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….
…and one of MacKenzie taking a break and loading up some clay dirt into a bottle….
…and Fred working on the wall above Johns pocket, where Fred was finding a few nice plates and clusters at….
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 email@example.com if you have any questions about my trip.