John O and I normally start researching the New Mexico trip around the first of December each year, we at least start talking about it, where we would like to go, return to, and check on mines in other areas. We traded a few notes back and forth, but then I became sick about mid December and was out of it for about four weeks. I started out with congestion and a sore throat ensued shortly after…I initially thought I had a bad cold coming on, started getting a serious headache, which is a rarity for me, and a fever of 103 to 104, so I went to see my doctor…it was kinda weird tho, cause from the time I woke up with the fever, to the time I arrived at her office and they took my temp there right away, my fever had reduced itself to 99 degrees.
My doctor still to this day, has no clue what I had then, she told me after I tested negative for Flu A and Flu B, that I had all the symptoms for the Flu, she was shocked that I had tested negative for either one. I told her those tests have not been reliable since 2021, tainted by the Covid Crap/BS as far as I was concerned, and you will never be able to convince me otherwise. She agreed and is not surprised at how many people besides me, believe that, she said the several in the medical field believe that as well. She asked if I wanted to take a Covid test and I said no, because here again, they have been tainted, and no matter if a person has NO symptoms whatsoever, they will still test positive for some form of Covid, because that is how they were designed and set up to do. I know some do not believe that, some still have faith in the medical community all across this great nation of ours, and I say to them, you are entitled to your opinion, just as I am to mine.
She then asked me to let her know my symptoms each morning when I woke up, by email, and she would treat me on a daily basis on that information, so that is how we proceeded…and two days later when I felt worse, she called in a script for a antibiotic called Azithromycin, which is used to treat colds and viruses. I was taking a few supplements several times a day, known for fighting off colds and congestion, one is Black Elderberry, another is Echinacea, and was taking OTC Allegra, which I take alot for allergies on a daily basis usually at night, and Golden Seal which is a supplement that I also take daily, during the daytime hours, for allergies. They were holding their own but my congestion was not improving, started getting worse and so when I took the first dose of the antibiotic Azithromycin…within 5 minutes, I could feel it working…my congestion started clearing slightly, my sinuses started drying up…the Zithro was allowing my supplements and Allegra to do their thing…and my headache disappeared by that evening and never returned. I took the Zithro with my supplements and Allegra each day for 5 days and by that 5th day, I was on my way to recovering from whatever it was, that I had.
I still have no clue what it was…she told me when I visited her office, that they were treating people here locally and across the country for 30 some odd viruses, some didn`t even have a name, some were assigned a number…she said many people had one called RSV, but my symptoms didn`t match that one…she did say that a gal came to see her the day before that had the same exact symptoms I had, and she tested positive for Flu B, yet I had not the very next day, and that is why she was surprised.
It took me two weeks to get over it total, and two more weeks to get back to normal…I lost my appetite during that four week period, took me a while longer than the 4 weeks to go from eating like a bird to eating for two again. 🙂 I lost 15 pounds while I was sick, which isn`t necessarily a bad thing since I am still on my KETO diet, and it brought me back to my desired weight range. I slept alot the first two weeks, some days I didn`t get out of bed, did not want to nor feel like it, some days I had to crawl to the bathroom or kitchen to get a bottle of water out of the fridge. One thing I truly took notice of, was how Onyx stayed right with me the entire time, sometimes she just sat in my room and kept an eye on me…they know when something isn`t right.
When I got better, I started on my research and started sending John the info…he was having computer problems and when he got those fixed, he started having cellphone problems, so our communications were a little off, but it all worked out and it all came together about two weeks out. I had kept in touch with Ray DeMark and he said we could go to his Blanchard Mine again, offered us two days of collecting there again, as long as White Sands wasn`t testing missiles then.
I let everyone interested in going this year, to make their reservations at both Deming and Socorro for the dates, because I had to wait til later in February to check with White Sands on their testing schedule to select the two days to go to Ray`s mine. That is the tricky part of going to Bingham, is the military schedule…it all hinges on when they are testing, and it is not something to take lightly or get mad about. I have nothing but the highest respect for our Military men and women, and at White Sands, they are testing the capabilities of our weapons daily to ensure our safety 24 hours a day, seven days a week !! Bingham happens to fall within the north side of that huge testing range…contacting the mine owner for permission to go, is the easy part.
While I was waiting to call White Sands, I also made contact with another mine owner, Eddie DeLuca, who I was told, owns a few mines in the Orogrande Mining District, which is south of Alamogordo, but not affected by White Sands. Eddie is a good friend of another of my rockhound friends, so I made contact with him by phone as well one evening, and we talked for a good 90 minutes, at least, during which time I discovered that he owns or has access to 47 mining claims in the Orogrande area, plus a few in the Bingham area !! I found out also that he is a US Air Force Veteran and retired Professional Bodyguard, and Martial Arts Expert. These days he teaches 278 school children in the area, all about rocks and minerals…he uses rocks from his mines and donated rocks, to teach with and to give to the children. He was asking if my group could bring him some rocks from our respective areas to give to the kids as well. I told him we would be more than happy to do that. He told me that he would take us to his Playground Mine, where over 180 minerals have been found so far…he asked what we were looking to collect in that area, and I told him the usual, brown anhydrite garnets, azurite, malachite, chrysacolla, quartz, calcite, fluorite, and anything pretty basically. He just laughed and said he had all of that and more at this mine, so we set a date and time to meet near Orogrande, and I told him I would stay in touch.
I finally called and made contact with my friend Mickey at White Sands, and he let me know it was my lucky day…that the first ten days of March, there was not going to be any major testing going on that would affect our trip to the Blanchard Mine. He said there would be some gun training going on in the southern area of the range the first few days, but that would not affect us in any way. So we set the first 2 days of the trip for the Blanchard Mine, and I updated the crew so they could make the changes to their lodging reservations.
