New Mexico Trip 2023

John O and I normally start researching the New Mexico trip around the first of December each year, we at least start talking about it, where we would like to go, return to, and check on mines in other areas. We traded a few notes back and forth, but then I became sick about mid December and was out of it for about four weeks. I started out with congestion and a sore throat ensued shortly after…I initially thought I had a bad cold coming on, started getting a serious headache, which is a rarity for me, and a fever of 103 to 104, so I went to see my doctor…it was kinda weird tho, cause from the time I woke up with the fever, to the time I arrived at her office and they took my temp there right away, my fever had reduced itself to 99 degrees.

My doctor still to this day, has no clue what I had then, she told me after I tested negative for Flu A and Flu B, that I had all the symptoms for the Flu, she was shocked that I had tested negative for either one. I told her those tests have not been reliable since 2021, tainted by the Covid Crap/BS as far as I was concerned, and you will never be able to convince me otherwise. She agreed and is not surprised at how many people besides me, believe that, she said the several in the medical field believe that as well. She asked if I wanted to take a Covid test and I said no, because here again, they have been tainted, and no matter if a person has NO symptoms whatsoever, they will still test positive for some form of Covid, because that is how they were designed and set up to do. I know some do not believe that, some still have faith in the medical community all across this great nation of ours, and I say to them, you are entitled to your opinion, just as I am to mine.

She then asked me to let her know my symptoms each morning when I woke up, by email, and she would treat me on a daily basis on that information, so that is how we proceeded…and two days later when I felt worse, she called in a script for a antibiotic called Azithromycin, which is used to treat colds and viruses. I was taking a few supplements several times a day, known for fighting off colds and congestion, one is Black Elderberry, another is Echinacea, and was taking OTC Allegra, which I take alot for allergies on a daily basis usually at night, and Golden Seal which is a supplement that I also take daily, during the daytime hours, for allergies. They were holding their own but my congestion was not improving, started getting worse and so when I took the first dose of the antibiotic Azithromycin…within 5 minutes, I could feel it working…my congestion started clearing slightly, my sinuses started drying up…the Zithro was allowing my supplements and Allegra to do their thing…and my headache disappeared by that evening and never returned. I took the Zithro with my supplements and Allegra each day for 5 days and by that 5th day, I was on my way to recovering from whatever it was, that I had.

I still have no clue what it was…she told me when I visited her office, that they were treating people here locally and across the country for 30 some odd viruses, some didn`t even have a name, some were assigned a number…she said many people had one called RSV, but my symptoms didn`t match that one…she did say that a gal came to see her the day before that had the same exact symptoms I had, and she tested positive for Flu B, yet I had not the very next day, and that is why she was surprised.

It took me two weeks to get over it total, and two more weeks to get back to normal…I lost my appetite during that four week period, took  me a while longer than the 4 weeks to go from eating like a bird to eating for two again. 🙂  I lost 15 pounds while I was sick, which isn`t necessarily a bad thing since I am still on my KETO diet, and it brought me back to my desired weight range. I slept alot the first two weeks, some days I didn`t get out of bed, did not want to nor feel like it, some days I had to crawl to the bathroom or kitchen to get a bottle of water out of the fridge. One thing I truly took notice of, was how Onyx stayed right with me the entire time, sometimes she just sat in my room and kept an eye on me…they know when something isn`t right.

When I got better, I started on my research and started sending John the info…he was having computer problems and when he got those fixed, he started having cellphone problems, so our communications were a little off, but it all worked out and it all came together about two weeks out. I had kept in touch with Ray DeMark and he said we could go to his Blanchard Mine again, offered us two days of collecting there again, as long as White Sands wasn`t testing missiles then.

I let everyone interested in going this year, to make their reservations at both Deming and Socorro for the dates, because I had to wait til later in February to check with White Sands on their testing schedule to select the two days to go to Ray`s mine. That is the tricky part of going to Bingham, is the military schedule…it all hinges on when they are testing, and it is not something to take lightly or get mad about. I have nothing but the highest respect for our Military men and women, and at White Sands, they are testing the capabilities of our weapons daily to ensure our safety 24 hours a day, seven days a week !! Bingham happens to fall within the north side of that huge testing range…contacting the mine owner for permission to go, is the easy part.

While I was waiting to call White Sands, I also made contact with another mine owner, Eddie DeLuca, who I was told, owns a few mines in the Orogrande Mining District, which is south of Alamogordo, but not affected by White Sands. Eddie is a good friend of another of my rockhound friends, so I made contact with him by phone as well one evening, and we talked for a good 90 minutes, at least, during which time I discovered that he owns or has access to 47 mining claims in the Orogrande area, plus a few in the Bingham area !!  I found out also that he is a US Air Force Veteran and retired Professional Bodyguard, and Martial Arts Expert. These days he teaches 278 school children in the area, all about rocks and minerals…he uses rocks from his mines and donated rocks, to teach with and to give to the children. He was asking if my group could bring him some rocks from our respective areas to give to the kids as well. I told him we would be more than happy to do that. He told me that he would take us to his Playground Mine, where over 180 minerals have been found so far…he asked what we were looking to collect in that area, and I told him the usual, brown anhydrite garnets, azurite, malachite, chrysacolla, quartz, calcite, fluorite, and anything pretty basically. He just laughed and said he had all of that and more at this mine, so we set a date and time to meet near Orogrande, and I told him I would stay in touch.

I finally called and made contact with my friend Mickey at White Sands, and he let me know it was my lucky day…that the first ten days of March, there was not going to be any major testing going on that would affect our trip to the Blanchard Mine. He said there would be some gun training going on in the southern area of the range the first few days, but that would not affect us in any way. So we set the first 2 days of the trip for the Blanchard Mine, and I updated the crew so they could make the changes to their lodging reservations.

I obtained some other info on a couple of the other mines through field trip reports and from good rockhound friends in New Mexico area clubs. I also talked to a few officers of the El Paso Club to get some insights on mines and collecting in the Orogrande area, as well as some rockhounds who have been to a few of those mines. We usually look at the BLM website to get mine or claim owner info, but their site was down the entire time we were researching, with no idea in mind as to when it would be back up in the forseeable future. Mindat does not have that info and other sites that do, are not always current or accurate so we relied heavily on our ground contacts this year.

John wanted to return to Round Mountain this year to collect more chalcedony rosettes, some with fire agate in them, so we worked that in for later in the week, with a possibility of going to the Lordsburg area as well. He was finally able to make contact with the guy at Retro Ranch again, so we pencilled it in for Sunday the 5th, which would also be a relax and rest day after digging two days at Blanchard Mine.

The schedule we came up with was this :

March 1st and 2nd are travel days to New Mexico

March 3rd and 4th     Blanchard Mine

March 5th                  Rest Day or Retro Ranch  Bucket Fee Dig

March 6th                   Apache Mine  for Chrysacolla, turquoise, calcite

March 7th                   Macy Mine  for Vanadinite

March 8th                  Orogrande Mining District  for Garnets, Copper                                                                                   minerals, Quartz

March 9th                   Round Mountain for chalcedony rosettes, fire                                                                       agate, possibly geodes

March 10th                 Pecos Diamonds and then head home


Those that went on this year`s trip included David Hodge, Randy Gentry, Mike Mangrove, John O and Dan, Alina and Pat Klein and their boys Finn and Cohen, Logan Sparks and his grandfather, Mike Messer, Beth Merrell with her husband Terry and son Ben, as well as Onyx and I.

John continued to have problems with his cellphone right up to the day of leaving for New Mexico…think his old one just up and stopped working, which meant he had to go and try to find something better and newer…that is never an easy task, nor is learning how to operate one much newer…I can safely say, the learning curve on my Android phone, which was supposed to be the easiest phone to learn, was a bit longer than I expected it to be. For one thing, these cellphone companies do not make those little ” lets get started ” manuals anymore, you have to go online to find those and then read them about ten times to get acquainted with your new phone. John also found out how tough it was to transfer all your contacts and phone numbers to new phones…that used to be real easy with the sim card, but nowadays, you basically have to do that by making a list and then manually entering each and every one of them yourself. I guess you can make deletions easier that way, but still, that takes a few hours to do.

I started cleaning my truck cab and bed on Saturday, then loaded the five grab bag buckets I was taking to Eddie, two were loaded with poker chips for the kids, along with some Magnet Cove pyrites, MFQ calcites, and some quartz from Arkansas as well. John took Eddie several flats of small geodes for the kids and Randy Gentry brought some as well. Some folks gave Eddie some gas money, he said in the past he never took gas money, but with New Mexico`s 40 cent gas tax, he would not turn money down this time.

Onyx and I went to be early on Tuesday night, Feb 28th, and were up early Wednesday morning, March 1st to get on the road. I had planned to take and wear my extended wear contacts on the trip, but was getting over a small ulcer in my right eye and completely forgot to take the contact with me…I had several of my daily wear contacts tho so was okay. I only made four stops for gasoline on the way down there, where the gas was around $ 3.00 a gallon or less, and we made pretty good time getting to Tucumcari, New Mexico just before sunset. After settling Onyx into the room and cleaning up a bit, I headed down the street to Del`s Diner. I had befriended a rockhound from Tucumcari a few weeks before, who had been able to provide us with some good info on rockhounding locations in the state, and met him there for dinner. We had a good dinner and then I headed back to the room for a good night`s rest, but had to check the forecast first because the news on the way down was talking about a huge snowstorm approaching from the west.

My cousin Larry Moore, who I was going to have lunch with the next day in Albuquerque, told me that the forecasters were all over the place on the forecast, and that some of the harsher predictions usually turned out to be nothing burgers for Albuquerque…I was hoping for a nothing burger on this one, cause it was going to be coming in right as we were all getting to that area. Alina, Pat, and their sons, were up in Durango, Colorado on vacation, skiing no less in the mountains just north of there, and the forecast for their area was even worse, predictions of up to 36 inches of snow falling there from this storm coming in. I sent Alina an email to let her know they may need to get on the road and out of there before that storm hit. We were up early the next morning and I sent her a text message as well, as it looked like the storm was coming in a little slower than first thought, but they would still need to get a move on or the roads to the south thru the Mountains around Farmington, would be snow covered and slick, fast. She received my text soon after and began making plans to get out of there soon.

Onyx and I were on the road soon after, our drive to Albuquerque from Tucumcari is about two and a half hours, and we made it in pretty good time. We noticed the wind picking up as we sailed thru Santa Rosa and started climbing the mountains and gaining in elevation…going from 4, 616 feet elevation at Santa Rosa to 6, 322 feet at Tijeras…then you start downward thru the Rock Canyon from there and it bottoms out at the east edge of Albuquerque, which is a thousand feet lower…the locals call that canyon ” the wind tunnel ” and it was def a wind tunnel that day. The only problem I had was with some of the truck drivers wanting to use it as a speedway instead of holding their speed at 65 or 70 mph as posted…it is three lanes thru there in places, but many of them wanted to use all three lanes and the heck with us other drivers. Luckily, the New Mexico State Police were waiting at the bottom of the canyon where you enter Albuquerque and they were pulling the speeding truck drivers over right and left.

I actually arrived in Albuquerque a little early, so filled up my gas tank first, took a bathroom break, and then drove over to Ray`s house right at 10 am. Ray was as gracious as always and we had a good visit, he showed me some more of his collection….


….and he asked what other places we were going to visit, When I mentioned Pecos Diamonds on the last day, he opened one of his cabinet drawers and showed me his collection of Pecos Diamonds…he had very small diamonds and big ones…as big as my medium sized poker chip calcites…they even looked like calcites with smooth sides to them tho…most were a red clay color and some were brown colored, some tan colored…he had found the smooth sided ones on a private ranch and then he showed me some that looked like big stars, they were tannish/brown colored and he told me where he found them near Roswell too.

I also let Ray know we were going to Orogrande and Eddie was going to take us to one of his mines there, and we talked a bit about Eddie. Ray is a US Air Force Veteran as well and he told me about one of Eddie`s tours in the Air Force in Special Forces, during the Panama Conflict.

We also talked briefly about vanadinite in the Hillsboro area and mentioned a couple of mines to him, he let me know some info about a few other mines there, too. I didn`t want to keep him too long, as he is usually on his way to meetings regarding the upcoming Albuquerque Club Show, so I picked up the liability release form from him and started out the door. He let me know that he would see us Saturday at the mine, he was going to take the New Mexico State Geologist there for a tour of the mine…I told him my crew was lookinging forward to meeting him and had brought some mineral specimens from their areas to give to him.

I headed over to the Chili`s Restaurant next, to meet my cousin Larry there, for an early lunch. He arrived about 11 am, right after I had walked Onyx up the street a little ways. Last year I had to leave the truck running and the air conditioner on for Onyx while Larry and I ate inside the restaurant, as it was pretty warm that day. This year was dramatically different, high was about 55 when I got there, so the truck was warm when I left her inside with the windows cracked open a couple of inches for her.

About 90 minutes later, the temps had dropped and what looked like small snowballs,  started coming down from the sky like hail…I ran out to the truck and rolled the windows up for her…could not believe what was falling out of the sky…

….it stopped shortly after but did not warm back up. Roads were wet but not slick, we headed south to Socorro shortly after that…about ten miles south of I-40, we hit some brief snow showers….

…blowing in from the west in waves, but again, nothing sticking to the road, just the ground and only then a dusting of snow. The temps however did continue to fall as I headed south.  Onyx and I arrived an hour later to the Red Rood Inn at Socorro, where we had a room for the next two nights. While I was checking in, the desk clerk told me that Deming was receiving some snow showers as well. I knew anything that stuck to the ground would not stick around long, as the forecast for tomorrow, our first day at Blanchard, was predicted for 50 degrees at least. John let me know he may have been infected with something, thought one of the students must have come to classes last few days with a virus possibly, was just now affecting him. Felt like he was losing his voice but was taking some otc stuff to combat it, would see how he felt tomorrow.

Randy Gentry and Mike Mangrove had arrived from Nashville shortly before we did, so once I got Onyx settled in, I walked down to visit with them, and then David Hodge arrived soon after and joined us. David was staying at the Economy Inn as was John O and Dan, and possibly Logan and his grandpa. Alina and her family were staying at the Holiday Inn I think, they arrived later that day, too. The four of us decided to head down the street to Yo Mama`s Grill for supper…since I had a big lunch, I just had a glass of tea there.

We weren`t able to locate a restaurant there that served real breakfast…you know, eggs, bacon, ham, or sausage, and hot cakes…so everyone decided to wing it on their own…I had a big box of cookies from Clark Street Cafe to eat yet, so I was good and my bottle of KETO Maui Punch for later if I got hungry. We lined up in front of Red Roof Inn and headed to Bingham about 7:30 am…Mike Messer had driven up to meet us at San Antonio, right in front of the fire station, so he got in line as we headed east from the interstate.

The road leading to the base of the mine mountain….that you cannot see in the photo below…

….was a little rougher this year so it took us a little longer to get to the bottom of the mountain. As we turned the corner and approached the mine road going on up, there were two guys next to an suv on a concrete pad, looked like they had camped out for the night, one waved and we waved back, and continued up the road…..

I thought the mine road going up the mountain was alot rougher than last year also, but John didn`t think it was as bad as last year. 🙂 I do know it took us about ten minutes longer to get up there to the mine. I parked in the general parking area….the one with the spacious view below….Mike, Randy, Pat, and Logan joined me parking there….

…..while some drove on up to the small bench parking area. I let Ray know we were there and about the guys camped out at the bottom in the silver suv. He wasn`t sure if he knew who they were or not, he thought we should be the only ones up there today. A few hours later they drove up the hill, stopped to say hi and told us they were going up above to another mine, said Ray gave them permission, gave us their names and then drove on up.  I texted  Ray with that info as well….he said it sounded like a couple of guys he had talked to a month ago, he thought they were going to be there a month ago.

We all fanned out and began working the bench area, as we had last year…it produced so much good stuff last year that we figured we would start there once again. The photo below shows John up on the hill above us, above the bench, where he, Dawson, and David Bruce dug all day last year….

…he decided to work that pocket again and see what else could be pulled out of there. The rest of us were spread out along the bench from one end to another…Randy, Mike, Logan, and his grandpa, worked the pockets on the north end where Pete had dug last year….

…and over the course of both days, they pulled some big plates and clusters out of those pockets, they never left that area both days. David Hodge, had the spot with the great view all day long…both days…he could stop digging, take a break, stretch, and had this view the whole time….

