some really nice ones…one appeared to be a flat plate, I pulled it out and discovered a nice long single point attached to what I thought was a plate, and a smaller point perpendicular to the larger singe point embedded in it. Ten minutes later, I found yet another large single point and then twenty minutes later I found yet another point about half as big, but still very nice…I felt quite blessed and took it easier after that. By 4 pm, we were all ready to head for Hot Springs, a few having already left ahead of us. John and David did pretty good down below at the other mine in the veins where the large plates are found, before heading up in the afternoon to work the old walls too. We decided to meet up at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper that evening after cleaning up…we were all looking forward to the Phantom Mine at Wegner`s Crystal Ranch, the next day. As long as we had at least ten people in our group, we would be allowed to go there and dig. 

Several friends in the Memphis Club MAGS, which I am a member of as well, had given me good information on their trip there just the weekend prior, and said there were huge clusters of phantom crystals laying all over the place, that could be cobbed down to more manageable pieces, that could more easily be transported out of there and home. That information alone, once shared with everyone, had us all chomping at the bit to get there as soon as possible. The information I had included photos of their finds, which I also shared with everyone, showing blue colored crystals with clear crystals in the clusters. We had to be on site at Wegners the next morning by 8:30 am to sign in so after a small bowl of ice cream, we retired for the night.

Once again, we were up by 6 am the next morning and yet another beautiful sunrise awaited us…I stepped out on the balcony to photograph it over the waters of Lake Hamilton below and found the air to be quite crisp but the eastern skies were absolutely GORGEOUS….

…and then the skies started to deepen and the colors only intensified a few minutes later….

…which I took as a sign of a good day ahead…Abbi drove in late the night before from Nashville with a bad cold…she didnt hesitate when she found out that we might not have enough to go to the Phantom Mine…as it was, we had just enough people to be able to go. Justin joined us on this trip as well and we headed to Wegners, arriving as planned by 8:30 am. We all parked out in the inner circle parking area and signed our papers, then headed inside the crystal shop to pay our fees to Annie, who had called me the weekend before to set up the group dig for us. Abbi took a few photos outside as everyone was looking at the rocks on the tables that were for sale, to give one an idea of what could be found at this mine….

…and of Justin and John who looked cold and trying to warm up in the brisk breeze…

We had hoped to have Mike as our driver, he was the driver for MAGS, however Annie told me that Mike had injured his back and had been replaced with Bill, and she assured us that he was as good as Mike was. They had a smaller truck than what we expected and had added four other rockhounds to our group, two were from Wisconsin and two from the St Louis area.

We loaded up and headed out by 9:30 am…Onyx and I sitting on the back edge and a couple of people up in the four door cab with Bill to make more room for us and our luggage. 🙂 We drove down a couple of smooth roads initially, then turned down a couple of bumpy forest roads…some so bumpy we had to come nearly to a stop and then forward once again…not sure why, but Onyx started barking and snapping at the branches that smacked the side of the truck…I have never seen him do anything like that before, so I am not sure where that came from. I had to get a pretty firm hold on him as he kept wanting to go to the side of the truck bed under the seats as if to bite the branches as they went by us. Weird, I know….and over my head believe me…dog psychologist I am not. 🙂 

After about forty minutes of rough riding, we finally arrived at the gate and a short time later we were pulling into the mine, skirting around several tailing piles before coming to a stop and unloading the truck…some of these photos were taken by Abbi and noted on the photo….

Bill gave us a short safety talk and showed us the boundaries as well, where we could go, where we should not go and then released us to wander and find….the four rockhounds on the right in the next photo are the other group added to our group, and Mary from NW Illinois walking on the left side….

Some headed for the tailing piles on either side of the truck….some were freshly turned over too….

…while the rest of us headed down to the pit to find the pockets of phantoms….initially we found them on the walls in plate form, as I did, and in pockets as Slade did, and in boulders on the ground as Fred and Paul did…eventually we all wandered on down into the pit as well and discovered hundreds of crystals all over the place awaiting our arrival….

…I walked down there after chipping several small plates of blue and clear crystals off the wall near the entrance, and as i walked in, I noticed the large wall on the left that was covered near the top with huge blue phantoms….my first thought was, ” where is my ladder when I need one ??!! “…..

I set up shop right there at that wall, where I found several nice crystals at the base in the dirt and then some on the ledge below the clusters, some left there from prior diggers and then I climbed upon the ledge and found a small cluster that was easy to chip off…wrapped it up and stuck it in my backpack along with the multiple plates I had wrapped up after chipping off the wall…my backpack was now half full…I brought two buckets and the backpack…the pack also had two bottles of water, just in cases, and sandwiches. From here, I started walking and surface collecting…Paul was up on a short wall across from me working on what looked to me like ” pocket city “….

Initially it was just Paul, PJ, Justin, Fred, Slade, and me down there…then after a couple of hours, Mary, John, David, Ray, and a few others decided to join us…we were all beginning to wonder about John as we had not seen nor heard from him for awhile and he was missing out on some great stuff we were finding down there. Abbi never did make it down there….here you see Justin digging into the floor of the pit and finding some beauties…Slade and Fred are still working the rocks up by the water hole…

Eventually Mary started digging in close to Justin and she began finding some nice clusters there as Justin was doing…

…and soon everyone was wandering around and picking up gorgeous stuff that was simply laying everywhere….we were truly like kids in a candy store….

Slade called me up to take a look at one of the plates he was able to dig out of a pocket in the wall…he was quite happy let me tell ya….

…with good reason, this was a gorgeous plate of phantoms….

…and while we were all finding some great stuff down below, Abbi and others were finding some nice crystals up above too…here is a large single point found in the pile Abbi was working in….

…and a phantom point that she found as well….

…and a phantom point that John found…ironically, I found a phantom point that could be a twin to the one Abbi found, same shape and color….

and here is a plate that Fred found up around the watering hole, that has a large golden yellow healer crystal on one corner of it….

…and once John did finally make it down there to join us, he came walking up with his arms full of crystals…

…and afterward, at some point down there, managed to remove a nice large plate, that required use of a dolly to get it back up to the truck later on….

Let me tell ya, after four hours of diggging and chipping and collecting, we were all exhausted by the time we got the truck loaded down with our buckets and bags and packs and tubs full of goodies…Bill let us know when we had to start loading the truck….and thats when Abbi started snapping photos of everyone….

I think Onyx looked as tired as we all felt…tired but happy rockhounds for sure…happy enough that we did try to arrange for a return trip to the mine the next day…alas they were unable to find us a driver or we would have def returned to find more goodies…GREAT MINE to go to if you get the chance, well worth the cost and the ride in and out of there. We also did a little shopping when we returned to the crystal barn, found some nice crystal plates and clusters in part of an old collection from the Magnet Cove area, some with brookites attached to them, and I think there were a few of us that bought some of those…I know I did, they were selling them by the pound…pretty good bargain in my book. I`ll post a photo of the ones I bought later on, as I am still working on cleaning up my dig finds from there. 🙂

We headed back to Hot Springs to get cleaned up for supper and headed to Cracker Barrel for another delicious meal and to discuss the Fisher Mtn Mine the next morning. I let everyone know about the inside information I had on this old historic mine and everyone was ready to go again. Sunrise the next morning was pretty blah, so I didn`t photograph it…we met at the Valero again and headed up to the mine after stopping to get the key for the gate. The road going up to the mine past the gate had been recently worked on, but was still rough in spots, very passable tho. Once we arrived, we parked in the first few spots and loaded up for bear and began the descent to the area of the info I had on it…on the way down there, we saw nothing, no crystals laying around, not even small ones…at most mines, you are tripping on the small crystals laying all over the place…but there was very little to be found at this one. We reached the area and again, found nothing, certainly nothing as described to me, so we all fanned out and began looking everywhere…John and a few of the guys eventually located what they thought was the desired area, however it  appeared to be heavily worked and possibly played out. The rest of us dug into some areas and again, found very little for our efforts, so we decided to rockswap and then headed to the Mauldin Mountain County Quarry to look for wavellite….we found the gate wide open but decided for safety`s sake to park outside the gates and walk in…by this time of the day, the temps were warming up and it was going to be a beautiful day ahead…

…this is the quarry looking northwest…that area on the far side beyond that yellow piece of equipment is on private land, where the quarry is normally open to collecting, according to the locals….the Kansas City Club was there that morning and we hoped they did not collect all of the good stuff before we arrived. John was able to make contact with them and found out they didn`t find any wavellite but did find variscite and planerite, and shortly after walking in, we did as well…

…we started looking along the wall with the slate behind the rock piles but didn`t find much of anything there, some variscite is all, and then moved around to the graved slopes on the south side where we started finding much more material…mostly planerite….

After a few hours there. we wrapped it up as some of the crew was driving back home that afternoon…while we were talking, Mr. Manley drove by, stopped, saw us and backed up to come and visit with us…he has a rock shop on the first hill just west of Mt Ida and is the patriarch of the Manley family, one of the oldest and well respected quartz mining families in the area. My friend Carrie met him down there at the quarry last year …we got to talking about the smokeys that his son Shane and Tony have been finding lately and he invited us to stop by his shop and visit more with him. He was headed down to deer camp to visit with some of his family. We packed up and headed back to Hot Springs for supper at Outback Steakhouse…this time there would only be four of us eating, as everyone else was headed home. Slade and Mary headed home the next morning…Mary after making sure we couldn`t go back to the Phantom Mine that day, possibly joining the New York Club that had arrived the evening before. Wegners staff said they needed at least a week notice to make it happen, so she headed home upon learning that. Abbi went to explore some creeks and then she headed home by evening, leaving me and Onxy to rest up for the day…at least we had another great sunrise to start the day…a near duplicate of the one two days before, and I even checked the dates on the images to make sure they were different…the sunrise this morning included the moon overhead…the one two mornings before the moon was farther to the west….I remember because I like to include if if I can and there was no way to include it two mornings prior….

and for the sunset that evening, we had a pretty pink and orange glow…a speedboat full of fishermen arced across my camera view for a few seconds while shooting so I included them in the photos too…

….as they disappeared behind the land mass on the right, I worked with the reflections in the ripples their motor prop created….

Onyx and I got some good rest, drove out to a waterfall I like and tried to find some local color, but it was mainly gone, likely the cold rain on our arrival being the likely culprit, so we had another good meal that evening, another bowl of ice cream, another good nights rest, shot another gorgeous sunrise, and then packed the truck and headed to Fort Smith to pick up Mom and head for home…..

After shooting this one, I thought the clouds might be done, but as I was packing the truck, I noticed it had deepened out and gotten even better, so grabbed my camera and headed to the balcony…..

…and soon we were headed home…we hit some rain on the way home but east of Springfield we ran out of it…it did eventually sweep thru here later that night tho…all in all, another great trip for the books tho. 

 

 

 

 

 

Geodefest 2017 Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois

I returned home yesterday evening, from three days at Geodefest 2017 which is jointly shared by Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois. This is a yearly event that goes 3 days and includes dealers selling all types of rocks and minerals, dealers that will crack open your geodes of any sizes, and three days of collecting at several locations, many of which are only available to collect at during this event, due to the fact that several are located on private property. I attended this event years ago when it was still being held in Keokuk, at the Hyvee Parking Lot and then it became well known, talked about, and advertised, that it outgrew that parking lot and the local club that sponsored it, moved it to the Chaney Creek Access on the north side of Hamilton, off Hwy 96, which has a large parking lot that so far, has been able to acommodate everyone that shows up there for this event. I might also add that Mike Shumate, who is like the Grand Poobah of Geode Hunters in the Tri-state area of Northeast Missouri, Southeast Iowa, and West Central Illinois, has directed and overseen this event for the past several years, and he and his people have done a very good job of it…Mike decided this would be his last year to set it up and supervise it, and from what I understand, the city of Keokuk has decided to step up to the plate and host it next year. All I can say is that they have some pretty big shoes to fill and hopefully they can do as good a job as Mike has done for the past several years.

Chuck Reed and I decided a few months ago that we would take in the entire event this year…we drove up last year for the last day of it and enjoyed the morning hunt with other rockhounds and then went hunting privately with John Oostenryk and Rockhound Bill the next morning. While we didnt find many geodes last year, we still had a blast and decided this year we would attend the entire event. Looking ahead at the forecast for excessively warm temps, I decided to leave Onyx at home with my Mom so he could stay inside the ac and I headed up that way on Thursday afternoon. I left around noon and stopped by to see my Rockhound buddy Nathaniel Reid, who is also a world -renowned Pastry Chef and has his own bakery in Kirkwood…he had asked me to bring him some crystals and minerals, so I dropped those off at this shop and collected some cookies and sandwiches for the trip as well…we visited a little while…he was pretty busy even at 1 pm, the place was packed with customers when I arrived…. and then I headed on up the road toward Keokuk, Iowa.

I arrived around 4:30 pm, checked into the Super 8 hotel on Main Street, and then headed over to the Chaney Creek Access Parking Lot to see if John had arrived yet. My good friend Robert, who owns a few quartz mines in southern Arkansas, was also driving up to set up a vendor booth and sell his beautiful quartz crystals and clusters at the event in the dealer area. He had emailed the day before to let me know that his arrival time should be around early to late evening Thursday. I talked to Mike Shumate for a little while and then some of my rockhound friends, Charity and Jamie, who I had met thru John the year before, arrived with their newly adopted son Tony, and while I was visiting with them and meeting Tony for the first time, John finally arrived shortly before the sun began to set….and started setting up his booth. Charity and Jamie help John crack open geodes for diggers for a nominal fee, and when there are slow times, either John, Charity, or Jamie can go hunt and dig geodes as well. 

By the time I left and headed back to the hotel, Robert had still not arrived and was not answering texts either..I was getting a bit worried about him but hoped to see him the  next morning there. After a good supper at V`s Restaurant next door to the hotel, I emailed him as well. After checking my emails and updating my FB page, I was off to bed a little earlier than usual, set to be up at the crack of dawn and ready to go get some geodes. Chuck was set to get up even earlier and hit the road from St Louis. I stopped off at the Casey`s store before crossing the bridge over the mighty Mississippi to get some ice for my cooler, setting a couple of sandwiches from Nathaniel in there for lunch later on…a chicken salad for me and a turkey sandwich for Chuck. With the heat coming on, I just hoped that the 15 bottles of spiked grape propel water that I had stocked the cooler with,  was going to be enough for all three days. I had no idea if I could even find that flavor and brand up that far north, but I can always find it when I head south to Arkansas.

I arrived at the parking lot soon after and walked around a bit, then signed up Chuck and I at the registration booth and signed us up for the new location as well, called the Barrow Pit. It was a location that John had specifically recommended to us, supposed to be an epic site and full of geodes. Chuck arrived about 7:30 and we were set to go, rolling out soon after 8 am behind our guide and headed to the Pit, which was located near Canton. Chuck and I were about halfway back in a long line of vehicles, we arrived at the new location about 8:45 am…..

We drove up a steep short hill and into a huge field, where we all parked, gathered our tools and buckets, and then walked down to the end of that field, where a concession stand trailer sat. The road leading in dropped off a small hill in front of that trailer and into a low area, where a pond had been carved out on one end butted up to the hillside on the west and spread out to the east in a zig zag pattern. The owner had dug out and dumped several piles containing hundreds of geodes, ranging in size from golf ball to basketball and several clumps of geodes in chunks of matrix as well….

Chuck and I walked down the slope and saw about a hundred rockhounds of all ages, spread out all over the valley dirt floor sifting thru geodes in the many piles. John`s information was right, there were hundreds of geodes laying all over the place there, and it was very likely there were many more that could be dug from the walls as well…we chose to surface collect and walked over to the far northwest corner of that small valley and began sifting thru the dirt piles to find the lightest geodes available….which is when my second surprise came upon me…in those many piles of dirt, many of the smaller geodes I was picking up…were light as a feather…it was like picking up air instead of a geode…even when I began picking up geodes that were the size of baseballs and grapefruits, they were light…as…a….feather !!  I was dumbfounded…because it has been a VERY long time since I had picked up geodes that were that light in weight. I started putting several into my bucket that were baseball size or smaller…and I cracked open a couple of them with my mini mattox and found gorgeous druse, sparkley interiors of quartz crystals inside them. The corner where we were digging at, became quite popular pretty quickly…John was over there a few times and there were a couple of young families that wandered over as well…it was not a problem with us because as I said before, there were hundreds of geodes to be found and in all sizes too. We soon discovered, all of us in that corner, that the smaller geodes were much prettier than the larger geodes, which seemed to be filled with brown crusty looking crystals instead of white or clear quartz. Here are some that John cracked open that will show you what I mean…

Speaking of John, we saw him about every 30 minutes, he was all over the place helping others and letting them know what to look for..eventually he showed back up around 11 am and started cracking open these big ones trying to find a really nice one or two to take home with him…he had some good help this time…Tony coming back over to work with him….

