Ben Clement Mineral Show 2018

Onyx and I made a quick drive down to Marion, Kentucky early Saturday morning, June 2nd, to take in the Ben Clement Mineral Show and visit with friends at the museum as well. It was a nice drive down on a nice day, not too warm at all. We arrived about 10 am and as I walked up to the museum, I spotted Ed Clement in front and visited with him for a few minutes before he was whisked away…I then had a few minutes to talk to Tina and Sherry, then found Bill Frazer inside and sat down to visit with him a few minutes before Russ brought him a taco pizza. We visited a few minutes more while they both chowed down on the pizza. Bill brought me up to date on some issues with the mine and museum before I walked over to check out the show. One of the main reasons I wanted to drive down there was to visit with everyone, including Gary Griffith and his son Walter, who are always set up with a fluorite booth at the show…they are great people and also donate a dumptruck load of rocks full of fluorite chips for the kids to dig thru outside the museum building each year. Gary lost his Dad Guy Griffith to cancer earlier this year…I always enjoyed talking to his dad whenever I stopped by their place to purchase great Southern Illinois Fluorite from them. I found Gary and Walter just inside the door this time….

…this time they had not only a couple of tables covered in fluorite specimens and octohedrons they chipped out, but they had one end of one table covered with fluorite jewelry…made by Walter`s wife….I purchased a couple of them as well, very pretty stuff. They also had discovered some neat stuff in their calcite pile at home recently…they normally separate the calcites from the fluorite, so they have a good sized pile of it and were going thru it recently and discovered fluorite cubes on the calcites, so they cleaned it up and brought it to the show…I purchased a few of them as well…

I sat on a milk crate they had behind the table and visited with them for quite a while, found out his Dad had cancer which slowly got worse and the pain finally became too much for him to handle at home, he had to be hospitalized to bring it under control. Def gonna miss talking to him as I am sure Gary and his family are as well. Gary told me a few stories about his Dad helping him and Walter when they were mining and Sherry told me a few about Guy as well.

Eventually I drifted down into the old school gymnasium to check out the vendors there….found Phil Daly up on the stage where Alan Goldstein is usually set up…Alan didn`t make it to the show this year…so I visited with Phil a bit and purchased some of his Kentucky minerals from his collection, which he is selling off…..

The dealer on the right in the photo above, had a beautiful cluster of smokey quartz crystals on the corner of one of his tables, sitting on a paper that stated the cluster was found in the Old Leatherneck Mine of Arkansas…which was the old mine that later became the Arrowhead Mine, both of which are now closed to the public….

…estimated retail price of $ 2300 only….lol…and no, I did not purchase it, but it sure is pretty. 🙂

Around 1:30 pm, Onyx and I headed for home and soon after turning west on I-24, traffic began slowing down and a few miles down the road we discovered why….

…and no, it wasn`t due to road construction…take a closer look ahead on the EB side….

…as we approached slowly, I thought at first it was two tractor trailer rigs involved in a serious accident, could see the medical transport helicopter in front of all traffic and then saw the firefighters scrambling around…

…and then as we finally drew alongside the scene, I could see it was a tractor trailer pulling a pup trailer, the pup trailer appeared to be rear-ended by a trash truck, and it appeared the driver of the trash truck required extrication by the Calvert City Fire Department, who has at least seven trucks on the scene and were helping with traffic control further back in the eastbound lanes that were backed up for miles…

…hopefully no one was seriously injured…thankfully we did not see anything else like that on the way home…this time I decided to drive straight in on I-64 and cross the Mississippi River by the Arch….

…always a great view….was great visiting with everyone in western Kentucky once again.



CAGMAGS Returns to Missouri

I received a call from Arkansas David, who had attended the field trip to Missouri with the MAGS Club end of March…David called me a couple of weeks later and asked if his club, CAGMAGS, which stands for Central Arkansas Gem and Mineral…could come up and go rockhunting with me to the Druse Location and quarry at Eminence again…I let him know what weekends I was off from my new job and he decided on April 21st and 22nd…and since MAGS…the Memphis Club that I am a member of…had invited his club to go with them, he decided to invite them to go with his club…and they did, as I received notice from MAGS of same by email a few days later.  The members of CAGMAGS decided to stay at the Viburnum Hotel as well, so Onyx and  I met them there Saturday morning about 8 am and then drove over to the Druse location about ten minutes later. David and John headed off to the right of where we parked, looking for druse and more pyrite and marcasite….we again had cloudy skies to start and the members this time, wanted to drive down to the quarry a little sooner than when MAGS was here….

…while others spread out on the other side of the road and farther back on the same side as where we parked…again we had peeks of sunshine that helped spot the druse a little faster and this time, a few more of us wandered down to the bottom of the hill to look for yard rocks of druse and poker chip combos….

…and after about an hour of looking for druse, we loaded up and drove on to the Secret Spot Quarry….

…where it appeared on the hillside behind the walls, that Spring was making its presence known…like the MAGS trip, this morning was a bit cooler and most of us were bundled up…once the sun finally came out, it warmed up quickly for us. I pointed out the potential areas for goodies and everyone spread out to look for them…


…and once I saw that everyone seemed to be finding stuff, I started looking for some pockets on my own…soon joined by John and a few others eventually…I usually have pretty good luck finding some and within 20 minutes I was working on one that kept going and going…deeper and deeper…producing some roof plates initially and then some nice single calcite crystals too….

…and some nice druse/poker chip combos as well, like this one…

…once John saw what my pocket was producing, he was hooked and sat down a few feet from me and started digging into an older pocket that soon produced crystals for him as well, once he tied into a couple of pockets that opened up for him…

After a couple of hours working pockets at the quarry, and several finding some nice druse plates as well, we traveled down to see my friend who sells Viburnum Trend minerals, about an hour south of there…we visited with him for a good hour and then the crew asked me if I knew of a good BBQ joint around…I told them about Missouri Hick BBQ in Cuba and said they have a satellite restaurant in Steelville as well…so we saddled up and drove up to Steelville for some good bbq.  Only after walking inside, did we discover that it was no longer Missouri Hick BBQ…instead was a burger joint…the crew decided they really didn`t want to drive any further for food, so we stayed and tried it out…wasn`t bad for a burger joint. After a good hour of talk and food, Onyx and I headed for home and the crew returned to the Viburnum Hotel and we decided to meet at the quarry in Eminence the next morning. I let David know that I would be going to the deli at the Sinclair Station in Eminence before driving on to the quarry the next morning.

On the way down there the next morning, Onyx and I stopped off for a few minutes to photograph Alley Spring Mill, as we pass right by it on the way there…

…and then we drove on into Eminence and turned to drive down to the Sinclair Station Deli, where we found David and his crew outside…after getting Onyx and myself a smoked ham sandwich, we drove over to the quarry and were soon joined by the rest of the crew there. A few days before, I had received word from a good friend nearby that some recent activity occurred and so we were some of the first rockhounds to visit since then…it turned out to be great hunting for all of us….

..we donned our hard hats, steel toed boots, gloves, safety glasses, and headed up the new pile to check things out…David and I started seeing some nice crystals right away, from the very base of the pile all the way to the top and some big boulders with nice vugs as well…soon John was in the mix with us and after pointing out some nice stuff to him, he began finding it on his own too, we were finding crystals that were nestles chcolate brown colored, black colored, and some nice green/brown mixes, some even had some irridescence to them…we climbed higher to the wall and started spotting pockets all over the place…pretty soon we were cleaning out several nice pockets…we found out later that John located some nice dogtooth pockets on his own, producing some nice crystals, singles, doubles, twins, and clusters…


…I have to say, John was quite happy with his finds…as he should have been…as you can see below…he had some real beauties come out of a couple of nice pockets and he shared them with everyone there…

I`m pretty sure everyone there had a great time over both days and the quarry at Eminence was a super hit with the recent activity prior to their arrival, making Sunday morning specially nice with more pockets of green and brown dogtooth calcite crystals to be found and collected. They left for home about noon, a five hour drive ahead of them, while Onyx and I decided to stick around another hour or so and check out the western side of the quarry. I had no sooner climbed up on the ramp to the walls above when I came upon a huge chunk, consisting of a large single chocolate brown calcite crystal, encased in calcite druse and dolomite matrix, with several smaller poker chips surrounding the entire base of the large piece…measuring a good 24 inches high and about 15 inches wide. In order to get it down to the parking lot, I wrapped it up in my rain jacket and scooted it carefully over to the edge of the pile, then after placing it in front of me and wrapping my arms around it, I slid down the pile like a slide and then brought the truck over to it and loaded it up.  I loaded up some smaller ones and then we headed for home, having our sandwiches on the way. 🙂



My Mineral Rock Gardens

I often get asked about my rock gardens, what I have in them and how big they get…last fall I planted several small beds of tulips and other spring flowering bulbs in all of my rock gardens and this spring I moved rocks around by type and location where found…and photographed the results when the spring flowers started blooming. This first image shows the rock garden on the west side of my shed, containing purple fluorites from western Kentucky, some of my wavellite from southern Arkansas, and many geodes from central Kentucky and the Keokuk area as well as a few quartz clusters from southern Arkansas mines…

…and as you can see, it mainly contains yard rocks…and some lillies at the top and on the west side as well….where my propane tank sits, I have Eminence yard rocks and some hybrid tulips….

the garden on the east side of the shed contains more flowers but starts near the shed door with a bed of lillies surrounded by a variety of beautiful crystals….

and on the far side of that garden is another bed of lillies surrounded by quartz clusters….

and just a little ways away in the curve of that garden is a nook of geodes….

…and more hybrids in yet another garden….

Hopefully that gives you a better idea of what my rockgardens look like. 🙂

MAGS & CAGMAGS Visit Missouri end of March for Druse 2018

During the MAGS Christmas Party in Memphis, my first one to attend in December 2017, W.C. asked me if I could take the members of MAGS rockhunting at the druse location near Viburnum again, and to the quarry at Eminence as well…they were kicking around a few dates and he said he would let me know what dates they decided on. I heard from him again the end of February and they had decided on the last weekend in March, I let him know I hoped to have another job lined up by then but would see what I could do about that weekend. As it turned out, I did have a new job by then, but was off weekends til sometime in April, prob due to the weird weather this spring…weirdest weather I can remember in sometime, including cold and damp weather, as well as late snowfalls…def not your typical springtime. I think the flowers and trees had a harder time adjusting than we humans did.

