A Few New Additions to My Collection Lately

Recently I made a few purchases to add to my growing collection of Viburnum Trend Minerals…since I can`t go underground and get them myself, I sometimes have to purchase them, and these were from the old collection that my buddy Dave purchased a couple of months ago from a retired miner. I understand that he has several more flats available, and I am waiting for the word on acquisition of those as well. I will also be visiting my buddy Gary in southern Illinois in a few weeks, on my way to the Central Kentucky trip, and see what new material he has from the past few months of mining fluorite, quartz, calcites, and lead specimens in his area. I am looking forward to that trip and visiting with many friends down there over Labor Day Weekend, always a lot of fun for both Onyx and me.

Here are a few of the purchases I made in the past month….the first 2 images contain a beautiful smokey calcite with a thin piece of matrix covered with chalcopyrite, from the Brushy Creek Mine, likely from the Crystal Cavern that was discovered about 25 yrs ago…it is upper left corner of both images, there is a smokey calcite plate in the upper right hand corner of the images, with reddish yellow pyrite nestled in the cracks and corners of the plate, from the Casteel Mine, the only mine where the pyrite in these colors comes from, and the calcite plate in the bottom of the images is from the Sweetwater Mine and has a little bit of malachite on the plate…

The next three images show some of the Phantom Calcites I purchased from Dave back in June, and the 3rd image shows one of those crystals backlit….although many of the pretty calcites often come from the Sweetwater Mine, these came from Brushy Creek Mine….

the next two images show some very pretty blingey crystals, these are from the Casteel Mine…I can count on two hands the number of specimens in my collection that came from the Casteel Mine over the years…not very many, same goes for the Magmont Mine, not very many….

…this next image shows the underside of the calcite plate with the malachite on it…the underside of the plate is covered by quartz and simply gorgeous quartz….one of the reasons I liked it so well, kind of a two for one special…

This next image shows a few of the smaller pieces I purchased…not all of them are shown, as I purchased about three flats and only about one flat is shown here, so I am basically showing you the  highlights of my purchases….and some were sold within a week to friends who liked them as much as I did….

…the next several images show one or two specimens and many are covered or partially covered with chalcopyrite…I keep these in shaded and dark areas of my home to keep the chalco from oxidizing on me…luckily tho, there is a good and fast cure for that if it does still happen…

..I am often asked by new rockhounds, what colors chalcopyrite comes in…the image above and below should give you a good idea what colors and how bright they can be in the right light…

…and this next image shows a unique specimen with a chunk of calcite coming up out of one corner and anchored on the left end by big pyrite balls….

Beautiful stuff for sure. 🙂

 

Park Hills Show 2018

I dropped off Onyx with my Mom and drove down to Park Hills for the show on Sunday, June 10th, getting there a little after 9 am, and after parking near the old Mill of the Federal Mine, I walked over to visit with Johnny B of Mt Ida, who is always parked on the second row near the gate…you can easily spot him, he has the big white van, and purple curtains and banners blowing in the breeze around his tables and van. John has been a good friend for years, and he always has some nice quartz crystals and clusters in all sizes for sale…I have visited with him at his residence when he is home and he is usually cooking quartz when I get there, but always has some great stuff there as well, in whatever size you are looking for. We had a good talk, he always brings me up to date on things happening in the Mt Ida area and while I didn`t buy anything from him this time around, he did have some nifty irredescent dragons with him that were just beautiful…

…I knew I would likely stop by his place when I am down there in November and see what he has for sale then. Last year he had some green dragon quartz that was really pretty and made me a good deal on those as well as some sandstone roses from Oklahoma. I wandered thru the rest of the second row and soon came up on my buddy Ken Vaisivil at his geode booth…I always love to shop and see what unique geodes Ken has…he always has some of the prettiest irridescent calcite geodes too, and he had a few with a sunflower blue color this time…blue being one of my favorite colors, I could not resist buying a set of them from him….here they are and you can see the blue sparkles in each half….

…simply gorgeous…Ken never fails to impress…he will be at Geodefest as a vendor again this year if you would like to see what he has for sale…last year he had one with what looks like a poker chip calcite crystal inside one half, so naturally I purchased it. He always has some great pink dogtooth crystals inside some as well….this time he had a pair with some pink calcites inside that were somewhat pagoda shaped, so I purchased this pair too,….

…and some pyrites sprinkled on top of some smokey quartz inside this half….