It was also about this time, that we began talking to a young couple with a very spirited young lady with them…she had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and as it turns out, she was looking for pretty crystals like me…soon after talking to them, I found out it was her birthday that day and she was four years old…I asked her Mom what her favorite colors were and when she told me purple and yellow, I walked up to my truck and picked out a few pieces of fluorites in those colors, that I had with me from Gary`s fluorite mine. I wrapped them up in a clean white cloth and handed them to her and wished her a Happy Birthday….

I saw them again up at the parking lot later that day and she was still full of energy and rocking along…they came by John`s booth and I pointed out Ken Vaisivil`s booth and Robert`s booth next door, suggested they check them out too….I would bet you that she had a great birthday !!  

A few minutes later I looked over toward the slope entrance and saw that Charity, Tony, and Jaimey were having lunch next to the wall where they had been digging all morning…

…I saw Abigail to the right of the big boulder and many others were still looking around, even though we were winding down to quitting time soon…

As Chuck and I were packing up our trucks and preparing to head back to the parking lot, I took our sandwiches from the cooler and we had lunch on Nathaniel right there in the field, wolfing down our food and then driving back to Hamilton. Thanks Nathaniel, those sandwiches hit the spot !!

We made it back to the parking lot just in time to sign up for the afternoon hunt, deciding to go to Amish Fox River North. The group that had gone there that morning, said there were geodes lying around the river bed everywhere, the river was low from a lack of rainfall and we were told that the Amish farmer there would help us carry our buckets of geodes back to the parking lot with his horse drawn wagon. In years past, I had been to an Amish farm near Kahoka, these days it was referred to as Amish Fox River South, so I decided to go to Amish North and check it out as well. We drove to the west of the fourlane highway near Wayland and then down a very dusty road…a testament to the lack of rainfall in some time there. We then turned down a farm driveway, passing a beautiful black colt in a field and then came upon a modern day farmhouse atop a hill with a broad valley below…the road winding down the hill and around the fields below to the river…

At the end of this huge soybean field above, which stretches down to the left at least another quarter of a mile, the Amish farmer had fashioned a small parking lot in a wedge shaped area, however it was only big enough for about 25 vehicles and we had at least 30 vehicles in our group. One rockhound in our group was driving a mustang and he wisely left his car parked at the top of the hill by the modern day farmhouse and rode with someone on the way down to the river. I was the last vehicle in so I opted to park in some short grass on the side of the grassy path, instead of crushing soybeans as others were directed to do. I grabbed my bucket, tools, and camera and headed for the path to the river, catching up to Abigail on the way through the parking area…we discovered the Amish farmer`s wife had baked several goodies and even made some home made ice cream, to sell under a large white tent in the corner of the parking area….

She had baked cookies, pies, several small loaves of flavored breads like bananna nut and pumpkin, and other assorted goodies…before leaving, I purchased a large loaf and small loaf of bananna nut bread and let me tell you, it was delicious !! She told me that she baked in a huge dutch oven that was an antique stove and heated with a wood fire, as they do not use electricity.

Abigail and I started down the path and halfway down, we came upon the two beautiful brown and yellow Belgium horses that the Amish farmer hitches to his wagon….

As soon as we came upon the river, we saw folks wading upstream in the muddy water….

…folks searching the area of the river where the path comes down to the water….

…and some that went downstream to look for geodes….and checked out this island as well….

Abigail and I didn`t venture very far downstream…I went as far as the island seen above, while she was off to the left near the bank, where she was feeling some big geodes at her feet, so she was moving along inches at a time and checking out each one…

….and while I found a few geodes that felt light enough to be hollow, I found a lot of beautiful agates and a few geode halves that appeared to have either quartz or snowballs in them….all around the edge of that island no less….

It was about this time that John and Chuck passed us, they had done downstream on their arrival to check it out, they had information from morning crews that the sandy river bottom down there was loaded with geodes, however the much higher river level was now making it impossible to find anything, let alone see anything down there, so they decided to try and go upstream instead…finding deeper water pretty quickly, so they slowed down to check out the area across from the path entrance…

..in this photo above, one might think they were fighting over this geode, if they didn`t know them at all…” it`s my geode…no it`s my geode ” kinda thing….the next photo will show you that Chuck was handing John this huge geode to determine if John thought it was worth keeping, weight wise…the lighter they feel, the more potential to be hollow and thus full of beautiful crystals….

After that, Chuck took a rest break on the far bank and John decided to do a little clowning around in the river….mainly he was disgusted with the fact that he wasn`t finding any geodes despite a thorough search and the fact that the river was now considerably higher, so he took a respite from the heat and cooled down some….

We had to be careful crossing the river due to a strong current from a rising river flow too…the day before, five to seven inches of rain had fallen and it had taken all night and all morning before the water levels started to rise. The morning hunters found low water levels and that island completely exposed, but by the time we arrived, the island was nearly under water and levels had risen a good foot. The current between the island and path entrance, was quite strong and several people had to be helped across it, unless you had a full bucket or two, and then you were fine on your footing….

Luckily for the many rockhounds that were located on the island and below it, that had two buckets or more, the Amish farmer came to their rescue with his team of beautiful Belgiums and wagon…

I headed back to the parking lot, paid for my bucket, and then found Chuck ready to go as well, so we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up before heading over to the parking lot at Hamilton again. Driving back up the field trail, I had this view of the Amish farmhouse from the valley floor below….

…and then closer to the house, I saw these pretty big red flowered bushes, guarded by a cute little guy….

Chuck and I returned to the hotel to get cleaned up, the river water was pretty muddy, Chuck had wisely worn his waders where most of us had simply waded in, in our hunting clothes. Had Onxy been with me on this trip, he would have looked like a drowned muskrat I am sure. 🙂  By 6 pm we were back over at the parking lot in Hamilton, and I was relaxing in a nice easy chair at John`s booth when Jamey pointed out a young man in the parking lot who was covered from head to toe in mud….

…I would venture to say that he had gotten his money`s worth and more that day. By 8 pm the crowd had left and so Chuck and I headed over to the Hamilton Cafe to have supper with John, Charity, Jamey, Tony, and Robert…have to say I have never ate there before but they serve good food and the atmosphere there is very family oriented. We headed back to the hotel for another good night of rest and decided we would return to the new location on Saturday morning, to see if we could find some bigger geodes on the other side of the pit. John had checked out a few spots over there Friday morning and found some nice bigger geodes.

After photographing a beautiful sunrise behind the hotel…..

….and stopping off at the Phillips 66 right down Main Street east of the hotel, to get fuel and some more ice, I headed over to the parking lot to find Chuck already there and lined up out on Hwy 96 shoulder…he was ready to go ! I checked on Robert and visited with Bruce Baur a bit, he was a vendor on the other side of the parking lot from John and Robert, and is a good rockhounding friend as well as a very good candlemaker. He and I go way back to my early days of attending Geodefest years ago. He was there on Friday as well but I didn`t spot him there, found him instead on FB that night and he told me where he was located. We had a good short visit before my convoy left for the Barrow Pit, and I was again bringing up the rear of the line, mainly because there are some people that have no clue how to drive, some that have no clue how to get in line, and some that get in line for yet another convoy leaving later and block some of us completely out, completely disrespectful of others. And then there were some ahead of me that had no clue how to drive with their flashers on in a convoy of vehicles, coming to a stop and wanting to let others in to break the line, and then there were those that naturally could not, or would not, keep up and keep the line tight so as not to get lost from the pack ahead. Some people really need to get a clue on how to drive, especially in convoys and packs like that, and Mike Shumate`s crew does a great job of giving out information on it, so it was obvious that not only do they not know how to drive, they don`t know how to listen either…..but I didn`t let it put me in a bad mood or ruin the rest of my day, just took a few deep breaths, expressed a few choice thoughts, and drove on south. We arrived about 20 min later and this time Chuck and I parked a little closer to the entrance. We walked down the slope and this time veered to the right and found out that the word must have gotten out about big ones to the right. We walked along the dirt wall to the far side, and dug over there a while, then eventually moved back to that south wall below these hay bales, where there was some decent shade…have to commend the owner, he has a nice geode pit and a good treestand for deer hunting up on the hill on the other side of the pit….

This trip there was a large commercial bus full of rockhounds from Indiana and Michigan on board that had driven down for the weekend digs….

So we hunkered down in that shade below the round hay bales and started digging into the wall next to a guy from Gary, Indiana…he was doing a good job of pulling some nice grapefruit sized ones out, having a pile of them already stacked up. I dug a few larges ones out but they felt heavy and most were clusters of them embedded in the matrix rock, heavy enough I didn`t feel like dragging them back so I left them there. It was a good decision since there were some people back at the parking lot that apparently did take theirs back to crack open and they basically just fell apart and all they had left were pieces.

We dug there for about 90 minutes more and then headed out to get signed up for the afternoon dig at Rod`s, which is another creek location. Chuck stopped off in Keokuk and grabbed some bbq for me, and it wasn`t too bad.  I visited with Bruce a bit more as well as Robert and Ken, and then our convoy was announced next to leave. John drew us a map of where he went the day before and found some nice large snowballs in the bottom of the creek at Rod`s. Armed with that, we headed out and Abigail decided to go with us as well. We misinterpreted John`s map and went in an entirely different direction, stopping in a curve of the creek that appeared to be a spot, as Abigail confirmed, that John Oost had obviously worked and dug heavily into the creekbank, moving some major amount of dirt and rock. Abigail took photos at this location and I am waiting for her to send me some, when she does I will get them into the storyline to illustrate it better.

As it turns out, John did not work this spot, and we settled into the curve of the creek there and continued on with the work of someone else. We did well, digging into the softer dirt and sandy / fine gravelly bottom that made for easy work, and we were pulling out quartz filled halves of geodes right away, most of them very keep worthy and beautiful, plus there were some colorful agates and shale that had patterns of wood on them that made you think it was petrified wood, but it was soft and shaly instead. We dug there for a good 90 minutes and then I had to take a walk around to stretch my knees and ankles a bit…I have a lot of joint pain these days as a result of my injuries suffered over the span of 40 years of firefighting. I was warned many years ago by the fire department doctor that one of these days, as a result of my injuries converting to arthritis, that my favorite pain reliever and I would become good friends…and he was right.

I got up and walked around a brush pile that was blocking the stream flow somewhat, and on the other side, was a young couple with a beautiful collie named Sadie. They were digging into another curve of the creek much the same as us and I advised the guy digging that if he went just a little deeper down, he would be in the same layer as we were at where many of those geode halves were located that have the pretty quartz interiors. We talked a bit more and then I continued south down the creek bottom, turning the corner to find hedgeapples laying all over the place and walnuts just beyond that. I ran into our guide a short time later and asked him if he recalled where John had been hunting that morning and he said, yes John was further downstream, maybe a quarter of a mile from where we were digging. I walked back up to our curve and let Chuck and Abigail know and we decided to walk down there and see if we could locate the spot…Abigail said it sounded like the spot he was at the year before as well. We did fine til we came to a huge mudhole with very little water in it, mainly mud with deep impressions of footprints…and I am talking deep impressions here, some a foot deep, so Chuck opted to walk around to the other side and see if he could find anything good, while Abigail and I waited on the dry side. After about ten minutes, Chuck returned finding only a few laying around over there, and we decided to call it a day and climb back up the  hill to the parking area in the field, then paid our guide for our buckets of geodes, and then headed to the hotel.

We decided to have supper in Keokuk about 6 pm and walked over to V`s Restaurant, which is right next door to the hotel and is a laid back kind of bar and grill place, with very good food and good service too. Years ago a steakhouse was in that building. We also decided to sleep in the next morning and skip the morning Geodefest location dig, and save our strength for the private dig that John and his friends had been invited to near Wayland instead. John told us that any of us could go if we wanted to, it was originally thought to be an early afternoon dig, at a private sand and gravel business near Hwy 61. I am thinking the Iowa Club decided to go earlier due to the heat factor. I no sooner arrived at the parking lot and was talking to Mike Shumate about the similarity of the Barrow Pit and the old C-61 site for large geodes 25 years ago in the same area, when John and Chuck walked up to let me know the Iowa club members were there now, and that Abigail was on her way there too. Mike gave me directions to the turn off and away Chuck and I went. We arrived right behind Abigail and a nice older couple who were club members. After grabbing a bucket and tools, we were soon inside the gate, looking for geodes and other pretty rocks and crystals along with several others. Everywhere that there were large rocks to be found, one could look thru and find geodes as well as geode halves, large and small chunks of agates, some that resembled mozarkite even, and I even found a nice piece of horn coral there. Abigail took a few photos of me up on the gravel pile with some of the Iowa Club Members surface collecting for anything pretty….

…and trying to crack open a geode or two…

…here are a couple of geodes that I cracked open there with my rock hammer….

 

If we would have had access to a machine, I am sure we would have found quite a bit more nice stuff there. By noon tho, we were wore out from digging, climbing, and the increasing heat, and headed back to the parking lot at Hamilton. On the way back, I photographed this farm along Hwy 136 east of Wayland….

 Around noon I was walking around and spotted a new vehicle parked down by Chaney Creek, a dark colored pick up with a bed full of large geodes. I walked down and struck up a conversation with a young man named Hunter, who it turned out was a local high school senior. He and a friend of his from Wayland, discovered the large geodes in a local creekbed on Hunter`s property nearby, they loaded them up and decided to bring them to the show to see if anyone might want some big ones to take home. As it turned out, I had been looking for a big one or two, so I selected one and he carried it down to have John crack it open..I told Hunter if it was hollow and beautiful inside, I would buy it from him…and he said if I didn`t like it, I wouldn`t have to buy it. John cracked it open pretty quickly, which was a good sign, and it was GORGEOUS inside. He cracked open a second one that turned out to be full of dirt and second generation quartz, not pretty at all, so I passed on the second one and instead purchased a few smaller halves along with the first one from Hunter and his buddy, plus they threw in another one for free. Here is what the big one looks like all cleaned up, full of sunshine quartz…

Both of these guys were very nice to deal with and are just trying to make some extra money to apply to college funds after they graduate next year. I saw a few more of them cracked open and they had gorgeous quartz interiors too…if anyone is interested in contacting these two guys to get some large geodes, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com and I can provide their information to ya. 

Chuck headed home about 1:30 and I was on the road for home by 2:45 pm. I made pretty good time and arrived at my Mom`s house to pick up Onyx about 6:30 pm…I think he was pretty excited to see me, she said he was sitting by the window watching for me as I pulled into the driveway and honked the horn, then made a beeline for me when she opened the door. I think he missed me as much as I missed him, it was a happy reunion !  I photographed this sunset on the way to the house from there…

Another great trip in the book and here are some photos of the nicer ones I found and a few that I purchased, all cleaned up….like the big one, cleaned up with soap and water only….

…and these two found at the Gravel Plant, cleaned only with water so far….