I obtained some other info on a couple of the other mines through field trip reports and from good rockhound friends in New Mexico area clubs. I also talked to a few officers of the El Paso Club to get some insights on mines and collecting in the Orogrande area, as well as some rockhounds who have been to a few of those mines. We usually look at the BLM website to get mine or claim owner info, but their site was down the entire time we were researching, with no idea in mind as to when it would be back up in the forseeable future. Mindat does not have that info and other sites that do, are not always current or accurate so we relied heavily on our ground contacts this year.
John wanted to return to Round Mountain this year to collect more chalcedony rosettes, some with fire agate in them, so we worked that in for later in the week, with a possibility of going to the Lordsburg area as well. He was finally able to make contact with the guy at Retro Ranch again, so we pencilled it in for Sunday the 5th, which would also be a relax and rest day after digging two days at Blanchard Mine.
The schedule we came up with was this :
March 1st and 2nd are travel days to New Mexico
March 3rd and 4th Blanchard Mine
March 5th Rest Day or Retro Ranch Bucket Fee Dig
March 6th Apache Mine for Chrysacolla, turquoise, calcite
March 7th Macy Mine for Vanadinite
March 8th Orogrande Mining District for Garnets, Copper minerals, Quartz
March 9th Round Mountain for chalcedony rosettes, fire agate, possibly geodes
March 10th Pecos Diamonds and then head home
Those that went on this year`s trip included David Hodge, Randy Gentry, Mike Mangrove, John O and Dan, Alina and Pat Klein and their boys Finn and Cohen, Logan Sparks and his grandfather, Mike Messer, Beth Merrell with her husband Terry and son Ben, as well as Onyx and I.
John continued to have problems with his cellphone right up to the day of leaving for New Mexico…think his old one just up and stopped working, which meant he had to go and try to find something better and newer…that is never an easy task, nor is learning how to operate one much newer…I can safely say, the learning curve on my Android phone, which was supposed to be the easiest phone to learn, was a bit longer than I expected it to be. For one thing, these cellphone companies do not make those little ” lets get started ” manuals anymore, you have to go online to find those and then read them about ten times to get acquainted with your new phone. John also found out how tough it was to transfer all your contacts and phone numbers to new phones…that used to be real easy with the sim card, but nowadays, you basically have to do that by making a list and then manually entering each and every one of them yourself. I guess you can make deletions easier that way, but still, that takes a few hours to do.
I started cleaning my truck cab and bed on Saturday, then loaded the five grab bag buckets I was taking to Eddie, two were loaded with poker chips for the kids, along with some Magnet Cove pyrites, MFQ calcites, and some quartz from Arkansas as well. John took Eddie several flats of small geodes for the kids and Randy Gentry brought some as well. Some folks gave Eddie some gas money, he said in the past he never took gas money, but with New Mexico`s 40 cent gas tax, he would not turn money down this time.
Onyx and I went to be early on Tuesday night, Feb 28th, and were up early Wednesday morning, March 1st to get on the road. I had planned to take and wear my extended wear contacts on the trip, but was getting over a small ulcer in my right eye and completely forgot to take the contact with me…I had several of my daily wear contacts tho so was okay. I only made four stops for gasoline on the way down there, where the gas was around $ 3.00 a gallon or less, and we made pretty good time getting to Tucumcari, New Mexico just before sunset. After settling Onyx into the room and cleaning up a bit, I headed down the street to Del`s Diner. I had befriended a rockhound from Tucumcari a few weeks before, who had been able to provide us with some good info on rockhounding locations in the state, and met him there for dinner. We had a good dinner and then I headed back to the room for a good night`s rest, but had to check the forecast first because the news on the way down was talking about a huge snowstorm approaching from the west.
My cousin Larry Moore, who I was going to have lunch with the next day in Albuquerque, told me that the forecasters were all over the place on the forecast, and that some of the harsher predictions usually turned out to be nothing burgers for Albuquerque…I was hoping for a nothing burger on this one, cause it was going to be coming in right as we were all getting to that area. Alina, Pat, and their sons, were up in Durango, Colorado on vacation, skiing no less in the mountains just north of there, and the forecast for their area was even worse, predictions of up to 36 inches of snow falling there from this storm coming in. I sent Alina an email to let her know they may need to get on the road and out of there before that storm hit. We were up early the next morning and I sent her a text message as well, as it looked like the storm was coming in a little slower than first thought, but they would still need to get a move on or the roads to the south thru the Mountains around Farmington, would be snow covered and slick, fast. She received my text soon after and began making plans to get out of there soon.
Onyx and I were on the road soon after, our drive to Albuquerque from Tucumcari is about two and a half hours, and we made it in pretty good time. We noticed the wind picking up as we sailed thru Santa Rosa and started climbing the mountains and gaining in elevation…going from 4, 616 feet elevation at Santa Rosa to 6, 322 feet at Tijeras…then you start downward thru the Rock Canyon from there and it bottoms out at the east edge of Albuquerque, which is a thousand feet lower…the locals call that canyon ” the wind tunnel ” and it was def a wind tunnel that day. The only problem I had was with some of the truck drivers wanting to use it as a speedway instead of holding their speed at 65 or 70 mph as posted…it is three lanes thru there in places, but many of them wanted to use all three lanes and the heck with us other drivers. Luckily, the New Mexico State Police were waiting at the bottom of the canyon where you enter Albuquerque and they were pulling the speeding truck drivers over right and left.
I actually arrived in Albuquerque a little early, so filled up my gas tank first, took a bathroom break, and then drove over to Ray`s house right at 10 am. Ray was as gracious as always and we had a good visit, he showed me some more of his collection….
….and he asked what other places we were going to visit, When I mentioned Pecos Diamonds on the last day, he opened one of his cabinet drawers and showed me his collection of Pecos Diamonds…he had very small diamonds and big ones…as big as my medium sized poker chip calcites…they even looked like calcites with smooth sides to them tho…most were a red clay color and some were brown colored, some tan colored…he had found the smooth sided ones on a private ranch and then he showed me some that looked like big stars, they were tannish/brown colored and he told me where he found them near Roswell too.
