Ray Roth called me back in February and told me that he was getting tired of the winter blahs and weather and would like to meet me at Hot Springs in April. Ray was going to Texas for a metal detecting treasure trip and visit some friends there in early March, but figured he would be back and ready for Arkansas by the first of April. I was able to secure enough vacation time at work to get nearly a week off and we coordinated our schedules to arrive there on the last day of March. Initially, my parents were going to ride down with Missy and I, they were homesick and wanted to see their birthplaces and visit with family and friends there, however some unplanned things came up that prevented them from going with us. My Mom and Dad were both raised in the same area of western Arkansas on dairy farms, in dairy farm country, an area that I am also very fond of.
This time of year I am normally down in western Kentucky with friends helping the staff of the Mineral Museum at Marion to expand the collecting opportunities at the Eureka Mine, enabling rockhounds to go there and dig more easily throughout the remainder of the warm season to find beautiful fluorite treasures. This spring tho, the staff was unable to track down any machinery to assist us in our efforts and we had to delay those plans…that enabled me to meet up with Ray at Hot Springs instead. I contacted my buddy Adam Lagaveen and let him know I would be driving down there on the 31st and he said he would be ready to meet up again and provide me with some nice stuff and more info on the Mt Ida area. Adam is a super nice guy and a wealth of information on quartz crystal collecting in that area, as well as a very talented craftsman of Native American artifacts…you should see the Indian knives and arrowheads that he has crafted from raw materials like rainbow obsidian and novaculite in various colors on his FB page at Adam Lageveen`s Lithic Art…truly beautiful stuff !! Adam was also raised in the area that my parents are from and knows some of my second cousins. Combined with the info he had provided back in the fall, I had researched several locations to check out this time and was looking forward to seeing what additional information he had for me.
Missy and I got on the road the morning of Tuesday, March 31st, at an early hour, down around Springfield by the time the sun came up over the horizon. By the time we pulled into Fayetteville, it was time for a break…I had called a young lady that I had talked to online a few weeks prior, she wanted to sell part of her rock and mineral collection, so we agreed to meet near Razorback University. She had some nice crystals in her collection and after selecting some and coming to an agreement on a fair price, I wrapped them up and gave her a few nice dogtooths from Missouri….here are a few of them….
We headed west to Sallisaw on Hwy 40, passing through Van Buren on the way, and we observed some recent storm damage, a tornado had ripped through there a week prior and heavily damaged some motels along the interstate…weather that we were really hoping to avoid on this trip.
We arrived in Sallisaw twenty minutes later and drove over to Adam`s house…he had some tubs of quartz crystals laid out for me to take a look at…and as we were putting Missy into his fenced in backyard, I noticed several flats of an old mineral collection that he had recently picked up…looked like some spectacular pieces of malachite with some calcite druse on some of them, and then there were some calcite crystals with a vibrant blue colored glaze all over them, with an iron ore type matrix on many of them…the blue coloring glaze was a turquoise blue shade, that I was unable to figure out…but they sure were captivating and beautiful to look at…
…and some that looked like malachite too….
….I picked up a couple of the flats of this beautiful stuff from Adam as well as some quartz he no longer wanted and he gave me some info on some places to collect fossils in Scott County near my grandpa`s farm and the Mt Ida area both, before we headed on south. I decided to stop by the fossil location first since it was on the way and so we headed south from Sallisaw to get there about an hour later…which by that time, the temps were up in the high 80`s, so I just stopped by to photograph it and then drove on down to Hot Springs. I had planned to get into HS by 4 pm and meet up with a new rockhound cause I had some flats of Missouri and Kentucky minerals and crystals to give to him, help him with his growing collection. I had also planned to stop and visit with Faith and Bill, the former caretakers at Miller Mtn Mine, now retired and living just east of Mt Ida on Hwy 270, but wasn`t going to have time to do that today, so I called them to let them know we would get back up there later and visit with them. Missy and I arrived in HS about 5 pm and drove over to the condo that I rented from April, who I had rented from on my fall trip down there, too.
This time we were staying in the downstairs condo and it turned out to be just as nice as the upstairs unit…however it was def warm and spring, as there were several bumblebees hovering right around the front door…at first I thought they were hornets…I called April to see if she knew about it and she said she would call the Maintenance guy and see if he could come spray for them. He did show up later and sprayed but apparently the spray didnt have any effect on them, cause they were there every warm day, only leaving when it cooled down on Saturday and Sunday. Turned out they were bumblebees tho and the biggest ones I had ever seen, too…guess they grow them big down there…I didnt let it bother me much, was there to enjoy myself and put it out of my mind soon after, just had to be aware of them when you came and went.