…he began digging in here and by the time we finished the next day, his pocket hole was about four feet deep and five feet wide…I think even Ray, who saw it the next day, was impressed with what David by himself was able to do there. 🙂

I wanted to walk over to that quartz pocket when I first got up there, but I was soon wide eyed with wonder and felt like a kid overwhelmed in a candy store, because there was gorgeous color with quartz and fluorite cubes laying all over the place from one end to the other, like a hundred feet across there. I helped Alina, Pat, Finn, and Cohen get started as they had never been there before and I think they were overwhelmed as to how much was there as well. It was a lot of fun watching their sons start collecting and I was helping Cohen a lot…Finn was soon distracted by a vein of Chrysacolla and got busy digging some plates of that out…Cohen liked the barites so I was helping him find some nice blades…both of them soon went up to help John O work the pocket above, at his request, because he was getting tired quicker. He still had no clue what he had, but it was making him weaker, so they traded off and helped him dig the pocket back out so he could get down to the goodies….which he split evenly with them…..

After helping Cohen get a good start on his collecting, I began working a barite ridge along the east edge of the bench…had to really watch my footing and where I was sitting on the edge of that ridge, because there was a good drop off there. Onyx was stretched out right above me in a sunny spot…

..and in the area above my blue bucket in the above photo, Mike Messer began digging into a pocket back toward that wall, and then found better plates of blue down in the dirt below. I was pulling some beautiful blue cube plates out of that barite ridge I worked, some with barite on them, some with quartz on them, and since some had quartz on them, I didn`t continue down the bench looking for that quartz pocket, I stayed right there and filled 2 buckets lickety split.

Alina and Pat were working another barite spot to the right of me and we were talking back and forth, when I heard a loud roar above, looked toward Pat and saw a huge Military aircraft behind and above Pat, filling the blue sky big as could be. Wish I could have been able to get my phone camera out and snapped a photo and video of it…I thought it looked a little smaller than a C-130, it was making a hard turn to the left and climbing higher…we were joking that maybe the Military boys were curious as to what we were doing and rolled it to the left to take a closer look at us…who knows for sure, but sure was neat seeing them up close like that…we all waved…love those types of moments !!

We had been hearing some big guns all morning way to the south, a rapid fire boom, boom, boom, boom, boom…sounded like a Gatling Gun but much bigger…wondered if the Army had rapid fire cannons these days…that is what it sounded like to us. I recalled what Mickey said, that there would be some activity way south of us that would not affect us…this must be that activity we were hearing.

 Only then did I take a break, go get two more buckets, and move my truck up to the other parking lot….

All of us were finding so much good stuff, that we really didn`t stop to take many photos. Here is one of my finds that day….

We were off the mountain this time by 4 pm and headed back to Socorro for some dinner, this time several of us going to Jackson Ranch Steakhouse to check it out…have to say, I have had better steaks that cost less and were properly cooked as well. In my humble opinion, Texas Roadhouse would blow this place away on quality of food and price value both !!

The next morning we arrived at the same time, this time Mike waited for us at the mailbox loop by the road we turned off on…Beth Merrell was going to wait for us there as well, with her husband Terry and son Ben coming too, but they were not there when we arrived. We were running a few minutes late so I thought maybe she had changed her mind and we headed on down the road. The cell service out there is spotty at best…Bingham is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere…but about a mile down the road, my cellphone pinged and rang, and Beth was calling me, she had tried to text me but I didn`t receive it til I was up by the mine.  She said they were at the gate, told her to come on down the road and we would stop and wait…which we did, but then I thought maybe I had better turn around and go get them. Problem was, that where we stopped to wait, the road was narrow and I couldn`t turn around to return, so Mike Messer, being the last one in line, volunteered to go get them…I couldn`t even send her a message saying Mike was coming to get them in a silver pick up  because by that time, I had no more signal. Luckily, she had Terry drive on down the road and they met Mike soon enough and he led them back to join us. When we got to the base of the mountain, I stopped and walked back to say hi and let them know about the road going up the mountain. Terry was driving a newer Colorado pickup, I told him he was in for a treat with four wheel drive.

I stopped at the first parking area again, let them know what they would need and what to expect as well…Beth and Ben took off and headed up to the bench. Logan had parked his truck there again, and Terry spotted something leaking from it, smelled like antifreeze and coming out in a steady stream. We walked up and I let Logan know about the leak, then we got settled in and I showed Beth, Terry, and Ben, the pockets we were collecting and digging at, the amount of quartz and fluorite all over the place…Beth was as amazed as we were the day before…they started in finding beautiful stuff, Beth loading up the buckets they brought and Terry taking them down to the truck. I let him know he could park up where the rest of us were parked if he wanted to, but we had to keep the road open for Ray and his crew coming up mid morning with the State Geologist. I don`t think Beth has done a lot of rockhounding out in New Mexico, even though they now live in the Cloudcroft area, moving there after Terry retired from Fire Chief of Maplewood Fire Department in St Louis County. Maplewood Fire Department is one of the cities I used to dispatch for, mainly fire dispatch, and Terry is one of the Fire Chiefs I occasionally had to wake up late at night for structure fire calls. I had seen Beth out at Haunted Ridge and a few other druse quartz digs, so when I saw that they had moved out to New Mexico, I let her know she was welcome to join us on our NM trips. I know she had a blast that morning and so did Ben, think that was his first time doing some major collecting….

Pretty sure most of us filled at least two more buckets today at the Blanchard Mine…I also loaded up some yard rocks in my truck bed, putting them as far forward in the bed as I could, and wrapping them heavily, as they had both quartz and fluorite cubes both all around them. My larger fluorites went into the floorbeds after heavily wrapped, too…most of them had barite and quartz with the blue fluorite cubes. Here are some of my finds on the second day there…

About 10 am, I checked on David`s progress at his pocket was huge and deep by then….he was still pulling out purple and blue fluorite plates and clusters tho….

Ray and his crew came up about mid morning, stopping off along the way to show the State Geologist some of the lower areas of Ray`s mine, several adits that were gated off and secured to keep trespassers out. Ray led them on up and over the top of the mountain, and a few minutes later, they were driving along the rim above us…Ray looked down and spotted David`s pocket hole and hollered down, ” hey what are you guys doing down there ? “…then waved and drove on. I told David he was prob quite impressed with your work ethic.

We visited with Moses, a former FT Director with the Albuquerque Club, and a few other members of the Club, until Ray drove back down to our location…I walked down and gave Ray a deep flat with specimens from my crew, including some Linwood Barites from John,  and the signed release form. He asked if we were going to the Rockhound Roundup Show in Deming later the following week, and I told him we hoped to go Thursday afternoon when they opened. He said he would be there later in the week as well.

By 2 pm, it was just David and I at the mine, everyone else left at noon or 1 pm, headed to Deming. John and Dan left earlier to see if they could find a doctor and find out what was going on with John. Logan and his grandpa left earlier, after Ray and his crew came up to our level,  to see about the radiator leak and we had not heard from them since.

David and I wrapped things up about 2 pm and headed to Deming around 3 pm, arriving just as the sun was setting. We got checked into our hotel and then headed to Denny`s to get some dinner, found out they have great hamburgers and fries there.

The on-duty paid firefighters and EMS crews of Deming Fire Department were there as well, so I walked over to talk to them for a bit, they let me know a couple of their favorite Mexican restaurants in town…La Fonda was one we had been thinking about trying out, they confirmed it was a good place to eat. When they found out I was a retired volunteer firefighter with nearly 40 years of experience, they offered me a position with their department….said they were always looking for good help, and with the 48 hours on, 96 hours off shifts, I would still have plenty of time to go rockhounding there. 🙂

Our food arrived shortly after and we took care of it in short order, as we were chowing down, two New Mexico State Troopers sat down at a table behind us…we visited with them when we finished our dinner. They told us we picked the right time to visit, as it had been cold and snowy the past few weeks before we arrived. We made sure to thank them for their service before we left.

The next morning we were able to sleep in a little, five of us meeting up at Denny`s for breakfast, the rest had breakfast elsewhere. Dan and John decided to keep their distance from us, to be safe. John had discovered a Medical Clinic in Deming the day before when they arrived, and sought out treatment…the staff there provided him with some meds and they seemed to be having a good effect on him, but we all decided to maintain our distance from him as well.  After a good hearty breakfast, we all loaded up at Denny`s and drove out to the Retro Ranch…John introduced Jeff to everyone in the group, and then after a brief discussion with Jeff, the per bucket price for collecting there, was set at $ 125.  I stuck around a little while, walking with Randy and Mike, and then checked on David to see how he was coming along on thundereggs. He and Mike Messer decided they were going to stick around and see what agates they could find. I decided I was going back to the hotel and take a nap, but before I left, I gave Brutus, Jeff`s yellow Lab, a couple bags of dogfood, because he was skinny as a rail and def could use some extra food. He wolfed it down fast, testament to his dire need for some nourishment. We had set Sunday for the Ranch for those that wanted to collect from the material still there, and to rest up from the first two days of digging at Blanchard. I returned to the hotel with Mike and Randy, and decided to re-arrange my truck bed, before taking my nap. Later on, we went to Irma`s Mexican Restaurant for dinner, after David and Mike finished up at Retro.

Monday morning, Onyx and I woke to a beautiful sunrise…the top floor of the hotel facing east or west has its advantages if you like sunrises or sunsets…..

….most of us again, went to Dennys for breakfast, then the others came over and waited for us to finish up, before we headed west to the Apache Mine, near Hachita. Last year was our first trip there, it`s an old mine dating back to the days of Geronimo and his Apache warriors mining it for turquoise. We have found chrysacolla, calcite, pink quartz, and other copper secondaries there, lots of small pieces of blue and green color there, all over the ground and in the many tailing piles. John and I found a lot of reading material on this location plus good info from rockhound friends as well.

There are several vertical shafts on the property, most have a raised berm around them, one or two do not, so one has to be very vigilant and careful when walking around there. Onyx and I were walking around a big tailings pile on the backside of the property….

….came up over a raised area of the pile and like two steps from there, was a four foot square shaft opening, lined with heavy timbers and no berm around it…was very glad I had Onyx on a short leash that morning. We didn`t find anything up there and re-joined the others shortly after that…..

……at the open pit with horizontal adits going off in different directions. I picked up several nice pieces of calcite with seams of bright green, blue, and teal blue running thru them….like this calcite bluff….

….that overlooks a dry wash that runs thru the middle of the open pit area….

…that wash above is about a hundred yards long, running north to south, and I found several chunks of calcite in the pile of rocks there in the middle, with the seams of color…just a matter of what you liked and wanted to take home with you. Up at the north end, there are a few more washes that branch off to the right side and can be checked as well. We were there til about early afternoon, then decided to drive on down the road leading in, to see if we could find the area with quartz crystals laying on the desert floor…the quartz there erodes out of the limestone in the hillsides, there are reports of scepters, single points, and clusters found in certain areas…we drove the rough road down to the old Chapo Mine, checked the tailing piles there, found some color again, but nothing spectacular enough to take home with us, then turned around and headed back to Deming.

Tuesday morning, we woke to another beautiful sunrise….

….and met at Dennys again for another hearty breakfast. From there we drove north to Hillsboro Mining District in The Black Range…we drove up a scenic two lane highway up and over a small mountain range to the little village of Hillsboro. We spotted some of the snowcapped mountains off to the west and north as we drove through this area…

Most of the mines there are north and east of Hillsboro, so we turned east, passing a neat little museum with an old fire truck sitting outside, that looked to be about the age and style of Sullivan`s 1941 GMC Central Pumper…this one was sitting outside and rusting away. Our main objective this morning was the Macy Mine, located above Percha Creek a few miles east of HIllsboro, where Vanadinite plates and calcite have been found. Again we found alot of reading material online on it and a few private collector field trips as well. The road leading to the mine is very rough, took us a while to reach a good parking area, and then we had to hike from there….


…in the photo above, you see Mike Messer taking a detour around the main road…we had to do that because there was a ledge on the main part of that road that had at least a two feet drop off…where you see the three pickups in the foreground above, was prob the smoothest section of the road that day. We parked here and then hiked down this hill first….

…this is looking downhill, at a fairly steep angle…the red dirt area in the middle is where we were headed, the Mine sits at the top of that and to the right a little ways…here is a better look at the angle on the hill we hiked down from the parking area…

…we are parked out of view at the top of this ” little ” hill and to the left of that rocky bench up there…David Hodge and Logan Sparks are over on the right side checking out the openings along the bottom of that other rocky knob…they didn`t find anything worth checking out there, tho. On the topo maps, there are mines dotting the hillsides in that area all over the place. When we reached the bottom of this little hill…..

… leveled off, and then we had to hike down a steeper angled rock covered slope to the bottom floor where we found a fairly wide, brisk moving stream of water…Percha Creek…with several LARGE diameter trees on both sides of the creek…

We build a bridge of large round, smooth creek rocks but then didn`t like the looks of it because the rocks got wet and would likely be wet, so some waded across the creek, which was about a foot deep at most, and some of us went upstream a hundred feet to a more narrow spot with an island in the middle, to cross over. John and Logan used a steel pipe cattle guard suspended over the creek, to make their crossing over. Then we had to climb the ” little hill ” on the other side of the creek and most of the trail up there was perched right above the right side of the red wash…which was very deep…we could have walked up that deep wash but would have been tough to climb up out of it. This hillside required a couple of rest breaks to climb, the angle up was pretty steep…once we got to the top, we had another commanding view of the valley and hills around us….

…the entrance to the mine is just to the left of this photo, and by the time I got up there, John and David Hodge were down in one of the adits…I asked Mike Mangrove if he and Randy would watch Onyx and then I entered the adit as well. I caught up to them pretty fast, they were looking at a pocket that had been cleaned out recently, found several lithium batteries laying all over the place in there…John said that was not a good thing to do with lithium batteries, either. We checked all the way to the end of the adit and then checked a few side shoots off of it….

…this one above led to another vertical shaft, likely one of the two we saw above…needless to say, we did not find anything worth checking out further inside, so we decided to go out and look around a bit. As I came out of the mine, I looked up and there was Onyx, sitting patiently waiting for me. Mike and Randy told me that she sat down and stared intently at that adit opening…waiting for me to come out…


We fanned out and made a quick search around outside….

…but did not locate anything at all worth taking home with us…so we decided to go to another mine and see if we could find anything at it. First we had to hike back down this little hill, cross the creek, and make our way back up the other little hill to the trucks…luckily we didn`t have full buckets to carry up the hill. Once we got back to the trucks, at least thirty minutes later, after making a few rest stops along the way…we had to look for Dan, who had wandered upstream from below the parking area. Luckily he came back up the hill about 20 minutes later and we were able to head back to the highway and then over to the other mine, but a 30 minute check of the tailing piles did not turn up anything so everyone decided to drive back to Deming and take a nap.

I re-arranged my truck once more, before taking my nap…the evening we arrived at the hotel in Deming, I had removed 3 of the 4 buckets I brought for Eddie, and relocated them to my hotel room, which freed up room in my truck bed for more collected material, then had to go get a few new buckets at Tractor Supply…love their red five gallon buckets. So now I was bringing those buckets in my room, back to my truck bed, because we were going the next morning to Eddie`s mine in Orogrande Mining District and I would off-load them at the meeting spot. After the nap, Randy, Mike, David, and I went to La Fonda`s Mexican Restaurant for dinner, our first time there. We had driven by it several times and always saw a lot of vehicles parked outside it…the food and the service was very good there, they have an American food menu and a Mexican food menu, both.

The next morning at Denny`s, everyone was looking forward to the Orogrande Mine trip…based on what Eddie had to me could be found at his Playground Mine. Alina, Finn, and Cohen were going to meet us at the meeting spot, as well as Beth, meeting time as requested by Eddie, was 10 am, so we were actually able to sleep in a little and left just before 8 am, driving east to Las Cruces, taking a shortcut east from I-10 over to Hwy 54, and then north on 54 to the little town of Orogrande. I wonder now, if they use that stretch of four lane highway thru town, as a speed trap, since they bring you down from 65 mph to 35 mph for a half mile stretch of highway, where about all that is there to slow down for, is a post office and a gas station.

We arrived at the meeting spot to find Eddie parked near the highway, presumably to flag us down in case we were somewhat lost, but I had plotted the mileage from Orogrande town to the turn off and it was right on the money. We had to wait a few minutes for John and Dan to catch up, they had stopped a ways back for a bathroom break. Eddie gave us a talk on the mine he was taking us to, as well as some safety information, letting us know that due to the unseasonably warmer weather they were enjoying now, coming in much earlier than normal, the rattlesnakes were now out and we needed to be more vigilant especially around bushy and rocky areas, and be sure listen for the rattle warning, be careful turning over rocks too. He also let us know that he had a complete survival pack in his truck in case anyone did get bitten by a snake, he could provide initial treatment and then transport us to the Border Patrol Station a few miles north, where they had medics on scene. Eddie is a Military US Air Force Veteran, Martial Arts Expert, Retired Professional Bodyguard, and Survival Specialist as well, from his Special Forces work with the Air Force. We soon discovered that he is also a super nice guy and rockhound and Mine Owner. 🙂

After the talk, we unloaded the goodies we had all brought him, and transferred them to his truck, he was very appreciative as he uses everything given to him for the teaching that does for the 278 school children each year. He had told me that the kids really like geodes, so he was very happy with the geodes John and Randy brought him.

