Never has one of my previously planned trips to Arkansas come at a better time than my first week of July 2016 mini vacation trip. I remember letting my Mom and Dad know about six weeks ago that they were welcome to make the trip with Onyx and I if they wanted to take a few days off to rest and relax, as I would be staying at the condo on Lake Hamilton that I often stay at on my travels down there, and it`s a great place to stay and simply recharge your batteries at. Two weeks later, I lost my Dad to a massive heart attack, he collapsed in their front yard.
For the past four years, Dad had suffered from Vascular Dementia, a condition that means in addition to dementia, he was also prone to his body trying to form blood clots all the time, which is likely what caused the aortic anneurism problems that he went through two years ago and required lifesaving surgery. We laid him to rest three weeks ago with full fire department and military honors, and a few days after I returned to work, the mini vacation that I had set up back in December last year, finally arrived. Mom and I were exhausted and mentally drained from trying to get back to a new normal, adjusting to the loss of his presence in our daily lives. Mom decided to go spend a few days with her brothers and their families in Fort Smith and Waldron, while Onyx and I drove on down to Hot Springs to spend time with several rockhunting friends looking for quartz crystals. After dealing with alot of drama and stress during Dad`s funeral and in the few weeks afterward, we were both ready for some rest, relaxation, and fun digging for quartz. We had a nice drive down there, stopping off briefly in Fayetteville at a flea market where I purchased a nice pyrite cube cluster from Spain. Onxy and I dropped Mom off at Aunt Dorcas and Uncle Harleys house in Fort Smith and then drove on down to Hot Springs, arriving there by mid afternoon. After cleaning up a bit, Onyx and I drove up to the Hibachi Sushi Buffet location near the Mall for a nice evening meal, then I stopped off at the Home made Ice Cream store called Scoops and picked up a quart of Butter Pecan to take back to the condo. I stopped off and replenished the ice in both of the coolers I brought down, filled with my spiked water, gatorade, and some snicker bars. While kicking back and relaxing on the balcony watching the speed boats go by….
….I called Chad, one of my friends who lives near Hot Springs, shortly after that and let him know of my plans to check out an old mine the next morning…he was interested in joining me and Andrew, a new rockhunting friend in Conway who was driving down the next morning as well to meet me at the Mall. Chad said he would meet me at McDonalds, where I normally eat breakfast when down there, on Friday morning.
Since we had started our day early that morning, Onyx and I were in bed soon after the news and up again Friday morning by 6 am. After taking Onxy on a short walk around the condo complex, meeting a few of the other renters walking their pets, we headed to the McDonalds Restaurant just north of the Mall for breakfast…Chad arrived soon after and then we drove down to the Mall to meet up with Andrew Stauber from Conway. Andrew and I had been talking for a few weeks online after he found my website and discovered that I travel to Arkansas a few times a year for quartz crystals…he told me that he was new to rockhunting and would like to go rockhunting with me. I told him I was driving down the first few days of July and we agreed to meet up this morning to go check out an old copper/lead mine that he found out about online and secured permission to check out with the owner, since it was on private property. He arrived at the Mall shortly after Chad and I got there, and from there we drove south to the property, arriving a little after 9 am. We talked to the owner for about 20 minutes about the history of the old mine and then he told us that he had walked down to it a few days before and had to kill a water moccasin that popped up out of the creek water…a creek runs next to the old mine…and that he had seen a few copperheads there as well. I told Andrew I really didnt want to be messing with any poisonous snakes on this trip and would prefer to come back in the fall when it was much cooler and we didnt have to worry about such things. Chad agreed, mainly because Chad was wearing shorts and sandals, instead of boots and jeans like Andrew and I were wearing. We asked the owner if it was okay with him for us to return in the fall and apologized if we had wasted his time, but he was very nice and gracious, telling us that if it were up to him, he would rather we came back in the fall as well.