…and two tennis ball sized geodes,  that I purchased from my buddy Ken Vaisivil at the show…

I still have some more to crack open…John advised me to wait til he comes down here to go rockhunting with me locally, he will bring his geode cracker and take care of it for me….so I will wait and post more photos when WE get them cracked open then. 🙂

jwjphoto7@gmail.com 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Fluorite and Quartz Finds Southern Illinois

I have a mineral dealer friend coming up from Georgia next week who is interested in some fluorite from southern Illinois, so I gave Gary a call Thursday on my way to work to see if he had anything new. He is a good friend in southern Illinois that mines fluorite full time these days and he had told me a few months ago, that he would keep an eye out for quartz plates for me as well…I am a big fan of quartz as many know by now, and he has shown me several smaller chunks of it that he has found while fluorite mining. He told me that they sometimes hit pockets full of plates of quartz crystals and usually where they find quartz, they also find lead cubes as well. He told me that I would want to see the quartz plates that he pulled out of a pocket on Monday at the mine, that some of the plates had big fluorite cubes nestled in amongst the quartz crsystals too…that news alone got me all excited, so I told him I would drive down there early Saturday morning again. I had picked up a few flats of smaller fluorite cubes for the mineral dealer a few weeks ago from him, but then had sold 80 percent of it a few days later, and needed to replenish my supply of those as well. I let a few close friends know that I was going to drive down, but as luck would have it, no one was available to go with me. 

 Onyx and I were on the road by 5 am this morning and we were halfway to Mount Vernon by the time the sun started to rise in the eastern skies….

As I drove east on I-64 just east of Fairview Heights, I was pleasantly surprised to see NO MORE construction going on…in the past year, I was used to slowing down from 65 mph to 35 mph for construction work from that scale house just west of Fairview Hts to the Mascoutah exit…ILDOT was constructing a third lane with a wall in between east and westbound lanes, and then built an overpass out in the middle of nowhere and then they were doing something else no one could figure out…and on and on and on…was beginning to think it was going to be a never ending project…but lo and behold, today was shockingly different ride wise…and pleasant to boot. I thought to myself, could it get any better than this ??? and sure enough, about 45 minutes later, I got my answer…YES it can !! At the south end of Marion, Illinois on I-57, I looked across to the north bound lanes and was amazed once again…construction crews were tearing up that bumpy and holie section of the driving lane…four miles of it south of Marion to be exact…and they were digging it out and rocking it too !! Now, I was totally AMAZED…and then thought to myself…well its only been 15 years at least that you have been driving that rough and bumpy section, returning from western Kentucky, rough enough that most people out there, myself included, would move over to the smooth left lane of that five or six mile stretch of right lane. Today it was down to one lane on the northbound side, but thankfully, they were at least replacing it finally…wow, small miracles still do occur I thought. 🙂  

We arrived about 8:45 am at Gary`s house…normally when we pull into his driveway, he and his Dad, Guy, are already outside waiting on us, but I had failed to tell him what time we would get there and they both stepped outside a few minutes later. We visited a few minutes first and then he showed me the quartz plates, he had a tub full of them as well as the back of the trailer was loaded down with several too…

…if you like these crystals, click on and enlarge the photos above, and really take a look at these gemmy crystals up close…the big ones are as big as your thumb and that point at the end is razor sharp, let me tell you…but they are very gemmy crystals, kinda prism shaped and just beautiful…that gorgeous yellow color is INSIDE the crystals, too…in case you were wondering….and yes, some of those plates are actually smokey quartz….the next image shows the back end of the trailer again, this time what is covering it besides those quartz plates…take a look at the left side of the trailer, covered with some very large clusters of dark purple fluorite cubes…talking BIG cubes folks…some of them four and five inches across…

…and HEAVY too !! …and covered on both top and bottom and sides with those BIG cubes….those were in the bottom of that pocket Gary found Monday as well as several smaller clusters, from volleyball sized to baseball sized clusters…and those quartz plates were hanging down from the top of the pocket and along the walls of it…

…and this one above and below, came out of that pocket too….

…there were several in the pocket like this one above, but this one I selected because of the quartz attached to it. Gary told me Thursday about some other ones that were very neat looking too…very dark cubes… they were such a deep purple they looked black…here are several of them in a tub and yes, I purchased the entire tub when Gary made me an offer I could not refuse….

…darker image above and lighter image of them below….

Gary was also telling me that Walter, his son who helps him mine, has been receiving several inquiries about a HUGE cluster that he found a few months ago at the mine…and I mean BIG when I say HUGE…also very heavy too….so far, no one has made the right offer for it, but everyone definitely likes it….here it is up close….

…and a bit back away from it to give it better perspective on its size…..

…and here are some more of the beautiful fluorites that he found in the past few weeks since I was there last as well….

…the ones with the coating on them, were there the last time and I didnt have my camera with me to record them….and it looks like arragonite on the coating but could simply be barite or calcite too….the second image below is a close up of that one on the left center of the next image….

…and this next image, shows a good sized chunk of fluorite cubes covered by a thick coating of calcite….very pretty….

…and here are a few butterscotches that Gary still has available…from an old collection that he purchased locally earlier this year….I purchased one but not from this group….

…and this is the pile of calcite crystals, big ones and smaller ones on matrix plates, that he has for sale too…several people always ask me about this pile, so here it is…he tells me all the time, he is willing to let it all go for a good low price if anyone wants to come and get them all….

…and here are a few more pretties for ya as well…these have not been power washed as of yet….

 

 

Central Kentucky 2017

Last year at the conclusion of my trip to Central Kentucky with the Hickory Club during Labor Day Weekend, they informed me they would like to have me back again in 2017 and this time they were going to have their annual trip there two weeks before Labor Day Weekend, since some of their club members said they could make that date rather than the holiday weekend. So they set it up for August 19th to the 22nd this year, which lo and behold, turned out to be the date of the solar eclipse as well. They also told me that my core group members could join them once again, and I found out a few weeks ago, that two of the New York Clubs were invited too. I was able to get us access to the Danville Quarry once again and also set up a day trip to the 200 year old fluorite mine that Phil had taken some of us in the spring of 2015 when a few of my core group members joined me down there. I was able to tentatively arrange for one of my friends down there, to take us hunting for Kentucky Agate hunting on the morning of the eclipse, but that fell through when Josh let me know he was sick, so we opted for Plan B that day instead…one of the Hickory Club`s locations, and it worked out very well for all of us that were left to go hunting that day….several had left to return home for work and some drove to locations closer to the eclipse to get a better view of it…most of those were the young families with kids…and nothing at all wrong with that, either.  I was more interested in finding nice geodes and/or agates, so I opted to stick around and look down in the creek for pretty geodes….and an added bonus to that was that Onyx got to go swimming in the creek in the deeper holes. 🙂  

I had made plans with Gary Griffith to stop by his place on the way down there early Friday morning and pick out a few flats of fluorites, some for rockhound friends who would be joining me on the Kentucky trip and for a dealer friend from Atlanta as well. Onyx and I woke up at 3 am on Friday morning, August 19th and headed east on I-44 by 4 am….I had kept Chuck updated on my plans and he met up with me at Marion, Illinois and followed me over to Gary`s house in southern Illinois. We arrived about 8:30 and found Gary talking to his Dad, Guy Griffith, outside their home. It was beginning to get humid, so I left the engine running with Onyx inside the ac. I was introduced to Gary a few years ago by Tina and Bill of the Clement Mineral Museum, at their annual show and dig, where Gary was set up to create octagons out of chunks of fluorite, to sell at the show. He also had specimen pieces in all sizes to sell at the show and I recall purchasing a few of those pieces while there…I have been hooked since then, and between the three of them, Gary, his Dad Guy, and son Walter, we have been good friends since then. They are the kind of people I really enjoy visiting with, and I can stop by and do just that anytime, talk with them by phone or in person for hours, and it feels like we have been friends for years. From the way Gary talks about it, most of the dealers that stop by on a regular basis to buy from him, feel the same way. Here is a neat article I came across online recently, it is a bit dated from 2010, but the story of them starting out as a three man family operation is true, told to me by Gary and his Dad a few times before…

http://www.dailyregister.com/article/20100812/news/308129969

 

Gary showed us the new stuff that he and Walter had been finding recently, stuff he had told me about on the phone a week before, light purple edges surrounding deeper purple cubes on a brown fluorite base, and some with patches of quartz crystals laid out on top of the cubes. He had half of them cleaned up and half were still dirty, and let me tell you, some of them looked very similar to cubes that I have pulled out of the mud of the Eureka Mine on the other side of the Ohio River to the south. In other words, very pretty clusters of cubes right there on display in front of us. Since I only had a couple of hours to visit and hand pick some fluorite, I didn`t pull my camera out to photograph as I selected.As a matter of fact, I did not pull my camera out of my camera case til early the next morning to shoot the rising sun. 🙂

After a couple of hours, I had a few flats picked out and Chuck and I headed south to Princeton to pick up the Bluegrass Parkway and head east. We filled our gas tanks and grabbed some lunch at the A & W Restaurant first tho. 🙂  We headed east and within the first thirty minutes, we observed one to two state troopers every five miles, all of them were driving westbound…and not one of them was even remotely interested in anyone going eastbound on the Parkway…we were moving along at a good clip and many drivers were passing us like we were not moving at all, and not one of the many troopers we saw in the next 90 minutes was interested in stopping anyone at all. I told Chuck later, that perhaps they were returning from classes at the academy and headed home for the weekend. At any rate, we arrived at Harrodsburg about 4 pm, Chuck peeling off first, staying at the Baymont Hotel on the north side of town, while Onyx and I drove around town on the bypass to the Days Inn a mile south of town. John Oostenryk texted me on the way down to let me know that he and Mary would arrive about 5:30 pm, and others let me know they would be getting into the area later and meet us the next morning after breakfast.

Onyx and I found a few folks we knew in the parking lot waiting for us, as I had let Harry know when Chuck and I left Gary`s house. He and Larry Huffman had arrived earlier and discovered that hotel staff had lost a few reservations, mainly those that made their arrangements early…most were up on the second and third floors, however Onyx and I would be staying on the first floor near the entry door. After checking out the room and turning the ac on inside, I kept Onyx outside for a bit so the room could cool down adequately for his sake. He had a bath and shave the day before, but it was a bit warm in there even for him…he wears his jacket every day year round. I found out soon after that we would be walking over to the golf course restaurant next door about 6 pm for supper, and let everyone know that was already there or would soon arrive. Some of my core group members had decided to stay in hotels in Danville and were going to be arriving at different times on Friday, depending on the amount of traveling they had to do, some driving in from as far away as New York state and Texas, Ohio, Indiana and northwest Illinois. It was looking like there might be 70 to 90 rockhounds total on this trip. 

By 5:45 pm, the parking lot was alive with rockhounds and soon after, we were walking over to the restaurant to check out the seafood buffet, which turned out to be very good as expected. By 7 pm we were all back in the parking lot, those of us with pick up trucks parked side by side for the rockhound swap and trade show….we had so much fun this lasted a good couple of hours…and there were still folks out there talking when I brought Onyx outside before retiring for the night.

Breakfast came early the next morning, since we were scheduled to arrive at the quarry by 7:30 am, to sign waivers and then begin collecting by 8 am. Onyx and I were up and at em by 5:30 am, finding it still dark outside…a few of us walked over to the golf course restaurant by 6 am, and on the way back, the sun was beginning its climb up from the horizon, so after packing the truck, loading up Onyx, and parking at the front of the line, I grabbed my camera to snap a few images of it….

…and while this wasn`t a bad view, I walked over to the golf course to get an even better view of the sun coming up with a Kentucky farm in the foreground….

…now…I know what you are thinking…wow nice sunrise, how could it get any better than this ??? …and all I can say, is yes, it did get better than this…enter SUNBEAMS !!!  🙂

…and all in just a matter of fifteen minutes…while waiting for everyone to line up so we can get the line moving to Danville to pick up the rest of the crew. Ten minutes later we arrived in Danville and I texted Dale Walker, who had everyone lined up with him by the Hampton Inn, and let him know to just join the line as we went by. We entered the quarry gate and then I had everyone park in rows…we had so many vehicles, we created about six rows of vehicles in front of the quarry office…luckily Clay, the Quarry Manager,  had some good help waiting for us and the paperwork was quickly handed out for everyone to sign, then everyone got their hard hats on, and after a short safety talk by Clay, we proceeded down into the quarry with everyone following me. I parked near the bulldozer….

….and then got out to direct everyone into some parking areas, designated by Clay to keep us out of the way of a few of his guys working in other areas…a few folks wanted to park down below and I had to re-round them up, with help from Phil who arrived behind us, and re-park them in the proper areas, from the second mill to the dozer mainly….

All the new folks came to me and I let them know where we had good luck finding pretty stuff the year before, and let them know what was going home with me…anything pretty…and then everyone spread out in search of pretty stuff.  

I go by the golden rule…Keep It Seriously Simple…KISS for short. 🙂  

They had changed the layout of the quarry from the year before just a little bit, Clay had told a few of us they were building a ramp to the top and asked us to stay off of it, due to concerns that it wasn`t where they wanted it to be yet in terms of stability, he basically asked us to park in the area of the dozer and then walk to the upper and lower levels to look and collect. He did say that they had hit a huge vein of calcite and stockpiled much of it into a huge pile to the right of the dozer and across the big ditch, as he called it..it was located down on the level where Slade had hit the jackpot last year with all of his pretty discoveries…so many folks grabbed their stuff and headed in that direction….

…..in this photo you see alot of folks at the ground level checking out the huge calcite stockpile on the left and a few few folks up on the second level…

…the ramp we were asked to stay off, leads to the top layer, which would have been impossible to access due to the large amount of rock laying around up there. It took a while for us to locate the good stuff, much of it turned out to be down on the ground level again, but at the far end away from the huge stockpile, in a pile that actually went all the way down to the bottom level. I walked up to the upper level and looked around, but not seeing much up there, I came back down to the ground level and walked down to the far right side…Onyx had been going nuts with the water puddles up above, then he came down below with me and spotted a lake down below…I could only imagine what might happen next. Slade and Thomas found some nice vugs in the sides of some huge boulders in the pile that started at the north edge of the ground level and dropped down to the bottom level by the lake…soon after, as I was climbing down that pile, I spotted a nice plate of small brown dogtooth crystals all over one side of it. Soon after that, I turned over a good sized chunk of dolomite and discovered a large vug of gorgeous brown dogtooth crystals with a few small blades of white barite inside too…Chuck had joined us down at the lower end of the pile by then and sawed off both ends of the dolomite matrix on the chunk for me, making it much lighter for me to carry up the hill to my truck. I met Fred on the way up to the truck and he let me use his dolly to carry it up there…here it is on my tailgate….

…and closer up of the vug and crystals inside….

…and about 30 minutes later, I had to return about halfway down the hill and announce to everyone that we had fifteen minutes left, we had to be out of the quarry by noon…here you see Dale Russell getting ready to pop some beautiful brown fluorite cubes from a vug he found in this huge boulder the size of a dining room table in front of him…

…and Dale Walker working on a boulder down below Dale Russell….

…and Finn and Alina Klein off to the left of both Dale`s….

…and farther to the left of them and across the water from me, was John Oos, Mary, and Fred…John discovered a seam of calcite with some barites inside and was working that out when I yelled down that there was 15 minutes left…Fred and Mary stuck around to help him get the goodies out intact….

…we all got out of there with seconds to spare…this is usually what happens near quitting time…when you find something nice or have just a few minutes left to get the good stuff out of a pocket or vug…John and Dale started up the hill with their saws and Dale with his goodies on his back in his pack….

…while Fred and Mary brought up the rear with the rest of the stuff…I kept hearing from Harry and Larry who were up at the front gate with the rest of the crew, everyone waiting for us so they could all go to the Goat Farm to go geode hunting the rest of the day. As it was, not everyone in that lineup intended to go to the farm to geode hunt, some were going back to their hotel to rest up, so about the middle of the line, after one turned to the right, several followed and turned the wrong way also…most of them were in my core group, so I started texting to find out if they were going somewhere different…they said no, they thought the line had gone to the right and they were simply following…I was able to pull over and wait for several of them and let Harry know that we would be delayed getting there. Harry and Larry were leading the line, so they pulled off Hwy 150 and waited for us at the next turn and we caught up to them about 30 minutes later….then followed them down to the goat farm…where as it turned out, the owner was not home and the gate to the field was locked. I called my buddy Phil, and asked him if we could come and hunt at his creek access point instead and he said sure…so I led the way over to his house near Junction City. We were going to take a shortcut from Hwy 150 over to Hwy 127, however we had a few stragglers that were not keeping up and we likely would have lost them completely, so I opted to stay on 150 and then drive out 127 to Junction City. We were only driving about 50 mph, so I`m not sure why they couldn`t keep up. I stopped in the middle of the road when we arrived at Phil`s house, and directed everyone in the lineup down his driveway to where Phil was standing to direct them to parking spots around his shed and in the field leading to the creek, as some of them wanted to park in the shade near the creek….