I also let Ray know we were going to Orogrande and Eddie was going to take us to one of his mines there, and we talked a bit about Eddie. Ray is a US Air Force Veteran as well and he told me about one of Eddie`s tours in the Air Force in Special Forces, during the Panama Conflict.
We also talked briefly about vanadinite in the Hillsboro area and mentioned a couple of mines to him, he let me know some info about a few other mines there, too. I didn`t want to keep him too long, as he is usually on his way to meetings regarding the upcoming Albuquerque Club Show, so I picked up the liability release form from him and started out the door. He let me know that he would see us Saturday at the mine, he was going to take the New Mexico State Geologist there for a tour of the mine…I told him my crew was lookinging forward to meeting him and had brought some mineral specimens from their areas to give to him.
I headed over to the Chili`s Restaurant next, to meet my cousin Larry there, for an early lunch. He arrived about 11 am, right after I had walked Onyx up the street a little ways. Last year I had to leave the truck running and the air conditioner on for Onyx while Larry and I ate inside the restaurant, as it was pretty warm that day. This year was dramatically different, high was about 55 when I got there, so the truck was warm when I left her inside with the windows cracked open a couple of inches for her.
About 90 minutes later, the temps had dropped and what looked like small snowballs, started coming down from the sky like hail…I ran out to the truck and rolled the windows up for her…could not believe what was falling out of the sky…
….it stopped shortly after but did not warm back up. Roads were wet but not slick, we headed south to Socorro shortly after that…about ten miles south of I-40, we hit some brief snow showers….
…blowing in from the west in waves, but again, nothing sticking to the road, just the ground and only then a dusting of snow. The temps however did continue to fall as I headed south. Onyx and I arrived an hour later to the Red Rood Inn at Socorro, where we had a room for the next two nights. While I was checking in, the desk clerk told me that Deming was receiving some snow showers as well. I knew anything that stuck to the ground would not stick around long, as the forecast for tomorrow, our first day at Blanchard, was predicted for 50 degrees at least. John let me know he may have been infected with something, thought one of the students must have come to classes last few days with a virus possibly, was just now affecting him. Felt like he was losing his voice but was taking some otc stuff to combat it, would see how he felt tomorrow.
Randy Gentry and Mike Mangrove had arrived from Nashville shortly before we did, so once I got Onyx settled in, I walked down to visit with them, and then David Hodge arrived soon after and joined us. David was staying at the Economy Inn as was John O and Dan, and possibly Logan and his grandpa. Alina and her family were staying at the Holiday Inn I think, they arrived later that day, too. The four of us decided to head down the street to Yo Mama`s Grill for supper…since I had a big lunch, I just had a glass of tea there.
We weren`t able to locate a restaurant there that served real breakfast…you know, eggs, bacon, ham, or sausage, and hot cakes…so everyone decided to wing it on their own…I had a big box of cookies from Clark Street Cafe to eat yet, so I was good and my bottle of KETO Maui Punch for later if I got hungry. We lined up in front of Red Roof Inn and headed to Bingham about 7:30 am…Mike Messer had driven up to meet us at San Antonio, right in front of the fire station, so he got in line as we headed east from the interstate.
The road leading to the base of the mine mountain….that you cannot see in the photo below…
….was a little rougher this year so it took us a little longer to get to the bottom of the mountain. As we turned the corner and approached the mine road going on up, there were two guys next to an suv on a concrete pad, looked like they had camped out for the night, one waved and we waved back, and continued up the road…..
I thought the mine road going up the mountain was alot rougher than last year also, but John didn`t think it was as bad as last year. 🙂 I do know it took us about ten minutes longer to get up there to the mine. I parked in the general parking area….the one with the spacious view below….Mike, Randy, Pat, and Logan joined me parking there….
…..while some drove on up to the small bench parking area. I let Ray know we were there and about the guys camped out at the bottom in the silver suv. He wasn`t sure if he knew who they were or not, he thought we should be the only ones up there today. A few hours later they drove up the hill, stopped to say hi and told us they were going up above to another mine, said Ray gave them permission, gave us their names and then drove on up. I texted Ray with that info as well….he said it sounded like a couple of guys he had talked to a month ago, he thought they were going to be there a month ago.
We all fanned out and began working the bench area, as we had last year…it produced so much good stuff last year that we figured we would start there once again. The photo below shows John up on the hill above us, above the bench, where he, Dawson, and David Bruce dug all day last year….
…he decided to work that pocket again and see what else could be pulled out of there. The rest of us were spread out along the bench from one end to another…Randy, Mike, Logan, and his grandpa, worked the pockets on the north end where Pete had dug last year….
…and over the course of both days, they pulled some big plates and clusters out of those pockets, they never left that area both days. David Hodge, had the spot with the great view all day long…both days…he could stop digging, take a break, stretch, and had this view the whole time….
…he began digging in here and by the time we finished the next day, his pocket hole was about four feet deep and five feet wide…I think even Ray, who saw it the next day, was impressed with what David by himself was able to do there. 🙂
I wanted to walk over to that quartz pocket when I first got up there, but I was soon wide eyed with wonder and felt like a kid overwhelmed in a candy store, because there was gorgeous color with quartz and fluorite cubes laying all over the place from one end to the other, like a hundred feet across there. I helped Alina, Pat, Finn, and Cohen get started as they had never been there before and I think they were overwhelmed as to how much was there as well. It was a lot of fun watching their sons start collecting and I was helping Cohen a lot…Finn was soon distracted by a vein of Chrysacolla and got busy digging some plates of that out…Cohen liked the barites so I was helping him find some nice blades…both of them soon went up to help John O work the pocket above, at his request, because he was getting tired quicker. He still had no clue what he had, but it was making him weaker, so they traded off and helped him dig the pocket back out so he could get down to the goodies….which he split evenly with them…..
