My Fall Vacation in Arkansas 2018

This year was the coldest fall season in southern Arkansas I can remember…been going down there for about ten years now for my fall vacation and I don`t remember a day when the temps fell under 60 degrees down there in years past. For ten years before that, I used to drive out west, starting in Breckenridge, Colorado and would spend about a week driving around the state before driving to Utah and then south to Page, Arizona, near Lake Powell and spend a few days there before making the long drive home.  It was always cooler out there, sometimes I even saw snow, specially at the higher elevations, even drove thru it at times, usually on my way to Aspen to photograph one of the prettest locations on God`s Green Earth…the Maroon Bells…if you ever get the chance to go there, DO SO…you will not regret it…especially if you go in the fall when the aspen trees are turning color…best time of the year to go in my humble opinion. 🙂

The last time I was there was 2012, when I took Mom and Dad out to Colorado to see the fall color for their 50th Anniversary…we got there before the sun came up over the mountain behind us…which is why that shadow on the left is so deep, you have to wait til 9 am for the sun to come up over that hill and fully illuminate the left side of the lake and hillside…we were there long enough it finally did so…

…btw, the Bells are those two twin mountain peaks covered in snow…they appear to be towering right over the top of the lake, but believe it or not, they are actually 28 miles behind the lake…and one other thing, if you have to stop multiple times on the way up the road leading to the Bells…only one way up there and back out…don`t feel like the Lone Ranger, cause I don`t know anyone, myself included, who could come up that road or drive back down without stopping about every 50 feet to shoot the gorgeous color and scenery. One of these days, I wanna return to Colorado and just spend a couple of weeks shooting the scenery and rock hunting !! 

The only thing I didn`t back for my trip to Arkansas this year, was my heavy winter coat…I had the thought that I might need it if it turned cooler down there than normal, which it did, and was a bit cool on the way down there too…but for whatever reason, I did not pack it in my truck and would speculate now that I likely thought I had the truck packed as full as could be and would not be able to find a spot for it, but I sure did miss it a few days and nights down there. Onyx and I dropped Mom off at Fort Smith at the hotel and then we headed over to Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to visit with my buddy Adam, who used to do a lot of quartz and wavellite hunting in the Mt Ida area, in his younger years…these days he is into knapping big time. He was going thru some of his older collection the other day and found a bucket of old wavellite from the Avante area…he told me to come by and visit and check it out, so I did. We had a great visit for about an hour and then he had to get to his new job and we had to head south.

I wanted to get to Mt Ida by 4 pm, but that didn`t happen, so we motored on down to Hot Springs, arriving at the condo with just enough daylight left to unpack the truck. I like to get there with a little daylight left so I can capture the nice sunset, but there would not be a nice sunset this evening, unless you like two or three tone gray colors in your sunset…

…the sunrise, the next morning, was a little better, not alot, but some better….

…and while it appeared to dawn clear and bright…it didn`t last long…clouded up and rained most of the day so my plans to drive back up to Mt Ida and visit some dealer friends fell through. I did get a chance later in the day when the rain shut down a few times briefly, to photograph some fall color at a couple of my favorite places in the area….this one is a waterfall I like to shoot occasionally near Hot Springs…

…and this is a house on a pointe across from the condo I stay at…called Tanglewood Pointe, they have lights down by the water all the way around it that stay on all night long…

and another one of my favorite places is De Soto Lake on the north side of town, with a man-made dam….

…about 50 yards below the dam, there is a neat little stone building with a huge steel water wheel attached to it, an old motor inside the building with gears and wheels…it`s an old pumphouse that generated electricity for the Colonel Fordyce Estate up above the lake and pumphouse…usually very pretty in the fall season but this year the trees around it had already lost alot of their leaves, so here is how it normally looks in the pretty fall season as it did here in 2014….

…the stone bridge in front of it, has a little waterfall below the opening too…and the road that runs along the lake above is named after the bridge, Stone Bridge Road….however there is another stone bridge at the other end of the lake, so it might be named after that one….decisions, decisions…

…stunning huh ?  one of these days I have to get up on the hill and check out the estate up there, see if it`s as pretty as this. 🙂

The weather finally cleared off by mid afternoon and I was headed up to Mt Ida when I received a phone call from the condo owner, she had been trying to reach the direct tv people in Hot Springs for me, to come fix the main tv in the condo for me, and she finally had them on the way, so I had to turn around and head back to the condo to wait on them, as there was no one else in the area that could let them in. Not long after they arrived and fixed it, I heard from Slade that he had made it into Hot Springs, was checking into his hotel and could meet me for dinner earlier than 7 pm…I let him know I would meet him at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet about 6 pm. Everyone else that was coming in for the Friday dig, would be arriving later that evening and we would meet up at the Valero the next morning and drive on up…John and Mary from Northwest Illinois were driving in late that night and were staying in Mt Ida, along with Pete and Mary from Ohio, and would meet us along Hwy 270 up there the next morning. Slade and I had a great meal at the Buffet as usual, they have American and Chinese cuisine both, as well as a 30 foot long sushi bar. I asked Slade how much room he was gonna have for the trip back, cause I had six flats for him to take back to Harry Polly and Larry Huffman for me, they purchased some poker chip and druse quartz combination clusters from me…he said he brought some cases to put them all in and thought that would be the best way to transport them back…I thought that was a great idea and commended him for good thinking. Onyx and I drove over to the home made ice cream place called Scoops, to get another quart of turtle tracks for me and some vanilla ice cream for him, before heading to the condo. I heard from John just before 10 pm, that he had just crossed into Arkansas from Missouri…he had drove down thru my town on his way to Salem to deliver some Linwood Barites to a buyer, earlier in the day…I figured he had at least another three hours of driving before he reached Mt Ida.

The next morning`s sunrise was very pretty…

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…an hour later, as Onyx and I were leaving the condo complex to head up to the Valero Station to meet up with the others, I shot this looking west…

….the news that morning said something about a chance of rain that morning in the Mt Ida area…the clouds looked at that moment, like rain clouds to me…I hoped it would be done raining by the time we arrived. We got to the Valero Station to find Slade there parked and waiting, ready to go and a bit worried that no one else was going to show up…I let him know it would prob just be us and Julie, and we would pick up John, Mary, Pete, and Mary at Mt Ida, and Tony would meet us at the mine gate at 9 am.  Julie arrived soon after in her big van, with her daughter Stephanie,  and we took off westbound on 270 toward Mt Ida. We stopped briefly at Burl`s Country Smokehouse so I could get a sandwich for me and Onyx, however they were not even open yet…which from years past, is highly unusual…we have stopped there several times early in the morning like this and found them open at daylight…we drove on to Mt Ida and a few miles out of town, I called their Subway to make sure they were open…they were so I let Mary and Pete know we would stop there for sandwiches for lunch. We arrived there a few minutes later and found Mary and Pete waiting for us…John and Mary were still at the hotel but drove by while we were inside getting food and they went on to Southfork Mine to meet us there. When the rest of us pulled up to the mine gate about 20 minutes later, we found John and Mary waiting on us, and shortly after, Shane Manley pulled in and parked on the right in front of my truck…he is Tony`s partner and was bringing some flats of smokey crystals for us to purchase. I have talked to Shane by email and Facebook several times, he was very helpful on several rockhunting matters, and we finally had the opportunity to meet in person. He also brought four baskets full of crystal points with very nice prices on them…Tony arrived while we were looking thru the baskets and flats of goodies….

….they did not last long with my group there, let me tell ya….as I was talking to Tony about where we could dig the next day, after our plans had been changed twice before we even arrived down there, explaining to him how Wegner didn`t stay in touch with us and kept changing the rules on the second truck for the Phantom Mine trip….Shane suggested that we drive over to the new mine and dig there on Saturday…we were ecstatic to hear that and we quickly said YES !!  We agreed on a time and location to meet up with Shane the next morning and then we loaded up, crossed the creek and drove up the hill to the top…the first part pretty and easy….

…Tony had his expansion order approved and brought in a logging operation to help him clear the area…they in turn had messed up his road going up the hill.

Normally it`s a solid road, has a few ruts, but we have never had any problems going up or down it…this time, it was a different story, soft mud, limbs down, a BIG boulder close to the uphill left side, and deep ruts…John and I stopped Julie who was in front of me and behind John, and we convinced her to park in the wide spot behind us and then walk up the hill, her van would never make it even halfway up and she might get stuck blocking the road, so she decided to take our advice and park down below…a few minutes later, riding up with Tony and his dog in his powerwagon pickup, she was glad she made the decision to park below…..

…the rest of us had no problems either, although even with new tires on mine and in four wheel drive, I did slip and slide a little…fun ride tho, nothing like off roading once again, felt like a youngun again, lol. 🙂 We all got up there, got our boots on, grabbed our tools, our buckets, our wraps, my camera, and headed up to the mine to look around and start looking for pretty quartz crystals…when I got up there and looked to my right,  where Tony had started digging a new pit, I spotted Slade on the other side holding up a nice big crystal point that he had found within minutes….

…then I looked left and spotted Ohio Mary down below clowning around in the red clay dirt…

…and behind me was Tony`s trackhoe with Stephanie and Julie getting organized to the left of it….

…when we arrived at the top of the hill at the old and new mine combined, there was a small black and tan dog waiting for us, looked as if it had been dumped and she was as cute and nice as could be, well mannered, hungry and when she saw Onyx and Tony`s dog, she lit up and you could tell she just wanted to play. She stayed right with those two dogs the entire time we were there, and later when Tony headed home, he took her with him, which I thought was very nice of him to do…here she is with Onyx following John up the tailing pile hill because he had ” treats ” in his hands….

John and Slade went up and over the hill and down into the old mine area and began working the walls looking for quartz pockets…and found some…they were still down there working them when I wandered down in the afternoon. I started surface collecting in the upper end of the new pit area, found several fist sized clusters and single points right away and dug in to the soft clay dirt in a few areas and found even more small clusters. I filled a bucket pretty quickly and returned to the truck to empty it, wrap up the good ones and then return for more collecting.

As I did, I spotted Julie and Stephanie over on my right, above the old area and just behind the new pit area…

and I looked down below and spotted John talking to Pete along the old wall, while Mary was surface collecting the center tailings area…

…and looking back toward the entrance at the top of the hill, there was Julie and Stephanie on the left side and Ohio Mary down in the pit Tony was digging out….

Tony decided to climb up into his trackhoe and clean out the upper end of the pit for us to comb thru some more…

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….I spotted Slade`s pick on the other side and went to retrieve it before Tony got to it with the bucket, let him know I was going after it, and then I climbed up on the hill on the other side…Julie held on to Onyx for me so he would not naturally follow me over there….

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I took a lunch break after retrieving Slade`s tool and ate my half of the sandwich, well all but the last few bites, gave that to the new dog, and Onyx his half as well. I then grabbed my mini mattox and bucket and headed down to the lower area where John and Slade were working the old wall, wandering around the tailing piles, picking up small clusters and single points too, that were laying all over the place. I came across a couple of skinks in the clay dirt, one under a rock and another out in front of the rock…John was seeing them all over the place too….