From there, not really having anything else planned out, I called another guy I had been talking to for quite some time online…Gary Fleck, a mineral and quartz dealer who lives on the west side of Hot Springs…and found out he was home with some spare time and we were welcome to go and visit with him for a bit. I had an appointment at 2 pm, so we had some free time and headed over there to meet and visit with him. Gary used to own a quartz mine near Oden and has been a quartz and mineral dealer for many years, lives on Lake Hamilton and has many beautiful crystals and minerals in his collection and many more for sale as well. We visited with him and his wife for about 90 minutes before I had to take off…before leaving tho, I did purchase a nice dolomite piece from the Elmwood Mines with some small fluorite cubes on it for my personal collection, and I gave him some nice double terminated calcites on pyrite and chalcopyrite from the Viburnum Trend mines, too. Later that evening, Chad and I met up with Virgil Richards, a good rockhunting friend of mine from Tulsa, at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant for supper…Virgil had driven in that afternoon, the first of many friends that would be digging with me the next couple of days, for quartz crystals. We had a great supper and then all three of us split up for the rest of the evening.
Onyx and I were up early once again, this time catching the sunrise over Lake Hamilton right off my balcony…..
…we got ready and drove up to the Courtyard Marriott Hotel to pick up my St Louis County buddy Chuck Reed, who was staying there with his family, he wanted to leave his truck there for his wife and two daughters so they could go visit downtown Hot Springs while we were digging for quartz that day. We then drove over to McDonalds and had breakfast and then drove over to the Mall to meet up with Alina and Pat Klein and their two sons Fen and Coen…they had arrived late the night before driving in from Indianapolis…Chuck and his family arrived around 11 pm. Everyone else had texted me the night before or earlier in the morning to let me know they would meet us at Mt Ida, including Virgil since he was staying at a motel on the west side of Hot Springs, so we headed west soon after in order to meet everyone in Mt Ida by 8:45 am. On the way up there Chuck texted Tony, the mine owner, to let him know we would arrive at his mine a little after 9 am, we were slowed down by heavy traffic outside of Mt Ida…weekenders driving 45 mph instead of 55 mph. We soon arrived in Mt Ida tho, getting around the slowpokes in the passing lanes of Hwy 270 about ten miles east of town, and shortly after pulling into the old Exxon Station we met up with Justin from Hot Springs, Virgil from Tulsa, and Chris and Kim Bryant with their son Preston, from Birmingham… soon we were driving over to Tony`s mine. We arrived about 9:15 and found Tony waiting for us by his trackhoe at his new digging area…he showed us some gorgeous small clusters that he had pulled out of some pockets in the new area and we were soon off to the races, looking for quartz…Chuck found a nice yard rock not five minutes after walking up into the dig area…
..so soon after photographing Chuck with his find, I walked up into the dig area and was seeing crystals laying all over the place, picking up several and placing them in my bag before I even got to the back wall of the new area….from there, I turned around and snapped a few photos of everyone else searching the tailing piles for crystals and every few seconds, someone was calling out that they found something nice….
I set up shop next to Virgil who was already hard at work digging out crystals in the clay on the back wall, using a flat head screwdriver….
..and here is one of his finds soon after….
Pretty soon the heat of the day began catching up with us, so we started taking breaks and drinking our fluids…along the wall we were in the shade for a while that morning, the canopy of tall pines presenting a great cover for us for much of the day….when I looked back behind me the next time, I saw people spread out digging all over the place…
…and Justin was off to my left on top of one of the tailing piles pulling out some nice crystals..he and Fen were searching for the single points and they were finding some nice ones…
…and through the morning hours, Onyx did well in the shade next to me, stretched out on the cool…to him…clay dirt….
…Chuck was behind me and Virgil looking for plates and yard rocks during the morning hours….
…and everytime I looked over at Justin, he was pulling crystal after crystal out of that tailing pile he was working on…
…Chuck was soon joined by Coen, while working behind Virgil and I, and they began discussing minerals and quartz while taking a break from the heat….