After helping Cohen get a good start on his collecting, I began working a barite ridge along the east edge of the bench…had to really watch my footing and where I was sitting on the edge of that ridge, because there was a good drop off there. Onyx was stretched out right above me in a sunny spot…
..and in the area above my blue bucket in the above photo, Mike Messer began digging into a pocket back toward that wall, and then found better plates of blue down in the dirt below. I was pulling some beautiful blue cube plates out of that barite ridge I worked, some with barite on them, some with quartz on them, and since some had quartz on them, I didn`t continue down the bench looking for that quartz pocket, I stayed right there and filled 2 buckets lickety split.
Alina and Pat were working another barite spot to the right of me and we were talking back and forth, when I heard a loud roar above, looked toward Pat and saw a huge Military aircraft behind and above Pat, filling the blue sky big as could be. Wish I could have been able to get my phone camera out and snapped a photo and video of it…I thought it looked a little smaller than a C-130, it was making a hard turn to the left and climbing higher…we were joking that maybe the Military boys were curious as to what we were doing and rolled it to the left to take a closer look at us…who knows for sure, but sure was neat seeing them up close like that…we all waved…love those types of moments !!
We had been hearing some big guns all morning way to the south, a rapid fire boom, boom, boom, boom, boom…sounded like a Gatling Gun but much bigger…wondered if the Army had rapid fire cannons these days…that is what it sounded like to us. I recalled what Mickey said, that there would be some activity way south of us that would not affect us…this must be that activity we were hearing.
All of us were finding so much good stuff, that we really didn`t stop to take many photos. Here is one of my finds that day….
We were off the mountain this time by 4 pm and headed back to Socorro for some dinner, this time several of us going to Jackson Ranch Steakhouse to check it out…have to say, I have had better steaks that cost less and were properly cooked as well. In my humble opinion, Texas Roadhouse would blow this place away on quality of food and price value both !!
The next morning we arrived at the same time, this time Mike waited for us at the mailbox loop by the road we turned off on…Beth Merrell was going to wait for us there as well, with her husband Terry and son Ben coming too, but they were not there when we arrived. We were running a few minutes late so I thought maybe she had changed her mind and we headed on down the road. The cell service out there is spotty at best…Bingham is pretty much out in the middle of nowhere…but about a mile down the road, my cellphone pinged and rang, and Beth was calling me, she had tried to text me but I didn`t receive it til I was up by the mine. She said they were at the gate, told her to come on down the road and we would stop and wait…which we did, but then I thought maybe I had better turn around and go get them. Problem was, that where we stopped to wait, the road was narrow and I couldn`t turn around to return, so Mike Messer, being the last one in line, volunteered to go get them…I couldn`t even send her a message saying Mike was coming to get them in a silver pick up because by that time, I had no more signal. Luckily, she had Terry drive on down the road and they met Mike soon enough and he led them back to join us. When we got to the base of the mountain, I stopped and walked back to say hi and let them know about the road going up the mountain. Terry was driving a newer Colorado pickup, I told him he was in for a treat with four wheel drive.
I stopped at the first parking area again, let them know what they would need and what to expect as well…Beth and Ben took off and headed up to the bench. Logan had parked his truck there again, and Terry spotted something leaking from it, smelled like antifreeze and coming out in a steady stream. We walked up and I let Logan know about the leak, then we got settled in and I showed Beth, Terry, and Ben, the pockets we were collecting and digging at, the amount of quartz and fluorite all over the place…Beth was as amazed as we were the day before…they started in finding beautiful stuff, Beth loading up the buckets they brought and Terry taking them down to the truck. I let him know he could park up where the rest of us were parked if he wanted to, but we had to keep the road open for Ray and his crew coming up mid morning with the State Geologist. I don`t think Beth has done a lot of rockhounding out in New Mexico, even though they now live in the Cloudcroft area, moving there after Terry retired from Fire Chief of Maplewood Fire Department in St Louis County. Maplewood Fire Department is one of the cities I used to dispatch for, mainly fire dispatch, and Terry is one of the Fire Chiefs I occasionally had to wake up late at night for structure fire calls. I had seen Beth out at Haunted Ridge and a few other druse quartz digs, so when I saw that they had moved out to New Mexico, I let her know she was welcome to join us on our NM trips. I know she had a blast that morning and so did Ben, think that was his first time doing some major collecting….
Pretty sure most of us filled at least two more buckets today at the Blanchard Mine…I also loaded up some yard rocks in my truck bed, putting them as far forward in the bed as I could, and wrapping them heavily, as they had both quartz and fluorite cubes both all around them. My larger fluorites went into the floorbeds after heavily wrapped, too…most of them had barite and quartz with the blue fluorite cubes. Here are some of my finds on the second day there…
About 10 am, I checked on David`s progress at his pocket hole..it was huge and deep by then….he was still pulling out purple and blue fluorite plates and clusters tho….
Ray and his crew came up about mid morning, stopping off along the way to show the State Geologist some of the lower areas of Ray`s mine, several adits that were gated off and secured to keep trespassers out. Ray led them on up and over the top of the mountain, and a few minutes later, they were driving along the rim above us…Ray looked down and spotted David`s pocket hole and hollered down, ” hey what are you guys doing down there ? “…then waved and drove on. I told David he was prob quite impressed with your work ethic.
We visited with Moses, a former FT Director with the Albuquerque Club, and a few other members of the Club, until Ray drove back down to our location…I walked down and gave Ray a deep flat with specimens from my crew, including some Linwood Barites from John, and the signed release form. He asked if we were going to the Rockhound Roundup Show in Deming later the following week, and I told him we hoped to go Thursday afternoon when they opened. He said he would be there later in the week as well.
By 2 pm, it was just David and I at the mine, everyone else left at noon or 1 pm, headed to Deming. John and Dan left earlier to see if they could find a doctor and find out what was going on with John. Logan and his grandpa left earlier, after Ray and his crew came up to our level, to see about the radiator leak and we had not heard from them since.
