Kentucky Central Trip 2020

Back in May or June, after first checking with Slade to make sure the Hickory Club intended to make the trip to Kentucky again on Labor Day Weekend this year, and confirmed with both Quarry Managers that we would be welcome to return to their locations again,  I put the word out to all my rockhound friends in my group, that the Central Kentucky 2020 Trip was a GO !!

In the past six months, I have picked up another half a dozen or so new rockhound friends and invited them to come along with us if they wanted to, and many decided to do just that. Some from as far away as Virginia, obviously wont be able to make all the trips due to the distance, and timing of them all, but the Central Kentucky trip is usually very central for most of us to go to, from any direction. The next trip after it is the southern Arkansas trip and plans are already in the works for it, one location being a new quartz mine down there.

In years past, I have stopped off and picked up some beautiful fluorite specimens available for purchase, on my way down to Harrodsburg, Kentucky, and this year was even better, with the recent discovery of a huge pocket of purple and yellow fluorites in the Cave-In-Rock area. I stayed in touch with my contact in Southern Illinois and was able to visit him a couple of times before the Kentucky trip, purchasing some beautiful cubes of purple and yellow fluorite in all sizes, as well as some hand cut octohedrons. He had also sawed some slices of the purple and yellow specimens, so I picked up 30 slices from him as well.

This year I split the trip down there into two days, so I could do a little visiting on the way without being pressed for time, as I lose an hour going east. This year, I was also requested to bring some Viburnum Trend minerals and crystals, some Missouri Druse Quartz in various sizes, and some Washington County Quarry specimens that have three different colors of druse quartz, blue, grey, and maroon red, as well as DT calcite crystals, snow white bladed barite, chalcopyrite with brilliant blues and purples, and sphalerite balls, big to small on them. So I had several flats of each in the truck. It took me 12 hours to pack the truck, leaving just the front seats for me and Miss Onyx, my new lab mix dog…she usually has the entire back seat to stretch out on, but this time the back seat was completely full of flats of my Missouri crystals, from door to door and floorboard to the cab ceiling…

So Onyx and I left about 11 am and drove down to visit with Gary and Walter on Thursday, September 3rd. She never gets to ride up front with me, so it was a real treat for her this time. We had a good trip down there, went through some small towns like Carrier Mills, Illinois…a historic coal mining town, to get there…beautiful country down through there, not far from Garden of the Gods, too.

 

 

 

And the truck bed was pretty full as well…I had reserved a few feet in front of the tailgate in case Gary had some yard rocks worthy of picking up too…

My first trip down to see him on August 12th, I had purchased a couple of large yard rocks with quartz, calcites, some small purple fluorite cubes and some veins of azurite and malachite running through the entire rock matrix of each one…yes, you read that right, azurite in a bright blue and green malachite !!

 

 

 

 

 

And he had several nice purple and yellow fluorites as well, so naturally I picked out several of those on this first trip too…

..but one that really caught my eye was a big one, beach ball sized..wish now I had purchased it from him, he had a good price on it for the quality it had, large cubes on both sides, purple on one side and yellow on the other….one of those you kick yourself for not getting later on….

On the next trip down there, Thursday, September 3rd, I was asked to get some more smaller sizes if possible, so that was on my mind that morning…he had several in all sizes making it much easier on me to pick out some good ones for everyone…

 

 

 

 

Once I had the small ones selected, I had to make some hard decisions on the bigger ones…he had several nice ones…with large cubes on them…2 to 4 inches square in size…and each piece had some dings on them…you have to remember, these come out of a mine, they blast much of the time to find the spar, the ore that they mine is called spar…these specimens here are the pretty rocks, the perks…they are not what is being mined, the  massive / solid stuff is being mined, the perks are sold on the side…when you are blasting, crystals inside pockets get tossed around and so you have dings on them…anyone that thinks crystals come out of blast pockets in perfect condition, is either not thinking well or is delusional about it. Here are some of the bigger ones I selected…

…this one was a beauty, selected by a friend for purchase, love that yellow center spot in the purple crystal that Gary is pointing to….as you can see in the next photo, he had several nice large pieces available that day…the next day, he told me later, everything was purchased that was left…

…that piece in the upper left corner in the photo above, is completely covered by barite and quartz….the next photo shows one he pulled out from between two limestone seams, it was in a clay pocket…

…this next one is one that I wound up taking home to add to my collection…my friends thought it had too much damage, they chose another one and this one came home with me…I like it…i has a triangular window on the corner of a big purple cube that is phenomenal to me..Gary is holding it up so the sunlight shines through to show me the colors in it….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Onyx and I crossed the Ohio River on the ferry…her first on a boat, too…and spent the night in Eddyville, Kentucky at the Super 8…great hotel there, clean immaculate rooms, very comfy, but it was a ghost town that night there…we were one of three guests in the two story hotel. I left her at the hotel to rest up after that ferry ride and headed over to one of my favorite steakhouses, Oasis Southwest Grill on the south side of I-24 a couple of miles south of the hotel in Kuttawa…and as I walked out the door and got in my truck to leave, I ran smack dab into this GORGEOUS sunset….

 

I had to go down to the Dollar General Store first to get Onyx a leash, I had driven off and left hers at home, and when I came out of the store, the sunset had deepened and widened, so I shot it again from the parking lot, showing how wide it had spread across the sky. This would have been a great sunset to have shot from the east side of Lake Barkley, which is just a few miles south of Eddyville….

I had a great meal at the steakhouse, ordered my favorite there, two large boneless pork chops, they both fill up one whole plate…marinated in their BBQ sauce, and cooked medium…with a big baked potato and steamed broccoli…and yes, it was DEEEE-LICIOUS !!

We were up and on the road by 7 the next morning with a little light rain falling, and some humidity…for some reason, I was having trouble getting the fan to work in the truck, wanted a little cooler air, so I cracked the windows open once we turned on the Western Kentucky Parkway and headed east toward Lake Cumberland. A few miles down the parkway and my fan started working again…first red flag of the trip.

I had been talking to a young man who had gotten into some modeling work a month before my trip and he was in need of some new photos for his portfolio. He was having trouble locating someone to photograph him and had asked if I could help him out…at one time, I knew a photographer down close to him, but found out he had moved out to Arizona recently, so I told Connor that I could drive over and meet him at a beautiful restored mill on the south side of Lake Cumberland and photograph him there. I had done the same thing ten years ago, similar circumstances, and a good friend in Stanford took me to that mill back then…I lost my friend two years ago to a stroke after a bout with cancer and another friend from Harrodsburg last year to cancer. 🙁

We drove through a few short light showers of rain down by Bowling Green that morning and by the time we reached Somerset, I had the ac turned on…we reached the Mill and no Connor there yet…I had been talking to him on the way down there by phone and figured he would get there first. Turned out, he had come in a different way, the county highway the mill is on, circles through there and neither of us realized it…he eventually got there and we were able to take advantage of the nice weather to get him some good portfolio photos…there are some beautiful waterfalls at the bottom of the hill below the old mill where the millrace water dumps into the lake…ten years ago, you had to fight your way through heavy brush just to catch a glimpse of them…this time, they were much easier to find and view…

.and the old mill with a steel water wheel as well…

After a couple of hours at the mill, visiting and photographing Connor, Onyx and I headed north up Highway 27 to Stanford and then turned northwest toward Danville, arriving at the Baymont Hotel in Harrodsburg, around 2 pm. It took a little longer to check in because the desk clerk, new to me, was conducting personal business on her cellphone instead of attending to her work. She kept giving me room keys that did not work, nothing more aggravating than having your hands full of luggage and you cant even get into the building at the side door…much less walk up the stairs to your room. After the third trip back to the front desk, I was pretty aggravated and I am pretty sure she was able to detect it…she kept blaming it on everything but the inattention she had given me the first two times…this time she got it right after putting her phone down and going through the steps she should have taken the first time…and yes, I did note this in my review of the hotel after I returned home…and yes, the hotel owner read my review and assured me that he would take care of that problem. Once I got my luggage inside, I returned to the truck for Onyx, having left her in the ac while I went through all that BS…not long after that, my buddy David Hodge showed up at the hotel too, and I think his check in went a lot smoother than mine had.

He and I drove over to the Bright Leaf Golf Resort Hotel, where most of the crew was staying at, around 5 pm…an hour before supper so we could visit a little with Slade and new friend Randy Gentry from Nashville, his friend Gerard, as well as Tammy and Todd Bromley from Michigan. It has been several years since I had seen Tammy and Todd, think the Eureka Mine was where I had last rockhounded with them, so was great seeing them again. We eventually walked over to the Bright Leaf Restaurant where we found everyone else already at the tables and having supper…they have a buffet every night or you can order something else as well….great food and great service there, and we eat breakfast and dinner/supper there daily on this trip. After a great meal, we paid our tabs and walked back down to the parking lot and got ready for the tailgate swap and sell event…we do this on Friday evening and Saturday evening after dinner/supper…this is what I had  my truck loaded down with so many flats of material for…that and some extra flats for Slade as well. 🙂 While I was unpacking my flats, I got to meet Sam Linton and Aaron Baker from Virginia…they had started toward Kentucky a couple of days before as well, to do some rockhounding on the way and had stopped at a couple of roadcuts on the way down to get some neat stuff, too. Sam showed me some of the material that had worked the bluffs to get the day before and that morning, before they drove on down..some brachiopods with vugs of calcite crystals inside…gorgeous stuff. I gave them each a box flat of some Missouri stuff that I had brought for them and they had brought me some nice goodies too. I think everyone had a good time that evening, fun and fellowship, and then headed back to our hotels for the night to rest up for the quarry on Saturday morning.

Onyx and I were up by 6 am and drove over to the Bright Leaf to join everyone for breakfast…as we drove south down the bypass around Harrodsburg, I looked at the orange glow coming up on the horizon to the east…it was going to be a great sunrise…the closer I got to the Bright Leaf, the more I wished the speed limit was a little higher. I pulled into the parking lot to find Slade waiting to meet Miss Onyx…while he and her were getting acquainted, I took some photos of the STUNNING and GORGEOUS sunrise…

There is a large farm up on the hill across the highway from the Bright Leaf, with nice wood fences surrounding it, barns and other outbuildings, that make a great backdrop for the sunrises there….

…this was one of the best sunrises I have seen there, it just kept getting better and better every minute…as I was shooting a video on it, Onyx about wandered out into the highway traffic, luckily Slade was able to snatch her out of harms way very quickly…thanks again, buddy…

Central Kentucky 2020-0905 AVI 774 Sunrise Sat Morning at Harrodsburg

After a good breakfast, we gathered out in the parking lot…Sam, Aaron, and Dawson Barrott with his buddies Thomas and Mike Hewlett were all waiting for us when we came out, soon we were lining up and heading south to Danville for our morning field trip at Caldwell Quarry.

Always a roll of the dice for this place, never know if you are going to find a little, a lot, or nothing at all there…there is a small seam of calcite when you look at the big picture there, ten stories deep and this seam only extends from the very bottom of the pit to nearly the second level, and you do not want to get near the walls of this quarry due to the height and safety risks associated with them. We arrived to find Clay, the Quarry Manager, driving a front end loader, and headed down into the pit to load up a dump truck making a delivery to a customer that morning…talk about a talented guy. 🙂 He gave us waiver forms to fill out and sign before he took off to the pit and then on his return, gave a brief history on the quarry and safety talk too. We were all outfitted with our hard hats, steel-toed boots, and safety glasses, ready to go find some treasure. Since Clay had to leave soon, he assigned one of his top guys to look after us while we were there and Jeff took care of us very well, nice attitude and very safety minded, he stayed right with us the entire time we were there. I think he learned a little bit about rocks from us, too. We took a group photo at the big boulder by the office…..

