New Mexico, Land of Enchantment and Rocks…

About six weeks after my fall trip to Arkansas, I had an email from my buddy John Oostenryk about his recent second trip to New Mexico, regarding his opportunity the year before, to go to a property where much lapidary material, with some mineral specimens, had been stored…the family that offered him that opportunity was cordial but firm that he not publicize the site. 

The message in the email to me mid December was, ” hey how would you like to drive down to New Mexico in the spring of 2020 and collect some of that material and do you think your group would like to go as well ? ”  I wasn`t sure if I could go, but I was sure others would jump at the chance to go, so I emailed the group and pitched the idea to them, to get an initial head count of who was interested first….and as I figured, many were interested but it would depend on the timing of it all…just as it would for me.

John had returned a second year and cleaned out another chunk of the material and then had a stellar idea, that he had first checked with the family about…and they were receptive to the idea, that he invite my group and I to join him this spring, going to this secret location to get even more of the material there..out of there…and the price the family offered us was $ 50 a bucket. John also had other locations we could go to and collect at for a wide variety of minerals and crystals. We decided it was going to take a week to go to the many locations, and this would give us two days to go to the secret location as well. Once he had the particulars figured out, he sent me a lengthy list of information and I also sent that out to my group, to get an idea of who might be interested, and that was right before Christmas 2019.

The only thing that was not listed was a general idea of when we would go, and by mid February, I sent out another email with the trip finalized and the dates set for March 5th to the 10th, for southwest New Mexico. We decided to stay at Deming, since it has a multitude of hotels and restaurants. While I wasn`t sure if I could even go, I researched the weather that time of the year down in SW New Mexico as well as gas prices and lodging options…John was very helpful with that information as well…I read that the normal rainfall for an entire year in that part of the country, is two tenths of an inch per year…very low amounts and the temps were averaging lows of 35 degrees at night to highs of 60 to 70 degrees, so I figured we were gonna be okay on temps and there wouldn`t be much rain…my next concern was rattlesnakes..cause I hear all these stories about rattlesnakes at old mining locations that rockhounds have to put up with. Between John and the online information, it looked like we would not have to put up with those either. 

Each time John went down there, the weather was a mixture of warm days, cold days, days with rain, days with sleet, and eight hours of daylight. Digging was easy because the soil down there is mainly a mixture of sand and dirt, kind of a loamy material and easy to dig through. Their first few days there, they were picking up thousands of chips and pebbles and marbles, bits and pieces of every mineral imagineable, then they started digging in. Family was able to give them a good idea of where some things were buried to give them a start, and then from there on, they just searched everywhere til they got a good grasp of everything themselves. He brought back 11 tons the first year in a large commercial truck he rented. The second year he rented a similar truck, but better than the first one and he was also was fortunate to be able to hire a friend of family that knew how to operate a tractor and had a tractor to operate, to dig for them…machinery in good hands can make all the difference between backbreaking labor and not wearing yourself out daily. Knowing John as well as I do, I know he and Mary brought back some very nice lapidary material, nice crystal specimens, nice mineral specimens, nice fossils, nice slabs, and a mixture of nice everything else that one finds in buried treasure…over 20 tons of it in two trips over two years time.

 By early February, I had received and accepted a job offer from one of my golf course bosses, who was now at a different golf course as the big boss, he asked me to come work for him mid March and I decided to take a week vacation before starting there, so we started planning for it, and John put together a very lengthy email for everyone to read, with a couple of warnings for everyone as well, advising them not to talk to anyone about this particular location. For one thing, it was a secret location and we didn`t want anyone and everyone finding out about it, trespassing into the property to steal stuff there, causing the family there even more grief. Number two, if they did break in and start stealing, they could very easily get dog bit, shot, injured by either means, killed by either means, or both…I sure wouldn`t want that on my conscience. As I told everyone, there are guard dogs on the property 24/7 and the residents and neighbors are armed at all times, plus they saw deputies and state troopers all the time down there in the area, as well as BLM officers and Border Patrol Officers. I forwarded John`s email to everyone and advised them to read it a few times before making a decision and let me know how they felt about it. The reaction was much the same, we may have gained a few more folks interested in going this time around.

By the time mid February rolled around, John and I had the trip finalized and dates set for March 5th, day we started digging, to March 10th, last day of digging and a half day at that. Now for me, that was going to be at least 19 hours of driving so that was a two day trip for me, and others north, south, and east of me as well. Anyone further east of me were either going to have to get on the road much sooner or fly, and as it was, two of them did fly in and arrived before the rest of us did.

Chuck had been talking about going, but let me know soon after that email, that he was not going to be able to go this trip, and I picked up a passenger the next day for the trip down, one of the St Louis Mineral Club members named Rich. This was gonna be his first big field trip and he brought way too much with him to take along….I explained to him on the way down there, when you bring that much stuff along, you have to think ahead, and remember you have to take it back home and where are you going to put the rocks you collect if you already have your half of my truck filled up. I think he has a better understanding of that now.

We left out early morning Tuesday, March 3rd and drove down to Tucumcari, New Mexico, for the night, staying at one of those small, restored historic Hwy 66 motels on the west side of town, hard to beat rooms for $ 40 a night that are spacious and nicely restored. 🙂  We no sooner checked in and freshened up for supper, when I spotted this gorgeous sunset on the way to Del`s Restaurant, and had to take a few photos of it…third one is about halfway downtown to the restaurant…

NM Trip 2020-0303 Tucumcari NM Sunset 47

We ate supper at a nice restaurant a mile north of the hotel, called Del`s…told Rich I had lunch there about 30 yrs ago with the Union Pacific Special Agent for that area, Officer Marquez, I believe is his name. I was on my way back home then, from my fall vacation in Colorado and Arizona, and needed to drop off some UP uniforms to him from Officer Keith Snuffin in Denver. I had breakfast with Keith in Evergreen one morning and he asked me to stop and deliver the uniform shirts and pants that no longer fit him, to Officer Marquez on my way home later that week. I worked at that time for Union Pacific`s Response Management Communication Center in St Louis, so I called them as I came across New Mexico the day before and they arranged the meeting with Officer Marquez for me. I honestly could not remember his name, til Rich and I were having breakfast the next morning at the KiKs 66 Diner, and I asked about the Railroad Station and Special Agent there. Fortunately, the Manager of the Diner knew the Agent and his wife and mentioned his name to me…I told her that his name sounded familiar, but it had been 30 years at least. Wish I would have had a bit more time to meet him and visit again before heading on down to Deming. 