It was decided that Onyx and I would meet the members at the Viburnum High School on Saturday morning, March 24th about 8 am and then lead them to the Druse location. Onxy and I got up about 6 am and were on the road to Viburnum by 6:45…and pulled into the High School Parking lot an hour later…finding several members there already and more enroute from the Viburnum Hotel across the street where they spent the night. The Club had received word a week or two out that the hotel they normally stayed at in Park Hills, had sold earlier this year and ” had gone to the dogs “, not suitable to stay at any longer…too bad because the predecessor had run a very nice hotel with a great restaurant attached. I am sure that will be a loss to the communities nearby for many years to come.  Soon after arriving at the parking lot, I had a pleasant surprise to find my good rockhunting friend David Bruce, from northern Georgia, in attendance…long drive for him but he often goes with me to other locations I hunt at as well, like southern Arkansas and central Kentucky…he is a hard rock miner and dedicated to his hobby. 

After everyone assembled in the parking lot, we soon headed to the newer druse location…not far away but we had to travel a few miles by road to get there…and I had to go the long way with the group because some were driving low clearance cars and suv`s…we arrived about ten minutes later and parked on the side of the road…

….and I explained to them where they could find some pretty druse in all sizes from miniature pieces suitable for making wire wrap jewelry to yard rock size pieces. Everyone spread out and began to look…we had cloudy skies which make finding druse at any  location tough at best, but within the hour the sun was trying to peek thru and helped us out a bit better. I walked down to the bottom of the hill and found some larger and nice yard rocks, and pointed that out to some of the folks there, and soon more folks were also wandering down the hill to check it out. 

…while on the other side of the entrance road, I had let David Bruce and Arkansas David know about some marcasite and chalcopyrite dumped in special places, so they wandered over to that side first to look around…..

…we stayed up there the better part of a couple of hours, folks were finding some nice drusies and a few poker chip clusters as well…afterward we drove on down to the quarry, formerly known as the Secret Spot Quarry, and found a few wall pockets there that were full of nice calcite crystals. By mid afternoon, everyone was ready for a change, so we headed south to visit a friend of mine, at the request of MAGS members. We have visited with him a few times before, he is a mineral dealer of Viburnum Trend specimens and not only has great crystals and minerals for sale, but great prices and shares his knowledge on the minerals too…we arrived there about an hour later and everyone had a great time visiting with him once again. We had some new members along that not only made a new friend with connections, but purchased some nice crystals and minerals for their collections. Some of the group headed to Eminence from there, spending the night there so they could sleep in, while some headed back to Viburnum for the night.

The next morning, Onyx and I met them at the quarry in Eminence about 8 am again, after driving over to get a sandwich at the Sinclair Station`s deli shop…they make great sandwiches there let me tell ya…and I picked up a couple of bottles of water for Onyx as well. The folks that stayed at Eminence were there when we pulled in, but the crew that stayed the night at Viburnum were running a little later, so we drove on down into the quarry and I showed everyone where the most recent activity had been taking place and the more highly mineralized areas were located. 

…and everyone spread out to look for goodies….some heading to the coved area right away…one of my favorite areas to look for pockets of dogtooth calcite crystals….

…and one member finding a pocket that I had described as chock full of goodies the week before when I was there..looks like he had the same fun I did in pulling them out of the pocket….real back twister there….

…and while everyone was down at ground level, the two David`s and I headed up the western ramp to the newer activity work area…where I had found some pockets full of green poker chip calcite crystals, singles and clusters…you have to be very careful with the green colored calcites, as they damage more easily than other colors, tend to shatter even when trying to remove them from vugs and pockets. I was able to borrow a ladder which gave us a little better access to some pockets on the wall not very high up….after working this pocket, I let David Bruce work it for a while….

…and he did well too….we were a bit bundled up as it was about 40 degrees that morning when we arrived and maybe warmed up to 45 when we started working the wall pockets…this one in particular, went back to the left and then straight up and then to the right…making it difficult to get your arm into, specially if you had a couple of sweatshirts on like David did…Arkansas David got up there next and worked it and found out just how difficult it was to get the crystals out…there were several still in there if you could just get your arm in there enough to enable you to reach them…and then pull them back out…..

…we managed to pull some nice ones out, single crystals and small clusters both…and while we were up there, Jim Butchko wandered up to see what we were finding and looked down the wall from us to see if he could locate some pockets too….

…about an hour later, the Memphis and Arkansas crew decided to head for home…they had a five hour drive in front of them…and even tho David Bruce had a nine hour drive home, he decided to drive over to check out the old wall where we first started digging and hunting about ten years ago….

….he and I found some nice beauties in the old wall where the material was loose enough to dig into…I was glad to see him pull some nice clusters out for all the effort we put into that side. Here is one of the beauties I found in the old wall too….

…and a cluster I found shortly after….

David pulled about six clusters out of the muck there, similar to this one in size…and then left for home shortly after…sure was a good productive weekend for us all. 🙂





Antonia Elementary School Rockhounds and Geodes

My good friend Chuck Reed asked me to assist him and his brother Mike, at the Antonia Elementary School in Jefferson County, a week after I returned from the Phantom Mine in Arkansas…so Onyx and I drove over there one afternoon…we were going to be attending a mineral club meeting consisting of several kids and teachers of one grade level at the school. The teacher had contacted Chuck for assistance in opening geodes for them, that she had collected from a weekend trip to Keokuk, Iowa, and Hamilton, Illinois, during Geode Fest 2017. Mike had assembled Chuck`s Geode Cracker in a way that he could use it in a portable fashion, and today we used it on the tailgate of his truck in the school parking lot, so that the kids, after each one picked out a geode from the bucket, could observe how the geodes were cracked open. I photographed many of the kids with their geodes before and after, and shot some video as well. Some of the kids had duds and were allowed to reach into the bucket and pick out another one, and let me tell ya, there were some gorgeous geodes in those buckets, those kids were ELATED with their selections !!  During my nearly 16 years in fire and police dispatch, I had the pleasure of working with the father of a few of the kids there, and I sent him photos of his kids with their geodes. It was a fun time for sure….

…and the next photos are Elvie and Joe Forst…Officer Eric`s kids who I got to meet and talk to for a few minutes….

and a couple of other kids with some spectacular geodes cracked open as well….

Return to Blue Phantom Mine near Mt Ida, Arkansas

I`m going to dedicate this story to our good rockhound friend Abbigail Evans of Nashville…bless her heart, she really wanted to go back to this mine with us, she was sick the last time we went in November but persevered through it so that we could def go back then, we had some folks bail out on us after setting it all up and it jeopardized the opportunity to actually go there. This time around, she was recovering from a serious back injury and made the prudent decision not to go with us, due to the very rough road in there and out in the safari type truck. We hope to see her soon and wish her a very speedy recovery !! Chin up girl…you were definitely there in our thoughts both days !!


A few weeks ago, I was sitting here at my computer talking to a few rockhound friends by email, enjoying my early retirement from nearly 16 years of fire and police dispatch work in St Louis County. There were several reasons I retired early, and while I do miss some of my co-workers, many firefighters, police officers, and Command Staff/Chiefs, as well as some of the work, there were also alot of things and people there that created a great deal of stress, those things and folks I do not miss at all… and as it turns out, that stress may have been the cause of a serious eye infection that I suffered through from the 6th of February to the 2nd of March.

During those three weeks I was down with the infection and secondary infection of my right eye, I didn`t enjoy much of anything…I pushed through it and got things done with limited vision, albeit at a slower pace much of the time and had to wear extra dark sunglasses when outside or in my sunroom due to sensitivity to bright light, similar to having your eyes dilated and then multiply that sensitivity to brighter light by about 50 and you will have a good idea what I was going through. It nearly cost me a short trip to southern Arkansas as well.

During the first few days of February, one of my rockhound friends Mary Gratsch, of Cincy, Ohio, emailed to ask if I thought anyone would be interested in returning to the Blue Phantom Mine near Mt Ida…I told her there was no doubt in my mind that most if not all of the group, would love to return there, but it would be a matter of timing as to how many could go. She was suggesting we go during February and I told her that it would likely be physically impossible for many of the group to travel down there in February as that was normally the coldest month as well as the snowiest month, especially for Missouri and states farther north and east. I told her I would send an email out to everyone tho, and see who might be interested. Normally, as in years past with the exception of last year, we are digging at a fluorite mine in western Kentucky by the end of March, however we have not received word as to whether we will get the green light to proceed this year.

I sent the email out the next day and about fifteen rockhound friends answered and were interested in returning to the Blue Phantom Mine early March. Everyone let me know when they were free and we narrowed the time frame down to two days in a row at the mine, with the owner`s approval, for March 5th and 6th. Initially we had 15 interested and once we all arrived down there, we had exactly ten of us committed to go both days, however we had to scramble and replace four on Tuesday…the requirement to go to this mine is a group of at least ten people…we were all staying at the Royal Oak Inn, which is under new management, and our Hotel Manager there, Adam, was able to find some replacements for us for Tuesday.  Most of us traveled down there on Saturday and Sunday…I opted to leave Onyx with Mom this trip, since he didn`t like the road going to and from the mine and he probably didn`t appreciate the ride in and out of there itself, either. I left the house about 4:30 Sunday morning, March 4th, and took Hwy 63 down this time….traveled thru Mammoth Spring at the State Line about 7 am, and stopped briefly to photograph and video the fog rising up off the waters at the spring….


….this route actually shaves an hour to ninety minutes off my trip due to the passing lanes on 63 and then I pick up four lane Hwy 67 at Hoxie, Arkansas…ninety minute drive down to Little Rock, sashay around LR on 440 and that blends into I-30 South about a thirty min drive and pick up Hwy 70 west to Hot Springs. Arkansas DOT started converting 70 to a four lane highway last year and are nearly completed on it, just waiting on two bridges completion and then stripe it..I was really surprised they did not have it completed yet, but I have to keep in mind when it comes to contractors that build and re-build highways, it`s really hard to find good help these days.

John started texting me about an hour north of Little Rock…he and Mary were just leaving LR after spending the night there and headed south to Mt Ida, and it was raining down there he said….told him I could see dark clouds ahead and it was pretty wet in the fields on both sides of the highway where I was at. There were also some pretty sunbeams showing up to the east of me….

I crossed the large and wide White River soon after and thought to myself it looked more like the brown and muddy river instead. It was out of its banks and fields north and south of it for a few miles were under water at least a foot deep. I drove thru some short spotty showers about 30 minutes later and that lasted all the way to Hot Springs and then it cleared off to just cloudy skies. Every creek between Hot Springs and Mt Ida was up and rolling pretty good and I saw several waterfalls, the pretty one across from the old Monte Cristo Gas Station and Rock Shop was up about a foot and looked really nice. I heard from Fred and Mark just west of Hot Springs, Mark was waiting for me at the Subway on the west side of Mt Ida and Fred was about ten minutes from the Subway. I stopped off briefly at Burl`s Country Smokehouse to get a couple of sandwiches for my lunch the next couple of days and some pork jerky as well. Love that place !! 