…and after everyone grabbed their gear and assembled near the entrance to the shed, Phil pointed out the creek boundaries and areas to avoid, then turned them all loose to go hunt for not only geodes, but corals and fossils which I can attest can be found there as well. Shortly after a few of the stragglers showed up, having gone past his driveway looking for us. I wish someone had taken a photo of the long line of vehicles as we came down that valley on approach to Phils house…that would have been something to see. Here is Pat and Finn Klein walking across the field to the access point on the creek a few minutes later….

...I didn`t take my camera down to the creek with me, as I have been down on this creek before…back then, two years before in the early springtime tho, it was not nearly as grown up with foliage and brush tho. A few folks walked the creek downstream to the church parking lot and then drove their car down there to pick up their buckets of geodes. I found a couple of nice halves that someone had found prior and left behind, here is one of them, love that SUNSHINE QUARTZ….

About 4:30 pm, Onyx and I drove back to the hotel, with a few rockhounds following us…Chuck got held up by a couple of them and went a different route suggested by his gps…he told me the route he was taking and I let him know where he would come out and to watch out for the curves…that was the first route I took to Phil`s house a couple of years before, nice road, just gets a little narrow and curvy in spots…he confirmed that part quickly after. 🙂  We walked over to the golf course restaurant for supper about 7 pm that evening, and afterwards I pulled a few flats of fluorite out for Fred and John to look over, along with a few other choice items I had brought along for Slade and a few others to look over. Soon after doing so, we drew a small crowd, everyone thought we were having another tailgate party in the parking lot…as it were, it did turn into a nice small party tho, and I wound up selling a couple of flats of choice material to some of the more serious collectors there. The next morning, we lined up for the trip to the 200 year old fluorite mine at Mundy`s Landing didnt set their alarm clock the night before and had just woke up, requesting ten minutes delay before we headed to the mine so they could go with us. I sent everyone to the other side of the highway to wait for us on the shoulder while I waited for them at the hotel entrance. When they showed up I pointed out how to get in line on the other side of the highway and told them to keep it tight in line. Onyx and I then drove to the start of the line where Fred was holding my place for me and we headed north on Hwy 127. We crossed the Kentucky River near Shakertown and discovered the Highway Department was replacing the right lane of the bridge, with a traffic light set up on either side of the bridge for one way traffic…we lost about half the line in the crossing, Harry and Larry staying on the south side while the rest of us crossed over. Luckily I had a good signal with my cellphone in the rocky canyon as we started up the windy,curvy hill out of the river valley, and I was able to let them know where to turn at the top of the hill, where my wingman Chuck waited for the rest of them. The rest of us proceeded down the road and made the next turn, and by the time we reached a second turn a half mile later, Chuck had the rest of them caught up to us and we proceeded down the road to meet up with Phil at the old mine.

We passed by some beautiful old homes and farms along the way and a few residents were probably a bit amazed at the long line of cars and people making their way down their road, which kept narrowing down as we drove on down it. We met a large dump truck, luckily, on the wider stretch of the road…I am not sure what would have happened had we met him on the really narrow section of roadway that was ahead of us still by then. We drove down a large hill on that very narrow section of roadway and at the bottom of the hill, drove thru a gate and I parked everyone right after I parked my truck, in the big open field….

Phil came down behind everyone to give a safety talk for the mine and the tailings area, outlining the boundaries and off limit areas, before turning everyone loose to walk back up the hill to the mine tailings area. A few members of my core group had joined me at this old mine two years before and we had a blast digging there all day long in the tailings, finding some beautiful lilac, white, and gray fluorite cubed clusters, barite balls, and double terminated calcite crystals, on a much cooler day due to a difference in seasons. I turned Onxy loose and we headed up to the mine gate, where we found several already digging in to the tailing piles…John, the owner, had already filled up a couple of trucks and removed some of the tailings…the dump truck we met and another flatbed truck hauling some of them off to another location, but believe me, there were tons of tailings left to dig thru….

I decided to walk up to the top of the tailings pile after checking out a couple of areas of the piles below…up to the area that we had dug into two years before. Slade and a few others followed me up the trail and we came in on an upper trail above one of the old shafts of the mine, finding Harry digging into a small bluff and finding some good stuff there he said. As with two years prior, we started finding some good stuff shortly after digging in there, and stayed to dig for a few hours. I was hitting waves of calcites, at least four or five areas of calcite chunks before I found my first dt calcite crystal and then a few more of them, all smaller than two inches in length. Alina was digging to my left and her oldest son Finn was digging to my right…Chuck was behind me, Slade and his Dad were about fifty feet to our left and after digging in a bit, they started finding some nice crystals too. After a few hours up there, everyone decided to take a break for lunch and some started leaving to head off to other areas of Kentucky in preparation for the eclipse the next day. I walked back down to the truck to get a bottle of water or two, and Mary offered me a chicken salad sandwich for lunch…I love chicken salad so I accepted and of course Onyx helped me with the last few bites of it. He was beginning to warm up a bit so I put him in the truck, turned on the ac for him, and repositioned my truck in the shade nearby…I noticed a few others doing the same thing with their vehicles. Pat, Alina, Finn and Cohen took off shortly after, headed to Hopkinsville to do some camping that evening for the eclipse event the next day, it was great seeing them again. I havent heard yet how they did with that event down there yet. 

I returned to the digging spot and moved over to the spot Alina had been digging in, and within a few minutes, I found two larger DT Calcite crystals…shhhh…keep that under your hat tho, dont tell Alina about it, okay ? I wouldnt want her to feel bad about that. Harry returned to his digging spot but was just out of view behind that small outcropping of rock from my location, and Slade and his Dad kept digging at their spot for about an hour more, before heading back to the hotel. Fred joined me for a bit up there and I lasted about another hour before my hands started getting sore…by that time it was about 4 pm and I walked down to the truck to check on Onyx and grabbed my camera again…found PJ and Paul still digging above Mary in the tailing pile below by the gate…John, Abigail and Mary were up above everyone on the hillside…

I heard from several later that day that they had all found some pretty stuff…Phil was down below showing everyone what he was finding and what to look for. During one of my breaks, I had a good chance to talk to him and he was able to bring me up to speed on the Kentucky Agate situation over near Irvine and Berea and let me know a place we could go look for it at, where to park and where to collect and hunt at if needed. He told me why Mr Flynn had moved into town…that he had suffered some medical issues, which I hated to hear about because he is such a nice guy and knows so much about Kentucky Agates..I really hope his health improves so that he can continue to enjoy the agate hunts and work that he does with them. I started hearing from my buddy Josh, who was scheduled to take several of us hunting for Kentucky Agate the next morning…but it sounded like he was sick and wasnt going to be able to take us, so I let Harry and Larry know that later on and we reverted back to their original plan of returning to the Goat Farm to look for geodes in the creek instead. Onyx and I headed back to the hotel about 4 pm, leaving a few diehard diggers there, wore out and ready for a good shower and then some supper. Fred and a few others followed us out…I stopped up on top of the hill to photograph an old barn with blue doors….

After another good supper at the golf course restaurant, alot of us hung around in the parking lot once again that evening…there were about twenty folks less and some said they were going to go explore some other areas the next day. John broke out some of his barites from Iowa while he was re-arranging Mary`s suv, they were quite popular with everyone too, he had a few with him this trip that had pyrite in amongst the barite blades, making them look great and very be-jewelled. Here are a few I have purchased from him in the past year, some are quite pretty….

…anyway they were a hit with everyone who saw them and as usual, he didn`t bring enough of them with him…but as he said, one never knows how many to bring when dealing with large groups like that and not everyone likes to buy pretty specimens like that one rockhunting trips…some go just to collect and hunt, some go to also visit and trade with rockhounds, and some go to do all of that and buy even prettier stuff that is basically inaccessible to them…I am one of those types of rockhounds, interested and willing to do all of it…because I know there are locations that produce great stuff that is mostly inaccessible to many of us and you have to break down and buy them if you want them in your collection, as I do. I know people like John, who realize this stuff is pretty and in demand by collectors all over, however they also realize that most people cannot afford to pay a lot and so they dont charge an arm and leg like some dealers do. I pulled out some stuff that John had asked me to bring, some old material that I purchased from the Pea Ridge Iron Ore Mine in my area that was probably at least 50 years old and some new stuff coming from an hour south of me that included gray bubbly druse with chalcopyrite covering it blanket style, snow white bladed barite and sphalerite balls. I also brought some dogtooths from area quarries that I find alot of and I had some fluorite for Fred as well…when I pulled the fluorites out, everyone came over to look them over and several folks purchased a few of them…John had the same thing going with his barites.  Harry and Larry were really taken with those barites, as I had told them about a few weeks ago…I really don`t know anyone that isn`t mesmerized by their razzle dazzle and beauty.

The next morning we had another great breakfast next door and I shot this sunrise afterward….

I checked out of the hotel after that,  intending to head home after hunting for geodes during the morning at the Goat Farm…I figured it would be better to drive home all afternoon and get a good nights rest before going back to work the next night, than to get up early the next morning and drive home, then take a two hour nap and go to work, figured I would be tired from driving and a two hour nap just wouldn`t cut it for me. Harry and Larry led the way down to the Goat Farm near Crab Orchard and this time we found the owner home and the gate unlocked, and we drove down thru the field to the creek below. This location is known well for large geodes upstream and buddy let me tell you, several rockhounds found as many as they could carry back to their vehicles. After I let Onyx loose, he headed for the creek and found a couple of deep holes he could swim in, so he was in hog heaven pretty fast…I took a few photos of the parking area and creek first….

…and I saw Slade looking over geodes at the creek crossing before heading upstream to look for some big ones…

Fred, Harry and George were all working the creek as I finished shooting a few photos and joined them, finding some that had been left by others that were quite pretty and cracking open some new ones that were filled with sunshine quartz, as Harry and Larry call it….

…just upstream from our location, was Larry Huffman and a couple of gals further upstream from him…Larry was cracking open some sunshine quartz geodes…

I walked back down to see how many geodes Fred had piled up…he had cracked one open that I had tried to crack open earlier, he used a chisel that I did not have with me, and it opened perfect for him…so he gave me half of it…his half is at the center base of his white bucket, the large one with the beautiful white and yellow quartz crystals….

…and here is one of his basketball sized ones…

…in the meantime, the rest of the crew downstream was doing quite well too…I checked with a few of them and they were quite happy with what they were finding just a few yards below us….

…after shooting some photos and loading up my tailgate with my finds, I decided to walk upstream and see what I could find that might be bigger. I met Dale Russell coming downstream with his arms full of a huge geode half that was full of gorgeous sunshine quartz and in big bubbles of it too…and his backpack was full of a few smaller ones equally beautiful too. Here is that half he was carrying downstream in his arms…

…and here are the two halves he had on his back in his pack while carrying that one downstream in his arms….talk about loaded down….

 

He told me where he left his bucket, up by Slade, and said there were more up there just laying all over the place, so Onyx and I headed upstream, running into Slade as well….I picked up a couple of halves I found laying around up there, after making sure they were not any that Slade or Dale had cracked open to take home…and returned to the truck tired…I photographed Dale with his beauties and Dale Walker as well who had found one downstream too…..

Both of these Dales are great to rockhound with and they both have great taste in gloves…I like the heavy leather ones at the quarries and quartz mines like Dale Russell is wearing and when I am digging in water or mud or both, I like the rough rubber face of the gloves like Dale Walker is wearing. Both of these types of gloves are long lasting, too, takes a lot to wear them out.

I spent the next hour repacking the truck bed to accomodate all of my geode finds, while Onyx did a little more swimming, then we said our see ya laters to everyone in sight and headed over to Mt Vernon to pick up I-75 to head north to Lexington and then west on I-64 to St Louis. We were on the eastern outskirts of Louisville when the eclipse began, spotted thousands gathered in a city park on that side of town to observe it, then noticed all the streetlights in Louisville that lined I-64 were activated for it…they wasted some electricity as it never even darkened down a tiny bit. We caught up to some eclipse traffic headed home when we hit northbound I-57, luckily that only lasted a few miles, all of it going northbound…I filled the gas tanks at the Phillips 66 there and we headed west on 64 again with normal traffic. I did drive thru a nasty little cloudburst complete with some straight line winds just east of Okawville…everyone slowed down to about 45 mph and turned our flashers on and headed on, lasted about ten minutes only. I ran into a little northbound eclipse traffic when I hit 270 but all traffic going westbound was just fine…we finally got home about 7 pm and I was in bed after unpacking the truck, by 10 pm. All in all, another great trip and one for the record books this time around. Hope everyone else had a great time and made it home safe and sound. If anyone needs any of my photos, just give me a shout at my email addy below. 

 James at jwjphoto7@gmail.com  🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas in July 2017

My vacation end of June could not arrive fast enough, once again, same feeling I had end of April when my spring vacation approached. My full time job is very stressful much of the time, but things beyond my control, have increased my stress this year over years past. I get another break in August, but it will be shorter, due to even more circumstances beyond my control, code for problems and events in the past few years that prevent some of us from taking additional time off from work. A year ago mid June, I lost my Dad to a massive heart attack, and this year, on the anniversary of that very day he collapsed in the yard, Mom began having problems that prompted a trip to the emergency room of our local MOBAP hospital. Luckily for us, Dr Draper was on duty that evening…he was the attending physician the evening that Dad collapsed and we really liked his bedside manner and attitude…too many times these days, you rarely find a good physician on duty, one you can understand and one that understands you, emergency rooms are often a training ground for new doctors. Last year we found out that Dr Draper is a keeper, with thirty five years of experience, we were delighted to find out that not only did MOBAP keep him on staff, they also promoted him to Chief of Staff in the ER here. Mom had shortness of breath and the evaluating nurse quickly whisked her inside to a room right away and began trying to get to the bottom of it. From the get go, Dr Draper figured it was either pneumonia or congestive heart failure and xrays eventually confirmed it was pneumonia after she was admitted later that evening to the intensive care unit of the hospital. She was hospitalized for a week and then released on the one year anniversary of the day we laid my Dad to rest, scarey timing for my sister and I for a few days there. Later it was determined that Mom had one of the bad pneumonia`s and told it would take at least four weeks before she could go outside, which was fine with her as she barely had the strength to walk up and down the hallway at home. She has had home health care nurses taking care of her daily and they released her today due to the progress she has made with her daily exercises and she can now go outside and attend to her flowers once again as well as go to church services and eat out once again.

I was able to take my vacation and go quartz crystal hunting in Arkansas once again after receiving her blessings, aided by good neighbors checking on her often and my sister staying in touch and visiting her often as well. Onyx and I took off by 7 am on Thursday the 29th and took the shorter route, south on Hwy 63 to Hwy 67 to 440 around Little Rock and then I-30 southwest to Hwy 70 west into Hot Springs. When I was down there in May, I learned that Arkansas highway crews were expanding 70 between Hot Springs and I-30 and had made much progress since we were there then. This time as we entered from the east end, it was obvious that traffic would soon be traveling on four lanes at least ten miles in toward Hot Springs before running into active construction work. Crews were building a few bridges in the middle of the construction area and that was slowing down the progress, but I am sure that by the time we return in November, it should be four lanes of traffic moving thru there. We had to come to a stop a few times thru there for large dumptrucks turning in and out of specific areas, giving me a chance to look at roadcuts looking for quartz veins…while I didn`t see anything in the shale cuts, after mentioning that to Robert Kuhn later on, he told me that is how quartz is often discovered in that area. By the time we arrived at the condo early afternoon Thursday….