…and then followed Jeff and Clay down to the initial staging area, where all parked…Clay pointed out some obvious changes from the year before. We normally parked at the lower level or the first floor up, last year there was a huge pile of blasted material on the right side between the lower and first level, where we found many plates of calcite…dogtooth calcites I might add…but this year the first level consisted of a three story high pile of limestone rock that had been brought down from higher levels to clean them off….

…so using the photo above, the road in the middle going down, leads to the lower level…normally, as in years past, we would have driven straight into where that huge pile is now located, to the first level and parked, then spread out from there, but this year that huge pile was completely covering up the first level. Those that had been here before in my group, knew that if they could not locate anything within an hour, they could walk to other areas where they had found vugs and pockets of pretty stuff before…they were armed with their saws and after I walked around a while to help others, I soon heard their saws and knew exactly where they were at. Onyx, in the meantime, found all the waterholes down there and was exploring those…I mean, what else would a dog do while on vacation. 🙂

One thing we did see alot more of this year here, was Petroleum Calcite…Calcite that is normal colored and then a petroleum base on top and mixed in, looks just like it sounds…

we also saw a lot of pink calcites on the boulder surfaces too…haven`t seen calcite in that color there before…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At any rate, I shot some video of David Bruce doing something he enjoys, cutting up boulders to extract pretty vugs of crystals….

Caldwell Quarry 2020-0905 AVI 804

I received an email from Clay back about mid summer, letting me know they were finding a lot of corals this summer at the quarry, Two years ago, we found some huge plates of corals down at the lower level near a drain pipe, and I was able to get a couple of those before they disappeared…I still have them, they survived the last couple of harsh winters here in Missouri just fine. I found this one down in the area Slade and David were working at….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and a huge boulder or two of it nearby as well….

As I had walked down there, someone was telling me they found a nice calcite vug in a small boulder with a fluorite cube inside…

….the small boulder also believed to have some bryzoan fossils on it as well…here is a close up of the calcite vug…

…something else we find there occasionally, this year quite a few of, is chalcopyrites and pyrites…Slade found this rock with a whole ribbon of it about 8 to 10 inches long and at least half an inch wide going all the way across the rock….

and here is another rock I spotted that had several smaller spots of chalcopyrites and one larger section covered in it…

…and here is another fossil plate that was found this year….and a close up of the fossils too….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was about that time that Miss Onyx came to let me know she had taken another mud walk through some puddles…

 

I wasn`t worried too much as I knew our next location would take care of any and all dirt she acquired without any problem whatsoever…

Geode Creek Junction City KY 2020-0905 AVI 833

This is one of my favorite creek locations for geodes and the landowner here is one of the nicest Kentucky gentlemen I have met. The Hickory Club has been going to this location for years and they always bring him some jams and jelly jars as a token of their respect and appreciation. Some members of my group also left some gifts for him as well. One thing I really like about his creek frontage, is that you can search the banks as well as the water for good geodes, as Mary is shown doing here in this photo….

The week before we were there, this area received about four inches of rainfall from the remnants of a hurricane and this helped wash some geodes out of the clay dirt banks upstream…the ones you see in the photo above that Mary is looking through tho, are from the huge flood they had last year before we arrived, those floodwaters deposited many geodes high up on that side of the creek and the landowner had to have that whole bank graded to about a 45 degree slope to make it easier to walk up and down it. We were able to pull down into his backyard and right up next to the creek as well, and there was some good shade to park in as well. The water there is crystal clear too….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty sure everyone there had a great time looking for geodes and those that cracked the ones they found, open on the spot, and liked what they saw…well they definitely had a great time there…I was one of those…I found a couple of really nice ones and have a bucket full that I need to crack open at some point later on. When I finally got time to walk downstream, I saw Gerard working the bank and he was rolling some basketball sized geodes out of the bank, offered me one and I chose one and cracked it open right there…turned out to have an internal chamber of dark orange and yellow sunshine quartz…meaning from the outside rind inward, was two inches of solid rock to the internal hollow chamber…I have never seen one like that but I definitely like it. When I get a photo of it, I will post it so you can see what I am talking about. Here are some photos that show everyone having a great time searching and collecting…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even Onyx had fun there….she got all cleaned up and loved looking around…that look says it all…” we need to come back here again Daddie…this is a GREAT creek !! ”   🙂

We drove back to the hotels and got cleaned up, and then met at the Bright Leaf Restaurant for yet another great meal, then relocated to the parking lot for another evening of Tailgate Swap and Sell. Breakfast came earlier the next morning, as we were headed to Irvington, a 90 min drive west of Harrodsburg, for a field trip at Liter Quarry. We were on the way shortly before 7:30 am and had a good drive there, much less construction along the way to deal with this year. We arrived a little after 9 am, mainly due to a few red lights we hit midway through the convoy, and had to wait for everyone to catch back up. We entered the gate and lined up at the office, spotted a car coming toward us from the back of the quarry, and discovered someone had entered ahead of us. Once I straightened that matter out, I led the group down to the first pit, which had given up alot of nice treasures last year and the year before…this year we found it to be a few feet deep in water….

…that island on the left side out in the water…is actually a big boulder field that has a lot of vugs in them full of pretty crystals…those that ventured out there, were once again, not disappointed in what they found there. Luckily for others, the left wall was accessible for a ways and many were able to find some nice pockets to work pretties out of…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and some were working the boulders up where we parked on the next level up as well….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…that guy in the yellow hard hat center photo two above, is Thomas Hewlett, friend of Dawson`s…I think he was doing the eenie, meenie, miney, moe thing…said he was having a difficult time making a decision on some vugs he found in that boulder field up by the parking area….the guy in the white hard hat in the bottom photo above, is Gerard Richmond, he came down with Randy Gentry from the Nashville area and turned out to be a nice guy like Randy.

While some were not finding much at the first pit area, some were and we stayed there a little longer so the ones finding some nice stuff, had time to get as much as they could…we then loaded up our vehicles and drove over to the next pit. Most clubs and groups work within safety rules that include staying with your group and not venturing off by yourself or selves, especially without asking the field trip leader about it first…when we arrived at the next pit, I discovered someone had done just that…I dont feel it is fair to others when that happens, so I drove down and had a little discussion with the rockhounds about that, and explained it was a safety rule and what could have happened had one or more of them become injured in that other area while the rest of us were in the first location and had no idea anyone had wandered away. Since they told me they were new to rockhunting, I truly hope they learned something from that, but I didn`t get a strong impression that they had. Believe me, I have found out the hard way that some clubs do not do any training or provide any safety instruction when it comes to newbie rockhounds and quarries. Communication is key, but that is often overlooked by many new rockhounds.

Everyone spread out and started looking for some vugs in boulders and many found some pretty quickly. I decided that since I have a lot of nice stuff from this quarry, I was going to mainly make sure that everyone had a good time and found some great stuff there this trip…Onyx and I walked down to the center field of boulders, which was huge and extensive, and found Sam Linton carrying out a nice chunk of calcite from it right off the bat….

                         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…we hadn`t been there ten minutes and he had already found something nice !!  talk about a lucky guy. 🙂  turns out he and Aaron Baker had zoned in on the center area of that extensive boulder field and were finding some nice vugs in there…he showed me another nice one he found in there as well….a nice vug with a beautiful yellow calcite crystal in the vug….

….I decided to go see what they were finding…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not all of these are the ones they were looking at, some were just some I randomly found around the area. We started collecting at 9:30 am and by noon, it was getting pretty warm out there…problem was, when I turned off my truck at the first location and then started it back up, the fan was no longer working for the air conditioner…I wasn`t worried about me as much as I was for Onyx…

…her being brown and black in color, I was watching for her to come to me and let me know when she had had enough of the heat…maybe she was able to sense that the truck fan wasn`t working…whatever it was, she handled the heat of the day by searching out the cool spring fed water pools there and plopping down in them, and I was just fine with that. That is what factored in to my decision to head back to the hotel a little earlier than the rest did, as did David Hodge…before we took off tho, we climbed up to higher level in the back of the second location..a couple of guys had gone up there and found some nice bigger vugs…we climbed up and spotted them as well as a few more behind some bigger boulders…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…we pointed out those vugs to David Bruce and Slade before we took off…many others had already left ahead of us…I intended to take a nap on our return to the hotel but wound up repacking my truck instead. I am pretty sure David was able to get a nap before supper and Onyx did as well…I had just enough time to clean up before driving over to the Bright Leaf for supper. Slade texted to let me know they were on their way back and might be there by 6:30 pm for supper…we had a great meal once again and then walked out to see what all David and Slade were able to harvest at the quarry with their saws….these are some of David`s finds…

 

 

…that last one is a close up of David`s fossil plate from Caldwell Quarry the day before…he and a few others decided they were going back to Liter Quarry the next morning while many others were going to head for home…I decided since the fan was not working consistently, that Onyx and I would head for home a day early. I understand that Dawson and the Hewlett brothers joined David at the quarry the next morning and did quite well finding some pretty calcites…here are some photos they took and shared with me of their finds…first one is Dawson`s nice plate…

the second is Thomas Hewlett`s find….a 3 foot long calcite and dolomite plate….

…and a calcite sculpture he found there as well…

…and a calcite sculpture plate found by Michael Hewlett….

Onyx and I took off at daylight and made pretty good time going home, through Louisville and across southern Indiana and Illinois on I-64…not a stretch I enjoy driving to tell you the truth, but this trip, the time seemed to go by rather quickly for us. This time, I also drove through East St Louis and St Louis City on my way home, avoiding I-255 and the road construction nightmare there. Sure hope they get that work done soon, tho, for the sake of many that depend on that route on a daily basis.

Hope everyone had as great a time as Onyx and I did !! 🙂

 

 

New Mexico, Land of Enchantment and Rocks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0303 Tucumcari NM Sunset 47

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0304 Belen Jasper Area 60

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 137

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 1441

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

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

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

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

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

New Mexico Trip 2020-0304 Sunset Deming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Round Mtn Parking Area 203

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

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

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

…here you see Fred surface collecting….

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

 

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

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

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

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

AVI 228 Round Mtn BLM Rockhounding Site

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Lordsburg Sunset 243

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0308 Fluorite Ridge Rainy Day 256

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

…and pretty soon John was there with him….

…and Rich Kern too…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

…gorgeous stuff, Mark !! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 401

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 425

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roadcuts With Dolomite Crystals and….

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and this neat calcite cluster that was unusually shaped…

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

New Quarry to Check Out

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

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

..on this wall….

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

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

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

 

Eminence with David Hodge After Arkansas

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

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

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

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

and some of the pockets we worked….