…while I was up on top of the hill, I also let the others who were driving down that evening, know we were going to the new mine tomorrow and as expected, the reactions were much the same as ours…everyone was excited !! David Hodge called me to check on our plans for Sunday and when I told him where we were going the next day, he forgot about Sunday and decided he would meet us at the meeting place the next morning instead. I made a wide loop around the base of the old mine on top of the hill and then made my way thru the pines on the south side like I did last year, finding a few more nice small clusters to add to my bucket. By 4 pm, everyone was pretty much ready to leave, including John, so we made our way down the hill and to the gate, which I had to re-open so we could all get out, as Tony had locked us in when he left earlier in the day. I was pretty tired by this time, luckily Pete was right behind me and he came up and helped me with the heavy steel gate after I finally got the lock opened. After everyone got thru the gate, John came back and helped me re-secure it and then we headed back to Mt Ida, where Pete, Mary, John, and Mary dropped out of the wagon train and the rest of us headed back to Hot Springs. At some point we lost Julie to a gas station along 270…I heard from Fred who had arrived in Hot Springs a little earlier and was hungry, asked where we were eating supper and what time. 🙂 I let him know we would prob return to the Hibachi Sushi Buffet about 7 pm and let Julie know as well.  Slade and I got stuck in some slow traffic til we got to Royal and then things finally opened up a bit for us and we then made good time to Hot Springs. We met up with Fred at the HIbachi just before 7 pm and had a great supper. Onyx and I returned to the condo for some ice cream and tv before bedtime. I had a few text messages from the others letting me know they would likely be in late and Chuck, who was riding with me in the morning to the new mine, so his wife and kids could go shopping, let me know he would be outside my door at 6:15 am, as we were going to have to go pick up Justin, whose car was in the shop. The sunrise the next morning was absolutely gorgeous and I had just enough time to shoot this image and some video of it…

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Well I had just enough time to post the sunrise on my FB page before Chuck and I took off…I had Justin`s address, he forgot to give it to me the night before and texted me about 5:30 letting me know he was awake and ready to go…think he was like everyone else, supercharged and excited for what we might all find there. Tony told us the day before that all we were going to have to do was sit down at the tailing piles and dig in, and the crystals were so plentiful that they would just roll down into our hands and laps…I haven`t been to a mine like that yet, so I think we were all looking forward to seeing and experiencing that. We arrived and picked up Justin and then headed over to the Valero Station…Slade was again the first one there and lined up ready to go…we had eight more this morning and there had been eight of us total on Friday, so we were now at 16 rockhounds.  Everyone but Patty, Colby, and Gabriella Herman had arrived at the Valero meeting spot….I had let them know last night to meet us instead at the De Soto Park parking lot, on Hwy 7,  just north of the Hwy 7 Business Route that runs thru the National Park Campground. We arrived there at 7 am and did not find them there, so I called Patty and she said they were at Whittington Park, I let them know to get on Hwy 7 and go north and they arrived a few minutes later, and after talking a few minutes, we headed northwest, forty minutes later we arrived at the meeting spot to find John, Mary, Pete, Mary, waiting for us…a few min later, David showed up and soon after, Shane and his son-in-law arrived too. After paying him our fee, he took us up to the new mine and helped us park, then explained the boundaries to us and turned us loose to dig and hunt.

…sure was pretty on the way up there….

…here are the tailing piles around the pit….

….which had some water on one end, but luckily Tony and Shane had told us where to dig, so we would not get wet….and let me say this…what Tony said the day before about digging in the tailing piles and the crystals rolling down into our laps…was SPOT ON CORRECT…cause that is EXACTLY what happened to us !!

Here you see John and Slade down in the pit digging where Tony and Shane told them to, while Colby, Justin, and Chuck are up above on the other side, checking the tailing piles….

….there were several piles around the pit and they all had some GREAT stuff in them, from single large points to baseball sized clusters to candle stick size points…Justin found one that was like a scepter of two long crystal points somewhat blended together. Many nice ones were found both in the pit and in the tailing piles. A few of us took off and backtracked along the road to a few other dig sites and checked them out to see if there was potential for the group to go to one of them and find some nice stuff as well, however we did not find much of anything at any of those spots, and we returned to the new mine pit shortly after. We took a lunch break and David came over to show me some beautiful calcite crystal plates that he had found at a quarry in north central Arkansas…I had heard about this quarry from some friends at MAGS…this first plate he showed me has a few sharply pointed crystal tops with very small pagoda caps sitting on the very top edge of the crystals…

 

He also showed me some phantom calcite crystals that were very pretty and unique as well…

….I called John over to take a look and he was like me, very interested in each type of crystal that could be collected at this location….

Justin walked over and was totally mesmerized by one of the pagoda calcite crystals…you can slightly tell by the look on his face….lol….

David also brought some large dogtooth calcites to show us…

….and John was very taken with them as well….

 

we dug for another four hours and then began to get out of there and off the hill and back to Hot Springs to clean up and go to supper at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet again. I was pretty tired and intended to take a nap when I got back but for some reason, I did not do that. We were to meet at the Hibachi about 6 pm…I shot the sunset…..

…..and then stepped outside to drive to the restaurant….Chuck and his family offered me a ride there in their new Chev Traverse SUV and I wish now I had taken the offer. When Chuck and I returned to the condo, I had backed in to the parking spot at an angle and I did not straighten it out…I should have, but didn`t…so when I got in to head out, I came out at the angle I was in there at, and struck the rear bumper of a pickup sitting next to me…I stopped and got out to look, and found my cab doors damaged and paint removed as well at the bottom of both doors, just from hitting the bumper and tail light of the other truck, which was smaller than my truck..wow…kinda bummed me out a bit. I had not seen the truck there before, and had no idea where the owner was, but there were only a few condos occupied, so I went to the two below me and found the owner in the second one I checked. I let him know I had struck his truck, think he was a bit upset at first, not that I had struck his truck, but that I was taking him away from the Arkansas football game on tv….he and Chuck assisted me in getting my truck unhooked from his bumper, he finally had to pull his truck forward about a foot in order for me to do that, and then it was obvious that I had damage and his truck had none…all he had to do so was buff his bumper and tail light with a cloth the next day and it was fine. He was very nice to deal with, we exchanged info and he told me that if he felt there was any damage the next day after looking at it in the light, he would call me. I never did hear from him…I took some photos the next day after I got back from the mine…

…and reported it to my agent on my return home…first accident I have been at fault,  in 42 years of driving…Fred called while we were exchanging info, he thought maybe I had napped and overslept or forgot to set the alarm…let him know what was going on and that we would be there soon. We arrived about ten minutes after the meeting time, there were about 14 of us there and they ushered us into a private dining room. I think some were afraid to talk to me, thinking maybe I was mad, but like I told Slade and Fred, my doors still open, close, and lock just fine, and this is exactly why you have insurance and full coverage at that…I have always carried it from the time I began driving because back then I was driving to fire calls and it was pretty much required, so I have just always  continued to carry it and you never know when you might run into someone that has no insurance, even tho most states these days require it, some still fall thru the cracks. As I said earlier, I was a little bummed out that the guy`s smaller truck bumper was tougher than my Toyota truck doors, but what can ya do about it…take it to the body shop and let them restore it to it`s original luster is all. While at supper, I called Shane to see if it was okay for us to return to the new mine the next day about 11 am…I told him we wanted to visit his Dad at his rock shop about 9 am and then drive over to the new mine, and he said that would be fine, he would meet us at the same spot at 11 am. A few of the group had heard of the forecast for bad weather north and east of us, so they decided they would be on the road home early…Slade for one, as he had a good 12 hour drive home to North Carolina and didn`t want to hit that bad stuff on Monday instead. Chuck decided he would drive up to see Mr. Manley at his rock shop with us and then return to Hot Springs, pick up his family, and head home too.

So the next morning, we met at the Valero Station once again..we had a little speed bump in the road when Patty called and said they were apparently at the wrong Valero Station cause they didn`t see any of us there…they were at Central Ave and 270 Bypass, so I told them to get on 270 westbound and go half a mile and look for us on the shoulder, and then we would motor on up the road and pick up the others at Mt Ida, so that is what they did and we were soon on the way west, arriving to find John and Mary already there and talking to him at 8:45 am. We had a great visit with him, I think everyone bought something from him, he still had a few pieces of smokey quartz from the new mine that was found in February earlier this year…and some great wavellite too…I purchased a few quartz pieces and some wavellite for sure too. We then bid Chuck good bye and then we headed toward Jessieville, arriving just ahead of Shane, who was again out deer hunting with his son-in-law…Shane had shot a deer just moments before we arrived at the meeting spot…he opened the gate for us and then returned to clean the deer, said he would check on us later. I decided that this time, I was going to check out a test hole dig down the hill a bit from the main mine first…I found a few down there, but nothing really super nice…John came down there for a few min and found a couple of nice points too…then we walked back up and I sat down where David was sitting the day before, and immediately started finding several crystal points just rolling down into my lap, much as it had been the day before…here are a few that I put on the tailgate a few min later….

…as I was arranging the crystals above to take some photos, Colby came back to his car to retrieve a pick, and I mentioned something about the ski gear he had on to stay warm, it was much colder today at 11 am then it had been the day before…he posed in his gear with the pick in his hands for me…

…thanks again Colby…great job !!

  I grabbed another bucket and decided this time to get down into the pit and dig into the wall next to John and see what I could find down there….

….he put me in the spot Justin had started in the day before…just left of Mary in the photo above where the pick is leaning up against the dirt….

….and within seconds, I was finding several nice crystal points and some long slender crystals as well as a few nice clusters….I was giving some to John as well and within 90 minutes I had filled two five gallon buckets and decided to take off. I had a friend driving over from the Memphis area and I wanted to get back and cleaned up before he arrived, in case he got lost on the way in…I took a few more photos before leaving…here is Patty and Julie, with Stephanie behind her, digging in the front tailings pile…and doing well I might add….

…and Patty`s plastic tub of fried chicken that she brought to share with everyone…I mean her plastic tub of crystals that she found…they look like fried chicken up close….

…and up close with crystals she just found in the pile….

…and Julie with her phosphorescence pink bucket….I woulda swore that was fuscia colored myself….lol 🙂

…I took off shortly after and headed back to the condo to meet a friend that was coming down from Tennessee to visit with me while I was nearby. It rained pretty much the whole day on Monday so we were limited what we could do and he headed back home by early afternoon, so Onyx and I just cleaned up and prepared to head home the next morning. I had my last quart of Turtle Tracks and rested up a bit. I figured I would try to contact two of the dealers in Mt Ida the next morning on my way home, but both were unavailable so I continued to head to Fort Smith, even thought about stopping by the family farm to visit with family, however Mom had told me by phone the other day that they would be in the woods hunting til about 11 am, which is about the time of day that I picked up Mom and headed north toward home. 

