New Mexico Trip 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The schedule we came up with was this :

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

March 3rd and 4th     Blanchard Mine

March 5th                  Rest Day or Retro Ranch  Bucket Fee Dig

March 6th                   Apache Mine  for Chrysacolla, turquoise, calcite

March 7th                   Macy Mine  for Vanadinite

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

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

March 10th                 Pecos Diamonds and then head home


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday morning, we woke to another beautiful sunrise….

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and a couple of close ups….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…personally, I like the ornamental egg rosettes. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Mexico, Land of Enchantment and Rocks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0303 Tucumcari NM Sunset 47

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0304 Belen Jasper Area 60

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 137

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0306 Lordsburg Copper Mines 1441

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

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

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

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

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

New Mexico Trip 2020-0304 Sunset Deming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Round Mtn Parking Area 203

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

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

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

…here you see Fred surface collecting….

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


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

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

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

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

AVI 228 Round Mtn BLM Rockhounding Site

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0307 Lordsburg Sunset 243

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0308 Fluorite Ridge Rainy Day 256

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

…and pretty soon John was there with him….

…and Rich Kern too…

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

…gorgeous stuff, Mark !! 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 401

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

NM Trip 2020-0310 Kelly Mine at Magdalena 425

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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