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

Eminence Q 2019-1117 Video 10 Arrival

Eminence Q 2019-1117 Video 27 Pocket City

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

 

Arkansas Fall Trip 2019

I ran into a few surprises earlier this fall when I started planning my fall trip to Hot Springs…first, I had a hard time contacting Tony, started texting him in September and when I couldn`t reach him, I gave Shane a shout by text…heard back from him pretty quickly and the second surprise was when he then told me that he and Tony had sold the new Jessieville mine to a couple of guys new to owning a mine in the area. One he said was Bill, one of the caretakers at Miler Mountain Mine, He and a guy named Bruce, bought the mine from them…Shane told me that they were not finding what they wanted to find there, and decided to sell it…I know they hit two nice and large smoky quartz pockets, both had some damage from a seismic event that occurred millions of years ago and created some damage to the pockets, but also produced some gorgeous pale smoky colored clusters and single points that were phenom as well !! He didn`t elaborate and I didn`t press him for info, but he did provide me with a number for Bill, so I could check and see if we could still go there and collect.  When I contacted Bill later that week, he told me that he and Bruce had not been able to secure permission from the USFS to allow groups in there to dig and collect just yet…I remember it took a year for Tony and Shane to get that authorization as well. I was finally able to get in touch with Tony by mid October and found out it was okay for us to go to his Southfork Mine on Friday, the day before gun deer season. The beauty of going to his mine is that there are actually three mines on his lease…an old mine at the top with extensive tailings to dig through, an old wall up there to explore as well, and a new mine at the very top behind the old mine…and a mine halfway down the hill that he started on a few years ago and found some beautiful stuff in. I knew we would be fine going there, whoever showed up, because no matter if you are just surface collecting or hard rock mining/digging, you are going to find something that will make the trip worthwhile…some of my best finds there have been out of the old tailings at the top of the hill…and this year was going to be even better, unbeknownst to me at the time. When I got back in touch with Tony a week out from the trip, he let me know that he had blown his back out and was unable to move, so he had a good friend named Dane, that was going to meet us at the gate on Friday morning and stay with us all day…he also said Dane would bring some crystals and minerals that he had mined out in California in case we were in a buying mood…those were the 3rd and 4th surprises, and I hated like heck to hear that Tony was down and hurt like that. 

The Saturday and Sunday locations were still up in the air until a few days before we headed down there. My buddy David Hodge, the Field Trip Director for CAGMAGS, contacted me about October 1st and let me know that he might be able to arrange a trip back to the quarry at Batesville, so I let him work on that after finding out from the State Geologist, Bill Pryor, that another club had that Saturday pencilled in. David said he would contact their Field Trip Director Jean and see if we could join them that morning. He finally heard back from her a week out and was told that as long as we brought a small group, ten or less, we could join up with them. Luckily by then, I had heard from most of my group, that they were unable to make it down and we had exactly 10 or 11 going, total. Again, unbeknownst to me then, we were in for a VERY good day at the quarry that Saturday morning. So that mainly just left Sunday to fill, and I tried and tried to fill it with the trip to the Jessieville mine, but after making several attempts to reach Bill to see if they were able to secure the authorization to allow us in there, and not hearing back from him, I just stopped and then was told by friends in the area that we could prob drive over to the old Arrowhead Mine and surface collect there, as many locals do throughout the year. So I let everyone know that in the final update we could either go there, or they could go shopping as some had indicated they wanted to do, or they could sleep in and return home early.

Onyx and I got up early on Wednesday, November 6th, and headed to Rolla, turning south there on Hwy 63…I was a bit sketchy driving down super early in the dark, with the deer moving around more this time of the year, so it was light when we took off from home. I stopped at the McDonalds in Hardy, Arkansas, to give us a bathroom break, allow Onyx to stretch his legs and me to grab us a couple of sausage/egg biscuits, then we headed on down Hwy 63 to pick up Hwy 67 at Hoxie, Arkansas.

This is a shorter trip to Hot Springs, six and a half hours, as opposed to 8 hours when I drive down 44 to Hwy 71 to drop Mom off at Fort Smith. This year, she decided not to make the trip, and as it turned out, it was a good decision on her part. She normally stays and visits with her three brothers and their families, the guys at Deer Camp which is her homeplace, my Grandfather`s farm outside Waldron, where she and her siblings grew up, and a couple of miles from where my Dad was also initially born and raised. This year a huge rainstorm came in with some cold temps the first few days and so deer camp was abandoned in favor of warm and dry homes…as one ages, warm and dry is a much better option than damp and dreary in a cold camp outside. I didn`t blame them a bit.

Onxy and I made it down to Hot Springs just fine…. I talked to David a bit on the way down and he had the quarry trip set up for us, weather looked good for that day and Friday as well…that made the trip go by a bit quicker for me…talked to Patty Herman a bit on the way down too. She and Colby and Gabriella would meet us at the quarry Saturday morning, but would miss out on Tony`s mine on Friday morning, as she and Colby had to work on Friday.

Onyx and I pulled into my friend`s condo at Pretti Point about 3 pm Wednesday afternoon, this time with a couple of hours of light to unpack and rest up. We had seen some good fall color on the way down there, so I was optimistic about that…after a good rainy summer I was def expecting some, with a shoot set up later in the week while down there. By 4 pm I was famished and we headed to the Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper, and then to the Scoops, home-made ice cream place for a couple of quarts of ice cream for my nightly dessert intake. 🙂

Clouds had moved in and I didn`t get a good sunset that evening at all, rain was forecast for the next day. We had some intervals of sunlight through breaks in the clouds the next day, so I was able to capture some beautiful fall maples on the banks of the peninsula directly across from the back balcony on Lake Hamilton, before I took off to visit with my buddy Justin Baird….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Rain Storm Coming in on Thurs Morning 1107

By late morning, I had heard from my buddy Justin Baird, so Onyx and I drove over to visit with him a few hours and see what all he had in his collection so far. I was really interested in seeing some of his smoky finds as well as his Little Rock quartz collection..I was not disappointed and picked up a few from him for my collection, as he goes to some places that no one else is allowed to go to. Afterward, he joined me for supper at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet, and his girlfriend with her daughter, met us there as well. I was going to drive up that morning if the weather was good, to see a friend of mine in the Mt Ida area, and then on up to Waldron to visit with family, but with that cold and rainy weather front coming in, I decided not to do that. Driving in weather like that just wears me out.

Friday morning, I was able to get a few nice sunrise images….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Sunrise Fri Morning 1108

I had problems with my friend`s television sets in the condo, so she made arrangements with her appliance people there locally, to come by and replace the main one and check the other one while I would be gone rockhunting at Tony`s mine today. Onyx and I met up with the small crew at the Valero gas station on Higdon Ferry Road, south of Hwy 270, about 7:30 am…found out it was now a Circle K Station but they still sell Valero gas there…Julie was there with both of her daughters, and Alina Klein and her son Finn, had made the trip down to join us, with Justin going along too.

Smaller group than normal, but it looked like we were gonna have great weather and we were all excited to go up and do some collecting, so we headed west on 270 to Mount Ida. We arrived at the gate just behind Dane, who already had the gate open…he let us know that the rain from the day before had the creek up just a little, but we should be okay crossing it. Justin was the only one that experienced any problems with his small car, but nothing major luckily, by the time we all left later in the day, it had dried out just fine. We all were able to drive to the top of the hill and park, and then made out way into the mining areas to collect. After checking out the top for about an hour, Justin and I walked down the hill to the mine halfway down the hill, and discovered that Tony had dug into the side of that mine and opened up another area of pockets in the host rock…

…the yellow jeep belongs to Dane`s wife, she came up to dig as well and was there digging in the new area when we arrived…we didn`t see her because she had pulled up into the mine itself with her jeep. She was as nice and pleasant as Dane was…I found out later that they had moved to Arkansas earlier this year, from the San Diego area, tired of the woeful politics in California and decided to see if Arkansas was as nice a place to live in as they were hearing about. They said it is a very refreshing change from California, where they felt they were being taxed to death by the politicians and so far they were loving Arkansas. They had also done some extensive rockhunting out there in San Diego County…I had no clue until they told me, that there were tourmaline mines there and then Dane showed us some of his treasures from out there…he had a big cluster, the size of a beach ball, with several nice black tourmalines in a couple of vugs of the white colored albite matrix, some of the tourmalines criss-crossing each other….

…and several smaller pieces as well. He showed us a nice smoky quartz crystal cluster that was very nice as well with some greenish matrix attached to it, also from the San Diego County area…the crystals were about six inches high and every bit of 4 to 5 inches in diameter. I purchased all of them from him a few days later in Mount Ida…I have seen tourmalines before, but had absolutely none in my collection, I was mesmerized by their beauty up close. 🙂

We had a great day collecting at Tony`s mine, great weather too…Justin got down into the new pocket along Dane and his wife, and they started finding crystals laying everywhere, so I wandered down there as well, finding a huge seam of clay between two rock layers of sandstone, and after borrowing Justin`s prybar, I was able to pull some small clusters, fist sized clusters, out of the clay in the seam…I started on that wall to the right of the excavator and was using one of my pocket knives to clear out the tops of the crystal clusters and single points that I could see reflecting in the clay….

….then used the prybar to dig underneath them and pry the base of the clusters out, leaving the clay protecting them, around them to protect them until I arrived back home and could clean them up….and I can safely say now, that they look even better, pristine even, all cleaned up. 🙂 To show you how wide this seam of clay and crystals ranged, here is a photo of Justin taking a turn on the prybar to help me out….

…with his help, I was able to get several single crystals and a few nice clusters out of there…thanks again Justin…and left that seam all nice and tidy for the next person, whoever that may be. 🙂 As I took a break, I noticed Julie standing near the base of the lower mine and surveying the upper end, I think she was looking for her daughters, but prob also wondering where to look next as well…

…so that is the right side of the lower mine, and below is the left side of the mine…

After my short break, I moved over to the other side of the excavator and worked a few shallow pockets, but pulled some nifty little clusters out of them before returning to my truck with one full bucket. I found Alina and Finn in their vehicle, Finn was experiencing a stomach ache and headache, but seemed to have had a good morning collecting, as Justin and I had seen him up on top of the hill and down below as well. We all left about mid afternoon getting back across the creek without any problems and bid Dane farewell at the gate, then drove back to Hot Springs to clean up for supper at Cracker Barrel…I think Justin found his supper waiting on him so he didn`t join us there. I reminded everyone of our need to be on the road to the quarry at Batesville by 6:30 am at the latest because it`s at least a two hour drive and that can all hinge on how bad traffic is going around Little Rock. Julie decided that she and her daughters were not going up there because they didn`t find much the last time we were there. Alina decided not to drive up there as well, she has been experiencing numbness in one of her arms on long drives which also produces blinding headaches, so she and Finn stayed in the indoor pool at the Staybridge Suites instead.  I`m not sure what Julie and the girls did all day on Saturday. I captured a beautiful sunset on the return to the condo….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Friday 1108 Sunset Lake Hamilton

and there was an amazing sunrise the following morning as well….

Onyx and I were up and on the road to Batesville the next morning by 6:30 am…I stopped by the Circle K Valero Station on Higdon Ferry and did not see Justin, tried to call and text him several times but no answer to either, so we kept on driving north. I didn`t hear back from him til about 10 am, when I texted to let him know he was missing out on a great dig there, found out he had been up all night and didn`t want to drive up there on an hour of rest only. Anyone that knows Justin well, will have a good idea of what happened to him and believe me, he knows good and well how much he missed out on this trip, so please don`t rub it in if you talk to him. I heard from Patty and Colby when I was about 20 min out, they had arrived at 8:30 am and wondered where I was at…..one of Patty`s co-workers, Vicky….who is also a state Inspector, is into rock and mineral collecting as well, she and her husband drove down with them to join us on this trip. Patty inquired a week before to see if it was okay for them to come along and I said sure. 

Onyx and I arrived shortly after and found David Hodge and Sean from CAGMAGS waiting on me and my group to arrive…I got out of the truck and explained what happened, said it was just me, Patty, Colby, Gabriella, Vicky, and her husband, for the group today.

I met Jean, the Field Trip Director for the hosting club, Spring River Gem / Mineral Club, and shortly after, I had a chance to visit with Mike, the Quarry Owner once again…he sees hundreds of rockhounds each year and I was honored that he remembered me as the Missouri Calcite Rockhound.

Soon after that, Jean presented Mike with a certificate of appreciation and a geode as a gift….

We followed Mike and Bill Pryor, the Arkansas State Geologist, that is our guide there on these trips, up to the parking area that overlooks the rim of the quarry pit, that is about six to ten stories deep from that point….for a safety talk and history of the mine by Mike, the Quarry Owner…

….this is my buddy David Hodge in the photo below on the right in the red sweatshirt and white hard hat…as we listen to Bill Pryor lay down the rules for the morning dig as Quarry Owner Mike looks on….

