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 his partner 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 in the area, told me that they were not finding what they were looking for, and decided to sell it…I know they hit two nice, large smoky quartz pockets, both had some damage from a seismic event that occurred millions of years ago, which 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 one of the new owners, so I could check and see if we could still go there and collect. When I contacted that new partner later that week, he told me they had not been able to secure permission from the USFS to allow groups in there to dig and collect just yet…I remember it takes about a year to get that authorization.
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. 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 contacted their Field Trip Director Jean, and she said 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 despite several attempts to do so, I just let it go…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.
Boy 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…yes one for him and one for me…. 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 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….
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….
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….
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.
…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.
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…
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. 🙂
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….
…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 !!
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….
…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. 🙂