Arkansas Fall Trip 2019

I ran into a few surprises earlier this fall when I started planning my fall trip to Hot Springs…first, I had a hard time contacting Tony, started texting him in September and when I couldn`t reach him, I gave Shane a shout by text…heard back from him pretty quickly and the second surprise was when he then told me that he and Tony had sold the new Jessieville mine to a couple of guys new to owning a mine in the area. One he said was Bill, one of the caretakers at Miler Mountain Mine, He and a guy named Bruce, bought the mine from them…Shane told me that they were not finding what they wanted to find there, and decided to sell it…I know they hit two nice and large smoky quartz pockets, both had some damage from a seismic event that occurred millions of years ago and created some damage to the pockets, but also produced some gorgeous pale smoky colored clusters and single points that were phenom as well !! He didn`t elaborate and I didn`t press him for info, but he did provide me with a number for Bill, so I could check and see if we could still go there and collect.  When I contacted Bill later that week, he told me that he and Bruce had not been able to secure permission from the USFS to allow groups in there to dig and collect just yet…I remember it took a year for Tony and Shane to get that authorization as well. I was finally able to get in touch with Tony by mid October and found out it was okay for us to go to his Southfork Mine on Friday, the day before gun deer season. The beauty of going to his mine is that there are actually three mines on his lease…an old mine at the top with extensive tailings to dig through, an old wall up there to explore as well, and a new mine at the very top behind the old mine…and a mine halfway down the hill that he started on a few years ago and found some beautiful stuff in. I knew we would be fine going there, whoever showed up, because no matter if you are just surface collecting or hard rock mining/digging, you are going to find something that will make the trip worthwhile…some of my best finds there have been out of the old tailings at the top of the hill…and this year was going to be even better, unbeknownst to me at the time. When I got back in touch with Tony a week out from the trip, he let me know that he had blown his back out and was unable to move, so he had a good friend named Dane, that was going to meet us at the gate on Friday morning and stay with us all day…he also said Dane would bring some crystals and minerals that he had mined out in California in case we were in a buying mood…those were the 3rd and 4th surprises, and I hated like heck to hear that Tony was down and hurt like that. 

The Saturday and Sunday locations were still up in the air until a few days before we headed down there. My buddy David Hodge, the Field Trip Director for CAGMAGS, contacted me about October 1st and let me know that he might be able to arrange a trip back to the quarry at Batesville, so I let him work on that after finding out from the State Geologist, Bill Pryor, that another club had that Saturday pencilled in. David said he would contact their Field Trip Director Jean and see if we could join them that morning. He finally heard back from her a week out and was told that as long as we brought a small group, ten or less, we could join up with them. Luckily by then, I had heard from most of my group, that they were unable to make it down and we had exactly 10 or 11 going, total. Again, unbeknownst to me then, we were in for a VERY good day at the quarry that Saturday morning. So that mainly just left Sunday to fill, and I tried and tried to fill it with the trip to the Jessieville mine, but after making several attempts to reach Bill to see if they were able to secure the authorization to allow us in there, and not hearing back from him, I just stopped and then was told by friends in the area that we could prob drive over to the old Arrowhead Mine and surface collect there, as many locals do throughout the year. So I let everyone know that in the final update we could either go there, or they could go shopping as some had indicated they wanted to do, or they could sleep in and return home early.

Onyx and I got up early on Wednesday, November 6th, and headed to Rolla, turning south there on Hwy 63…I was a bit sketchy driving down super early in the dark, with the deer moving around more this time of the year, so it was light when we took off from home. I stopped at the McDonalds in Hardy, Arkansas, to give us a bathroom break, allow Onyx to stretch his legs and me to grab us a couple of sausage/egg biscuits, then we headed on down Hwy 63 to pick up Hwy 67 at Hoxie, Arkansas.

This is a shorter trip to Hot Springs, six and a half hours, as opposed to 8 hours when I drive down 44 to Hwy 71 to drop Mom off at Fort Smith. This year, she decided not to make the trip, and as it turned out, it was a good decision on her part. She normally stays and visits with her three brothers and their families, the guys at Deer Camp which is her homeplace, my Grandfather`s farm outside Waldron, where she and her siblings grew up, and a couple of miles from where my Dad was also initially born and raised. This year a huge rainstorm came in with some cold temps the first few days and so deer camp was abandoned in favor of warm and dry homes…as one ages, warm and dry is a much better option than damp and dreary in a cold camp outside. I didn`t blame them a bit.

Onxy and I made it down to Hot Springs just fine…. I talked to David a bit on the way down and he had the quarry trip set up for us, weather looked good for that day and Friday as well…that made the trip go by a bit quicker for me…talked to Patty Herman a bit on the way down too. She and Colby and Gabriella would meet us at the quarry Saturday morning, but would miss out on Tony`s mine on Friday morning, as she and Colby had to work on Friday.

Onyx and I pulled into my friend`s condo at Pretti Point about 3 pm Wednesday afternoon, this time with a couple of hours of light to unpack and rest up. We had seen some good fall color on the way down there, so I was optimistic about that…after a good rainy summer I was def expecting some, with a shoot set up later in the week while down there. By 4 pm I was famished and we headed to the Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper, and then to the Scoops, home-made ice cream place for a couple of quarts of ice cream for my nightly dessert intake. 🙂

Clouds had moved in and I didn`t get a good sunset that evening at all, rain was forecast for the next day. We had some intervals of sunlight through breaks in the clouds the next day, so I was able to capture some beautiful fall maples on the banks of the peninsula directly across from the back balcony on Lake Hamilton, before I took off to visit with my buddy Justin Baird….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Rain Storm Coming in on Thurs Morning 1107

By late morning, I had heard from my buddy Justin Baird, so Onyx and I drove over to visit with him a few hours and see what all he had in his collection so far. I was really interested in seeing some of his smoky finds as well as his Little Rock quartz collection..I was not disappointed and picked up a few from him for my collection, as he goes to some places that no one else is allowed to go to. Afterward, he joined me for supper at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet, and his girlfriend with her daughter, met us there as well. I was going to drive up that morning if the weather was good, to see a friend of mine in the Mt Ida area, and then on up to Waldron to visit with family, but with that cold and rainy weather front coming in, I decided not to do that. Driving in weather like that just wears me out.

Friday morning, I was able to get a few nice sunrise images….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Sunrise Fri Morning 1108

I had problems with my friend`s television sets in the condo, so she made arrangements with her appliance people there locally, to come by and replace the main one and check the other one while I would be gone rockhunting at Tony`s mine today. Onyx and I met up with the small crew at the Valero gas station on Higdon Ferry Road, south of Hwy 270, about 7:30 am…found out it was now a Circle K Station but they still sell Valero gas there…Julie was there with both of her daughters, and Alina Klein and her son Finn, had made the trip down to join us, with Justin going along too.

Smaller group than normal, but it looked like we were gonna have great weather and we were all excited to go up and do some collecting, so we headed west on 270 to Mount Ida. We arrived at the gate just behind Dane, who already had the gate open…he let us know that the rain from the day before had the creek up just a little, but we should be okay crossing it. Justin was the only one that experienced any problems with his small car, but nothing major luckily, by the time we all left later in the day, it had dried out just fine. We all were able to drive to the top of the hill and park, and then made out way into the mining areas to collect. After checking out the top for about an hour, Justin and I walked down the hill to the mine halfway down the hill, and discovered that Tony had dug into the side of that mine and opened up another area of pockets in the host rock…

…the yellow jeep belongs to Dane`s wife, she came up to dig as well and was there digging in the new area when we arrived…we didn`t see her because she had pulled up into the mine itself with her jeep. She was as nice and pleasant as Dane was…I found out later that they had moved to Arkansas earlier this year, from the San Diego area, tired of the woeful politics in California and decided to see if Arkansas was as nice a place to live in as they were hearing about. They said it is a very refreshing change from California, where they felt they were being taxed to death by the politicians and so far they were loving Arkansas. They had also done some extensive rockhunting out there in San Diego County…I had no clue until they told me, that there were tourmaline mines there and then Dane showed us some of his treasures from out there…he had a big cluster, the size of a beach ball, with several nice black tourmalines in a couple of vugs of the white colored albite matrix, some of the tourmalines criss-crossing each other….

…and several smaller pieces as well. He showed us a nice smoky quartz crystal cluster that was very nice as well with some greenish matrix attached to it, also from the San Diego County area…the crystals were about six inches high and every bit of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. I purchased all of them from him a few days later in Mount Ida…I have seen tourmalines before, but had absolutely none in my collection, I was mesmerized by their beauty up close. 🙂

We had a great day collecting at Tony`s mine, great weather too…Justin got down into the new pocket along Dane and his wife, and they started finding crystals laying everywhere, so I wandered down there as well, finding a huge seam of clay between two rock layers of sandstone, and after borrowing Justin`s prybar, I was able to pull some small clusters, fist sized clusters, out of the clay in the seam…I started on that wall to the right of the excavator and was using one of my pocket knives to clear out the tops of the crystal clusters and single points that I could see reflecting in the clay….

….then used the prybar to dig underneath them and pry the base of the clusters out, leaving the clay protecting them, around them to protect them until I arrived back home and could clean them up….and I can safely say now, that they look even better, pristine even, all cleaned up. 🙂 To show you how wide this seam of clay and crystals ranged, here is a photo of Justin taking a turn on the prybar to help me out….

…with his help, I was able to get several single crystals and a few nice clusters out of there…thanks again Justin…and left that seam all nice and tidy for the next person, whoever that may be. 🙂 As I took a break, I noticed Julie standing near the base of the lower mine and surveying the upper end, I think she was looking for her daughters, but prob also wondering where to look next as well…

…so that is the right side of the lower mine, and below is the left side of the mine…

After my short break, I moved over to the other side of the excavator and worked a few shallow pockets, but pulled some nifty little clusters out of them before returning to my truck with one full bucket. I found Alina and Finn in their vehicle, Finn was experiencing a stomach ache and headache, but seemed to have had a good morning collecting, as Justin and I had seen him up on top of the hill and down below as well. We all left about mid afternoon getting back across the creek without any problems and bid Dane farewell at the gate, then drove back to Hot Springs to clean up for supper at Cracker Barrel…I think Justin found his supper waiting on him so he didn`t join us there. I reminded everyone of our need to be on the road to the quarry at Batesville by 6:30 am at the latest because it`s at least a two hour drive and that can all hinge on how bad traffic is going around Little Rock. Julie decided that she and her daughters were not going up there because they didn`t find much the last time we were there. Alina decided not to drive up there as well, she has been experiencing numbness in one of her arms on long drives which also produces blinding headaches, so she and Finn stayed in the indoor pool at the Staybridge Suites instead.  I`m not sure what Julie and the girls did all day on Saturday. I captured a beautiful sunset on the return to the condo….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Friday 1108 Sunset Lake Hamilton

and there was an amazing sunrise the following morning as well….