Anyway, Del`s was a great place to eat, they have a wide variety of American and Mexican food dishes there and let me tell ya, they know how to cook and believe in feeding you, too. We told them as we left, that we would definitely return a week from that evening for another meal there. After a very quiet and restful night after 12 hours on the road Tuesday, we headed on down westbound I-40, climbing the mountain range to Albuquerque  and then turning south on I-25 toward Deming. By the time we reached Albuquerque, we were at an elevation of 5,300 feet above sea level, compared to an elevation here at home of about 981’…I was pretty sure we were gonna continue to rise higher as we dropped south. We stopped at Belen, New Mexico, about 45 min south of Albuquerque, to do some jasper hunting just west of the city limits and airport. I had read several reports online about multicolored jasper, agate, and pet wood found out there on both sides of the road, and once there, we soon found out those reports were spot on the money….

NM Trip 2020-0304 Belen Jasper Area 60

the second thing you read about and then notice when you get there, in addition to the rocks laying all over the place, are the thorn bushes at knee level much of the time, and I guarantee you, if you dont see them, you will def feel them when you brush up against them….YEEOWWW comes to mind…I was kinda glad I didn`t bring Onyx along on this trip cause he woulda been dealing with them alot more than we did and it prob wouldn`t have been pretty on him especially. Let me visualize this for ya, since I didn`t shoot any photos of them close up, the many thorns on the branches are at least two to three inches long, razor sharp points, and spaced out one to three inches apart…scarey and brutal and they dot the landscape on the high desert floor down there…
We each filled a bucket or so, before heading on down the road…the airport there at Belen, had some training going on while we were there, they were flying over us in some military looking helicopters and it was pretty neat watching some C130`s flying over us as they headed north toward the AFB at Albuquerque.  Here is a photo of the scenery along I-25 as we headed south from Belen…

As we traveled south on I-25, I explained to Rich about mines and areas to collect certain types of rock that I had read about online in the areas we were traveling through, like the wonderstone that can be found in the area of Truth or Consequences, and fluorite mines on the other side of the lake at Caballo Lake..by the time I got done detailing everything, he was ready to go over there and look around…if only we had more time.

Took a couple of hours to get down to Hatch, where we picked up Hwy 26 that took us southwest to Deming. We were about ten miles south of Hatch passing by a huge solar panel farm with giant wind turbines, when Fred Mahaffey called to see where we were…he had arrived earlier in the day and spent as much time cooped up in the hotel as he could…said he went to the Museum in town and someone there told him about Fluorite Ridge, so he drove out there to look around and was finding some bits and pieces there. Since we had a couple of hours of daylight left, I told him we would head there, prob about 20 miles out yet. Right after that, Mark Bishop called me and said he and his cousin Steve, were bored as well, so told them how to get there and we would see them soon, too. David Hodge called next and told him where we were at as well and he joined us too. 

John and Mary texted to let me know they were near Deming, coming in from the east on I-10 and were gonna check in to the hotel and then drive out to the Secret Spot to talk to the family member there to firm up our plans for the next morning. Said they would see us at the Mexican Restaurant called Si Senor around darkness, for supper.

Fred came out to the turn at Hwy 26 to meet us and when Rich and I arrived 20 min later, we found Mark and Steve with Fred, and we all followed Fred back to the old mine he was checking out at Fluorite Ridge. There isn`t much to see out there, mostly tailing piles where we parked on a concrete slab, littered with shotgun shell casings and small fluorite cubes here and there….

Mark  and Rich walked up the hill to another mine site halfway up the ridge and they were up there for a good hour checking things out, but didn`t find much. Fred and I found a pile just outside an old foundation for a building, and he started digging down on one side and found some pretty light green and clear fluorite cubes…so I began digging down on the other side and began finding some as well. Nothing spectacular but proved they didn`t keep it all, did leave some behind. As darkness began to fall, I shot this sunset photo of one of the old buildings there and then we headed to Si Senor for dinner/supper….

We had a great supper/dinner at Si Senor…now I see why Mary and John really enjoy eating there…great open atmosphere there, friendly folks inside, they serve both American and Mexican food dishes and not pricey at all. Not many restaurants down there serve sweet tea, this was one of them, so I settled for an orange soda, they serve soda in tall bottles and bring you a glass of ice. We all met there that evening and hashed out the plans for the next morning, then Rich and I headed to our hotels for a late check in.

The next morning, I picked Rich up and we headed to Denny`s for breakfast at 6:45 am, where about 7 of us met each morning, and the rest had the continental breakfast at the hotel. John had told me that Denny`s had a great breakfast, not pricey either and they believe in feeding you…he was right on the money there, plus he said the Border Patrol Officers often came there in a group for breakfast as well.

While we were waiting on our food, I walked over and thanked them for their service in protecting our borders…they have a dangerous job down there and do a great job of it…had a good talk with several of them each morning there. They gave us great info on the roads to the old mines in certain areas we were traveling to and assured us we would not see rattlesnakes til April, due to the ground remaining cold from the cold night temps, even tho the days heat up, the ground remains cold and the snakes do not realize how warm it is above them. Like I told them, that was just fine with me, and they felt the same way. 🙂

I asked them how they were doing with the Wall and they said much better now that we had a President willing to back them up and provide them with the tools needed…they explained about the new equipment they were receiving now, that not only helped them detect illegals in the brush and roads, but also protective gear and equipment that has kept them safer if they encountered anyone in a violent fashion. They said it would not be long now before the southern border Wall was finished and America would be much safer…the areas still needed were the deep arroyos, or canyons as we know them…where the contractors will have to build a road down into the deep and steep canyons to access the border, but they have the equipment needed to get the job done. They encouraged us to enjoy our vacation time down there and take home as many rocks as we wanted to, but also let us know of any areas we should avoid for safety reasons, very nice guys to talk to and visit with.

