Guided Druse and Poker Chip Hunt

Last weekend, a friend of mine came up from the Atlanta area after arranging with me in March, to take him and a couple of his friends to some good locations to find druse quartz and poker chip calcite crystals. They definitely wanted to go to MFQ and they wanted to find some druse quartz in varying sizes, so I took them to two different locations for the druse and we spent all day Saturday at MFQ. We had a few days of wet weather before they arrived and all the creeks and rivers were way up when they arrived Thursday evening. They were thinking of visiting Peck Ranch to see the elk herd being restored by the Conservation Department of Missouri, however they were not traveling in four wheel drive vehicles, so I suggested they avoid that area, as the roads there crossed several low water bridges and could be flooded easily. As it was, a good buddy of mine who works for the Conservation Department, advised me that the area was closed because additional elk were being brought in to add to the herd. 

I had to work Thursday night all night, came home about 8 am and got a four hour nap, then took Missy to get beautified and arranged with my parents to pick her up afterward, and then I headed south to take them to a great druse quartz spot nearby. I pulled into the meeting spot and found Chet in his cargo van, sitting next to Don and David, in their smaller passenger van. After introductions and some small talk, we drove on out to the druse spot…..

01 Friday 19th Druse Spot

We started finding druse quartz all over the place, with the aid of beautiful sunlight…it had been a few days since we had seen sunlight, and while it was a bit cool on Friday, the sunlight made it feel alot warmer and was a welcome sight. Granted, we needed the rainfall, but five inches in a day or two is a bit much in my book. As a result, I had warned these guys to bring boots and expect to get muddy, and so they did. I have been to this spot before when every step you took, you added four pounds of mud to your boots, and eventually it becomes a workout just to walk around there, let alone pick up quartz clusters. 

I started out helping Chet, Don and David find some pretty areas of smokey colored druse and citrine colored druse, and then began looking around for a few pieces myself. Pretty soon they were immersed in a few gullies…..

02 Don Searches for Druse


03 Don Examines Druse

….and I was walking all over the hillside spotting some bigger clusters for them and pointing them out when I did find one. This is a great place to visit after a good hard rain, cause most of these pretties just erode and wash out of the clay dirt….

06 Don & Dave Searching

We only had access to about half of the area as there was some work being done and we didn`t want to intrude or get in the way….

07 Chunk of Druse in Clay Mud


08 Box of Plates Found


I found some beautiful seams of smokey colored quartz here and there all over the place, here is one below….

09 Seam of Smokies


…and then I walked upon a chunk of bubbles that had eroded right of out of the clay dirt….

10 Bubble Chunk Found


…pretty soon, I came upon David with his head down and burrowing uphill in a gully, looking for druse and finding it all up and down it….

11 Dave Examines Druse


12 Dave Follows Smokey Seam


he was following a seam of smokey colored druse in that gully….

13 Smokey Seam


14 Smokey Seam


I also found some pretty white druse plates laying around all over the place as well….

15 White Druse Plate Found

These guys had brought me some beautiful quartz crystal plates from Diamond Hill Mine in South Carolina, close to Atlanta, and I was so busy since last weekend, that I didn`t get a chance to unwrap them til today. There was also a very beautiful cluster of smokey amethyst and a nice small plate of smokey quartz crystals as well….

34 Smokey Amethyst from Diamond Hill


By the time 5 pm rolled around, I was wearing down pretty fast…the hill at this location isn`t all that big, but after walking up and down it several times and carrying bags of crystals back to the truck a few times, my four hour nap after a fourteen hour shift the night before, was soon catching up with me. By 5:30 pm, I was headed out of there and back to the house, stopping off at my parents house to pick up Missy and then heading home to get some supper and then to bed. I stayed up just long enough to catch up on emails and then hit the hay, as I was getting up early to meet Don and David at MFQ the next morning.

After dropping off Missy with my parents once again, I was on the road headed to MFQ a little after 6 am, stopping off to get some donuts and then back on the road. I made good time, running into very little other traffic and all the way down, kept seeing several squirrels and chipmunks on the pavement around every turn and over every hill. I had a good sized gobbler run out in front of me as I started down a hill…I had passed several turkey hunters on the way down, most of them were warming up in their trucks when I passed by….it was pretty cool that morning and still a bit damp wind blowing as well…. I can remember a few cold turkey hunts myself. The closer I got to the quarry, it seemed like the squirrels on the road just multiplied greatly…it was like driving an obstacle course at times, luckily I didn`t hit any of them, although a few of them were not moving very fast and I held my breath a few times. 

