Two weeks after driving down to join MAGS members at the Batesville Quarry, Onyx and I got up early on Saturday morning, March 30th and drove down to Batesville once again, this time my group would be joining up with members of CAGMAGS at the quarry, and since they were gracious enough to allow us to join them, I invited them to join us the next day at the quartz mines near Mt Ida. Onyx and I had another good trip down, this time I decided to drive down Hwy 63 to Hardy, Arkansas, where we then turned south on Hwy 412/167. Between Mammoth Springs and Hardy, I discovered that road crews had transformed several areas of Hwy 63 into a much straighter line and a few extra lanes here and there in each direction. They still have their work cut out for them between Ash Flat and Cave City along 167, especially around Evening Shade, but at least they seem to be addressing those areas more now, as 167 is now four lanes from Cave City to Bald Knob.
I had word from about fifteen in my group that they would meet us at the parking lot of the quarry around 8:30 am…Fred Mahaffey and two friends from East Texas, Julie Parkhans from Nashville, David Bruce from Northern Georgia, Chuck Reed from St Louis, Mary and Pete from Cincinnatti, David Hodge had the shortest trip from Heber Springs, Bill Gorham and his daughter from Toledo, Ryan & his Dad Michael Maher from Iowa, Justin Baird from Hot Springs, and Paul and PJ from Kalamazoo. Most were staying in Hot Springs hotels, while a few of us were staying at the remodeled Joplin Inn and Suites.
I stopped off at the Phillips 66 on the north side of Batesville, a couple of miles north of the turnoff to the quarry, they had a decent price on gasoline there, prices were at least a quarter a gallon higher than my trip two weeks prior, all the way down there and this station was about fifteen cents a gallon less than all the other higher prices. I figured I was getting about 23 miles to the gallon the way down there, which was pretty good for a four door pickup. We drove on over to the quarry and parked near the office, hadn`t been there very long before others began showing up…I passed an suv on the way up the drive that I didn`t recognize, turned out to be Fred and his crew from Texas. Chuck texted me to let me know he was about 30 to 45 min out, coming down Hwy 67 from Poplar Bluff and was going to make some connecting roads over to Hwy 167, he wound up arriving before some others did. Justin had texted me earlier as I was driving down 63 in Missouri to let me know he was leaving Hot Springs to drive up, his drive about two hours shorter than ours, and some spent the night before in Batesville at area hotels, which are only about a mile south of the quarry. Soon after much of the CAGMAGS crowd arrived, Bill Pryor, the Arkansas State Geologist, who was our guide once again, arrived and after signing the paperwork for the owner of the quarry, we all drove up to the scenic overlook of the quarry for our group safety talk….
Bill is in the second photo in the white hard hat talking…while Mike Lowe is the owner in the first photo in the red shirt and white hard hat. Mike explained the history of the quarry and went over the safety rules with explanations for each rule, letting us know they had a perfect safety record and would like to keep it that way. This is a quarry where rockhounds are required to wear hard hats, safety glasses, and steel toed boots at all times on the grounds of the quarry, and to exercise good common sense at all times.
Bill explained the geology of the quarry and area, let us know that the area where calcites could be found was in a fault zone in the quarry and consisted of a small area in the quarry, which is huge and deep….first photo is the south wall to the left and looking west straight ahead in the view….
…and the next photo shows the north wall on the right side…
At the end of the safety talk, we all headed to our vehicles….
….and followed the Owner down to the bottom floor of the quarry and parked…the weather was overcast with rain threatening from the west, radar indicated it was on the way from the west and we might have a few hours of digging time before the skies opened up. The only problem with that, is that later this afternoon, a cold front would also sweep through with or after the rain and temps were expected to drop to the mid 30`s…as my buddy Jim Bartle likes to say often….LOVELY….just lovely !!
So we wasted no time in walking over to the calcite fault zone….the tan colored dirt area on the other side of the pond….