The rest of the crew met us outside in the parking lot and we followed John over to the Secret Location at 8 am…and we parked in the back parking area…our view in front of us looked like this…

…now one might look at this and say, well just looks like a bunch of rocks to me…and you would be right…however, let me just say this…99 percent of everything in this view above consisted of multiple forms and colors of AGATE !!  Yes, I said Agates and this field of Agates was about 100 feet long and 80 feet wide…several of us headed to it to explore at first and let me tell ya, it took awhile to cover and explore to see what all was there…and it wasn`t all on the surface, alot was found by digging down, too !! Here is a pile of wonderstone and a few small agates sitting on top of it…

there was wonderstone all over the place, in every size imagineable…one of my photos says ” not enough truck ” and what I meant by that was that I wanted to take some of the yard rocks of wonderstone home with me, but I didn`t bring enough truck to do so. 🙂

…here is John and David Hodge digging for Agates in that view area…there were also a few thundereggs mixed in, many in this area where they were digging, the thundereggs there had already been cut into halves, some were even polished….

My buddy Mark Bishop collected some whole thundereggs in a different section there that day, he sawed some of them open the day after he returned home and here is what they look like on the inside…gorgeous stuff !! 

…my buddy John could prob tell you where these were collected as thundereggs are one of his specialties. The photo below is my buddy John on the right with my new friend and Mark`s cousin Steve, who is a rancher in West Texas….

…I am pretty sure Steve had a great time collecting with us, as we did with him, glad Mark brought him along and I sent some pretties home with him from some of my travels as well as a way of saying thanks for joining us.

The day warmed up into the high 60`s on Thursday as we continued to pick and choose, at the secret location…I am pretty sure none of applied any sunburn creme and equally sure most of us had some sunburn from being out in the sun all day…we were a little closer to the sun that week, than we normally are at home. I caught Fred resting up a little and looking a little redder than normal……

….that is Odom, one of the resident dogs streched out in front of him there….he was the smallest of the four dogs there on the property, and they are always there…always…lots of people read my site and I don`t know all of the folks that read my stories, so let me stress this clearly…there are dogs on this Secret Location that do guard the place, this place is clearly fenced off by two different strands of fencing, so there should be no doubt at all that the owners do not want visitors there without permission…we had permission to be there…and let me further add, the neighbors and friends of the owners that are nearby and drive by there keeping an eye on the place, are armed at all times, and local police frequent that area as well. 

We had a great time interacting with the dogs there and it was prob mostly because John and Mary were there with us. John and David continued to search for thundereggs and agate much of the day and were pretty successful judging by the pile they had built up between them….

…and while John was collecting for himself as well, he spent a great amount of time making sure others were finding good stuff and he also collected for Chuck Reed, who couldn`t make the trip this time around. 

By mid afternoon, we received word from John, that the family was planning to cook us steaks for supper as soon as we finished collecting, which for us, turned out to be right at sunset….so by mid afternoon I saw Fred and Mary trying to fit everything they had collected earlier in the day, into his small suv and her small rental car. Mary and her sister had flown in a couple of days before from Cincinnatti and were only staying a couple of days with us, they were going to ship their rocks and treasures back home to save money on airfare….

So by sunset, we were headed over to the house of family to have a great steak dinner with them…

…and had a great time, then headed back to our hotels to prepare for another journey the next morning to the Lordsburg area to collect at the old copper mines. John led us the next morning to some old mines that he has been to southwest of Lordsburg and collected azurite blues, malachite greens, and other pretty rocks in general…the drive in was scenic…shoot, the drive thru Lordsburg itself was scenic !! neat old town type scenery, I had looked at the map of that area prior to the trip, turns out there is an old ghost town just south of town that is a touristy area and the cemetery on the south side of town is named after the ghost town apparently, so if you are interested in that type of scenery, check it out. This was one of the views from the old mines we drove to….

…and the knobby hill at the top of the next photo is where we were at…

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 137

…the video above, there was a lot of wind blowing up there, you prob won`t be able to hear what I am saying through much of it, but the best producing area there is the knobby hill in the distance where I first started shooting, Virgil found some really good material up there on the other side of it….and this is what we were looking for…once we parked and got out to stretch our legs, we started looking down and finding it in small form all over the parking area and beyond…

…and after a little walking around, most of us at one time or another while there that morning, came across this outcrop that was covered well by both colors…

…let me tell you, those blues really stand out…we had mostly sunny skies that day, but even if the clouds hazed over the sunlight, those blues still caught your eye no matter what and way before the green did. There were some areas covered by beautiful bright yellow poppies as well and they caught your eye too. Even being picky, it didn`t take long to fill a bucket there and we were spreading out and walking all over the place….

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 1441

Fred knew I liked that blue color alot, so once he found an area covered in it, he let me know and I headed there next…Virgil and a few others drove on up to the knobby hill and to the other side to look around and find some other stuff there. I found a place near that outcrop of color and decided to dig in and see if I could liberate anymore of those stunning blues and greens…in short order, I found just a few pieces of each…

…despite a very windy day in which some of us got some extra sun in some areas, we had a great time and headed back to Deming that evening for a late supper at the Italian Restaurant called Marie`s…

…this place is inside a very old bank building in downtown Deming, great atmosphere there and very good food as well, they definitely believe in feeding you there. 🙂 During dinner, we discussed our plans for the trip the next day, to drive up to Silver City, meet with Anita Jones, the President of the Grant County Rolling Stones Gem & Mineral Society at the Visitor Center about 9 am.