When I pulled into the Subway at Mt Ida, I found Mark and Fred finishing up their lunch and we loaded up and headed over to the quarry to meet up with John and Mary…they were already there and looking for wavellite, but finding alot of planerite so far. I texted Justin to see where he was…still at home in Hot Springs, but said he would be on his way soon and see us there as well. We arrived at the quarry soon after and there was John, in his blue rainsuit and floppy hat too, over by the quarry pond….

…we parked, got our gear on, grabbed our buckets and tools and walked down to the pond where John was busy digging very pretty and colorful wavellite pieces out of a few small veins….

…he and Mary had been looking around and found some stuff before we arrived…Mark found some nice stuff and was quite happy about it too….

….Mary was doing well looking thru the piles of rock….

…we also walked over to the other side of the pond to an area we had found some thin veins of wavellite or planerite, last fall when there….

….this time Fred walked over and started finding some big stuff right away…

…while poking around and digging near Fred,  we also found some gray colored orbs, some clusters of them, and John identified them as Crandallite, psuedomorphs of wavellite balls sort of…meaning they started out to be balls of wavellite but didnt make it to that stage, is how I interpreted John`s explanation of it…

John also found a vein of quartz with either planerite or wavellite in it, a bright turquoise color in seams…sure was pretty stuff and even prettier when wet….

…naturally, we all liked it so we all took home lots of it as well…by this time, I think we all had at least a bucket full of pretty stuff…we kept digging into the thin vein of it and it was going right into the pond, we pulled several pieces out of the water that were quite nice too….

here is one of the nicer wavellite pieces I found, in and around a pretty quartz vug as well….


…we were waiting on Justin to get there so he could take us to a special spot where it could be found in mass…he showed up shortly and we followed him to the spot, where we all agreed, there was some very nice stuff to be found there…here are a few that Mark found…..

….we had been there a couple of hours by then and relatively cloudy skies and dry, but from the looks of the horizon, that was going to change soon…the dark skies were northwest of us and I figured moving northeast or easterly, however it turned out they were moving counterclockwise, so they were moving southeast and headed right for us. I think we missed the brunt of it tho, as we only suffered under a short steady sprinkle for the most part…or at least, that is all I remember of it, we were finding so much good stuff at that time, I prob just blocked the rain out of mind…

…the view above is to the northwest, and the view below is northeasterly toward the entrance of the quarry where that valley on the left side would be straight north….

By the time 6 pm rolled around, we were all quite happy with our finds and getting hungry, John and Mary headed for town to get something to eat,  and the rest of us drove over to visit Mr. Manley at his Rock Shop and see if he still had some of the smokey quartz crystals from Shane and Tony`s new mine near Jessieville…he had told us about them back in November when we were down there, and he invited us to come by and take a look. John stopped by there on the way in earlier in the day and told him we might be by that evening and he told John he would be around there all day.

Sure enough, we found him there with some other folks who were buying some stuff from him, so he naturally invited us on inside and showed us the smokeys that he had on hand…some beautiful stuff, let me tell ya, he had clusters, single points, small clusters, some double terminated crystals, big points, small points, and he had flats for sale as well as singles. I was pleasantly surprised to find that he also had some drusey quartz crystals there, too, likely from some dealers that had picked some up in Missouri near me….gorgeous stuff for sure. We told him we would be back the next evening and then we all headed to the motel to get checked in before finding some place to eat supper. John texted to say that the Mexican Restaurant was closed, so he and Mary had wandered next door to the PIzza Shack…I told him we would prob go to the Dairyette, near the motel…Justin drove over there to wait for us. After getting checked in at the motel, Mark, Fred, and I joined Justin at the Dairyette and found out they still make great sandwiches there. We were all tired and wore out, but if today was any sign of what was to come, we were all looking forward to the two days ahead.

We met at the Mt Ida Cafe the next morning at 7 am for a great breakfast….that cafe reminded me of my teenage years heading to deer camp and stopping off at the Lazy L Cafe in Houston, Missouri, great down home atmosphere and good cooking…. before driving down to Wegners to sign in for our trip to the Blue Phantom Mine. Just like last fall, we saw alot of deer grazing in the pastures as we drove down Owley Creek Road, always a good sign in my book. As we were getting our gear, tools, buckets, wraps, and lunch/water to take with us to the mine, our driver pulled up alongside our vehicles so we didn`t have to carry everything so far. We gave Mary our waiver forms and money so she could go inside the crystal shop and take care of the paperwork for us. Her husband Pete and her sister Judy made the trip down this time with her and they loaded her stuff up while she was inside.

It turns out that I knew our driver, Mike…his Mom used to have cabins for rent down on DeGray Lake years ago, and my dog then, Missy, and I stayed at one of her cabins for a family reunion at the State Park nearby. I met Mike there back then, he was collecting quartz and selling it on Ebay at the time, even purchased some from him back then and he even gave me some just to get them out of his way for newer stuff. He was the driver last fall first week of November, the week before we arrived, for the MAGS Club, and they were telling me they really liked him as their driver.  The gals rode up in the cab with Mike and us guys rode in the back, we had plenty of room, removing the middle bench seat with Mr. Wegners approval. Today it was Mary, Pete, and Judy from Ohio, John and Mary from NW Illinois, Fred from Tyler, Texas, Mark from near Dallas, Texas, Justin from Hot Springs, Phil from Central Kentucky, and me from Central Missouri. I had my camera with me, but left it in my backpack, so Mark shot a few with his phone of the trip in the truck…I think he took these on the way back tho…

It took us about 35 to 40 minutes to get to the mine…Mike took it easier on us this trip across one of the roughest Forest Service Roads I have ever been on…I swear, I think the FS roads in Colorado are generally smoother than the Arkansas FS roads are…this time we were riding in the biggest truck they had, so we would have optimum room for rocks and tools and riding room too. Our worst concerns were confirmed while we were loading up tho, when Mr. Wegner told us that the pit was full of water, after they received 18 inches of rain the week before, so we knew there would be no way we could get down into the pockets we were anticipating. We would pretty much be confined to the large tailing pile and the smaller one, however they believed all the rain had washed off the crystals in the tailings and should be easier to find stuff. We were looking forward to it no matter what. We also took our rain jackets as the skies were cloudy and we didn`t know if we were gonna have showers yet or not, even tho the weatherman down there said the skies would clear by noon. As it turns out, he was correct, the blue skies returned and it actually warmed up to 70 degrees that afternoon. Everyone headed out in different directions on arrival, I grabbed my first bucket and headed down the old tailing piles by the entrance road in……

…..and found several nice small clusters all over the place…everyone else headed to the large pile on the other side of the truck and spread out….

…that is Mike our driver on the left above and John on the right….and Mark showing off one of his finds below….

…and below is the pit from my vantage point up on the old tailings pile…the wall directly across is the one that that huge cluster of crystals was attached to, near the top, last fall…the cluster that I could not reach…the water was probably six to ten feet deep there….and deeper still down to the right at the end of the pit…

By the time I reached the end of the pile along the entrance road and turned back to walk along the top of the pile, I had filled my bucket, so I decided to take a break, and wrap up the crystals I had, eat half my sandwich, and then hunt some more. Just as I finished, Fred came over and decided to walk the old tailings that I had not covered yet, and I walked down below on the pit the first thirty feet he started finding small clusters just like I had before, and then spotted a nice larger crystal cluster. I had found a lot of golden healer crystals and clusters in the old tailings pile, even several in hot spot areas where I was finding three or four after I began raking down the sides of the piles a bit. We came to an area of large boulders and Fred spotted a few plates on some and climbed down to remove them from the boulders….

…you can see the back wall of the pit down below Fred…last fall we were able to walk up to that back wall, it was prob thirty feet up from the floor of the pit…very deep down there…btw, Fred found some nice plates while down there….

…in the next photo you see the far side of the pit where that ramp comes down to the floor of the pit…that is where the blue phantom quartz vein is believed to have started and it runs along that far wall down to the end of the pit…they started digging into the grayish brown colored bench above the wall and found crystals, so they drilled holes down that left side and are prepared to blast that out eventually, they tried to dig into it but found the jacks fork sandstone to be incredibly tough on the bucket teeth. Right now there is no time frame as to when they will blast that open…..

…and here is a golden healer crystal cluster that I found with some blue color at the base, partially buried in the dirt…

Mark came down and photographed me in my bib overalls looking along the top of the original piles….

which I really appreciate and my Mom does too, so thanks again Mark…..and by the way, that is an A for Arkansas Razorbacks red hat I have on, not the Angels…lets just get that straightened out right now, lol….and here is one of my buckets full of crystal clusters….

John found a huge boulder, one that he actually left there by accident last fall when we were there, and he re-discovered it still sitting where he left it…this time it went home with him…I didnt get a good photo of it, he sat it down half in sun and half in shade, so I shot it half and half to compensate….bottom half first…

..and the top half below…

…and a couple of large clusters John found in addition….

… above is the top view of John`s medium sized cluster and next two photos of one that Fred found as well….

Mike rounded us all up when it was time to load up the truck, and believe me, that took a while cause John, Phil, Fred, and Mark had a few medium to large clusters between them….they loaded the truck down with between a thousand and two thousand pounds of crystals…Mr. Wegner came out and was quite impressed with the amount we came back with as well…so much so, that he asked to take a group photo of us so he could advertise for his mine. We were too tired to care, and after loading up our vehicles with our crystals and tools, we headed back to Mt Ida and the first stop was the Mexican Restaurant for supper. I had never been there, and when we first walked inside the door, the beautiful and vivid colors of the dining room just jumped out at ya….I was amazed at the color of the booths, tables, and chairs…the booths and chairs had murals painted on them…I have been in a few Mexican Restaurants before, but never one this colorful and beautiful !!

…Fred took the last two photos for me and a friend sent me the first one…btw, the food there was good too and by the time we headed out the door, the place was half full with local folks…several of us drove up to Mr. Manley`s Crystal Shop west of town to see the smokey quartz again, John and Mary along this time as well as Mary, Judy, and Pete, as they missed out on our stop there the evening before. I think everyone was pleasantly surprised at the quality of crystals that he had from Shane`s mine, as well as the material he had from other places as well. He is also a pleasant guy to talk to and can give you the low down on any mine up there, as quartz mining is what his family has been all about for many years. His youngest son Justin was there as well, and we were able to meet and talk to him for a little while as well.

