Arkansas Fall Trip 2015

After weeks of planning and researching many locations for quartz crystals that I had not been to before, including talking to many former mine owners in the Mt Ida area by email and gathering information on past and present sites, my vacation finally began on Monday morning November 9th. After packing all day, Onyx and I got up early on Tuesday morning and headed to the great state of Arkansas, home of Arkansas Quartz Crystals. I had a call the night before, my buddy Jim letting me know that another blast would take place at the quarry in Eminence later that week, but as I told him I would be gone all week, so I did the next best thing, let some of my rockhunting friends know in case they might want to make the drive down to check things out. I had taken new rockhunting friend Chuck Reed down there the weekend before and we found several bags full of crystals in the blast pile that day, even brought a few yard rocks home with me and he had a great time as well. I wasn`t able to take any photos that day due to a dead battery in my camera.

Onxy and I arrived at Fort Smith a little after 10 am and I texted my buddy Adam Lageveen, who lives in Sallisaw, about 20 min west of there, to let him know I was close…he texted back that it was a great time to come by and visit so we continued west on Hwy 40. Adam had some more quartz crystals in his collection that he wanted to get rid of so he could make more room for his collection of Native American arrowheads and knives…Adam creates them from various minerals that Native Americans used long ago…novaculite, obsidian in many colors, chert, quartz, and glass…and he is quite talented with it as well. He had put some of his quartz aside for me to look thru and had some smokies for me as well.

We visited for about an hour and then Onyx and I headed on south toward Hot Springs, where we would be staying in a condo on Lake Hamilton for the next five days. We arrived around 3:30 pm and after getting unpacked, we stepped outside to shoot the sunset over the lake…

01 Sunset Tues Night03 Sunset Tues Night05 Sunset Tues Night

I received a call from Ray Roth, who had driven up there from New Orleans the day before, and we decided to meet at Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper. I had ate there back in July when I was there last and found it to have the best buffet I had experienced, great food including Chinese and American cuisines both. Like I told Ray tho, I was not there for the sushi, and as it turned out, he wasn`t either. We had a great meal there and talked about our plans on where to hunt the next few days, and I told him that we would be joined by good rockhunting friend Virgil Richards from Tulsa, and a friend of his as well, on Thursday morning. I drove over to the homemade ice cream shop called Scoops, and found them closed already at 8 pm…I was shocked, but found out later they were now operating under their winter time hours, decided to catch them the next day hopefully.

After a good breakfast of hotcakes and sausage at Mikky D`s the next morning, Onyx and I drove over to the Valero Station by the 270 Bypass, where Ray filled up his gas tank and I got a bag of ice for my cooler, and then we headed west toward Mt Ida, destination Twin Creek Mine. We arrived shortly after 9 am and after paying hostess Lisa our dig fees, we began digging along the wall hoping to find a pocket of crystals.

07 Twin Creek Mine Wed Morning08 Twin Creek Mine We R the Only Ones There

This mine is owned by a couple in Switzerland and leased out to Dixie and Bobby Fecho…Bobby used to operate the mine at Bear Mountain when his parents owned it a few years back, another good mine that produced some nice crystals in all shapes and sizes…it`s now privately owned and operated commercially. When we arrived we saw that Bobby had his trackhoe sitting partially in the public dig area and it appeared that he had dug into a sandstone rock area and may have hit a pocket or two there. About an hour after we started digging, Bobby showed up and confirmed that he had indeed found a few pockets of nice crystals in that sandstone area. I told him that Ray and I were interested in digging in a confirmed pocket area if possible, so he took me to a couple of pockets previously dug out and showed me both locations, one near the entrance that had several pockets and crystals very visible in the walls, and one at the top of the hill above the public dig area, where I could see some large crystal points laying all over a cleared area as well as crystals attached to the walls and one large point sticking out of the base of one wall, at least three pockets were visible and Bobby pointed out three other potential pockets while we were standing there in the rain. There was also a large yard rock in the middle of the cleared area that had large points sticking out of the top of it…needless to say I was drooling just standing there taking it all in.  Bobby explained the process and cost of getting into each area. I told him there would be four of us but we wouldn`t be able to come back til Friday or Saturday morning. He said he would hold the pockets for us. Soon after we returned to the public dig area, it began pouring rain…I stayed along the wall for about 30 min, then got under the tarp that Lisa had put up as a rain shelter…Ray got back into his suv…I had put Onyx into my truck as he became soaked soon after and I didn`t want him to become a mud ball. I dried him off a bit before putting him in there with the fan on so he would dry out as well. Soon after the rain slacked off, and Ray and I returned to the tailing piles…this went on back and forth til about 2 pm, when he and I decided we had had enough. We drove back to Hot Springs and decided to meet at the Hibachi Buffet again that evening for another great supper. After stopping off at Scoops and picking up some home made ice cream, Onyx and I returned to the condo….it was apparent that the rain had set in for the day, which had been forecast, so we just sat it out inside the condo, which has a great view over Lake Hamilton, watching one storm after another roll across the lake. 

09 Storms Roll Across Lake Hamilton10 Storms Roll Across Lake Hamilton

Despite heavy rains and storms passing through, there was no dangerous lightning and as the storms cleared the lake by 5 pm, the skies cleared to reveal a beautiful setting sun…

11 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite15 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite17 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite18 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite19 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite22 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite23 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm26 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm25 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm28 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm31 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm37 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm

At supper that evening, I told Ray we would need to be on the road toward Mt Ida by 7:45 am the next morning, as we needed to meet up with Virgil and his friend on the west side of Mt Ida and then drive on out to the privately owned Southfork Mine where we would be digging all day at. After a pretty sunrise and another good breakfast…..

44 Sunrise Thurs Morning48 Sunrise Thurs Morning


…..we got on the road on time and luckily didn`t hit much traffic, stopping off at the Phillips 66 in Mt Ida so I could fill my gas tank. I had heard from Virgil prior to leaving Hot Springs and he said he was at Waldron, an hour from Mt Ida. Shortly after we arrived at the intersection of Hwy 270 and 27 North, Virgil was just a few miles away and we headed to the mine to meet up with owner Tony Thacker. I had contacted Tony several weeks prior and let him know that we were interested in digging at his mine, which he said would be fine with him, letting me know that the tailings there had not been touched by anyone in over a year, so I figured they would be prime for finding crystals in. We arrived a few minutes before he did and waited for him at the gated entrance at the foot of the hill. Virgil introduced his friend Doug Cunningham to Ray and I, and after a few minutes of explaining the history of this mine to them, Tony soon arrived in his Toyota pickup and introduced us to his red heeler dog. 