I had contacted Anita by email a few weeks out from the trip and she was gracious in offerering to take us to a couple of their favorite locations to rockhound at. In turn, I let her know that we would bring her some pretty minerals and crystals from our special locations, some for her club to use as door prizes and some for her own personal collection. She told me she had attended Washington University in St Louis and she knew a friend of mine here in my town, Danny McMurphy, who is a retired Geologist who used to work at Meramac Mining Company at Pea Ridge Iron Ore Mine south of Sullivan. She also knew Art Hebrank of the St Joe State Park in Park Hills.

I shot this sunset on the way back to the hotel after dinner, looking back toward downtown Deming…

New Mexico Trip 2020-0304 Sunset Deming

After another great breakfast at Denny`s in Deming the next morning, we headed north on Hwy 180 to Silver City, an hour drive and a pretty straight road for a while too. Only as you approach the small town of Hurley, does the road finally curve more to the north, but til then the highway runs a true northwest and straight line from Deming. Many of the two lane roads down there have speed limits of 65 mph as well. We rolled into Silver City`s Visitor Center parking lot about 20 minutes before our set meeting time and parked in two rows in the middle of the deserted lot. We were all gathered around my pickup bed as I was digging out my flats to give to Anita, when she arrived, parked, and walked up to us and introduced herself, figuring out who we were pretty quickly. My thanks to my buddy Mark Bishop for taking a few photos while I was busy unpacking flats…me unwrapping flats to separate for Anita and some to give to Steve as well…

As soon as introductions were made all the way around and those of us that brought her rocks and minerals from our respective areas gifted her with them, we headed south out of Silver City, passing by Boston Hill, to the first location called Thompson Fluorite Mine.  We passed through some beautiful scenery on the way out there and wound up not too far from the huge Tyrone area mine, called the Freeport Copper and Gold Mine. We arrived to find a small pit with some small benches further up the hill surrounded by some scrub pine trees.

Anita told us there was a vein of purple and green fluorite running diagonally up through the rock, so we split up to see what we could find. Some of us climbed up to the top of the hill and started working on the exposed benches…

I wandered around on top and then worked my way down the hill to the pit, dug in at the bottom when I started seeing some color in a heavy layer of mud and clay…

…and soon I started pulling pieces out that had some pretty green and purple fluorite colors…I let Fred and David Hodge know since they were close by and they soon joined me…here is David checking out a pocket in the wall above me…

…we stayed there a couple of hours and then followed Anita to one of her favorite hunting locations, Round Mountain…a BLM Rockhounding Location for Chalcedony Rosettes and Fire Agates…it was a bit of a drive across the canyons several miles on a gravel road….

NM Trip 2020-0306 Gravel Rd From Thompson Mine to Round Mtn

We saw a lot of different types of cactus and very little grass or vegetation that one would think cattle could eat…yes there were cattle out there and we often wondered what they could possibly be eating out there…not to mention, not much water seen either. They sure didn`t look like any cattle I have ever seen…

The enduring dusty gravel road led to a county highway 464, where we turned south to Hwy 90, turning west, which then took us over to Hwy 70 just north of Lordsburg, where we turned north and drove about 30 minutes to the turnoff to Round Mountain…another dusty gravel road…it seemed like it took us forever to get there, probably due to the gravel roads across several canyons and valleys. Once we reached the left turn at the fork, the road narrowed considerably and got rougher going in, there were a few places where one had to slow down to get thru the rocky area, prob due to the basalt rock washes spread throughout this huge area. I should probably note that if you don`t turn left at the fork in the road, a few miles west of the railroad crossing, you will wind up at a working cattle ranch. Our destination is a BLM Rockhounding location called Round Mountain, and we were all pleasantly surprised when we arrived, at the stunning beauty and intense colors of this location !! 

NM Trip 2020-0307 Round Mtn Parking Area 203

…above is the parking area that Anita led us to…another note about the drive in…you make the left at the first fork, then stay left at the next one…if you pull up Google Earth map, it shows the BLM Rockhounding Site at a location where you will see a small fenced in area for cattle and a stock water tank…that is NOT the location you will be hunting at, you want to make another left at that site and continue a couple more miles…there is no sign or gravel parking lot there…we parked in the flowers and grass and started hunting out in front of our vehicles and walked a good quarter mile across and spread out to either side..trust me, this is one of those locations that will NEVER run out of material…it is laying all over the ground and you should not have a problem seeing it unless the grass gets deeper thru the summer…remember, we were here early March and it was just starting to get warm enough to promote grass growth…

Mark took this photo as we all gathered around and Anita told us what we could expect to find here…she is on the left in the short sleeve red, orange, and yellow squares shirt…

…and then while most of us hoofed it out to the big beautiful valley and began surface collecting chalcedony rosettes and fire agates…I spotted John talking to Anita a little longer and pointing out something in this rock he is holding…..

…here you see Fred surface collecting….

…while Mark and Steve headed to the north to surface collect….

 

I saw Mark hunting but didn`t see Steve…he sure was in a beautiful field…

…and then I spotted David Hodge taking a break after carrying two full buckets back toward his truck….he and John were hunting the far side of the field where David told me there were bigger rosettes over there…

I filled a few buckets as well and was still taking some scenery photos…could not believe how gorgeous it was out there…

…and spotted Steve and Mark down in a wash collecting…I don`t blame them, I found a lot of pretty ones down in a wash above there, as well as a few fire agates, or chalcedony rosettes with some color to them. 

AVI 228 Round Mtn BLM Rockhounding Site

We decided to get out of there before dark, easy to get turned around in there bearings wise, per John…luckily Lordsburg wasn`t too far south of there, I was down to a little less than a quarter of a tank and the bed three fourths full of rocks, so wanted to get to a gas station soon and fill up. John let me take the lead and as we approached the city limits, I wish now I had pulled over to photograph a STUNNING sunset…shooting it instead from the gas station on the south side of I-10…

I`m glad Rich was taking care of the fuel pump cause this sunset was soooo gorgeous, I was riveted to the concrete ramp in front of the station….