I drove down the last hill on approach to the quarry entrance and spotted David walking the ditchline and as I pulled into the entrance, spotted Don outside their van pulling on his boots. David walked over and said he was looking for old bottles, another of his hobbies. We drove on down to the first bluff area and parked and I pointed out the area that Ian and I had worked for pockets of poker chip crystals with dolomite druse clusters, and they grabbed their tools and wasted no time in attacking the rocks….

17 Em Q Sat Working Small Bluff


Don decided it would be safer to work the point without that large overhang of rock above him so he first started working on bringing it down with his prybars….


18 Dave & Don Look For Pockets

19 Don Knocks Off Big Rock

It was apparent that the rains down there had been hot and heavy as well, due to the way the clay dirt had washed down over the rocky bluff there. I helped them look for some possible pocket areas, before driving on over to the newer area where the rock has been more actively worked lately….

20 Blast Pile Dwindles

I no sooner pulled up at the more recent spot, and stepped out, when I started spotting some beautiful dark grey and chocolate colored poker chips  laying all over the floor of the quarry at the base of the sloped rock pile…..

21 Blast Pile Dwindles


22 Blast Pile Dwindles

….and pretty soon, I had the entire tailgate of my pickup covered with them…..

23 My Finds So Far


24 Dark Grey or Black Poker Chips

I grabbed my mini mattox and a couple of bags and walked down the small pile of rocks at the very base of the pile along the floor and continued finding some great crystals and even a few clusters, including a couple of green ones….

25 Poker Chip Cluster


26 Smaller Poker Chips Found

I decided to stay there and see if I could find some pockets for Don and David when they decided to amble over and work it. I followed a couple of trails of crystals that had rolled down from above, way up above even, and dug a few out of some loose roll down material from above as well. I spotted a couple of potential pockets in the walls and made a mental note to point them out to Dr Destructo Don when he arrived later in the day…Chet arrived about an hour later and after visiting with Don and David at the smaller bluff area, drove over to see what I was finding as well. He liked the color of the crystals in the fresher area and then drove back to the smaller bluff to work with David, trading places with Don, who came over to work the fresher area with me….

29 Dave Searches for Pockets

I pointed out the mentally marked pockets and he went right to work with his bar, knocking down the loose stuff and working on the more confined stuff, to find pocket openings and soon found some nice clusters…..

27 Don Prepares to Work Left Wall


28 Don Finds Cluster Fast

I stopped to take a break and get another donut down, having worked off the other two already. As I was standing there watching Don work up on a shelf, my buddy, Jim Bay, pulled up in his pretty blue Dodge pickup, to see how we were doing with the rocks and see what we were finding so far. His girlfriend was with him and she was amazed at how we were working the rocks and what we were finding there. You cant see the pretty stuff from the highway when you pass by, so most people prob have no clue what type of pretty rock is actually there with the plain looking rock and stone that you generally see. They had been out turkey hunting early morning and then napped a bit before driving down to check on us. I had called him about an hour before that. After a bit, they headed on into town and we continued to break down the rocks and find some pockets. Don did a good job of pacing himself while I did a good job of wearing myself out. David ambled over while taking a break, took one look at the height of the walls and decided to go back to the small bluff area to work the pockets there…..

30 Dave Searches for Pockets

Don and I continued to work the fresher area for a couple more hours before I wore out….I wandered up to the top of the pile and looked around, but couldn`t locate any newer stuff…I did spot a couple of large poker chip crystals cradled up high on the wall, but impossible to get to…I commented to Don if we only had a long pole with a metal catch on the end like they used on light bulbs in gymnasiums, we could prob dislodge those crystals but then would need a large basket to catch them in with lots of padding in the bottom….Don wanted a rapelling rope. I headed home soon after legs were sore as could be and I was exhausted as well. It was decided to meet at Viburnum on Sunday morning and travel out to a second druse location where larger druse pieces could be found.