By the time it became full on dark, we all headed back down the hill to town and on to the motel…many to re-arrange their vehicles in anticipation of collecting more crystals the next day, Fred and Mark were leaving on Tuesday, Mark early morning headed home and Fred after breakfast with us. I had re-packed my truck at Wegners when we returned from the mine so I was good to go. Justin wasn`t going to be able to go with us the next morning either, so John talked to Adam, and Adam had four motel guests signed up to go with us the next morning…two had been there a couple of days already…Mark and Wendy…they had been to a couple of mines and were looking for another adventure before they headed home to Milford, Pennsylvania. We met them the next morning at Wegners, after another good breakfast at Mt Ida Cafe and bid Fred a safe trip home. The other two from the motel apparently called Wegners that morning and cancelled, and Phil told Mary that he wasn`t going with us that day either…despite being two short and the fact that they waited til that morning to cancel on us, Mr. Wegner allowed us to go to the mine so we loaded up the truck and headed that way. Mike selected a truck with more bed space this time, anticipating that we might just need more space and this one had four wheel drive just in case we needed it after loading it down. We had a good talk with Mark on the way over, found out that he is a hard rock miner like us, so we knew he and Wendy would fit right in well with us, and they did…they were pleasant to visit with and dig with too.

This time when we arrived, Mike drove us down to the end of the road and parked by the machines, as he intended to start up the Case Trackhoe and stir up the small pile first and then walk it up to the big pile and stir it up too. I had asked his permission the day before, to walk down to the ledge above the pit, at the bottom of the original tailing piles, to remove some plates from a couple of boulders down there, and he said it would be okay, just be careful. First thing I wanted to do tho, was check out the huge tailing pile, especially an area about fifty feet in that Fred told me about, was the first area that he actually found some color in the crystals. I grabbed my buckets and backpack and made a beeline for that area, followed by a couple of the gals who wanted to work that pile once again too. Fred was right, I started walking around that area and was finding small cluster and single points that were either golden healer deep yellow/orange, or had the blue color in them, and a few of the clusters had both colors. I stayed up there for about 90 minutes and filled one bucket completely full and found a couple of medium sized clusters. I called Mark over to one boulder, thinking he might want the nice plate on it…to my surprise, he chipped three plates off and handed me one to take home with me…very nice of him and I thanked him for that….it even had a little color on it….

I decided to take a short lunch break and eat my other ham sandwich from Burl`s and photographed a few of the clusters and plates I found in the big pile too…

On this second trip to the mine, I didn`t shoot many photos, which saved me more time to rockhunt this time around. After my short lunch break, I grabbed my other bucket, hammer, and chisel, and walked down to the ledge below the original tailings and found that boulder I had seen the nice crystals on. I was able to chip off a small plate, but the big plate on there, didn`t want to cooperate, so it is still there, maybe the group that is going there tomorrow can take it is the small plate all cleaned up that I removed….

I was down there on that ledge the rest of the afternoon, going from boulder to boulder and finding a small cluster here and there. I was down at the very end of the tailing piles when Mike came over to check on me, he was also looking for a good single point crystal for Judy, Mary`s sister, as she had not found one yet…he thought he might be able to find one down in the area I was at, so he started looking around there with me while we were talking and catching up on old times. I found this small plate down there a few minutes before he walked down to me…

…and I showed him a huge boulder that I found sitting at the foot of the tailings that I thought John would prob like to take home…so when I got back to the truck, I took John back down there to show it to him…

…he seemed to like it…I told him we could carry it up to the road above us and Mike would stop and pick it up to put on the truck on the way out if he wanted to take it home…so he pulled it up to size it up and the next thing I knew, he had hoisted it up on his shoulder and up the hill to the road we went…he sat it down in the dappled sunlight roadside and I photographed him with it…

We got back to the truck and John took off down the road to get his stuff gathered up to load on to the truck…the first two people walking up the road with their stuff, was Mark…

…and his wife Wendy right behind him….

…we started loading up the truck as Mike walked back down the road to make sure we didn`t leave anyone behind or any tools or crates….

…and we finished loading everything and everyone up, by the time Mike came walking back up the road…. emptyhanded of course….

…he stopped around the bend to pick up the boulder that John was gonna take home and then the next stop was the ranch and crystal shop. Back at the parking area, we all packed our vehicles with our finds and then most of the crew headed to the Mexican Restaurant again…John, Mary, and I were the last ones to head out, I was headed north to Waldron to have supper with family, spending the night at a hotel there, then headed home the next morning. Everyone else were spending one more night in Mt Ida before heading home on Wednesday as well.  I am still cleaning up some of my crystals and hope to get some of my wavellite in the iron out this weekend when our temps climb to around seventy degrees. I will post more photos of my in the next day or two, here are a few….

For a short trip down and back, it sure was filled up well with some great crystal collecting, was great seeing everyone again too. 🙂






Thanks for Visiting My Site….Contact Me For More Information…

Thanks for visiting my site, I am a rockhound in east central Missouri and I have been rockhounding for 50 years…my Mom and Dad got me started and I am glad they did, it`s a great hobby to get into and enjoy, digging and finding new treasures that God created millions of years ago can be as much fun as meeting new people that share that same love and interest, turning into long lasting friendships. I go rockhunting as much as time permits me to, sometimes in state and locally, as well as out of state trips to other locations where other great treasures can be located. I have a core group of friends that join me on many of my travels out of state and I am often asked by others if they can join me and my group. My answer is yes, as long as you meet a few requirements…I am often asked if I am willing to take others rockhunting with me and my answer is the same, yes, as long as you meet certain requirements.

My parents raised me to be a law abiding rockhound, meaning I do not trespass nor steal from others, I have great respect for others and their properties, I ask for permission before entering property of others and if denied permission, I respect that and go elsewhere. I am easy to get along with and I take my dog with me often on my rockhunting trips…if you don`t like dogs, then do not ask me to leave my dog at home, he is a big part of my life and a joy to be around much of the time. Many of my core group of friends are hard rock miners, we put in long hours at locations, digging and breaking rock to find the goodies, we practice safety in doing so…some of my group of friends are more surface collectors…we all wear the appropriate safety gear no matter what role we are in at the locations, basics are hard hats, gloves, steel toed boots, and safety glasses, not all are required at each location, but each person comes prepared just in case.

Some of the locations I go to, are open to other rockhounds, some at no charge and some charge a dig fee, some require rockhounds to wear safety gear and practice safety while rockhunting there, staying off the high walls, behind berms, and following local rules and regulations to avoid injuries. If you are the type of person that can abide by rules and regulations, then you are the type of person I can take rockhunting or provide information to. 

Some locations are privately owned and I cannot take anyone else there, nor provide information on them…. some where I did the legwork to gain not only access to that location but the trust of the owner, and I will not provide that information to anyone else at the request of the owner.

I am a big believer in keeping my word, and I have seen the end result when one does not keep their word on other locations…I have seen many locations once accessible to other rockhounds, lost because someone failed to keep their word and gave out the information to rockhounds who had no respect for the property of others, damaging the property in their pursuit of pretty rocks and minerals. 

In my fifty years of rockhounding, mainly in the last twenty years, I have seen and experienced many of these different types of people, mostly good people and some bad, some I never care to meet or deal with again…I`m a pretty good judge of character but sometimes I have to rely on the word of others til I find out differently about someone…been there and done that too. I do screen folks I have never met or heard of too…there are many tools available these days to do just that. I have worked in law enforcement and the fire service for many years, and worn other hats as well. 

So if you believe in good ethics, following rules and regulations, practice safety, and can meet my simple requirements as a good rockhound, then I would be happy to take you rockhounding, provide you with information on available locations, or add you to my core group of friends. For more information and to get started, give me a shout at and tell me about yourself and we can go from there. My name is James…Onyx and I look forward to hearing from you…

Fall of 2017 in Arkansas…PHENOMENAL

Despite cooler temps and a bit of rainy drizzle at the beginning and end of the week, my fall trip to Arkansas this year turned out to be a PHENOMENAL seven days !!  I was able to get a few days of much needed rest and relaxation, and two of the three days over the weekend involved two great locations, one new one, and some GREAT collecting by everyone involved this time around. For those that were not able to make it down to collect with us, you missed out on a great time and some great crystals found and dug. I think everyone would agree with me that the Phantom Mine at Wegner`s was the real treat this time around. 

Onyx and I picked up my Mom early on Tuesday morning, Nov 7th, and headed west to Joplin, then south on Hwy 71/I-49 to Fort Smith, where I always drop Mom off to visit with her two younger brothers and their families. We ran into some drizzle about Rolla that continued off and on all the way down there. On the way down, I stopped off at a resale shop in Fayetteville, to check on some smokey quartz from Brazil…I had talked to a guy who collected it there last year and had some for sale at this resale shop…he had a lot of broken stuff, but I found one nice small cluster and purchased it at a good price. We then drove on over the Boston Mountains and arrived in Fort Smith around noon, and after dropping Mom off at the Residence Inn, Onyx and I headed on south in the drizzle which increased in intensity by the time we got to Waldron. I had slowed down a bit since the highway had been resurfaced in the past year with fresh asphalt…that stuff gets a bit slick when wet and this was a cold drizzle on top of that, temps hovering around 42 degrees…however there was a guy in front of me zipping along about 65 mph and one behind me coming on fast, when we all met a state trooper just south of Waldron. He turned around half a mile behind me and although he never turned his lights on, he did pace everyone back there and stayed back there til we reached Y City, where Onyx and I turned east on 270 toward Mt Ida and Hot Springs.

The rain picked up in intensity again as we crossed over the short mountain range fifteen miles down 270 and I slowed down again…and came upon yet another trooper on the other side of the range, this one sitting in a driveway at the foot of the big hill. I was actually glad to see more of them out and about, specially in that type of weather. We stopped off at the Phillips 66 in Mt Ida, where gas was twenty cents a gallon less than the St Louis/Sullivan area. A few min later I honked as I passed by the home of Bill and Faith of Blue Moon Crystals…they live on Hwy 270 two miles west of the Charlton Lake Park area and about a mile west of the old Monte Cristo Rock Shop/Gas Station, which is across the highway from the neat waterfall on Murphy Creek, that sits just below the highway on the north side…there are some lucky residents that live just the other side of the creek and have that waterfall view to enjoy on a daily basis. We continued east on Hwy 270 and I thought about stopping at Burl`s Country Smokehouse at Crystal Springs, to pick up a couple of smoked ham sandwiches…one for me and one for Onyx of course…didn`t stop but wish I had now…and continued on to the Pretti Point condo complex, arriving just before dark. I say wish I had stopped for the sandwiches, cause supper later that evening was not very good, could have been because of the late hour tho.

The next morning, there were a few breaks in the clouds, and I was able to photograph the pretty maples in bloom above the condo….

