New Mexico Trip 2022 Part 2

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


and southeast of us here…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

…figured it must be a Chef thing. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

New Mexico Trip 2022 Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Afterwards, Onyx and I headed south on I-25 and soon we were Deming bound once again. On the way down there, I saw the results of a vehicle pursuit on the northbound side of I-25…we popped up over a hill and there was a pickup truck at a 45 degree angle, the bed of it up on the guardrail, cab smashed in, looked like it had rolled several times before coming to a rest in that precarious position on the guardrail…police cars everywhere, at least 20 of them….fire truck and ambulance on the shoulder by the pickup, and nb traffic backed up at least two miles…maybe a quarter mile south in the median was a vehicle pulling a trailer, whatever had been sitting on the trailer was not flattened so I am guessing that the pickup may have either struck the trailer and began rolling from there or rolled over the trailer, there were two officers out with the driver of that vehicle and all appeared okay…saw several vehicles crossing the wide, shallow median to turn back south and go around it. A few miles further south, we topped another hill and spotted 3 NM State Police Officers, one with a Canine, searching an area to the right of the interstate, with several civilians following and appeared to be assisting in a search as well…something def happened there, but still do not know what it was…I was listening to a radio station at the time that was giving traffic reports for roads in that area, but nothing advised about that incident. The reporters were talking about a state officer that had been fatally injured on I-25 near Santa Fe tho, and I immediately said a prayer for his family and Law Enforcement in that area.

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

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

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

…and mine….

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

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

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

DSC_0052

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and to the south….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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