After a bit of small talk, we headed on up the road to the mine, after crossing a creek and driving thru a few mudholes…

70 Road Up

68 Road Up69 Road Up

…..I didn`t know how Ray would do, since he drives a Jeep suv with front wheel drive only, Virgil and I both drive Toyota pickups with four wheel drive, but I looked back a few times and saw Ray gunning thru the mudholes just fine….they felt like solid bottom holes to me. In the middle photo above, we came upon that tree across the road, and Tony had to pull it back out of the way with his chain hooked to the tow hook on the front of his pickup…he said it appeared to have come down the night before when they had some wind with the rain. Luckily that was the only obstruction in the road going up, soon we were at the top with a great view not only of the mine, but the surrounding area as well….

52 Leatherhead Mine

….and after each one of us paid Tony our dig fee, we grabbed our tools, buckets, bags, and gloves and headed out in different directions to find quartz crystals, and let me tell you, they were laying all over the place. Tony decided to fire up his trackhoe and walk it down to the lower area and stir up the tailing piles for us. 

49 Ray Bundled Up & Collecting Leatherhead Mine50 Tony Gets His Trackhoe Turned Around51 Virgil Checks Out The Wall at Leatherhead53 Tony Headed to Tailing Piles

Ray and Doug and I worked on some plates and pockets on the old wall below where we parked, and found some nice stuff there, I hit a couple of old pockets and came away with about ten nice plates and some nice clear crystal points, giving a few to Doug and Ray. Doug and Ray had found some nice crystals just walking around the slope below where we parked initially as well, and there were yard rocks laying all over the place as well. After the first hour we all took a break and then decided to drive down to the piles and check them to see what Tony was stirring up. 

56 Upper End of Leatherhead Mine54 Tailing Piles at Leatherhead Mine55 Doug & Virgil Look For Crystals

We no sooner walked up into the piles and we started seeing crystals laying all over the place. Here is a yard rock I found, that had yellow golden healer crystals attached to the base of it…Doug look a liking to it so I let him have it….

61 Crystals At Base of Yard Rock59 Crystals At Base of Yard Rock60 Crystals At Base of Yard Rock

…and here is one of the nicer crystal clusters I found up in the wall pockets….

64 Nice Cluster Found


Virgil liked it a lot and used one of his bottles of water to wash it off….

65 Nice Cluster Found65A Nice Cluster Found

…I don`t think any of us stopped for lunch break, we were all finding so many crystals that no one wanted to waste a single second of digging time. Tony drove into town and left us there for a few hours from mid morning to early afternoon.

63 Doug & Virgil Checking on Yard Rock

Ray and I both found a couple of nice medium sized clusters, I gave one to Doug since he had never been quartz crystal collecting. Soon after Tony returned, I had three bags full of crsytals, many of the better ones wrapped up, and I was quite happy with my plates and crystal points, many of them good sized points. Doug took a couple of photos of Virgil and Ray during one of our breaks…

Ray at the Leatherhead MineVirgil at the Leatherhead Mine

By 3 pm, we were all tired but happy with our finds and ready to head out…we thanked Tony and his pup once again for a great time of digging at his mine….

66 Tony and His Pup Nigger67 Tony at Leatherhead Mine

…and headed toward Hot Springs…I had told Virgil about a dealer that lived along the route back, who had some quartz clusters and points with green chloride and he was as interested in them as I was…so we stopped off on the way back to see Stu. I had told him a few days before by email that we would stop by on our way back from Tony`s mine, but he forgot earlier in the day that we would stop by…I had tried to call him from the top of the hill at Tony`s mine, but lost the signal apparently before I could talk to him. Luckily for us, he was there and we were able to take a look at some nice material that he had on hand there. I purchased some Jeffrey Quartz as well as some nice small clusters and singles with shale inclusions. Virgil made some purchases as well and we then headed for Hot Springs.

Virgil and Doug decided to stay at the same hotel that Ray was staying at…the Best Western just north of Oaklawn on Central Avenue…I do have to say they have the best breakfast bar I have ever seen out of all the hotels I have stayed at, bar none. Ray had stayed there before on prior trips and liked it. We got back to HS right as the sun was setting and decided to clean up and then meet at Cracker Barrel for supper. While cleaning up at the condo, I was able to photograph the sunset too…

72 Sunset Thurs Night

I arrived at Cracker Barrel first and found the line into the restaurant to be about 30 people deep, so we opted for the Outback Steakhouse next door instead. All three of us had their smoked burgers and boy let me tell you, they were excellent tasting. We decided to meet in the parking lot there the next morning at 8:30 prior to driving out to our first stop. My Hot Springs rockhound friend Justin Baird was going to join us the next day on our hunts. 

There was another beautiful sunrise Friday morning….

80 Sunrise Friday Morning82 Sunrise Friday Morning87 Sunrise Friday Morning88 Sunrise Friday Morning89 Sunrise Friday Morning

Justin`s allergies were acting up, so we got a little late start the next morning, he parked his car there and joined Onyx and I, and we drove south on Hwy 270 to the Magnet Cove Martin Marietta Quarry to see what minerals we could find there. Mindat shows a list of over one hundred minerals found there, including pyrite, purple fluorite, and quartz…I am used to quarries where you can readily find something pretty every few feet along the wall or in the blast pile, this quarry was nothing like any I have been to before. After a safety talk with the acting Quarry Manager, Jimmi Clifton, we donned our hard hats, steel toed boots, and safety glasses and drove down to the pit of the quarry, where no one was working that day. Jimmi told us the top bench of the quarry was Level A and the lowest area, the pit, was Level H, each level was forty feet high, eight levels, so the pit was about 320 feet deep. This quarry is known primarily as a micro mounters paradise, however I was hoping we would find something bigger to take home. The first photo below is looking north toward the entrance and the second photo is the south wall of the quarry.