Believe me…they stayed this color all week and were some of the prettiest trees I saw all week there…found out real quickly that the fall color down there, traditionally much prettier down there, was very disappointing this time around. I guess the leaves on many of the trees down there, had fallen from the trees from the cold rain that was falling those first few days, because many of the areas that I have photographed in the past, were barren of leaves and color both. I contacted my buddy Justin that morning and drove over to his new house to see his home and rock collection. He now has a lot of room and room to grow as well…he had some nice pieces of green wavellite that he had self collected, so I purchased a few nice sized ones from him.

He lives close to my buddy Robert, so I took him over to Robert`s house to meet him soon after.  As it turned out, the two of them had already met at the Spirit Show earlier in the year there, and had talked shop there the whole time. Despite the cold temps and drizzle, we had a great time visiting with Robert and then Justin and I headed to Cracker Barrel to get some lunch. Afterwards, I took him to Walmart so he could get some cat food and then returned him to his house. Onyx and I headed back to the condo to get a good nap in…and believe me, with that type of weather, it was a great nap…Onyx and I had a nice bowl of ice cream for supper. 🙂   

We were up at the crack of dawn to discover sunshine and a foggy sunrise over the lake below….

…that just kept getting prettier with every few minutes….

Robert took Justin and I on a sightseeing trip later that morning and we discovered that there were some pretty oak trees up on the mountaintops that still had some good color to them….

We saw a lot of nice scenery that day and started back to Hot Springs about 4 pm…Slade let me know that he had arrived at his hotel two hours earlier than expected, and Ray having arrived the evening before, began inquiring where I planned to eat supper. We decided on Cracker Barrel and I let Slade know that I would pick him up at his hotel….as Justin and I arrived in Hot Springs…we ran smack dab into this sunset downtown….

…after dropping Justin off, Onyx and I headed to the condo to clean up, and discovered these last few rays of the sunset over the lake waters….

    Slade was staying at the La Quinta Inn on Central Avenue. He wasn`t familiar with the area, this was his first trip down to Arkansas for quartz, his hotel was on my way to CB, so I picked him up shortly before 6 pm and we found Ray waiting for us outside the restaurant. After a good meal and some good conversation, I dropped him off and then Onyx and I headed back to the condo for another bowl of good ice cream before an early bedtime. Up again at the crack of dawn, we found another beautiful sunrise waiting for us, and again some fog attached to the pretty colors…

…and this morning, this little guy perched on the boathouse down below my balcony, so I photographed him as well….

After my stretching exercises, which have become a daily routine for me, Onyx and I headed to the Valero Station to meet up with everyone else…finding Fred from Texas, and David Bruce from Georgia….already there…. talking to Slade from North Carolina…. they had already met Pete and Mary from Ohio…Paul & PJ from Michigan arrived soon after, followed by John Oost & Mary from NW Illinois, and soon we were just waiting on Ray from Louisiana to arrive…he pulled in just as I was texting to check on him. I let everyone know I was going to stop at Burls and get a couple of sandwiches…those smoked ham sandwiches that I should have stopped to get the other day, and then we all took off heading west to Tony`s mine. Tony let me know while enroute, that he was going to be running a few minutes late, as he was having some work done on his new house and would likely arrive a few minutes behind us. As we crossed over the small bridge over Hwy 270 at Denby Creek, which enters an arm of Lake Ouachita at that point, on the far side of the bridge we spotted a four point buck with his nose to the ground, trailing half a dozen does…he was headed north and as we passed by him, not three feet from the sides of our vehicles, I looked left and spotted the half a dozen does I just mentioned, huddled together down in the ditch on the south side of 270, nearly right across the roadway from the buck…and trust me, he had no clue whatsoever….deer hunters will know what I am talking about. 🙂

We pressed on and soon after turning south on Hwy 379 west of Mt Ida, we started seeing deer everywhere, on both sides of the was the morning before the opening season and it looked like several scouting parties…scouting for cover. We pulled up to the gate soon after, and about five minutes later, Tony pulled in with his girlfriend Blondie and their two pups in the cab with them. After driving on up to the mine and parking, Tony showed us several smokey quartz crystals, some in baskets and some in flats, that he had been harvesting on a daily basis from his new mine with his partner Shane…they were beautiful crystals, many of them big and lustrous points. He told us they were hoping to be into some clusters soon as well, had been finding a few here and there sporadically. After paying our dig fee we all headed up to our favorite spots and began searching for quartz crystals.

Onyx and I drove on up to the top and found Pete, Mary, Slade, Fred, Paul, and PJ already up there….

I showed Slade the wall that Chuck had worked over back in July for the plates, and he set off in that direction, intent on removing a few himself. I got my boots on, grabbed my gloves, apron, bag, and tools…while doing so I was talking to Paul, who was searching the huge piles on the right of me…..

I then headed for the old tailing piles on the south side, intent on checking out some information from Adam regarding some beautiful stuff he had found in the old piles years before. For the next couple of hours I zig zagged through the pine trees and short brush, surface collecting the top of the old piles and finding quite a few small plates and clusters that were quite pretty, and small single points all over the place as well. I then headed for my truck to get a bite to eat, Onyx joining me for his sandwich break too….I set a small cluster next to the sandwich that I found first off….

Slade and Fred were working the rocks of the wall on the far side and appeared to be doing quite well too…Fred told me later that he was finding a few pockets of plates in this rock….

During the afternoon, I found some really nice ones…one appeared to be a flat plate, I pulled it out and discovered a nice long single point attached to what I thought was a plate, and a smaller point perpendicular to the larger singe point embedded in it. Ten minutes later, I found yet another large single point and then twenty minutes later I found yet another point about half as big, but still very nice…I felt quite blessed and took it easier after that. By 4 pm, we were all ready to head for Hot Springs, a few having already left ahead of us. John and David did pretty good down below at the other mine in the veins where the large plates are found, before heading up in the afternoon to work the old walls too. We decided to meet up at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper that evening after cleaning up…we were all looking forward to the Phantom Mine at Wegner`s Crystal Ranch, the next day. As long as we had at least ten people in our group, we would be allowed to go there and dig. 

Several friends in the Memphis Club MAGS, which I am a member of as well, had given me good information on their trip there just the weekend prior, and said there were huge clusters of phantom crystals laying all over the place, that could be cobbed down to more manageable pieces, that could more easily be transported out of there and home. That information alone, once shared with everyone, had us all chomping at the bit to get there as soon as possible. The information I had included photos of their finds, which I also shared with everyone, showing blue colored crystals with clear crystals in the clusters. We had to be on site at Wegners the next morning by 8:30 am to sign in so after a small bowl of ice cream, we retired for the night.

Once again, we were up by 6 am the next morning and yet another beautiful sunrise awaited us…I stepped out on the balcony to photograph it over the waters of Lake Hamilton below and found the air to be quite crisp but the eastern skies were absolutely GORGEOUS….

…and then the skies started to deepen and the colors only intensified a few minutes later….

…which I took as a sign of a good day ahead…Abbi drove in late the night before from Nashville with a bad cold…she didnt hesitate when she found out that we might not have enough to go to the Phantom Mine…as it was, we had just enough people to be able to go. Justin joined us on this trip as well and we headed to Wegners, arriving as planned by 8:30 am. We all parked out in the inner circle parking area and signed our papers, then headed inside the crystal shop to pay our fees to Annie, who had called me the weekend before to set up the group dig for us. Abbi took a few photos outside as everyone was looking at the rocks on the tables that were for sale, to give one an idea of what could be found at this mine….

…and of Justin and John who looked cold and trying to warm up in the brisk breeze…

We had hoped to have Mike as our driver, he was the driver for MAGS, however Annie told me that Mike had injured his back and had been replaced with Bill, and she assured us that he was as good as Mike was. They had a smaller truck than what we expected and had added four other rockhounds to our group, two were from Wisconsin and two from the St Louis area.

We loaded up and headed out by 9:30 am…Onyx and I sitting on the back edge and a couple of people up in the four door cab with Bill to make more room for us and our luggage. 🙂 We drove down a couple of smooth roads initially, then turned down a couple of bumpy forest roads…some so bumpy we had to come nearly to a stop and then forward once again…not sure why, but Onyx started barking and snapping at the branches that smacked the side of the truck…I have never seen him do anything like that before, so I am not sure where that came from. I had to get a pretty firm hold on him as he kept wanting to go to the side of the truck bed under the seats as if to bite the branches as they went by us. Weird, I know….and over my head believe me…dog psychologist I am not. 🙂 

After about forty minutes of rough riding, we finally arrived at the gate and a short time later we were pulling into the mine, skirting around several tailing piles before coming to a stop and unloading the truck…some of these photos were taken by Abbi and noted on the photo….

Bill gave us a short safety talk and showed us the boundaries as well, where we could go, where we should not go and then released us to wander and find….the four rockhounds on the right in the next photo are the other group added to our group, and Mary from NW Illinois walking on the left side….

Some headed for the tailing piles on either side of the truck….some were freshly turned over too….

…while the rest of us headed down to the pit to find the pockets of phantoms….initially we found them on the walls in plate form, as I did, and in pockets as Slade did, and in boulders on the ground as Fred and Paul did…eventually we all wandered on down into the pit as well and discovered hundreds of crystals all over the place awaiting our arrival….

…I walked down there after chipping several small plates of blue and clear crystals off the wall near the entrance, and as i walked in, I noticed the large wall on the left that was covered near the top with huge blue phantoms….my first thought was, ” where is my ladder when I need one ??!! “…..

I set up shop right there at that wall, where I found several nice crystals at the base in the dirt and then some on the ledge below the clusters, some left there from prior diggers and then I climbed upon the ledge and found a small cluster that was easy to chip off…wrapped it up and stuck it in my backpack along with the multiple plates I had wrapped up after chipping off the wall…my backpack was now half full…I brought two buckets and the backpack…the pack also had two bottles of water, just in cases, and sandwiches. From here, I started walking and surface collecting…Paul was up on a short wall across from me working on what looked to me like ” pocket city “….

Initially it was just Paul, PJ, Justin, Fred, Slade, and me down there…then after a couple of hours, Mary, John, David, Ray, and a few others decided to join us…we were all beginning to wonder about John as we had not seen nor heard from him for awhile and he was missing out on some great stuff we were finding down there. Abbi never did make it down there….here you see Justin digging into the floor of the pit and finding some beauties…Slade and Fred are still working the rocks up by the water hole…

Eventually Mary started digging in close to Justin and she began finding some nice clusters there as Justin was doing…

…and soon everyone was wandering around and picking up gorgeous stuff that was simply laying everywhere….we were truly like kids in a candy store….

Slade called me up to take a look at one of the plates he was able to dig out of a pocket in the wall…he was quite happy let me tell ya….

