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 not 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 def happened there, but still do not know what it was…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…

DSC_0052

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…

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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….

HOW IS THIS ABOVE FOR SOME BEAUTIFUL AND BOLD COLORING !!!

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 https://www.facebook.com/jwjphoto 

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…

Da

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 jwjphoto7@gmail.com

New Mexico, Land of Enchantment and Rocks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0303 Tucumcari NM Sunset 47

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0304 Belen Jasper Area 60

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 137

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 1441

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

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

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

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

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

New Mexico Trip 2020-0304 Sunset Deming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Round Mtn Parking Area 203

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

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

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

…here you see Fred surface collecting….

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

 

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

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

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

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

AVI 228 Round Mtn BLM Rockhounding Site

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Lordsburg Sunset 243

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0308 Fluorite Ridge Rainy Day 256

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

…and pretty soon John was there with him….

…and Rich Kern too…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

…gorgeous stuff, Mark !! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 401

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 425

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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 jwjphoto7@gmail.com