…we parked about middle of the pit floor and then started looking in that pile of rock in front of our trucks…


Doug, Virgil, and Justin began finding some nice stuff right off the bat, the fluorite there was almost like powder, and the pyrite was very small as well…

103 Doug & Virgil Find Vug

….Justin found some nice sized calcite crystals and stayed to look for more in the pile…in the meantime, I decided to make a circle of the pit floor and see if I could find anything worthwhile…I have to say this quarry had some of the ugliest rock I have ever seen….leaverites for sure….




…we took a break about 11 am, Ray and Justin continued to look for minerals in the pile in the middle of the pit floor….

112 Taking a Break

We decided to drive up to Level A and see if we could find anything up there…I called Jimmi to let him know we were changing areas in the quarry as he was going to come get us before they blasted a certain section above us….

116 Doug & Virgil Check Upper Bench Level A117 Doug & Virgil Check Upper Bench Level A118 Vultures Flying Overhead119 Justin Searches For Minerals

…and while we didn`t see anything up there either, there were many vultures flying around above us…that got our attention for a few minutes at least…

121 Vultures Flying Overhead123 Vulture Spreads Wings on Rocky Point

..not having found anything substantial there, we decided to try out a location that Justin knew of for wavellite. I called Jimmi and thanked him for allowing us to collect there and then we headed north back to Hot Springs to check out this abandoned quarry….we drove down a logging road a little ways so that no one would mess with our trucks…Virgil was carrying a large generator and a power hammer as well, sure didn`t want anything happening to it. We walked in the rest of the way to the quarry….

126 Looking for Wavellite130 Looking for Wavellite131 Looking for Wavellite133 Justin Looks For Wavellite

…needless to say, after a 35 min hike into the place, we found very little worthwhile to take back home with us. We left about mid afternoon and decided to drive down and see a guy about some smokey quartz clusters that he had for sale. We arrived at his place a little after 4 pm and boy did he have some nice crystals….



…while we were there, Justin and Virgil started talking to the owner and darkness came and settled in…I didn`t think we were ever going to get out of there and back to Hot Springs for supper. The temps started dropping and I grabbed my jacket out of the truck, my allergies were starting to bother me and there I was out in the boonies without my meds, and three guys who like to talk shop, going at it non stop…Doug and I just rolled our eyes and hoped for the best, talking to the owner`s nice daughters.  Eventually we did get out of there and headed back to HS…Ray called as we drove thru Mt Ida to see where we were at, said he had waited as long as he could and then ate supper when he didn`t hear back from us. We decided that we would eat at Cracker Barrel this time and since our clothing wasn`t too dirty this time, we decided to just drive there direct and eat…I had to drop off Justin at his car next door anyway, and he was going to join us, until I got him to his car and he found a note on the windshield from his girlfriend letting him know she was next door at The Border. I let him know what time we were gonna drive up to the mine the next morning and he took off. Virgil, Doug, and I had a great meal at Cracker Barrel, since it was fish night there.

Onyx and I were up early at dawn on Saturday and discovered fog covering much of Lake Hamilton….



I skipped breakfast for the most part, stopping to get a bag of ice and some cash at the corner store. We then drove over to the McDonalds on the west side of HS where we were to meet Justin at 7:15…he wasn`t there nor did he show up by the time Virgil, Doug, and Ray showed up, so we drove on up to Twin Creek Mine, paid hostess Brittany our pocket fees and then drove up the logging road to the private pocket area at the top of the hill above the public fee dig area.  We parked our vehicles in the woods, and while Ray was trying to park his jeep, Virgil and I walked over to the private pocket where I intended to point out all the highlights to him, that Bobby had shown me on Thursday…as we walked up, me in front, I immediately spotted tire tracks in the soft mud that were not there on Thursday…I came to a sudden stop and quickly noticed the large yard rock was gone…looked to my right and noticed no large single point sticking out of the mud wall…no no crystals laying all over the place like they were on Thursday when there. Virgil knew right then and there what had happened, he had been thru a similar experience years ago….cause it appeared that those crystals and pockets had been highgraded…meaning crystals dug out and removed before we arrived !! We drove back down to the camper office to get our money back, and were met by Bobby…we explained to him what we found up there…he stood there and claimed someone must have snuck into the mine and stole all those crystals, claimed he was just as angry as we were, but sure didnt look angry or even upset, sure didnt sound angry or upset, his facial expression never changed nor did the tone of his voice…I have been around angry people and you normally can tell real quickly that they are upset using your hearing and sight alone…he returned to us all of our money and then after some small talk, offered the other pocket pit to us at a good price…he took us up there and showed us where the pockets were at,  as well as one pocket that he asked us not to dig into…we decided to give it a try and see what we could find.

There were actually several crystal points laying all over the place so it looked pretty good. After we grabbed our tools and started looking around, this special pocket pit started looking better and better. Virgil and I dug into the small tailing pile on the right side and crystal points started rolling down right into my waiting hands, it didn`t take long to fill a bag in that one spot alone. Doug walked up to the end of the pit and Ray walked around checking out the boulders for vugs and pockets. 

146 Digging In147 Digging In148 Digging In

Ray called me over after finding a few boulders with what appeared to be smokey points all over them…he was right, they were definitely smokeys and I was able to chisel a few plates of them off the boulder, then looked around and found a few more boulders covered as well….

Chipping Crystals off a Boulder

…which then led me to look closer at the wall, and discovered crystals lodged into heavy thick clay that were acting like glue holding them to the wall. I went to my truck and dug out my small pry tool, that resembles a big white two pronged fork and began prying crystals out of the wall…I had grabbed my screwdriver as well but the fork was working better…Virgil soon joined me along the wall and began prying some out with his screwdriver too…..

Me Digging Into the Wall for Crystal PointsUsing My Small Pry Tool on the WallSmokey Pockets at Twin Creek Special PitCrystal I Pried Off WallVirgil and I Collecting From the Wall

…at one point, I was even using a couple of fairly flat rocks stacked one on the other for a makeshift ladder so I could reach some real beauties higher up on the wall….

My Makeshift Ladder

…and even climbed up on the wall at one point in order to reach some higher up than that…then went and got Virgil`s lightweight aluminum ladder from his pickup….thanks to Doug for the photos of me in action…

Me Up On Wall After Plates

…after we cleaned off a couple of walls, I decided to take a break and take a flat of crystals to Brittany, to give to hostess Lisa when she returned…they were crystals with some dogtooths from the quarry at Eminence…I had found out Wednesday while there that Lisa liked dogtooth crystals. While visiting with Brittany, I found out that Onyx had been making the rounds with the public diggers and everyone up there really liked him…I wasn`t surprised by that. I returned to the special pocket pit and found Doug and Virgil up at the other end popping off some beautiful plates from the end wall….