David and I wrapped things up about 2 pm and headed to Deming around 3 pm, arriving just as the sun was setting. We got checked into our hotel and then headed to Denny`s to get some dinner, found out they have great hamburgers and fries there.
The on-duty paid firefighters and EMS crews of Deming Fire Department were there as well, so I walked over to talk to them for a bit, they let me know a couple of their favorite Mexican restaurants in town…La Fonda was one we had been thinking about trying out, they confirmed it was a good place to eat. When they found out I was a retired volunteer firefighter with nearly 40 years of experience, they offered me a position with their department….said they were always looking for good help, and with the 48 hours on, 96 hours off shifts, I would still have plenty of time to go rockhounding there. 🙂
Our food arrived shortly after and we took care of it in short order, as we were chowing down, two New Mexico State Troopers sat down at a table behind us…we visited with them when we finished our dinner. They told us we picked the right time to visit, as it had been cold and snowy the past few weeks before we arrived. We made sure to thank them for their service before we left.
The next morning we were able to sleep in a little, five of us meeting up at Denny`s for breakfast, the rest had breakfast elsewhere. Dan and John decided to keep their distance from us, to be safe. John had discovered a Medical Clinic in Deming the day before when they arrived, and sought out treatment…the staff there provided him with some meds and they seemed to be having a good effect on him, but we all decided to maintain our distance from him as well. After a good hearty breakfast, we all loaded up at Denny`s and drove out to the Retro Ranch…John introduced Jeff to everyone in the group, and then after a brief discussion with Jeff, the per bucket price for collecting there, was set at $ 125. I stuck around a little while, walking with Randy and Mike, and then checked on David to see how he was coming along on thundereggs. He and Mike Messer decided they were going to stick around and see what agates they could find. I decided I was going back to the hotel and take a nap, but before I left, I gave Brutus, Jeff`s yellow Lab, a couple bags of dogfood, because he was skinny as a rail and def could use some extra food. He wolfed it down fast, testament to his dire need for some nourishment. We had set Sunday for the Ranch for those that wanted to collect from the material still there, and to rest up from the first two days of digging at Blanchard. I returned to the hotel with Mike and Randy, and decided to re-arrange my truck bed, before taking my nap. Later on, we went to Irma`s Mexican Restaurant for dinner, after David and Mike finished up at Retro.
Monday morning, Onyx and I woke to a beautiful sunrise…the top floor of the hotel facing east or west has its advantages if you like sunrises or sunsets…..
….most of us again, went to Dennys for breakfast, then the others came over and waited for us to finish up, before we headed west to the Apache Mine, near Hachita. Last year was our first trip there, it`s an old mine dating back to the days of Geronimo and his Apache warriors mining it for turquoise. We have found chrysacolla, calcite, pink quartz, and other copper secondaries there, lots of small pieces of blue and green color there, all over the ground and in the many tailing piles. John and I found a lot of reading material on this location plus good info from rockhound friends as well.
There are several vertical shafts on the property, most have a raised berm around them, one or two do not, so one has to be very vigilant and careful when walking around there. Onyx and I were walking around a big tailings pile on the backside of the property….
….came up over a raised area of the pile and like two steps from there, was a four foot square shaft opening, lined with heavy timbers and no berm around it…was very glad I had Onyx on a short leash that morning. We didn`t find anything up there and re-joined the others shortly after that…..
……at the open pit with horizontal adits going off in different directions. I picked up several nice pieces of calcite with seams of bright green, blue, and teal blue running thru them….like this calcite bluff….
….that overlooks a dry wash that runs thru the middle of the open pit area….
…that wash above is about a hundred yards long, running north to south, and I found several chunks of calcite in the pile of rocks there in the middle, with the seams of color…just a matter of what you liked and wanted to take home with you. Up at the north end, there are a few more washes that branch off to the right side and can be checked as well. We were there til about early afternoon, then decided to drive on down the road leading in, to see if we could find the area with quartz crystals laying on the desert floor…the quartz there erodes out of the limestone in the hillsides, there are reports of scepters, single points, and clusters found in certain areas…we drove the rough road down to the old Chapo Mine, checked the tailing piles there, found some color again, but nothing spectacular enough to take home with us, then turned around and headed back to Deming.
Tuesday morning, we woke to another beautiful sunrise….
….and met at Dennys again for another hearty breakfast. From there we drove north to Hillsboro Mining District in The Black Range…we drove up a scenic two lane highway up and over a small mountain range to the little village of Hillsboro. We spotted some of the snowcapped mountains off to the west and north as we drove through this area…
Most of the mines there are north and east of Hillsboro, so we turned east, passing a neat little museum with an old fire truck sitting outside, that looked to be about the age and style of Sullivan`s 1941 GMC Central Pumper…this one was sitting outside and rusting away. Our main objective this morning was the Macy Mine, located above Percha Creek a few miles east of HIllsboro, where Vanadinite plates and calcite have been found. Again we found alot of reading material online on it and a few private collector field trips as well. The road leading to the mine is very rough, took us a while to reach a good parking area, and then we had to hike from there….
…in the photo above, you see Mike Messer taking a detour around the main road…we had to do that because there was a ledge on the main part of that road that had at least a two feet drop off…where you see the three pickups in the foreground above, was prob the smoothest section of the road that day. We parked here and then hiked down this hill first….
…this is looking downhill, at a fairly steep angle…the red dirt area in the middle is where we were headed, the Mine sits at the top of that and to the right a little ways…here is a better look at the angle on the hill we hiked down from the parking area…
…we are parked out of view at the top of this ” little ” hill and to the left of that rocky bench up there…David Hodge and Logan Sparks are over on the right side checking out the openings along the bottom of that other rocky knob…they didn`t find anything worth checking out there, tho. On the topo maps, there are mines dotting the hillsides in that area all over the place. When we reached the bottom of this little hill…..