…afterwards we took a group photo….

….and then we descended into the depths of the pit, following Bill down to the parking area near the seam……our destination was the very bottom of the pit on the far side of the quarry, that is where the calcite seam is located….

…and then Bill pointed out to us, that the quarry personnel had dug out and blasted that calcite seam open for us, it was quite narrow in scope the last time we were there and this time it was spread out over a huge area…in the photo below, everywhere you see a dirt color on the pile we are all working on, that is a sign of calcite and the back wall of that area is where the original seam is located, where calcites have to be dug out of the clay wall. That is where David and Sean headed to right away…I was on my way there but got sidetracked by all the pretty points I was seeing on the way up to the back wall, needless to say I never made it to the back wall because I had my first bucket filled in less than 20 minutes !! 

To say that we had a great day there, would be a vast understatement. I would say that we had a FANTASTIC and FRUITFUL day there….HUGE SUCCESS in finding gorgeous crystals and clusters of every size imagineable…just ask my buddy David about his finds…pretty sure everyone that was there, left very happy with their finds…

I took a photo of this tabletop sized cluster on top of a small boulder on my second trip back to the pile, returning with two more buckets this time…

…heck, we even let Bill Pryor do some collecting with us…I`m not sure they would have made room for him along that wall…they were shoulder to shoulder up there for awhile…but he managed to snag some nice ones buried in the pile that were not bad at all….

..and that is Jean on the right in the next photo….

and below is Patty on the right, collecting with a father and son team from the Spring River Club, they were doing well working on boulders with vugs and the son was doing a great job surface collecting…you could not miss in a location like this where crystals big and small were literally laying all over the place.

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 1109 Initial Video

…and here is Patty after digging out a very nice big cluster….

…but I can safety say, without a doubt, that the guy that stole the show that day was none other than my buddy David Hodge, who pulled out one beautiful dogtooth calcite crystal and cluster after another from that back wall of calcites in clay….

..here with his first one…

…and here is where he and Sean spent their morning….

…while others surface collected….

Gabriella and Patty did a pretty good job of surface collecting, she told me a few weeks ago that she had them cleaned up and came away with some winners. I was glad to hear that, think everyone did pretty good there and most would prob say they wish we could have spent another hour digging there and pulled a few more out. I am sure David Hodge would have said that. 🙂 Speaking of which, let me show you a few photos of his truly amazing dogtooths that he was able to pull out of the back wall mucky muck clay mud…nothing short of SPECTACULAR let me tell ya….here he is carrying the first BIG one down the pile to the parking area below…

…looks a little heavy here, doesn`t it ??  I told him he didn`t look too happy here and then he showed me how he really felt about it, heavy or not….

…he carried the first two down and set them in the water`s edge of a big waterhole at the bottom of the pile, then returned for more….

…take a good look at the one on the right and imagine it cleaned off, and tell me how many points you see on it….

…he brought the rest of them down to his truck, which he wisely moved over closer to the pile and waterhole….

…and then he set about washing some of the muck off to let us see the true beauty of what was underneath the mud….

…and he got some help along the way.

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 1109 David Washes off His Crystals

Some went to find him a brush, and during the wait for the brush to arrive, he discovered that his Apple watch had suffered a bit during the dig….

…yeah that looks like a casualty of the dig to me buddy…I don`t recall if he was able to clean it off and salvage it or not. He noticed it after washing off that huge dogtooth crystal cluster in the waterhole too…

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 1109 2nd Video

By far one of the funniest videos I shot was right after the one above, when Bill Pryor tried to convince us that he was going to have to cite us for muddying the waterhole waters by cleaning off David`s crystal cluster without a permit, and he was going to have to confiscate the cluster as well….good try Bill, but I don`t think you would have made it back to your suv with that cluster, buddy. 🙂

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Batesville Quarry 4th Video

Oh, remember that crystal on the right that was covered with mud and I asked if you could tell me how many points were on it ?  Well, here it is, a bit more cleaned up…and gorgeous…

…and the proud papa with it….

…and showing John Sean a double terminated crystal he found up there in the muck as well….

…simply beautiful….well done my friend…well done !!

From the bottom of the pit, we drove back up to the top of the quarry and to the next layer up, to look for fluorites and fossils laying around or in boulder vugs…by this time, most of us were too tired to do much looking or even serious collecting and since we had at least a 2 hour drive back to Hot Springs, we took off around 1:30 pm. Vicky and her husband headed straight to Hot Springs, while the rest of us followed David down to the west side of Little Rock to look for a quartz location that Bill had told us about. Keep in mind, that the last time he had been there was about 25 yrs ago and that area was not nearly as populated as it is now…luckily, David knew the history of the area, and was able to translate the visual landmarks Bill gave us into real buildings and landscapes…the landscape we were seeking, however, turned out to be an extremely steep and slick rock surface, with a high fence installed around it…there were visual veins of quartz there tho. It made for a nice adventure tho, and soon enough we headed on down to Hot Springs to rest up before our Sunday adventure.

We got back to the condo just in time for another beautiful sunset….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Sunset Sat Evening 1109

…and from there, Onyx and I went inside to clean up before meeting the group at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet for a late but great supper. I let Alina know we were going to the old Arrowhead Mine area the  next morning, she and Finn were gonna get an early start toward the next morning and hope for a rain free drive home. Julie and her daughters decided to go to one of the Coleman mines instead. Vicky and her husband decided to go try out Miller Mtn Mine instead, which was probably a wise choice on their part.

So the next morning, the rest of us headed up to Mt Ida and drove down the old road to the old Arrowhead Mine, which has been reclaimed for years. A few years ago, tho, the USFS added some rock to the road in, from the Mauldin Mountain Quarry, including some small pieces of wavellite in the mix…which was found by several of the locals who apparently still go out there to surface collect as well as deer and squirrel hunting. We saw a few pieces of wavellite on the way in and some were still in decent shape. It was a bit windy on our arrival and we parked outside the gate….

….which was open, where another pickup was parked as well. We figured they were prob deer hunters so we tried to be as quiet as we could. We headed up the road, trying not to make any noise until we were nearly to the mine…it`s about a 20 min hike to the nearest edge of the mine, where you can see small pines and gravel piles….at the far left edge of this clearing behind Colby, who is walking toward me on the right side…and down on the left by Patty who is checking the right side of the road…

 

We walked on down the road a little ways, til we arrived at this spot….

…where the forest road turns right and goes up a little rise and through a heavily wooded area….

….then drops down into a low area, the old mine pit, now heavily overgrown with young pines, appears on the right side….

Right before the road turns to the right, there is a rocky bank on the right that leads one into the old mine pit if they choose to wander down that trail and into the old pit area, as Patty decided to do, surface collecting along that gravel bank wall….

…one could even surface collect the roadway as well and find crystals here and there, keeping a sharp eye for them, and some wavellite pieces too…

…I even found a few nice clusters of crystals in the pine needles of the forest ground between the roadway and the pit area. We found a nice cache of plates and clusters near the back of the pit, right off the roadway, where I met a deer hunter as he was leaving in his truck…he got tired of the wind, which was pretty chilly that morning, and when one is sitting up in a tree stand, it`s even colder up high. He said it was hitting him the face and he had taken all of it he could stand, was driving over to a better location out of the wind a few miles away. He said his brother was parked down by the gate, and he mentioned this pile of plates and clusters to me before he took off. By this time, Patty, Colby, and Gabriella had caught up with me and we checked out the pile…they were a bit weathered, but some were very nice as well…we picked up a few pretty plates of golden healers which just sat there and sparkled in the sunlight. I took off about 11:30 am, headed back to the condo to meet a friend…Patty and Colby decided to head over to Miller Mountain Mine to join up with Vicky and her husband. I believe they were going to try and get some shopping in before heading home the next day. 

Onyx and I stayed a couple of extra days to rest up before heading back home…I met Dane up at Mt Ida the next morning to purchase the large black tourmaline cluster, and smokey crystal combo, and he threw in several smaller tourmaline pieces too. Dane also told me about a beach ball size piece of mahogany obsidian he had for sale, wondered if I might know someone who would like to have it…I said I have a buddy near Fort Smith that LOVES obsidian and has worked with mahogany obsidian in his work, and might be interested in it. Dane sent me some photos of it…

…that I forwarded to my buddy, Adam…and he loved it…I heard the other day that he picked it up from Dane near Mena and was very happy with it. 🙂

It was a cold and rainy day, all day long, in Hot Springs that day, farther north they were dealing with some snow and ice in northern Arkansas. It finally cleared off that afternoon late in the day, and on the way to the new steakhouse, I photographed this huge tree right outside the condo, that really lights up the entire complex there….

Tuesday was yet another very cold day, so naturally, Onyx and I did very little, just rested up basically, got caught up on some reading and napping…the sun was shining much of the day but did little to warm up the atmosphere down there…about mid morning, I noticed movement out on the lake and spotted this NUT in a pontoon boat zipping across Lake Hamilton…the very definition of crazy right there, folks !! 

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Monday Morning 19 Degrees Some Nut Boating on Lake Hamilton

 

Right before we headed up to the steakhouse, I shot this sunset…a line of ducks swimming in a line right by us as we were standing there admiring the last of the setting sun`s rays over Lake Hamilton….

I ate at the new steakhouse again, on the north side of 270 Bypass off Central Avenue, Texas Roadhouse, getting there early this time, as the other night it was packed by 5 pm with the line outside the door. That night I went instead to Outback Steakhouse, and my meal there was not as good as it has been in the past. I ate at Texas Roadhouse 2 nights down there and it was excellent each time. The next morning, Onyx and I were up at sunrise, to do some final packing, and I shot the sunrise, too….

…twice, as the first time I stepped out on the balcony, was a little too cold for me in bare feet. 🙂 The second time was much better in my shoes….

2019 Arkansas Fall Trip Sunrise Wed Morning 1113

…I stopped by to visit with my buddy Robert Kuhn, before heading for home…he told me that if I didn`t find a new job for the winter season, let him know and I could come back down and help him work at the mine if I wanted to. 🙂 We headed for home about 9:30 am and rolled back into Sullivan by 4:30 pm. Had a great time with good friends, good finds, purchases, food, and rest once again. 🙂

 

 

Mineral & Crystal Acquires in November 2019

I answered an ad for a mineral collection for sale near Carbondale, Illinois, which resulted in a trip to Illinois to check it out on November 3rd…just a few days before my Fall Trip to Arkansas. I had talked to Jason a few times on the phone and he was in the process of selling some of his huge collection, but invited me over to see some of what he had for sale, so I did. Needless to say, he was re-arranging much of it and only had maybe half of what he wanted to sell, on display, but I was not disappointed in what I saw. Gorgeous stuff for sure. We talked for a bit and I told him what I had in my collection and he decided he wanted to make a trip down to see my collection as well. While there, I purchased half a dozen beautiful selenite specimens from the country of Australia…they looked like flowers, they were so beautiful !!  See for yourself….

VERY delicate stuff, let me tell ya. can`t wrap this stuff enough !! 

Spineless Spinels

A friend of mine who sells Viburnum Trend Minerals, sent me a text the first week of October, while I was still in Geode Fest Recovery mode…to let me know he had a couple of new collections for sale…one was a huge assortment of calcites, plates of chalcopyrite, and galena clusters, small and large, that covered four tables. The second collection consisted of thin bars of galena, what he called Spineless Spinels…yeah…say that ten times in a row without any mistakes…I triple dog dare ya…that means you have to do it, no questions asked…I can`t do it, so you have to. 🙂 

I had a few friends interested once I put the word out, so I drove down to photograph what he had and sent these photos out…he had a few inquiries and sold about three of the Spineless Spinels…and I had a few folks interested, but after a few weeks no one had made any major purchases, so he started selling a few here and there, and yes, after about six weeks, I purchased a few myself. 🙂  Here is the first collection spread out over four tables, beginning with the first table, covered by a red tablecloth….