149 Digging In151 Working on Wall Plates

…I decided to take a water break and then popped a few plates off walls myself and then walked around picking up small clusters, yard rocks, and crystal points that were just laying on top all over the pit.

It was about this time that Ray decided to leave and apparently as he did, Onyx took off and followed him up the road and out of the mine property, then started walking down Collier Springs Road to the west. A few minutes later, as Virgil, Doug, and I were taking another break by our trucks, I received a call on my cellphone from a young man who said that he had found my dog…said he was on a gravel road near Crystal Vista…I asked how close he was to Twin Creek Mine and he said not too far away and said he would bring Onyx to me on his four wheeler. Earlier this summer, I had found some custom engraved collar tags at my vet`s office and attached it to Onyx`s collar, had a flag emblem on the front that was really pretty as well as eye catching, and engraved my name, cell number and Onyx`s name on the other side. I walked down to the parking lot entrance and a few minutes later Jordan came riding down the hill on his four wheeler with Onyx sitting in his lap appearing as if he was driving it and a big smile on his face. I thanked Jordan for finding him, as well as calling me and returning him to me, said I would have to add four wheeling to Onyx`s resume. Lucky for me Jordan was riding his four wheeler in the area, cause we normally come in from the east and leave to the east as well, and had not noticed Onyx gone since he had been back and forth to the public dig pit all day long. I felt blessed to have him back and such a nice young man to discover him and return him to me.

Shortly after that, I had walked over to the office to use the Johnny On the Spot and afterwards, heard someone call out my name and ask if it was really me…I looked over and saw Janyce Sorrells and she called her husband David over to talk to me…they are rockhound friends from the Paducah area that I met and dug with at the Eureka Fluorite Mine at Marion, Kentucky…they were camping on Lake Ouachita while there and had been digging at various mines in the Mt Ida area. They too were heading for home the next day. 

Virgil, Doug, and I continued to dig for a couple more hours, until Brittany came and told us that it was near closing time and time to pack up our things and prepare to leave, after a bit of small talk as well. She was a very good hostess that day and very nice to talk to as well and I heard from other diggers in the public area that she was very helpful to many of them as well. We left shortly after 4 pm…Virgil and Doug headed to Oklahoma and I headed back to Hot Springs to clean up and have supper with Ray one last night.

As soon as Onyx and I returned to the condo, I discovered my battery on my cell was nearly dead, so I quickly cleaned up and changed clothes, then ran out to the truck to charge it up so I could call Ray about supper. We decided to meet in about 20 minutes at the Hibachi Sushi Grill for supper again, giving me some time to charge up my phone first. As soon as I returned to the condo from supper, I saw and photographed the moon in the clear spots over Lake Hamilton….

152 Moon Over Lake Hamilton

Onyx and I slept in a little bit on Sunday morning…getting up early to photograph the sunrise before returning to sleep a few more hours…..

153 Sunrise Sunday Morning157 Sunrise Sunday Morning159 Sunrise Sunday Morning

I first thought about spending an extra day til I turned on the news and spotted the weather forecast for heavy rain and storms on Monday…I decided I really didn`t want to drive back home in that type of weather, so we got up and began packing at 9 am and headed out the door. We stopped off at Waldron on the way home, for the annual Thomas Family reunion at my grandfather`s farm…my Uncles Joe and Harley actually have the farm now, but I still refer to it as my grandfather`s farm…..we took Ross Creek Road in from Hwy 71 and approaching from that direction always affords me a great view of the farmhouse and barn up on the hill across the valley when I get close…

92 The Farm94 The Barn

..and by 2 pm after a great dinner with dessert and fellowship with relatives and friends there, Onyx and I headed north toward home…arriving about 8:30 that evening. All in all, it was a great vacation and very productive rockhunting trip.

Here are some of my finds and purchases too….the first ones from Stu, smokeys and shale inclusions….the big single crystal in the upper left hand side has green chloride attached to the base of it….


…and this one from Collier Creek Mine….

167 Cluster From Collier Creek Mine168 Cluster From Collier Creek Mine

…and these next crystals are smokeys from near Glenwood….


this next one shows the shale inclusions very well in this cluster….



I will add more as I get them cleaned up….give me a shout at if you want. 




Arkansas Fall Trip 2014

A few weeks out from my annually planned fall trip to southern Arkansas, I received an email from WC with the MAGS Club, letting me know that the club`s second planned trip to the Vulcan Quarry in Black Rock, in the northern part of Arkansas, was scheduled for the same weekend I planned to be in the southern part of the state. I emailed him back to let him know that I planned to be in Magnet Cove on that weekend, with Ray Roth joining me and we were going to be checking out a novaculite quarry in the Magnet Cove on Friday morning. This particular quarry has four different types of novaculite and comes in a variety of beautiful colors, looking more like agate or jasper than flint, and very popular with those who enjoy the hobby of knapping…creating arrowheads and other Native American artifacts….and checking out some locations on private property on Saturday, where over one hundred minerals could be found, including smokey quartz, brookite, and rutile. We would also be checking out a new quartz crystal mine in the Mount Ida area that recently opened to public fee digging and possibly checking out a phantom crystal mine nearby as well as following up on a lead on private owned property on the north shores of Lake Ouachita that had both wavellite in green and blue colors, and quartz crystals too. WC emailed back to say that he would rather go with us on our planned trip and would get back to me…he was having problems firming up the trip to Black Rock and might just switch the trip to Magnet Cove with us. I let Mr. Parker, the quarry owner,  know that this might turn into a club trip and he was okay with that. I had begun talking to him by email the year before, but didn`t make it down to the Magnet Cove area that year, due to time restraints. About a week out from my planned departure, WC advised me that many of the club members had encountered some conflicts with the dates and would not be able to make it, himself included, but he would put any others interested in joining us, in touch with me by email. As it turned out, my good friend Virgil Richards, was the only other club member that decided to join us on the trip.