…with good reason, this was a gorgeous plate of phantoms….

…and while we were all finding some great stuff down below, Abbi and others were finding some nice crystals up above too…here is a large single point found in the pile Abbi was working in….

…and a phantom point that she found as well….

…and a phantom point that John found…ironically, I found a phantom point that could be a twin to the one Abbi found, same shape and color….

and here is a plate that Fred found up around the watering hole, that has a large golden yellow healer crystal on one corner of it….

…and once John did finally make it down there to join us, he came walking up with his arms full of crystals…

…and afterward, at some point down there, managed to remove a nice large plate, that required use of a dolly to get it back up to the truck later on….

Let me tell ya, after four hours of diggging and chipping and collecting, we were all exhausted by the time we got the truck loaded down with our buckets and bags and packs and tubs full of goodies…Bill let us know when we had to start loading the truck….and thats when Abbi started snapping photos of everyone….

I think Onyx looked as tired as we all felt…tired but happy rockhounds for sure…happy enough that we did try to arrange for a return trip to the mine the next day…alas they were unable to find us a driver or we would have def returned to find more goodies…GREAT MINE to go to if you get the chance, well worth the cost and the ride in and out of there. We also did a little shopping when we returned to the crystal barn, found some nice crystal plates and clusters in part of an old collection from the Magnet Cove area, some with brookites attached to them, and I think there were a few of us that bought some of those…I know I did, they were selling them by the pound…pretty good bargain in my book. I`ll post a photo of the ones I bought later on, as I am still working on cleaning up my dig finds from there. 🙂

We headed back to Hot Springs to get cleaned up for supper and headed to Cracker Barrel for another delicious meal and to discuss the Fisher Mtn Mine the next morning. I let everyone know about the inside information I had on this old historic mine and everyone was ready to go again. Sunrise the next morning was pretty blah, so I didn`t photograph it…we met at the Valero again and headed up to the mine after stopping to get the key for the gate. The road going up to the mine past the gate had been recently worked on, but was still rough in spots, very passable tho. Once we arrived, we parked in the first few spots and loaded up for bear and began the descent to the area of the info I had on it…on the way down there, we saw nothing, no crystals laying around, not even small ones…at most mines, you are tripping on the small crystals laying all over the place…but there was very little to be found at this one. We reached the area and again, found nothing, certainly nothing as described to me, so we all fanned out and began looking everywhere…John and a few of the guys eventually located what they thought was the desired area, however it  appeared to be heavily worked and possibly played out. The rest of us dug into some areas and again, found very little for our efforts, so we decided to rockswap and then headed to the Mauldin Mountain County Quarry to look for wavellite….we found the gate wide open but decided for safety`s sake to park outside the gates and walk in…by this time of the day, the temps were warming up and it was going to be a beautiful day ahead…

…this is the quarry looking northwest…that area on the far side beyond that yellow piece of equipment is on private land, where the quarry is normally open to collecting, according to the locals….the Kansas City Club was there that morning and we hoped they did not collect all of the good stuff before we arrived. John was able to make contact with them and found out they didn`t find any wavellite but did find variscite and planerite, and shortly after walking in, we did as well…

…we started looking along the wall with the slate behind the rock piles but didn`t find much of anything there, some variscite is all, and then moved around to the graved slopes on the south side where we started finding much more material…mostly planerite….

After a few hours there. we wrapped it up as some of the crew was driving back home that afternoon…while we were talking, Mr. Manley drove by, stopped, saw us and backed up to come and visit with us…he has a rock shop on the first hill just west of Mt Ida and is the patriarch of the Manley family, one of the oldest and well respected quartz mining families in the area. My friend Carrie met him down there at the quarry last year …we got to talking about the smokeys that his son Shane and Tony have been finding lately and he invited us to stop by his shop and visit more with him. He was headed down to deer camp to visit with some of his family. We packed up and headed back to Hot Springs for supper at Outback Steakhouse…this time there would only be four of us eating, as everyone else was headed home. Slade and Mary headed home the next morning…Mary after making sure we couldn`t go back to the Phantom Mine that day, possibly joining the New York Club that had arrived the evening before. Wegners staff said they needed at least a week notice to make it happen, so she headed home upon learning that. Abbi went to explore some creeks and then she headed home by evening, leaving me and Onxy to rest up for the day…at least we had another great sunrise to start the day…a near duplicate of the one two days before, and I even checked the dates on the images to make sure they were different…the sunrise this morning included the moon overhead…the one two mornings before the moon was farther to the west….I remember because I like to include if if I can and there was no way to include it two mornings prior….

and for the sunset that evening, we had a pretty pink and orange glow…a speedboat full of fishermen arced across my camera view for a few seconds while shooting so I included them in the photos too…

….as they disappeared behind the land mass on the right, I worked with the reflections in the ripples their motor prop created….

Onyx and I got some good rest, drove out to a waterfall I like and tried to find some local color, but it was mainly gone, likely the cold rain on our arrival being the likely culprit, so we had another good meal that evening, another bowl of ice cream, another good nights rest, shot another gorgeous sunrise, and then packed the truck and headed to Fort Smith to pick up Mom and head for home…..

After shooting this one, I thought the clouds might be done, but as I was packing the truck, I noticed it had deepened out and gotten even better, so grabbed my camera and headed to the balcony…..

…and soon we were headed home…we hit some rain on the way home but east of Springfield we ran out of it…it did eventually sweep thru here later that night tho…all in all, another great trip for the books tho. 






Geodefest 2017 Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois

I returned home yesterday evening, from three days at Geodefest 2017 which is jointly shared by Keokuk, Iowa and Hamilton, Illinois. This is a yearly event that goes 3 days and includes dealers selling all types of rocks and minerals, dealers that will crack open your geodes of any sizes, and three days of collecting at several locations, many of which are only available to collect at during this event, due to the fact that several are located on private property. I attended this event years ago when it was still being held in Keokuk, at the Hyvee Parking Lot and then it became well known, talked about, and advertised, that it outgrew that parking lot and the local club that sponsored it, moved it to the Chaney Creek Access on the north side of Hamilton, off Hwy 96, which has a large parking lot that so far, has been able to acommodate everyone that shows up there for this event. I might also add that Mike Shumate, who is like the Grand Poobah of Geode Hunters in the Tri-state area of Northeast Missouri, Southeast Iowa, and West Central Illinois, has directed and overseen this event for the past several years, and he and his people have done a very good job of it…Mike decided this would be his last year to set it up and supervise it, and from what I understand, the city of Keokuk has decided to step up to the plate and host it next year. All I can say is that they have some pretty big shoes to fill and hopefully they can do as good a job as Mike has done for the past several years.

Chuck Reed and I decided a few months ago that we would take in the entire event this year…we drove up last year for the last day of it and enjoyed the morning hunt with other rockhounds and then went hunting privately with John Oostenryk and Rockhound Bill the next morning. While we didnt find many geodes last year, we still had a blast and decided this year we would attend the entire event. Looking ahead at the forecast for excessively warm temps, I decided to leave Onyx at home with my Mom so he could stay inside the ac and I headed up that way on Thursday afternoon. I left around noon and stopped by to see my Rockhound buddy Nathaniel Reid, who is also a world -renowned Pastry Chef and has his own bakery in Kirkwood…he had asked me to bring him some crystals and minerals, so I dropped those off at this shop and collected some cookies and sandwiches for the trip as well…we visited a little while…he was pretty busy even at 1 pm, the place was packed with customers when I arrived…. and then I headed on up the road toward Keokuk, Iowa.

I arrived around 4:30 pm, checked into the Super 8 hotel on Main Street, and then headed over to the Chaney Creek Access Parking Lot to see if John had arrived yet. My good friend Robert, who owns a few quartz mines in southern Arkansas, was also driving up to set up a vendor booth and sell his beautiful quartz crystals and clusters at the event in the dealer area. He had emailed the day before to let me know that his arrival time should be around early to late evening Thursday. I talked to Mike Shumate for a little while and then some of my rockhound friends, Charity and Jamie, who I had met thru John the year before, arrived with their newly adopted son Tony, and while I was visiting with them and meeting Tony for the first time, John finally arrived shortly before the sun began to set….and started setting up his booth. Charity and Jamie help John crack open geodes for diggers for a nominal fee, and when there are slow times, either John, Charity, or Jamie can go hunt and dig geodes as well. 

By the time I left and headed back to the hotel, Robert had still not arrived and was not answering texts either..I was getting a bit worried about him but hoped to see him the  next morning there. After a good supper at V`s Restaurant next door to the hotel, I emailed him as well. After checking my emails and updating my FB page, I was off to bed a little earlier than usual, set to be up at the crack of dawn and ready to go get some geodes. Chuck was set to get up even earlier and hit the road from St Louis. I stopped off at the Casey`s store before crossing the bridge over the mighty Mississippi to get some ice for my cooler, setting a couple of sandwiches from Nathaniel in there for lunch later on…a chicken salad for me and a turkey sandwich for Chuck. With the heat coming on, I just hoped that the 15 bottles of spiked grape propel water that I had stocked the cooler with,  was going to be enough for all three days. I had no idea if I could even find that flavor and brand up that far north, but I can always find it when I head south to Arkansas.

I arrived at the parking lot soon after and walked around a bit, then signed up Chuck and I at the registration booth and signed us up for the new location as well, called the Barrow Pit. It was a location that John had specifically recommended to us, supposed to be an epic site and full of geodes. Chuck arrived about 7:30 and we were set to go, rolling out soon after 8 am behind our guide and headed to the Pit, which was located near Canton. Chuck and I were about halfway back in a long line of vehicles, we arrived at the new location about 8:45 am…..

We drove up a steep short hill and into a huge field, where we all parked, gathered our tools and buckets, and then walked down to the end of that field, where a concession stand trailer sat. The road leading in dropped off a small hill in front of that trailer and into a low area, where a pond had been carved out on one end butted up to the hillside on the west and spread out to the east in a zig zag pattern. The owner had dug out and dumped several piles containing hundreds of geodes, ranging in size from golf ball to basketball and several clumps of geodes in chunks of matrix as well….