Start of 2nd table, which is a polka dot brown on white….

start of the third table below, solid white colored table….

…and this is the fourth table, also white in color, sits across the aisle from the first table, red tablecloth….

…and these large pieces in the floor are part of this collection….

…as well as this huge piece that measures about 18 to 24 inches long and includes phantom crystals with chalcopyrites…

and then here is the Spineless Spinel Collection….

If you are interested in either collection and need more info, give me a shout at jwjphoto7@gmail.com 🙂

 

Geode Fest 2019

I have to say, this year`s Geode Fest was the wettest one I can remember and not in terms of wading in the creeks and rivers, but in the form of heavy rainfall…in the form of…well…monsoon type rainfall…with lightning and thunder accompanying the monsoon rainfall !! 

I had to place Onyx with my Vet for lodging for a few nights while I went up there, since pets are not allowed to go, and the reasoning is quite simple for that, not all dogs do well in groups that large, nor do all dogs get along with other dogs…if every other person brought their dog and their dogs didn`t get along with other dogs, it could be a nightmare for everyone involved up there. I`ll be the first to say, that Onxy does not get along with every dog out there…I wish he did, but sadly, he does not. Missy, my first Border Collie, got along with most dogs and had a lot less anxiety issues than Onyx seems to have and it seems to be a trait in the breed that I cannot do anything about, so lodging with my Vet was basically his only choice.

I drove up to Keokuk on Thursday, September 26th, arriving early afternoon and got checked into the Super 8 Hotel first thing, then drove over to the Geode Fest grounds to meet up with a friend of John`s, who is a mineral dealer in Iowa, and who was looking for a source of druse quartz. John had let me know a few weeks before about his friend and his search for druse quartz after a bad experience at a local show weeks before. I contacted his friend and we decided on meeting in the parking lot at Geode Fest, with me transporting several specimens up there for him to look through and purchase if he liked what he saw. I had the back seat full of flats of druse in every size and color imagineable, and larger ones in the bed of my truck. I had so much druse with me, that only left me with the front seat for my clothing bag for the weekend.

Soon after arriving, I spotted Charity and Jamey at their booth along the back side of the parking lot, and walked over to visit with them while waiting for the dealer to come back to his truck to see what I brought to show him. Charity told me that they had arrived early and let me know my buddy John Oostenryk was running late again and they figured it would be evening before he arrived. 

Soon the dealer spotted me at their booth and came over to introduce himself…after a few minutes of small talk, we walked back to my truck and I started showing him what I had brought. As is often the case, other dealers began walking by, spotted me showing him the druse I had with me, and they began to mill around to see what I was showing him. Word soon spread and the next thing I knew, a few dealers there for the show, some I knew and a few I didn`t know, came over and asked what we were doing. When they found out, one or two ran to a guy there that was assisting the man in charge of the show, and he came over to confirm what he was told. Luckily, he didn`t come with an attitude, but came over with an open mind about it…we straightened him out about what we were doing…that I was there as a collector of druse quartz and brought some druse quartz to show a dealer my wares, so to speak, because he was looking for such wares to resell elsewhere, not at the show that weekend. Like I told the man in charge that day, neither of us were dealers at the show, we just picked that parking lot because it was easy to find and technically, since the show had not started yet, it was a public access parking lot, too. Even if we had gone down to the far end of the parking lot, I guarantee you those other dealers would have wandered down there to see what was going on and still would have found a reason to get upset over it. After hearing our side of the story, he told us he personally had no problem with it, but we should move it to another location, so we packed up and drove over to the Iowa side instead.

Believe me, all of my dealer friends that set up their booths at the Geode Fest Parking Lot, had a problem with the way it was handled, but did not have any problem with what I did nor what John`s dealer friend did in meeting me there. Not One !! In fact, the way it was handled, really pissed quite a few of them off, especially my buddy John. He texted me that evening to let me know he was there and had heard about it, he was pissed off about it and planned to talk to Kurt, the Director of the Event, about it the next morning. Kurt is the Director of Tourism for the City of Keokuk, they took over the Geode Fest Event last year when Mike Shumate retired after building up and successfully running the entire operation for the past 25 years. Last year was Kurt`s first year and I thought he did a great job with it, plus found him to be a very nice guy to talk to and deal with.

The next morning, I was up early and stopped at McDonalds for breakfast, noticing some light rain on the way down there. As soon as I walked back to my truck tho, I spotted a storm moving in from the southwest, with thunder and lightning.

I drove down to the river access on the Illinois side just north of the highway and photographed the storm`s approach, there were a few others doing the same thing, probably due to the dramatic approach of the storm toward the Mississippi River and the color and lightning in the skies. With the highway bridge on the left side and the lock / dam directly across the river, the city of Keokuk still lit up, it made for a great show for sure…

I photographed the first image of the storm above, in program mode, which is why it looks so light given the time of the morning…here below is how it really looked, shot in manual mode….

…and you can clearly see the distinction on the north side between the clouds when I focused on the Lock and Dam building just north of the highway bridge across the river….

…it was about this time that the winds picked up and the drama in the clouds and approaching storm picked up real quick…a couple of the folks watching up river from me about 200 feet, decided they had seen enough and they were getting the flock out of Dodge…about six of us stayed to watch the show, and I decided to stay in my truck and shoot some video of it too…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 81 Fri Morning Storm Approaching From West

 

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 91 2nd Video of Approaching Storm Fri Morning

 

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 102 Storm Approaching Fri Morning 27th

Seems like everytime I started shooting video, the lightning bolts eluded me, but once I stopped shooting video, that is when they came down hard and intense, so I took a few more photos and then headed over to the Chaney Creek Boat Access Parking Lot to pay my entry fee and get registered for the event, then visit with John and the other dealer friends….

I found the parking area to be about half full when I arrived and I was able to find a pretty good parking spot about the middle of the lot, which is good for that time of the morning on the first day. I would guess and say that the storm coming in may have caught some flat footed and they were waiting it out in their hotel rooms across the river. I always take my laptop and check weather and radar on my trips…you can watch the tv news/weather and see what is going on in a much broader area, but if you aren`t in the immediate area of the news station, then you are just going to get a bigger radar, whereas with my laptop I can go to my favorite weather site, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center site and zero in pretty tight on radar for the area I am in. www.spc.noaa.gov  is their site address if anyone would like to check it out and use it like I do, when the site comes up on your screen, you can put your zip code into the box in the upper right hand corner and get your ten day forecast for your area as well. 

…that storm did clip us as we received a good shower soon after I arrived, but the main part clearly passed to the north of us. I heard later at supper in Keokuk that it was a pretty serious thundershower in town that morning. I walked over to visit with my buddy John O, who was setting up his tent booth, getting his geode cracker out and ready to crack geodes later for folks who found them. John is a self taught geologist and has been a tremendous help to the folks who have run Geode Fest each year for the past several years, he donates alot of his free time to help them with location scouting, location prep and physical clean up work to get the locations ready for hundreds of rockhounds to descend upon, and he assists with logical thinking when it comes time to set rules and policies as well, and he never charges them for his time and assistance, either.

Kurt came by John`s booth shortly after and apologized to me for the way it was handled…he let me know that they intended to rope off a section of the parking lot next year so that meetings like that could be better facilitated as they were in favor of that exchange and wanted to fully support it as well. He told me that he had already discussed it with Mike, the guy that approached and asked us to leave, said that should never have happened and he had discussed it with all of the dealers there as well. I let Kurt know that Mike,  actually acted in a pretty professional way and while he could have been rude and insensitive about it, he was not, which did not go unnoticed by the dealer I was talking to, or me. I think he was pretty glad to hear that after all the stories he had heard from others the day before. John and I decided to go to the site known for snowball geodes, so he went over and signed us both up for that location and we left soon after with our guide leading the way.

If you have never been to Geode Fest, it is quite an operation to behold. Years ago when I first went there, it was held on the Keokuk side at the Hy-Vee Grocery parking lot, but it soon outgrew their side parking lot and they moved the event to the Chaney Creek Access parking lot under the vision of Mike Shumate who was in charge of the event back then. Mike is a good ol country boy who is also an avid collector of geodes for many years as well as a wealth of information for the area and geodes in general. Rockhounds are allowed to pre-register or bring their paperwork with them to the event and then pay their fee for the entire weekend. Once you register and pay your fee, you then move to another booth tent and sign up for sites/location you want to dig or collect at…in years past there have been six to ten sites available to go and collect at. There are two locations available on Friday and Saturday, Sunday is a morning dig only, so for your entry fee you get the opportunity to go dig and collect at five sites/locations. For each bucket you fill up with geodes to take home, you pay an extra $ 25 to your guide and that money is given to the landowner of the site/location you went to dig/collect at. You sign up for the site/location you want to go to each morning and each afternoon starting at a pre-designated time. Your guide is determined ahead of time and he or she has a certain colored flag on their vehicle, you are notified of the flag color when you sign up for the site/location you want to go to, and then they announce on a public address speaker when that guide is lining up to head out to that site/location…they give you about 10 minutes to line up…and in that parking lot, it can be hard for everyone to line up in a single line, due to the haphazard way that some people park there…some have no respect for rules, no respect for lines, no respect for others….some park out in the open where there is no parking and that can cause folks to be blocked out completely…it can be really frustrating to say the least, in getting into and out of, that parking lot !!

This year, Kurt arranged for the Hamilton, Illinois Police Department to provide all day long protection and traffic control assistance at the event…the access to the parking lot is right off state highway 96, a mile north of Hwy 136, so there are normally three to four officers down there directing traffic all day long, and that has been a tremendous help for the event. It also creates a heavy police presence to most, likely keeps trouble from happening there and provides a great sense of security as well. As far as I know, there have not been any major problems there yet. I met a few of the officers and the Police Chief Friday morning after I pulled in and parked, very nice officers and they had good support from the county for their traffic operation there.

Luckily the guides all know the problems one can encounter getting lined up and out of the parking lot, so they take it easy and travel at a slower pace til they get to the outskirts of Hamilton…everyone including the guide, runs their flashers on their vehicles, so you can see the person in front of you even if you get separated from them by other traffic. I will say that unlike years past, the Police Chief and his officers did do something about the knotheads that parked illegally in the parking lot or blocked others by parking in unmarked areas, and I heard that a few folks who did that were threatened with a ticket and tow of their vehicle if they didn`t move them in a very timely manner as well. For the knotheads that do that on purpose without any respect for others or just plain stupidity, they fully deserve a ticket and their vehicle towed in my humble opinion, it`s about the only thing they will understand and possibly prevent them from doing it again. Repeat offenders simply need to be banished from the event and not allowed to return til they grow up !!

Our mutual friend Abigail from Nashville, was going to try and make it to Geode Fest again this year, but her medical problems got worse and she had to stay home. One of her close female friends however, came down from the Sioux City area with her boyfriend and his son and daughter, along with his daughter`s female friend, to join us. I met them in the parking lot as I was heading to my truck to get in line…introduced myself as a friend of John and Abigail and let them know what I was driving in case they got lost or separated from the rest of the line up. Her name is Shell and  her striking good looks reminded me of Joan Jett the rocker/singer. 🙂 Her boyfriend`s name is Grant, I cannot remember the names of the kids, but they were usually very nice as well as enthusiastic, but sometimes a handful as well. 