….shown above, and this shows one just how small an area this fault zone actually is in relation to the rest of the size of the quarry…
and many began digging in to find crystals specifically in the tan colored dirt area, while many others found crystals that were again laying all over the sloped area. On this trip, with rain closing in on us, I didn`t take my camera over there with me. Within two hours, we had one shower after another coming down in waves, some of us had good rain gear and others did not. We had let Bill know that we preferred to stay down in the calcite fault zone as long as possible this trip, so he did just that…the last of us left there after three hours…we were on our way out when David showed me a nice one he had dug out of the gooey clay mud pocket wall…
…and on this trip, let me tell you, I saw at least half a dozen crystals come out of there the size of beach balls and larger…yes I said LARGER…one or two so large that David Bruce, who found them and was taking them home with him, was given permission by Bill to drive over there on the ledge road to pick them up, rather than attempt to carry them down that rocky slope without damaging them, because by then the rocks were slick with rainwater. They were also heavy enough that David had good help over there to load them into his truck. We stopped off at the top of the quarry walls to check the shelves around the crusher, where quarry employees had placed several calcites they found down below…I found a few nice small calcites up there to take home, there were some in many different sizes up there to select from.
Again much appreciation to the Owner Mike for allowing us to come to the quarry and collect there.
Many had already headed south toward Hot Springs and soon Chuck, David Bruce, and I were headed that way as well…David dropped out at Hot Springs where he was staying, while Chuck and I drove on up the road to the Joplin area, our hotel across Hwy 270 from the entrance to Mountain Harbor Resort. Onyx and I stopped off at Burl`s Country Smokehouse on the way up Hwy 270 at Crystal Springs, to get a couple of smoked ham sandwiches, for lunch the next day, then drove on up and got checked in at the Joplin Inn and Suites…this was the former Colonial Inn, purchased a couple of years ago by Mountain Harbor Resort and remodeled to nice rooms with nice furniture, tiled walk in showers, new heating/ac units, and free wifi provided. There is also a suite and a house available for rent on site, they were remodeled as well. I never stayed there before the remodel, but can safely say that Mtn Harbor always furnish their cabins, condos, lodge rooms, cabanas, and suites very nicely at the Resort on the Lake.
A little while later, Ryan and Michael Maher arrived as well. We got cleaned up and drove over to the Lodge Restaurant for supper, good food and great company, plus a nice scenic view out over the lake as well. Chuck and I had a great time talking to Ryan and Michael about our mutual friend John Oost, who had driven back out to New Mexico to take possession of inventory from an old rock shop out there.
We wanted to try and work in some time looking for wavellite this trip, however a week out, I learned that the wavellite location remained posted and patrolled by local law enforcement, so we decided to skip it until we can either return there legally or find another location for it.
The next morning we had breakfast at the Lodge Restaurant, Chuck leaving his suv at the motel and rode with me and Onyx… and then we headed west on Hwy 270 to Mount Ida, to the Subway Store, which was the designated meeting place for my group and CAGMAGS members who were going quartz crystal hunting with us. They have a pretty good sized parking lot there and since Subway opens early, I figured if anyone needed a sandwich for lunch later, Subway was a good place to get one or more. Bill Gorham from Toledo, pulled in shortly after we arrived, with his daughter and came over to talk to us…he is a truck driver full time and you can tell from his emails and the way he talks in person, he loves to dig and collect crystals and minerals. After the CAGMAGS crew arrived, I let everyone know where we were going, to Tony`s Southfork Mine for the morning hours and then about 1 pm, we would drive an hour over to the Jessieville area, to Tony and Shane`s new mine, where we would be digging through the tailings there, as we did back in the fall. Going by the condition of the road last fall, I let those in two wheel drive vehicles, know that they likely would not be able to make it up to the top of the hill and would have to park near the 3 yr old mine halfway down the hill from the top. Once we arrived at the mine gate, finding it open meaning Tony was likely up at the mine waiting on us, I again let those in the two wheel drive vehicles know where to park and then those of us in four wheel drive vehicles, headed on up the hill. I was surprised to find the road was in much better shape this time around, not muddy for one thing, and fairly solid and smoother…the only problem we had was that no one stopped down below to park, they all just kept coming to the top, so instead of having anyone back down the hill, with assistance from Tony, we made do and parked folks where we could do so at the edge of the forest and along the road. I was able to get Paul and PJ up at the top of the hill by the new mine, as PJ needed all the help she could get, saving her strength for the entire day and two mine locations. PJ is recovering from cancer treatments, which as many of you know, can really take it out of you, sap you of all your strength as you work your way through all the treatments, and take many years to recover from…I say this not from personal experience of it myself, but from seeing my Mom go thru and recover from it, as well as many firefighter, dispatcher, police officer, photographer, and rockhound friends who have personally walked through it. I was pleasantly surprised when I received word from Paul letting me know that they would both be there this trip, deciding to fly down this time around to avoid the long drive from Michigan. I really didn`t expect them to return til later this year…to me this shows that not only are they both dedicated rockhounds, but it also shows alot of bravery on their part to venture out so soon after and live life to its fullest !! I didn`t get a chance to talk to them much this trip, but WELL DONE you two, hope you had a great time down there and hope to see you on the next trip. 🙂 Chuck grabbed his hammer and chisels and headed for the big boulder covered with crystals on top of the hill…I grabbed my bucket and tools, and headed up on top to the new dig area that Tony is currently working on…found Mary already down in that pit surface collecting and checking out the boulders down there…Michael found his way down there soon after and Mary pointed out crystals on one boulder that he decided to work over and see if he could liberate some from it….