NM Trip 2020-0307 Lordsburg Sunset 243

…I kept backing up trying to fit as much of the stunner into my camera lens as I could….it was huge and made the sky appear to be on fire….

..after filling up the gas tanks, we headed east on I-10 back to Deming for dinner at the Italian Restaurant again, and then back to our hotels for a good night`s rest. We intended to go back up to Silver City the next morning, Anita was going to take us to a thunderegg location that was well known in that area, but the weather decided not to cooperate with us and I contacted her to let her know we were going to do something else instead, and thanked her for her time again, to take us rockhounding the day before. Everyone enjoyed the day with her immensely, she is a great host and a real credit to rockhounding !!

We decided at breakfast, to go out to Fluorite Ridge instead and poke around and see what we could find. John told us there is some very good red jasper out there, as well as petrified wood here and there, and wonderstone can be found there too. There are also several old fluorite mines in that entire area, so while most of us were jasper hunting, John and David decided to do some extra hiking up a big hill and discovered a few old fluorite mines up there…by that time Fred and I had returned to a big tailing pile next to an old ore chute, close to the road….

…and this is the area we were jasper hunting earlier…

NM Trip 2020-0308 Fluorite Ridge Rainy Day 256

..I was up on the left side of that tailing pile behind the ore chute, digging a hole looking for fluorites…got down into the pile about 3 feet deep and a void opened up, looked to be about 20 inches deep and pieces of fluorite started falling down into my hands…green and white fluorites, much of it with damage and some good pieces…can see them on the right and left side of the hole below….

Fred was on the other side of the tailing pile, and came over to see what I was finding, then started digging to my left and started coming up with some as well. We were digging in the light rain for a couple of hours, when John called from the top of one of the hills and told me that he and David found a big tailing pile full of fluorites and would bring some down with them. True to their word, they showed up shortly after and showed us what they had found…

…and this is what a Happy Camper….er…Rockhound…looks like…especially a Rockhound who likes Fluorite….

…and the one on the right side below, is the one he is holding in his hands….

…the consensus was that everyone that saw them, liked what they saw and would like to see more…so we decided we would return the next morning and hike up to the mine and see what more we could find. we packed up and headed back to get some dinner…this time well before sunset and darkness set in…everyone was wet, muddy, tired, and hungry. We wanted to return to Si Senor Restaurant, but they were closed on Sundays, so we went to Irma`s Restaurant instead, another one that serves good Mexican dishes. When we returned to our hotels, David had announced earlier that he was going to host a get together in his room of the hotel most of us were staying at, and he had brought several crystals and minerals from his collection. I got cleaned up and took some of my crystals to his room for everyone to pick thru as well. I also shot the sunset from his room, we were up on the third floor but he had a much better view of it than I did out of my room…

The next morning, Fred had to head for home, so he had breakfast with us and then took off heading east toward East Texas…hated to see him have to return a day early and miss out on the fluorite collecting, Fred is a very good rockhound, team member, and good friend to dig and collect with. He has a good job in the medical field and a team there that depends on him heavily, guess we should be glad that they are willing to share him with us. We wished him a safe trip home and then we headed back to the same area and once there, prepared for a long hike in….

…the scenery on the way in there was nice too…

Virgil dropped back along the road to check out a petrified log that Fred discovered in a creek the day before when we were jasper hunting…Virgil is a big fanatic of petrified wood in general, especially trees that are completely intact as this one was believed to be….

…those are the Little Florida Mountains in the background, which is where Rockhound State Park is located southeast of Deming. In the meantime, five of us started hiking toward the old fluorite mine that John and David found the day before…when we got to that hill, here is the view from the bottom looking up…so you can get a good idea how steep a climb it was for us…

…John and David were excited and ahead of me by at least fifty yards…

….I decided to pace myself and take it easy going up…we were still watching out for the thorn bushes, the small ones and the big, fanned out shapely ones, with thorns up to 2 or 3 inches long…yes they definitely hurt if you get tagged by one…Mary and Rich were bringing up the rear of the line and they were taking it easy as well…

 

…let me tell ya, Mary is a real trooper when it comes to rockhunting and I thought she handled that hill a lot smoother than I did…they must have found more deer trails than I did. We did finally make it to the top…as we neared the top, we had to be careful to navigate around an open shaft that was about fifty feet below the tailings pile…

 

…located at that red dirt area to the right of John and David above. I finally reached the bottom of the tailings pile where John and David were already collecting at…and turned around to shoot this view before I got busy collecting myself…

John walked back down the hill to help Mary on up the steep slope…I looked back and saw they were standing next to a huge thorn tree…backlit by the sun…so it really stood out…enough for anyone to tell just how scarey they really looked…

…you get the idea yet ?  let me paint it a little clearer for ya…

Mary allowed John to carry her backpack and collecting bag, but she came on up that hill on her own power, like a trooper….

…I turned around and photographed the tailing pile with David Hodge collecting from the middle of it…

…and pretty soon John was there with him….

…and Rich Kern too…

…and soon John was showing off nice pieces he was finding….

…and after a well earned break, Mary was collecting right alongside us all….

…and here is David again, and the background will give you not only a good idea of the scenery up there and below us, but the steep angle as well…

the views up there were unbelieveable, very scenic and pretty and the fluorites we found up there had some great color to them as well…needless to say we were having a blast up there and it was a beautiful day as well…

…then I started noticing the old wagon trail road going down the hill behind me…

…John came upon this road first, and the road led him to this mine…it was narrow and hugged the far hillside too…

 

 

…and that road leads to even more mines down the hill…too bad it wasn`t wide enough to drive in on…we decided we would hike down there on the second trip back to the pile and check out what mines were below…

John came up and showed me some open shafts that he found up there, some had some fluorite embedded in the vertical walls, but there was very little of it, just a hint of what was apparently found there….

 we came back up to the tailing pile and the gang collected a few more before making the descent to the parking area again….