…and then I saw Justin walking around and surface collecting some more…
…and then shortly after noon, more took breaks from the building heat while Chuck and Justin decided to head on up the mountain to the old mine and see what more could be found up there….here you see Pat and his dog Toby have decided to join me and Virgil on the back wall area…
…and here comes Alina and Preston surface collecting as well as Chuck walks back to my truck with his tool bag full of crystals in the photo on the left and Fen surface collecting on the right….
…Fen was relentless in his search for single crystal points…had I known that`s what he was after, I wouldnt have handed him all those little clusters I found….
…by the time 3 pm rolled around, Virgil and I were getting tired, mainly of the oppressive heat…
….we were still finding a lot of crystals, even pulled a large piece of rock away to reveal a nice pocket of crystals and worked that for awhile and Virgil found a huge yard rock too….
…most everyone else had gone on up to the top to the old mine and were finding some nice ones up there, so we decided to follow. As we were packing up and getting ready to head up there, Justin showed me a super nice single point that he found up there, as he was getting ready to head out…if you have heard of one but never seen one…this is what a happy camper looks like……
Chuck walked back down, having found several nice crystals up at the top and so rode with me to the top, Virgil following soon after, and we stayed up there awhile and looked for a few more, finding some nice ones up there too…here Chuck caught me surface collecting up there…….by that time, I had my floppy hat on to keep the sun off the back of my neck….
…Virgil, Chuck, and I were the last ones to leave…we were all out of there by 4 pm and although we were exhausted due to the heat, we were all very happy with our finds…I had four bags full of wrapped crystals and some of us also had some nice yard rocks. Tony was a great host once again, and we look forward to returning to his mine again this fall. We headed back to Hot Springs to get cleaned up and have supper…this was the night that the entire Hot Springs area celebrates the 4th of July with their huge fireworks display over Lake Hamilton. I no sooner arrived at my condo after dropping Chuck off at his hotel, then I discovered a major parking issue…I had to park at the next condo building up from the one my condo was located in. Chuck and his family were going to come down and watch the fireworks while I photographed them, as we would have front row seats to the display…they are set off at the Power Boats Business across the water from the Clarion Hotel, a quarter mile east of the condo. About an hour later tho, the parking situation lightened up and everyone was able to come over to watch and enjoy the fireworks with me….by 8:30 pm, the boats were starting to accumulate out in the channel behind the condo….
…and right before the display started, some folks about two buildings up had their own private show down next to the water with some pretty commercial grade fireworks….
…and then soon after that, the huge display started and lit up the night skies over Lake Hamilton….
This year I was able to capture over a hundred nice images of the fireworks and I know that I stood there and snapped over 200 photos during the display, shooting some video as well, once again, it was a GREAT show there !! I dont know who sets them off there, but JOB WELL DONE FOLKS !!!
Sunday morning, our plan was to drive up to Twin Creek Mine and dig in a private pocket there. I had set this into motion on June 19th when I started talking to Miss Dixie on FB, letting her know that we would be there on Sunday, July 3rd and would like to dig in the special private area to the right as you enter the mine area, not the public dig area…four of us had dug there back in November and did quite well there. She started telling me that they had expanded their operation and were now digging 75 feet up the hill from the public dig area and had hit a ten foot wide quartz vein up there…and that they were going to let us dig there, that it was going to be their private pocket dig area for the next few years…she said that pocket would cost us from $ 300 to $ 500 for those of us that would be there that morning and she said they were finding blue phantoms up on that ridge as well. I told her that would work for us and I would contact there the day before to firm things up. I emailed her again on FB the evening before driving down to Arkansas to let her know we were looking forward to digging there again, and she responded by letting me know that everything was looking very promising for us.
So Saturday evening, before everyone arrived to watch the fireworks with me, I started texting Miss Dixie to make sure we were still on for Sunday morning in the private pocket area…I kept all my texts and emails on my FB page to refresh my memory on this….she said Bobby had been working hard and would meet us at the mine in the morning to show us the possibilities…said there was more than one spot and more than one side of the mine to choose from as to where we could dig…then I asked her about the price…a few weeks prior she told me the price would be $ 300 to $ 500 for the group of us and that is what I told me crew so they would know how much money to bring with them for this dig…we had 7 to 9 adults and four children 10 years of age and younger.