I met up with Justin soon after we arrived at the condo and started handing off several flats to him…including some dogtooth crystals from the secret spot and Eminence both, as well as some pretty fluorite pieces and some Doe Run Viburnum Trend specimens too…his eyes just kept getting wider and bigger as I handed him flat after flat of goodies. I invited him to have supper with Ray and I soon after Ray got into town and called to let me know he was there…Ray stayed at the Long Island Lake Resort on the longer island south of my location. We decided to meet up and go to the Italian restaurant in the plaza across from the Hot Springs Mall…Justin had heard about it as well and wanted to check it out too….April had recommended it when we were there in the fall. We had a good meal there, but I couldn`t believe the price for one glass of sweet Reisling wine…it was $ 9.25 a glass…geez, I could have bought three bottles of it for that price….Ray was astounded as well. I had the spagetti and the meatballs were the size of baseballs…only been to one other Italian restaurant where they were bigger, one in Florida had them the size of softballs !! It wasn`t as good as my Mom`s homecooked spagetti and meatballs but pretty good after a long drive down there. Justin promised to stay in touch and hoped to be able to go with us over the weekend days but had to work each night til 5 pm, so our day trips would not work out well for him…we hoped he could join us on the weekend trips.
The next morning I woke up from the couch in the living room, having crashed there after the news…the sliding glass door was open and the waves outside the condo put me right to sleep….I shot the beautiful sunrise the next morning…
As Ray and I were having breakfast at Mc D`s and were gonna head up to Twin Creek Mine and check it out…I called Bill and Faith to see if they were home…Bill said they were waiting on some carpenters but would park their white van out by the road so we knew which driveway to turn into…we arrived about 25 min later and found them in a nice brown split level ranch home with a two car covered carport on the east end of the house, on the north side of 270, one mile west of the Garland County line…we passed this beautiful waterfall right across from the old Monte Cristo Store and Rock Shop just before the County line…
….that waterfall is hard to see in the photo and I wanted to walk down there and get a better photo of it, without all the trees in the way, but there is a house on the hill right above it and its private property, so didn`t take any chances. The old Monte Cristo featured a gas station, store inside and they sold quartz crystals on those big racks in front…here is a link to the history of it in its heyday http://www.city-data.com/forum/arkansas/878079-exploring-arkansas-60.html
Bill looked soooo much better than the last time I had seen him, which was at Miller Mtn Mine before they retired, he was recovering from surgery then and just looked worn out…he looked more like a younger and vibrant Bill this time and Faith looked great too…they were setting up their crystal shop in their home and doing very well. We visited with them a while and then got a basket of quartz each…their baskets are ten times better quality than any baskets you will find elsewhere, hands down better than any baskets at Miller Mtn Mine, too…the last one I bought at Miller Mtn last fall was half full of clay dirt and the teeny tiniest crystals you had ever seen…almost needed a magnifying glass just to find them…and several plates of sandstone with nothing on them !! Wont find me going back there for awhile and certainly not buying anymore baskets there either !! If you want some good baskets, stop and see Faith and Bill at their new shop in the Joplin area east of Mt Ida, they are two miles east of the turn off to Mountain Harbor Resort and great folks to visit with, can fill you in on the history of the area too. My basket was full of golden healers and some smokey plates too. I was very happy with my basket this time. 🙂
From their house, we drove on over to Twin Creek Mine…to reach it you turn on to Logans Gap Road, next to Judy`s Crystals shop and go to the top of the mountain, about a four or five mile drive…right after you cross a single lane bridge on that road, you will come to a y and just stay to the right, then you come to another y and again stay to the right and that is Collier Springs Road, while Logan Gap Rd continues up the hill to the left and paved. Collier Springs Road is a gravel lane that is a bit narrower….its a good road, not rough, but not real smooth either, average Forest Service Road….a few miles down that road and you will start up a big hill, go past the first gate that directs you to the next gate and then you come to the entrance to Twin Creek Mine….
…wish I could tell you that this road is smoother, but it`s not and is a one lane, so pray that you don`t meet anyone on it as you are driving down the hill to the mine, cause it is basically a one way track…I was glad we met no one going in or out cause I sure didn`t want to be the one backing up or down that hill….
…the signs on the road say slow…it`s because it is a bumpy road, not smooth at all, but just take it easy and you can make it in a car or truck……luckily it wont take you long to get there…and it opens up to the digging area at the bottom of the hill…you can see massive quartz in the woods on both sides of the road there too.