….while I was up on top of the pile looking around and taking photos of the gang collecting on the pile below me, I started looking around up there, discovered an opening in the wall behind me, that John had told us about the day before, where some mining activity had occurred. I photographed it for him at his request….

….but as you can see, the lighting up there at that time was not in my favor, so I climbed up the left side of that mining pit in the side of the mountain and started finding some nice fluorite plates up there, as well as this nice druse quartz vug….

….then I shot from the top of the pit looking down to the pile below….

…and noticed that the gang had made their descent without me…so I grabbed my bucket and headed down the steep hill myself…they were at least a hundred yards ahead of me and were taking the long way back thru the thorn bushes, but I decided to cross the fence and work my way over a small hill through very many less thorns, to a short connecting roadway to the parking area. Once there, I climbed down a trail with large stepping stones to the roadway, set my bucket down, and hoofed it down the short roadway to the parking area, arriving right behind them. I drove back up there to my bucket, grabbed another bucket and headed back across the short hill and up the steep hillside once again, for the second trip up there, and arrived right behind them once again. This trip, Mary and Rich loaded up in her suv and drove toward town, so Rich could get some of his rocks boxed up to send back by USPS. Once John, David, and I got back to the tailing pile at the top of the hill, we decided to do some exploring and hiked down the road to the other mines to check them out. We found a huge massive calcite seam along the road and a few vertical shafts that were likely calcite mines since they were close by…we then walked down to a mine below and found cross timbers, obviously aged and weathered, in a grid pattern over the top of a vertical shaft….

 

…and while down there, John found some interesting crystals nearby….

 

We returned to the tailing pile, filled more buckets and made our way back to the bottom of the hill, but John and David followed me over to my truck which was much closer this time around. From there we drove back to the secret location and filled another bucket or two…John showed David and I where some nice thundereggs were located and then showed us where we could dig and find some nice Roostertail Agates…this is what they look like sliced and polished….

…and we found some killer Plume Moss from Mexico as well….

…we also pulled some thundereggs out that are believed to be like this on the inside…

My buddy Mark Bishop found some nice thundereggs, and once he got home, he sliced some of them open and here is what THEY look like….he sent me this photo…

…gorgeous stuff, Mark !! 🙂

David and I started digging up some stuff after John went to help the others find some killer stuff as well….we were pulling some Mexican Coconuts out as well as some multi colored agates out…Virgil was across the way digging out some thundereggs too and trying to decide how much to take home with him…I am pretty sure he took alot, as did we all. 🙂  Once we were good and wore out, which happened about an hour later, we decided we were also hungry and decided to make a run for the border…Si Senor Restaurant was what we decided on…as we packed up and started to head out, word came down that the landowner had decided earlier in the day to cook burgers for us that evening, but since the food was not ready and we were starving, basically, we left the property and headed to Deming to get some supper. John and Mary arrived about 30 minutes behind us. This time around, I decided to order a T bone steak, but was told they were out and the cook would cook me two NY Strip steaks instead…he did a great job, they were delicious.

That was our last night in Deming for the group of us….David, Rich, and I were heading back toward home the next morning and decided to stop off at either the Geothite / Hematite Mine near Socorro….

….or the Kelly Mine at Magdalena for Smithsonite.….one last collecting opportunity. John and Mary were gonna head to Las Cruces and pick up Hwy 54 for their trip back, and Virgil was going to stay one more day to rest up before heading home.

After breakfast, we headed down the road and decided since we were both loaded down to the gills, and some of the roads at the Hematite Mine were somewhat muddy and four wheel drive would be needed, it might be better to avoid that mine and go to the Kelly Mine instead, where a pretty green and blue colored Smithsonite can be found…..

…so we drove up I-25 from Hatch to Socorro, New Mexico, a 90 minute drive and then headed west on Hwy 60 to Magdalena, stopped at Otero`s Rock and Saw Shop, on the left side as soon as you enter the small community…here you can pay your fee to go up to the Kelly Mine and collect from the tailings piles of several old mines there, $ 10 per person. Mr. Otero gave us a map of the area with detailed directions to the mines and he has nice specimens of the pretty smithsonite in his shop so you can see what your goal of collecting looks like.

We drove a few miles east on Kelly Road and at the top of the hill you turn left at the fork on a somewhat rough gravel road…there are a few washboardy areas on the road, but otherwise its a good mining road…it was an obvious choice for us, the road forms a Y there, the paved road name changed to Hop Canyon Road and went to the right, Kelly Road continued to the left in gravel, and there is a fenced in building foundation complex on the right side of the road that may have been an old milling operation…take the left turn there. This road climbs in elevation as soon as you start up it…and after a mile or two at most, you will round a left hand curve and soon some up on St John the Baptist Church…just past it on the left are two small parking lots where those without clearance and four wheel drive, are advised to park and walk in from there. Cross the berm and either go straight up the mountain, on a heavily rutted road that requires four wheel drive, to a huge tailing pile at the top, where you will likely have to do a three point turn to come back down it. We checked that huge pile for about 20 minutes and then came back down the hill, and turned right at the berm, on to Kelly Road, which takes you right by the old Kelly Mine Mill Building foundation, with a huge chimney and then Headframe is about 75 feet from it on the northeast side…there are tailing piles everywhere there. Mr. Otero advised us to disregard the huge tailing pile on the left side of the road, which was on the other side of the Kelly Mine Headframe, he said it was nothing but junk in that pile. We did a little bit of searching, talked to some other rockhounds that were there digging as well, and we took in a lot of breathtaking scenery up there….

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 401

…that is the Kelly Mine Headframe up there…and this is where we wound up parking next to, when we decided to get out, stretch our legs again and do some exploring around it…

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 425

…we started out looking in the pile above and beyond, I checked the right side of that pile and found some yellow rocks with a greenish coloring all over it…wasn`t sure if it was smithsonite or not…where was John when you needed him ??