Soon we took off and he led us to his Playground Mine, named because of the wide variety of material and minerals that he finds there on any given day. Once we had all parked at the mine and exited our vehicles, we immediately looked down and started finding great stuff, it was laying all over the place. I got out and let Onyx out, and I started picking up chunks of green colored rocks with brown or black anhydrite garnets all over them, plus there was a huge spread out pile of them in front of my truck, that had a lot of good color in many of the rocks as well…..

…it was starting to get warm already, most were wearing their short sleeve shirts by now, and John and Mike even had their sun hats on now…talking to Eddie dressed in his camo fatigues…standing in front of one of the larger spread out tailing piles of garnets and color….

I should emphasize tho, it was only about 70 degrees and there was a nice cool breeze blowing, too. I let Onyx out to stretch her legs too and I began picking up even more garnets…I liked the ones with the Chrysacolla, bright green, and bright blue colors added in and began picking more of those up…. here is one of my smaller piles…

and a couple of close ups….

We collected for a couple of hours and then he allowed a few of us to drive down one of the mining roads to yet another of his claims, a quarter mile away, where he had dug into a hillside and then created a few smaller tailing piles. I had misunderstood what he said, thought we were in the wrong spot, because initially we were talking about another area and then he pointed out this spot, so we drove back to make sure we were at that spot, and then we tried yet another road going around the back of the hill on the other side of the hillside dig spot. Luckily Alina called to let me know that we had passed it up and we were able to come back to that hillside dig spot. Once we got there, we found out that Mike Messer had been up on one of the smaller tailing piles, turned a rock over, heard the rattle warning sign, and was able to back away without any trouble, avoiding a rattlesnake encounter. Mike was raised in San Antonio, Texas, where they also have rattlesnakes, so he is familiar with that situation and knows what to do.

We all drove back up to the Playground Mineand talked to Eddie again, some wondered if we could go to another of his mines there, so he suggested we drive over and check out one of his turquoise mines, and that is where he took us next. After parking there, we walked up the road and wash of a small canyon to several tailing piles at different levels going up the hill. I was in the second group with Randy and Cohen, walking up a dry wash at Eddie`s suggestion, looking for turquoise that washes down with rainstorms…with Alina trailing behind us with Eddie, David, and Beth…I was helping Cohen find some turquoise pieces, most of them were flake sizes, a couple of pebble sizes were found too…Randy was searching for them as well. I have a bag of Kingman turquoise at home, so really wasn`t concerned about collecting a bunch more…I did pocket a couple of them but that was it. What we found at the top of the hill 20 minutes later, was much more interesting to me.

Once we reached the top of the hill, we came up on a bluff made up of rock, it was a white and layered rock bluff wall….I can`t remember the name of the rock tho…Eddie told us what formation it was, but I cannot remember what he called it.  Mike Mangrove was walking around up there and told us that there was some selenite and gypsum up there in boulders. As it turned out, there were also thin layers of gypsum or selenite in the rock wall, a few inches wide to several inches wide. David discovered it after Cohen and I missed seeing them,  and we were able to pull some nice sized pieces of it out, after breaking up the white rock and brushing it out of the way. Some of the layers had turquoise blended in with the selenite, some were transparent and some were not….

Pretty neat stuff tho, plus I actually found a couple of good sized pebbles of turquoise up there too…in a light blue and white color.

While we were collecting those selenite/gypsum layers in the white rock wall, this little guy climbed up the rock wall between David and I and let me take a few photos of him….

Pretty sure everyone left there pretty happy with our finds and we all thanked Eddie for a great day of collecting as well. He also sent me some info on a secret spot for Pecos Diamonds in the Roswell area for our Friday morning dig.

Alina and her crew, and Beth, all headed north toward Alamogordo, and the rest of us turned south on Hwy 54, stopping off at Orogrande`s only gas station to fuel up…we watched a beautiful sunset blossom right in front of us….

We stopped off in Las Cruces at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant for dinner, as no one wanted to wait til we reached Deming to eat…Randy spotted the sign for CB and then John looked it up on his phone to find the exit and address for it…turned out it was on the right side of the exit ramp, made for a fairly easy stop for us. We had a good meal and rest stop there…said our ” see ya laters ” to John and Dan in the parking lot afterward, as they were heading for home the next morning. John was doing somewhat better, even sounded much better, taking the meds the Clinic Staff provided him with earlier in the week, but Dan was not getting better and John wanted to get back and see his doctor. His employer was now providing him health insurance but were dragging their feet getting his insurance card to him, without it, he was fairly helpless away from home without it.

The next morning Logan joined us at breakfast at Dennys and we left shortly after heading west to Lordsburg, then north on Hwy 70  24 miles to the turn off to the Lazy B Ranch…a left hand turn off Hwy 70…then four miles west on the Ranch Road, which is also referred to as Road AO28…crossed the railroad tracks, and continued west 2.5 miles to the left turn on to a dirt road that takes you to Round Mountain BLM Rockhounding Site. There is a wood sign as you approach the dirt road turn that points south as well.

I am listing the mileage here because for some reason, the large BLM sign that used to be out on Hwy 70 is no longer there…and there are a few other ranch roads in that area that might be mistaken for the turn off. However, the Lazy B Ranch is the only one in that area that has a rock wall on each side of the road entrance, as well as big timbers framing the gate above the rock wall with large metal letters spelling out LAZY B RANCH and a little metal windmill on top of the timber across the top of the entrance. Would be very hard to miss all of that.

This is a great and free location to take pebble pups and adult rockhounds alike, because the chalcedony rosettes, some of them with fire agate inclusions, are all over the ground at this location, a location you cannot fail to find great stuff to take home !!

So you turn left from the dusty gravel road to a two track dirt road, going south…I believe the sign said 11 miles to the BLM Rockhounding location from that spot in the road…you will come to a Y intersection soon after making this left turn, and you want to bear left at this one…the right fork takes you around the right side of the hills, supposedly makes a loop, but when I looked at the map, going around there, I was not able to see any connection around the very south side to the left loop. There are also a lot of pull off areas along the roads, where one can camp out if they want to, we spotted several people camping out along the left loop road on our way to the rockhounding spot. Several miles down this dirt road, you will come to a sign that says Loop Road, and you want to stay right at this sign, the road to the right will take you to the corrals, and that is the start of the BLM Rockhounding Area, indicated as such on Google Earth Maps…however, you want to continue to the left down the dirt lane, you will cross two washes and then continue south and down the valley…we drove about two miles and the valley opened to the right where there was a sloping hillside to the left. We parked on the right and began searching from there…you will see the chalcedony rosettes on the ground all over, as soon as you get out of your vehicle, too !!

This is how it looked when we arrived that morning…had it been warmer in the days before we arrived, it prob would have looked more like this….

That is how beautiful it looked to us in 2020, when our good friend Anita Williams took us there to rockhound…bright yellow flowers in every direction for as far as your eyes could see. There were just a few flowers here and there this year.

I didn`t take many photos that day, so here are some closeups of the cleaned up rosettes I collected back in 2020 to show you what they look like…some look like little ornamental eggs, some look like ears, some look like roses…some have fire agate swirls in them….

…personally, I like the ornamental egg rosettes. 🙂

We collected all morning and then headed back to Deming to go to the Rockhound Roundup Show, put on by the Deming Club each year, and this was the first year were were able to actually go to it, most of the time it starts after we have left, but they opened a day earlier this year. There is a building full of vendors and a huge area outside the building with many vendors, so we were able to see a variety of material for sale, some was very high priced, and some was affordably priced. Logan and his grandpa were able to be a vendor that weekend and were set up by the time the rest of us got cleaned up and drove over there. I took a few photos of some items inside the building, like the gal from Florida that had some corals for sale….some absolutely floor dropping, gorgeous corals….she was affordably priced, had this first one tagged with ” Make Offer “…

and this next one was priced at $ 225.00, and it was a good sized one like the first one…and just as beautiful…

and she had some smaller ones, still basketball sized and one is only marked $ 60…

From there, we drove over to a restaurant that Mike and Randy wanted to try out, it was in an alley behind Wells Fargo Bank, over by the Deming Fire Station…operated by an older retired couple and reminded me of a hole in the wall spot, which often, those places turn out to be great places to eat at. They had good food there and were pleasant to talk to as well. It`s called Elisa`s House of Pies…they had pies too but it is definitely a good place to eat at, too. We then returned to the hotel and I once again, repacked my truck bed for the last day tomorrow, which would partly be a travel day toward home, too.

We had a four hour drive to Roswell, so we decided to leave at 6 am, which would put us there at 10 am and give us a couple of hours to collect Pecos Diamonds. Mike Messer was driving to Carlsbad to visit family before he headed home to Iowa, so it was down to Randy Gentry, Mike Mangrove, David Hodge, Onyx and Me. The drive took us across the White Sands Missile Testing Range, passing by the entrance to White Sands National Park, through a corner of Alamogordo, through Tularosa, and then northeast across a mountain range between Tularosa and Roswell, that was quite pretty….

I wish now that I had shot some video of the drive just east of Las Cruces, where we climbed to the top of the peak just east of Organ on Hwy 70 and then literally dropped to the very bottom floor of the high desert where we started across the missile testing range…I basically coasted all the way down that mountain and we were moving along at a pretty good clip…just coasting !! It…was….something…else !! 🙂

We arrived on time at Roswell, stopped for fuel in town and then drove out east on Hwy 380 a few miles…going by info that Eddie provided me for a secret spot location for Pecos Diamonds…found out there were no road signs out there so turned around, returned to a road named on the west side of the Pecos River, then drove to the next road and parked, and we fanned out to look for the diamonds…Randy found one very small red colored one, but David and I found nothing. There was massive white gypsum in that area, but we found no diamonds laying all over the place, so I texted Eddie for confirmation and from what he told me and what we were seeing, I dont believe we had the right GPS location and we were not in the right area. It looked pretty futile for us, so we all decided to head for home instead, maybe return next year and see if we could find the right location then, or go to another spot.

David and I drove back thru Roswell and then east on Hwy 70 to Amarillo, while Randy and Mike drove east on Hwy 380 to I-27 in Texas, then north to Amarillo…I wish now I had taken 380 to the interstate as well, it was a little faster that way…the fact that 380 is only a two lane highway where 70 is a four lane is what convinced me to take 70. However, what I didn`t take into account was that 70 goes thru several small towns along the way and you have to slow down thru each one, that slowed us way down. I stopped in Amarillo for fuel and David continued on toward Oklahoma City…not sure where he was stopping at, but Onyx and I had reservations for a hotel at the west edge of Oklahoma City and we pushed on…I called the hotel and told them we would not arrive til about 8 pm and that is exactly the time we did arrive there. We had a south to north tail wind pushing us along til we turned east on I-40 and then it was hammering us all the way to the hotel. Randy and Mike continued east on I-40 thinking they would stop at Fort Smith for the night.

Onyx and I slept well after such a long day on the road with just a few stops for fuel and rock collecting. I decided to drive over to the NE corner of Oklahoma City at 7 am and get some breakfast at Cracker Barrel there…as I was making my last trip up the stairwell at the hotel to get Onyx and her stuff, I noticed what looked like dancing flames under the window of room 222, like flames do in the incipient stage of ignition…I couldnt see flames but it was an orange glow for sure, so I put Onyx in the truck and walked over to find the office closed and locked. I then called the hotel number and wound up waking the owner of the hotel, told him what I saw and he said he would go check on it. As I drove away, I wondered if he would truly wake up and go check, so called 911 and talked to the Fire Dispatcher and told him what I saw, what the hotel owner told me, and he said he would send a truck company over to check it.

Had a great breakfast at CB, heard from Randy soon after getting done that he and Mike had just arrived home…he sent the text at 6 am, but I didn`t receive it til 7:42 am Sat morning. Onyx and I then we headed up I-44 EB for home…got about 30 minutes east and observed a silver four door car pulled over at an exit ramp, and a man forcibly removing a young girl with long bright red hair, in a strange way, from the back seat of the car and placing her up on the curb and grassy area…it looked weird to me so I made another 911 call, explained to a county dispatcher first, he then transferred me to the State Police, and I explained it to the State Dispatcher…I think the County Dispatcher was more understanding, he asked questions and listened to what I had to say…he said he would get an officer there as soon as possible and I had the impression that the state dispatcher didnt care.

I said a couple of prayers between there and the Missouri state line for the welfare of that little girl, don`t think I will ever forget the wide eyed look she had nor the rigid stance she had as he was placing her on the grassy area…it just didn`t look right to me. Both agencies had my call back number, but I never heard from either one.

Onyx and I arrived home safe and sound about 2:30 pm on Saturday and I heard from David Hodge that he got home safe and sound as well. All in all, another great trip in the books. Now comes all the catching up and cleaning up to do. 🙂


Labor Day Weekend Annual Trip 2022

By the time September finally rolled around, Onyx and I were ready for a break and get away. I had been working virtually every weekend since I returned from New Mexico in March, because we didn`t have any extra help at the golf course. I had checked in with Gary regarding fluorite and found out they had nothing new, had not found any new pockets in some time now and a few dealers had cleaned them out of all the good stuff long ago. I always have requests for fluorite when I go to Kentucky, so I put together a few flats of what I had in my collection and took those with me, in addition to what I had left over from the last time I had been down to see Gary before the show at Marion. Since we weren`t gonna be stopping off to see him and get more, I decided to take the direct route to Harrodsburg this time…a route I am not fond of driving because once you turn east on I-64 from I-57, the scenery thru there is pretty bland and boring all the way across southern Illinois and Indiana both…when you finally drop off the big hill into the Ohio River Valley and cross the mighty Ohio River into Louisville, then you have to be alert as you wind your way through the city to the other side. The interstate thru there has seen its share of construction work over the last five years and it kinda reminds me of a racetrack at times…not me doing the racing, more like me doing the speed limit and getting passed on both sides by racecar drivers. I do like going thru the tunnel on the east side of Louisville tho and I think Onyx enjoyed it too, even tho it was kinda brief. 🙂

Then you travel at least another 30 minutes east on 64 before you drop south on Hwy 127…that stretch can be kind of bland as well. By then tho, I know I am close to my destination, inside Kentucky and about to see all those big horse farms with their fences and beautiful horses in the fields of green, and keeps me awake.

It`s only a 7 hour drive so we didn`t leave til 8:30 am and hit no construction traffic on the way down…I forgot about picking up the hour til we lost it, and so that put us into Harrodsburg near dinner time, so I checked into the former Baymont Hotel fast, allowing Onyx some time to get used to our room. Sometime in the past year, Baymont sold and became Econo Lodge Hotel, and began an extensive remodeling change over, and then by the end of summer, went thru another hotel ownership change, becoming the Clarion Pointe. Have to say, the rooms are much  nicer now and it was a very quiet stay this time around as well.

Once Onyx was settled in, I  then headed to the buffet restaurant at the Bright Leaf Golf Resort Hotel, receiving texts along the way from some of the guys who were there and waiting. Some had not arrived yet and those of us there already, were kinda hungry, so we went on inside and got a big  table over on the south side along a bank of windows. We hadn`t been there long when it started storming and raining outside, our view out the windows is part of the golf course there…..

So basically, we got inside just in time, although the storm seen to the southwest, actually just clipped the golf course and the sun came back out shortly after it started raining. We enjoyed a good dinner and had a great time talking, then went back out to get ready for the first night of the swap and sell tailgate event that evening in the hotel parking lot. We had a good time with that and more people showed up during the event. By 9 pm I was headed back to my hotel, to get a good night of rest before the long day on Saturday at the first quarry.

I was up early Saturday morning, and soon Onyx and I were headed to the Bright Leaf Restaurant for breakfast…as I pulled in to park, I noticed the guys had already parked in such a way that all I would need to do was pull alongside the front row and they would be able to single file pull in behind me and follow to the quarry. We had a good breakfast and then prepared to drive over to Caldwell Quarry…I let Clay know we were about to leave the Bright Leaf and head his way, he figured we would get there first, and asked that we leave him room to get around us to the gate. As I was pulling up to get out on the highway, someone backed up out of his parking spot and rudely jumped in line in front of the others…I`m not going to name names here, but everyone saw it, felt slighted by it, and it did not go over very well at all. Alot of rockhounds in my crew are from the south, they take their manners very seriously and this was a HUGE NO-NO. That was strike one of the day.