She texted me back and said $ 100 per person is the special dig price and Bobby is seeing 3 or 4 pockets worth $ 300 to $ 400….one may open bigger, but the price stays the same and Bobby can show you…I texted her back, to confirm she just told me that the cost was now $ 100 per person, and she confirmed it…told her we could not afford to pay $ 100 per person, that she had told me prior that the cost would be $ 300 to $ 500 for the group…she came back with, okay what were you thinking…told her back in the fall the price was split up by four people for the special pocket location, that was what we were figuring on doing this time too…she said she didnt know what Bobby had set up for us last fall. Bobby had given us a pocket price for two different pockets back in November, when one didnt work out, he let us have the other pocket for a lower amount. She said we could work something out, give her a few min and she would get back to me….a few hours later, she came back to me and said $ 450 was the best she could do for a private dig area, and if Bobby had not made the deal with us the last time, she would not even consider that, she said Bobby would meet us at the mine at 8 am.
Chuck and I met up at Mc Donalds the next morning at 7 am and shortly after, met Alina, Pat, Fen and Coen at the Mall, and we took off to the west to meet the others at the parking lot across from the Crystal Inn on Hwy 270. Virgil was just ahead of us and let me know there was a bad vehicle accident on 270 on the west side of Hot Springs, head on collision and only one lane open. We had to stop briefly when we arrived and observed a pickup with heavy damage to the front, but no other vehicle in sight…I did notice half a dozen Hot Springs firefighters standing on the bank above the lake on the other side of the guard rail, looking down…which indicated to me that the other car was in the lake below, not a good sign. We found out later that evening, that the two young men in the car were pronounced fatally injured at the scene, they crossed over the center line and struck the truck head on, then caromed off the pickup and went flying thru the air landing down the embankment and in the water of the lake…prob a good thing most folks couldnt see the end result.
When we arrived at the parking lot across from Crystal Inn, we found Chris, Kim and Preston, and Virgil, waiting on us…two of the adults who were going to go with us, didn`t show up, so I let everyone else know it was going to cost each adult $ 60 plus $ 12.50 for each of the kids.
We drove on over to the mine and met our hostess, Jennifer, at the gate, she was arriving at the same time as we were, and we followed her down to the camper office where we found Bobby greasing up his new trackhoe. I let him know that we were ready to go up the hill to the new private pocket area and he looked at me like I had lost my mind…told him that was what Dixie had told us, we would be digging up the hill where the ten foot wide vein was found and he said he was confused…told him I had been confused as well, even showed him the texts that she had sent me, he read those and decided that she had lost her mind… so he decided to call her to see if he could clear this all up. He came back a few min later and told us that we would be digging in the small commercial mine where the four of us dug in November, not up on the hill in the new private pocket area. We walked up there and he showed us the expanded work area, more wall exposed with crystals in plain view on the wall, pointed out a few other areas where pockets were located and offered to bring the trackhoe over there after dinner to stir things up even more. He let us move our vehicles over there as well, which would free up parking for public diggers. We paid Jennifer our fees and started searching for crystals as the heat and humidity began to build….
Jennifer was a great hostess, she came over to check on us frequently, brought some water bottle spritzers over with her a few times to spray us down due to the heat and humidity being so high…even brought us some umbrellas for shade….
…and here she is looking pretty hot herself…..