…..it leveled off, and then we had to hike down a steeper angled rock covered slope to the bottom floor where we found a fairly wide, brisk moving stream of water…Percha Creek…with several LARGE diameter trees on both sides of the creek…
We build a bridge of large round, smooth creek rocks but then didn`t like the looks of it because the rocks got wet and would likely be wet, so some waded across the creek, which was about a foot deep at most, and some of us went upstream a hundred feet to a more narrow spot with an island in the middle, to cross over. John and Logan used a steel pipe cattle guard suspended over the creek, to make their crossing over. Then we had to climb the ” little hill ” on the other side of the creek and most of the trail up there was perched right above the right side of the red wash…which was very deep…we could have walked up that deep wash but would have been tough to climb up out of it. This hillside required a couple of rest breaks to climb, the angle up was pretty steep…once we got to the top, we had another commanding view of the valley and hills around us….
…the entrance to the mine is just to the left of this photo, and by the time I got up there, John and David Hodge were down in one of the adits…I asked Mike Mangrove if he and Randy would watch Onyx and then I entered the adit as well. I caught up to them pretty fast, they were looking at a pocket that had been cleaned out recently, found several lithium batteries laying all over the place in there…John said that was not a good thing to do with lithium batteries, either. We checked all the way to the end of the adit and then checked a few side shoots off of it….
…this one above led to another vertical shaft, likely one of the two we saw above…needless to say, we did not find anything worth checking out further inside, so we decided to go out and look around a bit. As I came out of the mine, I looked up and there was Onyx, sitting patiently waiting for me. Mike and Randy told me that she sat down and stared intently at that adit opening…waiting for me to come out…
We fanned out and made a quick search around outside….
…but did not locate anything at all worth taking home with us…so we decided to go to another mine and see if we could find anything at it. First we had to hike back down this little hill, cross the creek, and make our way back up the other little hill to the trucks…luckily we didn`t have full buckets to carry up the hill. Once we got back to the trucks, at least thirty minutes later, after making a few rest stops along the way…we had to look for Dan, who had wandered upstream from below the parking area. Luckily he came back up the hill about 20 minutes later and we were able to head back to the highway and then over to the other mine, but a 30 minute check of the tailing piles did not turn up anything so everyone decided to drive back to Deming and take a nap.
I re-arranged my truck once more, before taking my nap…the evening we arrived at the hotel in Deming, I had removed 3 of the 4 buckets I brought for Eddie, and relocated them to my hotel room, which freed up room in my truck bed for more collected material, then had to go get a few new buckets at Tractor Supply…love their red five gallon buckets. So now I was bringing those buckets in my room, back to my truck bed, because we were going the next morning to Eddie`s mine in Orogrande Mining District and I would off-load them at the meeting spot. After the nap, Randy, Mike, David, and I went to La Fonda`s Mexican Restaurant for dinner, our first time there. We had driven by it several times and always saw a lot of vehicles parked outside it…the food and the service was very good there, they have an American food menu and a Mexican food menu, both.
The next morning at Denny`s, everyone was looking forward to the Orogrande Mine trip…based on what Eddie had to me could be found at his Playground Mine. Alina, Finn, and Cohen were going to meet us at the meeting spot, as well as Beth, meeting time as requested by Eddie, was 10 am, so we were actually able to sleep in a little and left just before 8 am, driving east to Las Cruces, taking a shortcut east from I-10 over to Hwy 54, and then north on 54 to the little town of Orogrande. I wonder now, if they use that stretch of four lane highway thru town, as a speed trap, since they bring you down from 65 mph to 35 mph for a half mile stretch of highway, where about all that is there to slow down for, is a post office and a gas station.
We arrived at the meeting spot to find Eddie parked near the highway, presumably to flag us down in case we were somewhat lost, but I had plotted the mileage from Orogrande town to the turn off and it was right on the money. We had to wait a few minutes for John and Dan to catch up, they had stopped a ways back for a bathroom break. Eddie gave us a talk on the mine he was taking us to, as well as some safety information, letting us know that due to the unseasonably warmer weather they were enjoying now, coming in much earlier than normal, the rattlesnakes were now out and we needed to be more vigilant especially around bushy and rocky areas, and be sure listen for the rattle warning, be careful turning over rocks too. He also let us know that he had a complete survival pack in his truck in case anyone did get bitten by a snake, he could provide initial treatment and then transport us to the Border Patrol Station a few miles north, where they had medics on scene. Eddie is a Military US Air Force Veteran, Martial Arts Expert, Retired Professional Bodyguard, and Survival Specialist as well, from his Special Forces work with the Air Force. We soon discovered that he is also a super nice guy and rockhound and Mine Owner. 🙂
After the talk, we unloaded the goodies we had all brought him, and transferred them to his truck, he was very appreciative as he uses everything given to him for the teaching that does for the 278 school children each year. He had told me that the kids really like geodes, so he was very happy with the geodes John and Randy brought him.
Soon we took off and he led us to his Playground Mine, named because of the wide variety of material and minerals that he finds there on any given day. Once we had all parked at the mine and exited our vehicles, we immediately looked down and started finding great stuff, it was laying all over the place. I got out and let Onyx out, and I started picking up chunks of green colored rocks with brown or black anhydrite garnets all over them, plus there was a huge spread out pile of them in front of my truck, that had a lot of good color in many of the rocks as well…..
…it was starting to get warm already, most were wearing their short sleeve shirts by now, and John and Mike even had their sun hats on now…talking to Eddie dressed in his camo fatigues…standing in front of one of the larger spread out tailing piles of garnets and color….
I should emphasize tho, it was only about 70 degrees and there was a nice cool breeze blowing, too. I let Onyx out to stretch her legs too and I began picking up even more garnets…I liked the ones with the Chrysacolla, bright green, and bright blue colors added in and began picking more of those up…. here is one of my smaller piles…
and a couple of close ups….