We headed south to Danville, and were quite lucky to get thru many of the stoplights along the way without interruption of the line, and soon we were lining up on the right side of the driveway at the entrance to the quarry. Clay arrived a few minutes later, unlocked the gate and we parked in three rows in front of the office, signing the liability release forms for him, and then listened to a safety briefing by him as well. We then took a group photo with the huge pretty rock in front of the office….

We then headed down to the 2nd level, parked and split up in different directions…Clay told us the only change from 2021 was that they were now blasting a new road up and out of the back of the quarry to the highway, to make things much easier, traffic wise, on the entrance road…creating one way in and one way out for the future. Some of the guys headed up to the 3rd level where the most recent blasting had occurred and found Jackpot City waiting for them up there. Sam made the first discovery, finding a small boulder that he was able to quickly cob down to a couple of nice size chunks covered on top with brown calcite dogtooth crystals…

how is that for some pretty calcites ???  pretty neat in my mind. 🙂

Once the main group discovered what was being found up there on that level, they never left that level except to go get more tools or buckets. I have a few guys in my group that are Field Trip Directors with their clubs, some serve as Safety Directors in their clubs too, and I rely on these guys to keep an eye out for each other and the other rockhounds, in regards to safety. This is a location that there are safety requirements and rules in place, and while we want everyone to find nice material and have a good time, we also want to follow the rules set down by Clay, we do not want anyone hurt and we do not want anyone violating simple safety rules, which is to ignore their own safety as well as the safety of others.

I allow these guys in my group to alert someone if they see a safety violation, and such was observed Saturday while we were at the quarry, and the rockhound was advised to move to a safer location. I trust that this rockhound now understands how actions like that can have consequences that none of us want to see happen, that could affect the whole group and other groups going forward. We, as a group,  would very much like to continue going to this location in the future, so actions like that, are not, cannot, and will not, be tolerated at all.

I was advised of it later that day…I was down in the hole collecting some coral, which was laying all over the bottom floor of the quarry…

..some of it weathers pretty good down there and some of it does not, this particular piece was face down in dirt and gravel, so it weathered just fine. In the past few years there, we at times, have found huge plates of corals, some of them 3 to 5 feet long and two feet wide, the entire surface covered by corals.

After collecting a bucket of smaller pieces and then some even smaller branches of corals, I walked up to the third level to see how everyone was doing up there, found a few small plates of calcites up there as well.

Several saws were operating up there and rockhounds in general seemed pretty happy with their finds. Here are some photos of some plates that started as boulders and were cobbed down by some of the guys in my group…cannot remember now whose plates they are tho…

…the common denominator here is fluorite cubes…and below are some vugs and plates closer up for your viewing pleasure…

After a few hours there, most followed Harry and Larry over to the Junction City location for geodes. I stayed behind to make sure everyone had gotten out alright, and then locked the gate, and notified Clay that the gate was locked and we were out of there, before heading to Junction City myself.

I just missed the end of the line of vehicles by the time I arrived in Junction City, but knowing their destination, I was able to take a shortcut and arrive a few minutes ahead of them. Harry had been in touch with the landowner and found out that some heavy spring rains had washed some goodsized geodes out of the banks…and then the drought settled in and the geodes should still be in the creek. I dont know about everyone else, but I was quite happy with the ones I found, all of the larger ones had sunshine quartz, and two of them had some good red coloring as well…

I got tickled when Harry suggested I clean them with Iron Out to remove the yellow coloring…sorry Charlie, I happen to like Sunshine Quartz and these puppies ain`t going anywhere near any Iron Out solution. 🙂

Pretty sure I do know tho, that everyone had a great time at the creek, it`s a good spot to cool down and it`s a good spot to find some great geodes too. Here are some photos and the first video I shot today…


..that is Logan, bottom right corner of the photo above, one of the new guys to the group this year…he lives down in Kentucky Agate country. Here is the second video….


We soon ran out of steam collecting, everyone by that time had several nice ones, and we were ready to head back to the hotels, clean up, and get some dinner, and then finish up with the second night of the tailgate sell and swap event. I believe Friday night was the seafood buffet, and boy was it delicious, as always…they really know how to cook good food at this place and provide down home great customer service, as well. Their breakfasts are pretty doggone good, too. We left so early Sunday morning, driving to the second quarry, that we didn`t have a chance to get breakfast.

We took off at 6 am and breakfast doesn`t get served til 7 am. Some grabbed something from their hotels breakfast bar…I had purchased a cinnamon roll at Mc Donalds the day before and had it instead…they are pretty tasty as well, plus I had my Keto to drink, and that filled me up pretty good. I also had my Keto for lunch, but I rarely eat lunch when I am out rockhounding anyway. We had a nice drive to the second quarry, and arrived about 8 am, going through only one construction zone this time, as opposed to several last year, plus traffic was pretty light this year as well.

As soon as we arrived, we started looking around at the boulder fields and walls…

…and soon, everyone had picked out a spot to work and were busy sawing or working out with their hammers and chisels….some were surface collecting…Onyx and I took a nice long walk around the second level from one side all the way around to the other side…didn`t find much, but sure had a good walk. I noticed Sam up there later in the day on the second level, pretty sure he found some nice stuff tho. 🙂  Dean was working on some boulder vugs down below where Sam was walking around…


After Onyx and I finished our walk and started back toward the truck, having parked in the center, I spotted some pretty colors and veered off to a small boulder pile and discovered a pretty vug with a big yellow calcite crystal inside, surrounded outside by gorgeous blades with yellow, orange, and red colors…

I saw Sam nearby, and called him over to show it to him…he worked it later and was able to chip it out just fine. Soon after, Dorsey came by and picked me up to show me a couple of areas with some neat stuff. He was telling me about this huge column that was exposed in the old quarry, so we were driving up to that area, and he told me that he would like to remove it in one piece and then make a fountain out of it, but I was like him, when I saw it…it sure didn`t look like an easy task to get up to it with a front end loader and remove it in one piece.

Dorsey showed me a few other areas in the quarry that we could access and check the walls for pockets if we wanted to do so…he knew we were looking for the pretty stuff…one pit we worked last year and harvested several beautiful calcite crystals, was now under water once again…last year it was fine, the year before it was under water, and now once again, was under water. Slade and Dean had a fun experience there last year, something involving a large rat I believe they said…apparently Dean does not care for rats much…needless to say, that big rat won`t be bothering anyone, anymore. 🙂

Dorsey took me back to my group and dropped me off, let me know he would be at his office for awhile if we needed anything. He did contact me about an hour later, told me that some members of my group were in an area that they should not be in, without the rest of the group being there as well…he likes the group to stay together…so Sam and I drove up to where they were at, and told them to return to the main quarry floor where the majority of the group was located still.

Once we had that taken care of, Onyx and I did some more roaming about, looking for, and finding more pretty vugs…

…like this boulder I found with a long seam of snowballs of quartz in it…

…and then this beautiful pink dolomite vug, with some yellow coloring…

…and a poker chip calcite pocket I found in a short wall as well…damaged somewhat before I found it, possibly ran over by something heavy…needless to say, I was not able to remove it intact…

…and some honeycomb formation calcite or something….

…some of the guys were taking a break when I returned to my truck soon after…they were gathered around John and Dawson, checking out some flats Dawson had brought with him…

...and Don was taking a much needed break as well…the right way. 🙂

Slade brought me a few of his finds and I took a photo of them….

…definitely had some pretty stuff going on there. By afternoon, we had some rain showers just off to the west of us, we got lucky and did not get any rain at the quarry…clearly it had rained enough the day before we got there, judging by the water puddles all around us. 

We headed back to the hotel in batches…Onyx and I took off first, I was pretty tired and she was pretty muddy, so I stopped off at the creek near the lunchroom and washed her feet off and her belly, where she had decided to lay down in the mud puddles.  She loves getting wet and muddy, has no problem wading in creeks and mudholes, but let me tell ya, when it comes time to clean up, she is not a happy camper. We got it done tho and soon headed back to Harrodsburg, getting back in time to take a short nap before dinnertime. 

I let the guys know about the other areas that Dorsey had taken me to, both places had some walls that likely had some pockets to be checked, so soon after arriving at the quarry Monday morning, several of us drove over there to check those walls out.

We soon found a couple of large openings…I should say one large opening and one smaller opening about 15 feet away, with several plates strewn across a 20 foot long area scattered in and among the rocks of the small hillside leading up to the wall from the boulder border parking area. These were plates none of us had ever seen before, looking like wavy, smooth calcite. In the middle of the larger opening, stood a big…no let me rephrase that…a HUGE column with a unique formation to it…..

it had an attached base that sat off to the side of it tho…Slade began pulling a lot of nice sized plates out from the void inside and around the column, while David Bruce went to get his saw, to remove that base attached to the column…

…this column resembled the one Dorsey had shown me earlier, only this one was smaller and shorter, and likely much more manageable for him if we could remove it intact. David sawed off a heavy chunk that would have made removing the column, nearly impossible…

…while Brad, Don, and I watched…the three of us had been scrounging thru the rocks to pick up other plates and found a few small basketball sized chunks of this material as well…

…the round ones resemble the chert boulders we see in Missouri, somewhat. While Slade and David were doing much of the work upstairs, Brad and I worked on the smaller opening over to the left about 20 feet away…finding even more plates in the clay dirt below the wall and Brad pulled some out of the smaller void there as well. Some of the smaller plates I pulled out of the dirt, had an agate look to them, but that agate look did not remain when I washed the dirt off a few days later.  Oh well, the adventure of finding them was def worth it. Slade and David decided to go up on top of the wall and work on removing the column, so David got his ladder out and assembled it a few feet away….

Slade and David climbed up to the top of that column and tried to use their legs to topple it, however it would not budge…Don told them he had a bottle jack, so they used that and eventually it came down from the void…I shot videos of it using my phone camera and cannot get them to work on my page here…check my FB page, they are on there. David had to take a rest break after that….

…although he did have the shortest drive home that day. 🙂

We all split up the plates that we found and took several home with us…I have checked with the guys, think some of us are still trying to figure out the best way to clean them up. I know I am. 🙂




New Mexico Trip 2022 Part 2

On our arrival back to Deming Sunday evening, we drove directly to the Italian Restaurant, because we weren`t sure if they were going to close early or not. We were inside and seated by 6 pm and figured we would be okay, but then another smaller group or two came in behind us and the attitude with staff seemed to change a bit it seemed like…food was still good but our waitress seemed a bit edgy for a bit there. We discussed going to another historic mining area the next day, again west of Lordsburg and south of the interstate in the Gage area. The mine on the side of the ridge below is where we started our exploration on Monday morning….


We climbed up to this old mine, with the ore chute, and then climbed on up to the tailing piles on the hill above it…

From the height on the hill, we had quite an advantageous vantage point…to the north was the newer quarry, where it is quite obvious they have a lot of material on hand to blast and work for years to come…

…something that struck me when I saw the campers out there between us and the newer quarry…I had looked at Google Earth maps the night before, and Google has the camping area posted inside the quarry area, when in fact it is just south of the quarry fencing in a wash area…I wonder how many people think it is truly at the quarry, which is all fenced in and gated at the entrance…the next view is looking due west and the dirt roads you see going up the sides of those hills, all lead to other mines…


…mines we did not go to after this one…despite an extensive search by the guys along the top of the ridge while I was taking photos, nothing really spectacular was found…David Bruce found a few calcite crystals up there…this location was noted in one of the rockhounding books as a good location for quartz and calcite clusters, but we were unable to find any of them….

At this point, John decided we would be better off going over to Fluorite Ridge and checking out some of the old mines over there instead. Pete and Nic decided to go check out another mine to the north, they had made contact with a mine owner there and he was going to take them to his claim and let them do some rockhounding there. I will include that part right after our exploration at Fluorite Ridge. 

The rest of us drove back to Deming and then north to Fluorite Ridge, and stopped at this first mine…..

….and walked around looking for some pretty stuff. Take a look at the next photo, you will see what the thorn bushes and trees look like in the Fluorite Ridge area and why you have to keep a sharp eye out while walking around the desert floor landscape there at all times, these are all over the place there…

Despite an extensive walk around, checking a couple of adits that were closed off for safety, we continued driving north on the main road, and stopped on the other side of the historic ore chute. From our vantage point up high on one of the trails, we were able to see a quarter mile north, where there was an old ore chute, there was someone working at the top of the ore chute with a small excavator, so we drove down there to look around and check that out as well. We had been to this location in 2020 and searched the area extensively, not finding anything but massive fluorite there, but we did find hundreds of colorful red jaspers there as well as a lot of puddingstone. Virgil was along on that trip and he spent a few hours checking out a huge petrified tree trunk that was exposed in a wash nearby.

John walked up to check out what the contractor was doing with the excavator, and we all wound up walking up there eventually as well, turned out he had dug out the vertical shaft opening and was preparing to seal it on top with a concrete lid…always nice to see people doing things like that, with a concern for safety of others. From there we searched about an hour across the road for pretty stuff…a few of us located some loose fluorite cubes but we were not able to locate a source for them. John then wanted to drive over and check out an old manganese mine, however, after a lot of driving, we were unable to make it to the mine due to unstable road conditions.

We then tried to drive on up to the upper reaches of Fluorite Ridge, but again, experienced more road problems, AO 18 Road was shown on the map to go up there, but after driving out a few miles, we ran into a gate, cattle fencing, and a NO TRESPASSING Notice there, so we turned around and returned to Hwy 26. 

After all that, everyone was ready to stop for the day and grab some supper, so we headed for our other favorite Mexican Restaurant, Irma`s. It`s a bit smaller in size and sometimes a bit noisy in there, but they always have great food there. I took Onyx back to the hotel and then returned to the restaurant. By the time I got back, the guys were starting to get their food, and it took a fe minutes for our waitress to see I was at the table, but she made up for the delay and got my tacos to me pretty quickly, and they were delicious. After the dismal day of collecting, we decided we wanted to go to the other historic area of mines, near Hachita the next day.

In the meantime, Pete and Nic were having a great afternoon at the old mine in Sierra County. A former Zinc Mine that produced alot of secondaries and Nic told us the next morning, that they found some nice vanadinite there.  He did take some nice photos of the mine while they were there…

Nic said the white material on the mine all above and to the left in the photo above, is an ore body seam of willemite and wulfenite….he said the willemite is fluorescent blueish white under short wave. He said they also found  Hemimorphite there. 

…and here are some of their finds that afternoon….


Tuesday morning, John decided we didn`t have to be on the road early, so we enjoyed another leisurely breakfast at Denny`s again and then headed west to Hwy 146 and south to Hachita. John had told me before the trip, that on this trip, we should be traveling the speed limit in that area, because the Border Patrol officers were always thick in that area and they do run radar…a speeding vehicle means something entirely different to them than normal officers…so we were well within the speed limit going there and coming back. As we approached our turn off to the old mining district roadway, I noticed a few BP pickups with horse trailers parked on the side of the highway and officers getting ready to go horseback riding…something was up apparently, but they were on the other side of the highway and at least a few miles from where we would be. At the same time, I felt safe and protected, the whole time we were out there rockhunting, too. John opened the gate and then we headed down a very dusty, dirt road toward the ridge with several old mines dotting the landscape. Within a mile of the gate, we came upon some road construction equipment and two water tankers…another half mile down the dusty road, we came upon the road boss going toward his equipment base, we stopped to talk to him and he let John know that they were widening the dusty road with a grader and would likely be west of where we intended to be. I can safely say they did a great job widening it to the point we had to turn off. We drove up a slight hill and round to the left and parked just off the road amongst the sagebrush, grabbed our buckets and tools, headed up the hill to tailing piles we could see up on top of the hill….

The pile on the right in the photo above, turned out to be a turquoise mine, there were little pieces of it laying all over the ground and some of the guys dug into the white colored rock walls to get more…I have a lot of turquoise at home so I kept on searching…apparently Nick did as well cause he was out in front of me looking around too….

I know he wasn`t finding much cause I didn`t see him putting much in his backpack…one thing about our elevation up there, we had great views of the scenery in all directions around us…looking west in the first photo and northeast in the second photo, below…

and southeast of us here…

…we didn`t locate much of what we were looking for, pretty color and copper secondaries…so after talking to Nick and Pete about another mine right over the horizon to the east of us, we got into our trucks and headed in that direction, the others following me soon after. When Pete, Nick, and I pulled into the second old mine, we discovered several adobe looking building remains, and some rock walls and pillars that appeared to be an old mill site…as soon as we looked around the parking area, we spotted specular hematite…I first thought it was magnetite, but once John got there, he was able to determine specular hematite instead…it was all over the ground there….