Sunday morning, Missy went with me and we headed down the road about 8 am, arriving in Viburnum at the Casey`s Store just ahead of David, Don, and Chet…and after they filled their fuel tanks, we drove north out of town to the other druse spot. I stuck around about an hour and showed them a few different areas there to check out, before heading home to help my parents with some more storm damage work. I heard from them later on, they had found several nice large pieces of druse and then returned to MFQ, discovering a pocket that they wanted to check out, had already been cleaned out that morning by someone else. All in all, I believe they had a good trip up here and found alot of nice material. I found some nice material, made two new rockhunting friends, and got some more beautiful Diamond Hill specimens as well…a very good weekend….

if you have any questions or wanna say hi, give me a shout at

Rockhounding With Ian Merkel

One of my good rockhounding friends from Colorado, Ian Merkel, flew into St Louis last week to do some rockhounding in Missouri this weekend. Docia and I set up a couple of locations to take him to on Saturday and Sunday, and he had set up his schedule all day Friday to do some collecting half a mile deep in one of the Doe Run Mines near Viburnum.

I was at work when he flew into St Louis and soon after he let me know that he had reached Sullivan and would spending the night there in one of our motels, before heading to the Casteel Mine the next morning to meet up with some of his mining friends there. I arranged to have Docia meet him in Eminence on Saturday morning and take him to the quarry there, where we would spend much of the day looking for pockets of poker chip crystals and dolomite druse. 

Missy and I got up early Saturday morning and cruised down through Viburnum and Reynolds County countryside to Eminence listening to one of my favorite Colorado musicians, John Denver…..I had told Ian I would be coming in the back way and Docia could more easily meet him and guide him to the quarry since she travels down Hwy 19, which was the route he would be driving down as well. As I pulled into the quarry entrance on the east side of Eminence about 10 am, I spotted Docia`s blazer and Ian`s rental suv down below by the gravel piles….I pulled up next to them with the lyrics of Rocky Mountain High coming from my stereo speakers.

Ian was showing Docia what he had been able to collect in some pockets of goodie minerals deep down in the Casteel Mine the day before…..he had some pretty chacopyrite and lead cubes, but was ready now to take on some serious digging at one of the best locations in Missouri for poker chip crystals and dolomite druse. We all changed into our boots and grabbed our tools and bags, and headed over to one of the original bluff areas that is usually choked full of pockets…where Ian and I started in on the point of the bluff….

01 Ian Works Entrance Bluff


…and immediately we began seeing evidence of crystals and dolomite and calcite druse all over the bluff, next to a spot that I had been working on when I was there just a few weeks prior. It was obvious to both of us that we would need to knock some overhanging rocks down first, in order to make things safer, so we began clearing off the top layers and then the bottom layers, which were peeling off like the pages of a book. Soon we had a big pile of rocks below us and we began searching for pockets a bit more, and finding many soon enough….

03 Looks For Pockets


…within seconds, Ian was reaching into a pocket to explore a bit more carefully….

04 Reaching Inside Pocket


…and found a few loose ones right off the bat….

05 Found A Pocket

06 Pocket of Poker Chips

07 Examing A Crystal

…he started pulling some large clusters out soon after, but he wasnt able to take them home, they would take up too much room in the two medium sized suitcases he had for the flight home, so he gave me the bigger ones…I backed my truck up so I didnt have to carry them as far…

08 Backed Up to Load Big Ones

 …when I returned to the bluff, I found that he had pulled away some of the covering matrix and discovered yet another pocket off to the left of the original pocket found…

09 Ian Points Out Another Pocket

…and pretty soon, yet another pocket was located…

10 And yet Another Pocket

…and soon it was one pocket after another in this area of the bluff. We soon found ourselves having to carefully remove some of the covering plates of matrix to access more pockets…..

12 Carefully Removing Coverplate

…he was careful to use his screwdriver and small prybar to pull this one back to reveal….

13 Carefully Pulling It Away

….a nice cluster….now I had a very happy Ian on my hands….

14 Ian is a Happy Camper

…by this time we discovered that Docia was no longer right around the corner of the bluff from us…she had wandered over to the new blast area, so we picked up our goodies and tools and headed over to join her….finding her talking to a couple from West Plains that were looking for crystals as well…David and his mom,

15 New Blast Area

…if you look real close at the photo above, you can see a green dot at the top of that pile just left of center…thats Ian at the top of the pile looking for pockets…I had already filled two bags and came down for more bags and wrapping cloths when I took this photo and the two below….