We collected for a couple of hours and then he allowed a few of us to drive down one of the mining roads to yet another of his claims, a quarter mile away, where he had dug into a hillside and then created a few smaller tailing piles. I had misunderstood what he said, thought we were in the wrong spot, because initially we were talking about another area and then he pointed out this spot, so we drove back to make sure we were at that spot, and then we tried yet another road going around the back of the hill on the other side of the hillside dig spot. Luckily Alina called to let me know that we had passed it up and we were able to come back to that hillside dig spot. Once we got there, we found out that Mike Messer had been up on one of the smaller tailing piles, turned a rock over, heard the rattle warning sign, and was able to back away without any trouble, avoiding a rattlesnake encounter. Mike was raised in San Antonio, Texas, where they also have rattlesnakes, so he is familiar with that situation and knows what to do.
We all drove back up to the Playground Mineand talked to Eddie again, some wondered if we could go to another of his mines there, so he suggested we drive over and check out one of his turquoise mines, and that is where he took us next. After parking there, we walked up the road and wash of a small canyon to several tailing piles at different levels going up the hill. I was in the second group with Randy and Cohen, walking up a dry wash at Eddie`s suggestion, looking for turquoise that washes down with rainstorms…with Alina trailing behind us with Eddie, David, and Beth…I was helping Cohen find some turquoise pieces, most of them were flake sizes, a couple of pebble sizes were found too…Randy was searching for them as well. I have a bag of Kingman turquoise at home, so really wasn`t concerned about collecting a bunch more…I did pocket a couple of them but that was it. What we found at the top of the hill 20 minutes later, was much more interesting to me.
Once we reached the top of the hill, we came up on a bluff made up of rock, it was a white and layered rock bluff wall….I can`t remember the name of the rock tho…Eddie told us what formation it was, but I cannot remember what he called it. Mike Mangrove was walking around up there and told us that there was some selenite and gypsum up there in boulders. As it turned out, there were also thin layers of gypsum or selenite in the rock wall, a few inches wide to several inches wide. David discovered it after Cohen and I missed seeing them, and we were able to pull some nice sized pieces of it out, after breaking up the white rock and brushing it out of the way. Some of the layers had turquoise blended in with the selenite, some were transparent and some were not….
Pretty neat stuff tho, plus I actually found a couple of good sized pebbles of turquoise up there too…in a light blue and white color.
While we were collecting those selenite/gypsum layers in the white rock wall, this little guy climbed up the rock wall between David and I and let me take a few photos of him….
Pretty sure everyone left there pretty happy with our finds and we all thanked Eddie for a great day of collecting as well. He also sent me some info on a secret spot for Pecos Diamonds in the Roswell area for our Friday morning dig.
Alina and her crew, and Beth, all headed north toward Alamogordo, and the rest of us turned south on Hwy 54, stopping off at Orogrande`s only gas station to fuel up…we watched a beautiful sunset blossom right in front of us….
We stopped off in Las Cruces at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant for dinner, as no one wanted to wait til we reached Deming to eat…Randy spotted the sign for CB and then John looked it up on his phone to find the exit and address for it…turned out it was on the right side of the exit ramp, made for a fairly easy stop for us. We had a good meal and rest stop there…said our ” see ya laters ” to John and Dan in the parking lot afterward, as they were heading for home the next morning. John was doing somewhat better, even sounded much better, taking the meds the Clinic Staff provided him with earlier in the week, but Dan was not getting better and John wanted to get back and see his doctor. His employer was now providing him health insurance but were dragging their feet getting his insurance card to him, without it, he was fairly helpless away from home without it.
The next morning Logan joined us at breakfast at Dennys and we left shortly after heading west to Lordsburg, then north on Hwy 70 24 miles to the turn off to the Lazy B Ranch…a left hand turn off Hwy 70…then four miles west on the Ranch Road, which is also referred to as Road AO28…crossed the railroad tracks, and continued west 2.5 miles to the left turn on to a dirt road that takes you to Round Mountain BLM Rockhounding Site. There is a wood sign as you approach the dirt road turn that points south as well.
I am listing the mileage here because for some reason, the large BLM sign that used to be out on Hwy 70 is no longer there…and there are a few other ranch roads in that area that might be mistaken for the turn off. However, the Lazy B Ranch is the only one in that area that has a rock wall on each side of the road entrance, as well as big timbers framing the gate above the rock wall with large metal letters spelling out LAZY B RANCH and a little metal windmill on top of the timber across the top of the entrance. Would be very hard to miss all of that.
This is a great and free location to take pebble pups and adult rockhounds alike, because the chalcedony rosettes, some of them with fire agate inclusions, are all over the ground at this location, a location you cannot fail to find great stuff to take home !!
So you turn left from the dusty gravel road to a two track dirt road, going south…I believe the sign said 11 miles to the BLM Rockhounding location from that spot in the road…you will come to a Y intersection soon after making this left turn, and you want to bear left at this one…the right fork takes you around the right side of the hills, supposedly makes a loop, but when I looked at the map, going around there, I was not able to see any connection around the very south side to the left loop. There are also a lot of pull off areas along the roads, where one can camp out if they want to, we spotted several people camping out along the left loop road on our way to the rockhounding spot. Several miles down this dirt road, you will come to a sign that says Loop Road, and you want to stay right at this sign, the road to the right will take you to the corrals, and that is the start of the BLM Rockhounding Area, indicated as such on Google Earth Maps…however, you want to continue to the left down the dirt lane, you will cross two washes and then continue south and down the valley…we drove about two miles and the valley opened to the right where there was a sloping hillside to the left. We parked on the right and began searching from there…you will see the chalcedony rosettes on the ground all over, as soon as you get out of your vehicle, too !!
This is how it looked when we arrived that morning…had it been warmer in the days before we arrived, it prob would have looked more like this….
That is how beautiful it looked to us in 2020, when our good friend Anita Williams took us there to rockhound…bright yellow flowers in every direction for as far as your eyes could see. There were just a few flowers here and there this year.