**  I want to explain one thing about this trip….maybe this will prevent someone else from going through the same bs that I experienced. My group and I went to Wegner`s Phantom Mine one day last year in November 2017, and enjoyed it so much, we returned in March of this year for two days in a row, and again, had a great time, although most would prob tell you that the one day last year in November was much better than the two days in March, and that would be because they had 18 inches of rain the week before we arrived in March and we were limited to the tailing piles only, which had not been turned over for sometime.  I contacted Wegner`s a few months back and started inquiring if the dates of Nov 10th and 11th were available for us to return there again…they were I was told, so I let them know my group would like to return and reserve those dates, my initial head count was 20 rockhounds and I requested two trucks so that it would be a comfortable ride, I let them know that Mr. Wegner had told us in March that if we returned with at least 20 folks, he would commit to two trucks for us. When staff checked with him, he said we would need at least 22 people before he could commit two trucks…two weeks later my head count was 23 rockhounds and I updated staff…they checked with him and I was advised that he now wanted us to bring 30 rockhounds before he committed to two trucks…my response was not pretty nor did I intend for it to be…when I get aggravated like that, I get pretty sarcastic…I told him to pick a number and stick with it, keep his word !!  Staff promised to find us seven additional people so we could have a second truck…a week went by, then ten days, and I checked with my group, told them what was going on, let them know I had a backup mine we could go to, possibly for two days, they were all fine with that, plus it was going to be less money. Wegner wanted $ 44 per person for four hours dig time, including that amount for three kids that were going to be there, two of them under the age of ten, the other mine was going to be less than half that cost, we could stay all day, and no charge for the kids. I let Mr. Wegner know that we were cancelling our trip and he replied that they had found us seven more people to go in with us…I told him too little too late, he could have, and should have, communicated that much sooner, we exchanged several emails, I told him he was going to miss out not only on our full amount times 23 people, but each time we had been there before, everyone in my group had spent even more money in his nice rockshop and he would miss out on that as well, mainly due to his inability to keep his word and his inability to communicate with us…but of course, none of that was his fault, he placed all fault on me…I still have the emails to prove it if need be. He did promise to refund my deposit that I had paid a month out for everyone in my group…however he did not put it through, staff did that a few days later once they became aware, through me, that I had cancelled the trip…he didn`t even update his own staff that we were not coming down there…makes one wonder for sure. **

Other than that, we had a great trip down there this fall season….Mom, Onyx, and I rolled into Sullivan by 4 pm on Tuesday, Nov 13th, a day ahead of the big snowstorm headed our way. Had a great time, just wish it would have been warmer down there, hope everyone else had as good a time as we did. 🙂

Here are a few of my crystals cleaned up from the new mine….

David Hodge Comes to Visit and Collect With Me

I had a phone call a few weeks ago from my buddy David Hodge, who is the Field Trip Director for the CAGMAGS Club, sister club to MAGS, the Memphis Club I have been a member of for several years now. CAGMAGS is located in central Arkansas near Little Rock, they come up with MAGS sometimes to collect with me up here and sometimes they just contact me and come up on their own and invite MAGS to go with them. David let me know he was going to be in St Louis for a marching band event for a few days and would be returning home after the Saturday event, asked if I could take him rockhunting on that Sunday morning. I told him it was his lucky week cause I had planned to go rockhunting that Sunday and assured him he was going to love it. We planned to meet up at the Viburnum High School Parking Lot since he was familiar with that location, and I took him to the SSQ area and showed him the smokey druse plates I had been finding there. Needless to say, we found a bunch of them and had a great time, before he took off for home. He contacted me a couple of days later and asked if he could come back the next weekend and do that again and I said sure…cause I needed to get some together to take to Arkansas with me on my upcoming trip there…I let him know where we were gonna go down there and extended an invitation to join us at the privately owned mines we were going to. The second trip to the SSQ was a bit wet when we arrived..muddy I should say, they had quite a bit of rain the day before apparently….our trucks got muddy just driving up the druse road…..

….but it only sprinkled on us a few times that day and we did quite well and found some really nice stuff once again…this one right outside my truck as I stepped out….

…and once we climbed up the tailing piles, it was literally laying all over the place….prime for the picking….

Needless to say, by the time we left, we were both exhausted…David spent the night closeby before heading home the next day as he had about a six hour drive. 

 

SSQ During October

During October, I had a few nice visits at the SS Quarry, one visit producing a few unique combos from pockets….

….one producing some nice sunbeam photos….

…and then after some surface collecting in the quarry, I decided to stop on top on the way out and check for druse quartz…and discovered some nice plates of bubbley smokey quartz druse plates up there…

…I grabbed up several nice ones and then washed them off when I returned home, so I returned to the SSQ the next day and picked up several more…

BEAUTIFUL STUFF !! 

Geode Fest 2018

Luckily, I had the weekend off for Geode Fest, but had to work Friday, so I drove up early on Saturday morning, arriving about 6:30 am, which gave me some free time to register and get signed in for it before the crowd arrived. I also had a little time to walk around and visit with the dealers there that I knew…Robert Kuhn was there from Hot Springs with his new girlfriend, Solara, so I got to meet her and visit with them for a bit…..

…..Ken Vaisivil was there as well and visited with him for a bit…love his geodes display he had in front of his booth too….

Soon after that, my buddy, John Oosteryk, arrived along with Charity and Jamey, set their booths up, and then Abbi woke up in her Jeep in the parking lot and joined us after getting registered to dig that morning too. We all soon left for the Barrow Pit for the morning dig…this is a location we went to last year for the first time it opened and it was a pretty good site with geodes laying all over the place. The landowner had brought in machinery and dug out a good sized area near a pond, about ten miles south of Wayland on Hwy 61 and there was speculation that it could be the old C-61 site as well, or close to it. Prior to going up there, I had made contact with a landowner a few miles south of the Barrow Pit that had an open area on the hill above his house, where it appeared there was a small quarry…he told me that was an old map view on Google Maps and that it was just a big open field now. That information led many of us to believe the Barrow Pit could very well be the old C-61 site. Pat and Alina Klein and their boys, Finn and Coen, came to Geode Fest as well and had brought a few extra boys with them…they decided to go to the Barrow Pit and join up with John, Abbi and I there…we started surface collecting on the northeast side of the digging area and found a few nice ones that were pulled up by the bucket on the trackhoe and in good shape. Eventually we moved over to the northwest side and dug into the ground to find even more of them, this year many of them had a gray, white, and black colored calcite crystals inside that had a poker chip look to them in some and thin fan like blades in others, pretty neat looking stuff !! I didn`t take any photos at the Barrow Pit this year, but we sure had a good time there…John and I helped the boys and their friends find some nice ones and then pretty soon after, Finn and Coen were finding some nice ones on their own, as well as their friends G and Taylor. John returned after a couple of hours and the rest of us stayed at least an hour more before returning to the parking lot. By this time, even more rockhounds were arriving for the event….

…and when I returned, I saw John was busy with customers galore at his booth….

I walked over to the other side of the lot to talk to Charity and Jamey, found Charity breaking open geodes for customers like John was doing….

Afterward, Pat and Alina and the kids decided to go to Jacob`s Geode Mine with me for the afternoon dig…we had heard good things about it and there was supposed to be a new mine area there as well, so decided to give it a try. I had not been to Jacob`s in at least ten years…wish now we had gone to St Francisville instead….when we arrived we were directed up to the old mine on top of the hill and because I had four wheel drive, I was directed to cross the creek and drive up there. Parking on the hill at the old mine was scarce and there were no signs on where to go to park, so I just grabbed the first spot on the right that I came to and others went past me and made a right on the way to another spot for parking on up above..however someone in an out of state suv blocked that entrance to the hill parking lot and created a huge bottleneck instead.

Eventually, that owner was located and the suv moved to where others could park as well…one problem solved but another one presented itself shortly after and the host for this site, decided not to come up and help any of us solve any of the problems up on the hill, prob due to the fact that he had created those problems in the first place. After parking, grabbing our buckets and tools, we walked over to the walls…the lower wall at the old mine on the hill was the only one that was producing geodes, albeit smaller than expected geodes…and the lower wall was completely covered by diggers from the morning group…they had not left the site, they were still on site and digging away, shoulder to shoulder….

There was absolutely no room for anyone from our group to get in between any one and start digging out our own geodes…so we all had to go up on the upper ledge to the upper wall and start digging into that wall. After about 20 minutes of that, I heard a few comments from people strung out down along the ledge we were on, asking others if there were actually any geodes to be found up there because NO ONE was digging any out…one guy even commented that he believed all we were accomplishing was someone`s excavation work in the upper wall.

We found out later, that the host was not making anyone from the prior group, leave or return to the parking lot, they were allowed to stay as long as they wanted and dig where ever they wanted to, so when those of us in the afternoon group arrived, there was no productive areas for us to dig into…just unproductive areas like the upper level wall….and for the first hour, many of us found absolutely nothing to put into our buckets. I guess this is a good thing from a public relations angle, but it did nothing for those of us, or those coming in later groups for that matter and actually it just ticked quite a few people off…several of them left within two hours of arriving. When I left after three hours, I found the host sleeping in his pick up down by the creek, unwilling to do anything other than collect his bucket fees from diggers.

I called John to find out from him where the newer mine was located there, told him where we were at and he advised we were at the old mine. I told him what had happened so far and like he said, that was a CROCK that no one was directing us to the newer mine nor up there trying to make things better for the newer diggers. We walked down to the bottom of the hill, crossed the creek and then walked up the side road off the lower parking lot to the newer mine area, however there were several up there digging and they were finding very little as well, so after about an hour there, I decided to go back to the parking lot and visit friends and shop. I felt like had Pat, Alina, and the kids not been there, much of my time at that particular location that afternoon would have been a total waste of time. 

Needless to say, I won`t be returning to this mine anytime soon, I didn`t have more than a few geodes in my bucket…however, Finn, Coen, and their friend G, were digging into the lower wall when I left, after others had finally vacated those areas, and they were finding several golf ball sized and marble sized geodes, and Alina and Pat were working the right side of that lower wall and finding geodes as well…..

…and since many of the prior diggers finally left, others were able to tap into the far left side of the hill mine as well…

As I was walking to my truck, Finn turned to ask me where I was going and show me what was in his bucket now…..he, Coen and their friend G, were putting in good effort there and producing quite a few geodes…and I was simply wore out….

…there were a few geodes in the wall nearby that had been struck by hammers accidentally and broken open, leaving half an opened geode in the wall….

…that Coen is a real hoot to dig with…when I was headed to my truck, he started pulling his boot off…I asked him if he had some rocks in it, he said yeah, he was collecting geodes with it. 🙂

On my return to the parking lot, I spotted this huge geode in the pick up truck parked next to me, plus some basketball sized ones as well….

I stayed overnight at a home rented by Charity, Jamey, and John, just north of Keokuk along the Mississippi River…I appreciate the roof over my head as it rained a bit that night and was a bit cool…I slept like a rock despite a certain person sleeping not too far away that was cutting down timber and sounding like a McCulloch chainsaw in overdrive. 🙂

As soon as I headed up the road toward McDonalds for breakfast, I stopped in the middle of the street and tried to shoot the sunrise….