There was mine machinery still fairly intact there at the old mill, like this piece…Dawson said it was a neat looking old Trommel….we spread out to search the grounds for anything pretty…I found some pretty crystals on some matrix rock near a couple of old shafts that were fenced off…showed them to John and he said, ” wow, where did you find these ?  ” and I pointed out the location, he said they were garnets…so several of us headed over there and I pointed out a few more and we found a few more beyond that…a pleasant surprise he said. 🙂 

We decided to head over to the old mine at Hachita that had been highly recommended to us by a few clubs that go there…we drove south on yet another dirt road…this one, unfortunately, had not been graded or smoothed out in places, but we eventually arrived at it and started fanning out to search again. This one was much more promising, there was good color on the ground all over the place as soon as we got close. This mine has a lot of colorful history, worked by the Apache Indian Tribe for many years, they mined turquoise there, back in the days when Geronimo was their Tribal Chief, back in those days the Apache lands stretched from southwest New Mexico west and deep into Arizona. I`m not sure if we found any turquoise there that afternoon, but we sure found a lot of chrysacolla and malachite there…there were several tailing piles there to look at and several washes that were nice, the walls were stuffed full of color in each one of them…the grounds of this mine produced quite a bit of color……we parked and walked in….

….checking out the first big tailing pile and then moving on to a second, they both were so tall they blocked out the view of the mine adits and shafts in the background behind them…..Nic and Dawson took more photos than I did at this location…

Once we reached the back of the second tall tailing pile, there was color laying all over the ground in front of us…everywhere…and just beyond that…there was also this huge and wide wash that encompassed several adits….

….during later exploration of the wash near the back of it, I discovered  some nice chunks of a pretty pink druse quartz, some of it with the chrysacolla, stuck in the banks of that wash on both sides…yes I brought some of those chunks home with me, these 2 for sure….

We all walked around picking up colorful stuff all over the grounds…and then started exploring a little more in depth…there were horizontal adits about fifteen feet down with some entrances easy to get in to them and some were not…so the guys explored the easy entrances and were able to get some beautiful chrysacolla from them….I`ll just let the photos Nic and Dawson took, do the talking….


Pretty nice photos, right ? I didn`t venture down there so much appreciated that Nic and Dawson could share them with me so I could share them with you here…this next photo shows David Bruce standing up above the horizontal adit they are in…I did walk over there and look down, in time to see David Hodge climbing up the ramp out of there with two full buckets.

About an hour later, we were packed up and headed back to Deming for supper at the Italian Restaurant again. This would be our last night of supper as a group, we had received word of a snow and ice storm bearing down on Missouri, Iowa, and  Arkansas, so we were all going to head back home the next day to get ahead of the storm.

We had another great breakfast the next morning at Denny`s once again before heading out in separate directions. David Bruce even  surprised us by having a milkshake as part of his breakfast…

…figured it must be a Chef thing. 🙂

I found out later that David Bruce and Dawson hit a checkpoint roadblock near White Sands National Park, due to a missile test and Dawson was able to capture some video footage of it. Told him they were lucky, as all I got to see on the way back was another big brush fire. 🙂

John stuck around a little while to visit with some friends and do some research as well at the Retro Ranch. I heard from him later when he finally made it to the storm, had to drive thru it, believe he dealt with alot of ice, but made it home safe and sound…his car told the story….

Onyx and I headed north toward Albuquerque…I had called Ray to see if he would be home late morning and he said he would, so I could drop off the release forms with him and thank him once again for allowing us to dig at his mine. After filling the tank once again, we headed east on I-40 and didn`t stop for the night til we reached Shamrock, Texas…stopping for the night at a hotel being remodeled, called the Irish Inn. Onyx and I were up early the next morning and headed home, arriving about mid afternoon and ahead of the storm. I heard from Pete and Nic, David Hodge, and Dawson, letting me know they had made it home safe and sound as well.

Another great trip for the record books…resulting as always from the combination of great locations, great weather, great minerals found, great food, great lodging, and of course, great friends to rockhound with. Really sorry that more couldn`t make this trip…believe me, you and your company were greatly missed by all of us.

Really appreciate your patience with me getting this entire story and photos sorted, edited, and arranged, sorry for the delay in putting it together…my right eye is finally beginning to heal properly as of today and I should be back to 100 percent by Friday. 



New Mexico Trip 2022 Part 1

After a long mixed bag of winter this year, a few more snowstorms, one big storm with nearly 16 inches of snow on the ground and 3 inches of ice under the snow, I was ready for a break. Around Feb 1st, I asked John about going back to New Mexico, since we hadn`t been able to even think about it last year, due to New Mexico`s Governor shutting down the entire state to travelers over the Covid BS. I think he was as tired of that charade as I was and was ready for a change of scenery. He started checking with Jeff, at the Retro Ranch, to see if we could return there and dig some more treasures…took a while for Jeff to return John`s calls but he eventually heard back and all was good for us to go back there for a day or two.

After the trip out there in 2020, John and I had talked at Geode Fest this year, we wanted to go to some old mines, including the Blanchard Mine,  where plates of blue fluorite cubes and bright blue linarite crystals could be found, possibly wulfenite crystals as well. Most of those mines are in the central area of the state around Bingham. The Blanchard Mine, for many years, has been producing common primary minerals of galena, barite, fluorite, and quartz, with secondary minerals of linarite, anglesite, brochantite, sphalerite, chalcopyrite, and pyrite. While wulfenite is not mentioned in that list, it has been found there before, along with other minerals such as aurichalcite, cerussite, chrysacolla, malachite, smithsonite, and rosasite…and we did find a few of those at many of the mines we went to this trip, not laying out in the open, but usually located in vugs of boulders.

The mines in the Bingham area, are located in the Hansonburg Mining District and worked from the early 1900`s to around 1985…after that, the mines were primarily worked for specimens only. Many other old historical mines in New Mexico, that are no longer actively worked, have had the same result, many under claim ownership and being worked primarily for specimens these days. Sam was assisting us not only with maps imagery, but helping us check for active claim ownership on the old mines, so that we would not be trespassing on those claims.

I had some friends, that I had taken rockhounding to some secret spots over the past ten years, and had told me that anytime I wanted to go to the Blanchard Mine, known to produce beautiful plates of blue fluorite, let them know and they would put me in touch with the owner. By mid Feb, I called and talked to Ray, and obtained permission to go to his mine with a small group of my rockhound friends. I called him back a week later at his request and he offered us two days of collecting there, asked me to stop by his home on the way to Deming, to visit and pick up some release forms for his mine.

While I was setting up the Bingham mine visit, John was busy researching a few other historical mining districts to visit. Pete and Nic were doing some research on the Kelly Mine area along with John, who has some contacts there as well. Nic was able to contact a lady in Magdalena that was able to grant us access to the Graphic and Nitt Mines, that are higher up the mountain above the Kelly Mine.

Sam helped us with satellite map imagery research and provided alot of good information on the Bingham area mines, as well as the other mining district areas John was researching. By the time February was coming to a close, we were pretty set on our schedule from Thursday March 3rd, to Thursday the 10th, when we would be all set to head home.

I decided to take Onyx with me on this trip…as I didn`t want to leave her at the Vet Clinic Lodging, nor any of the local Puppy Palaces either. I decided that the places we would be rockhounding at,  that had the cactus landscaping, I would simply leave her in the truck and she would be fine with that…and luckily for me, she was. 🙂

New Mexico can be a long and daunting drive for many…Pete and Nic drove down there from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, so they had the longest drive, nearly 30 hours of drive time. My drive takes about 16 hours so I split it into two days and try to do a little sightseeing/rockhounding along the way to break up the drive some. Onyx and I spent the night at Tucumcari, NM, once again, the Budget Inn there has been remodeled very nicely and is a very comfortable place to stop for the night in a very quiet section of town, and for a very reasonable rate as well. I had dinner at Del`s Diner once again, great restaurant with great food there…had breakfast there, the next morning before heading east on I-40 once again to Albuquerque.

I noticed a Union Pacific Train traveling westbound on the north side of I-40 as soon as we left Tucumcari and stopped to photograph it with the NM landscapes a couple of times….

As soon as we climbed up on top of the mountain range halfway between Tucumcari and Albuquerque, I called the White Sands Missile Testing Range, to check and see when they were going to be testing missiles. The mines in the Bingham area are about 300 feet from the boundary fence of the Testing Range and the Military folks really don`t like anyone to be up there when they are testing the missiles. As luck would have it, I was able to talk to a soldier who had once been a fire and police dispatcher himself, and he told me that it would be in our best interest if we could go rockhounding in the Bingham area the very next day, Thursday, the 3rd, because every day after that for the next week, they would be shooting missiles and rockets at the base. On the days they shoot, roadblocks go up on the major highways very early in the mornings around there, and you cannot proceed past one til they give the all clear…that can range from a few hours to the next day.

This year, instead of rockhounding along the way, I stopped to visit with Ray at his home in Albuquerque, pick up release forms from him, and I gave him a beautiful large Southern Illinois purple and grey fluorite cluster with galena, to thank him for being a gracious host. During our visit, he explained the layout of the mining grounds to me, and let me know that while we would not be able to go inside the mine, he pointed out two areas outside the mine that have been very productive the past few weeks and assured me that we should do quite well there…more about that later. He also showed me some of his collection from his mine, and all I can tell you, is that I am sure my mouth was hanging open the entire time and I just hope I didnt make a mess on his floor with any drooling, while looking at the many stunningly beautiful specimens he had on display.

He had another appointment to get to that afternoon, a committee meeting preparing for the upcoming Albuquerque Gem and Mineral Show, so I didn`t keep him very long there. Onyx and I left to fill the gas tank at a nearby Phillips 66 station, let her out to stretch her legs a bit, and then I called my cousin, Larry Moore, who now resides in Albuquerque as well, and met him for lunch closeby. We had a great meal and visited for over an hour…I had not seen him for several years. Larry was born and raised in Orange County, California, his Mom was my Mom`s oldest sister…he has traveled all over as an Archaeologist for the Army for several years, and now works for the State of NM managing Reclaimed Mines, so we had a lot of catching up to do.

Afterwards, Onyx and I headed south on I-25 and soon we were Deming bound once again. On the way down there, I saw the results of a vehicle pursuit on the northbound side of I-25…we popped up over a hill and there was a pickup truck at a 45 degree angle, the bed of it up on the guardrail, cab smashed in, looked like it had rolled several times before coming to a rest in that precarious position on the guardrail…police cars everywhere, at least 20 of them….fire truck and ambulance on the shoulder by the pickup, and nb traffic backed up at least two miles…maybe a quarter mile south in the median was a vehicle pulling a trailer, whatever had been sitting on the trailer was now flattened so I am guessing that the pickup may have either struck the trailer and began rolling from there or rolled over the trailer. There were two officers out with the driver of that vehicle and all appeared okay…saw several vehicles crossing the wide, shallow median to turn back south and go around it. A few miles further south, we topped another hill and spotted 3 NM State Police Officers, one with a Canine, searching an area to the right of the interstate, with several civilians following and appeared to be assisting in a search as well…something possibly thrown out of the pickup there…I was listening to a radio station at the time that was giving traffic reports for roads in that area, but nothing advised about that incident. The reporters were talking about a state officer that had been fatally injured on I-25 near Santa Fe tho, and I immediately said a prayer for his family and Law Enforcement in that area.

About 15 miles further south, I began seeing a large cloud of black smoke ahead, which made me think of that large cloud of black smoke we saw in 2020 as we were headed home from Deming and approaching Albuquerque…that turned out to be a huge brush fire along the west side of I-25, flames higher than the interstate itself producing heavy black smoke that could be seen for 20 miles as we approached from the south that day. As it turned out, I was seeing this smoke cloud for at least 15 miles as we traveled southbound and appeared to be east of the interstate down in the valley south of San Antonio, appeared to be heavy brush on fire as well….

We arrived about three hours later and got checked in at the La Quinta Hotel on the east side of town. I knew David Hodge was already there, as I heard from him the day before and then he let me know when he arrived in Deming as well. Took awhile to get in touch with Pete and Nic to see where they were at due to the mountain range near Ruidoso, and weather…David Bruce and Dawson let me know when they made it into Deming earlier that day as well, and John was expected to arrive by 6 pm, so we decided to meet up at the Si Senor Mexican Restaurant for dinner. By the time David Hodge and I got there, John had arrived earlier than expected, and was sitting with David Bruce and Dawson. I had a tea only, still full from a big lunch with my cousin, while they all chowed down…except for John…didn`t find out til five nights later, when John told me that Si` Senor Restaurant had problems with their cooks a few weeks before, and the food was terrible that evening…as a result, we did not go back while there that week. There are about ten Mexican restaurants in Deming, we like one of the other ones, about a block away, called Irma`s…great food and a bit noisy atmosphere, but very friendly folks there, too. I found it kinda ironic, the Mexican restaurant I frequent here in Sullivan, my hometown, they were having problems with their cooks during the same time frame as well…and when I returned home, their problems had been resolved with a cook terminated and the food has only gotten better here. 🙂

We had a good discussion that evening, regarding going to the Blanchard Mine the next morning, everyone was as excited as I was after telling them about my visit with Ray at his home. We decided we wanted to arrive about 8 am so we would leave about 5 am the next morning. As we were approaching Hatch, the sky indicated that we were going to have one of those exceptionally BEAUTIFUL sunrises to enjoy….this one photographed by Dawson who was riding with David Bruce and John….

…and mine….

Around 8:30 am, we arrived to the entrance dirt road leading to the base of the mountain…could see the mine above…and immediately had to slow way down due to the rough entrance road along the valley floor…go to my FB page and check out the video I posted on March 4th to see how rough that was…then we started up the mountain road…Ray was definitely right when he said it was a rough road and 4 wheel drive would be needed…there were stretches where you were driving on smooth limestone and 4wd helped with traction alone…we came upon some good size rocks in the roadway as well as a couple of narrow spots…couldn`t go faster than half a mile an hour most of the time….deep ruts too….

I am guessing those ruts are some that Ray told me he and friends of his filled in with large rocks to make the road much smoother a few weeks back….the road in the photo below looks fairly smooth and even….far from it tho…that is the first leg below…

…this was also on the first leg up, beautiful scenery there for sure…


Took us a while, but we finally made it to the top of the mountain, and the guys were so excited to get started, they grabbed their buckets and tools and took off in search of buried treasure. I told Ray I would call him and let him know when we made it up there, so I took care of that first, then let Onyx out for a bathroom break, then got my tools and bucket and headed out in search of treasure. We were at the first spot that Ray suggested looking at, the place he assured me we would find some nice stuff at….boy was he right and then some !! 🙂

I walked up to the spot where Pete is seen in the video above, and started looking around there…at the other end of that bench, I spotted John, David Bruce, and Dawson, working in a pocket that Ray told me that some folks worked for a few hours, a few weeks back, and pulled some nice plates out of. I walked up there and took a closer look at it.

The area previously dug out, was about ten feet long and at least two feet wide, but appeared to have been filled back in, so the three of them were preparing to dig it back out and see what they could be found. It appeared that would take awhile so I ventured down to do some prospecting and figured I would check back on them later.

I wandered down to the area below them and found Nic dug into what he figured was going to be a pocket, unbeknownst to him at the time, he was pulling out some nice chunks covered with blue cubes and white bladed barite…

…and here is what he was pulling out of there…all cleaned up now of course….

and here he is holding a couple of larger ones he pulled out of that pocket….


While down there talking to Nic, I made note of where Pete was located as well, just about 20 yards south of Nic…so I wandered over there to see how he was doing…he had a nice large pocket going and was doing quite well too. He stood up to stretch his legs a bit and I shot him with the view behind him, reminded me of something about ” working in the office with a view “….

…just look at all that color in the rocks around him…pretty sure he had a hard time choosing what to take home that day, as we all did…I know I did. 🙂

I then wandered back over to the other side of Nic to see what David Hodge was working on…found him head and shoulders inside a pocket….

…and started pulling out one plate after another…I should prob step back and clarify, pulling out one large plate after another….every 15 minutes for a while there…with cubes and barite on them…the area we were working was almost like a very large area of white bladed barite, some of it in a honeycomb pattern, some of it just big blades…and the cubes were attached in small vugs between the blades and combs…I should also add, and if you scroll back up and take a closer look at Nic`s cleaned blue cube chunks, you will note that the host rock here appears to be beautiful quartz…..