16 Ian At Top of New Blast Area

17 Ian At Top of New Blast Area

…and this next photo will give you a better perspective as well…

18 Better Perspective

…I didnt take my camera up there with me as the footing walking up can be a little dicey sometimes, but I can safely tell you that we found four pockets that were absolutely filled with poker chips and dolomite druse….in fact, there are ten times more dolomite druse pockets than poker chip pockets up there, but both are pretty and Ian liked both of them as much as I do. I was working a pocket about five feet left of Ian, and it was much easier to reach inside and then around to the back of the pocket to pull crystals and clusters out of it, as the face was almost solid in matrix rock. Meanwhile, Ian was still finding larger clusters than he could manage, so he was handing a few off to me or placing them in my bags.

I walked my last two bags back down the pile to the bottom once again, going back to the truck for yet another bag, and Ian came down the pile along the wall, stopping at the bottom corner where there were several small openings of pockets that David described as woodpecker holes. Ian started exploring one of the small openings and all of a sudden, started ooohhing and aahhing so much, that I moved a little faster to get back up there…no easy feat cause you have to climb up an unstable gravel slide area ten feet high and then pull yourself on up the last three feet, with little to latch on to for solid support…cause nothing is solid there and rooted down.  When I did finally get back up there, Ian was holding a couple of small plates of dolomite and calcite druse covered with orange dogtooth crystals….hence the reason for the oohhs and ahhs…

So we worked on those pockets for about thirty minutes more and then decided to go up above and see what we could find on the upper benches. I had never been up to the bench right above the new blast area yet, but wanted to, so we left David with the woodpecker holes and went up to there to see what could be found. This time I forgot my camera in the truck but Ian had his with him and snapped a couple photos of me working my pocket to the left of his…

Me Holding Up a Just Found Crystal

….his being a pocket of beautiful green poker chip crystals and clusters…one of them so big that Ian  couldnt pack it in either suitcase, so he left it with me…here it is in the bed of my truck….

22 Big Green Poker Chip Ian Found Above

…well we worked that pocket for at least forty minutes and cleaned it out as best we could…the crystals in it were covered in a heavy oooey gooey red clay and limonite matrix, so it was a bit more difficult to work in getting the crystals out, not many of them coming out cleanly…I found a pocket off to the side that appeared to tie in with his pocket, but eventually ran out of steam and crystals.  We packed up and headed back down to the new blast area, to see if Docia was ready to head out…we were going to visit a mutual friend who has some beautiful Doe Run Mine specimens that he sells on the side…we have purchased beautiful specimens from him before and thought we would see what he had left.

Docia decided to get some information from David and his mom before we headed out, so Ian and I took another look at the area where Docia was collecting as we pulled back up. Ian immediately found yet another pocket, within a few feet of where Docia had been working and finding some dogtooth crystals, and I went up a crevice to the left and spotted a pocket about three feet higher up…

18A Crevice of Pockets

…where I spotted a beautiful  large poker chip in a very dark gray or black color, attached to the pocket wall…one side appeared to be loose, so with the help of Ian`s smaller prybar, I was able to wiggle it loose from its attachment…it split into two pieces, but I was able to recover all the key players and was quite happy with the way it looks….

20 Two Blk Poker Chips I Found

…the one on the right much darker of the two….

21 Darker Of The Two

…and probably the darkest colored crystals I have ever found here…found the chocolate colored crystals a few months back there, but never a dark enough gray to be considered black, that I can recall. In the meantime, Ian was trying to cobb down a cluster he found in one of the pockets so he could get it into his suitcase….

19 Ian Cobbs Down One

…and he wound up getting a few nice smaller pieces from it….

24 Ian Very Happy

…and here he is looking at yet another cluster….

25 Ian Examines a Cluster

…we left shortly after and drove north through the beautiful Reynolds County countryside and visited with David, our Doe Run mineral dealer friend, for about an hour, before heading home for the night, darkness overtaking us soon after we left. After a good dinner at Cracker Barrel and a little bit of tv, we retired for the night, in anticipation of another long day on Sunday.

We intended to get up about 5:30 am Sunday, but my internal clock went off earlier, so then we had to wait an hour for Cracker Barrel to open, cause that`s where Ian wanted to go for breakfast. I emailed Docia that we would arrive at the Secret Spot between 7:30 and 8 am, and we drove over to Cracker Barrel after Ian loaded up his tools and backpack in my truck.

