After my recent trip to Kentucky, I might have to make this an annual trip and decided to come up with a name for it, so it will be easy to categorize and refer back to. For the past twelve years I have driven down to western Kentucky to perform a machine dig to help out the folks at the Clement Mineral Museum in Marion, as they provide great opportunities for rockhounds across the US and around the world as well. We rockhounds know that it is becoming increasingly difficult each year to find good places to go and spend a day or two digging for beautiful crystals, and this is one of those places worth going to visit and dig at. A small group of us get together each year and pool our resources to hire an excavation company and operator to come in, dig at our direction and move alot of dirt and mud out of the way, opening up new areas where beautiful purple and yellow cubes of fluorite can be found, sometimes with other minerals present, including calcite, sphalerite, galena, and occasionally greenockite. We dig into the Eureka Mine, that dates back to the early 1900`s, which as always been a fluorite mine, likely called a fluorospar mine back then, or simply ” spar ” as the locals referred to it. Much of the spar they were mining was massive and solid, whereas we look for the cubes of fluorite, in the form of small plates, clusters, and large plates and cubes associated with the other minerals present. By opening up additional areas of opportunity, we enable all rockhounds who visit the rest of the year, to more easily access those areas and an easier dig as well.
This year I was joined by rockhound friends Jim Ericson from the Minneapolis area, Chuck Reed from the St Louis County area, and David Sorrells from the Paducah area. Jim had quite a trip down there, leaving last Thursday morning early and driving through a foot of snow on the ground and roads, dumped there the night before from that storm that barreled across Colorado the day before, which stranded motorists all the way across the state under 17 inches of snow. Jim made it thru southern Minnesota and then Iowa as well, snowing on him the entire time until he safely reached Missouri, where the snow finally stopped clinging to everything and he was able to make much better time on the roads. He sent me some images of his harrowing, white knuckle drive down there….
…luckily for him, his suv has all wheel drive, which combined with his common sense, steady nerves and rock solid determination, brought him through the snow and ice unscathed. The rest of us had uneventful drives, Onyx and I arriving by 2 pm in Marion…I had Onyx shaved down the day before by the groomer at my local vet office, but forgot to pick up some flea and tick prevention tablets for him, so after a quick call to Tina, who recommended a local vet, we drove over there to pick one up for him. That is when I spotted these gorgeous sunbeams near their rural fire station….
…the night before, while packing, I noticed the clouds lining up for what appeared to be a good colorful sky as the sun dipped down, and as I made my way over to my neighbor Glen`s house to let him know we were leaving the next morning, I stopped in the street in front of my house to capture this stunning sunset….
…Onyx chewed up his tablet and was set for the next thirty days…I had heard from several that the ticks in Kentucky can get quite bad and I didn`t want to take any chances with him especially. We then headed back to the hotel in Kuttawa to wait for Chuck and Jim to arrive, before going to supper. We were staying at the Days Inn there, next to the well known and liked, Oasis Southwest Grill, one of the best steakhouses in the country, bar none. Chuck was set to arrive around 8 pm and Jimmy figured he would be there soon after, but told us not to wait on him as he had munched on sandwiches all the way down there. Chuck and I walked on over to the steakhouse after he arrived, and ordered our food, and true to his word, Jimmy showed up about 45 min later to join us. We caught up on old times and then I explained the layout of the Eureka to them, as well as explained what our mission was the next day. Chuck had never been there and it has been several years since Jimmy was there. We had a great meal and conversation and then headed back to the hotel to get some rest for the next day.
David drove down early the next morning from Paducah, and was at the mine when Chuck, Jimmy and I arrived…we passed the trackhoe and operator as we drove down the hill to the mine. He followed us down to get instruction and directions on how to get the trackhoe down to the mine, and we found out his name is Marlon….he had never dug there and was unfamiliar with that particular area, but knew as we did, that the sixty thousand pound machine would not be able to cross the little metal bridge over the creek at the foot of the hill. I showed him how to drive down the hill through the fields on the other side of the road and the cattle crossing in the creek, offered to walk him down and assist with the gates, but he said he would be fine, and so we set about getting things ready while he returned to do just that. The new pit that we had dug out last year over the course of two separate machine digs, had weathered the winter pretty good, yet was full of water on one end while high and dry, so to speak, on the other….