      

….it was already getting very warm outside. I noticed this time, there were no bugs flying all around the doorway and the flowers were in bloom and quite pretty, including all the crepe myrtles at every condo building…

 

I quickly unpacked the truck and moved everything inside the condo, where I discovered soon after, that my laptop had bit the dust and would not even power up, so I made a trip to Walmart to get a new universal power cord for it, but even that didn`t work, so after a subsequent trip to Walmart to return the cord and replace the laptop with a tablet, I was back in business for email and internet browsing. I soon discovered tho, that I would not be able to load up any of my photos as this was more of a chrome book, not a true tablet. Needless to say, it was replaced as soon as I returned home.

Chuck and his family were set to come down and join me on Saturday evening, so I had contacted Tony to see if we could hunt and dig at his mine on Sunday and Monday, instead of our normal Friday and Saturday. I planned to visit friends and mineral dealers the first couple of days, starting with Johnny B  on Friday morning and then checking on Fisher Mtn Mine once again, which is under the control of Judy`s Crystal Shop these days. I ate a couple of bananas on the way down there and by 2 pm, I was good and hungry, so Onyx and I drove over to the south side of Lake Hamilton, to get some fried catfish and jumbo shrimp at Bubba`s trailer…he was a little busy when we arrived but the wait is always worth it, as well as the price.  I checked in with Mom by phone to let her know we made it down safe and sound and then went to Scoops to get a few quarts of home made ice cream for the next few days of dessert, then settled in to make some contacts and set up some visits for the next two days. That evening we enjoyed a nice sunset….

The next morning we were up early preparing to head up to Mt Ida to visit with Johnny, when I spotted radar indicating some strong storms quickly heading our way from Fort Smith, so as I started to let Johnny know by email about it, I noticed he had already emailed to let me know of the storm activity. I told him I really had no desire to be on the road between here and there in a bad storm, so we decided to postpone to Saturday morning instead. I decided to go over to Roberts house and visit for a short while, before the storms arrived…as Onyx and I headed to the truck, we noticed some fishing activity going on not far west of the condos….

Robert had cleaned up his property quite a bit since we were there in May..it was very weedy and grown up in brush in the area that he had several quartz clusters laying on the ground back then…but wow, what a difference this time around. He had done some extensive weed eating and brush removal, I could clearly see all the clusters this time around and he had separated damaged crystals that he gives away to a local charity, from the good stuff. Unfortunately, he had also discovered an unwanted visitor on his property…a thief no less, who came into the quartz areas and helped himself to some very nice select quality items, so he was trying to secure some of those areas to prevent it from happening again. I did not blame him a bit for being upset about it and made a few suggestions of locks and cords big and strong enough that they could not be cut open or compromised. I was glad that the thief did not get the small clusters that he had from Hogjaw Mtn Mine that I wanted to buy and told him I would return in a day or two to make my selections. Onyx and I drove down to Bubba`s to get some more food and then returned to the condo ahead of the approaching storms…

…boats were still out on the lake that morning, but were beginning to thin out and head for safety, as the drivers noticed the darkening skies…

…it took a couple of hours, but that storm finally rolled in and across the lake…not near as intense as the forecasters warned it would be…about the only thing I did accomplish that first day was a good visit with Robert and finding out the weather forecasters down there are the same as the ones in St Louis as far as sensationalizing the weather with very little truth to the matter. Often wish I had that type of job…be wrong 98 percent of the time and still keep my job, not to mention making two to three hundred thousand a year. We did manage to have a nice sunset that evening tho….

The next morning, after a good nights rest, Onyx and I drove up to visit with Johnny B, arriving about 8 am on his advice of getting there during the cool of the day. I have to admit it was a little cooler than the heat of the day, but the humidity sure did not make you think it was very cool that time of the morning. We found Johnny washing off some crystals he had been cleaning in Iron Out as well as muriatic acid…John uses small dumpsters as acid vats…

…and then he took me on a pallet by pallet tour of his property, including the pallets of huge crystal covered boulders in his front yard, which you see as you come down his driveway. 

This is the first pallet I spotted as I walked up his driveway to his dealer area tho…the color of the crystals is what caught my eye first, then the size of the crystals, and then the size of the boulders, the first two options far more important than the third one…

…now if that does not grab your attention, nothing will in my humble opinion…just beautiful quartz crystals there…and I am a big fan of the yellow and orange color staining on the crystals…it really makes them stand out and grab your attention !!  This by far, was not the only pallet of beautiful crystals that he had on hand that week, he was getting ready for a few mineral shows, one this weekend out in North Carolina and another one next week, so he was doing some major cleaning of crystals to take out there with him. I will show you the highlights of what I saw there…

the ones above were new, from Collier Creek Mine, and the two below from there as well, showed some interesting formations of crystals, kind of like clusters of flowers, on a sandstone druse…very pretty and he gave me a good price on them..wish now I had purchased at least one from him…

If you are interested in any of these, I can put you in touch with him, he is easy to deal with on pricing and he has some gorgeous stuff…he also has some that would require a small crane to lift and place in your truck bed, which he can accommodate you with as well.  He also had some clusters from Sweet Surrender Mine, if you are interested in what they look like when they come out of the ground…covered in a heavy coating of magnesium….

…they can be cleaned up and the magnesium removed if you have plenty of patience as John does, and plenty of acid as well….to look like this eventually….

…and here are some photos of what I purchased from John during my visit there…some green enhanced Dragon quartz from China….

…this HUGE flatsie as John referred to it…at least 22 inches across and 18 inches wide….

…and this unusually shaped cluster of crystals….

By noon, I was on my way back to the condo, stopping off in Mt Ida at the Phillips 66 station to fill my gas tank…both of the Phillips 66 stations have been bought out by Valero…then I stopped off at Judy`s Crystal Shop and briefly visited with Judy on the state of the lease she has for the Fisher Mtn Mine, in case we needed a place to hunt at on Tuesday. Judy was doing much better than the last time I saw her, when Ray Roth and I hunted there a few years back one afternoon…that was shortly after she suffered a stroke and was on crutches then…she looked much better and was now using a walker for long jaunts she said. Her husband Ray McGrew is back in the welding shop and still making the Gad-Pry bars, the ones with a point on one end, great for quartz crystal digging in the rock walls, and still does some major digging with his machines too.

After a nice chat with Judy, we headed on down to the condo to get ready for the fireworks display later that night. I wasn`t sure what time the parking lot would start filling up at the condo, so I didn`t take a chance and go grab some chow. Last year when we returned to the condo from digging all day, I had a hard time finding a parking spot mainly because of so many guests parking in the spots of renters, instead of up on the hill above where they were supposed to park at. This year, it didn`t get that bad. Soon after Chuck and his family arrived, I ordered a pizza and then set up my tripod and camera to get ready to shoot the fireworks display…in the meantime, it was boat city out on the lake behind the condo that afternoon…

…and I was surprised to see the US Coast Guard was on the lake as well as local law enforcement….

…and there was also another thunderstorm system headed our way, so I decided to stay put at the condo and see what happened…it looked as though it might even clip us and stay somewhat south of us once again, but over the course of the afternoon, more clouds began to build up and approach from the southwest…

…and there were so many boats out there going in multiple directions that even the ducks and geese were swimming over near my condo unit for protection….

…and by 6 pm, the Belle of Hot Springs started out across Lake Hamilton on their normal sunset tour….

…the clouds continued to stream in and build up, and boat traffic seemed to only increase as well….

…by about 6:30 pm, this huge dark cloud covered much of the lake and every boat operator out there headed for safety….this storm dropped a little rain and created some high winds briefly, causing a few tense seconds….Chuck arrived in the area and I texted to let him know of the storm blowing in…they rode it out inside Walmart shopping. Soon enough the storm just blew on over and continued to the east….

…and about an hour later, as the storm blew on by to the south, this boat and crew grabbed the first parking spot out on the lake, waiting for the display to start….

…and by 8:30 pm, even more boats were gathering on the lake behind the condo…keep in mind, this is on the west side of the Hwy 7/Central Ave bridge and there are just as many or more on the east side of the bridge, all filled with people, meaning there were several thousand folks in boats on the lake watching the show, not to mention folks like me on condo and hotel balconies, backyards and docks along the water of this huge lake, from one end to the other…mind boggling for sure….and once the show starts, the bridge over the lake becomes a parking lot….as it got darker, more and more boats took up position….

…and then several private fireworks shows started popping up all over the lake, on both sides, some even to the side of us….

…and the next thing you knew, it was pretty dark and we were just waiting on the release of the first burst….which began about ten minutes later…..

…I didn`t find out til the next day….but shortly after the fireworks display, there was a huge structure fire two miles west, where four rental homes burned to the ground, right on the lakeshore next to Airport Road and seven fire departments responded to the blaze. It started from a gas leak in a jeep ignited by a roman candle, the jeep under a carport attached to one of the homes, spreading to three other homes, at the Kleinshore Properties. Luckily there was no loss of life and kudos to the fire departments that fought the blaze, keeping it from spreading to the remainder of the homes there.

Early the next morning, Onyx and I met up with Chuck and his wife Lynn and daughter Mackenzie, and her friend Faith, who I had met at the Park Hills Show when she came down there with them,  at the Valero Station on Higdon Ferry Road and headed west as soon as I filled my cooler with some ice. We stopped off on the way to Mt Ida at Burls Country Smokehouse, located on Hwy 270 at Crystal Springs, to get some sandwiches for lunchtime, and got a sandwich for Tony as well, then headed west once again. We arrived around 8:45 am and met Tony at the lower mine entrance, paid him our dig fees and talked to him a bit about his new mine, then set about getting our digging clothes and boots on, grabbed our tools and bags, and walked up to the back wall of the mine….

On the way up there to the wall, I told Chuck to take the wall pocket, cause I really wanted to look around down below in the pit and around it for some yard rocks, and then wanted to go up above and do some surface collecting, especially since Tony was able to turn some piles over for us up above. He and Lynn, for her first time even, started working the huge vein pocket in the back wall and removing plates of large crystals….

…..while I poked around about forty feet below them and found some nice plates on boulders, which I was able to chip off and wrap up. I did also spot some nice yard rocks, but they were buried under a pile of other boulders, so I figured I would wait til the fall to get them. Here is one of the plates I chipped off….

….and here is the pocket in the wall that Chuck was working on to remove the plates from….John had worked this wall pocket back in May and left several intact plates and crystals in there…

After a few hours, I decided to drive on up to the top and do some surface collecting. Onyx rode up with me…I parked near Tony`s trackhoe and opened the tailgate and got my sandwiches out…one for Onyx and one for me…smoked ham on white bread with mayonnaise…

Right after Onyx and I finished our lunch…and no he isnt spoiled…much….yes he had his own smoked ham sandwich, double meat same as mine…and yes I got him a sausage and egg biscuit before we met up with Chuck`s crew that morning…but that was because I forgot to bring some milkbone crackers with me for him to snack on thru the day…so if you must judge, then yes, I am guilty as charged. 🙂  

I started surface collecting around where I parked first, found five or six nice crystal points and a small cluster right off the bat, literally right where I put my feet down getting out of the truck up there, and then we started over toward the trackhoe where Tony had stirred the piles up…..

…you cant see it in the photo above, but there are piles of fresh dirt on the right side where Tony stirred up the tailings there and it was a crystal bonanza over there, crystals laying everywhere…as PJ said back in May when she first walked up there from the lower mine that morning…” it was like Disneyland up there ” !! and then I moved over to the left under that hydraulic arm of the trackhoe when I spotted several small clusters laying everywhere over there…and then as I was bending down to pick up one, I got stung right above my left eye on my forehead…I raised up and looked to my right and there was a swarm of four or five red wasps…it felt like he got me in a glancing blow, maybe a sideways hit , def not a full force sting as I have experienced in the past, but I knew I had been hit and had to get out of there quickly….you see, I am one of the fortunate few thousand that is allergic to bee, wasp, hornet, and yellowjacket stings, and I have to either seek medical help right away, or get a shot of adrenaline right away, within a certain time frame of mere minutes, not hours. I had my eppy kit with me, in the truck, so I grabbed my crystals, my tools, my gloves, and ran to the truck…I looked back when reaching the truck and was relieved to see that the swarm of wasps did not follow me…yellowjackets and hornets would have done that…I got Onyx into the truck and then I climbed in as well, got turned around and then got out of there and down the hill to the lower mine again. I let Chuck and Lynn know that I had been stung and was going to inject myself with my eppy shot…Chuck let me know that Lynn was cross trained in giving those shots at school where she teaches and could give me the shot, and so I let her give me the shot instead.

Believe me, if I had to do so myself I could, have never been afraid of needles, was a human pin cushion for many years growing up with allergies, receiving a shot once a week for about fifteen years, and these kit companies make giving these shots to yourself a picnic these days…the needle is retracted to make it safer, and long enough to go thru jeans or other clothing, all you have to do with a shot of adrenalin is get it under the skin, more effective to do that then try to find a vein according to Dr Crawford, who was my family doctor way back when I found out I was allergic..he said back then get it under the skin and it will go straight to your heart faster than getting it into the bloodstream. These kit shots are only about half strength of the type of shot you would get at a hospital tho, but it was effective and slower moving it seemed like. I remember taking shots in the past in Dr Crawfords office one day, after being stung by several yellowjackets while mowing a yard, and I was standing in the hallway of his office when the nurse gave me the shot…it moves quickly to your heart and in such a rush that it knocks you on your butt if you arent sitting down…and you cannot do anything but rest for quite a while after taking a shot like that. Lynn did a good job giving me the shot, you have to punch it thru the jeans and then push and hold the button at the top of the shot for ten seconds, giving the liquid time to go into your leg under the skin…she gave me about eleven seconds and I could feel it accelerating my heartbeat after about ten minutes, so I knew then it was working. I decided to take a full strength Allegra tablet as well, just for an extra insurance boost…little did I know then, that by doing so, I had probably done far more good for myself.

We decided to stop digging for the day and head back to the condos, we had some good stuff by then and Chuck had liberated some nice plates from the wall pocket and was happy with what he had accomplished that day. Lynn needed to take the girls to another location, so she drove Chucks truck out and Chuck rode with me. I decided to stop by the ambulance shed in Mt Ida on the way back, to make sure I was okay, as it is another 30 min drive on down to the hospital at Hot Springs. I called the Montgomery County Sheriffs Office and spoke to a dispatcher who gave me directions to the shed, and once there, talked to one of the paramedics who told me that I had done the right thing and would likely be just fine.  We then drove on back to Hot Springs…my buddy Justin Baird called me as we were pulling up to the ambulance shed, and I called him back once we were on the road again…making arrangements to meet him at his apartment to see what crystals he had for sale, as he was moving to a new house he was buying, and in the process of moving everything over to it. We pulled into his apartment right ahead of him about 20 minutes later and checked out what he had not packed up yet…I wound up purchasing some of his collections and then we headed back to the condos to clean up before heading to Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper.

Tony had given us a key to the gate for the next morning, so we decided to go up there a lot earlier and get a jump on the heat…however, a line of storms hit the area about 5 am and lingered on for a few hours, delaying our departure time to about 9 am….it was just Chuck and me today, so he rode up with me to leave his truck for Lynn and the girls to go shopping in. We arrived about 10 am and started at the top of the hill….this time I stuck a can of raid wasp and bee killer spray in my apron just in case…and I should point out here, that Robert had told me that wasps liked to nest in those machines when they sit around unused for long periods of time, so it was my fault for not being more aware of my surroundings the day before…I should have been more prepared and more aware of where I was and what I was doing. Had I been armed with a can the day before, I still might have been stung, but as John Wayne used to say, ” you might get me, but I`ll take a heck of a lot of you with me before I hit the ground “.  Chuck and I both skirted around the machine and kept our distance and we were still able to check out the area that Tony had stirred up, we walked on up, around, and behind the trackhoe and then Chuck wandered over to the old walls to see if he could chip off some more plates.

Onyx and I discovered some plates hanging around a wall of sandstone behind the machine about fifty feet and I chipped a few of them off and then wandered over to where Chuck was at…as I passed thru some small pine trees and brush, I got zapped by something unseen, on the right side of my neck and my right index finger thru my glove no less, at the same time…I continued walking over to Chucks location and waited to see if any swelling occurred in either area, but after five minutes of nothing happening, I dismissed it and continued on. I had another eppy shot with me but was mildly relieved I would not have to use it.