Ray and I had both planned to leave the morning of Nov 6th and travel to Hot Springs….my trip would depend much on whether my Dad made it through emergency surgery that he underwent on Nov 4th. I had driven my parents to Barnes Hospital in St Louis early that morning, as my Dad had to be there to prep for Abdominal Aortic Anneurism Repair Surgery. His abdominal aortic artery had a couple of bad spots just above the wye, where the artery branched off to supply blood to his legs, and the Chief of Vascular Surgery for Washington University and Barnes Hospital, Dr Sanchez, was going to perform the operation, and place a specially made graft around the artery at that point, snap it into place, and then suture it as well as place four to five stints in the artery all around the graft, which would further secure it in place. This special graft was designed by Dr. Sanchez and made in the country of Australia according to the specifications of Dr Sanchez, which required about six to eight weeks to make and get to the United States through customs. My Dad was on the operating table for approximately six hours while Dr Sanchez and his medical team performed the surgery. It was a long wait and our many prayers were answered for a successful operation, and Dad came through it just fine, very stable throughout the surgery. My sister joined us in the waiting room before the operation began and stayed with my Mom and I throughout the day, and some of Dad`s closest friends came by as well to check on him while we waited. His surgery had been scheduled for early morning, however a patient with a worse situation was moved in front of my Dad`s scheduled operation and so his operation was delayed about four hours.

Dad woke up from his operation about ninety minutes afterwards, and we were able to see him for about five minutes in the recovery room, before they moved him to a hospital room. As is usually the case with general anesthesia, from past experience myself with outpatient surgery, it is hard to wake up from it and about the only thing you want to do is rest and sleep it off, so I returned home at that time and Mom began calling a long list of friends and relatives to let them know that Dad had made it through the surgery just fine. I returned the next morning with a box of donuts and Dad was glad to get them, his breakfast was pretty light after a bowl of soup the night before after the surgery. He looked much better and after a few hours, gave me his blessings to go to Arkansas on my fall vacation.  

The next morning, Missy and I headed west to Joplin and then turned south on 71 toward the Natural State of Arkansas…I stopped off in Fayetteville to check out some minerals for sale at a flea market, where I found some pretty pieces of amethyst, a couple of nice dogtooth crystals from a calcite quarry in Ohio…

00R Dogtooth Calcite Plate Ohio Q

00P Dogtooth Calcite Plate Ohio Q

and a chunk of matrix with three perfectly formed cubes of pyrite….

00N Pyrite Cubes on Matrix Ohio Quarry

We then continued south after a short break for Missy, and stopped off at Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to visit with Adam Lageveen. I had been talking to Adam for a few weeks after answering his ad on CL regarding Arkansas minerals for sale, discovering in those few weeks that he was originally from the same small farming town that my parents were from, that he graduated from the high school there with one of my second cousins, Cassie, and found that we both share a love of Arkansas quartz. Adam had started out rockhunting and mineral collecting and then ventured into the art of knapping and found that he enjoyed it much more, and needed to part with some of his minerals in order to create more room for his knapping material. I was only too happy to take some off his hands and he was gracious with good information as well. He allowed Missy to run free in his fenced in backyard while we visited for a couple of hours, and gave me a flat of beautiful green wavellite….

00C  Green Wavellite


00E  Green Wavellite

00F  Green Wavellite

00G  Green Wavellite

00H  Green Wavellite

….as well as some neat fern fossils from Scott County, shaped like an Arkansas Razorback no less…..more apparent in the second image tho….my Aunt Billy Jean noticed it before me…..when I showed it to her and Uncle Joe at the farm….

00 Razorback Fossil Slate

00B  Razorback Fossil Slate

…..all these years I had never seen anything come from that area, thinking it only contained ugly rocks, but he sure proved me wrong with that plate of fern fossils, and the more I gazed at that plate, I was simply floored by the beauty of it !!  Adam creates some beautiful arrowheads and Native American knives from different types of stone, some of them in beautiful shades of color, should check out his work on his Facebook page under Adam Lageveen`s Lithic Art…he has been working with rainbow obsidian lately and that material really radiate some nice sheens of different color.  Adam also gave me some quartz crystals from the Mt Ida area mines…this next one a glassback plate from the old Arrowhead Mine…

00M  Large GB Qtz Plate Arrowhead Mine

…and this set of smaller clusters from a few of the other mines, most of them reclaimed in the National Forest these days…

00K  Small Clusters From Various Mines

…and this larger cluster from a mine located down the road from the Collier Creek Mine….

00J Large Collier Creek Mine Cluster

From there, I drove back to Fort Smith and fueled up, then headed south on 71….intending to stop off at the farm in Waldron on the way down, but as luck would have it, it was going to be all I could do to get to Hot Springs by dark, and since I would be coming back to the farm on Sunday, I drove on down to the condo instead. In years past, I have normally stayed on Lake Ouachita at Mtn Harbor Resort, but my plans this year included several locations closer to Hot Springs in general, so I opted to stay on Lake Hamilton this trip, finding a pretty two bedroom condo close to Highway 7 not far from the Mall at Pretti Pointe. The owner of the condo had given me a great rate for five nights and it was so much roomier and comfortable than any of the hotels there, that I booked it a few weeks back. As I got closer to Hot Springs, I could see that the sunset was approaching and was shaping up to be a nice one…traffic was slowing in front of me and I wasn`t sure I would be able to get to the lake in time to shoot it, so I picked up my camera and at each stoplight, photographed it…starting with this one…

01 Enroute Lake Hamilton Sunset


03 Enroute Lake Hamilton Sunset


Finally, I reached the lake and drove past the entrance to Pretti Pointe, stopping on the first bridge, to photograph the fading clouds out over the water of Lake Hamilton….


08 Arrived Lake Hamilton Sunset


…I turned to look out over the waters of the other side of the bridge, which is the first bridge crossing Lake Hamilton on the south side of Hot Springs, the location I photographed the fireworks from back in 2010, and saw the full moon rising up over the waters already….


11 Moon Rises Over Lake Hamilton

…and then I drove on over to Pretti Pointe to find the condo before the sunlight completely faded away. As soon as I located it, and was able to get Missy situated, I grabbed my camera and walked down to the waters edge to shoot a few more images of the sunset, initially using a boatdock in my foreground that was located right behind the condos….


12B Fading Sunset Lake Hamilton

 My buddy Ray checked into his hotel about thirty minutes later, about a mile north of my location…he had a late lunch on his eight hour drive up, so Missy and I decided to grab a sandwich at Subway at Walmart, since I needed to get some Bluebell Ice Cream while there too…found out the next day that there are about fifteen Subways in the Hot Springs area alone…three Walmart Supercenters, and multiple McDonalds as well…unfortunately for me, the nearest Phillips 66 station was all the way over on the other side of town. Oh well, cant have everything conveniently located nearby all the time.