Ray and I grabbed our tools and met up with the hostess for the day, Lisa, who outlined the boundaries after we paid our fees, then we gathered our tools and headed for the wall…here is Ray heading back up the hill to the spot with his hammer….
….we met a couple next to us named Ed and Lisa, with their son, who dug up some really nice crystals from the road near the entrance to the digging area. We worked the wall near them and I soon began pulling some small clusters out of the tree roots while they were doing some heavy digging into the wall looking for a good vein to work…
…don`t know if they ever found one, tho….it was a little warm that day and I was wearing one of my long sleeve pullovers…Hostess Lisa kept coming up to check on me, she was just sure I was going to keel over with heat exhaustion. I told her I had plenty of water with me and was just fine…besides I was working in the treeroots and didn`t want my arms all scratched up..she did a good job of checking on everyone while we were there…here she is checking on some other diggers near the bottom of the slope….
….here is what the digging area looks like from the top of the hill where we were back to the entrance…
and vice versa….
…it was supposed to rain and storm by 3 pm, so we decided to take off about 2:30 pm…I did not want to be up on that mountain with lightning popping all over the place. I had a bag full of small clusters which cleaned up pretty nicely, plus I was able to chip out a nice smokey quartz plate that was in between a couple of sandstone layers, too. I was exhausted and ready for a nap on my return to Hot Springs…Ray decided to stop off at Burl`s Smokehouse on the way back and get a smoked meat sandwich, and I kept on truckin toward HS….by supper time, storm clouds started rolling in across the lake….
…and soon after, rain started coming down in sheets…..
…but by dark, it had cleared off and only a few raindrops here and there remained….Missy and I headed up the street to get some ice cream at the homemade ice cream store, and I took these photos of the wet streets and lights near the mall….
..it was another nice night, so again I left the door open and bunked on the comfy couch, and again the sound of the waves put me out soon after the news ended….we awoke to a cloudy sunrise….
After breakfast at Mc Donalds, we decided to drive down to Glenwood and check out the Pigeon Roost Mine tailings…I had been told that smokey quartz, calcite, and witherite could be found there…we found some pyrite there and lots of slate there, but nothing else…it was an old zinc mine that had apparently been pretty picked over….
…the next photo shows how enormous this place is…above the top of the rock is yet another pit and then you climb to those trees way up above….
…from here, we decided to drive up to the Oden area and check out the old Clear Creek Mine after hearing so many good things about it. I followed the directions I had to it, but when we arrived, I wasn`t sure if we were on the right road or not….it was lined with quartz but no mention of that had been made by my friend who gave me the info on the mine. We pulled up to a gate that was closed in a small wide spot on the road…we could hear machinery operating at the top of the hill on the other side of the gate….I told Ray I was going back to the main road where I had a signal, and call my buddy and make sure we were on the right road…I didn`t drive far before I met an suv coming down the road…I pulled over for it and waved the driver down. It was a young lady and I asked her if we were on the right road after explaining what we were doing down there. She was on her way up to the top of the hill on the other side of creek from the gate, where her husband was operating the machine we heard, and said she would check and then return with an answer for us…true to her word, she returned in about ten minutes and told us we were not on the right road, that the mine we were seeking was over the mountain to the west of us. Not knowing where to check to the west, we decided to drive to Mt Ida and have lunch. We stopped at the Dairyette cause I knew they had great burgers there years ago, plus good shakes and malts. It was beginning to heat up, so I took my food and headed east as I didn`t want to leave her in the truck any longer than necessary. Ray stayed and ate his lunch there before heading back to Hot Springs.
Having the rest of the day free, Missy and I drove over to Gulpha Gorge and Lake DeSoto to check out the spring color and the old powerhouse with its waterwheel, plus the waterfalls nearby….
…and very little color at Gulpha Gorge, where I am more used to shooting fall color than spring color, however I would have thought there would def be more than a few redbud trees in bloom here, I only saw spotty dogwood trees in bloom…..
Later in the evening, I met one of my local buddies at Colton`s Steakhouse and enjoyed a good steak dinner. The next morning was a bit chilly, so my sunrise images show a bit of blur, however there was a bit more color in the clouds, just out of view to the left side….
Ray had decided to meet up with local friends and go metal detecting and fishing today, and I was meeting up with local friends for some hiking later in the day. By mid morning, Missy and I were driving out to check on a local waterfall and to check out some other areas as well.
It was a bit windy in the morning, but cleared off my mid day….Ray told me the next day that he had only lasted about an hour out there in the wind fishing. By that evening, tho, I had some down with a severe stomach ache and didn`t feel like doing much of anything, sipping on a seven up which helped to relieve much of my discomfort later on. By morning, I was feeling a bit better.