We drove back down to the lower mine so Chuck could finish up the wall pocket while I surface collected the huge tailing pile there. Onyx opted to remain in the ac of the truck, keeping things cool for us when we returned about 90 minutes later.  Up on the pile I found a few nice single points and then pulled a medium sized cluster out, and behind it a nice one sided yard rock that was a bit bigger than a loaf of bread…within that area, I started digging and pulled out some smaller clusters and points that were nice too. Chuck joined me up on the pile and we searched another 30 minutes and then decided to call it a day at 2 pm. After locking the gate behind us, we headed back to the condo to get cleaned up and then drove over to Roberts house to get some flats of crystals. We had a great time visiting with him, and I purchased three flats of small clusters from him, that he had dug at the Hogjaw Mountain Mine, similar to the beautiful golden healer clusters I had purchased from him on my trip down there in May.

Afterward, Chuck and his crew headed over to a Mexican Restaurant on the south side of the lake and I headed to the Outback Restaurant where my buddy Jake was working that night. I decided to have the filet steak there with a lobster tail this time around, ordered my steak cooked medium as I always do…I had to wait awhile to get Jake as my waiter that evening, this place was rockin` and busy as could be, standing room only at the door, but getting a good waiter like Jake is very important at places like this, because he is the type of waiter that takes very good care of his customers. About 20 minutes later, he brought me my plate and sat down across from me in the booth, asked me to check my steak…it looked like a piece of leather and trying to cut it with a knife confirmed it was way over cooked..he thought so too and took only the steak back, leaving me with the lobster tail, baked potato, and broccoli to eat, stopping to tell his new manager about it…I didn`t hear what she told him but ten minutes later he reappeared with another plate…and on the plate was a very thick medium cooked steak that was easy to cut thru and delicious as well, and in addition to that steak was another baked potato, more broccoli and another lobster tail !!  So I had two great lobster tails, two great baked potatoes, two great plates of broccoli, and one very delicious filet steak for supper that evening…and to top it all off, his new manager let me have the entire dinner at no cost whatsoever !!  I did leave a nice tip for my waiter tho. 🙂

 The next morning Onyx and I were up at the crack of dawn for some reason, and Chuck and his crew headed home shortly after. I actually thought about leaving by mid morning, but some friends that had been unable to get down there earlier in the week, let me know they could come down early afternoon to visit, so we decided to stick around afterall…besides I had paid for the condo til Wednesday so might as well stick around and rest up. That evening the weather forecast had me kind of thinking maybe I should have left at some point that day, forecast calling for storms and showers the next morning. I had a good supper with one of my friends at Outback again, this time I had one of their great hamburgers with a baked potato and broccoli, and Jake as our waiter again. After another pretty sunset, this one showing the Belle of Hot Springs crossing the lake on its sunset tour, Onyx and I headed to bed after the news…..\

The next morning was forecast for storms beginning about 7 am, so I figured Onyx and I would get on the road home by 5:30 to 6 am and get out ahead of it on the short route home…however, Mother Nature had other plans in mind and began storming about 4 am, so we slept in a bit and got on the road about 7 am headed home via the long route…we ran out of the rain about Y City and then hit spotty short showers the rest of the way home, arriving home about 4 pm, no rain east of Rolla. I made a phone call to check on some smokey quartz clusters for sale in the Fayetteville area that I had been told were Arkansas smokeys, but when the guy finally called me back, I was near the state line and he told me that no, in fact they were Brazilian smokey quartz clusters, quite pretty, and prob less pricey if they had been Arkansas quartz. 

I visited my pharmacist the next day and discovered that the eppy kit I had in my truck and had used on Sunday afternoon, had expired two years ago…I had purchased it in 2014 and it was only good for one year, she said. I was like holie cow, I thought those were good for a few years…but she said the kits these days are only good for a year, but it was nice to know that it had worked and she said I made a good decision to back it up with an Allegra and could have taken a second Allegra the next day and it would have sealed the deal even better. I ordered a new kit and decided from now on, will make that an annual order on my birthday as a present to myself, can prob remember it better that way. All in all tho, it was a great trip once again and much needed rest and relaxation too.

I received some good news from Tony and Robert about the November trip and will share that with my core group members soon. 

You can contact me at jwjphoto7@gmail.com if you have any questions or thoughts. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Park Hills Gem and Mineral Show June 2017

Everyone has been asking me if I went to the Park Hills Show….

….I did go on Sunday the 11th, and met Chuck Reed and his daughter Mackenzie and her friend Faith, as well as my Chef buddy Nathaniel Reid, there at 8 am,  and walked the booths with them…my plans were to visit with my dealer friend Johnny B from Mt Ida, Ken Vaisvil from Arnold, and Virgil Richards from Tulsa. We also spotted a couple of vendors with some very beautiful gray druse coated with gorgeous chalcopyrites, sphalerite crystals, and snow white barite crystals attached to some of them…very pretty stuff…like this one now adorning my coffee table…

Onyx and I arrived about 7:30 am and after letting him out of the truck for a few minutes in the parking lot to stretch his legs, I photographed the old hoist house of the Federal Hill Mine at the old St Joe Mine in Park Hills….

….it always looks good from the vendor area too, little windy this morning tho….

…..then put him back in the truck in the air conditioning, locked him up and headed off to see my Arkansas dealer friend Johnny B…

….who is up there each year with some beautiful quartz crystals and other odds and ends…he had some neat stuff this year as well, some green quartz crystals from China that had been ” enhanced ” as he put it, sprayed with a green frosting that really made them stand out. While they caught my eye, I really liked the Desert Rosettes that he had on the table…six clusters of them…he made me a sweet deal and I bought all of them….

Shortly after that, my phone began blowing up…Chuck calling to confirm the exit off Hwy 67 to reach the park and show…and soon arrived while I was looking at the large goodies covering three tables at a local vendor`s booth…from a local quarry where miners had blasted and found two huge pockets full of gray druse quartz, coated…and I mean heavily coated…with blankets of chalcopyrite, dotted with large balls of sphalerite, and some had snow white bladed barite attached to them as well….

…Nathaniel showed up soon after and after he had a chance to check out the local goodies above, we headed over to see my buddy, Ken Vaisvil, who collects and sells Keokuk area geodes. The past few years I have been going to the Park Hills Show, I was always impressed with the amount and quality of geodes that Ken always has on display for sale at his booth….

….so I have always purchased a couple of them from him at this show each year. I saw him at Geodefest last year in Keokuk, and purchased a few more from him there…then earlier this year, I purchased a few flats of smaller ones from him for my shower remodel, that I hope to get moving on if my carpenter ever finds some free time to work me in to his busy schedule. Ken was sitting back enjoying the morning sun when we walked up on him and soon he had Chucks daughter and friend picking out some geodes to crack open….

…I posted a video of him operating the cracker and opening them up for the girls, on my Facebook page if anyone is interested in seeing it. Ken is a great guy to talk to and deal with, he truly loves collecting them as much as he loves to crack them open and sell them. He has always liked the dogtooth crystals that I have collected in the past so I took a couple of them to him that morning as well.

Ken started getting some customers, so we headed over to visit with Virgil, who was located behind Kens booth, along the back fence of the dealer area. Virgil had some nice stuff for sale at his booth, including azurite, malachite, snakeskin agates, chrisacolla, petrified wood, and he had a helper at the show, named Aaron, who was selling some huge sheets of selenite there too. While talking to Virgil, he pointed out a booth across the way and said we needed to go over and see what the guy had for sale, turns out he was a local miner that works at the quarry where the gorgeous druses coated with chalcopyrite, sphalerites, and bladed barites attached to them. So we walked over to see what he had…one was so big he had it on display in the back of his pickup, prob a five hundred pound piece, it was very pretty tho. He was offering build your own flats, so I took advantage of that and built one for myself and paid for it. Soon after that, Chuck and Nathaniel said they had to return to St Louis County, so we packed up and headed to our trucks in the parking lot…they took off headed north while Onyx and I headed south to the Eminence Quarry to do some rock collecting. 

Arriving about 1:30 pm, we got out of the truck to find it a very warm day…somehow I figured that Onyx wouldnt last long in the heat, but he surprised me that afternoon, staying outside the cab in the shade, prob due to a very nice breeze that blew all afternoon across the quarry. There was a nice ramp leading to the walls above….

….so I hiked up there soon after and began finding pockets of black and dark green dogtooths almost immediately, and set to opening them up and pulling out the goodies…filling one bag very fast and returning for two more as well as a bottle of water. There was a dozer working on the coved area walls til about 3 pm…otherwise we never saw anyone else that day there. I worked about ten to fifteen pockets along the wall before wearing out and heading home about 4 pm. Made for a long but pretty and enjoyable day. 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas Spring 2017

By the time my vacation rolled around on Friday April 28th, I was beyond ready for it…I started packing for my trip to Hot Springs earlier in the week on Monday and by Friday I was down to the small details. Onyx always has his bags packed quickly and I had him shaved down the week before to prepare for the Arkansas heat, which normally comes sooner than ours does up here. About the only thing I didnt like the looks of, was the radar on Saturday morning as I finished packing the truck. I was taking some flats of minerals and crystals from prior hunts down there with me, so I grabbed a couple of short sheets of plastic to cover them up in the truck bed, as the tonneau cover tends to leak some when it rains. We didnt take off real early that morning, trying to time our departure in order to drive thru the least rainfall plus the fact that I really do not like driving thru storms in the dark. We made it down to the other side of Springfield before we hit a few light and brief rain showers. Soon after I turned south on Hwy 71, now known as I-49, near Joplin, the rain picked up in intensity and near Neosho, so did the wind…blowing the rain sideways across the interstate…soon all of us that were southbound were now running our flashers, visibility was less than an eighth of a mile in front of you, I was down to 35 miles per hour because of the torrential downpour…I pulled off underneath the overpass at Anderson, Missouri and photographed the downspouts pouring water off the bridge above into the interstate median….

I also shot some video of the downpour, as I have never ever seen rain coming down that hard and for that length of time…and since I had never seen rain like that last very long, I assumed that I would run out of it very quickly and got back on the road. Needless to say, I was wrong…it never let up all the way down to the Arkansas line at Bella Vista…where I pulled off into the Caseys General Store to fill my gas tank and get a bathroom break. I then continued south to Rogers, where I stopped at McDonalds to get a double hamburger for me and one for Onyx, and a large fry. Onyx was not impressed with the storms let me tell ya…he had the luxury of curling up in the back seat and napping, putting it completely out of mind…we trudged on southward thru the downpour until we finally….FINALLY…ran out of it up on the Boston Mountains south of Fayetteville…darn near to I-40 near Fort Smith before it completely….stopped…..raining…I was soooo relieved.

I contacted my buddy Adam Lagaveen to see if he was home and free over in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, and hearing that he was, drove over to visit with him. Adam has been a good friend and great source of information on Arkansas quartz for a few years now…ever since I spotted him on my cousin Cassieopia`s FB  page and she gave me the lowdown on him after I found out on my own that he was into making Native American artifacts using lapidary rocks and minerals…pretty ones at that…mainly creating knives and arrowheads by knapping them and then constructing the handles using antlers…he does GREAT work I might add !!  Over the past few years of visiting with him on my many trips down there, he had also passed on to me his huge collection of Arkansas quartz from his many trips to the Mt Ida and Hot Springs areas, several yrs ago, and he had contacted me a few weeks back and told me that he had assembled more of his quartz and suggested that I stop by and collect it from him, which would create even more space needed for his knapping material and work area. Visits with him also provided an opportunity for Onyx to stretch his legs after five hours on the road, as Adam has a huge backyard at his home. He met me at the door as I was letting Onxy out of his seatbelt in the truck, and told me that he had a lab puppy asleep on the couch in the living room while his daughters were napping upstairs, so we would have to be quiet as we walked thru the living room to the backdoor…Onxy never noticed the lab cause the puppy was on her back and curled up under a blanket on the couch, deeply dozing away…I wish now I had taken my camera with me and photographed her, she was adorable sleeping on that couch and tiny as could be. We visited for about thirty minutes and I selected several smokey quartz Arkimers, both small and large ones, and a few green chloride clusters that he had available, as well as a few unique crystals that he had available this time around, one or two that are like a blue irredescence inclusions in smokey quartz found on the north side of Lake Ouachita. We talked about a few locations that he had told me about a year or two ago, one of which I was finally able to nail down to a more exact spot.

After wrapping the crystals up, I gathered Onyx, who had a few minutes to visit with the lab puppy after she finally woke up, and then we got back on the road…first back to Fort Smith on I-40 and then south on Hwy 71. I had intended to stop and replace the flowers at the graves of my grandparents at Sehorn Cemetery at Waldron…had the flowers under the plastic sheeting in the truck bed…but the rain started again near Waldron and I decided to come back up and take care of that detail later in the week. South of Waldron, we again had to slow down and run our flashers once again, as visibility again became very limited and this time it lasted about 15 miles…coming to a stop once again near Y City, where I made my turn east on Hwy 270. As I was making my turn east, I glanced to the right and spotted waterfalls in a creek that tumbles down the side of the hillside on the west side of 71 and they were heavily flowing…normally running at a trickle…plus there was a bit of water beginning to flow over 270 at the base of the turn ramp that I had to negotiate by driving over in the oncoming traffic lane to by pass. I began to wonder if the creeks on down 270 toward Mt Ida would be overflowing by the time we got to them, but I was soon relieved to see that they were flowing at a normal rate, meaning that the rain had not reached that far east yet, radar indicating later that all those intense storms I had driven down thru were moving mainly to the north-northeast. Within a few miles, I was driving toward Mt Ida and this is how the skies looked ahead….

…dark and menacing looking, but no rain falling ahead. In fact, as I got closer to Mt Ida and Hot Springs, the skies actually lightened up quite a bit…however, those white looking clouds earlier in the day seemed to be where the heaviest of the rains were coming from rather than the darker looking clouds….

….about an hour later, tho, we arrived in Hot Springs to partly sunny skies and got to the condo safe and sound. After unpacking, I called Mom to let her know we had arrived and how bad the weather had been to drive down there in…she told me it was raining off and on up there, sounded like the really heavy rains that we drove thru, had moved straight east across Missouri and missed Sullivan completely…I was very glad to hear that….although that would generate alot of rivers rising to the south as well and flooding would ensue. By Monday, after a few days of heavy rains, that is exactly what did happen in Missouri while we were gone, and with many main roads and highways closed due to flooding, many of my co-workers had to find alternate routes to work and back home each day. It truly seemed I had picked the right week to be on vacation.  

Soon after unpacking and settling in, Onyx and I drove south across Lake Hamilton and picked up some fried catfish and jumbo shrimp and fries at Bubbas Catfish Fryshop, then back north of the lake to get some homemade ice cream in a couple of my favorite flavors…chocolate chip and butter pecan, then returned to the condo and settled in to chow down and relax after the grueling drive down there. By ten pm that evening, we heard the wind begin to pick up as a lightning storm approached from the south, and soon the rain was blowing sideways across the waters, the waves were rolling across the lake, and the same stuff we had driven down there in, was now unfolding right before our eyes outside the sliding glass door and balcony railings…this time our viewpoint was a bit more relaxed tho. We stayed up til midnight and waited til the storms stopped before retiring for the night…waking up the next morning to see a little bit of storm damage from the winds…some shingles blown around on the roof of the condo building across from the one we were staying in, and a large tree limb down a few buildings up toward the entrance. I contacted April, who I rent the condo we stay in from, and she said she would make a phone call to that building owner to let them know…a few hours later, Onyx alerted to some activity outside, and it turned out to be the owners of that building, checking for leaks inside and up on the roof of the building..they spotted us and came over to thank me for letting them know about it…luckily they didnt spot any damage to the building despite half a dozen shingles blown out of place and across the roofline.