The next morning, Missy and I woke up about 6 am, to a beautiful foggy sunrise….

29 Sunrise Fri Morning

46 Fog Rolls In Fri Morn


After shooting the sunrise, Ray and I met up at the McDonalds next to his hotel, for a good breakfast, before driving down to Magnet Cove to meet up with Mr. Parker. We arrived at the Magnet Cove Store and found him and Jimmy Matlock waiting on us inside the store…Jimmy is a good friend of his and a rockhound as well. Jimmy showed us some of his cabochons from novaculite found at Mr. Parker`s quarry as well as some rutile crystals with eight, ten, and twenty four faceted sides…called eightlings, tenlings, sixteenlings, and twentyfourlings….many were micromount size crystals. Jimmy told us about locations that he used to rockhunt at where he found coontail quartz, in the Magnet Cove area, many locations still in the area but now privately owned and inaccessible to rockhounds…primarily because rockhounds in the past mistreated the property owners and disrespected their properties…the main reason why well behaved and respectible rock collectors today still cannot obtain access to properties where great minerals can be found, because many before us ruined it for others….all you have to do is listen to the people that live in that area and they will tell you how some rockhounds from several decades ago lied to them, snuck into their properties and stole from them, damaged their properties, and disrespected them in general, to the point that they now do not like rockhounds in general.

  Luckily for us good rockhounds, Mr. Parker is working to obtain permission from property owners so that he can take us to places where minerals and crystals can be found. He advised us that while Magnet Cove contains over 125 known minerals, they are scattered all over the area and not found in a general enough area where they can be mined. At this time, he has access to a few locations and was able to take us to one of those locations Saturday morning. After our short meet at the store on Friday morning, tho, he led Ray and I down to his quarry at Magnet Cove Stone Company…..

49 Novaculite Quarry Magnet Cove

50 Novaculite Quarry Magnet Cove

68 Rest of the Quarry

While Ray and I walked around the various grades and colors of beautiful novaculite, I called Virgil to see where he was at and when he would arrive at the quarry. At the time I called he was approaching Mena from the Oklahoma side and would arrive at the quarry by noon. We decided to wait on him. Mr. Parker took us to the very back of his quarry where a small trench cut had revealed some novaculite stone with a pretty black and white shade, some with a fish eye effect as well…we picked up several pieces of it from this area first, and then drove back to the main collecting area of the quarry. Many pieces had dendrites on one side of them as well….

48 Novaculite With Dendrites

54 Dendrite on Rainbow Novaculite


61 Dendrites on Novaculite

62 Dendrites on Novaculite

Novaculite is used for Arkansas Whetstones, which are used to sharpen knives and instruments, but it`s also catching on in popularity for knappers and as a decorative stone, both in the USA and abroad as well. Mr. Parker has novaculite fans who buy it by the pound as we did, as well as those that purchase it by the ton. Here is a pile of blue black novaculite that was going out by truck to one of the tonnage purchasers soon, some with dendrites on them….

52 Blue Black Pile Novaculite

55 Beautiful Shades Novaculite

57 Dendrites on Novaculite

58 Dendrites on Novaculite

Many of his knapper fans liked the material with the multiple shades of colors and patterns to them….these were the ones I looked for as well….

63 Dendrites on Novaculite

70 Beautiful Chunk of Red & Gray

…so while we waited on Virgil to arrive at noon, Mr. Parker and Ray held a few discussions on various topics and Mr. Parker chowed down on some Louisiana grown Satsooma Oranges that Ray brought him as well….

65 Discussion While Waiting on Virgil

66 Waiting on Virgil to Arrive

 True to his word, Virgil arrived a little after noon, and while he poked around and looked for some knapping material, Ray and I  continued talking to Mr. Parker about the location he was going to take us to the next morning and after a couple of hours, Virgil decided he had selected enough stuff to hold him for awhile, getting into some rainbow colored stuff at the last. We settled up with Mr. Parker and told him we would meet him at his shop the next morning at 9 am. Ray decided to head back to the hotel and get a nap in, since I hadn`t been able to contact the private landowner yet…who has quartz and wavellite on his property. Virgil and I decided to check out a roadcut up near Hwy 51, that reportedly has smokey quartz and brookite in it…Mr. Parker told us that several geology students stop off at that location each time they are down, but other than that, he had no clue if anything worthwhile could be found there. Virgil and I climbed up to the rocks and shortly discovered that whoever had been there last, had taken a hammer and decimated much of the quartz outcrop and scratching around yielded nothing further found.

We then decided to drive down to the iron bridge over Cove Creek and see if we could locate any pyrite. We walked up the trail along the creek there as far as we could, it had become a bit more overgrown since I had been there the last time with Kyle a few years back, so we returned to the normal hole in the creek that most folks dig into to find the cubes and feldspar…Virgil spotted a few chunks with cubes deep in the waterhole, so I retrieved one of my extendable hoe/rakes and he was able to drag a few over to the bank, and a few of them were actually nice enough to keep. From there we drove up to Hot Springs and separated so Virgil could go find a motel to stay the night in…we made arrangements to meet at Colton`s Steakhouse about 7 pm for supper, and I texted Ray the arrangements as well.  

We all slept in an extra hour the next morning, with yet another beautiful sunrise….

72 Sunrise Sat Lake Hamilton

73 Sunrise Sat Lake Hamilton

…and after another good breakfast at McD`s, we drove back down to Magnet Cove to meet Mr. Parker and follow him out to some fields that he was leasing from a property owner, to look for garnets and rutile. He showed us where to start looking, and we set off in search of treasure…..

75 Hunting Rutile & Garnets Magnet Cove

Virgil and Ray drove on down into an adjoining field to check out an area that had great potential for large garnets and rutile crystals, while I dug into the edge of the field between a hay rake and trailer….

78 Missy and I Dig Up This Way

…I dug down into several places where it was obvious from several crystals and chips of novaculite that there was obviously some eroding material from the hillside. There was also alot of biotite mica laying all over the place, as well as within the soil…

76 Biotite Mica All Over

….I dug down about a foot deep and found the mica all the way down to that depth as well, small flakes and big flakes alike…I found only a few crystals, many small ones, in the soil but found even more over in the roadway laying all over the place on top…..