After breakfast, I shot a more enlightened sunrise as I crossed the river headed to Hamilton….

I picked up a few goodies to take home with me from a few dealers before heading home, one was a friend of John`s who had several types of agate on a blanket for sale…they were very pretty and I purchased several from him….

I also had a good visit with Dennis, another dealer who is another friend of John`s and hopefully soon, will be joining us on some of our group digs…I also purchased a few smokies from Dennis that were collected at Hallelujah Junction, a famous location for smokeys and scepters. Dennis is a great guy to talk to, he has a lot of great stories about his adventures too. I would have made good time going home, but had to take a detour off 61 at Bowling Green by the Fire Department, due to a gas tanker overturning on 61 near Eolia. I wound up taking Hwy 161 down to Montgomery City and taking Hwy 19 there on down to 50 and coming in the back way, adding about an hour to my trip home. From the perspective of seeing good friends and visiting with them and one good collecting location, it turned out to be a pretty good weekend after all. 

SS Quarry Right Before Kentucky Trip

Onyx and I drove down to the SSQ again on August 19th, turned out to be pocket city that morning…we returned to try and clean out the huge pocket in the corner that I found the week before….I didn`t write about that one either at the time, due to my work schedule, was putting in several days in a row at work without a break, so by the time I would get home from work, I was too exhausted to do anything but take an hour nap, go to supper, watch a little tv, and then hit the hay to get up and repeat the next day…after about six to nine days in a row of that. you are ready for a break, believe me. As I age, that type of routine gets old fast, so am thinking next year I am going to have to get a different schedule at work cause I don`t like working that many days in a row without a break. Since both visits were in August, hottest month of the summer, and since I am now used to getting up each morning around 4 am for work, I know that we arrived both days around 6 am and collected during the cool early hours of the morning while there…this is how the quarry looked when we arrived the week before….

…and I remember walking over to the right side wall to re-check the big pocket in the wall that I found two weeks before when Abbi came to visit, to see if I missed anything….and discovered that either Abbi or I had failed to remove a couple of small clusters from the rocky floor below the pocket…so I put those in my bucket and then climbed up to peer inside the pocket again, pulled out a few smaller crystals and a few baseball sized clusters, then grabbed ahold of some crystals in the bottom, midway back in the pocket floor…low and behold, they moved…the cluster was loose, so I was able to pull it free from the floor of the pocket !!  and here it is on my tailgate a few min later surrounded by some of the loose smaller ones I pulled free….

…from there, I ventured over to the left along the main wall and decided to walk over to the left hand wall corner, to see if I could find anything worth taking home or a new pocket…that is a very vuggy area sometimes but requires a closer inspection because it can also be unstable looking from afar. As I approached it, I started seeing poker chips laying on the ground under a large rock sticking out from the wall about six inches…I kneeled down to take a closer look and discovered a very large area of poker chips spilling out of yet another pocket opening up under that ledge of rock…flabbergasted would be an understatement for me. For one thing, standing where I parked, and looking over to that corner, you could not see anything due to a large pile of rock blocking your view from there..I literally had to walk over to it to see it, but then again, this was going to turn out to be yet another huge pocket and the last few weeks had been several huge pockets, one after another, so flabbergasted was very appropriate. 🙂  I do not have any photos of that pocket from the get go nor to the finish, but I can show you what the initial finds were that I pulled from it ….

…and these along the ledge of my sink came from a black dogtooth pocket along the main wall not far from the corner pocket….

…I was working the black dogtooth pocket when I looked to the left the week before and spotted that pocket at the foot of the wall in the corner, then walked over to check it out. It took me about ten minutes to clean out the opening of that pocket under the ledge rock sticking out from the wall…that ledge rock turned out to be a roof plate…I decided to leave it in place til I was able to clean out the opening and once I was about a foot inside, and had everything cleaned out under that front roof plate, I removed it and turned it over…big bubbles of shimmery gray druse with poker chips attached…it was gorgeous…I set it aside and out of my way and continued pulling poker chip after poker chip from the opening of the pocket, some were singles, some were doubles, some were triples, some were combos, and many I was pulling from the left wall inside the pocket were dogtooths. The further back in the pocket that I went, the more dogtooths came out of there…pretty soon I was in there to my shoulder and within 30 minutes I had two buckets completely filled with wrapped crystals. By then it was about 11 am and beginning to get quite warm so we decided to head home, quite happy with my finds. 🙂

So a week later, I returned to see about cleaning out the last pocket…the corner pocket, see how far back it went into the wall and see what else was there. Onyx and I arrived about 6 am and it was a bit foggy on the way down there, so we waited about twenty minutes for the quarry to lighten up…I shot this first video then…

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As soon as the light improved, I started walking over to the corner pocket I had found last week, but as I was making my way over there, I came across an area at the base of the wall where many poker chip crystals were laying around, so I stopped to check for a pocket and began digging at the base of the wall…can see where I stopped in the photo below, where my bucket and rags are located…

…to the right in the corner, you can see what appears to be a rockslide of sorts…the last pocket from last week is under that pile of rocks and I was going to have to dig it out first…I spent about 2 hours digging around where the bucket and rags are above…and found several poker chip and druse combo pockets, as well as several smaller shallow pockets…

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…and the first pocket I found along that wall was a pretty good sized one and deep inside…triangular shaped opening as well…

…and here are some of my crystals from this big pocket…

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As the videos show, it was pocket city on the wall there, many were shallow and full of a few small pieces of shimmering gray druse only, some had some dogtooth crystals inside, and some had combo pieces of druse and poker chips, but it provided me about 3 hours of work and fun. I finally did get on over to the corner pocket, and liberated it from the rockslide tho…

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….it`s a good thing I cleaned it out when I did, two weeks later it was completely gone with a new blast. 🙂

Annual Labor Day Weekend Trip to Central Kentucky

I normally take a spring vacation and a week off around July 4th, however this year, after my early retirement from nearly 16 years of fire / police dispatch work at East Central Dispatch in St Louis County, and picking up a seasonal job at Greenbriar Hills CC, I decided I would scrap my spring and summer vacations to show my bosses that I was truly dedicated and serious about working there, something I feel is important to do as a new employee in your first year of work. Doing so also allowed me to save up for my September Labor Day Weekend trip to Central Kentucky to join with good friends and members of the Catawba Valley Gem and Mineral Club there, on their annual trip to Kentucky for geode collecting. This year, as in the last year or two, we would be joined by members of two mineral clubs from New York state.

During my interview with my employers of the Golf Course, I mentioned that while I had taken five to six week long vacations in years past, there were specifically only two that were important to me, the Labor Day Weekend trip and my annual fall vacation in Arkansas…they told me that they would work with me on both trips, and despite being somewhat short handed this time of the year, having lost the college and high school guy`s help during the summer by mid August, they were true to their word allowing me to take my trip. I feel fortunate to work with bosses who have an interest in rocks and minerals….my Manager and one Supervisor with children that are starting to collect rocks and minerals, and another Supervisor that is interested in collecting and building his collection. I have helped them out with flats of different crystals and minerals from my collecting trips, and brought my Superintendent a few pretty drusey quartz yard rocks to dress up the front door entrance and garage entrance. A couple of my co-workers have also expressed an interest in rocks and minerals too, one even showed me some drusey quartz pieces in a box that his son had collected over the years and some cabochons used for jewelry that I was able to identify for him.

Onyx and I got up about my normal time of getting up for work, at 4 am on Friday morning, August 31st, and finished packing the truck for the trip…having packed it much of the way the evening before. I had actually been packing a little each afternoon after work for the entire week before, and sorted through several crystals two weeks before, to take down there for the buy/sell/swap tailgate event. I had the truck packed by 4:45 am and we hit the road shortly afterward, headed down to first visit with Gary, my fluorite miner friend in Southern Illinois. I wanted to see what new material Gary might have now…he indicated back in June when I visited with him at the Clement Mineral Museum, that the family mining work had been pretty sporadic after Gary lost his Dad to cancer, and then shortly after, lost two more family members, and the heavy rains had slowed them down as well, but he was sure they would eventually get back into it. He had let me know Thursday evening that he and his son Walter, had been remodeling his Dad`s house alot lately as well, especially during the hot weather spells recently, and would be around that morning. I was going to miss talking to his Dad, he was a super nice guy to talk to and had a lot of interesting stories from his days as a fluorospar miner all over Southern Illinois. About 20 miles down I-64 after Belleville, Illinois, the sun began to light up the sky and clouds that were hanging around, proving once again that God is a very creative artist of sunrises….

…this one hung up in the sky for about 20 minutes and just got prettier each second….traffic was light and we made it down to E-town four hours later, giving me a few hours to visit with Gary and purchase some beautiful fluorite. He came out of the house as I pulled in his driveway, told me to let Onyx out to stretch his legs…he had put his dog, Buster, up in his cage so Onyx could roam freely. We visited while I roamed around looking at the material he had available…one particular flat of material really caught my eye…he had told me about a fairly lrge cluster the week before, that he and Walter had found in a pocket, attached to the wall and just staring them in the face like a big flower in bloom, as they opened the pocket up…he said Walter got into the pocket and worked his way behind it as best he could and used a hammer and small chisel to lightly tap behind it and remove it from the wall in three places where it was attached, as Gary held on to it and hoped for little damage to it during this delicate process. Walter was careful and successful in removing it without any damage to the cubes, which were big and lustrous in appearance, the colors were dazzling as well and in the right light it really just sits there and shines very well….

…my images really do it no justice, but will give you an idea of its beauty…and the image below shows it with two additional smaller clusters that came from the same pocket….I purchased everything he had from that pocket thinking it would likely not be there for long. He told me on the phone the other night that several dealers from across the country were calling and coming by to see what he had on nearly a daily basis lately, and purchasing everything they were getting out…they didn`t even care if it was clean or dirty…crystals were going that fast lately…..

He had another longer specimen on matrix with some nice cubes and then several the size of the two small ones above, and several smaller pieces, from this one pocket. He also had some nice quartz pieces, some with fluorite cubes, deep purple color…so purple they were nearly black looking…embedded in the quartz crystals…and a few multicolor fluorite cubes with stair-steppng cubes….after looking at everything he had, which was not nearly as much as he usually has on hand when I am there…I purchased a few flats of material, the most gorgeous ones shown on the table in the next image….

…the oblong piece behind the Coke can is the next largest specimen from that pocket, the one to the left of the peanut butter jar is a gorgeous cluster of dark purple cubes with smithsonite in between the cubes on top…I really liked it…and the one in line with it near the edge of the table is another beauty…covered in quartz on top and one side…and there are some smaller beautiful clusters on the other end of the table there…Gary helped me load them up and after carefully wrapping them up, especially that huge cluster, carried them to the truck and safely loaded them into the floorboards. I wish now I had checked to see if he had any octogons…Gary chips them out of pieces of fluorite himself and is very good at it…some people call them fluorite diamonds…and they have also made some jewelry lately with the fluorite octogons, so maybe I should have checked on those too.