We all followed our guide out to the site known as Rod`s Geode Site, or Rod`s as most of the hard core collectors call it…a couple of miles south of Hamilton, where we turned off on to a nice white chat gravel farm lane that led to a farmhouse and outbuildings at the end of the lane…or so it appeared. However, once we topped the low hill above the highway, we soon turned left and drove down a dirt lane thru a soybean field…I thought to myself as I turned, ” I sure hope we don`t get any rain showers or this will be a lane of pure sloppy mud when we come out “. John told me before we left, to park on the right of the field near the cornfield, which would be the high point of the hill, to avoid getting stuck…his advice was mainly for those driving cars…I have four wheel drive and have never got stuck in my Tacoma yet. Grant and I parked at the bottom of the hill, at John`s direction once we arrived in the right field, he said it would be a much shorter walk with the anticipated number of buckets we would have. Now, remember, it was fairly dry when we arrived there, the grass wasn`t wet because the earlier storm passed way to the north of this farm, so there were no worries when we parked down there. Here is how the sky looked when I pulled over at the top of the field hill by the cornstalks, to allow others to pass me by and park in the next field over…

 

…our guide knew that a few of us were going to park elsewhere. I also wanted to stop and check to see where John was at in the lineup, because he was a ways behind us..turns out he was a little late getting there and let us know that another storm might be approaching but might also just clip us….

…and the following photo shows the bottom of the hill where we eventually parked our trucks….you can see folks walking down that hill to the trail leading to the creek where the snowball geodes are found…both in the water and in the banks….while John, arriving in his Sable Stationwagon, wisely parked up high on the hill near where I first stopped to check on his location…

…at the time we arrived, there was a storm passing by on our east side and rain could be seen falling from the skies east of the parking area everyone else was going to….

…here is the back of that storm coming right at us, tho, or so it appeared, but didn`t seem to be moving very fast either…

…and some in the parking lot field past us, wisely decided to wait it out and see what was gonna happen as it intensified to the east of us….

 

I started down the hill to park and looked back to see how John was doing once he parked his car…I saw that he had some help and headed on down to park my truck at the bottom, the wind was picking up at the top of the hill where he was but not at the bottom of the hill yet….

…he had wisely put his blue slicker on and once he reached the bottom of the hill with us, we all headed down the trail to the creek…everyone but Grant and his kids, who were now fighting among each other over tools and buckets…so we just left him to referee and we booked on down the trail to get ahead of others and get to John`s sweet geode spot before anyone else did. I had figured that it was gonna storm on us, after seeing the storm on approach to us, so I had put my raingear on, but did not take my camera with me. By the time I got my gear out and caught up with John, we were at the third crossing for Railroad Creek, and from there we had to wade downstream. I had the wrong boots on for wading, but figured I could always replace them at the Walmart store across from my hotel. We were looking from bank to bank as we waded down the creek, picking up some here and there along the gravel bars until we finally reached a spot where trees were down and crisscrossing the creek in a tightly congested area. This was the sweet spot  and just as we started seeing geodes sticking out of the bank on the far side and began to pull some out, the heavens opened up directly overhead and rain began to fall…monsoon style…like someone turned on a fire hose above us…THEN someone turned on the drums of thunder above us and the lightning bolts started zinging all around us. Shell bolted back up the creek to check on the kids and Grant, and another gal joined us looking for geodes. John and I decided to get out of the water while the bolts were flying all around us…the gal stayed right in the water despite our suggestion that she get up on the bank. Turned out to be one of the longest storms I have ever stayed out in…after twenty minutes of intense lightning, thunder, and heavy rainfall, realizing I had a bucket nearly full of geodes, I let John know I was gonna head back to the truck. I trudged back upstream thru the creek, picking up a few geodes along the way…and met a few others that had decided to stop and at least take a break as well. Just as I emerged from the forest to the edge of the field near my truck, I met the guide who asked how many folks were down the trail I had just walked up…I let him know that at least fifteen people were still down the trail and in the creek at least a quarter mile down, including John O. He said he had received text messages from the Event Parking Lot warning us that a huge storm was approaching…I asked him how long ago those messages were sent, he said it appeared that they had been sent before we arrived but the storm apparently bothered the signal and delayed the reception til after the storm hit and hit HARD. At any rate, they were requesting everyone return to the parking lot. Grant came walking down the hill and said folks were trying to leave up above and were getting stuck on the dirt lane of the soybean field, he said it was a real mess. He soon went walking back up the hill. The guide went down the trail to deliver the bad news to the rest of the rockhounders. Shell came out of the woods with the kids and they began to load their tools and geodes into the bed of the truck. I helped her with the heavy stuff and then I drove up to the top of the hill to see what was going on. I paid my bucket fee to the assistant guide and then drove down to the gully before the soybean field…there were folks there that told me how the dirt road was, they had already been up it and back…..

It looked just like I figured it would look after a hard rain…sloppy mud…I was next in line and took off, floored it down thru and across the gully, then when I got to the top of the gully on the far side, I slipslided back and forth across the soybean field a bit, not sure how close I got to the plants at times…hoped the farmer had insurance on his crops tho. I pulled over and waited for John for a bit and shot some video of the others coming out of there….

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 127 Access Road Muddy After Storm

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 134 Third Storm Coming in at Rod`s Snowball Site

After shooting the second video on the white chat farm lane, I decided John did not stop hunting so I headed back to the hotel to change from my wet clothes and boots to dry clothes and boots. I then drove to Walmart to get another pair of boots and some boots to wade in as well. Then I drove down to Burger King to get a sandwich before heading back to Chaney Creek Parking Lot. When I arrived, I saw that John had returned as well. I decided not to go out on the afternoon dig after taking a look at the radar…it appeared we were locked into a storm track for the rest of the day, if not the entire weekend. Storms were popping up down around Kirksville, Missouri and tracking to the northeast right up into our area. My buddy Chuck Reed of St Louis County, texted to let me know he was gonna be on the road earlier than he originally thought he would, and should arrive around 3 to 4 pm. John always brings me some Linwood Calcites and Barites from the Buffalo Mine, but this time, he discovered when he was going through his stuff as he was re-setting up his tent, that he had apparently gone off and left them at home once again…first time was during the Central Kentucky trip over Labor Day. 🙂 He dug out what he had brought with him and turns out he had a big egg carton full of some gorgeous agates…so I made a deal with him for those instead…

 

Throughout the afternoon, I visited with dealer friends, Dennis Kossow, Charity and Jamey, Robert Kuhn from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and met a few new ones as well, and we had rain showers and a few small storms all afternoon and into the evening hours. Chuck arrived about 4 pm and started helping John crack open geodes for folks who were successful finding some big ones earlier that morning and some who braved the afternoon storms to find some as well….

By the time it started to get dark, the crowd had thinned out considerably and we were getting hungry, so the consensus by many was to go up to the Hamilton Cafe and get some supper. Charity and Jamey were the first ones to wrap up and head out, followed by Marv, one of the John`s dealer friends from Cedar Rapids, Robert, Dennis, and John, Chuck, and I. Just as we were getting ready to head out, we heard the tornado sirens going off across the river in Keokuk, then the alerts came across our cellphones for a storm just southwest of Keokuk with a doppler radar indicated tornado. We drove up to the Cafe and most everyone walked inside…I stayed outside to shoot the storm…we were up on a hill and there was a pretty good view to the west and north from the parking lot. There was a local firefighter out in the parking lot with me, he and his family had just finished eating supper at the Cafe and were preparing to leave when they heard the sirens and saw the alert. They decided to stick around with me and watch the storm for a few minutes…he was taking photos of it as well…

What he and I were seeing initially was a HUGE shelf cloud, parked over the top of Hamilton and extending east to the city limits and north at least a mile, at times it looked like a GIANT spaceship parked overhead….here is some video I shot of the storm approaching Hamilton…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 137 Sat Evening Storm Coming In With Tornado Warning

…and then my stomach started talking to me, so I took this one from the door of the Cafe before walking inside….

We had a great meal and conversation time together, some of the other dealers were there as well at other tables nearby…the storm outside broke down into a regular thunderstorm and passed over us while we ate.  Chuck and I headed back to the Super 8 afterwards…it rained all night long, which raised the river and creek water levels to the point that it would have been unsafe to do any collecting during the morning dig times, so they cancelled the morning digs and stated they would come to a decision regarding the afternoon digs by 11 am. Figuring it would be a long day, I walked over to V`s Restaurant and Pub next door to the hotel for a good breakfast…they have good food all day long there, it used to be a Golden Corral years ago, now more like a bar and grill with good seating and good food. I ate there Thursday evening too. Marv was just finishing up when I walked in Saturday morning…I sat down and talked to him a bit before he headed over to the Chaney Creek Access Parking Lot. He`s a great guy to talk to and deal with, John has known him for years…he has those Tranca Geodes from Mexico that I like alot, he had some bigger ones this year and I was able to get my boss one…they have gorgeous interiors of blue quartz crystals. 

Chuck had gotten up earlier and drove over to assist John with cracking open more geodes. so I took my time eating, then filled my gas tank at the Phillips 66 just down the street before leisurely driving over to the parking lot at Chaney Creek. There was a pretty good sized crowd there by then, but i got lucky and found a parking spot on the front row next to the highway when someone pulled out as I was driving in. I walked down the highway side of Dealer Row and stopped to visit with Dennis Kossow a bit more, and purchased some more of his smokey quartz crystals from Hallelujah Junction on the California – Nevada line, a well known location for smoky`s…Dennis always has great prices on his crystals and minerals and he is a great guy to talk to and know. He is a stonemason full time and stays quite busy throughout the year on projects for his clients….

I found him explaining limb casts to a couple of women buyers that morning, he had some exceptionally beautiful limb casts for sale at his booth, too. 

I then wandered over to see what the Amish families had brought in on a huge trailer…the high river levels kept rockhounds from going to any of the three Amish sites/locations to rockhound at, so they did the next best thing, they brought in a long trailer full of big and small geodes to the event parking lot to sell !!  The Amish folks are some of the nicest people up there to deal with on anything, their womenfolk are some of the best cooks and bakers as well,  they had a food booth set up near the highway each day, and a booth near the registration booth where they made and sold home made ice cream. Here is one of the Amish lads cleaning off the grid inside the ice cream bucket….

I talked to him a few minutes between customers about the engine set up…they are part of the Amish community that does not use electricity, and those big ice cream churns are way too big and heavy to turn by hand.  One of the other Amish lads there was Amos, he brought the trailer load of geodes up there that morning, said the Fox River, which runs through the property of his farm and the other two Amish farms nearby, was bank full…these were geodes they had previously pulled out of the river and saved for a rainy day….Amos is the big guy in the beautiful blue shirt and straw hat….

…they had some big and beautiful geodes they had collected on their farms..Amos was telling me that he had a set of draft horses to plow his fields with…I went to his brother`s farm last year and his brother has a set of beautiful tan draft horses with yellow manes. Amos told me his horses were a beautiful grey color with black manes, just as pretty, strong, and hard working. He said the Amish men work full time building sheds and small barns that are sold to people like me, and then they work on their farms in their spare time, often from sunrise to sunset. Here is Amos with Kurt, the Director of Geode Fest, and a female customer who bought a few of their geodes….