Soon after a late breakfast, Onyx and I drove over to visit with Robert, a local quartz miner in Hot Springs that I have been conversing with for the past year and a half by email…told him I wanted to see what all he had for sale, as some friends of mine were interested in purchasing some of his crystals. He had invited me over so after figuring out where he was, we headed over to see him shortly after noon. Robert is a good friend of my buddy Gary Fleck, who has been a mineral dealer for many years after doing some crystal mining at the original Southfork Mine with Ray McGrew years ago. Gary and Ray owned two mines back then, the Southfork Mine and Hogjaw Mine…when they decided to split up their partnership, Ray chose to keep the Southfork Mine and Gary took the Hogjaw Mine…later giving the Hogjaw to Robert because of time constraints. Robert showed me the beautiful crystals that he had mined from the Hogjaw over the years and then showed me the crystals he was pulling from another of his mining claims, the Forgotten Aye Mine…both were different yet both were beautiful too. He had some nice clusters for sale and after selecting five of them for sale, he offered me a price I could not refuse…here are a couple of them…

…I was totally amazed at the beauty of the quartz crystals and clusters that Robert had been mining over the years. We wound up visiting for three hours that afternoon, and arranged to meet again later in the week when the rest of my group showed up, as I was fairly sure they would not only want to see his crystals too but like me, would want to purchase a few of them as well. 

I was a bit hungry after that, so Onyx and I headed over to Outback Steakhouse to have a good steak and supper…one of my models works there and sure enough, he was working that evening. For a Sunday, this place was hopping so I sat at the bar and ordered their version of the pork tbone steak…even though Jake was working one section over, he still came by to talk to me briefly while I was there. The pork steak was thick and delicious, and after that, I headed over to Walmart and then the Scoops Home Made Ice Cream Parlor. We returned to the condo in time to capture a very pretty sunset….

 

…what appeared at first to be a short sizzling sunset, turned into a long drawn out affair that was worth every second to watch…the geese that flew into my images really added to it…had I known they were coming through, I would have shot some video of it as well….

…and then we retired to the condo for a quiet night on the lake and some great ice cream with tv. We slept in on Monday morning, had a late breakfast, and then I decided to drive up to Waldron to Sehorn Cemetery and replace the flowers for my Mom, on the graves of her parents, my grandparents Graden and Ida Thomas. Mom and Dad placed a Shepherd Hook there several years ago and hung a hanging basket for each one there each year before Memorial Day…when my Dad became sick, Mom asked me to take care of this for them each spring when I would travel down there for my vacation and I was glad to help them out…it was special for them and it is special for me as well. Sehorn Cemetery is a beautiful cemetery that sits up on a hill overlooking the Winfield Valley about ten miles west of Waldron in Scott County…my Dad was born and raised not far south of there, near my grandfathers homeplace and first farm…my friend Adam Lagaveen knows this cemetery well too, his Mom is buried there, she was a Sehorn before she married Adams Dad. Onyx and I arrived by 1 pm and we found no one there..my worry was that I would turn the corner and find a funeral service there, but thankfully there was not one. The huge pine trees that stand as silent sentinels there, were still showing damage from a tornado that struck the cemetery last year….

I changed out the hanging baskets and then we headed back to Waldron…the valleys were lush with beautiful yellow wild flowers…

…and I stopped off at Y City briefly to photograph the waterfall on the Fourche La Fave River that flows through there….

I could tell it was still rolling through there at a pretty good clip after that hard downpour on Saturday when I drove down there through it. I suspected many of the creeks, rivers, and waterfalls in the area were still running strong and full, much of that was confirmed later that day. As I arrived back in Hot Springs, I was contacted by a young man that was in need of some photos for a modeling portfolio, so I met up with him and photographed him at one of the local waterfalls that I enjoy shooting at when down there. I told him on the way out there to it, that I figured it might be up and running pretty strongly after all the rain received Saturday night…and once we arrived, my concerns were answered….normally the water at this location flows ten foot wide at the most,  down over a rocky ledge covered with grassy areas, into a four foot deep pool of water and rock, the pool carved out of the rock over the years by the action of the water alone.  The rock ledges there are made up of Novaculite, which is a very strong and hard rock, and what the Ouachita Mountains there are made up of…think Whetstones, that knife blades are sharpened on, and you will know what Novaculite is. Today the water flow was every bit of thirty feet across the rocky ledge, the normal waterfall on the far side joined back toward us by two additional smaller falls, which then joined up and flowed about 20 feet over the ledge to yet a second waterfall and drop into another pool, this one ten feet deep….

After a successful photo shoot at this beautiful location, I took him back to the meeting spot and then headed back to the condo, and while stopped at the intersection of Airport Road and Albert Pike, I heard sirens and got to see two of Hot Springs Fire Departments trucks responding to a motor vehicle accident about a mile down the road ahead of me. This Rescue Pumper and Pumper truck likely came from the Hot Springs Airport Fire Station which is on Airport Road outside the airport grounds…

After supper, we had what appeared to be a typical sunset shaping up, but sure didnt look typical thru the lens of my camera….

After a quiet night of tv and ice cream, as well as talking by email and FB to friends about the upcoming digs later in the week, Onyx and I retired for the night. We got up early on Tuesday morning to go check out an old mine north of Hot Springs, owned by a good friend…we met him there…I can safely tell you it was located out in the middle of the sticks, maybe even past the sticks, and I made so many turns on a narrow gravel road that I cannot even remember how I got there if I was looking at a map. I helped him measure out the length of his mining claim, down thru the forest and then we walked down to another old mining claim that has been reclaimed for several years…the reclamation process showed…there were hundreds of young pine trees growing everywhere and the fringe border of the old mine was a stretch of ugly dark colored shale rocks…we walked the perimeter and saw several massive quartz areas, but no crystals loose in the dirt anywhere. Shortly after returning to his mine, Onyx and I headed back to Hot Springs, which took 30 minutes longer due to all the slowpokes we caught up to on several roads that had very few passing lanes available. Luckily Jake, my friend that I was meeting up with, was also running late and it worked out well for both of us. After a good visit with him, I took him out to eat at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet across from the Mall. Ray had discovered that place a few years ago and we have been eating there several times on our trips down there, good food and service at a good reasonable price for buffet. Ray had driven up from New Orleans earlier in the day and came over to visit for a bit while we were eating.

There sure was a pretty sunset that night over the lake to finish out the great day…..

The next day, however, we had some hard rain showers return once again, so for the most part, Onyx and I stayed inside the condo all day long..some of the crew for the dig at Tony`s mine the next day were driving down today including Paul Tulejo and PJ from Southern Michigan, David Bruce from central Georgia, and John Oostenryk from northwest Illinois…Chris Keyme drove in from Nashville and texted me just as I was getting ready to drive over to visit with my mineral dealer buddy Gary Fleck, so I waited for him to arrive so he could ride over with me and Onyx. I was planning to purchase some crystals from Gary and take a look at some of his older material for some dealer friends, as well. Chris tagged along to take a look as well, and after visiting with Gary for a few hours, we headed back to the condo with a few more specimens for my collection….luckily for all of us, the skies cleared off shortly before dark to provide a fairly nice sunset….

Onxy and I got up early the next morning and headed to Mc Donalds for a good breakfast of hot cakes and sausage…then drove up to the Valero Station on Higdon Ferry Road to meet up with the others…many of them had arrived after 8 pm the night before, staying at various locations in Hot Springs.  We arrived to find John and David parked in line behind Chris, catching up on rockhunting in southern Illinois with me a few weeks prior at the blue fluorite mine…Paul and PJ arrived a few minutes later and then we were just waiting on Ray…who answered my call to say that he was at the wrong station and would be there shortly. As soon as he arrived, we headed down the road to Mt Ida, as we were scheduled to meet up with Tony at the mine gate at 9 am…I texted Tony to let him know we were running a little late and would get there as soon as possible. Tony drove into town to get some food at Subway and then met us on the highway south of town and we followed him to his Southfork Mine, his girlfriend and dog Trixie were inside the cab of his truck with him…as we pulled up behind him on the highway, he pointed to a turkey that was moving across a field to our left, however none of us saw the turkey…our minds were focused on quartz crystals and plates and clusters only. We pulled up and parked and then started getting our boots on, tools and buckets, flats, and bags out and ready to go…some went high and some went low…those going high walked up the road to the upper mine, which we can normally drive up to, however this morning there was a huge pine tree blocking the roadway, apparently the victim of the high strong winds during the storm on Saturday night. Tony didnt have his chain saw with him so everyone walking to the old mine on top of the hill hoofed it up the hill all day long….they all said the hike up there was definitely worth it…as Tony had stirred up the tailings and there were crystal points laying all over the place up there…PJ said it looked like Disneyland up there. The rest of us headed to the lower mine…John and I showed David the vein containing huge plates of crystals that were worked back in the fall by the Sorrells…after looking inside and all around, David decided to see if he could remove some of those big plates himself. Chris found a small veined area below David and decided to see what he could do in that spot….

…while John and I headed up to the back wall where we had worked several pockets in the rock wall last fall….

After popping a few plates and single crystals off the rock wall….

…I took a break and started seeing crystals sticking out of the clay on the back wall…I carved out some steps to climb up and take a closer look and began pulling crystal after crystal out of the clay and soon has my apron pockets completely full of quartz crystals…..

…I decided to work that wall for awhile and turned the rock wall over to John to work the pockets there…after consulting with Tony about the safety aspect of it, John lit into the wall with high energy….I took a break about mid day to go get some water and as I passed by Chris, saw that he had found a pocket in the rock and was working it pretty heavily….

…and David was working on extracting the huge plates of crystals from his vein pocket as well….

 

…I returned to find John with ten pound sledge hammer in hand, threatening to see if he could knock some of that large rock wall out of his way….

He also decided to climb up above and check his surroundings as well….

…to look around on top and sides above to see what he could find, which were several loose crystals in the dirt and a nice cluster up behind him where the rock meets the dirt of the forest floor of the hill above…he pulled that out and showed it to me…it was nice, trust me. David took a photo of John and I working the upper end of the hill on one of his breaks, too….

 I apologize for the lengthy delay getting back to finishing my trip story, took some honeymooners collecting this past weekend and had some new rockhunting friends stop by and visit today as well.

 By the time 4 pm rolled around,  we were all ready to call it quits and head back to Hot Springs and get some supper, making plans to meet up at Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper about 7 pm.  Here is how the mine looked when we left….courtesy of David Bruce…thanks David. 

We had a great supper at the Buffet place and Onyx and I returned in time for this beautiful sunset over the lake….

Later that evening, Chuck and his daughter MacKenzie as well as his brother Michael and his daughter arrived at the condo where Onyx and I were staying at…they rented the lower unit below us. Onyx and I woke up early and headed to McDonalds for breakfast, then drove up to the Valero Station to meet up with everyone else…Fred had driven in early that morning from Texas, and everyone was ready to get back up there and find some more great stuff…I told everyone I was going to stop at the smokehouse sandwich shop called Burls Country Smokehouse, located on Hwy 270 at Crystal Springs, on the way up there and grab a sandwich for lunch. We took off from the Valero at 8:10 am and stopped there 20 min later…I let Tony know and asked if he and Blondie would like one too, and he texted me his order.  This place is great, kinda like a hole in the wall type of place, great atmosphere, friendly country staff, neat things on display while they are building your sandwich, great selection of meats, jams, jellies, wines, water, and soda. I walked in and gave the lady my order of a double meat smoke ham sandwich and two smoked turkey sandwiches and behind me, nine of my group walked in and placed sandwich orders as well….she got busy pretty quickly and soon we were on our way west again. We drove on out to the mine and found Tony and Blondie out there at the gate waiting on us, then drove up the hill and parked…Michael walked up the hill and helped Tony saw the downed pine tree and move it out of our way so some could drive on up to the top of the hill to the other mine. The rest of us returned to our digs from the previous day for a few hours of work…except for John…his work took him all day long…more on that in a minute tho….Chuck and Michael went up on top at first, then were down with David, John, Fred and I at the lower mine within an hour…Chuck and Michael checked out the spot Chris worked the day before and decided to settle in and see what more they could pull out of it. Chris decided to go up on top and work the walls up there.  John took a photo on one of his breaks of Michael down in the hole where he and Chuck were working the pocket, David above them, and me farther up the hill….

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…and one of MacKenzie taking a break and loading up some clay dirt into a bottle….

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…and Fred working on the wall above Johns pocket, where Fred was finding a few nice plates and clusters at….

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I continued to dig crystals and small clusters from the clay wall at the upper end of the lower mine area, til 11 am, then broke for lunch…everyone else was breaking for lunch at various times as well…Onyx and I retired to the truck and air conditioning for some smoked ham sandwich and water….

…just looking at this sandwich above makes my mouth water for another one…sugar cured smoked ham on homemade white bread with mayonnaise and minus the food you rabbits like to add to your sandwiches. 🙂

After lunch, Onyx and I drove on up to the top of the hill to check out the crystals up there…

….PJ said the day before it was like Disneyland up there, crystals laying everywhere…heard that Tony had stirred up the tailings so wanted to go up and take a look…folks I started finding so many right out of the truck and along both sides of the lane leading down to the piles, that I never got to the stirred up piles !!! I was finding so many small pristine needle clusters it wasnt even funny…I was walking the weedy area of pines between that lane and the main road up the hill and they were laying everywhere…I returned to the lane and started finding golden healers all over the place…gave a few of them to PJ and Paul, who were up there and not familiar with them…Fred joined us a few min later and we started finding some larger stuff…it got pretty warm up there and soon I was approaching exhaustion, so I took a break and got some water and cooled down some…put Onyx back in the truck in the ac as well…by then I had filled two bags and had a yard rock or two and was ready to return to Hot Springs…we drove back down the hill to find that others had already returned…now we just had to get John out of the mine so we could all return….by then he was trying to extract another burr cluster that he had located in the rock wall…same story as last year…and I have to say that the one he extracted last year was a beauty and I was sure this one would be too…thanks again to David for the next three photos of Johns pocket and the crystals inside he was working on….I was too tired to take photos by then….

Paul and PJ headed back to Hot Springs to get cleaned up and make supper reservations at Outback for us all…told them to ask for a server by the name of Jake, good friend of mine, cause we would be well taken care of by him…so they did that…while we waited for John to get his cluster out…that took some time, but he finally persevered and removed it as well as some large single crystals too…we got out of there about 5:30 pm, then headed to wide spot Joplin to see Bill and Faith…I had to stop and get some green chloride quartz crystals and sand inclusions they had for sale for a friend of mine…then we drove on down to Hot Springs for supper…I texted everyone else when I had a signal to let them know where we were going for supper, then drove to the condo and got cleaned up, before heading to Outback Steakhouse. I was the last one there, but they had a large table by then and we ordered soon after. I let everyone there know that we would have our rock swap after breakfast the next day and we all decided on Cracker Barrel for breakfast…then go see my new mine owner friend Robert and see what he had for sale from his mines, and then go see Gary afterward. I went by the Scoops Ice Cream Shop to get some more Turtle Tracks Ice Cream then back to the condo in time for a beautiful sunset….

We got up the next morning and drove over to Cracker Barrel for a great breakfast with several in attendance, then we relocated to the parking lot just east of the Barrel where we had more room for the swap…PJ and Paul joined us right after we moved over there and they headed for home soon after. The rest of us caravanned over to Roberts place where everyone was pleasantly surprised to see what all he had in clusters and single points…the two little gals were given backets and told they could scoop up all the loose crystals on the ground and take home with them, so they were delighted to do that. The rest of us fanned out to check the clusters and talk shop with him…needless to say, after about 90 min there, everyone left happy…Chuck and Michael took off for the St Louis area, and the rest of us headed over to visit with Gary on the west side of town. Soon after, David decided to head for his home in Georgia, while Onyx and I left to return to the condo for a nap, while John continued to visit with Gary. John texted me later to invite me to supper and we met up over at the Hibachi Buffet again. Robert had not been feeling well that morning, but told John if he was going to stick around a day, he might be able to provide him with something to do on Monday morning, provided Robert felt better by then, so John decided to stick around on Monday. Onyx and I returned to the condo where I repacked the bed of the truck, then finished packing the next morning before heading for home.