In the meantime, I was working the walls behind the two of them, looking for crystal points and clusters, found a few, where they were sticking out from plain site and dug them out, luckily the dirt they were in was nice and soft to dig into….and soon both pockets of my apron were filled and I had to go looking for my bucket…here is what I was seeing in the dirt walls….
..and this next one was a real beauty !! loved digging it out as soon as I photographed it too…
While wrapping these up and emptying out my apron, I looked up and spotted Ryan digging around not too far away and snapped a few photos of him…
…then I continued down the wall finding even more pretty single points partially exposed in the clay dirt….
…and this next one was in a vein of quartz, the crystal you see exposed turned out to be a nice medium sized cluster….
…as noon came and passed, we started getting ready to head out and over to Jessieville to the new mine…everyone had a quick lunch and started packing up a bit…
…that is Tony in his white Powerwagon on the right talking on his cell…get a great signal there at the top of the hill, even on my phone with Verizon….that`s John in the orange hard hat and jeans walking down out of the new digs center of the photo, he is with CAGMAGS…
…Michael asked me to take a photo of him and Ryan, as I was getting a bite of lunch for Onyx and I….
Once we got everyone turned around and headed down the hill, Chuck and I were able to back up and leave as well…last ones out…I had everyone pull off the road just past the gate so I could lead them over to the new mine. We made the trip over there without any problems and drove down to the end of the road to the location we had dug at back in November, finding that hole filled in and the tailings spread out in a huge area, so we spread out and began searching and digging, finding some nice crystals and small clusters there as well…many of the ones I found had a nice smokey tint to them…
…about an hour into the search, we started finding more nicer stuff at the back area of the tailings….
When we first arrived, Shane followed us to the old mine dig area and showed us some clusters he had dug up earlier in the morning down near the old smokey location, told us we were welcome to go down there and collect too if we wanted to. About two hours in, a few of us walked down there to that location and checked it out…
…thankfully, Chuck was able to take a few photos of me digging along with David Bruce and David Hodges down in the smokey pit area….
….we didn`t find much until we spread out to the erosion ditches, we then found a few small clusters and single points laying around waiting to be discovered…those went home with a few of us…when we got done and returned to the original area, we found that many had left, some headed home and some headed back to their hotels, leaving out the next day or two. The CAGMAGS crew had headed home and it was down to Ryan, Michael, Chuck, and I, so we headed back to the hotel to clean up and then had to resort to supper at Subway as it was the only food place still open at 7:30 pm…by that time of the day, none of us had a problem with a good sandwich and chips for supper. 🙂
The next morning Chuck was the first one up and on the road about 6 am…Ryan and Michael asked me about a good rockshop to go to, so I recommended Bill and Faith`s Blue Moon Crystals Rockshop, about two miles east of the hotel on Hwy 270, so I checked with Bill Sunday evening and he said they would be expecting us about 9 am…after another good breakfast at the Harbor Lodge, we headed over there and found some great stuff for sale, as usual. After about an hour visit with Bill and Faith, Onyx and I headed for home, as did Ryan and Michael…their trip was much longer than mine, but they let me know later that night that they arrived safe and sound about dusk. All in all, another great trip with good friends, good food, and good hunting !!