…with her awesome assistance, we endured the humidity til about 1 pm…we were still fairly wore out from the day before, when a couple of the kids went down from the heat on Saturday and Virgil had taken a fall and hurt himself as well at the end of the day, and the rest of us were just a little sore in places. We thanked her with a big tip for her awesomeness and sparkling personality, and headed up the hill and out of there. Chuck said he would lead the way to the main road and once we got out on the gravel road and started down the hill, he came to a sudden stop half way down that steep hill….and started veering to the right into the ditch…anyone that has traveled Forest Service Roads in the past few years, knows that these days they are all narrow, and the gravel is slanted down to a 45 degree angle into the ditchline on both sides of the road…what happened is we met Miss Dixie coming up the hill in her 4wd pickup, all duded up in red, white, and blue, and so we all moved over to the ditchline and passed by her truck…as I passed by she smiled and waved, and I waved back.
Once we hit the main road, I took the lead and led everyone over to Bill and Faiths Blue Moon Crystal Shop on Hwy 270, a few miles east of the turn off to Mountain Harbor. Bill and Faith have been good friends of mine for several years, Ray Roth and I met them years ago when we began going to Miller Mountain Mine each year in the fall…they were the most honest, reliable, dependable, hard working and friendly mine operators I had ever met down there, and now they operate their rock shop out of their home in the same manner. Just great down to earth folks with very affordable quartz crystals, jewelry, and minerals from other states and countries as well…we were all shopping inside and I was looking at some spirit amethyst crystal clusters from South Africa when my phone started blowing up with texts…from Miss Dixie….the first one wasnt too bad, read ” Didnt want to say hi in the road ? “
While I was typing out my answer ” we were all hot and tired and didnt want to block the road, so I waved and smiled and drove on “, when her next text hit me and the look on my face when I read it, concerned a few of my group and they came to look with me…..it said ….” Prolly best you didnt “…so I added on to my first message back to her and asked her if I had offended her in some way….and she answered ” Yes sir I believe so “…so I asked how I offended her and she answered that ” she felt that I had mislead her intentionally about the pricing on the pockets and said I was not honest with her “….so I told her, figuring she didnt know, that we had paid $ 470 that morning, $ 20 more than the $ 450 she had asked for…and then she came back with ” its all good and said she would pay better attention to detail the next time “. However by the time all of my group read what she was texting me and getting an attitude with me about it, it wasnt all good and no one had any desire to return there to dig again.
We all headed back to Hot Springs shortly after that, I set Virgil up to meet a good dealer friend of mine in Hot Springs on his way home in the morning, Gary had some good Elmwood Mine material that I was sure Virgil would like to see, and I told Bill and Faith that I would stop off the next morning to see them on my way home too. Virgil and I met up later at the Hibachi again for another good supper and then I headed back to the condo to relax down. However folks living on the other side of the lake drew my attention outside on the balcony, many were setting off their own fireworks shows….
The next morning, Onyx and I tried our best to sleep in, made it to sunrise…..
….and then again at 7 am, so we got up that time and started packing the truck. Once I filled the gas tank and re-filled the coolers with ice, we headed west on 270 to Bill and Faith`s Rock Shop again, where I stopped off to get a few crystals…they had a couple of the spirit amethyst crystal clusters and I selected one of those along with some glassbacks and small clusters that I really liked. From there, we headed west to Hwy 71 and then north to Fort Smith, where I stopped off to pick up Mom…discovered my cousin Sherry with her two boys Derek and Seth, so after a short visit with all of them, Mom and I headed north on 71 to Missouri. We made one pit stop along the way, stopping off in Fayetteville briefly to photograph the Johnson Mill, which was restored several years prior and converted first to an Architectural Office, then it became a bed and breakfast, and this time we discovered it was now a hotel with an old brick house across the street converted to a bed and breakfast…called the Johnson House appropriately enough….
…and then while Mom took Onyx for a short walk, I photographed the old mill, with the huge water wheel and water flume and waterfalls…..
We arrived home safe and sound by 6 pm…in time to rest up and get ready to shoot the fireworks that evening at the fairgrounds. Check my blogsite for that story…www.jwjphotoblog.com
Here are some of the crystals I found down there….
The first four were found at Twin Creek….starting with the fifth one, the rest were found at Tony`s Mine on Saturday….I still have a few more to clean up and post, too….