…I say so to speak, because it was as dry as could be expected after a half inch of rainfall the day before…dryer than we have found it in past years anyway. I can remember the early days when you stepped off in the old pit…that area filled in behind that water hole above….and sunk down to your knees easily, and wondered if you were going to be able to pull your feet out and keep your boots on. Many boots and waders have been lost to that Kentucky mud over the years, let me tell ya.
Last year, at the second machine dig, we brought the end of the new pit right up to the old logging road that runs along the mine on the west side….
…..and stopped digging there, even though we could see a vein of purple at the base of it. Bill Frazer, the landowner and President of the Museum Board, discovered that there was an offshoot vein traveling off the original vein that we had followed for the first ten years, this one seemed to come off at a forty five degree angle…Bill came to this conclusion after looking at some of the old maps of the mine, then dug an exploratory trench two years ago and struck fluorite. We followed his lead last year with both of our machine digs and found more fluorite each time we dug, and we also exposed a large bench, or saddle, at the bottom that also produced alot of pockets of deep dark purple cubes and plates of fluorite…
This year, I consulted with one of my geologist friends Mike Streeter, who knows the area well and Bill as well, and we decided to explore under the logging road to see if the vein continued in that direction. Bill also asked if we could fill in the deep water hole on the east side of the new pit, so we had Marlon take care of that job first…here you see the new pit below and the deep water hole in the upper part of the image, as well as the pocket producing saddle in the lower part of the image…
…when he finished that job, he had covered that entire deep water hole and bridged across the hole at the end of the saddle…which is still accessible to the serious hard rock diggers who will come there to dig. He then moved around to the other side to move the huge tailing pile around for us….
…..and when he did that, David climbed up on top to see if he was stirring anything up….
Marlon then came back to the logging road on the south side and began extending the trench in the direction of the forest behind him….at the start I went down into the pit to direct Marlon on where to begin digging….
…after that, Jimmy or Chuck stayed down in the pit at all times with me, to check his progress. Jimmy took the first turn and everytime we spotted purple, we would stop Marlon and then climb into the freshly dug dirt and check for cubes. David took some photos while Jimmy and I were down there, and after Chuck and Jimmy exchanged places, Jimmy took some photos of Chuck and I checking out the progress of the trackhoe…
…and here is Chuck in the pit while I was getting my perspective again on the progress…hard to do when you are down in the pit and looking up, trying to figure out where you are at in relation to the logging road above…..
…and you can`t tell from the angle I shot this, but Chuck is a good thirty to forty feet from the new area that Marlon is dropping that bucket into…Marlon turned out to be an excellent operator and excavator…kept a watchful eye on us all the time and made eye contact each time he emptied the bucket and brought it back around. We were very impressed with his skills and methods…we had worked with Wayne Crider for many years and Wayne was excellent to work with as well…we found out that he had recently sold his business and retired, now in his 80`s…we wish him only the best of luck and health.
In the meantime, Jimmy and David were on top keeping an eye on us and on the goodies in the bucket each time Marlon would bring a load up from below….
..and here is another view of Chuck down in the pit, while Marlon was working over the tailings, as the new pit expands into the old logging road….
…we were finding a lot of little plates and cubes along the way…much of it mud covered and hard to tell what all we had…here is one of David`s little plates all cleaned up….
We took the trench cut across that logging road, finding two veins of purple fluorite about two feet apart down the middle of the trench cut from near the top to the bottom of the cut. We were pulling a few small plates out…at one time, Chuck called me over, he found an opening in the matrix, and after retrieving my flashlight from my truck, I shined it inside and we saw one inch cubes on both sides of the opening, at least a couple of plates inside….David was able to take a nice photo of it…and then I proceeded to chip three plates out of it…
While the guys continued to dig out what they could find in the trench, I had Marlon cut a new temporary road thru the edge of the forest and back over to the main north side…he first piled some dirt and rocks up on both sides of the road cut, and we also staked a line across with some fence posts….