Onyx and I got back on the road soon after Walter arrived to work on the house some more, and I headed east to Cave-in-Rock to take the ferry over to Western Kentucky….we got to the crossing just in time to board and go across the muddy Ohio River…..

...I drove over to Princeton, intending to stop at the A & W Restaurant to get some lunch and a big cold root beer…grew up on A & W during my childhood…Dad drove a schoolbus and after we dropped the last kids off at their homes on the rural route north of town, we would always stop off at our local A & W, owned back then by Don Lakebrink, one of our fellow firefighters, and we would get a mug of frosty A & W rootbeer before heading home…Dad always got a big mug and I got a little guy`s mug !!  Talk about hitting the spot every time !! 🙂 

Well I was a little disappointed to find out that the A & W there had closed recently, so we drove across the street to Mc Donalds and got lunch there instead and then hit the Western Kentucky Parkway eastbound. About ten miles down the parkway I noticed dark clouds forming up ahead of us….

…and pretty soon, as we approached the turn off to Hopkinsville, we came upon wet pavement where the storm had passed over ahead of us….soon after that, it was one storm after another and rain showers every ten to twenty miles all the way over to Danville…three hours later, as we were passing St Catherine College in the valley by Springfield, we saw more clouds forming just south of the college….

…I checked some creeks on the way across the valley, having come in the back way from Bardstown, but they were running pretty high and full from recent rains, so I pushed on to the hotel at Harrodsburg. I received a text from Slade a few minutes later, he had just arrived at his hotel, the Bright Leaf Golf Resort Hotel, where most of the members were staying…however it`s not a dog friendly hotel so Onyx and I were staying at the Baymont Inn on the north side of town, and conveniently I thought for us, it was located right behind the Dairy Queen. 🙂  My good friends Fred Mahaffey from East Texas, and David Bruce from north Georgia, were also staying at the Baymont. The Hickory Club had switched hotels this year, after some of us met with some attitude from the owner`s son of last year`s hotel…in the past couple of years we have ate breakfast and supper both at the restaurant of the Bright Leaf Resort, great buffet food there, so it was a natural decision to stay there as well. Had they been pet friendly, Onyx and I would have stayed there too. I let Slade know we were probably about 30 minutes out still and would give him a shout when we headed to the Bright Leaf for supper after checking into the Baymont. Slade is the Newsletter Editor for the Hickory, North Carolina Club…the hosting club for this trip…we have been good friends for a couple of years now and he is a member of my group as well. 

As we approached Perryville the clouds once again started darkening down…I was able to get through the beautiful old town square area in good light and then once up on the hill on the other side of town, it really got dark and ominous looking….

…this storm could have done something with the temps now about 85 degrees, but luckily for all of us I am sure, it did not do anything more than drop some rain showers on the south side of the highway. We rolled into Harrodsburg 20 minutes later with ease, found Fred`s jeep parked on the south end of the hotel, and after checking in for a three night stay, and freshening up a bit, I soon headed over to the Bright Leaf Restaurant to meet up with everyone for supper…as I approached the hotel there, another storm appeared just east of the highway behind some horse farms there…

Slade was waiting for me outside as I arrived…I left Onyx at the hotel room since I figured he was ready for a change of scenery. We found most of the group already inside the restaurant chowing down on the seafood buffet and joined them. Everyone was rested up from their long trip down there from North Carolina….the New York crews wouldn`t arrive for another couple of hours as they were collecting at roadcuts on their way down there…so it was decided to postpone the tailgate event til the next night when it was certain that everyone would be present for it.

We had a great meal, fried catfish strips, jumbo shrimp, clams, scallops, and about six veggies to choose from, as well as cake slices and cobbler to choose from….they used to have a soft serve ice cream machine but no longer, so I decided to get some DQ when I returned to the Baymont. After supper, we all wandered out into the parking lot to visit further, and I took that time to give Slade a couple of flats of material I had brought for him..he gave me some nice stuff as well…one a HUGE smokey quartz crystal that he got at Adam`s Farm Site near Hiddenite, North Carolina. The crystal is at least five or six inches high and wide too and a few inches thick, just beautiful…I will get a photo of it soon and put on here so you can see it as well…I haven`t yet opened the box that he filled with crystals to see what other treasures he brought me. As we were doing this, the New York Club members arrived and they were asking me to come over to the other side of the parking lot to let them know what to expect at the quarry the next morning…it was then, that Fred, Slade, and I noticed the beautiful sunset forming after the storm passed through an hour prior, and at the same time, a large half rainbow was forming straight east of us, so I first grabbed my camera to record it….

…and then turned behind us toward the golf course to photograph the sunset…it was gorgeous….

…then swung back around to shoot the pink clouds east of us….

…then back to the golf course side….

…which just kept getting better by the second….

 

 

…I then walked over to let them know what time we were leaving for the quarry and what to expect, that we would have four hours of collecting time there as long as everyone got out of bed in the morning and were lined up to leave by 7:15 am. Then Fred and I headed back to the hotel and me to DQ for a blizzard and small cone cup for Onyx. We were in bed soon afterward, after a long day of driving through storms, getting up at 5 am the next morning. 

Onyx and I were up at 5 am Saturday morning, I had to get some breakfast at the Bright Leaf and before that I needed to ice down the coolers, as it was looking like a warm day ahead….sunrise sure was pretty as I arrived for breakfast tho….

…I had parked in the first slot of the parking lot next to the exit to the highway…Slade was right behind me and then everyone else lined up behind him…everyone was standing around chit chatting when Harry and Larry pulled up and said let`s get going at 7:13 am…I had told Clay, the Quarry Manager, we would be there around 8 am if we could get everyone moving early…and driving through all the stoplights on the bypass around Danville is no easy task either…we made it through the first four just fine without losing anyone and then lost half the line at the 5th one…there was a mile stretch between stoplights there so we were able to slow way down in the right lane and wait for them to catch up…I couldn`t believe it when we got to the main intersection close to Walmart…we were all able to get through the green light just fine, which was amazing by itself !! 

We made our turn at the last stoplight and drove across the hills and dales to old Business 150, where the quarry is located, and entered through the open gate to park in front of the scale house/offices. I got out and lined everyone up in rows and then we waited for Clay to arrive. He had let me know enroute that he had a guy working the front end loader, loading up a dumptruck there that was making deliveries to a customer, and he let them know we were on the way…he just didn`t tell the guy how many vehicles we were traveling in. 🙂 

About ten minutes after we arrived, I called everyone over for a safety meeting, checking to make sure we all had hard hats to wear, steel toed boots on, safety glasses for those using hammers and chisels, and good gloves… then I went over the history of the quarry, and background of our field trips there in the past three years as well as what happened several years ago that kept many clubs from gaining access to the quarry for about the last fifteen years.

In front of the office/scale house, there is a huge boulder that has beautiful fluorite cubes on it in amongst bladed, weathered barite, and some nice calcite crystals as well. About 15 yrs ago, some knothead that was with a mineral club and there on a field trip one day, decided to venture up to that boulder and start chipping crystals off of it. He was caught doing so by the Quarry Manager…not Clay at the time…and removed from the quarry, as well as his club, and no clubs were allowed back into the quarry for quite some time….several years of time. About three years ago, I came upon information about the quarry and former field trips there, saw photos of crystals found there,and while at work one night in dispatch, I emailed the Quarry Manager on a form on the quarry`s website…Clay answered me a few days later and we started talking about me bringing a few close rockhound friends to the quarry to look for specimens and he was fine with it, with some safety conditions attached. After I published my story on that trip on my blog site…this site….Harry Polly sent me an email and asked if I could help his club, the Catawba Valley Gem and Mineral Club,  get into this quarry for their annual Labor Day Weekend trip…I had talked to Harry a few times on the McRocks board site and always enjoyed talking to him, he is a very nice guy and knowledgeable on many things as well. I let him know that I would do my best to help them get in there, and after talking to Clay and getting his permission, I let Harry know and he invited me to join them and anyone in my group that would like to come along, too. A few of my guys were able to join me that trip and then it just grew from there.

I let everyone in the group on Saturday morning, that I didn`t want to catch anyone doing anything that selfish or stupid, because not only would we all be removed from the quarry, but no other clubs would ever be allowed in there again either. Mindless actions of morons like that, is what hurts us the most as rockhounds trying to enjoy our hobby…I think everyone there agreed and assured me that they would not do anything like that….we took a group photo in front of that boulder….

…Clay arrived soon after, got waivers for us to all sign welcomed us and  gave a short safety talk with some history as well. Clay is a third generation Quarry Manager there, and works with his Dad and his sister as well. Larry gave Clay a big box of work socks for his work crew, while Richard, one of the Hickory Club members, gave him a big jar of honey, and then I gave him a few packages of Missouri gifts as well. Clay then led us down to the ground floor of the quarry and pointed out where we could wander around to and areas to stay away from, and everyone then took off in different directions…..some to the left side….

…some to the right side…..

…some walked down into the small pit in front of where we parked….

…and some worked the piles in the middle of the ground level where we parked at….

…I walked around a bit to see how everyone was doing, shot this video….

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….and took this photo from up the road a bit, looking back down to ground level where we all parked and spread out from there…

…the bench right behind our vehicles, is the bench with the most calcite in it…those white splotches on the wall indicate that…no other bench there has as much calcite as that one does…so if you are looking for calcite, and most of us were, this bench and below is where you will likely find it…Laura, Richard`s daughter, was working to the left of where we parked, in the boulder pile and found a nice dogtooth calcite vug in one…

…and soon after I walked over to photograph it, she found some more and her Mom, Shelda, helped her carry them back to their truck….

….and here is Laura working on yet another one in the same spot….

Way to go Laura….those are some beautiful dogtooths inside that vug !!  Not too far away from her, were a couple of the New York rockhounds, one with the same name as me…James and the gal with him I am not sure of her name…perhaps Slade can help me out again…they were working hard on some boulders over behind Laura…

…I then found Cheryl from New York petting Onyx and talking to him…by then he was a little bit muddy, having discovered a few mud and water holes to wallow in….

…and then I wandered down the interior boulder pile behind our vehicles, and found Harry working over a small boulder that had not only a nice vug in it….

…he also discovered a nice fluorite cube after cobbing down the boulder a bit more…

…I looked up and saw Larry Huffman not too far on down the rocks, working on a big boulder…he found some nice crystals on top and figured there had to be pockets inside the rock as well, so he decided to cobb it down and find them….

…from there I spotted David Bruce going after his saw, so I followed him over to a cove in a pile of boulders up above the lower pit area….by the time I relocated him, he was using his saw to remove some of the heavy dolomite matrix from around a beautiful vug….