David found some that looked like pyrite on them, and Rich found some unusual looking rocks…without John, we were fairly lost as to where to look at…here is one more photo of the Kelly Mine Headframe…

…and so we headed on down the road back to I-25 soon after and headed to Tucumcari to spend the night.

We were just south of Albuquerque when we spotted a column of heavy black smoke up ahead of us….

….and highway digital signs warned of a brush fire a few miles ahead of us…Rich asked me about the color of smoke of a brush fire cause we had seen several on the way thru Oklahoma on the way down there…I said most brush fires have a white, yellow, or gray smoke to them, all depending on the type of fuel that is burning…black smoke could mean a structure was involved or tires were burning in the brush…

…we were definitely seeing more black smoke than white smoke, so I was curious to see what the location was like when we got closer to it…soon we came upon a long bridge over a creek and low fields below the interstate and that is where the fire was located…could have been some tires down there I figured…

 

…and as we inched closer with traffic slowing way down in front of us, I realized there were two huge columns of black smoke in front of us…not one big column…I decided to shoot some video as well…

NM Trip 2020-0310 Huge Brush Fire S of Albuquerque 432

As we passed by I started shooting photos of the huge flames from the fire below the bridge, likely about 20 feet below the bridge and up above the bridge about 10 feet, so flames about 30 feet high as firefighters stood by on top of the bridge by the railings….this bridge is long because it crosses a road and canal on the south side and on the north side under the bridge, the Rio Grande River flows through, the fire was up above the river and since the road by the river goes under the bridge as well, it would be very possible that there was a dumping ground of tires and debris underneath that would contribute to the fire load and produce the black smoke, plus tires are difficult at best to extinguish, luckily for the firefighters there, they had a good water source to tap in the river there….

…they were obviously getting water on it at times…hence the white smoke coming up occasionally, but then it would turn dark brown and black once again…in the next photo you can see David right behind me in my mirror…

….what we were not able to see were brush trucks and firefighters fighting the fire up close on the ground below…I am betting this fire had gone to a second or third alarm by the number of trucks and personnel on scene above and below, they definitely had their hands full there. We pulled off on a wide shoulder on top of the hill on the other side of that valley, to get out of traffic and I got out to take a few more photos and videos of the fire from the north side…there were also alot of police officers down in the median assisting with traffic control and the southbound lanes of I-25 were completely shut down and traffic being re-routed through the town of Isleta Village Proper on Hwy 47, the fire was located at MP 214. On top of the bridge, we saw prob ten patrol cars in the median mainly, and one ladder truck, one tanker, one brush truck, and several fire command vehicles….more flames were visible from our view on the north shoulder too…

In the next photo in the lower left corner you can see a group of ten officers next to their many patrol cars in the median on the scene for traffic and safety concerns…

…the next photos shows the multiple police officers, the fire department vehicles on teh bridge and if you look closely, operations on the ground under the bridge as well, just to the right of the ” Keep Off Median ” sign….

Obviously, I could have stayed there all day and photographed the fire and work by the firefighters and law enforcement, but we had to get back on the road and drive to Tucumcari to spend the night. We rolled into town a little sooner than our previous stay there a week earlier, got checked into our rooms and then headed down to Del`s Restaurant for another great dinner.

The next morning, Rich and I opted to skip breakfast and head for home, David had hit the highway a little sooner than us, headed for Little Rock…he was lucky in that he didn`t have to mess with the multiple toll stretches of I-44. After filling the truck at the Pilot Truck Stop, we took off eastbound on I-40, and 12 hours later, rolled into Sullivan just ahead of sunset.

I have to say, this was one of the longest trips I have taken, due mainly to distance traveled, the number of locations we visited and collected at, and the time we put into each day, hiking, digging, and collecting..we were moving from dawn to dusk much of the time and you were lucky if you had seven hours of rest each night…I don`t think there was a night in there that I received eight hours of sleep. It`s a good 1,200 miles one way to Deming from my house, going thru Albuquerque to take advantage of mostly interstate driving, and the few two lane roads that we traveled had decent speed limits on them as well, 65 mph much of the time except in the mountainous areas, but many of those two lane roads are straight as an arrow and built well, too. In addition to a long trip, it was also a very memorable one, mainly due to the friends that were there with me and the new friends we made in Steve Haynes and Anita Williams, the Border Patrol Officers I talked to at breakfast each morning, and the camraderie we shared along the way and each day. Many thanks to Anita Williams for taking us rockhunting on Saturday, March 7th from Silver City to Round Mountain !! 

To say we had a great time out there would be a big understatement and I know we all brought back not only great rocks and minerals from this trip, but lifelong memories as well !!  John and I are already talking about a return trip next year, adding in some trips to the middle of the state where fluorite, chrysacolla, smithsonite, linnerite, malachite, and azurite can be found and collected. If anyone needs more information, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com 

 

Roadcuts With Dolomite Crystals and….

…Williamsville type Calcite Crystals…that is what we discovered at a couple of roadcuts late in January 2020 after we checked out the new quarry. I`m not going to reveal the location of the roadcuts we visited due to concerns we all had, this is not a location that children should be present at for one thing, nor groups… and I won`t show photos of the roadcut that might give away its location either. It`s unfortunate, but I just don`t trust everyone when it comes to rockhunting. 

About an hour after we left the new quarry, we pulled up to the first roadcut and parked off road, well out of the way of traffic, not wanting to be a hazard or distraction to anyone passing by us, and we walked over to the nearest wall and began checking out existing pockets for signs of life. 