I didn`t take many photos that day, so here are some closeups of the cleaned up rosettes I collected back in 2020 to show you what they look like…some look like little ornamental eggs, some look like ears, some look like roses…some have fire agate swirls in them….
…personally, I like the ornamental egg rosettes. 🙂
We collected all morning and then headed back to Deming to go to the Rockhound Roundup Show, put on by the Deming Club each year, and this was the first year were were able to actually go to it, most of the time it starts after we have left, but they opened a day earlier this year. There is a building full of vendors and a huge area outside the building with many vendors, so we were able to see a variety of material for sale, some was very high priced, and some was affordably priced. Logan and his grandpa were able to be a vendor that weekend and were set up by the time the rest of us got cleaned up and drove over there. I took a few photos of some items inside the building, like the gal from Florida that had some corals for sale….some absolutely floor dropping, gorgeous corals….she was affordably priced, had this first one tagged with ” Make Offer “…
and this next one was priced at $ 225.00, and it was a good sized one like the first one…and just as beautiful…
and she had some smaller ones, still basketball sized and one is only marked $ 60…
From there, we drove over to a restaurant that Mike and Randy wanted to try out, it was in an alley behind Wells Fargo Bank, over by the Deming Fire Station…operated by an older retired couple and reminded me of a hole in the wall spot, which often, those places turn out to be great places to eat at. They had good food there and were pleasant to talk to as well. It`s called Elisa`s House of Pies…they had pies too but it is definitely a good place to eat at, too. We then returned to the hotel and I once again, repacked my truck bed for the last day tomorrow, which would partly be a travel day toward home, too.
We had a four hour drive to Roswell, so we decided to leave at 6 am, which would put us there at 10 am and give us a couple of hours to collect Pecos Diamonds. Mike Messer was driving to Carlsbad to visit family before he headed home to Iowa, so it was down to Randy Gentry, Mike Mangrove, David Hodge, Onyx and Me. The drive took us across the White Sands Missile Testing Range, passing by the entrance to White Sands National Park, through a corner of Alamogordo, through Tularosa, and then northeast across a mountain range between Tularosa and Roswell, that was quite pretty….
I wish now that I had shot some video of the drive just east of Las Cruces, where we climbed to the top of the peak just east of Organ on Hwy 70 and then literally dropped to the very bottom floor of the high desert where we started across the missile testing range…I basically coasted all the way down that mountain and we were moving along at a pretty good clip…just coasting !! It…was….something…else !! 🙂
We arrived on time at Roswell, stopped for fuel in town and then drove out east on Hwy 380 a few miles…going by info that Eddie provided me for a secret spot location for Pecos Diamonds…found out there were no road signs out there so turned around, returned to a road named on the west side of the Pecos River, then drove to the next road and parked, and we fanned out to look for the diamonds…Randy found one very small red colored one, but David and I found nothing. There was massive white gypsum in that area, but we found no diamonds laying all over the place, so I texted Eddie for confirmation and from what he told me and what we were seeing, I dont believe we had the right GPS location and we were not in the right area. It looked pretty futile for us, so we all decided to head for home instead, maybe return next year and see if we could find the right location then, or go to another spot.
David and I drove back thru Roswell and then east on Hwy 70 to Amarillo, while Randy and Mike drove east on Hwy 380 to I-27 in Texas, then north to Amarillo…I wish now I had taken 380 to the interstate as well, it was a little faster that way…the fact that 380 is only a two lane highway where 70 is a four lane is what convinced me to take 70. However, what I didn`t take into account was that 70 goes thru several small towns along the way and you have to slow down thru each one, that slowed us way down. I stopped in Amarillo for fuel and David continued on toward Oklahoma City…not sure where he was stopping at, but Onyx and I had reservations for a hotel at the west edge of Oklahoma City and we pushed on…I called the hotel and told them we would not arrive til about 8 pm and that is exactly the time we did arrive there. We had a south to north tail wind pushing us along til we turned east on I-40 and then it was hammering us all the way to the hotel. Randy and Mike continued east on I-40 thinking they would stop at Fort Smith for the night.
Onyx and I slept well after such a long day on the road with just a few stops for fuel and rock collecting. I decided to drive over to the NE corner of Oklahoma City at 7 am and get some breakfast at Cracker Barrel there…as I was making my last trip up the stairwell at the hotel to get Onyx and her stuff, I noticed what looked like dancing flames under the window of room 222, like flames do in the incipient stage of ignition…I couldnt see flames but it was an orange glow for sure, so I put Onyx in the truck and walked over to find the office closed and locked. I then called the hotel number and wound up waking the owner of the hotel, told him what I saw and he said he would go check on it. As I drove away, I wondered if he would truly wake up and go check, so called 911 and talked to the Fire Dispatcher and told him what I saw, what the hotel owner told me, and he said he would send a truck company over to check it.
Had a great breakfast at CB, heard from Randy soon after getting done that he and Mike had just arrived home…he sent the text at 6 am, but I didn`t receive it til 7:42 am Sat morning. Onyx and I then we headed up I-44 EB for home…got about 30 minutes east and observed a silver four door car pulled over at an exit ramp, and a man forcibly removing a young girl with long bright red hair, in a strange way, from the back seat of the car and placing her up on the curb and grassy area…it looked weird to me so I made another 911 call, explained to a county dispatcher first, he then transferred me to the State Police, and I explained it to the State Dispatcher…I think the County Dispatcher was more understanding, he asked questions and listened to what I had to say…he said he would get an officer there as soon as possible and I had the impression that the state dispatcher didnt care.
I said a couple of prayers between there and the Missouri state line for the welfare of that little girl, don`t think I will ever forget the wide eyed look she had nor the rigid stance she had as he was placing her on the grassy area…it just didn`t look right to me. Both agencies had my call back number, but I never heard from either one.
Onyx and I arrived home safe and sound about 2:30 pm on Saturday and I heard from David Hodge that he got home safe and sound as well. All in all, another great trip in the books. Now comes all the catching up and cleaning up to do. 🙂