…and one other thing I should add, is that everywhere around us, there was gorgeous seams of color running thru the rocks surrounding us…bright blues and greens, pale greens, light yellows…as I was walking around behind David`s pocket, I came upon a huge pocket of quartz…I could easily call this multi-colored druse quartz because the crystals resembled druse, and they were tightly packed into this pocket on top of this bench we were walking around on. This pocket was about 25 feet across, at least 15 feet wide, and every bit of 8 to 10 feet deep…still kicking myself for not collecting at least another bucket or two of smaller pieces of the quartz out of this pocket…the bright green hues of brochantite and azurite running thru the quartz was nothing short of AWESOME and AMAZING….I did manage to take home several yard rocks from this pocket…some were just sitting on top waiting to go home with some lucky guy….here are a couple….

keep in mind…this quartz completely goes around and totally covers the rocks, every nook and cranny included…just totally mind blowing !!

Yes, I did work that quartz pocket, filled a bucket…wish I had filled at least another bucket or two as well…it was that nice !! Some would say, you were there for the fluorites…and I would say most of the crew was…me, I`m a bit different…my rule is anything pretty that strikes my fancy, goes home with me…heck I even brought home some of those honeycomb barite pieces !! 🙂

I did finally wander up and find a pocket to the right of Nic and then later, over near Pete too, and worked both of them, pulled out some nice chunks of that barite with pretty blue cubes attached to them…size of a football for the most part….

I took a break and walked down to check on Onyx, let her out of the truck on the leash and let her stretch her legs and get some water…I drank a bottle as well…then moved my truck up the hill a little ways like David Hodge did with his, closer to the pockets we were working…little less distance to carry those buckets as we were getting more tired…I parked at an angle so Onyx could continue to benefit from the very nice breeze we had enjoyed all day up there. Here is the view to the northwest in front of where I parked up the hill….

…and to the south….

It warmed to at least 75 degrees but didnt feel like our wet heat here in Missouri…the dry heat feels much more comfy out there and that breeze made it even more comfy. We also had a visitor come up the road on a razer and visit with us for about 20 minutes…he was camped out on the main road near the entrance and just enjoys riding around that area when he has time to do so. After he took off back down the mountain, I decided to get some of those yard rocks and started carrying them to my truck two at a time, wrapped them up and then placed them in the tub in the bed. I then got another bucket and walked over to the pocket I was working next to Pete and started filling it up too. My next break I walked up to check on John, David Bruce, and Dawson, found Dawson down in the pocket pulling out pretty cubes….

I met David Bruce on the way down to his pickup with a plastic crate filled up with a big fluffy white piece of snow…it sure looked like snow…like frozen snow no less…turns out it was likely gypsum per Ray…I checked with him later and he figured it was prob a form of gypsum…some thought maybe arragonite…sure was pretty and unique looking….

…and this is how this gypsum looks in the bottom of the pocket they were working on all day….

and this shows David Bruce and John wrapping up their finds as we are getting ready to get down off the mountain before darkness…

…can you imagine looking at all this razzle dazzle inside the pocket they were up there working all day long ???  wow…just WOW….talk about major distraction…

The advice was to be off the mountain before darkness set in…by 5 pm, Pete and Nic, David Hodge, and I, had our trucks packed and so we drove on down to the bottom of the mountain, where we waited for John, David Bruce, and Dawson. I photographed Pete and Nic coming down the road behind me in my side mirror….

…and we wound up down here at the bottom of the mountain…as the sun was starting to set…

While down there, we photographed the sunset which was very pretty, one of those sunsets that hangs up in the skies and changes every few minutes, getting prettier each time…


It was pretty close to full dark when they came down the mountain and we headed out of there…being our first time there, the landscape and roads totally changed as the darkness took over and I got a bit turned around at the first intersection, but realized it a quarter mile down the road and turned around. Soon we were back on the main road and on our way back to Bingham, and then west on 380 toward San Antonio. David Hodge, Pete, Nic, and I discussed stopping off in Truth or Consequences for supper, while we were waiting on David Bruce, Dawson, and John to come down the mountain,   as it would be late before we got back to Deming and most everything would likely be closed by that time on a weeknight.

We stopped off at the Denny`s at T or C and had a pretty good dinner meal, then headed on south to Deming. Afterward,I stopped off at a Conoco station a few miles south at Williamsburg just as it started to rain, but their pumps were not working well so after spending 20 min there and only getting 5 gallons, I headed on down to Deming, getting in by midnight. John had texted and said they were gonna head to Magdalena the next morning for the Graphic and Nitt Mines by 5:30 am again…I was literally wore out and there was no way I was going to be able to do another long drive and long dig day on 4 hours of rest.

So Onyx and I slept in while the rest of the crew drove up to Magdalena the next morning early, and then we went to breakfast at Denny`s about 9 am…then went to Tractor Supply and picked up a few extra buckets…theirs are bright red…can`t lose one of them. I told the guy at the cash register that and mentioned to him that I needed them for rock and mineral collecting…he mentioned to me that an uncle of his had a mining claim out on Fluorite Ridge and after a bit more small talk, provided me with his uncle`s name and number. I called him on the way back to the hotel and we talked a bit about his mine claim…located between two silver mines but no silver on his claim…told him we weren`t really interested in silver, just pretty crystals and minerals, like secondary minerals, and that is when he told me that he had ALOT of calcite and quartz on his claim, small and big sizes. We had a good talk, but he wanted to think about letting us go to his claim and asked me to call him back the next day.

After getting back to the hotel with my new buckets, I decided to re-arrange my bed load and see if I could make more room. That had been the topic of discussion at dinner the  night before…we all did SOOOOO well at the Blanchard Mine, we were all a bit worried about having enough room for anything we found the next five days. I was able to move my wrapped yard rocks from the tub in the bed, to the front and passenger floor boards in the cab, which freed up room for 4 more buckets in the truck bed. If needed, I could also transfer the cooler to the front passenger seat and that would give me room for at least one more bucket. Everyone talked about the Blanchard Mine visit and how tough it was going to be to top the collecting there !!  🙂

By about noontime, there was a dust storm just outside Deming, could see clouds of dust fairly high up in the air across I-10 from the hotel to the northeast….

….and the dust was settling into the business district as well. Since I wasn`t tired after sleeping in, I decided to go check out the Luna County Museum that John had suggested, he said they have an extensive collection of geodes and thundereggs from Paul Colburn`s personal collection…Paul was known as the Geode Kid in those parts. John and Mary had visited the  museum a few years ago on one of their trips down there to collect rocks and minerals…John was right, it was a pretty neat and very extensive collection, located in the Western Room, which was a treat by itself as well. Paul`s collection of thundereggs and geodes is contained in about ten huge wood framed glass cases, that are well lit to show off the many agate and crystal lined eggs and geodes….sorry for the glare on the glass…

…Paul`s collection spanns many years of collecting from all over the United States, there was even a few large geodes in one case from Alexandria, Missouri, the very extreme northeast corner of Missouri…and there were thundereggs lined up along the very top of each case, as if they were taking advantage of every inch of available space in and on, each case in that section of the Western Room. While there, I ran into a guy looking around the museum as well, that is from St James, Missouri, just 30 miles west of me on I-44…he was doing some research on a guy named Huston, not sure of the spelling, he and his wife originated in my hometown of Sullivan and he was a Mining Engineer…they moved to the Deming area where he purchased some property outside of town and may have done some mining out there as well. Pretty small world to run into someone else from Missouri, let alone my area, while out in southwest New Mexico. 🙂

From there, I drove over to the Deming Fire Station, located in City Hall…wanted to visit with the firefighters there and check out their white colored fire trucks.  I had seen some photos of their trucks online and thought they had an antique truck too. As it was, they were still working under Covid Restrictions and visitors were not allowed inside their station, they invited me to come back another time under more ” normal ” conditions. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I had texted the guys to let them know about the dust storm down in the Deming area, which had been elevated to a Dust Storm Warning by 3 pm…I wasn`t sure how far out it extended, but the forecast in the Magdalena area had included a Wind Advisory. Pete told me later that while it was a bit windy up there at times, they didn`t have the dust storm and never did run into a dust storm on the way back to Deming, either. Nic took a lot of photos while up there and sent me several neat ones…Pete, Nic, and David Hodge left Deming at 5:30 am and arrived at least 30 min ahead of John, Dawson, and David Bruce. They found a couple of mine entrances open and were able to do a little exploring while waiting on the other three to arrive….

…and Dawson took a few photos while there as well…think this one above is the Nitt Mine, where pyrite can be found in the tailing pile…next photo taken by Dawson shows the scenery up on the mountain side surrounding the mine shown….

If I recall correctly, the guys did not find much in the tailing pile they dug down into at the Graphic Mine and it may have been that they were not able to get deep enough to find the layer where the nice stuff is found there. I believe everyone was back in town early enough that evening to have dinner at Marie`s Italian Restaurant…they took over an old Bank Building and serve really good food there…and boy do they believe in feeding people there…at very reasonable pricing. Luckily for people like me, that don`t eat rabbit food…aka salads…they have an out of this world delicious baked potato soup with Italian Sausage slices that is served before your main dish arrives…YUM !! 🙂 

Our destination the next day was the Retro Ranch for an easier day of digging and collecting. This is a secret location that John and Mary discovered a few years ago on one of their hunting trips, while fixing a flat tire on the road next to the ranch, in the cold and rain, where they were befriended by one of the ranch owners and invited to a warm cup of coffee after he finished changing out the flat tire. The following information is from my 2020 trip story —

About six weeks after my fall trip to Arkansas, I had an email from my buddy John Oostenryk about his recent second trip to New Mexico, regarding his opportunity the year before, to go to a property where much lapidary material, with some mineral specimens, had been stored…the family that offered him that opportunity was cordial but firm that he not publicize the site. John had returned a second year and cleaned out another chunk of the material and then had a stellar idea, that he had first checked with the family about…and they were receptive to the idea, that he invite my group and I to join him this spring, going to this secret location to get even more of the material there..out of there…and the price the family offered us was $ 50 a bucket. 

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

So in 2020, John advised everyone going, or even thinking about going on the trip then...”  not to talk to anyone about this particular location. For one thing, it was a secret location and we didn`t want anyone and everyone finding out about it, trespassing into the property to steal stuff there, causing the family there even more grief.

Number two, if they did break in and start stealing, they could very easily get dog bit, shot, injured by either means, killed by either means, or both…I sure wouldn`t want that on my conscience. As I told everyone, there are guard dogs on the property 24/7 and the residents and neighbors are armed at all times, plus they saw deputies and state troopers all the time down there in the area, as well as BLM officers and Border Patrol Officers. I forwarded John`s email to everyone and advised them to read it a few times before making a decision and let me know how they felt about it. ” 

So in 2020, everyone was on board with the warning and advisory about keeping this location a secret, and as far as I know, the advisory is still the same, keep this location to yourselves…if you need a reason besides the request by John…. it boils down to the way this family was treated in the past, the short story is they were not treated well by folks in southwest New Mexico. This family has been gracious to us and treated us well, and I think it only fair that we respect their wishes and treat them just as well in return. 

We didn`t have to get up extra early the next morning for our trip, so after a leisurely breakfast at Denny`s, we arrived mid morning at the Retro Ranch and began searching and then digging for buried treasure. The price per bucket this year turned out to be $ 100, and the price was not set til after we arrived that day. Due to the fact that most of us were closely watching how much we collected after our bonanza day at Bingham on Thursday, we were careful in what we collected and most of us filled one or two buckets at most. Afterall, we still had a few more days of collecting at different locations to go. Here are a few photos of collected items at the Retro Ranch….starting with a chunk of Wonderstone, which is found extensively in a few spots of Southwest New Mexico and prized by many for yard rocks and lapidary projects…

If you like Agates…this is a good location to find a wide variety of them…

…including this beautiful Kentucky Agate that David Hodge found there….and there were piles of agates, minerals, and wonderstone laying everywhere…

…the dirt there is loamy, mixture of sand and dirt, very easy to dig down into….

I should include here, that Pete came upon several geodes and Mexican coconut geodes in the dirt he was digging through, one geode was quite large and heavy, thought to be a thunderegg instead of a geode, and due to the weight of it, Pete decided not to take it home with him. Soon after, someone was able to pop it open, turns out it was hollow after all and filled with beautiful crystals inside…

I believe he and Nic had already taken off by then, and since no one else wanted to take it with them, I decided to take it home with me. 

By mid afternoon, we were done and looking for a new place to explore. Pete and Nic had left an hour before and drove to Fluorite Ridge to check out some locations there…about 3 pm, the rest of us drove to Fluorite Ridge to see if we could find them and check out a couple of spots as well….the road leading to it was very dusty, you either had to stay right behind the vehicle in front of you, or a ways behind it…I was behind David Hodge and I chose to stay back a bit….

Fluorite Ridge is a huge area, only accessible by a few roads, one really needs to go there much earlier in the day to do that area any real justice in searching for spots to collect at, if you are looking for fluorites that is. If you are looking for colorful red jaspers,  puddingstone, and pet wood….they are all over the desert floor in that entire area….sometimes you can find entire petrified trees in the washes in that area.

We were unable to find much, and unable to locate Pete and Nic, so we headed back to town shortly to get some dinner, returning once again to the Italian Restaurant for some more great food. We discussed our trip for the next day to the Lordsburg area, one of John`s favorite areas to go to. Part of the discussion is about a ground nest of bees, once thought to be African bees, not the good kind…not sure John was ever able to confirm what type of bees they are, but people like me, tend to avoid mean bees and since we had some new people along this time, John let everyone know about the bee nest and where it is located there. 

The next morning we went to our go to spot for the Super Slam breakfast again…holds you pretty much all day…and then headed west on I-10 for Lordsburg…an area rich with old copper mines to the south of the interstate. There is also an old ghost town there called Shakespeare for anyone that likes tourist attractions like that, it is just south of Lordsburg and down a gravel road by the cemetery, Road AO22, take the first right hand turn to go to the ghost town.

We went further south and then down a dirt road to the old copper mines…the landscape on both sides of the main drag is dotted with old mines and tailings…you just have to be careful you are not claimjumping down thru there. John has been to the area we go to, several times over several years and knows the safe places to go to, and the places you have to pay thru the nose to get into as well…we didn`t go to the latter places. We started looking around in the old trench mines first…where the bee nest is located…luckily we when we arrived, it was windy and pretty chilly, too cold for the bees most likely, and once we started collecting and got down into the trench area out of the wind, it wasn`t too bad for us, either. 🙂

Nic snapped this photo of David Hodge, Onyx, and I, all bundled up for the wind and cold…it wasn`t anywhere near as cold in 2022 when we were there.

that is David Bruce, John O, and Pete in the first photo in the trench, looking for crystalline azurite and malachite pieces, then David Hodge searching, and the photo above here is Dawson trying to move the big cracked rock off the wall to see if there is any pretty stuff underneath…I didn`t stick around to see how successful he was in moving it off, but I bet either way, he did get a good work out in. 🙂

When we finished up at the trench area, we drove on down the road to another spot and checked out some boulders that were completely covered in bright blues and greens….


I should prob point out, that I don`t have alot of videos posted on this story, most I shot with my phone camera and those are on my Facebook page, so if you would like to check those out, send me a friend request because generally they are only available for my facebook friends to see. My FB link is 

From where we parked at the second spot, this was the view looking back to the northeast towards I-10…

…lots of cactus out there, some you really have to watch for and watch where you step…the main reason I didn`t let Onyx out to run all over the place…these are the ones you really have to watch out for and there are some even smaller than this one…

I took a couple of walks around the entire mine area, started below where we parked and found a lot of nice smaller rocks covered in druse quartz with malachite azurite coated on top of the quartz….

the darker blue is normally the azurite and John said the lighter blue could be chrysacolla or cerussite, both are excellent secondary copper minerals..pretty soon I had my tailgate completely covered with them…

…when I started walking the hillside above, I ran into Pete who had just cobbed down a nice chunk of rock covered with crystalline malachite…he told me Nic was up on top of the hill and finding malachite up there, so I headed up that way next…

…and David Bruce showed me some of his finds too…


I walked up on top of the hill and found some pretty stuff up there as well and then walked past the guys working the boulders, and past the framed structure, to the front drive of the mine, and spotted this boulder about 20 feet up on the hillside…could not miss this one unless you were blind !!

and here it is even closer up…the sun was on it and it was bright !!