Onyx and I were up and on the road to Batesville the next morning by 6:30 am…I stopped by the Circle K Valero Station on Higdon Ferry and did not see Justin, tried to call and text him several times but no answer to either, so we kept on driving north. I didn`t hear back from him til about 10 am, when I texted to let him know he was missing out on a great dig there, found out he had been up all night and didn`t want to drive up there on an hour of rest only. Anyone that knows Justin well, will have a good idea of what happened to him and believe me, he knows good and well how much he missed out on this trip, so please don`t rub it in if you talk to him. I heard from Patty and Colby when I was about 20 min out, they had arrived at 8:30 am and wondered where I was at…..one of Patty`s co-workers, Vicky….who is also a state Inspector, is into rock and mineral collecting as well, she and her husband drove down with them to join us on this trip. Patty inquired a week before to see if it was okay for them to come along and I said sure. 

Onyx and I arrived shortly after and found David Hodge and Sean from CAGMAGS waiting on me and my group to arrive…I got out of the truck and explained what happened, said it was just me, Patty, Colby, Gabriella, Vicky, and her husband, for the group today.

I met Jean, the Field Trip Director for the hosting club, Spring River Gem / Mineral Club, and shortly after, I had a chance to visit with Mike, the Quarry Owner once again…he sees hundreds of rockhounds each year and I was honored that he remembered me as the Missouri Calcite Rockhound.

Soon after that, Jean presented Mike with a certificate of appreciation and a geode as a gift….

We followed Mike and Bill Pryor, the Arkansas State Geologist, that is our guide there on these trips, up to the parking area that overlooks the rim of the quarry pit, that is about six to ten stories deep from that point….for a safety talk and history of the mine by Mike, the Quarry Owner…

….this is my buddy David Hodge in the photo below on the right in the red sweatshirt and white hard hat…as we listen to Bill Pryor lay down the rules for the morning dig as Quarry Owner Mike looks on….

…afterwards we took a group photo….

….and then we descended into the depths of the pit, following Bill down to the parking area near the seam……our destination was the very bottom of the pit on the far side of the quarry, that is where the calcite seam is located….

…and then Bill pointed out to us, that the quarry personnel had dug out and blasted that calcite seam open for us, it was quite narrow in scope the last time we were there and this time it was spread out over a huge area…in the photo below, everywhere you see a dirt color on the pile we are all working on, that is a sign of calcite and the back wall of that area is where the original seam is located, where calcites have to be dug out of the clay wall. That is where David and Sean headed to right away…I was on my way there but got sidetracked by all the pretty points I was seeing on the way up to the back wall, needless to say I never made it to the back wall because I had my first bucket filled in less than 20 minutes !! 

To say that we had a great day there, would be a vast understatement. I would say that we had a FANTASTIC and FRUITFUL day there….HUGE SUCCESS in finding gorgeous crystals and clusters of every size imagineable…just ask my buddy David about his finds…pretty sure everyone that was there, left very happy with their finds…

I took a photo of this tabletop sized cluster on top of a small boulder on my second trip back to the pile, returning with two more buckets this time…

…heck, we even let Bill Pryor do some collecting with us…I`m not sure they would have made room for him along that wall…they were shoulder to shoulder up there for awhile…but he managed to snag some nice ones buried in the pile that were not bad at all….

..and that is Jean on the right in the next photo….

and below is Patty on the right, collecting with a father and son team from the Spring River Club, they were doing well working on boulders with vugs and the son was doing a great job surface collecting…you could not miss in a location like this where crystals big and small were literally laying all over the place.

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 1109 Initial Video

…and here is Patty after digging out a very nice big cluster….

…but I can safety say, without a doubt, that the guy that stole the show that day was none other than my buddy David Hodge, who pulled out one beautiful dogtooth calcite crystal and cluster after another from that back wall of calcites in clay….

..here with his first one…

…and here is where he and Sean spent their morning….

…while others surface collected….

Gabriella and Patty did a pretty good job of surface collecting, she told me a few weeks ago that she had them cleaned up and came away with some winners. I was glad to hear that, think everyone did pretty good there and most would prob say they wish we could have spent another hour digging there and pulled a few more out. I am sure David Hodge would have said that. 🙂 Speaking of which, let me show you a few photos of his truly amazing dogtooths that he was able to pull out of the back wall mucky muck clay mud…nothing short of SPECTACULAR let me tell ya….here he is carrying the first BIG one down the pile to the parking area below…

…looks a little heavy here, doesn`t it ??  I told him he didn`t look too happy here and then he showed me how he really felt about it, heavy or not….

…he carried the first two down and set them in the water`s edge of a big waterhole at the bottom of the pile, then returned for more….

…take a good look at the one on the right and imagine it cleaned off, and tell me how many points you see on it….

…he brought the rest of them down to his truck, which he wisely moved over closer to the pile and waterhole….

…and then he set about washing some of the muck off to let us see the true beauty of what was underneath the mud….

…and he got some help along the way.

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 1109 David Washes off His Crystals

Some went to find him a brush, and during the wait for the brush to arrive, he discovered that his Apple watch had suffered a bit during the dig….

…yeah that looks like a casualty of the dig to me buddy…I don`t recall if he was able to clean it off and salvage it or not. He noticed it after washing off that huge dogtooth crystal cluster in the waterhole too…

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 1109 2nd Video

By far one of the funniest videos I shot was right after the one above, when Bill Pryor tried to convince us that he was going to have to cite us for muddying the waterhole waters by cleaning off David`s crystal cluster without a permit, and he was going to have to confiscate the cluster as well….good try Bill, but I don`t think you would have made it back to your suv with that cluster, buddy. 🙂

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 4th Video

Oh, remember that crystal on the right that was covered with mud and I asked if you could tell me how many points were on it ?  Well, here it is, a bit more cleaned up…and gorgeous…

…and the proud papa with it….

…and showing John Sean a double terminated crystal he found up there in the muck as well….

…simply beautiful….well done my friend…well done !!

From the bottom of the pit, we drove back up to the top of the quarry and to the next layer up, to look for fluorites and fossils laying around or in boulder vugs…by this time, most of us were too tired to do much looking or even serious collecting and since we had at least a 2 hour drive back to Hot Springs, we took off around 1:30 pm. Vicky and her husband headed straight to Hot Springs, while the rest of us followed David down to the west side of Little Rock to look for a quartz location that Bill had told us about. Keep in mind, that the last time he had been there was about 25 yrs ago and that area was not nearly as populated as it is now…luckily, David knew the history of the area, and was able to translate the visual landmarks Bill gave us into real buildings and landscapes…the landscape we were seeking, however, turned out to be an extremely steep and slick rock surface, with a high fence installed around it…there were visual veins of quartz there tho. It made for a nice adventure tho, and soon enough we headed on down to Hot Springs to rest up before our Sunday adventure.

We got back to the condo just in time for another beautiful sunset….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Sunset Sat Evening 1109

…and from there, Onyx and I went inside to clean up before meeting the group at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet for a late but great supper. I let Alina know we were going to the old Arrowhead Mine area the  next morning, she and Finn were gonna get an early start toward the next morning and hope for a rain free drive home. Julie and her daughters decided to go to one of the Coleman mines instead. Vicky and her husband decided to go try out Miller Mtn Mine instead, which was probably a wise choice on their part.

So the next morning, the rest of us headed up to Mt Ida and drove down the old road to the old Arrowhead Mine, which has been reclaimed for years. A few years ago, tho, the USFS added some rock to the road in, from the Mauldin Mountain Quarry, including some small pieces of wavellite in the mix…which was found by several of the locals who apparently still go out there to surface collect as well as deer and squirrel hunting. We saw a few pieces of wavellite on the way in and some were still in decent shape. It was a bit windy on our arrival and we parked outside the gate….

….which was open, where another pickup was parked as well. We figured they were prob deer hunters so we tried to be as quiet as we could. We headed up the road, trying not to make any noise until we were nearly to the mine…it`s about a 20 min hike to the nearest edge of the mine, where you can see small pines and gravel piles….at the far left edge of this clearing behind Colby, who is walking toward me on the right side…and down on the left by Patty who is checking the right side of the road…

 

We walked on down the road a little ways, til we arrived at this spot….

…where the forest road turns right and goes up a little rise and through a heavily wooded area….

….then drops down into a low area, the old mine pit, now heavily overgrown with young pines, appears on the right side….

Right before the road turns to the right, there is a rocky bank on the right that leads one into the old mine pit if they choose to wander down that trail and into the old pit area, as Patty decided to do, surface collecting along that gravel bank wall….

…one could even surface collect the roadway as well and find crystals here and there, keeping a sharp eye for them, and some wavellite pieces too…

…I even found a few nice clusters of crystals in the pine needles of the forest ground between the roadway and the pit area. We found a nice cache of plates and clusters near the back of the pit, right off the roadway, where I met a deer hunter as he was leaving in his truck…he got tired of the wind, which was pretty chilly that morning, and when one is sitting up in a tree stand, it`s even colder up high. He said it was hitting him the face and he had taken all of it he could stand, was driving over to a better location out of the wind a few miles away. He said his brother was parked down by the gate, and he mentioned this pile of plates and clusters to me before he took off. By this time, Patty, Colby, and Gabriella had caught up with me and we checked out the pile…they were a bit weathered, but some were very nice as well…we picked up a few pretty plates of golden healers which just sat there and sparkled in the sunlight. I took off about 11:30 am, headed back to the condo to meet a friend…Patty and Colby decided to head over to Miller Mountain Mine to join up with Vicky and her husband. I believe they were going to try and get some shopping in before heading home the next day. 