I wandered back to John`s booth to check on him and Chuck, and found them busy as bees cracking open geodes for folks…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 157 John Cracks Open Geode & Explains Interior to Young Couple

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 158 John & Chuck Open Smaller Geode for Young Girl

…some of them would often brought buckets full of geodes for them to crack each and every one they thought had potential to be hollow and full of beautiful crystals….this time they were dealing with a couple of young boys and their mother…John is really good with kids, he takes the time to explain things to them in words they can understand and he takes things slow and easy for them so they can watch and learn as they go…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 165 John & Chuck Crack Open Small Geodes for Two Brothers

 

Well shortly after 11 am, it was announced that three sites would be available for everyone who pre-registered to go to in the afternoon and Sunday morning looked like it would be alright for digs as well. There was a break in the weather coming. John, Chuck, and I decided to go to Josh`s site/location on Railroad Creek…this was a site that John had scouted a few times for Geode Fest and put in a tremendous amount of hard work into getting it available for Geode Fest in many ways the past year. We drove out there ahead of the main group to visit with Josh for a bit and see if he was in need of any assistance with traffic control and parking when everyone else arrived, but he said he had plenty of help and we should go on down to the creek and do some hunting…he said the water level was down to a manageable level, but we would be able to see the water mark of how high it had gotten that morning.

We walked down the hill to the creek and he was right, the water had been quite high down there earlier, which would have made it impossible to do any hunting or get within fifty feet of the creek. The water was maybe a foot high and we were able to wade out across the gravels without any problems…

….we went upstream first and found several geodes laying all over the creek bottom, especially in the riffles and exposed gravel bars…many were solids but we found several nice cracked open halves laying around filled with gorgeous crystals…

John was working ahead of me in the creek, checking both side banks for geodes…not finding many around the banks themselves, so we checked the ones in the middle riffle instead. We found a few that felt hollow but many felt solid..keep in mind we were looking for snowball geodes, so some would have a bit of weight to them, but not so much they would be solids, so we were working a fine line here. John has more experience with snowball geodes so he was a good judge of weight of them…needless to say, we didn`t find many that held up to his standards even. From here, with a few geodes in our buckets, we decided to go back toward the entry point and check the long riffle in the middle….

…and here you can see how large some of those geodes were there….

As soon as we reached our entry point to the creek, we started seeing more rockhounds, some who had arrived soon after us and more that arrived with the larger group…they were spread out up and down the creek, some with waders on so they could access the deeper wading pools and some in shorts and tennis shoes to stay cooler…John led Chuck and I down to one of his secret spots where there was a flat grassy area and soft dirt bank to dig into…

….Chuck and I soon discovered why he prefers the dirt banks to dig into…John dug out a couple of basketball sized geodes with big calcite crystals exposed on the outside even, like this one….

So dig into the bank we did and pretty soon, Chuck and I were pulling out some nice geodes as well…I pulled one or two out that resembled the nice calcite geode that John dug out and some other big ones as well…digging there filled a bucket or two pretty quickly…

I had to ask Chuck where he got his firemen`s boots from, figured I should have brought mine with me too…would have made wading in the creeks much safer and easier. After about an hour, Mike, one of the event guides, came rolling down the creek on a four wheeler, he was looking for a section where big rocks could be found…

….someone directed him downstream further and he nearly drove that thing off into a very deep hole during his downstream trek…had it not been for that gal walking down the creek pulling that little boat behind her, warning him of impending doom just ahead…he prob would have drove right off into a ten foot deep hole !! 

John had wandered on down to that gravel bar you can see just ahead of Mike, said he had found some nice stuff down there last year when he was there scouting the creek at that location. Chuck and I didn`t make it on down there but we waited for John to return and then we headed back to our vehicles. While we were up there changing out our boots and putting away our buckets and tools, we spotted this mishap…the landowner told us that happened earlier in the year when a tornado struck the area…the carryall remained there because it turned out there was no insurance coverage on it….

I believe they did get some use of the tree, cutting up the wood and burning it over the winter for heat…prob not as much compensation in exchange for the use of the carryall tho. The next morning, Chuck and I opted to go hunt for agates, geodes, and fossils at the gravel plant near Wayland, set up by John for us to join up with the Central Iowa Club, like we did a year or two ago…we were joined this time by Kim and Richard Hill, who were up there for Geode Fest too, from the Memphis Club MAGS, which Chuck and I are members of as well. We drove out there about 8:30 am from the hotel and met up with the Iowa Club members shortly after they arrived. It was a bit froggy out there…

…..but we found a lot of agates in pebble size and form, they were literally all over the place….

This year I walked down to the lower area of the plant along with a couple of the older members to search the dirt and weedy area for geodes…we found a few halves that were pretty, but the whole geodes down there seemed to be mostly solids…like 99 % of them were solids, so we left them right where we found them…the agates we found more than make up for those. 🙂  John had his geodes from Josh`s riverbank cleaned up when I got back over to the parking lot to say my goodbyes and see you later`s to everyone….

…I got back home by evening time and in time to catch the sunset at Cracker Barrel as well…despite all the rain and flooding, it still turned out to be a great weekend up there. Hope everyone else had a great time. 

Kentucky Central 2019 Trip

I worked at the golf course all summer, starting my second year there back in April and did not ask off for vacation time til mid August, then submitted time off requests for my annual Labor Day Weekend trip to Central Kentucky and end of September for Geode Fest, with both approved by my bosses. They kidded me a bit about it at first, but after working with them my second year now, I know when they are joking, even with a serious look on their faces. Four out of five of my bosses like rocks too, so that helps as well, since my trips are mainly about rock and mineral hunting and collecting. 🙂

I called my good friend Gary Griffith about a week out, to check and see what he had in fluorite this year, as many of my rockhound friends who join me down there, like fluorite as much as I do, and always ask me to get some for them too. Gary told me they had a difficult year this time around, the rains and storms we had up here in central Missouri this summer, heavy torrential rains often times, that caused us alot of damage to the golf course at work…also caused Gary and his son alot of problems for the fluorite mining. It mainly created them a lot of mud that they were unable to work in and sometimes some damage to equipment, but mainly just delays in actual mining time. He has also become well known for good quality fluorite and so many dealers who sell fluorite now go to him for southern Illinois fluorite. In the weeks leading up to the Clement Mineral Museum Show, they had four or five dealers trying to buy fluorite from them, they wanted all of it, whatever they had available and were calling on them on a daily basis sometimes, darn near pestering them, not taking no for an answer.

Gary is one of the nicest guys I know, and when he says no, he means it. No means No…I mean, how hard can that be to understand ???   Dealers can sometimes be difficult to deal with, they usually do not understand what NO means and sometimes will try to do some really dumb things if they think you are stretching the truth or trying to avoid them. I have personally been there and experienced it myself, so I can truly understand what Gary was going thru during that time period, let me tell ya, cause I have dealt with some of those dealers from time to time myself.

Gary is also one of the good friends of everyone at the Clement Mineral Museum staff and Board of Directors, and he helps them whenever he can…a couple of years ago, when the digs ran into trouble, he pitched in and provided them with a dump truck load of mine spoils filled with fluorite chips, so that the kids at the Museum`s annual show, had a big pile to dig thru and find pretty stuff in. There may have even been some big kids in that pile from time to time, too. It was much appreciated by everyone there and a real hit with the younguns. Since he likes to help the Museum folks with their show, he was able to hold back some material to take to the show this year, and he had some gorgeous stuff back then…I made sure to get a few pieces, came from a special pocket that they located earlier this year when they had a good run of weather to work in, gorgeous deep purple cubes in a complex array and pattern of cubes, very detailed and very pretty. A couple of friends in my group of rockhound friends, were there as well and they purchased a couple of his fluorites as well. 

This year, despite a not-so good year of mining, he told me he would see what they could find for me, in the week ahead, and asked me to call him back the night before I was going to drive down to central Kentucky. When I called back, they were fortunate to let me know they had some good luck and found a few nice pockets and some good cubes and clusters in their tailing piles too. Onyx and I got up and on the road by 6 am, headed that way…Gary was going to work that morning and Walter would be meeting me at their house by mid morning. I got delayed on the trip down by the construction work on I-57, becoming an annual thing to deal with, must have something to do with job security…but really becoming an aggravation for many more than me, I am sure. Doubt if they will ever get that area between Marion and Mount Vernon completed, sad situation for all of us that travel in that direction. Walter gave me an alternate route in case I ever need it for that stretch of roadway for future reference. 

Onyx and I rolled in there about 10:45 am on Friday morning, August 30th and Walter came out shortly after I arrived. I was looking at the flats of gorgeous stuff they had located for me to look through…

…quickly finding out they had found some nice pieces with big cubes and even more surprising, they got into a pocket of lead, with purple fluorite squeezed in between the lead like grape jelly !! 

I stayed long enough that Gary came home with a few more pieces and we had a good visit, and I bought a few nice yard rocks this time around as well. I purchased quite a few of those grape jelly and lead pieces too, they were NEAT !! Onyx and I got back on the road by noon and soon after, crossed the Ohio River and headed south to Princeton, to pick up some food and access the Western Kentucky Parkway. The only bad thing about this drive across Kentucky, is that it`s at least a 3 hour drive from there and you lose an hour going into the eastern time zone.

Luckily traffic was very light going east and we were able to make good time, but by the time I was about an hour out of Harrodsburg, I received a call from my buddy Jim Bartle, the editor for my local newspaper that I shoot for occasionally…he asked if I was still home or in Kentucky. I let him know I was in the heart of Kentucky and he said that a small tornado had just gone through my hometown, trees were down over on my side of town, and golf ball sized hail had fallen as well across town…he was looking for a photographer to respond to some of those calls and told me the Fire Department was responding to multiple calls as well. I called my neighbors Glenn and Dianne, who live across the street from me, and they told me my two trees were still standing, the one in the front yard is one of the tallest trees up and down my street, if not the tallest..prob around 75 yoa too and very big around at the base. Dianne was at the local grocer when it started hailing, she confirmed the size of the hail and said it lasted 45 minutes. She did say other trees up our street a few blocks away, were down as well and fire trucks were going everywhere. They walked over to check for hail damage to my sunroom, texted me back later to let me know they saw no damage to my house or sunroom. I worry because a hail storm a few yrs ago shredded the lexan plastic panelled roof of my sunroom…it too was golf ball sized hail. The saving grace of this storm, was that it came in from the north, not the southwest as the bad storms normally come from.

Onyx and I rolled into Harrodsburg about 5 pm, stopping at the Baymont Inn to check in and get settled in…have to say the staff there this year were much friendlier and nicer to deal with from our arrival to our departure. Last year was so bad that I had to contact Wyndham Hotels to lodge a complaint against the owner there, in order to get things resolved and money back on a night not spent there, was told this year that the hotel was under new management and many things there were much better…one of the nicer conditions there besides the clean rooms, great design and decorations, is the soundproof rooms there…you don`t even hear doors opening and closing next door to your room, or any noise for that matter, inside or outside the hotel. Great place to stay at !!  I checked in with Slade Harvin, to make sure supper was going to be at 6 pm at the Bright Leaf Hotel Restaurant and then headed that way soon after getting Onyx settled in. 

Slade is the President this year of the Catawba Valley Gem and Mineral Club, the hosting club for this trip…they graciously allowed me to join their club a couple of years ago after I was able to get them access to the local quarry to collect at, and they have allowed my group to join me on this trip the last few years as well. Slade and two other members of their club, are in my group as well. A couple of clubs from New York State have joined us on this trip as well. One of the highlights this year is that the Russell brothers were going to be there again, all three very passionate about rockhounding, safety, knowledge, and experience, and great people to hang with as well !! 