After a beautiful sunrise on Saturday morning….
…I drove up to Scott County to meet up with Virgil Richards to look for fossils at a location that Adam had told me about last fall. Ray decided to remain in Hot Springs, so Missy and I were on the road shortly after 8 am…a nice crisp morning cooler than the prior days by at least twenty degrees. We arrived and met up with Virgil by 11 am and drove over to a reclaimed coal mining area nearby….
I had stopped off here to check it out after leaving Adam`s house on Tuesday and let Virgil know about it on Friday…he decided he needed an outing so we decided to meet up at Bates about 11 am. We drove over to the high wall….
….. and checked the pit below where we found just a few fern and leaf fossils in slate….it`s a well known area that has been heavily picked over…..
…and some were in a mix of organic matter that was petrified and colorful that reminded me of petrified dino poop…..
…some of the pieces I picked up crumbled to the touch, due to the exposure to the elements and some stayed intact…I hope to return and check this site again, paying more attention to the organic matter next time, where the fossils were definitely intact and stronger, plus more colorful…this area reminded me of the Mazon Creek Fossil area in Illinois. We lasted for a few hours there, the temps began rising and by the time we finished, it was quite warm…as Virgil turned to head west back into Oklahoma, we noticed smoke rising not too far from us, signs of a possible forest fire that was quickly gaining ground with a brisk wind driving it….
On the way back to Hot Springs, I stopped off at Burl`s Smokehouse and picked up some chips and a couple of sandwiches, deciding it would be best to eat on the light side for a few days and see if that helped. This is a place I have passed by on several occasions and wondered how good it was…Ray liked it and I had some local friends that stopped there last year on one of their trips to Hot Springs and really enjoyed it as well…inside I found a neat old rustic building where they make sandwiches to order…they have chips and wines there, too, and the biggest home made cinnamon rolls I have ever seen…had my stomach been stronger, I prob would have bought one to eat later on.
Missy and I continued on to HS and made arrangements to visit one additional site in the morning. It was a full moon that evening and I stepped out on the balcony to shoot a few images of it illuminating Lake Hamilton….
By the next morning, my stomach felt a little better and I decided to try the one last site, before Missy and I headed home. The sunrise was a cloudy one, but there was def some red in the skies to the east…that should have been a tip off for us….
The weather forecast the night before indicated that the skies would be cloudy but the rains would hold off til 11 am, so we figured we could get a couple of hours of digging in. We hit rain before we arrived at the location at 8:30, and after talking with the owners for a bit, we drove up the hill and began checking out the areas near where we had dug on our previous trip there. For the first hour, Ray and I turned over many pieces of massive quartz, before we started finding a few smaller clusters of crystals. I then decided to check out another area closeby and soon found a larger cluster of bigger crystals…by this time it was raining more steadily and I decided it was time to stop for the day. We packed up and headed out, and soon Missy and I were headed up I-30 toward Memphis, where we planned to stop and visit with Matthew and Carolyn Lybanon, rockhound friends in the MAGS Club. Matthew is the newletter editor and Carolyn is the Hospitality Director. Carolyn called as I was driving thru Benton and told me not to eat anything, that they planned to have a late lunch and that Missy and I would be joining them for dinner. As I entered the Memphis area, I discovered they have quite a bit of construction going on with their highways….
…..reminded me of the mess involving I-64 in St Louis a couple of years ago….I passed a unique structure as soon as we crossed the mighty Mississippi River, a pyramid shaped building emblazoned on the highway side with Bass Pro Shops on it….
…..and soon enough we were pulling into the Lybanon driveway.
We had a great time and good food and talked about rocks alot…they showed me their collection and I showed them what I had found and shared some of my finds with them…Carolyn had made me a beautiful oval shaped window made up of stained glass and some pieces of fossils and crystals as well…it is displayed on a metal stand and was quite pretty. They also gave me a huge ammonite that they found down in the Denton, Texas area on one of their fossil excursions down there.
After a nice two hour visit with them, Missy and I got back on the road and headed home via Hwy 63, which I discovered soon after leaving Jonesboro, was another hotbed of construction activity…Arkansas crews appear to be attempting to widen the roadway for several miles to the north. I spotted several sunbeams near Jonesboro…..
We arrived home safe and sound by midnight and decided to lock the truck and leave the unpacking to the next day.
Here are some of the quartz crystals I brought back with me….some beautiful stuff….
…and some I found in the basket I purchased from Bill and Faith…..
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