Onyx and I stayed a couple of extra days to rest up before heading back home…I met Dane up at Mt Ida the next morning to purchase the large black tourmaline cluster, and smokey crystal combo, and he threw in several smaller tourmaline pieces too. Dane also told me about a beach ball size piece of mahogany obsidian he had for sale, wondered if I might know someone who would like to have it…I said I have a buddy near Fort Smith that LOVES obsidian and has worked with mahogany obsidian in his work, and might be interested in it. Dane sent me some photos of it…

…that I forwarded to my buddy, Adam…and he loved it…I heard the other day that he picked it up from Dane near Mena and was very happy with it. 🙂

It was a cold and rainy day, all day long, in Hot Springs that day, farther north they were dealing with some snow and ice in northern Arkansas. It finally cleared off that afternoon late in the day, and on the way to the new steakhouse, I photographed this huge tree right outside the condo, that really lights up the entire complex there….

Tuesday was yet another very cold day, so naturally, Onyx and I did very little, just rested up basically, got caught up on some reading and napping…the sun was shining much of the day but did little to warm up the atmosphere down there…about mid morning, I noticed movement out on the lake and spotted this NUT in a pontoon boat zipping across Lake Hamilton…the very definition of crazy right there, folks !! 

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Monday Morning 19 Degrees Some Nut Boating on Lake Hamilton

 

Right before we headed up to the steakhouse, I shot this sunset…a line of ducks swimming in a line right by us as we were standing there admiring the last of the setting sun`s rays over Lake Hamilton….

I ate at the new steakhouse again, on the north side of 270 Bypass off Central Avenue, Texas Roadhouse, getting there early this time, as the other night it was packed by 5 pm with the line outside the door. That night I went instead to Outback Steakhouse, and my meal there was not as good as it has been in the past. I ate at Texas Roadhouse 2 nights down there and it was excellent each time. The next morning, Onyx and I were up at sunrise, to do some final packing, and I shot the sunrise, too….

…twice, as the first time I stepped out on the balcony, was a little too cold for me in bare feet. 🙂 The second time was much better in my shoes….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Sunrise Wed Morning 1113

…I stopped by to visit with my buddy Robert Kuhn, before heading for home…he told me that if I didn`t find a new job for the winter season, let him know and I could come back down and help him work at the mine if I wanted to. 🙂 We headed for home about 9:30 am and rolled back into Sullivan by 4:30 pm. Had a great time with good friends, good finds, purchases, food, and rest once again. 🙂

 

 

Batesville Again and Mt Ida in Late March 2019

Two weeks after driving down to join MAGS members at the Batesville Quarry, Onyx and I got up early on Saturday morning, March 30th and drove down to Batesville once again, this time my group would be joining up with members of CAGMAGS  at the quarry, and since they were gracious enough to allow us to join them, I invited them to join us the next day at the quartz mines near Mt Ida. Onyx and I had another good trip down, this time I decided to drive down Hwy 63 to Hardy, Arkansas, where we then turned south on Hwy 412/167. Between Mammoth Springs and Hardy, I discovered that road crews had transformed several areas of Hwy 63 into a much straighter line and a few extra lanes here and there in each direction. They still have their work cut out for them between Ash Flat and Cave City along 167, especially around Evening Shade, but at least they seem to be addressing those areas more now, as 167 is now four lanes from Cave City to Bald Knob.

I had word from about fifteen in my group that they would meet us at the parking lot of the quarry around 8:30 am…Fred Mahaffey and two friends from East Texas, Julie Parkhans from Nashville, David Bruce from Northern Georgia, Chuck Reed from St Louis, Mary and Pete from Cincinnatti, David Hodge had the shortest trip from Heber Springs, Bill Gorham and his daughter from Toledo, Ryan & his Dad Michael Maher from Iowa, Justin Baird from Hot Springs, and Paul and PJ from Kalamazoo. Most were staying in Hot Springs hotels, while a few of us were staying at the remodeled Joplin Inn and Suites.

I stopped off at the Phillips 66 on the north side of Batesville, a couple of miles north of the turnoff to the quarry, they had a decent price on gasoline there, prices were at least a quarter a gallon higher than my trip two weeks prior, all the way down there and this station was about fifteen cents a gallon less than all the other higher prices. I figured I was getting about 23 miles to the gallon the way down there, which was pretty good for a four door pickup. We drove on over to the quarry and parked near the office, hadn`t been there very long before others began showing up…I passed an suv on the way up the drive that I didn`t recognize, turned out to be Fred and his crew from Texas. Chuck texted me to let me know he was about 30 to 45 min out, coming down Hwy 67 from Poplar Bluff and was going to make some connecting roads over to Hwy 167, he wound up arriving before some others did. Justin had texted me earlier as I was driving down 63 in Missouri to let me know he was leaving Hot Springs to drive up, his drive about two hours shorter than ours, and some spent the night before in Batesville at area hotels, which are only about a mile south of the quarry. Soon after much of the CAGMAGS crowd arrived, Bill Pryor, the Arkansas State Geologist, who was our guide once again, arrived and after signing the paperwork for the owner of the quarry, we all drove up to the scenic overlook of the quarry for our group safety talk….

 

 

Bill is in the second photo in the white hard hat talking…while Mike Lowe is the owner in the first photo in the red shirt and white hard hat. Mike explained the history of the quarry and went over the safety rules with explanations for each rule, letting us know they had a perfect safety record and would like to keep it that way. This is a quarry where rockhounds are required to wear hard hats, safety glasses, and steel toed boots at all times on the grounds of the quarry, and to exercise good common sense at all times. 

Bill explained the geology of the quarry and area, let us know that the area where calcites could be found was in a fault zone in the quarry and consisted of a small area in the quarry, which is huge and deep….first photo is the south wall to the left and looking west straight ahead in the view….

 

…and the next photo shows the north wall on the right side…

 

At the end of the safety talk, we all headed to our vehicles….

….and followed the Owner down to the bottom floor of the quarry and parked…the weather was overcast with rain threatening from the west, radar indicated it was on the way from the west and we might have a few hours of digging time before the skies opened up. The only problem with that, is that later this afternoon, a cold front would also sweep through with or after the rain and temps were expected to drop to the mid 30`s…as my buddy Jim Bartle likes to say often….LOVELY….just lovely !! 

So we wasted no time in walking over to the calcite fault zone….the tan colored dirt area on the other side of the pond….

….shown above, and this shows one just how small an area this fault zone actually is in relation to the rest of the size of the quarry…

 

and many began digging in to find crystals specifically in the tan colored dirt area, while many others found crystals that were again laying all over the sloped area. On this trip, with rain closing in on us, I didn`t take my camera over there with me. Within two hours, we had one shower after another coming down in waves, some of us had good rain gear and others did not. We had let Bill know that we preferred to stay down in the calcite fault zone as long as possible this trip, so he did just that…the last of us left there after three hours…we were on our way out when David showed me a nice one he had dug out of the gooey clay mud pocket wall…

…and on this trip, let me tell you, I saw at least half a dozen crystals come out of there the size of beach balls and larger…yes I said LARGER…one or two so large that David Bruce, who found them and was taking them home with him, was given permission by Bill to drive over there on the ledge road to pick them up, rather than attempt to carry them down that rocky slope without damaging them, because by then the rocks were slick with rainwater. They were also heavy enough that David had good help over there to load them into his truck. We stopped off at the top of the quarry walls to check the shelves around the crusher, where quarry employees had placed several calcites they found down below…I found a few nice small calcites up there to take home, there were some in many different sizes up there to select from.

Again much appreciation to the Owner Mike for allowing us to come to the quarry and collect there. 

Many had already headed south toward Hot Springs and soon Chuck, David Bruce, and I were headed that way as well…David dropped out at Hot Springs where he was staying, while Chuck and I drove on up the road to the Joplin area, our hotel across Hwy 270 from the entrance to Mountain Harbor Resort. Onyx and I stopped off at Burl`s Country Smokehouse on the way up Hwy 270 at Crystal Springs, to get a couple of smoked ham sandwiches, for lunch the next day, then drove on up and got checked in at the Joplin Inn and Suites…this was the former Colonial Inn, purchased a couple of years ago by Mountain Harbor Resort and remodeled to nice rooms with nice furniture, tiled walk in showers, new heating/ac units, and free wifi provided. There is also a suite and a house available for rent on site, they were remodeled as well. I never stayed there before the remodel, but can safely say that Mtn Harbor always furnish their cabins, condos, lodge rooms, cabanas, and suites very nicely at the Resort on the Lake. 

A little while later, Ryan and Michael Maher arrived as well. We got cleaned up and drove over to the Lodge Restaurant for supper, good food and great company, plus a nice scenic view out over the lake as well. Chuck and I had a great time talking to Ryan and Michael about our mutual friend John Oost, who had driven back out to New Mexico to take possession of inventory from an old rock shop out there.

We wanted to try and work in some time looking for wavellite this trip, however a week out, I learned that the wavellite location remained posted and patrolled by local law enforcement, so we decided to skip it until we can either return there legally or find another location for it. 

The next morning we had breakfast at the Lodge Restaurant, Chuck leaving his suv at the motel and rode with me and Onyx… and then we headed west on Hwy 270 to Mount Ida, to the Subway Store, which was the designated meeting place for my group and CAGMAGS members who were going quartz crystal hunting with us. They have a pretty good sized parking lot there and since Subway opens early, I figured if anyone needed a sandwich for lunch later, Subway was a good place to get one or more. Bill Gorham from Toledo, pulled in shortly after we arrived, with his daughter and came over to talk to us…he is a truck driver full time and you can tell from his emails and the way he talks in person, he loves to dig and collect crystals and minerals. After the CAGMAGS crew arrived, I let everyone know where we were going, to Tony`s Southfork Mine for the morning hours and then about 1 pm, we would drive an hour over to the Jessieville area, to Tony and Shane`s new mine, where we would be digging through the tailings there, as we did back in the fall. Going by the condition of the road last fall, I let those in two wheel drive vehicles, know that they likely would not be able to make it up to the top of the hill and would have to park near the 3 yr old mine halfway down the hill from the top. Once we arrived at the mine gate, finding it open meaning Tony was likely up at the mine waiting on us, I again let those in the two wheel drive vehicles know where to park and then those of us in four wheel drive vehicles, headed on up the hill. I was surprised to find the road was in much better shape this time around, not muddy for one thing, and fairly solid and smoother…the only problem we had was that no one stopped down below to park, they all just kept coming to the top, so instead of having anyone back down the hill, with assistance from Tony, we made do and parked folks where we could do so at the edge of the forest and along the road. I was able to get Paul and PJ up at the top of the hill by the new mine, as PJ needed all the help she could get, saving her strength for the entire day and two mine locations. PJ is recovering from cancer treatments, which as many of you know, can really take it out of you, sap you of all your strength as you work your way through all the treatments, and take many years to recover from…I say this not from personal experience of it myself, but from seeing my Mom go thru and recover from it, as well as many firefighter, dispatcher, police officer, photographer, and rockhound friends who have personally walked through it. I was pleasantly surprised when I received word from Paul letting me know that they would both be there this trip, deciding to fly down this time around to avoid the long drive from Michigan. I really didn`t expect them to return til later this year…to me this shows that not only are they both dedicated rockhounds, but it also shows alot of bravery on their part to venture out so soon after and live life to its fullest !! I didn`t get a chance to talk to them much this trip, but WELL DONE you two, hope you had a great time down there and hope to see you on the next trip. 🙂 Chuck grabbed his hammer and chisels and headed for the big boulder covered with crystals on top of the hill…I grabbed my bucket and tools, and headed up on top to the new dig area that Tony is currently working on…found Mary already down in that pit surface collecting and checking out the boulders down there…Michael found his way down there soon after and Mary pointed out crystals on one boulder that he decided to work over and see if he could liberate some from it….