…I had never seen large limestone/dolomite boulders like the ones he pulled out of the pit and piled up on the road, they were water worn and smooth with rounded corners where once I am sure, they had hard sharp edges. Tina drove down later and was immediately both drawn and taken with them, she wanted to take a couple of them home with her…one was even big enough to serve as a small picnic table. Once finished with that, I had Marlon dig a trench on the north side of the old pit to see if we could locate the old horizontal tunnel that we had followed in the first ten years of our machine digs, when we found quite a bit of good to great specimens along the way. Jimmy photographed me standing at the edge of the trench cut that Marlon is making for us, again it looks as though I am in the pit from the angle taken, but rest assured I am standing up on the bank and a couple of feet from the edge….
We didn`t locate much of anything on this side, following some hunches, and the water table is very high here too, we were down maybe ten feet when Marlon punched thru some base rock and water started gushing into the trench cut…that alone would have made it extremely difficult to dig in even if we had found anything worthwhile there. It was noon by then and we decided to break for lunch. Bill had kept in contact with us all morning by phone, checking on our progress, so I called him once again to let him know where we were at. He was in Paducah but on his way back and said he would come by to discuss another place to dig at. Jimmy drove Marlon back up the hill to his truck so he wouldn`t have to hoof it up there, and he drove back down in his truck after his lunch break.
Bill arrived soon after and told us there was a location close by where a drill core several years before, had turned up some purple fluorite as well as some blue fluorite, calcite, and some other trace minerals, and if interested, we could have Marlon work a trench cut up the hill to see if we could find it. We all agreed to that, everyone likes blue fluorite afterall so we moved Marlon down to a likely spot, cut the fence, and had him commence trenching. He was having some difficulty in the spot we started him out at, so Bill relocated him to the hill above and had him begin again, eventually working his way up the hill behind him….
…as you can see, we were near the old Davis shaft tailings close to the old Columbia Mine, which is located down the hill to the left in the photo above, the Davis shaft tailings in the foreground above….and below…..
…the next image shows the old generator building for the Columbia Mine which was back behind us and just down over the hill with the cattle grazing down in the valley near the creek….
…and since this was taking a bit of time for Marlon to complete, Chuck stretched out on the tailing piles to get a little shut eye time in….
…as Marlon continued to dig, Jimmy watched and hoped for a glimmer of blue or purple….
…however, we reached the top of the hill with only a handful of chert and some sandstone found and Bill decided to stop the dig at that point. We had Marlon fill in the trench cut and he even went so far as to smooth it out as best he could for the sake of the cows that frequently graze that area….
…I stayed up on top of the hill with Marlon as he completed this work, and sent Jimmy, David, and Chuck down to divide up the finds….and when I returned forty minutes later, found that they were still picking and choosing. We cleaned up shortly after and headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and then over to the Oasis for another great dinner. The next morning, we slept in an hour extra and then drove over to meet Tina at the Clement Mineral Museum to get a tour of it…Chuck had never seen it and it had been some time that Jimmy had seen it as well, both of them were interested in seeing the rocks and minerals on display that glow under the blacklight lamps as well…here are some photos that Jimmy took there….
…the Clement Mineral Museum is always worth a visit to see the gorgeous crystals and minerals there…no matter how many times I have been there, I love to go back inside and look around again…bout like a kid in a candy store there, can never get enough or see enough.
From there, we drove on over to Danville, Kentucky, in the central part of the state, where we would be rockhunting the next few days for mainly geodes, or so we thought. I had made contact with a buddy of mine who likes fluorite, too…I met Phil and his wife Shirley at the Eureka Mine a few years ago, two very nice people that were hosting the Eureka for a few years, and one day Phil gave me a piece of white fluorite with a hint of purple on the edges, that was simply beautiful. I had no clue until this year that he lived close to Danville…for whatever reason, I thought all those years that he lived further south and east in Kentucky. I emailed him a couple of weeks ago when I had a better idea of my trip schedule and he invited us out to his place on our arrival, to show us his collection and offered to take us to a few places. I gladly accepted his offer on behalf of my friends.