We returned via Little Rock and then north to Hwy 63…I was delayed going thru LR due to a motor vehicle accident on I-30 before I reached 440, I got tired of the bumper to bumper traffic and exited into LR, then got turned around and called the LRPD on their non emergency line to get directions out of there…the officer was able to get me to 630 where I then ran into I-40 and on over to Hwy 167/67 north…when I got close to I-630 I came upon one of the LRFD Hook and Ladder Trucks…big and beautiful trucks.  About an hour later, up around Newport, I started seeing alot of water out in the farm fields, often times the roads the only thing up above the waterline, many creeks and the White River well out of their banks. I turned northwest on to Hwy 63 and discovered the Union Pacific RR Maintenance Crews reinforcing their railbeds with heavy rock to keep them from washing away in the floodwaters near Hoxie and Portia, the rails were barely above the waterline there. 

I stopped briefly south of Hardy to photograph this old mill, called Morgan Mill,  and water flume with waterfall upstream a bit….

From there it was just a few more hours home for Onyx and I, arriving about 4 pm and then took an hour just to unload the truck of all the crystals and goodies, before we could go meet Mom for supper at Cracker Barrel. All in all tho, a very good trip with good friends, good food, good weather for the most part, and great crystals and finds !!  

You can email me at jwjphoto7@gmail.com if you have any questions about my trip. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spring Fluorite Machine Dig

This year I started planning for the machine dig at the Eureka Mine in northwest Kentucky back in January. From several trips last year it was apparent that I had several friends that were interested in joining my small core group this year, contributing to the cost of the machine as well as physical labor during the dig after the machine was shut down. We have always utilized the machine for a day and then the second day, any digging needed is done physically by hand and strong muscles. I stayed in touch with Bill Frazer, who was able to arrange the trackhoe from the excavation company that we again wanted to work with. Bill also let me know about six weeks out that he and his brother had purchased more land right down the road from the Eureka Mine and this year we could also dig into the tailing piles at the MaryBelle Mine. Bill also was able to acquire a backhoe that we could use for two days, which would keep our machine costs down quite a bit, so we decided to make a donation to the museum in addition to the investment in the trackhoe.

After a few months of getting things in place we set the machine dig dates for Saturday and Sunday, March 18th and 19th,  and I kept the other fifteen rockhound friends that were going to join me and my core group updated along the way, including the update that we would also visit the blue fluorite mine on Sunday morning, then return to the Eureka Mine to dig the afternoon….everyone was excited and looking forward to the trip, with some rockhounds traveling down from New York state, western North Carolina, northern Georgia, northwestern Illinois, and eastern Texas, to join us. Two of the New York state rockhounds would be instrumental on this dig due to the fact that they had both dug in the pit after we dug there last year with the machine, and they had removed quite a few nice plates of cubes during their digs. 

A few days out from the week of the machine dig, I received a call from Bill advising me that there were some legal issues that needed to be worked out on his end, before we could proceed with the machine dig, and it was going to take possibly the remainder of this year for him to work through those issues…so the decision was made to cancel all public and private digs for this year.  I know for a few seconds at least, I was at a loss for words or thoughts even, as many of us had taken off work and invested money in equipment that we planned to use all weekend at the dig, not to mention the reservations made at area hotels. Bill told me he was advised of this all of a sudden and that it had nothing to do with our group, but was something that they needed to work through and get back to the business at hand eventually.  He was very worried about us, knowing we had a large group coming to help them out, as we have done this for more than the past ten years. I told Bill not to worry about it, we would stand ready to go as soon as he was able to work through it and resolve the issues, and we would figure something out for the weekend.

I immediately reached out to one of my core group rockhound buddies on Facebook to let him know what was happening, and then made a phone call to the landowner of the blue fluorite mine, to see if my group could come to his farm both days instead. I explained the situation to him, told him the group would be a bit bigger than the group I had when we visited his mine last fall. I had secured his permission a few weeks before, to come to his mine on Sunday morning, March 19th and dig for a few hours, before returning to the Eureka Mine. After a few minutes of thought, he called back and gave us the go ahead to come dig at his mine on Saturday and Sunday all day instead. I told my buddy on Facebook that we could go dig at the blue fluorite mine instead and he was just fine with that. I then sent out another update by email to let everyone know of the change in plans and the reasons for it.

By the next day, eighty percent of the group had advised me by email that they still planned to make it down for the dig. That night, the northeastern section of the US was hit with a huge snowstorm, dumping over thirty inches of snow on New York state and beyond…despite all that, three of the four New Yorkers who had planned to drive down and dig, emailed to let me know they would still be there for the weekend dig. Talk about dedication !!  I told everyone to bring some rocks and minerals to swap on Saturday morning at the mine, and to bring some extras for the landowners daughter, to add to her budding collection, as we did on our prior fall trip, especially since the landowner was gracious enough to allow us back and wasnt going to charge us anything either.

I had taken a week of vacation as I usually do, giving me a few days to ready and pack the truck, so Onyx and I drove down on Thursday the 16th and stayed overnight at Marion, Illinois. I had been in contact for a few weeks before with a coal miner in the Harrisburg area, who had an old fluorite collection for sale. I visited with friends from southern Illinois Thursday evening and then drove over to his home on Friday morning to take a look at his collection and make an offer. He had some beautiful clusters of large cubes, some with barite attached to them, as well as some barite clusters, some calcite clusters, and some quartz crystals and clusters, even one smokey quartz crystals, all from mines in the Rosiclaire area, that his grandfather had left to him…his grandfather had been a miner at some of the Rosiclaire Mines about seventy five years ago. I had seen photos of some of the pieces in the collection and wanted to see them in person before making an offer. Here are some of the nicer pieces that were in the collection….

As you can see, he had some very pretty and unique pieces in his grandfathers collection, over 100 pieces, many were of the barite clusters, which I had never seen before as something coming from the fluorite mines of Southern Illinois. I have to say I was a bit skeptical that the large quartz crystals and two smaller quartz clusters came from the fluorite mines, especially the smokey quartz crystal..mainly because they resembled Arkansas quartz crystals, but he pointed out two small quartz plates, both of the type commonly sold in the spirit quartz genre, and he told me that he had purchased those somewhere because they appealed to him. It was verified to me later that day, that indeed, smokey and clear quartz crystals were found in several of the fluorite mines in the Rosiclaire area. I made an offer to him and he accepted it…while his collection was not extensive, he had to sell it due to moving to another house soon and no room for it there. I did leave him with a few key pieces with great sentimental value that tied him directly to his grandfather. After wrapping up each piece and loading them into the cab of my truck. Onyx and I headed down to see and photograph some waterfalls that I had heard about, also located in southern Illinois.  Burden Falls is located in the National Forest about a twenty minute drive south of Harrisburg, just west of Hwy 145 on Burden Falls Road…if there has been heavy rain in the area and one suspects the creek feeding the falls will be flooded, one can also come in from the south on Water Tower Road, which merges to the right with Ozark Road after a few miles, and then you make a right turn on to McCormick Road/Burden Falls Road. The creek runs across the road and the first set of falls is just a few feet from the creek crossing on the north side…

…and the lower falls are even higher than the upper falls near the road…this trip I chose not to shoot the lower falls from the base though…

Onxy finally got to stretch his legs a little bit…we didnt stray down the path very far, as I wanted to get on down to Gary Griffiths place and check out the beautiful new fluorite that he had told me a few days before, that they had been hitting in some new pockets where he mines it at with his son, Walter. He also told me that he had purchased an old collection of fluorite with some ” butterscotches ” in it…those are the cubes of fluorite that came from certain mines and are a butterscotch yellow color and are quite gemmy…these butterscotches that he purchased with the collection were quite old and had been buried in the forest on the guys property…Gary dug them out and cleaned them up and said they were quite pretty.

We headed south to Elizabethtown, or E-town as its called, and on the way,  came upon the Iron Furnace that my buddy, John Oostenryk, always talks about, on Big Creek…..Onyx and I stopped to check it out briefly…

…this was probably the neatest Iron Furnace location I have ever seen, mainly because someone went above and beyond installing a historical storytelling sequence of small columns around the front perimeter of the site, in color no less. We drove a few more miles south to Garys house, a few miles north of E-town and found he did indeed have alot of gorgeous fluorite for sale…this was without a doubt the prettiest fluorite I have seen for sale at his place since I started going there…

…the photo above and next few below of fluorite, include some of the ” Butterscotches ” that Gary purchased in that old collection….

…the clusters that are whitish and a lighter yellow are also butterscotches, just faded out by the sun.  Gary also had some beautiful two color fluorite cube clusters that were quite pretty, some from the old collection and many from some new pockets from the mine….

…he had a lot of clusters of cubes that appeared to be stacked one on top of another that were such a deep purple they nearly appeared to look black…he also had a whole area full of the raspberry colored fluorites…this color really appeals to me when thy are lit properly…

I purchased a few pretty crystals from Gary that day…even a couple of octohedrons that he chips out himself, one was a pretty small one with a pyrite chip in it, and another one was a two color octohedron..purple and clear or white colors…some call them fluorite diamonds, and they are very popular worldwide. Gary is a good ole country boy and great to visit with and purchase from, he always has some beautiful fluorite for sale.

Onxy and I took off shortly after, crossing the Ohio River on the ferry at Cave-In-Rock,  and drove over to the Clement Mineral Museum at Marion, Kentucky, where we barely caught Tina and Sherry before they left for the day. I visited with them for about 30 minutes, then we headed to the Days Inn hotel at Kuttawa…we always stay there because its a nice and clean hotel, rooms are always reasonably priced and a few doors down is the Oasis Southwest Grill, which is a great steak and seafood restaurant with great atmosphere and good food. Right before we got to the hotel, Slade Harvin texted me to let me know he had arrived from Hickory, North Carolina, as well as Dale Walker and his wife Barb from New York state, so I met up with them shortly after checking in. Fred Mahaffey was driving in from Eastern Texas but arrived soon after, and Chuck Reed had to wait til 3 pm before he was able to leave St Louis County, so we waited til 6:30 pm before we all headed over to the Oasis, joined there by David Bruce from northern Georgia, who was staying at the Relax Inn over on the north side of I-24. We had a great supper there, their menu offers a great variety of steaks, chops, seafood, and smoked bbq there, so if you go away hungry, there is definitely something wrong with ya. We all walked back to the hotel stuffed full and ready for bedtime…I let everyone know we were gonna meet on the south side of the hotel about 7 am, and then drive over to the mine to meet up with David and Janyce Sorrells, who were bringing their medium tractor with a backhoe attachment, and John Oostenryk and his friend Mary, who were staying at Harrisburg.

Despite a little fog on the way over to the ferry crossing, we made good time getting over there…I nearly struck a deer on the way there, coming around a curve in the valley to find a big doe tentatively stepping out into the roadway, but luckily for me she turned and hightailed it back the field, sailing over a barbed wire fence like it wasnt even there. We pulled up a few minutes later to the crossing as the ferry was coming back to the Kentucky side to pick us up….

…we picked up Matt, another New Yorker, in the parking lot on the other side of the Ohio River,  a few minutes later and drove on over to the blue fluorite mine, where we found David and Janyce as well as John and Mary, waiting for us. While David and Janyce were unloading the tractor and did some initial preparation digging into the tailing pile, the rest of us swapped crystals from our respective areas…an hour later, the rockhounds new to this mine, started sifting thru the dirt that David had laid out on one side, so they could get an idea of what to look for….

….sometimes you will pick up chunks of ugly chert that resemble the fluorite, til you hold it up to the light and figure out you cant see thru it and know that its the ugly chert instead. It takes a little while to get used to it, and the rest of us were helping them acclimate to finding the good stuff….although I have to say, I still make mistakes and bring home the ugly chert too. I just add them to the potholes in my driveway. 

Left to right on the front line are Mary, Dale Walker, David Bruce, Slade standing, Chuck Reed kneeling in the overalls, Fred Mahaffey, Janyce Sorrells carrying buckets, and far right is her husband David, they brought the tractor to help us dig into the tailing piles…this pile behind the tractor is the main one….David dug into the end of it where we left off in November, and where we were finding much of the pretty fluorite on that trip. Eventually everyone began moving around to look for fluorite in other locations, below you see Slade, John, and Chuck up on the right side of the large tailing pile…

…and soon after I joined Slade down there on the face of the tailing pile where I started digging in at the same lower level where we found several nice fluorites back in November…I showed Slade where to dig to find the better ones and he was soon finding as many good ones as I was….and soon others were gathered around us and digging in as well. Doug, the landowner, stopped by to check on us several times throughout the day and see how we were coming along, we handed off several minerals and crystals to him to give to his daughter for her collection as well.

Dale and Barb wound up over on the backside of the tailing pile by the creek and after digging there a long time that day, Dale uncovered  a very pretty plate of cubed fluorite crystals, giving the rest of us hope that more cubes could def be found there.  We just kept digging and finding beautiful blues…..

…well we dug all afternoon til we were too tired to do anything other than drive back to the hotel to clean up and get some more good food at Oasis….so we loaded everything up and headed out…this is how the tailing pile looked after digging all day Saturday….

….and as we approached the ferry crossing at Cave-In-Rock, I noticed the setting sun on the  Ohio River, turning the water to a shimmering bright yellow color….so I set the parking brake, grabbed my camera and walked down to the waters edge to shoot some images…

 

 

While I was down there shooting, Chuck took a photo of me shooting the sunset….

The ferry came in to unload and then load us all up for the trip back over to the Kentucky side….

…and once we were on the ferry, I kept on shooting that beautiful sunset…a first for me, shooting a sunset from a ferry, even shot some video of it….first one is looking upstream on the Ohio River….

We had another great evening at the Oasis, more good food…it seems David Bruce decided to try the marinated chops that I have been having their for years and he found out why I like them so much. The plan the next morning was to drive over to Gary Griffiths house and do some shopping first, then go back to the blue fluorite mine…at breakfast we were joined by Mark Bishop, who had driven up from northern Georgia early that morning. We all loaded up and headed out at 7 am once again, this time seeing deer once again on Hwy 91, but this time no close calls. We arrived to find the ferry making its way across the river to get us….

…and then drove on over to Gary`s place at E-town…his son Walter and his Dad were there as well and we had a great time talking to them….I purchased some more fluorite, another couple of flats, including a ” butterscotch ” plate…it has some holes in a couple of the cubes, with jagged edges…some of us thought that maybe they were from acid of some type with rain possibly washing out the acid and stopping the process of eating thru the fluorite. After an hour or so there, we all headed over to the mine and began digging once again.

It was a bit crisper temps this morning than Saturday morning, so many of us stayed bundled up a little longer, but we again had a great time digging for beautiful crystals. Some of us wandered up the hillside in search of other areas to dig into and David followed us with the tractor and dug into a few areas for us. However, we didnt find anything of any quality like we had been finding below, so we returned to the big pile and resumed our digging there. Above and below, you see Mark Bishop in the yellow rain pants, David Bruce in the blue pullover and white pants, and John Oostenryk in the bright blue pullover and blue jeans with a woolly hat on. 

Doug came by and suggested that we check out the creekbank along the field so after David and I started finding some nice blue crystals along that bank, a few of us dug in and started pulling several pretties out of the dirt. Fred joined us and within moments pulled out a huge pretty yellow crystal…I am hoping he will take a photo of it and send to me, when he held it up to the light it just glowed with a very pleasing luminescence !! Chuck had to head home that morning to get ready for a father – daughter dance, and Mark headed home that afternoon with a bucket or two full of blue fluorite. We stopped digging a little earlier on Sunday afternoon, tired and a bit sore yet from all the digging we did on Saturday, but we all left very happy with what we had found. David did a great job of widening the roadway we had created with the fluorite free tailings at the foot of the pile, as you can see here….

Most of us were driving home early on Monday morning, so after cleaning up, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and have yet another great supper at Oasis. I believe I was the last one out of the hotel Monday morning, other than Dale and his wife, who were staying in the area for a few days as part of their vacation. David sent me a FB message a few days later, letting me know that he found some nice crystals while washing off his tractor tires….

…and here is one of the pretty ones I found after I washed it off with soap and water only….

As to the situation at the Eureka Mine in Kentucky, I can only hope that they are able to resolve the legal issues soon and get things back on track…the Eureka Mine and the folks at the Clement Mineral Museum have been a bright spot in the lives of many rockhounds across the USA and around the world for many years, they provide a great service and location to go and dig for crystals in a time when its becoming increasingly difficult to find such places to go to. As I told Bill Frazer, we stand ready to return to help at any time.