After a great breakfast, we took off and as we were driving along, we spotted this large sun off to the east…found out he and I both like sunrises like this, with the sun looking larger than life, and so I pulled over and we both photographed it…

01 Sunrise Sunday Morning

03 Sunrise Big Sun

…and then drove on south….arriving about 7:35 am…no Docia in sight…and found half the blast pile removed on the left side…providing us more wall to inspect for pockets…..

06 New Look

…Ian was so excited, he was ready to go before I was…I had to change from my street shoes to my boots, then grab a bag and some tools, my trusty mattox for one thing…..I`m lacing up my boots and he is hollering at me…where`s that pocket at….so I told him and he heads that way and pretty soon I am too…..he was like a kid with a chocolate addiction in a candy store, lol…….and pretty soon he was digging away at a potential pocket on the wall….

07 Ian Working a Pocket

….he didnt like the looks of the pocket I had left him, like me, he thought the crystals on the back wall were too difficult to remove, and the pocket Docia had worked last week, looked cleaned out, so he started tackling this potential pocket above. I moved on down the wall to his right, about fifteen feet, and dug into a potentially looking pocket….

08 Ian Working a Pocket

09 Ian Works a Pocket

…pretty soon it was apparent that he had found some crystals and might just have a working pocket….

11 Ian Found One to Right

…while mine was def looking like it had some nice specimens inside…I would have to dig them out, but was already spotting orange dogtooth crystal points inside….

12 Pocket I Found to Right of Ian

13 My Pocket Up Closer

Ian took a break from his pocket and decided to look and see if he could find another pocket near mine…

14 Ian Searching Area to My Right


…so he decided to check behind this chunk of rock ledge and then decided it would be much safer to knock it down…

15 Ian Makes Things Safer

…so while I was continuing to work on my pocket, he knocked the ledge and overhang down…

16 Ian Makes Things Safer

…and while he didnt find anything here…..he did locate a pocket on the east wall  that turned out to be quite nice and productive for him. In the meantime, I was still pulling druse plates and crytals out of my pocket and making my way further back inside it…

18 Progress of My Pocket

…and here is the pocket that Ian located on the east wall…he let out a big whoop and I looked over to see him pulling a very big single poker chip crystal out of the pocket, here you see it against the wall at the end of his prybar…

19 New Crystal Ian Found

…and the pocket behind it…

20 New Pocket Ian Found

Ian was actually taking these two photos and then turned around and photographed me working on my pocket…

21 Me Working a Pocket

…something you dont see very often…lol…

22 Me Working a Pocket

23 Me Working a Pocket

…and looking inside…here is what he saw when he shot this one….

24 Working My Way Back into Pocket

…and here is a combo I pulled out of there while he was photographing me…

25 Combo Found in Pocket

…and here is Docia who was checking out some pockets near me as well…

26 Docia Checks Out Crystals

…by this time I had filled three bags full of crystals and I was ready to look elsewhere and take a break, so Ian asked if he could check out my pocket and I told him to knock himself out. He had to stack up some rocks to get up to it and the next time I looked over there, here is all I could see of him….

27 Ian Crawls Into Pocket

…and actually had some good luck inside after crawling nearly halfway inside it. He pulled a plate down from the top and all of a sudden…crystals started raining down on him from another pocket above…he said it was like activating a slot machine full of chips or coins. After working it and filling up a bag, he decided to walk over to the south wall and see what Docia was finding over there…I was still resting up and I looked up the slope to see them both working a pocket near the top….

28 Docia and Ian Work South Wall

…I walked over to the west wall to see if I could find some druse plates, cause Ian had mentioned he would like to take some druse home with him as well and we werent going to have time to run over to the new druse spot. I walked over and began looking down at the base of the wall, as they normally fall from the clay dirt above the rock wall and land at the base…when the sun came out from behind the clouds, and made them glitter, I was able to spot and pick them up….here are a few I found over there….

29 Druse Plates I Found

30 Druse Plate

31 Druse Plate

and here are a couple of cluster combos we found while there as well….

32 Poker Chip Clusters

Ian and I took off about 1 pm so Ian could get cleaned up and get the specimens wrapped up and packed away in his suitcases before heading for the airport…

33 Ian Wraps Up his Crystals

34 Ian Happily Wraps Up Crystals

…the photo above shows a happy but tired Ian, packing his goodies away in his suitcases before heading home...he had to leave a few of them with me cause they were too big or heavy….he took one with his camera of us and here it is…

35 Rockhunting Buddies

…had a great time taking him hunting here in Missouri and glad that he made it home safe and sound !!