I had also made contact with the manager of a nearby quarry and he texted to ask me to contact him on our arrival in town, so he could show us the quarry that afternoon, so I called him when we arrived at our hotel and arranged to meet him there 45 minutes later. I let Phil know that we would be out there as soon as we cleared the quarry, then Jim and Chuck joined me and Onyx as we drove to the quarry…I should prob say that we would be joined the next morning by a couple more people.
This quarry is known for Limestone, Fluorite, Barite, Calcite, Sphalerite, and some fossils, in that order…here are a few photos of what has been found there before…
We met the manager, Clay, at the front gate and loaded up into his truck and drove thru the gate…I left Onxy in my truck at the front gate with the ac running…knowing no one would mess with my truck because Clay said so and also because anyone that looked inside and saw a dog that looked like a lion would be a fool to try and break into it. Clay showed us the highlights and the lowlights both, areas to check out and areas to avoid, and explained why as well. He asked and we assured him that we had indeed brought our hard hats, safety glasses, gloves, and steeltoed boots with us and would be wearing them the next day.
He wished us good luck and we headed down to Phil`s residence, which is south of Danville, about a ten minute drive. We drove by several black colored barns…
….painted black down there either because black paint is and was cheap, or because many farmers grew tobacco leaves down there and those leaves were harvested and placed in the black barns to cure properly. I had always heard it was due to the tobacco farmers. We also drove up and over a steep knob to get to his house…knobs down there are what they call hills up here, they are shaped like doorknobs down there, tradional shaped doorknobs, that is, so they refer to them as knobs…..
We arrived to find Phil waiting for us outside his tool shed, which is a large outbuilding and holds much of his rock and mineral collection. He gave us the grand tour, and let me tell ya, he has some spectacular stuff there, plus he has his 16 inch rock saw in there, faceting machine, grinding/polishing wheels, everything needed to make jewelry and he had some of that as well….
…he is a retired machinist and knows how to make and repair many things, he can wreak havoc or create stunning art. a master craftsman. Phil showed us some nice crystals of fluorite that he had been collecting the last few years, similar to the piece he gave me a couple of years ago, and told us he could take us to one of those mines to see what we could find. Since Chuck had been planning to leave Sunday evening for home, I asked Phil if he could take us to the mine on Monday morning and he said that would be no problem….luckily Chuck was able to get an extension on his departure. After checking out the rest of Phil`s collection, Phil took us back into Danville and had supper with us at Giovanni`s Pizzaria, where they have great pizza buffet style, as well as salad and pasta, all you can eat for about ten bucks each. We then retired to the hotel for the night and Phil said he would see us the next morning at 9 am. After a good nights rest, Onyx and I drove over to McDonalds the next morning for a good hotcakes and sausage breakfast, about the only meal that will stick with me all day long and hold me til supper…Mark Bishop was the first to arrive a few minutes later, and then Travis Tracey showed up, both drove up from Georgia and Tennessee early that morning, to join us for the next couple of days. We waited a few more minutes to see if anyone else might join us for the day, I had told several friends about my trip and some had indicated they might be available to go with us, however no one else showed up except Phil and so we ambled on over to the quarry from there. Clay had warned us that we might find the gate locked and if so, just give him a quick call and he would have an employee close by to come unlock it for us…and that is exactly what we found on our arrival there, so we prepared for their arrival….
..one of their dispatchers arrived shortly after and unlocked the gate for us…and we followed Phil into the quarry as he has been there before….starting at the lower level so he could show us the fault line…
We all donned our hard hats, boots, grabbed buckets, bags, and tools, and then listened as Phil explained the mechanics of the quarry and showed us the fault….which is that slanted white line on the right in the third photo down from here….