…that somewhat resembles a big sparkley smile. 🙂

While I was up there, Slade came over to see it as well…and we spotted Fred down below in the lower pit area…Jim Hurd, a Hickory Club member who lives in West Virginia, was down there in the lower pit area also, said he was spotting several pieces of brown calcite…so I got my truck and drove down there to the lower level and walked back over to the area where Jim had been searching. Fred joined me shortly after and we began finding some nice pieces of calcite, as well as some stunning pieces of white bladed barite….

Kurt…another Hickory member, was down in the lower pit as well, on the left side…while Fred and I were working the right side…

I showed Kurt, who is new to rockhunting, what the white bladed barite looks like so he could look for it as well over on the left side….soon David Bruce joined us down there also….

After finding some nice bladed barites and a few calcites too, I decided to wander on down the lower pit canyon, which leads to an old blast pile at the very end…framed with cattails, it looked quite pretty….

After searching down there for calcites or fluorites, I wandered back up to the lower pit and found Fred loading up his Jeep suv with various finds…some of them were fossilized coral plates…I had heard others referring to them but had never seen any…Fred showed me some of his coral plates and I asked him where he found them…he told me they were in the lower pit over by the culvert pipe that feeds the lake down there with fresh rainwater runoff. I hiked over to that area and located about five nice plates myself…Slade then told me where there were some more…back down the canyon several of us went…we had thirty minutes left on the clock to dig there so we made good use of it and found some beautiful big fossil plates down there in the boulders by the wall…here George, another Hickory Club member and Kurt, work to get some of the fossil plates out….

while David and Slade were finding fluorite cubes in vugs in the huge boulder pile behind us…

…and Fred was finding more fossilized plates back up the road leading to the lower pit through the canyon….

After about fifteen minutes, we all headed out of the quarry so that the workers could close the gate and go home to enjoy the holiday weekend…many of the members had already left ahead of us and headed to south on 150 to the roadcuts near Stanford, where pink dolomite vugs could be found…we were soon headed there as well…

…and arrived to find many rockhounds spread out down along the roadcut on both sides of they highway looking for some accessible vugs to pop out of the walls…not an easy task mind you…some are weathered and some are so tight in the rock that they do not offer much accessibility to a chisel or hammer, so sometimes you just have to peel back the surrounding rock and hope they come out intact….

…while we were there, a small storm popped up about a half mile south of us and passed by to the east without so much as one drop of water falling on us…

…whoever received that rainfall was very lucky, because most of Kentucky is in dire need of rainfall as much as Missouri is…I wandered up and down both sides of the highway looking for some nice ones that had already fallen down to the ground, giving them to the new rockhounds from New York state that were close by…like New York James, who was talking to Jim Hurd on the other side of the highway…I noticed Jim was wearing a special hard hat this afternoon…what appeared to be a Flower Child Hard Hat….

…in amongst the pretty Black Eyed Susan flowers no less…and on the anniversary of his wedding to his wife as well…Congratulations again Jim to the both of you….I had heard of him but never met him til this trip…turned out to be a very nice guy. Soon after, I spotted another New York Club member helping James out with some vugs on the wall, trying to get them out….

…and believe me, every little bit of help…helps in this type of situation…..I then wandered back over to the north side of the highway again and found Slade watching David try to get a vug out of the wall, finally had to bring it down and hope for the best on damage to it….

…check out the video of it below….I think he was able to salvage some of it….

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Slade showed me a piece of pink dolomite rescued from the wall, shortly before we headed back to the hotel for a much needed nap before supper later…

After a good three hour nap that afternoon, my phone alarm failed to go off and wake me up…thankful for Fred for calling to wake me up for supper, and it was a good supper too, fried chicken and at least ten veggies too…after my good workout earlier, I made two trips to the buffet to take advantage of all my favorite veggies….and yes the chicken was good too. 🙂  Afterward we returned to the parking lot for the buy/sell/swap tailgate event. As soon as I started unwrapping my double terminated green/yellow calcite crystals encased in pyrite and my orange dogtooth calcite clusters from Missouri locations, I had a crowd all around me…I don`t mind trading minerals for them, but you have to have some nice stuff to trade evenly for my nice stuff, or be willing to compensate with cash…luckily there were several prepared to compensate…I did pretty good for the second year in a row…last year with fluorite and this year with the dogtooth clusters and pyrite encased calcites from the Viburnum Trend mines, both are big faves of mine…and fluorites I picked up from Gary on Friday did well too. The huge crystal cluster was purchased by Harry and Larry to showcase in their annual show next year and I traded the remainder of the fluorites with them for some of their beautiful treasures. Thanks again to Slade, Fred, and David for watching my truck when I was away dealing with the traders.

The next morning we would be able to sleep in a bit, as we were not going to leave for White Oak Creek at Junction City til 9 am, so I stopped off at Dairy Queen once again after the tailgate event and got Onyx and me some ice cream for dessert, then hit the hay after the 10 pm news, forecast was for a bit warmer on Sunday. We slept til 7 am and then headed to breakfast once again at the Bright Leaf. I cheated on my diet once again and had the biscuits and white gravy…and scrambled eggs…funny thing is the Manager there knows how to make chocolate gravy so I could have had chocolate biscuits and gravy, that my Mom made for me during my childhood…a recipe of her Mom`s handed down to her and her brothers and sisters. However, the Manager was not able to find any cocoa there at the restaurant to make it for me and the others to try…told her if she ever put it on the menu or buffet bar, their breakfast business would likely double or triple…she agreed. 

We headed out at 9 am and arrived at the creek about 30 minutes later, found that Mr. Phillips had brought in a bulldozer to straighten out the house side bank of his creek, due to the high rolling water nearly washing the bank away on Friday, after heavy rainfall. The dozer operator did a great job of sloping it down to the creekbed….

….and from the edge of the grass to the water, there were geodes laying everywhere, all you had to do was pick them up and weigh them in your hands, and if light enough, crack them open on the spot…within ten minutes of arrival, several were out in the shallow waters of the creek looking for the big ones in the dirt bank on the opposite side…..

…that is the New York crowd above…Fred Haynes on the far left sitting down…my buddy Fred on the right side in shorts and Matthew to his left…

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I cracked a few open right there in front of my truck and then grabbed a bucket and my crack hammer and walked upstream…Slade and David had gone way upstream and I met them coming back with several nice ones already collected…I came upon Harry on the second gravel bar above and Larry was further upstream from him…both were finding some nice ones. Harry rolled one basketball sized geode over that was sitting next to him and found a crack in it…he said someone had been striking it with their hammer just moments before but apparently didn`t roll it over to see the crack and moved on…so Harry cracked it open to find beautiful orange-red quartz crystals inside…STUNNING would be the word for me when I saw them….here they are on my tailgate about 20 min later….just so I could photograph them…

I then photographed a couple of nice ones that I found upstream too….

…I grabbed another bucket and went back upstream, meeting David and Slade on their way back downstream again, this time they told me to go upstream to the log across the water…they cracked open several up there that had double terminated quartz crystals inside…so that is where I headed….it was easy to find the spot they were in, geodes cracked open all over the place, some with the double terminated crystals inside too….check out this video of it…

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…and the photos aren`t bad either….

..that`s Harry sitting on the gravel bar down below working on cracking open more geodes..that is where he found the orange-red crystal lined one too…

…shortly after I filled a second bucket full and returned to my truck, we had a nice rainshower come down and soak us even better than we already were soaked in sweat…this one was really refreshing tho…so I was okay with it…and after that, Harry, David, Fred, and I headed to the Green River out of Stanford to check out recommended collecting sites there…we secured permission from nearby landowners before accessing the river in two spots…the first spot was pretty barren of geodes so we didn`t stay long there. The second spot was much better and we found quite a few, but most were solids, so we opted to find yet another location for Monday morning`s hunt….we drove back to the Bright Leaf where I dropped Harry off, he said we would discuss Monday`s location at supper that evening, then Onyx and I headed to our hotel to clean up and rest up a bit before supper. 

I decided to try and call the Quarry Manager of the quarry northwest of there, and his wife answered the phone on the third ring and handed the phone to him…he told me it would be okay if we came over there on Monday morning and said he would meet us at the gate at 9 am…I told him what I would be driving and told him there would prob be around ten of us. I then called Larry Huffman and let him know, he said he would let Harry know and they would check with everyone at supper to see what they wanted to do. I then let Slade, David, and Fred know too. When I arrived at the Bright Leaf for supper, Slade met me out in the parking lot and told me that some wanted to go to Kings Mountain and some wanted to go to the quarry, so seven of us got up the next morning, met at the Baymont Inn, and headed out at 7 am, figuring we had at least an hour and 45 min drive to the quarry…we made it there just fine, arriving at the gate about ten minutes before Dorsey the Quarry Manager arrived. He asked us what we were looking for there and we let him know we were interested in crystals and pretty ones if possible…he laughed and said there were plenty of crystals to choose from in at least two pits of the quarry. He took us to the first pit, which looked alot like limestone quarry walls here in Missouri…..as we were driving down a gravel slope into the pit, a bright red fox took off across the pit from left wall to right wall like a streak of lightning, bounding up and over the boulders and over the wall…he was moving on and too fast for me to grab my camera and shoot him….but this is the wall that he flew up and over like it was nothing…

…as we pulled up and took a closer look at the walls, we were able to spot  some large calcite vugs in the wall, as well as boulders on the ground….Dorsey pointed out a few large ones and then turned us loose…

…Slade and David headed over to the small blast pile in the left corner and started finding crystals almost immediately, mainly in boulders on the ground…

…here are a few I spotted and photographed in the wall on the left side….

…and discovered some were pink dolomite and there were some with small quartz balls…here is the first video I shot there…

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Slade let me know I should walk over and photograph the small boulder that David spotted with a nice vug…when I got over there, David said the vug that Slade found was even better, so I photographed it first next to a blue five gallon bucket for a size comparison…

…and closer up for effect….

WOW…is all I could think of….way to go Slade !! 🙂  David helped him extract it with his saw and then used the saw on his boulder to get his vug out.

In the meantime, Richard was moving along the wall back toward the entrance, and Laura and Shelda were checking out the wall on the right of where we all parked….

…and here is a plate that she found checking out the wall over there….

…and while I was checking out the wall to the right of the entrance slope…I discovered several chunks of calcite, orange in color…including this huge and thick plate…it did not go home with any of us…

…I did however take several smaller chunks home with me and they were just as pretty. After about 90 minutes in this first pit, Dorsey took us over to the second pit and pointed out the lower walls, which were dark brown in color, contained many vugs of several different crystals…

…while Slade and David headed initially to the boulder piles in the middle, I headed to the walls to check out the vugs…they were much more accessible in this pit, easier to reach for one thing, and very pretty with some loose crystals inside that I could reach into and pull out…within minutes I had my apron completely stuffed full of them…on the way to the boulder pile, Slade and David came upon this huge calcite vug in the top of a boulder near the wall….

 

…and a pink dolomite vug nearby as well, that was also not accessible to us….

 

…while they were then checking out the boulders in the center pile, I walked on down the wall and found a huge pink dolomite vug in the wall, and was able to pull out several pieces and one big ball of pink dolomite crystals…

 

….then I called Slade over to work the pocket so he could take some home to his daughters who were not able to make this trip…

…he got what he could get out of it and then it looked like this…..