…I walked back down toward the truck and met Dawson wandering around, asked him if he had his hammer and chisel with him…he did and then asked him if he would like to see some bright blue and green, told him it looked possible to chip some plates off of it, so he followed me over there and was able to chip a few off…he liked the bright boulder too. He gave me one of the plates and we walked over to the other side of the road to look at some old mines that dot the landscape to the northwest….

I then walked back to my truck to wrap up my plate…and heard the guys were finding some wulfenite blades in some of the vugs they were working on in the boulder field above….David Bruce sent me this photo of one he found in a sea of color….

…it wasn`t long after that, that we loaded up and headed back east on I-10 toward Deming, ready for supper at the Italian Restaurant once again. 🙂

Central Kentucky Labor Day Weekend 2021

It`s New Years Eve 2021 and we are expecting the first Winter Storm of 2022 tomorrow morning, so I figure I can get my Rocks Website caught up this weekend while riding out the storm. Right now I am transferring photos from my phone to my computer so I can fully illustrate my last couple of big stories…I really need to get back to using my Nikon camera more than my phone, the quality of the videos and photos are much higher with the camera, but it is much easier to use the phone camera when shooting spur of the moment videos that I can then easily transfer to my FB page, and I guess that is the main reason I have shot more with my phone camera in the past year.

We had a great time in Central Kentucky this year once again, and Nathan, my new local rockhound friend, was able to go with me this time and it was his first big field trip ever. Safe to say now, that he had a great time and enjoyed rockhounding with all of my friends as much as Onyx and I did. Pretty sure I can also say that our two days at Liter`s Quarry was again the highlight of the trip, this year we found alot of pockets with new mineral and crystal finds, unlike anything we have found there in the past couple of years, some of the finds were nothing short of Phenomenal !! Some of the guys were still talking about it when they were up here rockhounding with me in November.

I was once again, ready for a break from work this year, the last few days of August we had some high winds at the golf course and we spent alot of time cleaning up trees and limbs that had been blown down all over the hill on the front nine holes. One large tree had several limbs knocked down and required the use of our new Mahindra tractor to drag them down to the woodline for disposal. Luckily, the week ahead looked great for all of us, weather wise.

I let everyone know I was going to stop off at Gary`s house to pick up some new fluorite pieces, always a hit at the swap and sell tailgate event. I had called Gary to see what they had available, and he let me know they had several nice clusters, small to big, in the purple and yellow cubes from a pocket they had discovered back in the spring time and several new clusters in purple and grey cubes from a pocket they had recently found and began to work. Some of the purple and grey cubes also had galena cubes attached and was quite pretty he said. He also hinted at some bad news and said he would explain further on it when I arrived Friday morning.

I worked four hours Thursday morning, Sept 2nd, so I could finish out the day packing the truck with flats for the swap and sell tailgate event, and finish packing everything else for Onyx, Nathan, and I. We left about 5 am heading east and got thru the St Louis area lickety split going around 270 and 255 to I-64 east…hit it just right at 44 and 270 and encountered light traffic going south on 270, figured maybe the holiday traffic went through there the day before. We arrived at Gary`s house around 10 am and found Gary and Water waiting for us, with a lot of beautiful fluorites to look over as well.

( Would have gotten back to to this earlier today, but had to re-arrange several photos that I transferred from my phone to my computer, today…not sure why, but they did not sort automatically by date when they transferred in. Aint technology just great ??!! 🙂  )

Gary had some beauties, both the grey and purple fluorites with great zoning and some phantom cubes as well as some beautiful purple and yellow clusters, also with great zoning and phantoms. I purchased a pretty good selection cause I was sure once everyone laid eyes on these beauties, they would be interested in them as much as I was….

While I was standing there admiring all of them, I took these photos with my phone camera and sent a couple of the photos to my buddy Randy Gentry…I knew he wasn`t going to be able to make it up there on this trip, but knew he would love to see what Gary had available too…the photo above was one I sent him and he said get one of those for me, so I did. Randy is one of my best rockhunting friends, in my group as well, and one I don`t have to worry about when he asks me to pick something up for him like this. The next photo shows a plate that I really liked, good color and great quality, but the price tag on it was a bit steep for even me that day….

…and the next one, this one above, is a large cluster with some malachite attached to it….the one in the photo below did leave with me tho….

…along with several smaller plates and clusters, that were quickly purchased at the swap and sell event that evening. I think Nathan was quite impressed with the fluorites he saw that morning at Gary`s place and he enjoyed meeting and visiting with Gary and Walter as much as I do each time I travel down there.

We were back on the road about noon and headed to Danville, stopping only for gas and a light lunch…traveling across the state on four lane bluegrass parkways, four hour drive from there and an hour lost along the way. We arrived at 5 pm and got checked into the hotel at the Red Roof Inn Plus, freshened up a bit and made sure Miss Onyx was settled in,  then drove up to Harrodsburg, to the Bright Leaf Golf Resort Hotel and Restaurant, where most of the crew stays at during the weekend stay. It`s not a pet friendly hotel so I can`t stay there…in years past I stayed at the Baymont Hotel in Harrodsburg, but the quality seemed to be declining the last couple of years and I decided to stay at Danville this year…the Red Roof Inn had undergone a remodeling change two years ago and is quite nice.

We arrived at the Bright Leaf and walked into the buffet dining hall behind the hotel, to find many already sitting down to eat supper/dinner. I really like this place, it is very informal…they cater to alot of golfers there and local residents as well…and their service there is fast, we no sooner walked up and said hello to everyone, then the waitress was there to take our drink order  and mark us down for the buffet. Fast and friendly each and every time and good food as well. I let everyone know that while the fluorite mining was going well, they were also dealing with a lot of recent thievery down there…some mines were getting hit hard by thieves stealing diesel fuel which also is used for the pumps that keep the mines de-watered and safe for the miners, put the mine owners in a hard position. However, in this case, MSHA and other regulatory agencies, were very supportive of their position, and were making their Federal Marshals available to them should they need them to make arrests of theives and trespassers at the mines. Mainly because it seems in that area, local law enforcement has been compromised. Sad situation all the way around.

There were a few new faces this year on this trip…my friend Mark Northrup of Springfield, Missouri drove down to join us…Mark is the Field Trip Director for the Springfield Club and enjoys hard rock mining as well. Tammy and Todd Bromley, from Ohio, who I had the pleasure of rockhounding with several years ago when I was digging at the Eureka Fluorite Mine several years in a row, drove down to join up with us for the weekend. A young man who had not been rockhunting much, joined us on the drive to the second quarry location on Sunday morning, Brad McAtee, and later told me that he had a really good time and appreciated all the good advice from all the experienced rockhounds too.

We enjoyed a good dinner and fellowship for about an hour and then went out into the hotel parking lot for the swap and sell tailgate event. Weather was nice that day and evening, pleasant for visiting with everyone, got to visit Tammy and Todd Bromley and get caught up on old times with them.

My buddy Slade had asked me to pick up a nice cluster of fluorite for him so I handed that to him fairly quickly, because soon after, many of the rest of the fluorites were selected and purchased. We had a good time that evening, but by 9 pm most were headed back to their rooms to retire for the night, so Nathan and I packed it in and drove back down to Danville for the night. Our first day rockhunting was the next morning and we would be going to Caldwell Quarry, Slade graciously volunteered to lead the group down to Danville for me so that I would not have to drive up and back. As it was, Slade`s GPS took them a different route, through downtown Danville, a route I had always been advised by local friends not to take due to traffic issues, but they breezed right through the downtown business district with ease, so Nathan and I drove over to the quarry and found them already there and waiting for us.

I had been in contact with Clay, the Quarry Manager, the day before and he had liability waiver forms for us to sign and then gave a talk on the history of the quarry as well as a safety briefing. Last year, he made one of his employees available to us as a guide and this year I had put in a request to him mid summer, to see if it was possible that we could get Jeff again as our Guide this year too…Clay was able to make it happen again this year for us. Just like last year, Jeff took care of us very well, nice attitude and very safety minded, he stayed right with us the entire time we were there. I think he learned a little bit about rocks from us, too.

Caldwell Quarry is always a roll of the dice for rockhunting, never know if you are going to find a little, a lot, or nothing at all there…there is a small seam of calcite when you look at the big picture there, ten stories deep and this seam only extends from the very bottom of the pit to nearly the second level. You do not want to get near the walls of this quarry due to the height and safety risks associated with them.

Once we all had our hard hats and boots on, we assembled once again for a group photo by the huge boulder in front of the office….

Soon after we followed our Guide Jeff, down into the quarry, finding the layout vastly different from last year. Last year we couldn`t find the bottom floor of the quarry because there was this huge pile of rock sitting in it that was almost two levels high. This year, the bottom floor was completely open and available to explore….

Several brought their power saws, power drills, and small power hammers, mainly because when you find a boulder full of pretty crystalized vugs, it is much easier if you have a saw to cob down the boulder and then saw out the vug intact. Once I had folks lined out on where to look at this quarry, Miss Onyx and I did a walk around the ground level and found several clouds of dust where saws were in operation, meaning that several were finding some nice vugs of pretty crystals. Jeff brought a smaller saw with him and got it out to show us how it operated in comparison to the bigger saws the guys had…

…Slade decided to check it out….Jeff is in the white hard hat above standing next to Dean Russell, both watching Slade as he works with Jeff`s saw. Harry Polly is looking for pretty rocks in the berm pile back behind them. Nathan is checking for anything pretty in the more extensive berm pile further down the wall…this was his first major field trip and he was having a blast, pun intended. 🙂

I can`t recall who it was, but someone found a nice purple fluorite cube that morning at the quarry….

and someone else liberated this vug full of beautiful calcite crystals….

I believe we were out of there around noon that day and we headed to Junction City to look for geodes in a half mile stretch of White Oak Creek at the farm of a longtime good friend of the Hickory Club Members. The Hickory Club has been going to this creek location for several years and they enjoy visiting with the landowner as much as they enjoy walking his creek stretch to search for beautiful hollow sunshine quartz lined geodes…here is one that I found about an hour after we arrived…

…it`s a basketball sized one and for the first five smacks with the hammer, I was beginning to think it was another solid one, but it finally cracked open for me. Some rockhounds take them home and clean them out with a soak in Iron Out, which removes that beautiful sunshine color…I prefer the sunshine color and leave mine as they are. 🙂

Here is what the creek looks like close to where we park and enter it….

Onyx really likes this location on that first day of collecting, because quite naturally, she can go wading or swimming there and cool off…we normally have some warm weather down there on Labor Day Weekend and the quarry on Saturday morning doesn`t always have many water holes for her to get into, so this creek is always a lot of fun for her….

You`ll notice the water looks a little green behind Onyx above…that is due to the green colored shale creek bottom there, similar to the Green River in the Stanford area, it has a green shale bottom as well.

The first half geode I found today was this one, filled with a beautiful brown colored quartz, reminded me of the brown calcites found in geodes in northeast Missouri and Southern Iowa….

There are two major ways to search for and collect geodes in the creeks in that area…by wading or walking the gravel bars and visually searching for geodes…I first generally look for geode halves, consisting of geodes that have tumbled downstream during flooding and cracked open on their own, or someone finding one, cracking it open, and it doesn`t measure up to their satisfaction, and they then leave it there for others to find and take home. There are literally, hundreds of whole geodes, in all sizes from thimble to beach ball, laying all over those gravel bars, sometimes 2 or more feet deep, stacked on top of each other, from one end of the bar to the other and lining the creek bed bottoms, including the deeper water holes, waiting to be dug out or raked out with a potato rake or hoe, cracked open, and taken home by an appreciative rockhound.

The other way to collect geodes, is to dig them out of the creek or river banks…the photo below shows the shale layer at the bottom of the dirt bank as well as many geodes congregated right above the shale layer in the dirt with some a foot or two higher than the shale…

Some rockhounds use just a hammer to whack the whole geodes with, 4 or 5 times…more than that you are usually dealing with a solid geode…and some use a hammer on a chisel all the way around a geode to crack one open and hopefully wind up with two halves. The bad thing about just using a hammer is that you sometimes wind up with multiple pieces. I am as guilty as some others, who simply use a hammer and smack the whole geodes without the use of a chisel…I admit it…have done it several times, and sometimes other rockhounds see it and yell at me about it…most let me do whatever I want but some will say something to me about it. 🙂

I think it is fair to say that we all had a good time that day, most of us did well at the quarry that morning, some found some good stuff and I am pretty sure we all had a great time at the creek…lots of geodes to be checked out and the opportunity to get wet and cool off…just ask Onyx, she can tell you all about that. 🙂

About my third trip back to my truck with some pretty finds, my activity came to an abrupt stop, thanks to a couple of red wasps that for some reason were checking out the side of my neck, and when I went to brush them off, stung me. I waited and checked on the swelling and then took my eppy shot, plus an allegra tablet and then just chilled out for a while…red wasps and yellow jackets are the worst for me, in terms of pain involved from the time of the sting and for the next day or two you can still feel the pain quite well in the area of the sting and a bit beyond. Luckily I  had collected a couple of buckets worth and I was getting tired, so it was a good time for me to just chill out and relax down and visit with everyone. Once Nathan was good to go, we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit and clean up for dinner at the Bright Leaf and another tailgate swap and sell event afterwards.

The next morning, we drove up to the Bright Leaf to lead the group to the second quarry we go to, the drive to it takes us nearly 90 minutes but it has become the favorite location of the entire weekend, due to the material that we have been able to find and harvest there the last couple of years since we began going there.

I hesitate to identify this location anymore, because these days more rockhounds will not do the right thing and seek permission from the Quarry Manager to go there. Some do not have quarry safety training and some do not care about safety training, but they have no problem dropping my name if they are discovered inside the gates of certain places I rockhound at.That isn`t going to work for you if you decide to do that, because the property owner or Manager that I talk to and deal with, knows that I will contact them first, with information about someone that wants to go to their location. They also have my name and number in their cellphone rolodex, they can call me and ask me about someone, and if I don`t know you, I am going to let them know they are dealing with a trespasser.

I receive a lot of emails from folks every month, mainly folks I do not know, asking if I can get them into certain locations that I have collected at, asking if I can take them to those locations, usually it involves a quarry that I have been to. My first question to them is, are they are a member of a club, if so, does their club provides training on how quarries operate and safety policies at quarries, does their club requires safety equipment worn at quarries while collecting…if the answer is yes then I ask for a contact name and email addy or phone number so I can contact that person and verify what the person told me, and then I do just that…9 times out of 10, we don`t even get to that point in the conversation and I never hear from that person again. I have become increasingly more vigilant in who I take with me to quarries where we are allowed to collect at, because I don`t want to lose access to them myself and it can happen so easily from someone going to one and not treating the place with respect or following unsafe practices or ignoring safety procedures and policies.

On the other hand, if you have the knowledge, training, and act in a safe and prudent manner while rockhounding, and can prove it,  and if you are willing to go the extra lengths to secure permission before entering private property to collect, I am willing to help out where possible. Just want to put that out there, enough said.

My group always looks forward to the two days we are allowed to rockhound at this second location, and each year it seems to get better and better. This year was no exception, it was probably the best year we have had there so far. It was quite muddy this time, water and mudholes all over the parking lot and roads around the piles……

…you really had to watch where you were walking if your boots weren`t waterproof and we had to some cleaning up before we got back into our vehicles for the most part, at the end of the day as well. David Bruce and I elected to check out a few of the berm piles once we arrived…starting along the top of the piles at this point and going all the way over to the other side of the green pond on the far side…..

….finding some nice surprises here and there, David was finding some beautiful calcites at the base of the walls as well in a few spots. Dawson, Thomas, and Michael were checking out the walls on the far side out of sight in the photo above, and found some nice calcite pockets there.

Once I returned to the area where I parked, I checked out a short berm pile and found a flat stone, that had some purple and yellow coloring to it…

Once I washed it off in a nearby stream of clear water, it became evident to me and others, that the purple was fluorite…here is the other side of the flat stone….

…very pretty and yes it came home with me. 🙂 I decided from there to walk down the main large pile of boulders where several of the guys were checking for vugs, and I happened upon some nice vugs myself, worthy of photos….

…this one was quite nice…I don`t know who the lucky guy was that sawed it out, but it was GREAT to look at…dogtooth calcites up and down the length of it and snowball calcites mixed in as well…just gorgeous !!

I also spotted this nice vug with what appeared to be some smokey colored crystals inside it….

As I moved on down the muddy lane, I came upon Thomas trying to dig out what he thought was a fluorite find in the floor of the road….

It took him quite a while to remove it and once he did, it turned out to be something else. Thomas took it all in stride and moved over to another wall and began looking for pockets again…and soon found a nice pocket in a vertical crevice that was chock full of some weird calcite formations….