This was the 1st pocket we checked…it was interesting to see that whoever found and worked it first, only worked on the ceiling some, the walls more, and completely avoided the floor of the pocket. I started pulling crystals and plates out of the floor of the pocket which was about six inches deep in dirt, sand, and rock fragments from above and the side walls. The first plate I pulled out was covered in dolomite crystals…this is the first roadcut in Missouri I have even seen dolomite crystals !! It wasn`t long before David was up there with me, pulling even more plates out of there…

…and Chuck was soon busy walking the base walls of the roadcut and picking up poker chip calcites and dolomite plates both…these poker chips resembled the Williamsville Calcites also…he also discovered some nice vugs in small boulders nearby, like this one…

We worked that first pocket for about three hours, took David and I both, that long to clean it out pretty good about two feet into it. I then walked down the wall to another pocket that Chuck had discovered and began to work it. It didn`t take me long to start pulling medium sized Williamsville style Poker Chips out of the floor of this pocket, and I had no sooner showed them to David, when he backed out of the large pocket he was working on and walked down to join me at the second pocket. 🙂 Darn it, I knew he would do that. 🙂

It`s all good tho, as we are good rockhounding friends and often hand things to each other while digging out pockets and crystals, as good rockhound friends often do when working together. He began working the left side on this one while I worked on the right side of it and eventually my side started moving downward at an angle…I was soon pulling out more poker chips and even some dogtooths, albeit small ones…but hey, a dogtooth is a dogtooth, no matter the size…they are all good. 🙂  He began pulling even more of the Williamsville Calcites out and even some attached to dolomite and druse plates, one huge plate that was upside down, was especially pretty when he was finally able to detach it from the ceiling and pull it out of the pocket, which by then was several feet in length. I had asked him to remove it for me, but allowed him to take it home when he told me he didn`t have anything like it in his collection. 🙂 We decided to take a water break about this time as the temps were beginning to rise a bit and warm up the atmosphere around us. We also took time to gather up our goodies and do some wrapping and loading into the trucks. Here are some that I took home that day….

…and this neat calcite cluster that was unusually shaped…

…we returned the next day to check out another roadcut nearby and found even more calcites and dolomite plates, as well as dolomite clusters the sizes of basketballs and beach balls…in four different flavors…red, pink, orange, and yellow, as well as a few black and white combos, and one or two that sparkled like mica flakes…still not sure what those are.  We returned to the roadcut above later in the day and worked it some more, too, and had a few curious visitors stop by and visit with us. We handed out some small dolomite plates to show them what we were finding after they told us that they liked rocks, and one was getting ready for a presentation in his science class, so we figured those crystals might make a good addition to his class presentation. We also had a good visit with a Missouri State Trooper, he had passed us by earlier in the day unable to figure out what we were doing, then looped around a few hours later to stop and inquire. After we explained that we were rockhounds, and then what a rockhound is and does, he was fine with it, had no clue what could be found at roadcuts and we showed him what we had found there. We offered him a few of the crystal plates and he politely declined…he was truly amazed at the drive David had made up to his part of Missouri to rockhound, and pleasantly surprised he said that we both had clean driving records. We made sure to thank him for his service before he returned to his patrol of the area. We had a great time at all three roadcuts and the quarry too, brought back a few buckets full of dolomites and calcites….here are a few more photos of what I brought back….

New Quarry to Check Out

Walmart had me off for a few days in late January, so David Hodge, Chuck Reed, and I drove down to southeast Missouri to check out a new quarry for pretty rock. I had been in touch with the owner by email a few weeks prior, and he let me know that his quarry was receptive to rockhounds in the past on Saturday mornings when they were not working. I asked if we could come check it out on the 25th and he said yes. I met both of them at the quarry office and we met the owner there…Mr. Scaggs turned out to be a very nice guy, but I already knew that since I had read about him on his FB page and the way he handled his work near his hometown, spoke volumes about him, all good stuff. He told us he had been farming and managing quarries all over the USA for many years before he moved back to his hometown and opened this quarry about 12 years ago, where they mined some different types of rock and produced some unique products that helped farmers and other industries as well, giving them a corner on the market that other quarries cannot compete with. He did warn us tho, that he had hosted other rockhounds there before, as well as mineral clubs, and no one had ever found anything pretty there. He showed us where inside his quarry we could check for pretty rocks, and turned us loose for a few hours. We drove down to the first of four pits and after about ten minutes of diligent searching, we started finding calcite crystals in small poker chip formations, perched on top of dolomite crystals in saddle formations and in orange, yellow, red, and pink colors !! Chuck discovered them first and began working on some small boulders..when David and I heard and saw him working on the boulders, we immediately walked over to that area to investigate and found him hard at work harvesting some nice plates and pieces….

…he said they rolled down from above, so we looked up above on the wall and discovered a whole section covered with all four flavors of the dolomite crystals…

..on this wall….

…and then we checked the boulders below…we liked what we found so much of, that we never left that pit to go check the others, we were there finding and wrapping for three hours….

…vugs full of dolomite crystals, pretty as you please. We drove back up to the office and let Mr. Scaggs know that we found some pretty crystals in his quarry and would love to come back some time and he said we would be welcome to return. 🙂 

see the next story above for what we did after we left there…

 

Eminence with David Hodge After Arkansas

A couple of weeks after my fall vacation in Arkansas, I got a call from my buddy David Hodge, Field Trip Director for the Central Arkansas Gem & Mineral Geological Society, called CAGMAGS, they are a close cousin to MAGS and often both clubs invite each other to join them on field trips, too. David wanted to come up and check out the Eminence Quarry and other spots I go to collect at, so we set it up for the 17th and I met him at the quarry that morning. As I started down the road, we had a beautiful sunrise…usually a good sign for a good day of collecting….

Since it was quite apparent that nothing had been blasted recently, we decided to see what the old wall would provide us…

..and within minutes, we were looking at several pockets opening up along the face of that wall….so we began working them….

…this is one of the first ones I found, nice plate of poker chip crystals…

and some of the pockets we worked….

have to say, for an old wall, left alone for several years now, it sure gave up some beautiful crystals today….the videos below will give you a better idea how our day went. 🙂

Eminence Q 2019-1117 Video 10 Arrival

Eminence Q 2019-1117 Video 27 Pocket City

Eminence Q 2019-1117 Video 40 My Pockets & David Moving More Rock Below