76B  Mica & Magnetite All Over Road

…I was lucky to find one perfectly shaped rutile crystal laying right on top of the dirt, on closer examination it appears to be one of those sixteenlings, bout the size of a large pea, and silvery in color…prob one that someone else found and accidentally left behind.  

00S Rutile 16Ling Magnet Cove

00R Rutile 16Ling Magnet Cove

We actually dug for about two hours there…we didn`t find much in the way of rutile, we were finding a lot of chards of novaculite, alot of them almost arrowhead shaped and many were in beautiful pastel colors…I found one that could be a thinking stone in a pastel pink. As we were packing up and preparing to leave, the property owner and his grandson showed up, and we stood around talking with them for an hour about the history of the area, they were very nice and provided alot of information on the area. From there we returned to Hot Springs, Ray for another nap, Virgil driving up to Mt Ida to scout out the crystal mines up there, and I decided to drive around and photograph the fall colors. I drove over to DeSoto Lake on the north side of Hot Springs, it features a spring fed small lake with a stone footbridge, manmade dam and waterfall, and an old powermill downstream from the dam that powered the estate of Col Fordyce that still sits on a hill above the lake….

81 DeSoto Lake & Waterfall

85 DeSoto Lake

87 DeSoto Lake & Footbridge

89 Old Waterworks Powermill

91 Old Waterworks Powermill

 I again woke up about 6 on Sunday morning, in time to photograph the sunrise and morning fog that started rolling across the lake once again….

97 Sunrise Sun Morning

99 Sunrise Sun Morning

101 Sunrise Sun Morning

 …and soon after, we started hearing from Virgil and his scouting report of the mines open to the public in the Mount Ida area…the report wasn`t good…the Twin Creek Mine is where Ray and I had figured on driving to that morning, but it seems that Virgil had talked to a couple that had been there a few days and had found very little, mainly because the machinery wasn`t operating there. He had talked to rockhounds who had been to Miller Mtn Mine as well and they said the same thing about that location as well, no new digging material brought up from the mines to dig through…Virgil suggested that we go to Wegner`s Crystal Mine south of Mt Ida as he had been hearing some mixed reviews for them lately…I had never been to that location and was interested in checking it out in person….they have two hour slots available for their Forest Crystal Mine, which would work out perfectly for us since we planned to drive up to the family farm at Waldron for dinner. I called Ray and let him know that we needed to get on the road soon enroute to Mt Ida to meet up with Virgil. I decided to forego breakfast as I know dinner at the farm would be a big meal and grabbed a candybar to take with me just in case. After stopping off at the gas station on the west side of town, Ray and I started toward Mt Ida. We picked up Virgil at the Hwy 27 junction with 270 and he led the way on 27 south to Owley Road, where we turned east and drove about four miles to the rock arch entrance to Wegner`s Ranch. Soon after we arrived, we were signed up for the first two hour dig of the day and our ride arrived outside the office so we could load up our tools, bags, and in my case, Missy on her leash. I had made a phone call before heading up there and found out that they are a dog friendly business. There was only the three of us and a young family from Texas with two kids, and they had a blast digging for quartz, their son found an exceptionally nice crystal up there too, think that just made his day. Dave, our driver, helped show them what they were looking for and how to remove them with a pry bar….

103 Digging Wegners Forest Crystal Mine

…..then left us up there for two hours. I turned Missy loose as it was easier on me and I started down into the pit to see if I could find some pockets of crystals. I found a few, but didnt have my hammer and chisel with me. Ray was doing the same thing, trying to locate something in the pit while Virgil had walked down to the tailing piles in the forest area adjacent to the mine itself, to see if he could locate anything along the surface. Later we heard him in the small pit near the road to the ranch. I walked along the six foot dirt bank of the pit and started seeing crystals sticking out of the dirt in the tree roots….

102 Digging Wegners Forest Crystal Mine

…so I started raking the dirt down and pretty soon I had single points and small clusters popping out of the dirt I was raking down, all over the place. Ray and I stayed in that productive spot for the next hour or so, til we heard Dave coming back up the road in the truck, bringing another group up to dig there. By that time, I had a bag full of single points and small clusters…I cleaned alot of them up today and can safely say, I have some very nice small clusters out of that spot. The cost for that two hours of digging time was $ 16.50 per person, thinking the next time I will be paying for four hours instead. I saw some really nice larger crystals in pockets there, had I had the right tools with me, they would have gone home with me. As it was, we just didn`t have the time to stay today or we prob would have,  but by noon we were on our way farther north to my grandfather`s old farm near Waldron, for dinner with several of my relatives, an annual family reunion and the day before, my Uncle Joe had given me permission to bring my friends with me. We arrived at the farm about an hour later….

Arriving Wed Afternoon 1

Family Farm from Ross Creek Road

…we parked up near the old barn and then walked down to where everyone was eating dinner by the garage…I told everyone there that I had no idea who the guy was in the purple sweatshirt with LSU in large letters on the front…Ray was asking for duct tape so he could cover up the letters…I had told him he would be taking his life into his own hands wearing that down there, cause he was deep within RAZORBACK territory there…they took pity on him and fed him anyway. Virgil liked the line of food entrees so much that he decided to put his diet on hold for half a day and he chowed down big time, before heading on home to Tulsa. Ray left soon after, headed back to Hot Springs and I stayed a bit longer visiting with my cousins before heading back to the lake as well, arriving just in time to capture yet another stunning sunset on the lake….

110 Sunset Sunday Night

115 Sunset Sunday Night

119 Sunset Sunday Night

123 Sunset Sunday Night Geese Flying

…and finished off the Bluebell ice cream I had picked up at Walmart a few days prior. I was looking forward to the next day, the temps were expected to be up in the mid seventies, but Tuesday would be a way different story. Missy and I woke up to another sensational sunrise Monday morning….

125 Sunrise Monday Morning

126 Sunrise Monday Morning

132 Sunrise Monday Looking West

Ray knew I would be awake by then and called to let me know that he had a rough night trying to sleep, so I told him to get a couple more hours of rest and I would go take some photos of waterfalls that I hadnt had a chance to do yet. I also called and talked to the landowner that I had been trying to reach while there, and he gave us permission to come to his property later in the day to see if we could find some quartz and wavellite. Missy and I drove down to Cool Pool Falls, a local waterfall favorite of mine, and while we normally find great color there, it was pretty barren this year, even though it looks great in this photo….