In the meantime, I was working the walls behind the two of them, looking for crystal points and clusters, found a few, where they were sticking out from plain site and dug them out, luckily the dirt they were in was nice and soft to dig into….and soon both pockets of my apron were filled and I had to go looking for my bucket…here is what I was seeing in the dirt walls….

..and this next one was a real beauty !!  loved digging it out as soon as I photographed it too…

While wrapping these up and emptying out my apron, I looked up and spotted Ryan digging around not too far away and snapped a few photos of him…

…then I continued down the wall finding even more pretty single points partially exposed in the clay dirt….

…and this next one was in a vein of quartz, the crystal you see exposed turned out to be a nice medium sized cluster….

…as noon came and passed, we started getting ready to head out and over to Jessieville to the new mine…everyone had a quick lunch and started packing up a bit…

…that is Tony in his white Powerwagon on the right talking on his cell…get a great signal there at the top of the hill, even on my phone with Verizon….that`s John in the orange hard hat and jeans walking down out of the new digs center of the photo, he is with CAGMAGS…

…Michael asked me to take a photo of him and Ryan, as I was getting a bite of lunch for Onyx and I….

Once we got everyone turned around and headed down the hill, Chuck and I were able to back up and leave as well…last ones out…I had everyone pull off the road just past the gate so I could lead them over to the new mine. We made the trip over there without any problems and drove down to the end of the road to the location we had dug at back in November, finding that hole filled in and the tailings spread out in a huge area, so we spread out and began searching and digging, finding some nice crystals and small clusters there as well…many of the ones I found had a nice smokey tint to them…

…about an hour into the search, we started finding more nicer stuff at the back area of the tailings….

When we first arrived, Shane followed us to the old mine dig area and showed us some clusters he had dug up earlier in the morning down near the old smokey location, told us we were welcome to go down there and collect too if we wanted to. About two hours in, a few of us walked down there to that location and checked it out…

…thankfully, Chuck was able to take a few photos of me digging along with David Bruce and David Hodges down in the smokey pit area….

 

….we didn`t find much until we spread out to the erosion ditches, we then found a few small clusters and single points laying around waiting to be discovered…those went home with a few of us…when we got done and returned to the original area, we found that many had left, some headed home and some headed back to their hotels, leaving out the next day or two. The CAGMAGS crew had headed home and it was down to Ryan, Michael, Chuck, and I, so we headed back to the hotel to clean up and then had to resort to supper at Subway as it was the only food place still open at 7:30 pm…by that time of the day, none of us had a problem with a good sandwich and chips for supper. 🙂 

The next morning Chuck was the first one up and on the road about 6 am…Ryan and Michael asked me about a good rockshop to go to, so I recommended Bill and Faith`s Blue Moon Crystals Rockshop, about two miles east of the hotel on Hwy 270, so I checked with Bill Sunday evening and he said they would be expecting us about 9 am…after another good breakfast at the Harbor Lodge, we headed over there and found some great stuff for sale, as usual. After about an hour visit with Bill and Faith, Onyx and I headed for home, as did Ryan and Michael…their trip was much longer than mine, but they let me know later that night that they arrived safe and sound about dusk. All in all, another great trip with good friends, good food, and good hunting !! 

 

 

 

 

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 pack for my trip to Arkansas this year, was my heavy winter coat…I recall thinking I might need it if it turned cooler 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, 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…

DSC_0054

….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….

My Mineral Rock Gardens

I often get asked about my rock gardens, what I have in them and how big they get…last fall I planted several small beds of tulips and other spring flowering bulbs in all of my rock gardens and this spring I moved rocks around by type and location where found…and photographed the results when the spring flowers started blooming. This first image shows the rock garden on the west side of my shed, containing purple fluorites from western Kentucky, some of my wavellite from southern Arkansas, and many geodes from central Kentucky and the Keokuk area as well as a few quartz clusters from southern Arkansas mines…

…and as you can see, it mainly contains yard rocks…and some lillies at the top and on the west side as well….where my propane tank sits, I have Eminence yard rocks and some hybrid tulips….

the garden on the east side of the shed contains more flowers but starts near the shed door with a bed of lillies surrounded by a variety of beautiful crystals….

and on the far side of that garden is another bed of lillies surrounded by quartz clusters….

and just a little ways away in the curve of that garden is a nook of geodes….

…and more hybrids in yet another garden….

Hopefully that gives you a better idea of what my rockgardens look like. 🙂

Fall of 2017 in Arkansas…PHENOMENAL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas in July 2017

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

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

      

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and this unusually shaped cluster of crystals….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arkansas Spring 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Springs Arkansas November 2016

Onyx and I were up and at em as they say, early Tuesday morning, Nov 8th, preparing to south to southern Arkansas for our annual fall vacation…as we stepped outside to finish packing the truck, I noticed a gorgeous sunrise in the skies above…..

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….my Mom always travels with me down there and we drop her off at Fort Smith, usually to stay with one of her ” little brothers ” to visit with everyone in the area, but this year we dropped her off at the airport to pick up a rental suv so she could stay at the Marriott and visit with her older sister who was driving in from California.  One of my Springfield area friends was going to go with me on this trip, but he was mugged the night before, the thief stole everything from him including his phone, and I was unable to contact him once we got down there, so had to continue on without him. He was in need of a good vacation before that and we motored on down the road hoping that he could borrow someones phone and call me before we got too far down the road to turn around and return to pick him up…unfortunately, that never happened and still to this day, I have not been able to contact him, so can only hope for the best. I have discovered that its nearly impossible to find out anything about anyone in that area, for some reason.

We arrived in Fort Smith around noon and after dropping Mom off, Onyx and I drove over to Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to see my buddy Adam Lagaveen. Adam and I have become good friends in the past couple of years, he is into quartz crystal collecting, and while he likes other pretty rocks and minerals too, his passion these days is for knapping Native American knives and arrowheads out of native rock…he also uses glass too but he is especially talented when it comes to rainbow and mahogany obsidian and novaculite too. He heat treats this material which really brings out the colors and makes the minerals easier to work with, from what I have gathered over the years about knapping. It has taken over his garage and work area at his house and slowly but surely, he has allowed me to take over his older collection of quartz crystals and minerals to make more room for his knapping collection. Today he was a bit tight on his schedule, so I picked up some more quartz from him, some wavellite as well and a tub of Iowa geodes that he had laying around, as well as a big chunk of petrified wood that was in his way. It was great visiting with him again, as always, and we were soon on our way back to Fort Smith to pick up Hwy 71 south.

After stopping off in Waldron to fill up my truck at the Phillips 66 there, we headed on south to Hot Springs…Waldron is the area that my Mom and Dad were both born and raised at…on dairy farms about ten miles west of town out near the Oklahoma line in the mountain valleys. Its an area that I have become fond of visiting when down there and we have many relatives and friends in that area. Onyx and I arrived at the condo that I rent each time I go to Hot Springs, located on Lake Hamilton near the Sunbay Resort, just after sunset…I dont mind getting there in the dark anymore since I know the area pretty good now…it was a little daunting the first time there, but am very comfy with it these days. Onyx seems to remember it well too, he runs around the area lawns there very knowingly and seems to remember we are going up the stairs to the upstairs unit as well. I dont even put him on a leash there anymore, he is so used to it. I really enjoy this condo, as it has a balcony that is right out over Lake Hamilton and the view out there during the day and the nighttime, is just phenomenal…here is the standard night view….

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As soon as we unpacked, Ray Roth, my friend from New Orleans who meets me there each year to go quartz crystal collecting with me, texted to let me know that he had snacked all the way up there on his trip, so he wasnt going to join me at supper. Onyx and I soon headed to Habachi Sushi Buffet, near the mall in Hot Springs…not for the sushi, but for the great buffet they have there, serving American and Chinese food, plus a sushi bar if you are into that type of food…I am not…and one can eat there for ten bucks a meal. Afterwards, I stopped by the Scoops Homemade Ice Cream Store to pick up a couple of pints of ice cream and then we headed back to the condo to settle in for the night.

For what was prob the first time down there, I actually slept in til 8 am the next morning, missing the gorgeous sunrise, which is totally a first for me, but I def needed the rest too. The next two days there, I scheduled a few model shoots and planned to visit a mineral dealer friend as well. Ray and I had breakfast at the Best Western Hotel near Oaklawn, where he was staying at, they have probably the best continental breakfast I have seen at a hotel in a long time, serving not only muffins and cereal, but scrambled eggs, sausage and bacon, and biscuits and gravy, albeit the wrong flavored gravy in my humble opinion. Later that morning I had a photo shoot scheduled and another one the next day, but also wanted to go by and see a mineral dealer friend of mine. Ray decided to take his little dog and head up the mountain in town to the tower to see the view. I texted Justin, my rockhunting buddy in Hot Springs and made plans to meet him later and take him to see my mineral dealer friend Gary, who had some Elmwood pieces that I wanted to see and possibly purchase from him. I knew Justin would appreciate this type of visit and he brought along some of his crystals that he had been finding lately to show to Gary, and Gary was able to give him a good appraisal on them as well as give him some good solid information on them as well. I let Gary know that I would be joined by about a dozen friends later that weekend and he said we could come by on Saturday evening to visit. Soon after getting back to the condo, I shot this sunset over the lake to the west with some fishermen boating by…..

 

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…and then the Belle of Hot Springs coasted by on their daily night tour of Lake Hamilton as well….