He called me over to check them out…

there are calcites and snowballs combined on many of them..and then he told me to pick out a couple of them and I did…pretty nice guy. 🙂

I left Thomas there to work the pocket some more and zagged over to the boulder pile where I saw Don Lapham, from New York state, working on some vugs in some boulders…

right away you notice Don has a power saw in front of him, but did you also notice that he has a lot of prybars and a sledge hammer within reach as well ?  Don is one of my hard rock miner rockhound friends…he isn`t afraid of hard work to acquire what he wants to take home to add to his collection…and keep in mind, a power saw still requires hard to work to operate it, they are no picnic, but they do make it much easier sometimes to remove those vugs full of crystals from a boulder, yet sometimes you have to fall back on the tried and true hand tools too….


I then zigged back to the other side of the muddy lane and moved on down the wall in search of more treasure…thinking I really liked those snowballs mixed with the calcites. Down the wall a ways I spotted Dawson on the other side of the lane checking for pockets in a short wall, he had a big smile on his face and a nice calcite crystal in his hand….

THAT is what a happy Dawson looks like, we get to see that occasionally on our trips. 🙂

I continued to move down the higher wall on the opposite side of the muddy lane. Soon I came upon an area that appeared to be vuggy and several pockets were visible, but higher up on the wall, well out of our reach with the safety of a nice ladder. I spotted some sparkles on a small flat boulder at the base of this section of the wall and looked down to spot this beauty….

…just sitting there waiting for me to come along and find it and take it home. After picking it up and giving it a closer examination, I gave out a bit whoop and yelled      ” EUREKA “…and a few minutes later Dawson showed up to see what I had found…think he was as excited about it as I was. We stayed in that section for a few more minutes trying to figure out where it  may have rolled down from…unable to spot anything viable, we kept on moving down the wall. Eventually we reached a vuggy area where he stopped to check on a certain area and about 15 feet further down, I spotted an opening with some of those snowballs in sight….

Naturally, the bright yellows caught my eyes immediately, the ones that were somewhat illuminated by the sunlight that was catching the ones on the front edge of a rather dark and deep looking pocket between two massively thick ledges of dolomite rock. I carefully removed the larger plates and set them on another ledge in the sunlight…

…and then this one, I set it all by itself on a ledge to my right….

…so you can see how nice and exciting it was to find a pocket like this and work it, even if only briefly. The pocket turned out not to be as deep as I initially thought it was, but I was very happy with what I did pull out of there, here is how it looked when I finished up….

Dawson did not spend a lot of time on his pocket either, but we figured we could return the next morning and check for extensions in each one,  and soon we were on the move yet again, looking for more treasure. Shortly after, I did come across this nice vug, but cannot recall where I spotted it at….

…I know what yall are thinking tho…you are thinking I should remember where this spectacular poker chip calcite cluster, surrounded by snowballs, was located since it is definitely one of my favorite specimens to collect all the time !! If my recall re-appears and lets me know where it was located, I will do an edit and correct this part of the story.

I found a few more nice vugs, photographed them as well…

and this next one was already on someone`s tailgate when I finally caught up to it…

Pretty soon we discovered Slade and Dean appeared to be missing, so I asked a couple of guys if they had seen them, and it seemed they drove over to check out the smaller pit near the entrance. Nathan and I loaded up and drove over to check on them and the rest of the crowd eventually followed us over there as well…we found Slade and Dean working on wall pockets over there…

…so low and behold, there were calcite pockets to be found over there as well. There were a couple of water holes in between them and where we initially parked…more on that in a few minutes…so Nathan and I check out this huge, widespread debris field and found a few goodies within it….

…we both found a couple of big ones, yard rocks, and I really didn`t feel like carrying them back across or around that water hole, seen below…

…so I opted to drive my pickup over to where I was standing instead, to get much closer. I was parked over beside Don`s jeep, and after checking to see how deep that water hole was, it varied in several spots, I opted to cross the narrow section which would be at an angle from the passenger side front corner of his jeep to the left in that photo above. Let me just say that I misjudged the depth at that point and luckily it was rock solid bottom, but for a brief second or two, I thought Don might have to hook up and pull me out of there, but then my trusty four wheel drive kicked in and pulled us right on through, across, and out of there. Needless to say, I found a much better place to cross going back, clearing out alot of those big rocks in the water hole in front of, and to the right of, Don`s jeep…the water level there was much more shallow. 🙂

I did snap a photo of some vugs sawed out of some boulders, that I spotted in someone`s truck, either Slades truck or David Bruce`s truck, and I cannot recall whose truck it was, but they are very pretty vug finds…


Once Nathan and I had our finds loaded up, we decided to head back to the hotel and clean up for supper. A couple of the guys followed me back, while the rest decided to stay and work pockets a little longer. Mark Northrup decided to head home from there, he was a little tired and had such a good time tho. I was a little worried about him making that long drive back after a workout like that…it`s mostly interstate from there, but not a lot of scenery to look at going across southern Indiana and Illinois…speaking from experience, those boring drives can make one pretty drowsy. I was greatly relieved when he texted me later to let me know he made it home safe and sound.

The next morning, there was a smaller group of us returning to the quarry again, the rest of the group heading home from Harrodsburg, so the rest of us made the drive back over, Dawson, Thomas, and Michael, drove down from Louisville and met us there. Nathan wanted to check out the dump pile at the top of the hill between the original pit and the newer larger pit, and some of the crew split up, some going back to the newer larger pit to see if we could open up some more of the pockets we worked the day before, and some went back to the original pit to check out more pockets there.

Dean and Slade first returned to the boulder pile in the middle of the newer pit, to recover some more vugs from select boulders…Dean is in the green reflective outfit and Slade in the Safety Orange colors…

Nathan had spotted some crystals in a vug on that level as well and was trying to remove them with the chisel and hammer before he walked up to the top of the hill…

I think Slade and Dean returned to the larger pit partially because of a bad experience Dean had in the original pit the day before…Slade told me that once Dean got his pocket opened up a bit, he reached in there and a big rat came scurrying out of it and both were pretty shocked when they saw it…I would be too, cause that is the last thing I would expect to find in a wall pocket like that !!

Nathan, Miss Onyx, and I headed for home about mid morning, and when we left, most of the others were all in the original pit checking out more pockets. I had heard from a few of them,  that clusters of dogtooth calcites were coming out of those pockets…hopefully some of them will send me some photos of them that I can include in the story here.

We took a new route home, pretty scenic drive, mix of two lane and four lane roads, that took us over to Gary`s house the back way…I decided to stop and get some more fluorites from him after selling everything I bought from him on the way down there…really like the purple and grey clusters alot, that combination of color is really nice and the zoning in those cubes is pretty neat as well. We had yet another good visit with him and Walter, before heading for home. All in all, another good trip for sure.

As always, if anyone would like more information, give me a shout at

New Mexico, Land of Enchantment and Rocks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0303 Tucumcari NM Sunset 47

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0304 Belen Jasper Area 60

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 137

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 1441

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

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

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

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

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

New Mexico Trip 2020-0304 Sunset Deming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Round Mtn Parking Area 203

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

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

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

…here you see Fred surface collecting….

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


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

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

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

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

AVI 228 Round Mtn BLM Rockhounding Site

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Lordsburg Sunset 243

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0308 Fluorite Ridge Rainy Day 256

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

…and pretty soon John was there with him….

…and Rich Kern too…

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

…gorgeous stuff, Mark !! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 401

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 425

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Machine Dig Eureka Mine May 2015

 For the past ten years, I have joined with a small group of rockhound friends from all over the country and performed a machine dig at the Eureka Fluorite Mine in western Kentucky…for a couple of reasons. Our main goal has always been to help the folks at the BE Clement Mineral Museum, by digging out the old mine pit, which provides safe digging opportunities for rockhounds  of all ages for the remainder of the warm season. By doing so, we remove alot of heavy silt and mud from many of the digging areas, mud that would require hours of hand digging to remove to even get close to the crystals…believe me, we have been there and have done the hand digging ourselves in the first couple of years before we even found out we could use a machine to remove it…we literally wore ourselves out but the rewards were well worth the efforts, too. There are some that would criticize us for what we did, call us opportunists and other things, and yet, given the chance, they would have done the same thing albeit for different reasons than ours.

It is becoming increasingly difficult each year to find places to go and collect rocks and minerals, a passion of mine since I was about eight years old, a passion shared by thousands of people worldwide. The folks who operate the mineral museum at Marion, Kentucky, share that same passion and have opened their hearts to thousands of rockhounds for the past ten years, sharing the passion as well as their making several old mines available to dig into to find buried treasures. Many of the mines in this area of western Kentucky date back to the 1800`s and early 1900`s and were originally operated and mined for zinc and silver, then fluorite later on. The Eureka Mine has always been known for beautiful deep purple and yellow fluorite cubes, occasionally a rockhound will find small lead cubes and sphalerite attached to them as well as smithsonite in a beach sand color, and we have found pockets of greenockite as well. Several years ago, the board members of the Clement Mineral Museum decided to make some of the old mines in the area, available to rockhounds on certain dates each year…that expanded to one public dig per month from April to October and an annual gem show and dig the first weekend of June. Their efforts paid off and thousands of rockhounds in the past ten to fifteen years have greatly benefitted from it…it has become one of my favorite places to visit a few times a year. My group normally performs a machine dig early in the springtime, however this year we were not able to locate a trackhoe operator that was available to work with, so we had to wait until one became available, and that was last weekend. 

After driving down and scouting the exploratory digs performed in April, I checked with my group to see if anyone was interested in a machine dig for May this year, after Bill told me that he could find us a trackhoe operator to work with. Several in my group had begun contacting me back in January and February, indicating that they were interested in traveling to the Eureka Mine again to look for fluorite and asked if I would be interested as well…I definitely was and so I set about finding out who was still on board with the idea. It turned out that several were going to be unavailable the first weekend in May, so I had to recruit a few new guys to join me…Alan Schaeffer is a good friend from the Memphis Club MAGS that I am also a part of, and had indicated to me on my way home from my spring trip in Arkansas, that he would love to join me on my next dig there, so I naturally let him know about it and he said yes. Jeff Deere, one of my good rockhunting friends from northern Georgia, also was on board but was tied up that weekend so he found a great replacement in Mark Bishop, and soon there were three of us…Alan found another guy to join us, MAGS member Marc Mueller, and we were set. I let Bill Frazer know that the four of us would be down there ready to go Saturday morning.

I again drove down there after my shift ended at work early Friday morning, and arrived around noon at the museum. I visited with Tina and Sherry for about an hour and then drove out to make sure I had the right key to the gate…and even though the gate was wide open, it turned out my key wouldn`t open the lock, so I returned to the museum and found board member Russ there…Russ also works full time in geology related work and accompanied me back to the gate to resolve the lock issues. We drove on down to the mine to make sure no one was down there trespassing and looked around a bit…passing the trackhoe parked on top of the hill….

08 Trackhoe Using On Saturday

….they had a torrential rain shower a few days before and there were cubes and hints of purple laying all over the tailing piles and the bench, as well as pieces of fluorite left by the group there in April…some nice stuff even, which greatly surprised me, but as Russ said, they must have found some really super nice stuff if they left this material behind. Needless to say, I was even more ready and rarin to go the next morning.

As I drove over to the hotel at Kuttawa, I passed through some beautiful flower fields at Fredonia….

05 Flowers As Far As One Can See

02 Flower Fields Near Fredonia KY

03 Flowers Near Fredonia

…I had never seen these flowers down there before, having never been there before in May, so they were quite a sight to see and a local young man there told me they were ground up for canola oil, so most folks called them canola flowers he said. 

04 Flowers Up Closer

I drove on over to the Days Inn and got checked in and then took a nice nap….woke up in time to have supper with Alan when he arrived and checked in. Marc arrived from Memphis soon after and we walked next door to the Oasis Southwest Grill and Steakhouse, one of the best steakhouses in the country in my humble opinion. I eat there all the time, food is absolutely great and the service isn`t bad either.  Steve, the General Manager there, is one of those guys that truly cares about the quality of food and your dining experience, he moves around the huge dining areas and checks on everyone…and if something is wrong, he does his best to fix it. Alan found that out that night….I ordered my usual, one inch thick grilled pork chops with a bbq glaise on top…he ordered the eight ounce filet mignon medium rare…as soon as he cut into it, he knew it wasn`t right, overcooked…so they took it back and left him with his veggies. He soon had consumed the veggies and they were nice enough to bring more with the new steak, which now was undercooked…this time Steve came over to check with him, offered him another steak cooked right this time…they left him with the undercooked one, and said they would be back in eight minutes with yet another steak…I know how he felt, been there myself before and he was hungry, so he wound up eating both the undercooked one and then the properly cooked one, and got two steaks for the price of one. My chops, as usual, were cooked to perfection. Marc had appetizers, having ate before he left home. We all retired early in anticipation of the dig the next day, Marc camped out on the lake nearby. 

I was up early Saturday morning, expecting Mark Bishop to arrive around 6:30, as he decided to leave Georgia about 3 am and drive up thru Nashville…and as it was, he arrived about 30 min early and we were able to have a short breakfast there at the hotel, Marc joining us soon after. After a short stop at the donut shop in Eddyville, we were headed to the mine to meet up with Bill Frazer, who arrived there just ahead of us and unlocked the gate. We visited with Bill for a few minutes and then heard the trackhoe fire up on top of the hill…while waiting for the trackhoe operator to walk it down the hill, I took some photos of the new pit area as the guys walked around surface collecting….

09 Before Photo of New Bench


11 Waiting For Trackhoe

12 Mark Checking Out Tailings


13 Mark Checks Bench


Pretty soon, we heard the trackhoe come walking down the hill…Bill had told me the operator would have to veer off the road into the field on the other side and cross the creek at a pasture crossing, so I walked over and opened the gate for him….

16 Trackhoe Crossing Creek

17 Crossing Hurricane Creek


19 Danny Drives Trackhoe Across Field

…and then walked it over to the mine where he stopped and introduced himself as Danny, said he was looking for Mr. Johnson, lol….

21 Walking It Up To the Mine

…we lined out digging plans out for him and he got started right away…first order of business was to try and retrieve the pump hoseline that was mired in the mud, for the museum, who had been unable to remove it by manpower….

22 Cleaning Out the Bench

..and as soon as he got that completed, we had him work on the new pit area, removing some mud and cleaning it out in general to make it easier on us as well as any other diggers to find more crystals…the next three photos were taken by Mark Bishop and shows Danny digging into the new pit area….

30 I Point Out Poss Pocket to Alan


…while I point out the fault area fluorite at the base of the bench to Alan…

31 Showing Alan the Vein and Fault

32 Cleaning Out the New Bench

..pretty soon it was apparent to us that we needed Danny to turn over the bench so we could see if there were any better material underneath….first photo by Mark Bishop….

35 Working Hard to Find Plates


25 Bench Area Dug Out

…we then checked the bench area for cubes while Danny did some work with the tailing piles behind us. I then had him dig into the tailings on the north end of the pit and stir them up a bit for future collectors too….

23 Filling In Old Tunnel



…he then walked it back over to the south side and cleaned out the bench pit wall on the road side for us….

27 Danny Cleans Out Bench Bank Wall

…there was a mudhole down there that turned out to be extremely deeper in mud than what we thought, at least on the wall side, while on the bench side it was maybe ten inches deep at most….you can see it in the light colored muddy spot in the photo below….

25 Bench Area Dug Out

..and here Danny is removing about four feet of mud from that one little spot alone….photo by Mark Bishop….

36 Danny Digs Out Mudhole


…as the guys were digging into the overturned bench area and pulling some nice cubes out…I walked up the road with Danny and the trackhoe and had him make an exploratory cut across the other area across the road….

28 Danny Walks Trackhoe Up Old Road

29 Site Clean up Work

..during this cut, he came across some massive orange colored fluorite, there were no cubes at all, just massive spar, but it sure was pretty. Danny lowered me down in the bucket once again…I have to say it was smoother than any elevator ride I have ever been on and I felt completely safe too…I pulled some pieces of it out of the wall and we found some in the tailings above too. Afterwards, I had him stir up some of the old exploratory piles laying around the forest floor near the logging road, and then we paid him and thanked him for his immense help to us.

We divided up our finds and Mark Bishop headed home to Georgia….while Alan and Marc and I continued to dig around and find some good material before wearing out about an hour later.  After another great dinner at Oasis, Marc headed home to Memphis, and Alan and I stayed over and then Alan headed home in the morning and I drove over to MFQ to check out the quarry there…check out my next story on that part of the trip….I pulled out the biggest poker chip cluster I have ever found there. 🙂

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