Most of the members were staying at the Bright Leaf Resort Golf Course Hotel, about a mile south of Harrodsburg on Hwy 127, which also has a buffet style restaurant that has great food and service, so we take our breakfast and dinner there daily while there. I walked in to find several members on the far side of the dining room at a table that extends the entire width of the dining hall along the west bank of windows, always reserved for our group. They were already chowing down on the seafood buffet and I joined them very quickly. There were some new folks from New York there this time around and some from north Georgia as well. We had a great dinner and then went out to set up the annual first night of the Tailgate Swap and Sell Event….everyone brings crystals and minerals to sell or swap and it`s a great time to visit with everyone as well…lasts a couple of hours each night. During this time, John O and a few others arrived as well…think John ran into some road construction as well on his way down from northwest Illinois. Others who came in late had been rockhunting along the way, which explained their delays. I headed back to the Baymont around 10 pm, exhausted after the long day, and after taking care of Onyx, we were both asleep soon after…I didn`t even turn the tv on to check the news or weather.  We awoke to a beautiful morning and headed over to Bright Leaf Restaurant for breakfast shortly after 6 am…still dark that time of the day there, and soon after good food and fellowship, we waited in the parking lot to line up and the sun came up behind a big horse farm across the highway from the hotel…

I shot a few stills and then some video as well of the sun rising in the eastern skies…

Kentucky Central Trip 2019-0831 1st Video 039

…and while waiting for a few stragglers to arrive, one guy I had been talking to by email, that had found my website by searching for fluorites or geodes in Kentucky, and when I invited him to join us for the weekend, said he would drive down this morning from his home in Louisville. Dawson showed up a few minutes later and I introduced him to the group right before we shot a group photo….this first one I am taking the photo….

…and this next one, Dale Russell, front row kneeling on left side in orange shirt with silver stripes, graciously offered to shoot so I could be in the photo…

Incidentally, that is his brother David Russell, standing to my right in the yellow shirt and his younger brother Dean, kneeling next to me in the yellow shirt with silver stripes…Slade, kneeling on the other side of Dean in the blue shirt, is their adopted brother…or son…or something like that, lol. 🙂

Stephanie and her husband Kim arrived as well, they are from North Carolina as well and stayed with us all weekend…she also found me online as Dawson had done and I had been talking to her a while as well. We then loaded up, lined up, and took off to Danville, 8 miles south, to the Caldwell Quarry, to meet Clay, the Quarry Manager, at the gate. We arrived a few minutes before Clay did but we left the middle of the driveway open so he could reach the gate to open it for us. After signing the liability forms and a safety talk, and another group photo by the big beautiful boulder in front of the office…..

…one of his employees led us down into the quarry…

…to this area of the quarry, ground level, which is where we found most of the nice stuff we found last year and the year before that too…sometimes fossils can be found higher up but they are sporadic…

Kentucky Central Trip 2019-0831 2nd Video 061

…the basement level has a nice pond across part of it…that became a playground and go to spot for Onyx right off the bat…luckily for me, he found another cleaner body of water to wash off before he got back into my truck…

Soon everyone had spread out to three levels, one above ground level and the basement level and were actively searching for beautiful stuff…soon after that saws could be heard running and sawing as well as hammering and the musical tones of chisels and wedges…

…we truely could not have picked a prettier day to go rock collecting at the Caldwell Quarry, we had the whole morning to dig and hammer and saw and collect there…

…my buddy David Bruce, soon had his saw running…

Kentucky Central Trip 2019-0831 3rd Video 077

…he was cobbing down a small boulder that David Russell found with a vug of dogtooth calcite crystals inside…but a lot of heavy matrix included…

I looked across the ground level and found Dean Russell and Dawson up on pile of boulders looking at something special, so I walked over to take a look at the find by Dawson…

they were trying to figure out what it really was…I was as perplexed as they were…it looked like oil covering crystals…John later confirmed that is exactly what it was….oil on calcites….and completely natural too….

About 11:30 am…as we were wrapping up and getting ready to head out of the quarry, I came across Dale Russell who had found some nice plates of barites…gave me some…and some with calcites attached as well as what looked like Millerite hairs included…so I took some photos of his find that he really liked…

…he cut this from a huge boulder with his saw…keep that in mind…Patty Hermann came up and looked at it too while I was photographing it…

From the quarry, most of us headed to one of our favorite geode hunting locations south of Danville, took us about 30 minutes to get there, but it`s a cool creek in many ways, to hunt at. Last year they had a good heavy rainfall before we arrived, which helped to raise the water level and wash many big geodes out of the banks..this year was a dry and hot summer for them,not much rainfall, so even though we didn`t find as many nice big ones, we find some nice ones and it was a good side location for us as well. Most of us were there a few hours before heading back to our hotels to clean up and rest before dinner. 

…here is one of the nicer ones I found and cracked open…filled with sunshine quartz…my favorites in Kentucky….

After another good supper at the Bright Leaf, we returned to the parking lot and set up for the second night of the Tailgate Mineral Sales and Swap Event….

the photo above is John Oostenryk, a good buddy of mine from northwest Illinois, totally surrounded by folks interested in the gorgeous barites and calcites that he brings with him from the Linwood Quarry in Iowa, he is one of the dealers to buy from if you are as appreciative of their beauty and bedazzle as I am…he is one of those rare dealers that will always be honest with you on pricing and quality of material, the kind of dealer you hope you find each and every time. John is also quite knowledgeable about Iowa and Northwest/Western Illinois Minerals as well. He is one of those go to guys during Geode Fest, too.

After another good night, I headed back to the hotel about 9 pm, again exhausted, for another good night of rest. We were slated to  leave at 7 am in the morning, headed to Liter`s Quarry near Fort Knox…not for gold exploration, but more crystals and minerals found in vugs of boulders…it`s a two hour drive over there and we were scheduled to meet the Quarry Manager there at 9 am. Some of us went there last year and in four hours time, found some great stuff, were looking forward to a return trip with even more folks this time around. Breakfast came a little earlier on Sunday morning, and the sunrise was again, nothing short of beautiful….with a little fog thrown in for special effect….

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We arrived a little after 9 am, slowed down by some more road construction in the Elizabethtown area on local roads, and found the gate shut and locked, no one waiting for us. Unfortunately, the number I had for the Manager was his office number, not his cell number…I found out his address wasn`t located too far away, so Mary took me over to his house and I was able to leave a note on his wife`s suv in the driveway…after a couple of hours had passed, some of our folks decided to return to Harrodsburg and drive out to a road cut to look for goodies, not knowing how long it might take us to get in. Fortunately tho, we had some locals stop by that knew him and tried to contact him for us. Eventually someone with his cell number stopped and provided it to me, and I was able to reach him pretty fast…he thought we were coming on Monday morning,  but he drove right over and let us inside, then showed me three areas that they had been working heavily on, let us know the rules and turned us loose to look for the good stuff. We started in the first spot we were at last year…back then it was a small spot but they had expanded it to three times bigger than before….

…and everyone hit the boulder piles pretty quickly, finding a lot of good stuff…everyone telling me that the wait to get in was definitely worth it….I texted Harry to let him know we were inside the quarry, but never did hear back from him til much later in the evening. 

 

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In the photo above, on the next level up from that red suv on the left side, I found a seam of orange calcite in ball form, from golf ball size to pea sized…pretty tho, so brought a few home with me. Dawson found some purple fluorite on some rocks in a druse fashion, on one side of this pit. we weren`t sure if it had rolled down from the level above or out of a pocket above.

From this pit we went over to the large older pit that we found some great geodes in the walls at, last year…well as with the first pit, they had re-worked this older pit and it was hard to find the old walls we had seen last year…maybe 100 feet of it remained and it was empty of goodies, so we spread out and searched the boulder piles and let me tell ya, no one left there unhappy at all…

It didn`t take my buddy David Bruce very long to find some suitable boulders to cob down with his saw…after looking around myself, I could see why, many of them were loaded with vugs full of gorgeous crystals…many of them pink dolomites with bright yellow calcite crystals inside them, some with sphalerites inside the crystals…great stuff for us rockhounds…

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here are some of the vugs I saw in boulders as I was walking around…

…and in this photo below…Don is the guy waving to me on the right, he is a good friend of the Russell brothers and in the same club in New York with Dale Russell…he is waving at me here to get Dean, on the left, to look at me.  good job Don !! 🙂

I found a nice yellow calcite vug in a boulder and pointed it out to Dale….

….he liked it so much he decided to see if he could pop it out with his hammer and chisels instead of his saw since he was pretty tired…

…unfortunately he hit his thumb with his hammer and had to take a little break, but he did finally liberate it and was happy with it…

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In the meantime, Mary from Ohio, had driven over to join us for the day and she wasted no time in finding a few buckets worth of crystals from the other side of that quarry pit….

…here is one I found under a couple of boulders, David Bruce was able to help me liberate it so I could bring it home….

Dorsey, the Quarry Manager, let us know we were welcome to return the next day if we wanted to so we drove back the next morning for a few hours again…some like John O had to head home right then and there, as did Mary and others headed back to Harrodsburg sooner than the rest of us did. We did so well, we stayed til 7 pm and then after I gave Dorsey a few dozen winter socks for his work crew, which he told me that his people really appreciated, I led Slade, Dean, and David Bruce back to Harrodsburg, we got in around 9 pm and drove down to Cheddars at Danville for dinner. 

After breakfast at Mc Donalds in Harrodsburg, a few of us did make the trip back on Monday morning to give it another shot…Stephie and Kim were part of the crew that returned that morning so they met us at the gate, as did Dawson and his girlfriend, joining Slade, Dean, David Bruce, and Onyx and I.

I only took a few photos on Monday morning…here you see Slade and Dean going back to the boulder pile we were working in Sunday evening…a pile we had been directed to by one of the New Yorkers and his son who were finding a lot of great vugs in the boulders there…

….we found more boulders with vugs of pink dolomite and yellow calcite crystals nestled in the pink dolomite crystals and went to work on extracting those vugs…I looked around for corner vugs that I could chisel off or loose ones around and under those boulders….found quite a few actually and with help from Slade and David Bruce, was able to take quite a few home with me, like these…I looked up about an hour in and spotted David Bruce walking around another boulder pile next to the one we were working, turns out he was shopping for more vug laced boulders to work over with his saw…

 

…a couple of my finds included the pink dolomites, yellow calcites, and some purple fluorite druse that we were finding alot of this morning…beautiful stuff up close….

I also found a medium sized chunk of limestone with a nice calcite rectangular shaped crystal in a bed of pink dolomite crystals…Slade kindly came over and used his saw to knock some of the weight off for me…

After a few hours, we all headed for home…Dean and Slade returning to Harrodsburg and then traveling south through Danville, with instructions to stop off at the roadcut and use their saws to extract some nice plates that Harry found there on Sunday afternoon. Onyx and I decided to drive south to Leitchfield and then take the Blue Grass Parkway and Western Kentucky Parkway back to I-24 and then on home through Southern Illinois, pretty much the same route we took down there. We were doing just fine, til we got within ten miles of I-57 and then northbound I-24 traffic came to a stop…we crawled along sporadically moving, took us an hour and 45 minutes to cover those ten miles, then found out there was an accident 2 miles north of the 24/57 interchange that had traffic backed up not only on I-24 but I-57 as well…I decided to go south on I-57 and exited on Hwy 146 west to Anna, Illinois and then over to Cape Girardeau, where after filling the fuel tank and hitting McDonald`s for some food, we headed north on I-55 and home by 10:30 pm. Only later did I find out it was a semi driver that struck the columns of the Hwy 148 Overpass, but refused medical treatment at the scene, and for whatever reason, Illinois State Police could not figure out how to move two lanes of traffic past a non-injury accident…plus Illinois`s DOT does not have messageboards along their interstates like MODOT does, to let you know of traffic backups like that so one can take an alternate route wayyyyy before they even get close to something like that. Guess that makes too much sense.

Other than that, had another great trip with good friends, good food, and great rock and mineral finds. Next week is Geode Fest in Hamilton, Illinois, across the river from Keokuk, Iowa and a few of my friends will be up there next weekend with me as well.  🙂