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Onyx and I woke up at our traditional vacation time the next morning at 6 am, in time to catch the beautiful rays of sunlight illuminating the wispy layers of fog floating across the waters of Lake Hamilton outside the window….

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Onyx and I met up with Ray at 9 am for breakfast at Best Western again and then we did some shopping before returning to the condo. I usually drive around the area looking for pretty spots to photograph, but the color down there was nearly non existent, the leaves had already turned brown in many places and simply fell off. I had an email from a rockhound that had been down to the area back in September, who said that he had found some baskets of quartz crystals, clusters, and plates, at one of the area mines, so I decided to drive over to both of the Coleman mines and check on it. I found one dirt basket at Ron Coleman`s mine that looked like a lot of broken quartz crystals, so I called ahead to Miller Mtn Mine, which was under new management this time, and was told they had fifteen baskets there. I decided to drive on up and take a look at them…Ray and I both have purchased baskets from there in the past when Bill and Faith were operating the mine for Jim Coleman, however since they had retired from operations there, things had not been going so smoothly there since. The new caretakers were a country couple and were very nice to talk to, however the baskets there were full of broken crystal plates and not worth the asking price at all. I did find a couple of burr clusters for sale tho that were bargain priced so I purchased them instead, paying what I would have spent on two baskets, they were coated on both sides with quartz crystals and many burrs of crystals as well, both of them beach ball sized. I was happy. I didnt know it til later, but my good friends David and Janyce Sorrells were over in the tailing piles at that time digging for quartz there…I found out the next day when they joined me at the Southfork Mine.  I headed back to the condo for another shoot and shot this gorgeous sunset…..

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Later I met up with Ray for supper at the Outback Steakhouse, everyone else was traveling in and arriving later that night, some not arriving til Friday night to go to the quartz mine with us…..think it is going to become my new steakhouse favorite, it was delish !!  

Onyx and I retired early, as Friday morning was going to be an early one, meeting up with everyone who was going with us to Southfork Mine. We woke up just before 6 am again, to some gorgeous hues of red filling the eastern skies…like the sunset last night, this appeared to be a gorgeous duplicate of last night and just got better and better every few minutes….

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…and a few minutes later, it morphed into this stunner as well….

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..and just kept getting better as the skies lightened up….

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…simply gorgeous is all I could think that morning….one of the best sunrises I have seen there for sure. Onyx and I drove up to McDonalds to meet up with Chuck and MacKenzie there for breakfast..they were already there waiting on us. We then drove over to the Valero Gas Station on Higdon Ferry Road just south of Hwy 270 to meet up with Jon and Ray, and then motored west to meet David and Janyce at the pull off spot across from the Crystal Inn, before heading on west to Mt Ida. More folks would be joining us the next day.

We met Tony at the entrance to the mine road and he led us down to it and thru the gate, that he had already opened for us…he had acquired a newer truck, this one a full size Dodge pick up with a flat bed on it, giving him more power and more cargo room than his older model Toyota pickup, which his girlfriend told me later that he still has. Chuck and MacKenzie went on up to the top of this mountain to start up at the older mine while everyone else walked into the newer mine to check things out. Janyce walked past and then backed back up a nice vug that was chock full of plates with large points all over the sandstone rock…

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Janyce was so excited, she called David down from the top wall to check it out and then he got excited and called John down to take a look at it, that was fun to watch and listen to….

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…after that John came up to my location on the upper wall to check out the vertical pockets in front of me and was quite impressed with this potential area right below me…

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…hard to see in the photo above but there were crystals laying everywhere in that clay mud…I climbed up higher on the wall and worked another area that was chock full of crystals as well…while David and Janyce set about trying to liberate the crystal plates from that pocket down below…

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…and John appeared to be trying to figure out where to start on his wall section…..

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…and here is what I was looking at in front of me….

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After prying several crystals from the pockets in front of me, an area including this pocket above and then an area above and below it about 2 feet wide by 8 feet high, for about four hours, I decided to get up and go get some water, and then do some surface collecting up on top. I let John know he could work the pockets if he wanted to, and Onyx and I headed up to the top of the mountain. Tony and his girlfriend had headed into town and locked us in, locking the gate behind them so we would not be disturbed by anyone else. He had some friends camped out nearby so we were definitely not going to be bothered by anyone. I got up on top of the mountain and parked down by Chuck, found him chiseling plates from a wall up there while Mackenzie was resting up……

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…he told me that he had found some great plates and was able to liberate quite a few nice ones…I checked out the wall and saw some great little burrs of crystals all over the rock as well as some big points that were two to three inches in length. While he continued to hammer, I decided to walk the entire area up on top so I would have a good idea of what to tell everyone else when they returned with us the next day. Onyx and I walked down to the area right above the newer area where John, David, and Janyce continued to work…

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…and then I turned around and began to look for crystals…finding several all the way back up the hill to the tailing piles above….they were literally laying all over the place, just like back in July when we were there and last fall when Virgil, Doug, and Ray joined me there for our first dig there….here are a few that I spotted, some I dug up and took with me and some I left for others…

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…the last one above is a yard rock that I dug out the rest of the way, then rolled it over, the top of it was really nice, so I grabbed my four lb hammer and chisel, then popped the top of it off, came off very nicely, too. After that I took a few minutes and wrapped up my finds and downed another bottle of water…by then it was starting to get warm up there on top of the small mountain…course wearing a long sleeved sweat shirt didn`t help either. We loaded up and drove back down to the lower area to check on the rest of the crew, finding them tuckered out like we were, and ready to head back to Hot Springs to get some supper.

We did just that and had some great time at Habachi Sushi Buffet, David and Janyce stopped off at their camper to clean up and then drove down to join us there. Alan and Debbie had made it into Hot Springs by then, driving in from Memphis, so they joined us as well a few minutes after we started eating. Afterwards, Onyx and I headed to the Scoops Ice Cream Shop again, got another pint of chocolate chip and then headed to the condo to rest up.

The next morning, I grabbed a sausage and egg biscuit at McDonalds, then drove up to Valero to meet up with the rest of the crew including the Tyler, Texas folks that drove up Friday night to join us for the Saturday dig. As I pulled in and parked to lead out, Fred Mahaffey, the Field Trip Director from the Tyler Club walked over and let me know that he had a few folks along for the dig. Chuck and Mackenzie joined us soon after, as did Alan and Debbie, and John. Ray decided he had too much fun the day before at the quartz mine, and was going fishing that day instead. We loaded up and headed west to Mt Ida, picking up David and Janyce at the gas station on the west side of town, then drove on out to the mine. When we stopped at the gate this time, those of us not wearing neon orange or green shirts,  donned our orange protective vests and proceeded up the hillside to the mine…this was the first day of gun deer season and we wanted to make sure no one mistook us for a deer.  Fred, Jim, and Sydney, Jim`s daughter, Alan and Debbie, followed Chuck and Mackenzie up to the top of the mountain to search up there, while Janyce, David, and John returned to the new area to work the wall some more. Onyx and I drove on up to the top to see how everyone was doing and after the strenuous day before, I decided to simply help everyone new get started on finding some nice quartz. By the time we arrived, Alan and Debbie were doing pretty good surface collecting and the Texas crew was moving around finding some nice ones as well. I showed Fred, Jim, and Alan the wall that Chuck had been working and let them know that there were literally crystals laying all over the tailing piles as well. I spotted a few and handed them off to Fred, who started surface collecting in the piles near me in the middle….

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….then noticed that Chuck and Mackenzie were surface collecting the old pit wall today…she was all decked out in multi colors today, in addition to her orange vest….

33-mackenzie-multicolored-outfit-sat-morning36-mackenzie-chuck37-mackenzie-and-chuck41-mackenzie-chuck-search-tailings-wall

..in the meantime, Alan and Debbie were surface collecting…Alan down by the walls where Chuck was located the day before, and Debbie up on top of the hill…

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After I could see that everyone was finding some nice stuff, I took a water break and then grabbed a bag and my mini mattox and set off in search of crystals once again. I started in the pit, found Jim and Sydney working the crystal wall and Fred looking around the backside of the wall…

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…and then I climbed up on top of the hill to check out the boulders up there. Lo and behold, once up there, I discovered some nice clusters of small burr like crystals embedded in dirt in the top of a small boulder…small but not so small that I could get it into the bed of my truck…so I walked over to the truck and retrieved my hammer and chisel….here is what they looked like up closer….

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…and here they are in the dirt on the boulder up close….

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…I took a stretch break and looked around, spotted Janyce walking down into the old tailings area and Mackenzie and Sydney were working together at the bottom of one of the piles….

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…Alan and Debbie came over to check out the clusters and I gave them a couple of them…then after clearing the boulder I decided to do a little surface collecting at the top of the hill piles and spotted some smokey colored crystals, so I sat down and started digging in..within a few seconds, I pulled out a big ball of clay that turned out to be a gorgeous burr cluster the size of a baseball in my hand. After I pulled out yet another one, Alan decided to sit down and dig into the huge pile next to me..within seconds I had a third one removed…all in all, I think I found about half a dozen of them…not all of them were smokey colored, but they were definitely pretty…I gave Alan a couple of them too. It was now approaching 3 pm so I wrapped up my clusters and then drove down to the new area to check on everyone down there. I found Janyce and David ready to pack up and head out, and John had a big smile on his face…

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…..he was working on removing a huge burr cluster at the top of the vein he had been working all day. I let him know that he had about 20 minutes to do so and he started working on it a bit more earnestly…Chuck and I helped him as much as we could while he worked on getting it out intact….I found out later that he had a good reason for not having removed it earlier, he was also able to remove a couple of big points while we were there with him as well….

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….and here he is trying to chip those out….

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…and after removing those, he then started prying out the huge cluster above…within a few moments he had liberated it from the confines of that clay pocket and that smile on his face moments earlier now turned into a huge grin….

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…soon after getting this wrapped up, I carried his tools down to his car, Chuck helped him carry the goodies to his car, and after he wrapped everything up safe and secure, we headed down the hill and out the gate, and down to Gary`s residence…to look over some beautiful Elmwood calcites, fluorites, sphalerites, and barites combined into gorgeous specimens. Gary has been collecting for 44 years, at one point he had a quartz mine of his own in the Mt Ida area and not only is a neat guy with a wealth of information but has a great collection of crystals and minerals as well. He enjoyed the visit with everyone as we did with him, and soon we were all headed back to Hot Springs for supper at various locations. The Texas crew headed to the Purple Cow and then headed home to Tyler…Chuck and Mackenzie headed to one of the Mexican Restaurants, David and Janyce headed back to their camper, and the rest of us, Alan, Debbie, John, joined me at the Habachi once again. We made plans to meet up again at the Valero the next morning about 7:30 am to drive down to Magnet Cove for a visit to one of the novaculite quarries. Onyx and I picked up a pint of butter pecan at Scoops and then retired back to the condo.