 

…I then wandered over to the boulder pile in the center where David was trying to saw off a corner of a boulder where a vug was calling to him…and found several boulders with nice dogtooth crystals inside them in boulders nearby….

 

 

…and soon after that, Richard asked David to help him cob down a boulder that he found with some nice vugs, so we headed over to the parking area….

…where we also found Fred cobbing down some nice vugs in boulders that he found in the blast pile in front of our vehicles…including some calcite crystals that were orange and white and very irridescent looking….to the point they were almost jumping off the rock right at ya…

…I spotted another boulder with a vug of the same looking crystals…way too big a boulder to take home and unable to extract the vug as well…so I settled for the photo of them instead….

…and here is the second video shot at the quarry…..

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…by now it was noontime and getting very warm and humid out there…Slade decided he needed to get on the road headed home to North Carolina…Richard and his crew felt the same way…and Fred needed to head toward Texas…Dorsey led us over to the bathrooms and break room where they could change into dryer clothing to make their drives home…

David and I decided to check out one more pit that was available before we headed for home…so Dorsey led us over to it….

…..and we walked up the small hill on the right side of this photo below to check out the berms and walls….

….and yes that is a boat in the photo down the hill a bit…Dorsey said they had monsoon a few months ago and that pit below filled with water, nearly forty feet deep, and took three months to dry out….not far up the berm David spotted a rectangular black rock with small yellow fluorite cubes on it, very pretty, they were bright yellow…I didn`t have my camera at that point with me, so I did not get a photo of it…hopefully David will take some and send to me so I can put in here. We walked on up to the high walls, discovered a cave that appeared to be pretty good sized, in the middle of the high wall…no we did not go over to check it out and that was mainly because we were getting tired fast due to the mounting heat and humidity…the sun was really beating down on us by then, and maybe due to the fact that a huge vulture came flying out of the cave as we walked up to it…nahhh that couldn`t be the real reason….:) 

We decided we were not going to be able to find anything better up there, so we returned to our trucks and drove back to the break room to thank Dorsey for allowing us to rockhunt there…I gave him a sack of work socks that Larry Huffman had provided to me on Saturday morning at the Danville Quarry…and he invited us back next year…I think we are going to take him up on that offer. 🙂

David and I headed home afterward, he driving back to northern Georgia and I headed toward Missouri…Onyx and I got home safe and sound about 4:30 pm, and I heard from everyone else that they arrived home safe and sound as well. Now to catch up and clean up and post some more photos soon !!  🙂

Abigail Comes to Visit

I received word that drilling activity was happening during the last week of July and that blasting could take place by the end of that week, and after letting all my nearby rockhound friends know, I started hearing from those that were interested in going…namely Chuck Reed, Nathaniel Reid, and even Abigail Evans from Nashville. Abbi believed she was healed up enough from her serious back injury that occurred back in December, and decided to drive up on Saturday morning, July 28th to visit and go rockhunting with us. Chuck and Nathaniel could not go on Saturday, so we decided to meet at Eminence on Sunday morning early…and I took Abbi to the Secret Spot Quarry on Saturday morning. She and I had a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel and then headed out to the quarry…by the time we headed that way, she wasn`t feeling very well, possibly due to eating food not approved for her diet. I told her just take it easy and if she needed to leave for a bathroom break, that would be fine.

We arrived about 2 pm and once out of my truck and looking across the water hole at the wall, I noticed even more rock pulled out from the base of the wall since the week before. I also noticed what appeared to be several openings in the wall near the base of it, and all along the length of it…

 

….what appeared to be several pockets including one potentially large one in the middle of the wall at the base…seen above in the lower left hand corner…below in the middle of the wall…. just staring back at me….

….and I began to get excited about what type of day it was going to be. I had my boots on and all I had to get was my apron on as well as grab my mini mattox, wraps and bucket and start that direction…I took the right side along the edge of the water, and as I neared the area of the wall where I found a nice pocket a few weeks before, I nearly stepped on this cluster….

…let me rephrase that…this beautiful cluster…and since I am in the habit of looking around when I find something this nice in amongst a lot of ugly rock, I did exactly that, made a 360 degree turn and look movement and immediately spotted two more large clusters like this as well as multiple single crystals and some twins and triples too…EUREKA !!!!  I looked around for Abbi and spotted her heading my way but slowly and surely, but once there, she didn`t stay long, as her stomach was not doing well so she headed for the nearest bathroom spot. She left me her bucket and I began to fill it with many crystals just in case. I looked up on the wall above the area of crystal filled debris and spotted what looked like a potential pocket to me…top of the next photo where the hole in the all is located…sure looked like a pocket to me…and crystals outside it and just below it really just cemented the idea for me…

…in fact, there were crystals dangling along the rock wall all the way down to the debris pile below, that I was standing in the middle of….you can be sure I was very careful where I stepped and how little I moved around then….I stepped back to the edge of the water figuring it would be safer there, but then looked down and spotted several small clusters in the water, pulling them free and placing them in our buckets for safekeeping. here is the first video I shot as well, click on the DSC_0033 and then click on the link that pops up starting with http://www.jwjrocks.com/ and ends with DSC_0033 and then a Windows Media Viewer Window should pop up…

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I also dug down into the debris pile and rescued several small clusters and combos for about 20 minutes, then began to work my way up the pile and along the wall to the base of the potential pocket….

…notice the druse on the left side in and around those big rocks on the left side ?  make note of that and in a few minutes, those will be come clear to you as well as it was to me….I climbed up on that debris pile after setting a few pieces of the dolomite up there to stabilize my footing, and then began to dissect the opening of the pocket…

As soon as I opened up the entrance to the pocket, after picking up all those loose crystals at the base of the opening, I knew I was going to have my hands full. There were gorgeous poker chips attached to beautiful bubbley gray druse that was in turn, attached to the walls and ceiling of the pocket….

…and then there is that pile of loose crystals inside the pocket along the floor of it…I knew I would have to carefully pick thru that to fully collect this pocket the correct way…time consuming, but it`s a good thing I did it that way, as there were several small dogtooths in amongst that pile of crystals and pieces of the roof plates that apparently came down during the blasting. Here is the second video I shot soon after this….

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BTW, here are the two entrance rocks that were guarding the pocket opening, note the gray bubbles of druse that match up with the druse you saw a few photos back….

…it was a while before Abbi returned from her bathroom break and when she did, she stayed close to her suv and wandered along the edges of the piles surface collecting only.

…and she photographed me and Onyx a few times as well….

I remained and collected the pocket and continued to wrap and put some in her bucket as well as mine…here is another look inside the pocket…you can see I had sorted thru and cleaned out the initial pile of crystals at the front of the pocket interior, now I was back to a second pile and once I sorted through it, I was barely able to reach the third pile at the very back of the pocket…down to my fingertips on the reach, so I decided to take a break, go back to my truck for another bucket and more wraps, some gatorade, and get my handrake which would give me an extra foot of reach….

and another video showing this as well….

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Soon after I had my bucket filled and so I took it back to my truck, and took a photo of the pocket from there…Abbi`s bucket remaining below the pocket….

This large crystal in the image below, was nearly at the very back of the pocket, I wrapped it up after pulling it out with the aid of my hand rake, and put it in Abbi`s bucket…I have so many large crystals like this, I figured she would prob love to have it for her collection….

It took me another hour to reach the back of the pocket and pull out the remaining loose crystals that were inside, using the hand rake to reach and pull many of them out…there was one huge cluster of bright yellow poker chips attached to a big and heavy plate of large bubble of pretty gray druse, here it is all cleaned up…

…and this next small plate with dogtooths attached at both ends of it, came out of the second pile of loose crystals inside the pocket….

many of the dogtooths found in the pocket as well….

here is a flat of the combos I pulled out of the pocket when I was sorting thru the second pile inside the pocket….many attached to that bright gray sparkley druse….

 

…and several others attached to a yellow druse….

….here is the pocket emptied out…it only took me a few hours to clean it out….

Abbi wandered over about the time I finished cleaning out the pocket to see what was inside her bucket…I photographed her from the truck as I was putting some yard rocks in the bed of my truck….

we got out of there shortly after, and headed back to town…after checking into the hotel, she decided to drive over to CB and get a light salad for her supper. I headed home to clean up and then went to our Mexican Restaurant for a late supper, and then bed…we were going to be getting up early to drive to Eminence and would need all the rest we could get…I could only hope she did the same. Here are some of her beautiful photos from that day….

Great Job Shooting Abbi !!

The next morning, after I got up and was nearly ready to go, I looked out front and saw Abbi parked in front of my house, dome light on and she appeared ready to go as well. I got my truck packed, Onyx inside and away we went toward Eminence, stopping only for gas at the Phillips. We made good time getting down there, stopping off at the deli at the Sinclair Station before driving on over to the quarry, and arriving just ahead of Nathaniel and Chuck, they were 10 to 15 minutes behind us. As we pulled in, I parked to the right of the new blast pile on the east side of the quarry….

We all spread out and began searching the pile for pretty crystals…Chuck and Nathaniel wandered over to the west side of the pile, which stopped on top of the little hill behind the main rock crusher…he found some huge boulders over there full of green and brown poker chip vugs and was able to harvest some for his collection. Nathaniel worked his way over to and down the wall to the west side of the coved area, where he found a new dogtooth pocket, he came and borrowed my ladder so he could get to it more safely. I found a nice vug half way up the pile on the east side near the wall with a nice set of black dogtooths inside, called it to Abbi`s attention but after awhile she did not think she could get up there to it, so I let Nathaniel know and he never came back to even look at it. I should have just taken it out, but I wanted to go up to the second level on the west side and see if there were any new pockets up there instead. On my way up there, I found Chuck over by the big boulder pile working on extracting some large brown dogtooth calcite crystals attached to the side of a large boulder….

Nathaniel discovered the boulder and dogtooths attached, pointed it out to Chuck, who wasted no time in trying to remove some, while talking to Abbi about rockhunting….here is Nathaniel showing me a couple of small ones that he was able to remove from a vug in that same boulder…

…and here is the pocket of calcites Chuck is working on up close…

…and one of the vugs on the left side of the boulder, that Chuck said eventually tied in with the pocket he was working on…

Chuck sharing a dogtooth cluster with Abbi above….and then he hammered on….

…while Abbi admired the cluster…

When I got up to the next level, Nathaniel was up there looking for pockets already…he wasn`t having much luck tho, he said…most were up higher, so I asked Chuck to bring my ladder up when he could and we looked higher along the wall, finding mostly shallow pockets up there…

..he did manage tho, to find some very pretty druse pieces….