We went to several levels while there and found very little at the top, so we then relocated to the lower levels where more rock was laying around and then started to find some nice stuff….
I think I was the first one to find something substantial, and just happened upon it by accident, big chunk of heavy rock with a beautiful face of white calcite, with small purple cubes on the calcite, and some barite mixed in….
Little was found as there was little fresh rock down, but we did manage to find a few nice ones…from there we drove out to Phil`s house to look for some geodes in his backyard creek….first we made sure to show Travis and Mark the beautiful collection that we had seen the day before, and soon after, Jim and Chuck ambled on down to the creek and began checking out the geodes there. Mark stayed behind to talk to Phil some more….
….and then came down and took some photos of everyone in the creekbed……
Phil had a couple of gravel bars we could search, however we never strayed from the one main one for the most part. As far as I could tell, everyone found as many geodes as they wanted to…Jimmy loaded up several buckets and then had to take them up to his suv, luckily he also brought a wagon that carried two buckets at a time….
We left here and drove over to a few roadcuts on Highway 150 near Stanford, a couple of them Phil knew about and then we went to a few that I had been told about. We found some dolomite crystal pockets in some of them, and Travis found a nice calcite crystal in the bottom of one of the pockets, yet no one could figure out how to extract it from the pocket without damaging it…..
After checking and digging into five roadcuts, we were tiring quickly and it was soon apparent that our breakfast had worn off long ago…so we soon loaded up and headed back to Stanford. As we approached the city limits, I looked to the north and spotted what appeared to be rain clouds coming in from southwest, rain had been predicted that day earlier, however we had not seen any yet…these slid on by without dropping any rainfall as well….
The restaurant there that Phil wanted to go to was closed due to Easter so we headed on to Danville and returned to Giovanni`s for more pizza. Phil said he could take us to an old fluorite mine the next morning where we could also find barite and calcite crystals, so we decided to meet again at McDonalds the next morning. Onyx and I drove down to Stanford to my friend John`s house, where we would spend the next couple of nights. I didn`t get a chance to visit with John as much as I would have liked to, between his schedule and mine, we only got to visit between supper and bedtime.
After another good nights rest, we were up and on the road to Danville`s McDonalds again to meet up with the guys on Monday morning. Phil was running a little late that morning, I think we wore him out the day before, but we had a beautiful drive over to the location for the morning dig. This old mine dates back to the early 1800`s and was always a fluorite mine, producing predominantly white colored fluorite cubes, some with yellow barite attached, sometimes attached in balls of barite, and sometimes in the company of calcite as well. Phil had dug there for a few years after befriending the owner of the privately owned mines and we had seen some of his collected crystals that were stunning, to say the least. We were all looking very forward to getting over there to see what we could dig up and take home as well. The morning dawned cool and cloudy, but it sure was pretty along the way, we drove down through some impressive canyons and saw a few waterfalls along the way too, finally arriving at the old tailing piles, which were pretty also….Phil led us up to the top of the piles and we began there, however a few of us throughout the day wandered around and checked other areas to see what could be found as well….
We discovered as Phil had told us, that you didn`t have to dig down very far to find some great stuff, many of the calcite crystals we were finding were just under the grass line even, like this one that Mark found….
Chuck found several alongside us and then had to hit the road headed home around noon…soon after he left, I dug into his spot and pulled out some nice small clusters of fluorite cubes and some calcite crystals too…then a few of us decided to take a break and grab some water and something to snack on. Mark and I made our way to the bottom of the hill as some folks were walking down the road, out getting their daily hike in…they stopped to chat with us and were very pleasant to talk to…the man`s name was Mark also and he was retired from Lipton…told him I sure did like their sweet teas and he said he worked in their spaghetti sauce branch for many years…I had no clue Lipton produced that. They were walking four miles a day so we saw them three more times as they passed by while we were there. I let Onyx out of the truck then as the sun was now out and the temps were beginning to climb, and he promptly went over and found a sunny spot in the grass and lay down to catch some rays….