The next morning we had yet another foggy sunrise over the lake…

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I decided not to eat any breakfast that morning as I would be leaving about 10:30 am to drive up to Waldron for our annual family reunion at the Thomas Family farm, my uncles and cousins cook and prepare a huge feast up there for many friends and family members who show up by early afternoon there.  Onyx and I drove over to the Valero and found David, Janyce, Mackenzie and Chuck waiting for us, they were browsing inside when we pulled up…I checked my gas gauge and decided to fill the tank…as I was doing that, Alan and Debbie pulled into the next pump over to fill theirs as well. Now we were just waiting on John…I knew Ray wasnt going to make it cause he doesnt like novaculite like the rest of us do…I tried to call John a few times, called the hotel where he was staying and there was no answer so we decided to just give him a few minutes…and oila…he suddenly appeared…he had to load up the goodies he had brought for me to purchase from him and to trade with the others. He was also going to trade with Gary later that day for some luna agates from Mexico that Gary has in his collection. I called Mr. Parker to let him know we were running a bit late and he said he would wait for us at his shop in Magnet Cove. We took off and luckily the fog that was up on the hill in Hot Springs did not extend down into the valley of Magnet Cove, so we made good time and arrived shortly after our agreed upon meeting time of 8 am…then followed Mr. Parker over to his quarry, that required a bit more time as it was over some rough and super dusty gravel roads to reach it. Soon after arriving, he led us up to the area where they find many colors of novaculite and gave us a short history on the area first….

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Mr. Parker is a super nice guy, he has owned and operated the Magnet Cove Stone Company for many years, it has been in his family for many years beyond that as well, operated by his father and grandfather both. He allows rockhounds and mineral clubs to come and collect there, as well as knappers, and sells much of the beautiful colored and translucent material to commercial markets, some of them overseas. Some of his material has also gone up in space on one of the space shuttles, used in the protective heat shield of the shuttles. There are about ten colors at the quarry in different sections there…I prefer the gray blending into the deep reds, found in the location we were standing in….

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…and when we arrived, we met one of his employees who was cleaning out the rock in one of the new pits they had just dug out up there, he was also his best jackhammer man….

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…we then all divided up and began looking for some pretty stuff to take home…Chuck and Mackenzie were finding some nice stuff pretty quickly….

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…I picked up a couple of pieces there and then wandered over to the area on the other side of the vehicles, where I found John in the gray and red section…I found several nice pieces there that I wanted to take home. Mr. Parker only charges fifty cents a pound which is a good price for collectors and knappers alike.  John broke out some of the material he brought down for me to look through, and some of the others came over to look it over too, and pretty soon they were all trading and buying from him. I was soon out of time and had to head out…I led David and Janyce a different way out, shortcut over to Hwy 70 where we turned west and headed back to Hot Springs, they going back to their camper to load up and head home to Paducah, and me on west to Waldron to my family reunion. Chuck and Mackenzie left about 30 minutes later headed home to St Louis County, Alan and Debbie headed back to Memphis, and John drove out to talk more with Gary and do some trading with him, before then heading on home to Illinois. Onxy and I arrived at the family farm about noon and visited with family members before the meal.

I had cousins there that traveled in from California that I had not seen for a few years, two sets of Korean cousins, of the four, my cousin John is a rockhound while cousins Marilyn and Carolyn are simply quartz crystal fans. It was about 2:30 when everything was done and everyone was fed and beginning to leave…I wanted to get back before dark if possible, so Onyx and I headed out soon after.  I heard from Chuck by email when he and Mackenzie got back to the St Louis area safe and sound, and John kept me updated on his progress as well, he had the longer drive, ten hours at least. About a week after, he told me that when he was close to home, he struck a huge raccoon that came out into the highway in front of him, leaving him no choice…this thing was soo big that it took out a chunk of his bumper and also completely damaged his radiator…he spent the night in a gas station to keep warm and then his parents brought a flat bed trailer down to transport his car back home the next morning…his parents sound just like my parents…ready to help whenever needed. Onyx and I were relaxing down in the condo watching tv when I looked outside and thought things really looked bright out on the water…I walked out on the balcony and looked east and saw the moon rising up over the lake, looking HUGE….

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…it doesnt look like it in these photos but it sure did look big there…it was super bright out there for one thing…I had been seeing it about five nights in a row by then and I didnt remember it being that bright the other nights…I shot some video of it that night as well and then shot some closeups of it as an airplane passed by it….

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…we were now in relax and wind down mode, I had scheduled my vacation to include a few days of it, some at the beginning and one full day of it at the end…I really intended to sleep in the next morning but for whatever reason, was unable to do so..in fact we got up before the sunrise this time… I took Onyx out and saw the super moon dropping down to the horizon in the western skies right over the lake once again….

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…and a few minutes later, the sun did come up in an orange glow at the other side of the lake….

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Since I didnt hear from anyone else, it was a safe bet that by Monday morning that Onyx and I were the only ones left down there, so after repacking the truck for the return trip home….I visited with friends all day and one even drove up from Camden to have an early supper with me that evening at Outback…soon after he left for home, I took this pretty sunset photo….

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…and after yet another relaxing evening with ice cream and tv shows…Onyx and I retired to bed and got up about 8 am to finish packing the truck, then we were on the road by 9 am headed to Fort Smith to pick up Mom and head home from there. I had four large yard rocks and three bags of wrapped quartz crystals, a flat of wavellite, a tub of geodes, and some novaculite pieces, and just enough room left over for all of Moms luggage…all in all, another great Arkansas vacation. If you have any questions, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com 

 

 

 

Arkansas Fall Trip 2015

After weeks of planning and researching many locations for quartz crystals that I had not been to before, including talking to many former mine owners in the Mt Ida area by email and gathering information on past and present sites, my vacation finally began on Monday morning November 9th. After packing all day, Onyx and I got up early on Tuesday morning and headed to the great state of Arkansas, home of Arkansas Quartz Crystals. I had a call the night before, my buddy Jim letting me know that another blast would take place at the quarry in Eminence later that week, but as I told him I would be gone all week, so I did the next best thing, let some of my rockhunting friends know in case they might want to make the drive down to check things out. I had taken new rockhunting friend Chuck Reed down there the weekend before and we found several bags full of crystals in the blast pile that day, even brought a few yard rocks home with me and he had a great time as well. I wasn`t able to take any photos that day due to a dead battery in my camera.

Onxy and I arrived at Fort Smith a little after 10 am and I texted my buddy Adam Lageveen, who lives in Sallisaw, about 20 min west of there, to let him know I was close…he texted back that it was a great time to come by and visit so we continued west on Hwy 40. Adam had some more quartz crystals in his collection that he wanted to get rid of so he could make more room for his collection of Native American arrowheads and knives…Adam creates them from various minerals that Native Americans used long ago…novaculite, obsidian in many colors, chert, quartz, and glass…and he is quite talented with it as well. He had put some of his quartz aside for me to look thru and had some smokies for me as well.

We visited for about an hour and then Onyx and I headed on south toward Hot Springs, where we would be staying in a condo on Lake Hamilton for the next five days. We arrived around 3:30 pm and after getting unpacked, we stepped outside to shoot the sunset over the lake…

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I received a call from Ray Roth, who had driven up there from New Orleans the day before, and we decided to meet at Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper. I had ate there back in July when I was there last and found it to have the best buffet I had experienced, great food including Chinese and American cuisines both. Like I told Ray tho, I was not there for the sushi, and as it turned out, he wasn`t either. We had a great meal there and talked about our plans on where to hunt the next few days, and I told him that we would be joined by good rockhunting friend Virgil Richards from Tulsa, and a friend of his as well, on Thursday morning. I drove over to the homemade ice cream shop called Scoops, and found them closed already at 8 pm…I was shocked, but found out later they were now operating under their winter time hours, decided to catch them the next day hopefully.

After a good breakfast of hotcakes and sausage at Mikky D`s the next morning, Onyx and I drove over to the Valero Station by the 270 Bypass, where Ray filled up his gas tank and I got a bag of ice for my cooler, and then we headed west toward Mt Ida, destination Twin Creek Mine. We arrived shortly after 9 am and after paying hostess Lisa our dig fees, we began digging along the wall hoping to find a pocket of crystals.

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This mine is owned by a couple in Switzerland and leased out to Dixie and Bobby Fecho…Bobby used to operate the mine at Bear Mountain when his parents owned it a few years back, another good mine that produced some nice crystals in all shapes and sizes…it`s now privately owned and operated commercially. When we arrived we saw that Bobby had his trackhoe sitting partially in the public dig area and it appeared that he had dug into a sandstone rock area and may have hit a pocket or two there. About an hour after we started digging, Bobby showed up and confirmed that he had indeed found a few pockets of nice crystals in that sandstone area. I told him that Ray and I were interested in digging in a confirmed pocket area if possible, so he took me to a couple of pockets previously dug out and showed me both locations, one near the entrance that had several pockets and crystals very visible in the walls, and one at the top of the hill above the public dig area, where I could see some large crystal points laying all over a cleared area as well as crystals attached to the walls and one large point sticking out of the base of one wall, at least three pockets were visible and Bobby pointed out three other potential pockets while we were standing there in the rain. There was also a large yard rock in the middle of the cleared area that had large points sticking out of the top of it…needless to say I was drooling just standing there taking it all in.  Bobby explained the process and cost of getting into each area. I told him there would be four of us but we wouldn`t be able to come back til Friday or Saturday morning. He said he would hold the pockets for us. Soon after we returned to the public dig area, it began pouring rain…I stayed along the wall for about 30 min, then got under the tarp that Lisa had put up as a rain shelter…Ray got back into his suv…I had put Onyx into my truck as he became soaked soon after and I didn`t want him to become a mud ball. I dried him off a bit before putting him in there with the fan on so he would dry out as well. Soon after the rain slacked off, and Ray and I returned to the tailing piles…this went on back and forth til about 2 pm, when he and I decided we had had enough. We drove back to Hot Springs and decided to meet at the Hibachi Buffet again that evening for another great supper. After stopping off at Scoops and picking up some home made ice cream, Onyx and I returned to the condo….it was apparent that the rain had set in for the day, which had been forecast, so we just sat it out inside the condo, which has a great view over Lake Hamilton, watching one storm after another roll across the lake. 