I went further down the wall from him and found a few small pockets like this one…

We took off soon after, Chuck and Nathaniel headed back to St Louis area, while Abbi and I drove back to the Secret Spot Quarry for another round up there…here is what the west side of the Eminence Quarry looks like now all cleaned up…here is a video of that pocket I found up there too…

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and here is a video of Chuck hammering that boulder pocket and talking to Abbi at the same time…he was multi-tasking…

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check out those big green eyes Chuck has in the video….:)

Abbi and I started taking a look at the pockets along the base of the far wall on the other side of the big water hole, I told her to check out the bigger pocket that I had worked at the end of the day before, and take home some of those big bubbly druse clusters that resembled the grape agate clusters you see for sale from Indonesia…the gray in the pocket resembled the purple color of the grape agate…so she was checking out that pocket and I was working the pocket where the yellow rain jacket is sitting to her right…it was raining when we arrived so we wore our rain gear for maybe ten minutes, then it became so humid we had to take it off…I left my camera in the truck due to the rain…

…so you can`t see all five of the dogtooth pockets I found to the right of her….and here is a video that I shot a few min later….

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We left about an hour later, stopped off at Missouri Hick for some great BBQ, Abbi felt here stomach had returned to normal by then and then we hit the hay, completely drained of all energy by the time we got back to town. Abbi headed for her home in Nashville the next morning after a good night of rest…she decided she was going to check into the KETO diet that I have been on and lost 30 lbs from in the past year, it`s alot easier to maintain and go by. Good luck Abbi, think you will love the results as much as I did and do !!

Secret Spot Quarry on my Birthday

My birthday is July 22nd and for the past fifteen years I have always taken my birthday off from work if scheduled and gone rockhunting somewhere…when it falls on a weekend, I always go to one of the quarries, this year it was the Secret Spot Quarry that I decided to go to.  I let all my close rockhound friends know and Al was the only one that could go with me…I took it easy on him and we didn`t leave til around 6 am…we worked several pockets around the walls while Onxy did a lot of swimming in the water holes….

and we noticed the pile nearly removed from this section of the wall, so we worked our way carefully over to that section…as we did, we noticed that someone had been really nice to leave a large beach ball sized poker chip cluster laying next to the edge of the pile…I picked it up later and gave it to Al to take home as his very first yard rock. here it is….

After a few hours of searching and combing thru several pockets, we split up…Al stayed on one side of the pile when he found a large area of pretty white druse plates, he took several home with him…meanwhile I was on the other side and found a nice dogtooth pocket in the wall, and began pulling some clusters big and small out of the pocket. Al came over to assist me, bringing me some extra wraps and buckets, I let him know as soon as I had them cleaned up, I would let him pick some out to take home if he wanted. Here are a few of them all cleaned up with Iron Out a few days later…..

…and the one on the bottom in the image above, looked quite nice all by itself in the image below….

….and here is one of three larger clusters soaking in the Iron Out, has two large calcite crystals on it….

…I cleaned it up along with several pieces of wavellite that I collected back in March, while I had the Iron Out working for me…back to the quarry tho…we got out of there shortly after the dogtooth pocket as the heat was coming on strong..on the way back, despite his need to return home by 5:30 pm…he decided to stop off at Missouri Hick in Cuba and buy me a late lunch for my birthday…thanks again Al !!

New Rockhound Friends in July

Wow July was a busy month for me and really this whole year has been at times…I no sooner started my new job at the golf course and almost immediately found out I had three bosses that liked rocks…Nate who is one of my supervisors and has never been on a field trip yet, really likes them so I helped him get his collection built up a bit more since I started…Shawn, my Manager, really liked the looks of the orange dogtooths that I gave to Nate and then told me that his seven year old daughter, Miss Abby, really likes rocks and possibly fossils too…and then Dave, my Superintendent, came to me one day and started talking about geodes after I gave Nate a geode or two, and told me that he had driven past the old rock and mineral museum up by Keokuk several years ago on Hwy 61…I had to think about that one for a day, then figured out he was talking about the octagonal shaped building that Tim Scheffler`s parents had built as a rock and mineral shop, that Modot seized through eminent domain through the courts and pissed every rockhound in the country off by their shameful way of handling the situation just so they could expand Hwy 61 from a two lane to a four lane highway…I say shameful because of the way they treated Tim`s family over that situation…they could have easily gone around that beautiful rock shop and left it standing for the many generations of rockhounds that followed, to enjoy for years to come. When I asked Dave the next morning, he said yes, that was what he was thinking of, and then I gave him a geode from the Keokuk area that I had found at last year`s Geodefest, with some extra minerals inside it.

I think it was June when I found out that the seven year old son named Logan, whose Mom is one of my favorite Cracker Barrel employees, was interested in rocks, so I took his Mom Heather, a flat of druse quartz, poker chips, and some other pretties so she could give it to Logan…I did that for Miss Abby and Nate as well.

Last month in July, I found out from a local firefighter friend, that another seven year old daughter, whose Dad is a local Firefighter Captain friend of mine, was now collecting rocks and minerals, so I took him a flat of crystals to give to her and told him anytime they wanted to go rockhunting with me locally, to give me a shout. A few days later, another firefighter friend contacted me on FB and asked where he could take his new girlfriend rockhunting because she was big time into it, so I gave him some info as well.

On the 2nd of July, I received an email from a guy named Al, who lives just north of the golf course I work at, and asked if he could go rockhunting with me, after reading my blogsite about my trips and travels…I let Al know that my friend Chuck and I were going to the quarry at Eminence on Sunday, July 8th and asked if he would like to go with me and Onyx, warned him that we would be leaving quite early and he accepted the offer. That brings me to this next trip to Eminence…Al arrived at my house by 3:45 am and we transferred his digging stuff to the bed of my truck and took off by 4 am to Rolla and then south on Hwy 63…we saw a bit of wildlife on the way down, which I always take as a good sign of things to find. We arrived around 6:30 am….

…..and Chuck arrived an hour after us, I had Al working on a pocket with some poker chip calcites inside by that time…

…working the wall now exposed at the ground level after much of the last blast pile had been cleaned up and away…..

…when I walked over there, I discovered a beautiful mosaic pattern in the dried clay mud in front of Al`s position along the wall, so I took a few photos of it, never having noticed anything like that there before….

…he was hard at it, trying to get those poker chips out of the pocket too…

….while I was checking on Al, Chuck climbed on up to the second level to look for pockets up there, as soon as I let Al know to come on up and join us up above when he was finished to his satisfaction with the pocket he was working on, I went up and found Chuck working a pocket up there already….

…we both worked on several pockets and searched through a pile of crystals left below that ledge where someone had left a bunch of them behind…soon Al came up and joined us as well…when Chuck climbed up on this ledge above to work a bigger pocket, I walked behind and past him to the left and opened up another pocket in the vuggy rock wall…at first I was pulling out some beautiful druse plates, then they had poker chips attached to them, and then they immediately graduated to dogtooths attached and some were curvy plates and some were clusters…Al came over, sat down and started helping me with the pocket..I would hand one to him and he would wrap it and put it in his bucket, then the next one he would hand to Chuck, and anything I wanted I would put in my bucket next to me…we worked that pocket alone for at least an hour that way…it was chock full of beautiful crystals and druse….Chuck took these next few photos of me and Al working the pocket I found, when he returned for some water, gatorade for me, and some buckets and wraps….

…you can see the dark colored poker chips inside the pocket that I am trying to free up and pull out…the opening in the center of the pocket goes around a huge brown poker chip crystal that was probably two or three crystals blended together into one huge crystal of calcite, and that opening quickly turned to the right and went up, behind that huge crystal, so I was trying to enlarge that opening to get my hand in there easier…there was also an opening to the right of the hammer that went up as well…here is the center opening closer up….

I`m going to try and post a video here of our trip, to view it, simply click on the DSC_0357 and then click on the link that starts out with http://www.jwjrocks.com/ and ends with /DSC_0357.wmv, then the video will pop up, or should, in a windows media player box and begin playing automatically for you. 

 

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I wore out shortly after that and Chuck came down and chipped that big crystal out for us, here is the video on that, we had to take it out in pieces due to it`s size and placement in that pocket…

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we headed north and back home shortly after removing that big crystal, with about three bags full each from that one pocket. all three of us very happy with our finds for the day….I think this trip made Al`s day quite well, too, for his first field trip outing as a rockhound. 🙂

 

Paul and PJ Come Visit Missouri

Back around the first of April, I had an email from Paul and PJ, they live a few states northeast of me, and they were interested in coming down to visit and go rockhounding with me here in Missouri. Paul was asking about the Park Hills Show as well, but the timing of things on their end and mine, didn`t permit them to make it down that weekend, so they came down the weekend after the Show and I took them to the quarry in Eminence on Saturday and the Secret Spot Quarry on Sunday. We had great weather for both days..they decided to go to Eminence first and then the drive home from the Secret Spot would be shorter for them on Sunday. We arrived in Eminence to find heavy fog in the valley about 7:30 am…

….I usually arrive there much earlier in the morning, but it`s a two hour drive down there from my town and after their long drive down on Friday, they didn`t want to get up any earlier…but we had a cool morning with fog for a short time and got about five hours of digging in. PJ was ready to go as soon as she put her hard hat on, she was off and exploring…Paul and I took a bit longer to get ready, plus I took a few photos as well…

…the fog began lifting soon after we arrived, the sun burning it off from above and then we began to bake…as Paul began to take off, we spotted PJ up on the second level looking for pockets in the wall and we headed that way to join her, finding several nice dogtooth pockets shortly after….

…and this is the main area we were working, can see the newest area of activity from the left side to the right…..

…we did quite well on the left side, finding more crystal filled pockets over there as opposed to the right side where they were far and few between, the left side wall being more vuggy and where you find pockets more often. We each filled a few buckets with crystals before heading home about 2 pm…..

…..to rest up for the next day. We met at the Missouri Hick for a nice bbq supper that evening and I let them know what we could expect to find at the Secret Spot Quarry. Sunday morning we slept in a bit and arrived about 8 am, another beautiful morning and this time no fog to deal with…we had to park a ways out from the walls….

…and make our way back to the walls over some big boulders, so we took our time and watched our footing, making every step count…this is why it is so important to wear good boots, at least with ankle support and steel toed boots really help in case a boulder rolls down the slope and on to your foot…it won`t hurt as much as if you do not have steel toed boots, believe me. I showed PJ and Paul some pockets that I had worked the week before and that still had crystals inside them and they set to work on them at first….

..I also showed Paul this soda straw druse plate on this boulder down below that pocket and he got his hammer and chisel out to work the plate off the boulder….

After they worked that pocket a while and Paul took what he could of the plate off the boulder, I directed them to another dogtooth pocket that appeared to have more crystals in the back of it, so they pulled a few nice dogtooths from it after a while, here it is close up….

…and then we decided to check out a few more pockets along the wall as we were headed out later in the morning…here is Paul checking on a pocket….

…they headed for home soon after, with a seven hour drive ahead of them, stopping only for gas refills…Onyx and I stuck around about an hour longer, mainly finding only druse pockets like this one….

…pretty stuff, but hard to get out of a small pocket like that, and higher up on the wall as well…we stopped off on the way home to get some more yard rocks of druse and then headed for home…all in all, another great weekend on the books. 🙂