Mark and I wandered down the road a ways to stretch our legs after sitting up on top for a few hours, and came upon some pretty wildflowers and trees along the way…
…and afterwards, Jim and Mark returned to the top of the hill while Travis and I puttered around the base of the tailings pile….
I decided to dig into an area a few feet up the hill from the bottom that looked to be a seam or opening across the pile about thirty feet long…I had my small extendable potato rake with me and started raking a few rocks out and on the second try, I pulled two chunks of fluorite out about the size of a loaf of bread…was beginning to think I might be on to a pocket and said as much to Travis, so he came down and joined me on the right side of that seam. I reached in and pulled out yet another one and then called out to Jim and Mark…Mark soon came down to see what I had found and decided to join us there as well…eventually Jim came down and joined us on the left side too….
…and we stayed there til about 6 pm, pulling several nice pieces of fluorite and calcite out of there. The landowner came by to check and see how we were doing and remarked that it was a good spot to dig into, and I have to agree with that. He asked about Phil and we let him know that he had to leave earlier in the day to take delivery of a truck…we thanked him for allowing us the opportunity to dig there that day and he wished us well, seemed like a very nice guy. Jim and Mark returned to the top of the pile for another thirty minutes, and then we decided to call it a day. There were some scenic areas about ten miles to the north that we wanted to check out and photograph, so we left with just enough daylight left to do so…..
…we got back to Danville just before dark and stopped to change into cleaner jeans, then headed over to Cheddars for supper. Everyone was going to head home the next day after our morning location…I had tried to contact Mr. Flynn to set up an agate hunt, but was told he was under the weather, so we opted to go to the horse farm instead…I had been in contact with Sharon and Richard, and they said we were welcome to come down and take as many geodes off their farm as we wanted to. Jim, Mark, and Travis decided to meet Onyx and I at the Stanford McDonalds the next morning about 8:30 am. I had to take three alleves in order to get to sleep that night, I was sore in every square inch of my shoulders, back, and legs from nine hours of digging that day, but woke up the next morning free of pain and just a little bit sore in places. After repacking my truck so I could get everything in, Onyx and I took off to meet the crew, arriving just ahead of them. On the way out, I noticed a bright and shiny Ladder Truck pull into the parking lot, so I drove over to talk to the driver as he was getting out…I was surprised the little town of Stanford had one, and he told me they were a fire district too and could afford nicer trucks due to that and they had quite a few tall churches and three story buildings. Turned out he was a paid firefighter in Danville and a volunteer firefighter in Stanford, and lived just a few houses down from my buddy John. Small world.
We headed on down to Eubank and then turned east and drove over to the horse farm, and Sharon came out to meet and greet us. Jimmy and I had been there a few years before while Mark and Travis had never been there, so she explained where we could walk to collect, they have several pastures there for their horses and had moved them around for us prior to our arrival.
Sharon and Richard had moved down there several years ago from the state of Montana, to be closer to their horse buyers…they have nearly twenty acres of mostly pasture and the geodes come up each year with the thawing of the ground and cause them problems for their brush hog blades, so they welcome individual and small groups of rockhounds, they just ask for a little notice so they can move their horses around to accomodate rockhounds. If you are interested in going there, email me at email@example.com and I can put you in touch with them. Soon we were scattered across their pastures looking for geodes…Travis followed Mark and I up into the main pasture and soon found out that many of them were down in the ground and all you could see of them initially were the tops of them….
Jimmy started out in the wooded area behind the main barn, but then wandered over to a drainage area where he found some large geodes….and the rest of us soon found ourselves over there as well….
…and soon we all had as many as we could pack into our vehicles and headed for homes in all different directions…Jimmy had the longest drive home, fifteen hours or more, he arrived home about 2 am central time. Onyx and I arrived home about 7 pm. Everyone got home safe and sound, a little on the exhausted side, but also very happy. All in all, it was a very nice trip with great weather, great finds, and great friends !! Thanks to my friends for making my Spring Fling 2016 a good one !!
if you have any questions, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org