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Despite heavy rains and storms passing through, there was no dangerous lightning and as the storms cleared the lake by 5 pm, the skies cleared to reveal a beautiful setting sun…

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At supper that evening, I told Ray we would need to be on the road toward Mt Ida by 7:45 am the next morning, as we needed to meet up with Virgil and his friend on the west side of Mt Ida and then drive on out to the privately owned Southfork Mine where we would be digging all day at. After a pretty sunrise and another good breakfast…..

44 Sunrise Thurs Morning48 Sunrise Thurs Morning

 

…..we got on the road on time and luckily didn`t hit much traffic, stopping off at the Phillips 66 in Mt Ida so I could fill my gas tank. I had heard from Virgil prior to leaving Hot Springs and he said he was at Waldron, an hour from Mt Ida. Shortly after we arrived at the intersection of Hwy 270 and 27 North, Virgil was just a few miles away and we headed to the mine to meet up with owner Tony Thacker. I had contacted Tony several weeks prior and let him know that we were interested in digging at his mine, which he said would be fine with him, letting me know that the tailings there had not been touched by anyone in over a year, so I figured they would be prime for finding crystals in. We arrived a few minutes before he did and waited for him at the gated entrance at the foot of the hill. Virgil introduced his friend Doug Cunningham to Ray and I, and after a few minutes of explaining the history of this mine to them, Tony soon arrived in his Toyota pickup and introduced us to his red heeler dog. 

After a bit of small talk, we headed on up the road to the mine, after crossing a creek and driving thru a few mudholes…

70 Road Up

68 Road Up69 Road Up

…..I didn`t know how Ray would do, since he drives a Jeep suv with front wheel drive only, Virgil and I both drive Toyota pickups with four wheel drive, but I looked back a few times and saw Ray gunning thru the mudholes just fine….they felt like solid bottom holes to me. In the middle photo above, we came upon that tree across the road, and Tony had to pull it back out of the way with his chain hooked to the tow hook on the front of his pickup…he said it appeared to have come down the night before when they had some wind with the rain. Luckily that was the only obstruction in the road going up, soon we were at the top with a great view not only of the mine, but the surrounding area as well….

52 Leatherhead Mine

….and after each one of us paid Tony our dig fee, we grabbed our tools, buckets, bags, and gloves and headed out in different directions to find quartz crystals, and let me tell you, they were laying all over the place. Tony decided to fire up his trackhoe and walk it down to the lower area and stir up the tailing piles for us. 

49 Ray Bundled Up & Collecting Leatherhead Mine50 Tony Gets His Trackhoe Turned Around51 Virgil Checks Out The Wall at Leatherhead53 Tony Headed to Tailing Piles

Ray and Doug and I worked on some plates and pockets on the old wall below where we parked, and found some nice stuff there, I hit a couple of old pockets and came away with about ten nice plates and some nice clear crystal points, giving a few to Doug and Ray. Doug and Ray had found some nice crystals just walking around the slope below where we parked initially as well, and there were yard rocks laying all over the place as well. After the first hour we all took a break and then decided to drive down to the piles and check them to see what Tony was stirring up. 

56 Upper End of Leatherhead Mine54 Tailing Piles at Leatherhead Mine55 Doug & Virgil Look For Crystals

We no sooner walked up into the piles and we started seeing crystals laying all over the place. Here is a yard rock I found, that had yellow golden healer crystals attached to the base of it…Doug look a liking to it so I let him have it….

61 Crystals At Base of Yard Rock59 Crystals At Base of Yard Rock60 Crystals At Base of Yard Rock

…and here is one of the nicer crystal clusters I found up in the wall pockets….

64 Nice Cluster Found

 

Virgil liked it a lot and used one of his bottles of water to wash it off….

65 Nice Cluster Found65A Nice Cluster Found

…I don`t think any of us stopped for lunch break, we were all finding so many crystals that no one wanted to waste a single second of digging time. Tony drove into town and left us there for a few hours from mid morning to early afternoon.

63 Doug & Virgil Checking on Yard Rock

Ray and I both found a couple of nice medium sized clusters, I gave one to Doug since he had never been quartz crystal collecting. Soon after Tony returned, I had three bags full of crsytals, many of the better ones wrapped up, and I was quite happy with my plates and crystal points, many of them good sized points. Doug took a couple of photos of Virgil and Ray during one of our breaks…

Ray at the Leatherhead MineVirgil at the Leatherhead Mine

By 3 pm, we were all tired but happy with our finds and ready to head out…we thanked Tony and his pup once again for a great time of digging at his mine….

66 Tony and His Pup Nigger67 Tony at Leatherhead Mine

…and headed toward Hot Springs…I had told Virgil about a dealer that lived along the route back, who had some quartz clusters and points with green chloride and he was as interested in them as I was…so we stopped off on the way back to see Stu. I had told him a few days before by email that we would stop by on our way back from Tony`s mine, but he forgot earlier in the day that we would stop by…I had tried to call him from the top of the hill at Tony`s mine, but lost the signal apparently before I could talk to him. Luckily for us, he was there and we were able to take a look at some nice material that he had on hand there. I purchased some Jeffrey Quartz as well as some nice small clusters and singles with shale inclusions. Virgil made some purchases as well and we then headed for Hot Springs.

Virgil and Doug decided to stay at the same hotel that Ray was staying at…the Best Western just north of Oaklawn on Central Avenue…I do have to say they have the best breakfast bar I have ever seen out of all the hotels I have stayed at, bar none. Ray had stayed there before on prior trips and liked it. We got back to HS right as the sun was setting and decided to clean up and then meet at Cracker Barrel for supper. While cleaning up at the condo, I was able to photograph the sunset too…

72 Sunset Thurs Night

I arrived at Cracker Barrel first and found the line into the restaurant to be about 30 people deep, so we opted for the Outback Steakhouse next door instead. All three of us had their smoked burgers and boy let me tell you, they were excellent tasting. We decided to meet in the parking lot there the next morning at 8:30 prior to driving out to our first stop. My Hot Springs rockhound friend Justin Baird was going to join us the next day on our hunts. 

There was another beautiful sunrise Friday morning….

80 Sunrise Friday Morning82 Sunrise Friday Morning87 Sunrise Friday Morning88 Sunrise Friday Morning89 Sunrise Friday Morning

Justin`s allergies were acting up, so we got a little late start the next morning, he parked his car there and joined Onyx and I, and we drove south on Hwy 270 to the Magnet Cove Martin Marietta Quarry to see what minerals we could find there. Mindat shows a list of over one hundred minerals found there, including pyrite, purple fluorite, and quartz…I am used to quarries where you can readily find something pretty every few feet along the wall or in the blast pile, this quarry was nothing like any I have been to before. After a safety talk with the acting Quarry Manager, Jimmi Clifton, we donned our hard hats, steel toed boots, and safety glasses and drove down to the pit of the quarry, where no one was working that day. Jimmi told us the top bench of the quarry was Level A and the lowest area, the pit, was Level H, each level was forty feet high, eight levels, so the pit was about 320 feet deep. This quarry is known primarily as a micro mounters paradise, however I was hoping we would find something bigger to take home. The first photo below is looking north toward the entrance and the second photo is the south wall of the quarry.

 

…we parked about middle of the pit floor and then started looking in that pile of rock in front of our trucks…

 

Doug, Virgil, and Justin began finding some nice stuff right off the bat, the fluorite there was almost like powder, and the pyrite was very small as well…

103 Doug & Virgil Find Vug

….Justin found some nice sized calcite crystals and stayed to look for more in the pile…in the meantime, I decided to make a circle of the pit floor and see if I could find anything worthwhile…I have to say this quarry had some of the ugliest rock I have ever seen….leaverites for sure….

 

 

 

…we took a break about 11 am, Ray and Justin continued to look for minerals in the pile in the middle of the pit floor….

112 Taking a Break

We decided to drive up to Level A and see if we could find anything up there…I called Jimmi to let him know we were changing areas in the quarry as he was going to come get us before they blasted a certain section above us….

116 Doug & Virgil Check Upper Bench Level A117 Doug & Virgil Check Upper Bench Level A118 Vultures Flying Overhead119 Justin Searches For Minerals

…and while we didn`t see anything up there either, there were many vultures flying around above us…that got our attention for a few minutes at least…

121 Vultures Flying Overhead123 Vulture Spreads Wings on Rocky Point

..not having found anything substantial there, we decided to try out a location that Justin knew of for wavellite. I called Jimmi and thanked him for allowing us to collect there and then we headed north back to Hot Springs to check out this abandoned quarry….we drove down a logging road a little ways so that no one would mess with our trucks…Virgil was carrying a large generator and a power hammer as well, sure didn`t want anything happening to it. We walked in the rest of the way to the quarry….

126 Looking for Wavellite130 Looking for Wavellite131 Looking for Wavellite133 Justin Looks For Wavellite

…needless to say, after a 35 min hike into the place, we found very little worthwhile to take back home with us. We left about mid afternoon and decided to drive down and see a guy about some smokey quartz clusters that he had for sale. We arrived at his place a little after 4 pm and boy did he have some nice crystals….

 

 

…while we were there, Justin and Virgil started talking to the owner and darkness came and settled in…I didn`t think we were ever going to get out of there and back to Hot Springs for supper. The temps started dropping and I grabbed my jacket out of the truck, my allergies were starting to bother me and there I was out in the boonies without my meds, and three guys who like to talk shop, going at it non stop…Doug and I just rolled our eyes and hoped for the best, talking to the owner`s nice daughters.  Eventually we did get out of there and headed back to HS…Ray called as we drove thru Mt Ida to see where we were at, said he had waited as long as he could and then ate supper when he didn`t hear back from us. We decided that we would eat at Cracker Barrel this time and since our clothing wasn`t too dirty this time, we decided to just drive there direct and eat…I had to drop off Justin at his car next door anyway, and he was going to join us, until I got him to his car and he found a note on the windshield from his girlfriend letting him know she was next door at The Border. I let him know what time we were gonna drive up to the mine the next morning and he took off. Virgil, Doug, and I had a great meal at Cracker Barrel, since it was fish night there.

Onyx and I were up early at dawn on Saturday and discovered fog covering much of Lake Hamilton….