Chuck and I walked down the slope and saw about a hundred rockhounds of all ages, spread out all over the valley dirt floor sifting thru geodes in the many piles. John`s information was right, there were hundreds of geodes laying all over the place there, and it was very likely there were many more that could be dug from the walls as well…we chose to surface collect and walked over to the far northwest corner of that small valley and began sifting thru the dirt piles to find the lightest geodes available….which is when my second surprise came upon me…in those many piles of dirt, many of the smaller geodes I was picking up…were light as a feather…it was like picking up air instead of a geode…even when I began picking up geodes that were the size of baseballs and grapefruits, they were light…as…a….feather !!  I was dumbfounded…because it has been a VERY long time since I had picked up geodes that were that light in weight. I started putting several into my bucket that were baseball size or smaller…and I cracked open a couple of them with my mini mattox and found gorgeous druse, sparkley interiors of quartz crystals inside them. The corner where we were digging at, became quite popular pretty quickly…John was over there a few times and there were a couple of young families that wandered over as well…it was not a problem with us because as I said before, there were hundreds of geodes to be found and in all sizes too. We soon discovered, all of us in that corner, that the smaller geodes were much prettier than the larger geodes, which seemed to be filled with brown crusty looking crystals instead of white or clear quartz. Here are some that John cracked open that will show you what I mean…

Speaking of John, we saw him about every 30 minutes, he was all over the place helping others and letting them know what to look for..eventually he showed back up around 11 am and started cracking open these big ones trying to find a really nice one or two to take home with him…he had some good help this time…Tony coming back over to work with him….

It was also about this time, that we began talking to a young couple with a very spirited young lady with them…she had a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and as it turns out, she was looking for pretty crystals like me…soon after talking to them, I found out it was her birthday that day and she was four years old…I asked her Mom what her favorite colors were and when she told me purple and yellow, I walked up to my truck and picked out a few pieces of fluorites in those colors, that I had with me from Gary`s fluorite mine. I wrapped them up in a clean white cloth and handed them to her and wished her a Happy Birthday….

I saw them again up at the parking lot later that day and she was still full of energy and rocking along…they came by John`s booth and I pointed out Ken Vaisivil`s booth and Robert`s booth next door, suggested they check them out too….I would bet you that she had a great birthday !!  

A few minutes later I looked over toward the slope entrance and saw that Charity, Tony, and Jaimey were having lunch next to the wall where they had been digging all morning…

…I saw Abigail to the right of the big boulder and many others were still looking around, even though we were winding down to quitting time soon…

As Chuck and I were packing up our trucks and preparing to head back to the parking lot, I took our sandwiches from the cooler and we had lunch on Nathaniel right there in the field, wolfing down our food and then driving back to Hamilton. Thanks Nathaniel, those sandwiches hit the spot !!

We made it back to the parking lot just in time to sign up for the afternoon hunt, deciding to go to Amish Fox River North. The group that had gone there that morning, said there were geodes lying around the river bed everywhere, the river was low from a lack of rainfall and we were told that the Amish farmer there would help us carry our buckets of geodes back to the parking lot with his horse drawn wagon. In years past, I had been to an Amish farm near Kahoka, these days it was referred to as Amish Fox River South, so I decided to go to Amish North and check it out as well. We drove to the west of the fourlane highway near Wayland and then down a very dusty road…a testament to the lack of rainfall in some time there. We then turned down a farm driveway, passing a beautiful black colt in a field and then came upon a modern day farmhouse atop a hill with a broad valley below…the road winding down the hill and around the fields below to the river…

At the end of this huge soybean field above, which stretches down to the left at least another quarter of a mile, the Amish farmer had fashioned a small parking lot in a wedge shaped area, however it was only big enough for about 25 vehicles and we had at least 30 vehicles in our group. One rockhound in our group was driving a mustang and he wisely left his car parked at the top of the hill by the modern day farmhouse and rode with someone on the way down to the river. I was the last vehicle in so I opted to park in some short grass on the side of the grassy path, instead of crushing soybeans as others were directed to do. I grabbed my bucket, tools, and camera and headed for the path to the river, catching up to Abigail on the way through the parking area…we discovered the Amish farmer`s wife had baked several goodies and even made some home made ice cream, to sell under a large white tent in the corner of the parking area….

She had baked cookies, pies, several small loaves of flavored breads like bananna nut and pumpkin, and other assorted goodies…before leaving, I purchased a large loaf and small loaf of bananna nut bread and let me tell you, it was delicious !! She told me that she baked in a huge dutch oven that was an antique stove and heated with a wood fire, as they do not use electricity.

Abigail and I started down the path and halfway down, we came upon the two beautiful brown and yellow Belgium horses that the Amish farmer hitches to his wagon….

As soon as we came upon the river, we saw folks wading upstream in the muddy water….

…folks searching the area of the river where the path comes down to the water….

…and some that went downstream to look for geodes….and checked out this island as well….

Abigail and I didn`t venture very far downstream…I went as far as the island seen above, while she was off to the left near the bank, where she was feeling some big geodes at her feet, so she was moving along inches at a time and checking out each one…

….and while I found a few geodes that felt light enough to be hollow, I found a lot of beautiful agates and a few geode halves that appeared to have either quartz or snowballs in them….all around the edge of that island no less….

It was about this time that John and Chuck passed us, they had done downstream on their arrival to check it out, they had information from morning crews that the sandy river bottom down there was loaded with geodes, however the much higher river level was now making it impossible to find anything, let alone see anything down there, so they decided to try and go upstream instead…finding deeper water pretty quickly, so they slowed down to check out the area across from the path entrance… this photo above, one might think they were fighting over this geode, if they didn`t know them at all…” it`s my geode…no it`s my geode ” kinda thing….the next photo will show you that Chuck was handing John this huge geode to determine if John thought it was worth keeping, weight wise…the lighter they feel, the more potential to be hollow and thus full of beautiful crystals….

After that, Chuck took a rest break on the far bank and John decided to do a little clowning around in the river….mainly he was disgusted with the fact that he wasn`t finding any geodes despite a thorough search and the fact that the river was now considerably higher, so he took a respite from the heat and cooled down some….

We had to be careful crossing the river due to a strong current from a rising river flow too…the day before, five to seven inches of rain had fallen and it had taken all night and all morning before the water levels started to rise. The morning hunters found low water levels and that island completely exposed, but by the time we arrived, the island was nearly under water and levels had risen a good foot. The current between the island and path entrance, was quite strong and several people had to be helped across it, unless you had a full bucket or two, and then you were fine on your footing….

Luckily for the many rockhounds that were located on the island and below it, that had two buckets or more, the Amish farmer came to their rescue with his team of beautiful Belgiums and wagon…

I headed back to the parking lot, paid for my bucket, and then found Chuck ready to go as well, so we headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up before heading over to the parking lot at Hamilton again. Driving back up the field trail, I had this view of the Amish farmhouse from the valley floor below….

…and then closer to the house, I saw these pretty big red flowered bushes, guarded by a cute little guy….

Chuck and I returned to the hotel to get cleaned up, the river water was pretty muddy, Chuck had wisely worn his waders where most of us had simply waded in, in our hunting clothes. Had Onxy been with me on this trip, he would have looked like a drowned muskrat I am sure. 🙂  By 6 pm we were back over at the parking lot in Hamilton, and I was relaxing in a nice easy chair at John`s booth when Jamey pointed out a young man in the parking lot who was covered from head to toe in mud….

…I would venture to say that he had gotten his money`s worth and more that day. By 8 pm the crowd had left and so Chuck and I headed over to the Hamilton Cafe to have supper with John, Charity, Jamey, Tony, and Robert…have to say I have never ate there before but they serve good food and the atmosphere there is very family oriented. We headed back to the hotel for another good night of rest and decided we would return to the new location on Saturday morning, to see if we could find some bigger geodes on the other side of the pit. John had checked out a few spots over there Friday morning and found some nice bigger geodes.

After photographing a beautiful sunrise behind the hotel…..

….and stopping off at the Phillips 66 right down Main Street east of the hotel, to get fuel and some more ice, I headed over to the parking lot to find Chuck already there and lined up out on Hwy 96 shoulder…he was ready to go ! I checked on Robert and visited with Bruce Baur a bit, he was a vendor on the other side of the parking lot from John and Robert, and is a good rockhounding friend as well as a very good candlemaker. He and I go way back to my early days of attending Geodefest years ago. He was there on Friday as well but I didn`t spot him there, found him instead on FB that night and he told me where he was located. We had a good short visit before my convoy left for the Barrow Pit, and I was again bringing up the rear of the line, mainly because there are some people that have no clue how to drive, some that have no clue how to get in line, and some that get in line for yet another convoy leaving later and block some of us completely out, completely disrespectful of others. And then there were some ahead of me that had no clue how to drive with their flashers on in a convoy of vehicles, coming to a stop and wanting to let others in to break the line, and then there were those that naturally could not, or would not, keep up and keep the line tight so as not to get lost from the pack ahead. Some people really need to get a clue on how to drive, especially in convoys and packs like that, and Mike Shumate`s crew does a great job of giving out information on it, so it was obvious that not only do they not know how to drive, they don`t know how to listen either…..but I didn`t let it put me in a bad mood or ruin the rest of my day, just took a few deep breaths, expressed a few choice thoughts, and drove on south. We arrived about 20 min later and this time Chuck and I parked a little closer to the entrance. We walked down the slope and this time veered to the right and found out that the word must have gotten out about big ones to the right. We walked along the dirt wall to the far side, and dug over there a while, then eventually moved back to that south wall below these hay bales, where there was some decent shade…have to commend the owner, he has a nice geode pit and a good treestand for deer hunting up on the hill on the other side of the pit….

This trip there was a large commercial bus full of rockhounds from Indiana and Michigan on board that had driven down for the weekend digs….

So we hunkered down in that shade below the round hay bales and started digging into the wall next to a guy from Gary, Indiana…he was doing a good job of pulling some nice grapefruit sized ones out, having a pile of them already stacked up. I dug a few larges ones out but they felt heavy and most were clusters of them embedded in the matrix rock, heavy enough I didn`t feel like dragging them back so I left them there. It was a good decision since there were some people back at the parking lot that apparently did take theirs back to crack open and they basically just fell apart and all they had left were pieces.

We dug there for about 90 minutes more and then headed out to get signed up for the afternoon dig at Rod`s, which is another creek location. Chuck stopped off in Keokuk and grabbed some bbq for me, and it wasn`t too bad.  I visited with Bruce a bit more as well as Robert and Ken, and then our convoy was announced next to leave. John drew us a map of where he went the day before and found some nice large snowballs in the bottom of the creek at Rod`s. Armed with that, we headed out and Abigail decided to go with us as well. We misinterpreted John`s map and went in an entirely different direction, stopping in a curve of the creek that appeared to be a spot, as Abigail confirmed, that John Oost had obviously worked and dug heavily into the creekbank, moving some major amount of dirt and rock. Abigail took photos at this location and I am waiting for her to send me some, when she does I will get them into the storyline to illustrate it better.