139 Cool Pool Falls

We no sooner got done shooting, then Ray called and wanted to meet at Cracker Barrel for breakfast and then head to Miller Mtn Mine…I told him that I had talked to the private landowner and that we were welcome to go there about mid afternoon, leaving us only two hours to dig there, but definitely doable. After a good breakfast at CB, we drove to Miller Mtn Mine west of Jessieville and as we drove down the white chat road through the private deer hunters area, we approached the concrete slab and discovered a small sports car sitting in the middle of the road with damage….

141 Wrecked Sports Car Miller Mtn Mine Hill

…luckily we were able to get around the car and on up the hill to the mine, never did see anyone walking along the road tho. We met the new caretaker of the mine and she told us that despite what we had been told about their machinery being down, the piles we saw along the tailings pile, were fresh and new that morning. We paid our dig fee and drove on up to the parking lot and grabbed our tools. Where once you could get out of your vehicle and see crystals laying all over the parking lot and roadway, today, I never noticed a one laying anywhere in there. We walked over to the piles and it was quite apparent to me that the six piles had been sitting there for at least a few days in the sunlight, as they clay was quite hard and crusty, difficult to break open the clods to see if there were any crystals inside. It appeared to me that the front end loader had turned some older piles over and then lifted them up, over, and placed them up on the side of the huge tailing pile behind and above the so called ” fresh piles “, because the dirt and clods up there on that wall above were much easier to break apart and wetter even. I actually found quite a few singles and points up there on that wall than I found of anything at all in the ” fresh piles “. Another first, was the phone signal that I had today up there at the mine…in years past, I have never had a strong signal up there on top of that mountain, but today I did have one…in fact, at 2 pm, I was able to call John, the private landowner, and make arrangements for us to meet him 40 minutes later at his place. After looking over the quartz crystal baskets, Ray decided he couldn`t find one that suited him and we packed up and headed to John`s place instead.

We arrived at his place 45 minutes later and after a short discussion on the locations available, we opted to drive out to his farm and see what we could find in quartz first. It was a short drive to his farm, and we then opted to walk down the logging road to the search area…John briefed us on the history of his farm as we walked to the area, and once there, we did locate a few nice single points and small clusters just laying on top of the ground…having to rake the leaves back a bit to find them, but they were def laying around on the ground, all one had to do was walk around and look for them, most were clear and glassy and just downright pretty….here are some I found, now all washed up….

147 Crystals Found Laying on Ground



…and a larger chunk of crystals that came from that area as well….haven`t had a chance to hit it with the hose yet since it turned bitter freezing cold here on my return home…..

145 Large Chunk Qtz Crystals Johns Farm


 …and here is one of the pretty little clusters that I found that day as well….

148 Cluster Found on Johns Farm


…we looked around for about 20 minutes without finding any additional crystals, figuring we were there at the wrong time of the year, the difficulty being the leaves covering the ground…so we walked back up the road to John`s cabin and he took us to another spot up behind his barn on the hillside, where a vein of quartz ran up and down the hillside and there were several spots where mining had obviously taken place many years ago. John turned us loose as soon as I started spotting loose crystals laying all over the ground in that area….Ray started digging in an area about ten feet up hill from where I was digging….the crsytals I had initially found, were smokey quartz points, but I also found a few small clusters as well, here is one of the first clusters that I dug out from the old mining tailing pile….

149 Smokey Qtz Cluster Found


150 Smokey Qtz Cluster Found

 …and here are some of my initial smokey finds…the deeper I dug, the more I seemed to find….

151 Smokeys Found Johns Farm

152 Smokeys Found Johns Farm

153 Smokeys Found Johns Farm

..the small dark crystal point on the left in the bottom image, was the very first one I spotted in the dirt where I decided to start digging…John said there were smokeys found in that area and he was sure right, I found several as well as some blue tinted milkies too…def would love to return to this area and dig for some more sometime. had a great time there, even though for a few minutes afterward, I thought I had lost Missy…it was just about dark when we stopped digging and she had wandered down to the creek just inside the wooded area of his property below his cabin…she being black colored, made it extremely difficult to spot her, and lucky for me, John spotted her moving around at the edge of the woods and pointed her out to me so that I could walk down and get her attention soon after. It got dark fast after that and we followed John back to his house, where he showed us some other quartz he had located on his property as well as some pretty wavellite. We thanked him for allowing us to come out and dig on his land and find some beautiful quartz and then headed back to Hot Springs. Ray and I decided to try out the Bleu Monkey Grill for supper on our last night there and we both had the grilled chicken and shrimp dish special, it was quite spicy and I had to wash it down with several glasses of cold tea, even the black beans that came with it, tasted like they were on fire due to the sauce they were cooked in….whewwww….never had anything that spicy before and hope I never do again either. I think even Ray said they were quite hot tasting to him and he is from spice country !!

Ray said he was going to hang around a couple of extra days, at least until the bottom dropped out on the weather, while Missy and I were set to head home on Tuesday morning. I headed back to the condo to start packing and then hit the hay. We woke to cloudy skies the next morning, no sunrise today, and started packing the truck soon after. It began drizzling rain as we headed out of the parking lot…I drove over to Walmart and picked up three half gallon containers of that delicious Bluebell ice cream that  I had polished off on Sunday night, MOO-ENNIA Crunch, to take home with me. I iced it down real good, but it turned out to be a moot point. I drove thru Little Rock on the way home and the farther north we traveled, the more cooler the temps became. We stopped off in Batesville to grab some lunch and I found out soon after that, Ray had decided the falling temps and rain hitting Hot Springs, were too much for him and he had headed home as well. 

I shaved about two hours off my driving time, stopping off in Rolla to fill up the gas tank once again and boy was that wind cold and sharp, blowing out of the northwest, when I got out of the truck !! I wasted no time in grabbing my jacket out of the back seat, Missy had kept it nice and warm for me, and from there on to the house, the heater was on low and felt great. We rolled back into the driveway about 2:30 pm on Tuesday afternoon, glad to be home, but a great vacation get away too, all about quality this time, instead of quantity. 🙂

If you have any questions about locations we went to on our trip, email me direct at  and I`ll be happy to help.