…I didn`t purchase all of the above images, but just wanted to show you what some of his unique geodes look like…the only other thing I was specifically looking for were some of the Madagascar Agates…which one dealer had there, he had purchased them from another dealer on the first morning there and didn`t want to sell them, but let me take a photo of them…

I`m an agate fan and hope to find some one of these days for my collection…they can be purchased on Ebay but you have to wait for three months for them to arrive from China…I am not a big fan of Ebay for reasons like that. 

Three Weeks in a Row

I decided I was going to drive down to the Park Hills Show on Sunday morning…I wanted to see if I could find some of those new agates out on the market, found in the country of Madagascar and some more of the chalcopyrite-bladed barite-sphalerite ball pieces found in the Washington County Quarry. Since I knew that would be at least half a day wandering around looking at everything and visiting with my dealer friend Johnny B from Mt Ida, who is always there, I decided to drive back to the Secret Spot Quarry on Saturday June 9th and see what else I could find there. We were up before the crack of dawn thanks to my new job, which requires me to get up at 4 am these days to get ready to go to work…and as we exited I-44 at Cuba, I looked back and saw the beautiful sunrise….

…and when I reached Steelville, the sunrise only deepened and got better….

…and then when we reached Cherryville, we saw a beautiful rainbow…I was thinking, man what are we going to see next ??!!

…there were a few scattered thunderstorms on the radar before leaving the house, but going by the way they were moving on radar, it appeared they would miss the quarry, so I wasn`t too worried about getting wet this morning…soon after arriving at the quarry about 7 am, it was clear that some were going by just east of us…

and another storm passing by east of us about an hour later….

…and a few hours later, I heard some thunder and figured maybe we might get grazed by this one…

and as it was, it came right over the top of us and I decided to head on over to my buddy Dave`s house…he notified me that he had purchased an old collection of Viburnum Trend minerals so I decided to go see what he had…as we pulled into his drive, I looked east and saw another storm brewing…

…this storm apparently went over to the Park Hills area and paid everyone at the show there a visit, high winds, hail, and hard rain for about 90 minutes, from what I heard the next day when I was there visiting with everyone. Dave had quite a few nice crystals and minerals in the collection he purchased from a retired miner, nice ones that had been collected at least 75 years ago…

I was gonna crop this one off at the bottom of the image, then noticed Lola down there and decided to leave it…she is David`s guard dog for his Mom and a very pretty German Shepherd too. Those are some unique lead cube clusters above on the table, some with chalcopyrites attached. Closeup of the big one in the next two images….

…and some gorgeous never seen before pyrites with some deep reds, oranges, and gold colors in them, from the Casteel Mine, which rarely produces really pretty specimens…

…and there were some stunning calcites in this collection as well…golden honey yellows and orange yellows as well as several smokeys from Brushy Creek Mine….

 

 

 

Secret Spot Quarry Surprise June 3rd

Onyx and I drove down to the Secret Spot Quarry early Sunday morning June 3rd, to see if we could find some more druse yard rocks…I had expanded one rock garden and began another and had some extra room for a few more…the week before, we poked around at the tailings dam for a while looking for druse yard rocks, and then decided to drive over to the quarry and check it out…as we drove down the entrance road, it appeared to me that it was wider and smoother than it had been a few weeks prior, and when I got to the top of the hill above the quarry itself, I was surprised to see the dirt and brush pulled back quite a bit…….

…..and the road down the hill was at least ten feet wider and a whole lot smoother, ruts filled in and was like a super highway compared to what it had been like for the past couple of years…there was also a new road on the left where there had only been a trail before…lined with quarry rock as well…we turned the corner at the bottom of the hill and there was a blast pile sitting in the quarry, obvious blast activity that had not happened in at least three to four years….needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised and wished I had driven down there first….

…so today we drove back down to the quarry to see what more we could find…last week there were quite a few pretty pink druse boulders there and some nice plates as well, just laying all over the place…I had taken several sizes home in that color and found some huge druse plates with soda straws all over them as well as a few small pockets of poker chips and combo plates…this time I had my stepladder with me to reach a few other pockets higher up. It was apparent that they had removed some of the blast pile as Onyx was checking out the big water puddle….

…I started around the pile to the right side and immediately spotted this nice one shimmering in the sunlight, and took it back to the truck right away….

…have a hard enough time finding small plates of soda straws of druse…but a huge plate of them ??? unheard of !!  here are a few more nice ones that I found in the first couple of hours there….

…sure was a nice day….

 

 

 

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 side..in 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 off..here 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. 🙂