As it turns out, John did not work this spot, and we settled into the curve of the creek there and continued on with the work of someone else. We did well, digging into the softer dirt and sandy / fine gravelly bottom that made for easy work, and we were pulling out quartz filled halves of geodes right away, most of them very keep worthy and beautiful, plus there were some colorful agates and shale that had patterns of wood on them that made you think it was petrified wood, but it was soft and shaly instead. We dug there for a good 90 minutes and then I had to take a walk around to stretch my knees and ankles a bit…I have a lot of joint pain these days as a result of my injuries suffered over the span of 40 years of firefighting. I was warned many years ago by the fire department doctor that one of these days, as a result of my injuries converting to arthritis, that my favorite pain reliever and I would become good friends…and he was right.

I got up and walked around a brush pile that was blocking the stream flow somewhat, and on the other side, was a young couple with a beautiful collie named Sadie. They were digging into another curve of the creek much the same as us and I advised the guy digging that if he went just a little deeper down, he would be in the same layer as we were at where many of those geode halves were located that have the pretty quartz interiors. We talked a bit more and then I continued south down the creek bottom, turning the corner to find hedgeapples laying all over the place and walnuts just beyond that. I ran into our guide a short time later and asked him if he recalled where John had been hunting that morning and he said, yes John was further downstream, maybe a quarter of a mile from where we were digging. I walked back up to our curve and let Chuck and Abigail know and we decided to walk down there and see if we could locate the spot…Abigail said it sounded like the spot he was at the year before as well. We did fine til we came to a huge mudhole with very little water in it, mainly mud with deep impressions of footprints…and I am talking deep impressions here, some a foot deep, so Chuck opted to walk around to the other side and see if he could find anything good, while Abigail and I waited on the dry side. After about ten minutes, Chuck returned finding only a few laying around over there, and we decided to call it a day and climb back up the  hill to the parking area in the field, then paid our guide for our buckets of geodes, and then headed to the hotel.

We decided to have supper in Keokuk about 6 pm and walked over to V`s Restaurant, which is right next door to the hotel and is a laid back kind of bar and grill place, with very good food and good service too. Years ago a steakhouse was in that building. We also decided to sleep in the next morning and skip the morning Geodefest location dig, and save our strength for the private dig that John and his friends had been invited to near Wayland instead. John told us that any of us could go if we wanted to, it was originally thought to be an early afternoon dig, at a private sand and gravel business near Hwy 61. I am thinking the Iowa Club decided to go earlier due to the heat factor. I no sooner arrived at the parking lot and was talking to Mike Shumate about the similarity of the Barrow Pit and the old C-61 site for large geodes 25 years ago in the same area, when John and Chuck walked up to let me know the Iowa club members were there now, and that Abigail was on her way there too. Mike gave me directions to the turn off and away Chuck and I went. We arrived right behind Abigail and a nice older couple who were club members. After grabbing a bucket and tools, we were soon inside the gate, looking for geodes and other pretty rocks and crystals along with several others. Everywhere that there were large rocks to be found, one could look thru and find geodes as well as geode halves, large and small chunks of agates, some that resembled mozarkite even, and I even found a nice piece of horn coral there. Abigail took a few photos of me up on the gravel pile with some of the Iowa Club Members surface collecting for anything pretty….

…and trying to crack open a geode or two…

…here are a couple of geodes that I cracked open there with my rock hammer….


If we would have had access to a machine, I am sure we would have found quite a bit more nice stuff there. By noon tho, we were wore out from digging, climbing, and the increasing heat, and headed back to the parking lot at Hamilton. On the way back, I photographed this farm along Hwy 136 east of Wayland….

 Around noon I was walking around and spotted a new vehicle parked down by Chaney Creek, a dark colored pick up with a bed full of large geodes. I walked down and struck up a conversation with a young man named Hunter, who it turned out was a local high school senior. He and a friend of his from Wayland, discovered the large geodes in a local creekbed on Hunter`s property nearby, they loaded them up and decided to bring them to the show to see if anyone might want some big ones to take home. As it turned out, I had been looking for a big one or two, so I selected one and he carried it down to have John crack it open..I told Hunter if it was hollow and beautiful inside, I would buy it from him…and he said if I didn`t like it, I wouldn`t have to buy it. John cracked it open pretty quickly, which was a good sign, and it was GORGEOUS inside. He cracked open a second one that turned out to be full of dirt and second generation quartz, not pretty at all, so I passed on the second one and instead purchased a few smaller halves along with the first one from Hunter and his buddy, plus they threw in another one for free. Here is what the big one looks like all cleaned up, full of sunshine quartz…

Both of these guys were very nice to deal with and are just trying to make some extra money to apply to college funds after they graduate next year. I saw a few more of them cracked open and they had gorgeous quartz interiors too…if anyone is interested in contacting these two guys to get some large geodes, give me a shout at and I can provide their information to ya. 

Chuck headed home about 1:30 and I was on the road for home by 2:45 pm. I made pretty good time and arrived at my Mom`s house to pick up Onyx about 6:30 pm…I think he was pretty excited to see me, she said he was sitting by the window watching for me as I pulled into the driveway and honked the horn, then made a beeline for me when she opened the door. I think he missed me as much as I missed him, it was a happy reunion !  I photographed this sunset on the way to the house from there…

Another great trip in the book and here are some photos of the nicer ones I found and a few that I purchased, all cleaned up….like the big one, cleaned up with soap and water only….

…and these two found at the Gravel Plant, cleaned only with water so far….

…and two tennis ball sized geodes,  that I purchased from my buddy Ken Vaisivil at the show…

I still have some more to crack open…John advised me to wait til he comes down here to go rockhunting with me locally, he will bring his geode cracker and take care of it for me….so I will wait and post more photos when WE get them cracked open then. 🙂 











New Fluorite and Quartz Finds Southern Illinois

I have a mineral dealer friend coming up from Georgia next week who is interested in some fluorite from southern Illinois, so I gave Gary a call Thursday on my way to work to see if he had anything new. He is a good friend in southern Illinois that mines fluorite full time these days and he had told me a few months ago, that he would keep an eye out for quartz plates for me as well…I am a big fan of quartz as many know by now, and he has shown me several smaller chunks of it that he has found while fluorite mining. He told me that they sometimes hit pockets full of plates of quartz crystals and usually where they find quartz, they also find lead cubes as well. He told me that I would want to see the quartz plates that he pulled out of a pocket on Monday at the mine, that some of the plates had big fluorite cubes nestled in amongst the quartz crsystals too…that news alone got me all excited, so I told him I would drive down there early Saturday morning again. I had picked up a few flats of smaller fluorite cubes for the mineral dealer a few weeks ago from him, but then had sold 80 percent of it a few days later, and needed to replenish my supply of those as well. I let a few close friends know that I was going to drive down, but as luck would have it, no one was available to go with me. 

 Onyx and I were on the road by 5 am this morning and we were halfway to Mount Vernon by the time the sun started to rise in the eastern skies….

As I drove east on I-64 just east of Fairview Heights, I was pleasantly surprised to see NO MORE construction going on…in the past year, I was used to slowing down from 65 mph to 35 mph for construction work from that scale house just west of Fairview Hts to the Mascoutah exit…ILDOT was constructing a third lane with a wall in between east and westbound lanes, and then built an overpass out in the middle of nowhere and then they were doing something else no one could figure out…and on and on and on…was beginning to think it was going to be a never ending project…but lo and behold, today was shockingly different ride wise…and pleasant to boot. I thought to myself, could it get any better than this ??? and sure enough, about 45 minutes later, I got my answer…YES it can !! At the south end of Marion, Illinois on I-57, I looked across to the north bound lanes and was amazed once again…construction crews were tearing up that bumpy and holie section of the driving lane…four miles of it south of Marion to be exact…and they were digging it out and rocking it too !! Now, I was totally AMAZED…and then thought to myself…well its only been 15 years at least that you have been driving that rough and bumpy section, returning from western Kentucky, rough enough that most people out there, myself included, would move over to the smooth left lane of that five or six mile stretch of right lane. Today it was down to one lane on the northbound side, but thankfully, they were at least replacing it finally…wow, small miracles still do occur I thought. 🙂  

We arrived about 8:45 am at Gary`s house…normally when we pull into his driveway, he and his Dad, Guy, are already outside waiting on us, but I had failed to tell him what time we would get there and they both stepped outside a few minutes later. We visited a few minutes first and then he showed me the quartz plates, he had a tub full of them as well as the back of the trailer was loaded down with several too…

…if you like these crystals, click on and enlarge the photos above, and really take a look at these gemmy crystals up close…the big ones are as big as your thumb and that point at the end is razor sharp, let me tell you…but they are very gemmy crystals, kinda prism shaped and just beautiful…that gorgeous yellow color is INSIDE the crystals, too…in case you were wondering….and yes, some of those plates are actually smokey quartz….the next image shows the back end of the trailer again, this time what is covering it besides those quartz plates…take a look at the left side of the trailer, covered with some very large clusters of dark purple fluorite cubes…talking BIG cubes folks…some of them four and five inches across…

…and HEAVY too !! …and covered on both top and bottom and sides with those BIG cubes….those were in the bottom of that pocket Gary found Monday as well as several smaller clusters, from volleyball sized to baseball sized clusters…and those quartz plates were hanging down from the top of the pocket and along the walls of it…

…and this one above and below, came out of that pocket too….

…there were several in the pocket like this one above, but this one I selected because of the quartz attached to it. Gary told me Thursday about some other ones that were very neat looking too…very dark cubes… they were such a deep purple they looked black…here are several of them in a tub and yes, I purchased the entire tub when Gary made me an offer I could not refuse….

…darker image above and lighter image of them below….

Gary was also telling me that Walter, his son who helps him mine, has been receiving several inquiries about a HUGE cluster that he found a few months ago at the mine…and I mean BIG when I say HUGE…also very heavy too….so far, no one has made the right offer for it, but everyone definitely likes it….here it is up close….

…and a bit back away from it to give it better perspective on its size…..

…and here are some more of the beautiful fluorites that he found in the past few weeks since I was there last as well….

…the ones with the coating on them, were there the last time and I didnt have my camera with me to record them….and it looks like arragonite on the coating but could simply be barite or calcite too….the second image below is a close up of that one on the left center of the next image….

…and this next image, shows a good sized chunk of fluorite cubes covered by a thick coating of calcite….very pretty….

…and here are a few butterscotches that Gary still has available…from an old collection that he purchased locally earlier this year….I purchased one but not from this group….

…and this is the pile of calcite crystals, big ones and smaller ones on matrix plates, that he has for sale too…several people always ask me about this pile, so here it is…he tells me all the time, he is willing to let it all go for a good low price if anyone wants to come and get them all….

…and here are a few more pretties for ya as well…these have not been power washed as of yet….