 

 

I skipped breakfast for the most part, stopping to get a bag of ice and some cash at the corner store. We then drove over to the McDonalds on the west side of HS where we were to meet Justin at 7:15…he wasn`t there nor did he show up by the time Virgil, Doug, and Ray showed up, so we drove on up to Twin Creek Mine, paid hostess Brittany our pocket fees and then drove up the logging road to the private pocket area at the top of the hill above the public fee dig area.  We parked our vehicles in the woods, and while Ray was trying to park his jeep, Virgil and I walked over to the private pocket where I intended to point out all the highlights to him, that Bobby had shown me on Thursday…as we walked up, me in front, I immediately spotted tire tracks in the soft mud that were not there on Thursday…I came to a sudden stop and quickly noticed the large yard rock was gone…looked to my right and noticed no large single point sticking out of the mud wall…no no crystals laying all over the place like they were on Thursday when there. Virgil knew right then and there what had happened, he had been thru a similar experience years ago….cause it appeared that those crystals and pockets had been highgraded…meaning crystals dug out and removed before we arrived !! We drove back down to the camper office to get our money back, and were met by Bobby…we explained to him what we found up there…he stood there and claimed someone must have snuck into the mine and stole all those crystals, claimed he was just as angry as we were, but sure didnt look angry or even upset, sure didnt sound angry or upset, his facial expression never changed nor did the tone of his voice…I have been around angry people and you normally can tell real quickly that they are upset using your hearing and sight alone…he returned to us all of our money and then after some small talk, offered the other pocket pit to us at a good price…he took us up there and showed us where the pockets were at,  as well as one pocket that he asked us not to dig into…we decided to give it a try and see what we could find.

There were actually several crystal points laying all over the place so it looked pretty good. After we grabbed our tools and started looking around, this special pocket pit started looking better and better. Virgil and I dug into the small tailing pile on the right side and crystal points started rolling down right into my waiting hands, it didn`t take long to fill a bag in that one spot alone. Doug walked up to the end of the pit and Ray walked around checking out the boulders for vugs and pockets. 

146 Digging In147 Digging In148 Digging In

Ray called me over after finding a few boulders with what appeared to be smokey points all over them…he was right, they were definitely smokeys and I was able to chisel a few plates of them off the boulder, then looked around and found a few more boulders covered as well….

Chipping Crystals off a Boulder

…which then led me to look closer at the wall, and discovered crystals lodged into heavy thick clay that were acting like glue holding them to the wall. I went to my truck and dug out my small pry tool, that resembles a big white two pronged fork and began prying crystals out of the wall…I had grabbed my screwdriver as well but the fork was working better…Virgil soon joined me along the wall and began prying some out with his screwdriver too…..

Me Digging Into the Wall for Crystal PointsUsing My Small Pry Tool on the WallSmokey Pockets at Twin Creek Special PitCrystal I Pried Off WallVirgil and I Collecting From the Wall

…at one point, I was even using a couple of fairly flat rocks stacked one on the other for a makeshift ladder so I could reach some real beauties higher up on the wall….

My Makeshift Ladder

…and even climbed up on the wall at one point in order to reach some higher up than that…then went and got Virgil`s lightweight aluminum ladder from his pickup….thanks to Doug for the photos of me in action…

Me Up On Wall After Plates

…after we cleaned off a couple of walls, I decided to take a break and take a flat of crystals to Brittany, to give to hostess Lisa when she returned…they were crystals with some dogtooths from the quarry at Eminence…I had found out Wednesday while there that Lisa liked dogtooth crystals. While visiting with Brittany, I found out that Onyx had been making the rounds with the public diggers and everyone up there really liked him…I wasn`t surprised by that. I returned to the special pocket pit and found Doug and Virgil up at the other end popping off some beautiful plates from the end wall….

149 Digging In151 Working on Wall Plates

…I decided to take a water break and then popped a few plates off walls myself and then walked around picking up small clusters, yard rocks, and crystal points that were just laying on top all over the pit.

It was about this time that Ray decided to leave and apparently as he did, Onyx took off and followed him up the road and out of the mine property, then started walking down Collier Springs Road to the west. A few minutes later, as Virgil, Doug, and I were taking another break by our trucks, I received a call on my cellphone from a young man who said that he had found my dog…said he was on a gravel road near Crystal Vista…I asked how close he was to Twin Creek Mine and he said not too far away and said he would bring Onyx to me on his four wheeler. Earlier this summer, I had found some custom engraved collar tags at my vet`s office and attached it to Onyx`s collar, had a flag emblem on the front that was really pretty as well as eye catching, and engraved my name, cell number and Onyx`s name on the other side. I walked down to the parking lot entrance and a few minutes later Jordan came riding down the hill on his four wheeler with Onyx sitting in his lap appearing as if he was driving it and a big smile on his face. I thanked Jordan for finding him, as well as calling me and returning him to me, said I would have to add four wheeling to Onyx`s resume. Lucky for me Jordan was riding his four wheeler in the area, cause we normally come in from the east and leave to the east as well, and had not noticed Onyx gone since he had been back and forth to the public dig pit all day long. I felt blessed to have him back and such a nice young man to discover him and return him to me.

Shortly after that, I had walked over to the office to use the Johnny On the Spot and afterwards, heard someone call out my name and ask if it was really me…I looked over and saw Janyce Sorrells and she called her husband David over to talk to me…they are rockhound friends from the Paducah area that I met and dug with at the Eureka Fluorite Mine at Marion, Kentucky…they were camping on Lake Ouachita while there and had been digging at various mines in the Mt Ida area. They too were heading for home the next day. 

Virgil, Doug, and I continued to dig for a couple more hours, until Brittany came and told us that it was near closing time and time to pack up our things and prepare to leave, after a bit of small talk as well. She was a very good hostess that day and very nice to talk to as well and I heard from other diggers in the public area that she was very helpful to many of them as well. We left shortly after 4 pm…Virgil and Doug headed to Oklahoma and I headed back to Hot Springs to clean up and have supper with Ray one last night.

As soon as Onyx and I returned to the condo, I discovered my battery on my cell was nearly dead, so I quickly cleaned up and changed clothes, then ran out to the truck to charge it up so I could call Ray about supper. We decided to meet in about 20 minutes at the Hibachi Sushi Grill for supper again, giving me some time to charge up my phone first. As soon as I returned to the condo from supper, I saw and photographed the moon in the clear spots over Lake Hamilton….

152 Moon Over Lake Hamilton

Onyx and I slept in a little bit on Sunday morning…getting up early to photograph the sunrise before returning to sleep a few more hours…..

153 Sunrise Sunday Morning157 Sunrise Sunday Morning159 Sunrise Sunday Morning

I first thought about spending an extra day til I turned on the news and spotted the weather forecast for heavy rain and storms on Monday…I decided I really didn`t want to drive back home in that type of weather, so we got up and began packing at 9 am and headed out the door. We stopped off at Waldron on the way home, for the annual Thomas Family reunion at my grandfather`s farm…my Uncles Joe and Harley actually have the farm now, but I still refer to it as my grandfather`s farm…..we took Ross Creek Road in from Hwy 71 and approaching from that direction always affords me a great view of the farmhouse and barn up on the hill across the valley when I get close…

92 The Farm94 The Barn

..and by 2 pm after a great dinner with dessert and fellowship with relatives and friends there, Onyx and I headed north toward home…arriving about 8:30 that evening. All in all, it was a great vacation and very productive rockhunting trip.

Here are some of my finds and purchases too….the first ones from Stu, smokeys and shale inclusions….the big single crystal in the upper left hand side has green chloride attached to the base of it….

 

…and this one from Collier Creek Mine….

167 Cluster From Collier Creek Mine168 Cluster From Collier Creek Mine

…and these next crystals are smokeys from near Glenwood….

 

this next one shows the shale inclusions very well in this cluster….

 

 

I will add more as I get them cleaned up….give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com if you want. 

 

 

 

Summer Break 2015

Sorry folks for not updating my blog site sooner, but I have been taking a break from the heat that came on strong in July, staying inside and working on my collection, adding to it here and there, and cleaning up the quartz I collected in Arkansas the weekend of July 4th and the fluorite that we found at the Eureka Mine during our second machine dig end of June. I still have some cleaning to do on the fluorite, having completed step one with the Super Iron Out and now moving some pieces to the diluted down Muriatic Acid solution soon. I`m not even sure that Step 2 will remove the coating that is covering some of the cubes, because quite frankly, I am not even sure what the coating is made up of, but Muriatic Acid is as far into the cleaning process as I will go, so if that doesn`t clean it off, then it will just remain on the cubes. Here are some of the cubes cleaned up well by the Super Iron Out process…keep in mind, these are mostly small sized clusters, many of them smaller than palm sized and some are only the size of a golf ball….I used one of my high power halogen flashlights behind them to backlight them with…..

01 All Cleaned Up

02 All Cleaned Up

05 All Cleaned Up

06 All Cleaned Up

08 All Cleaned Up

09 All Cleaned Up

10 All Cleaned Up

11 All Cleaned Up

15

17

22

27

29

31

33

34

35

36A

37

DSC_899039

…and here are some of the quartz crystals I brought back from Arkansas the weekend of July 4th…some of these are available if anyone is interested and I have some small yard rocks available too. I have some local friends that like quartz for their rock gardens like I do, which is why I brought a few more back this trip…..I can send them to you by flat rate box if you are interested in some….the first four photos show the yard rocks….

01 Large Smokey Quartz Cluster

02 Clusters

03 Clusters

 

04 Cluster

…and these are medium sized clusters of quartz from Collier Creek Mine…I purchased them from my friends Bill and Faith who now operate a rock shop about ten miles east of Mt Ida on Hwy 280, called Blue Moon Crystals…they have the best crystal baskets around too…

05 Small Cluster

06 Small Cluster Collier Creek Mine

07 Small Cluster Collier Creek Mine

08 Small Cluster Collier Creek Mine

09 Small Cluster Collier Creek Mine

10 Plate

11 Plate

..and an assortment of crystals including some smokey quartz crystals from DeGray Lake area….

12 Variety of Crystals

13 Smokey Crystals

14 Smokey Crystals

15 Smokey Crystals DeGray Lake Islands

 

…and this palm sized cluster of smokey herkimers from Lake Greeson….

16 Smokey Cluster DeGray Lake

 

…and this plate and small cluster of quartz with green chloride crystals too….

 

17 Plate With Green Chloride Crystals

 

18 Close Up