I returned Sunday evening from five days of fall vacation in southern Arkansas, spending most of my time on Lake Ouachita at Mountain Harbor Resort once again. I really enjoy the restful atmosphere there, plus it`s dog friendly, friendly staff that goes above and beyond to make your stay there enjoyable, and they have great food at their lodge restaurant, too. Although I`m not into fishing and boating that much, they have a full service marina and can provide you with a rental boat of any size as well…I know this because I have photographed about every aspect of the place and met many of the staff members who work there, extremely friendly and knowledgeable folks there. My buddy Ray Roth wasnt able to make it up this trip, his dad was the victim of a mugging and vehicle accident a few weeks before and he suffered injuries that he was unable to recover from…Ray wisely decided to stay home and spend as much time with his dad as he could.
Missy and I picked up Mom early Wednesday morning and headed west, and within an hour, we left the remnants of the rain and storms behind, that had been hanging on for a few days. From there to the Arkansas line south of Joplin, we had cloudy skies that soon broke open as we were crossing the Boston Mountains and as with Missouri, we were seeing spotty color all the way down. I was a bit disappointed since the state of Arkansas had received much more rain than Missouri through the summer months and I figured the colors down there would be much more plentiful and beautiful. We made good time, arriving in Fort Smith a little after noon, and after a sandwich and chips with my Aunt Dorcas, who Mom was staying with for a few days, Missy and I headed south to Waldron, where I stopped off and visited with my three uncles for a bit at the family farm, before continuing on south to Lake Ouachita.
We arrived at Mountain Harbor and got checked in with thirty minutes to spare before the sun began to set…I figured from the heavy cloud base that we might just have a beautiful sunset tonight, and boy, was I right…..
…that was one heck of a beautiful sunset and just hung up there in the sky for the longest time that evening. I had actually figured it was over and began to head back over to the lodge from the Harbor North side, but then as the skies started turning cotton candy pink, then I found a new location to shoot from nearby and stayed to shoot a few more frames of it. In all, I believe I shot about two hundred images of it, before heading back to the guestroom and then meandering down to the lodge restaurant for a great plate of fried catfish strips with their famous baked potato salad and steamed veggies. They have several great food entrees there, no matter if you are there for breakfast, dinner, or supper, and from what I have heard, for groups, they also bake some great tasting cinnamon rolls. If there was one thing I could think of that was bad, it would only be that they actually shut down the restaurant from the first of December to about the first of March.
Missy and I woke up about 7 am the next morning and headed out for a good walk, getting in about a mile of small hills just walking around the immediate lodge and marina area. Below is what the main lodge looks like from the lake side, guestrooms are to the left, dining area to the far right…
There was some light fog out on the lake, covering some of the boats and docks, and I took my camera and photographed some of the scenery with the fog rolling across the waters….
After taking Missy back to the room and getting her fed, I wandered down to the lodge restaurant for a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast with grape jelly. Besides the great atmosphere there, they also have a great view of the lake and marina area from the restaurant windows. After checking my emails, Missy and I then headed to Miller Mountain Mine on the northeast corner of Lake Ouachita…we bypassed Hot Springs traffic by cutting across Hwy 227 through Mountain Pine and passed by Lake Ouachita State Park to Jessieville and then back west on Hwy 298 to the mine. As we drove down the freshly graded gravel road, I noticed alot of recent logging activity…..you pass through a hunting club area on the way to the mine, it`s posted on both sides of the road there, white signs with red lettering, and loggers had cut a wide and deep swath through the heavily wooded area on both sides of the road. Missy and I normally see a few deer as we drive down this road, but today we saw absolutely nothing wildlife wise, but we did notice that the road had been extensively worked over by county maintenance and was in very good shape all the way up to the top of the mountain.
We drove in and stopped up at the rock shop and office at the mine entrance, to find Bill and Faith sorting through single quartz crystals on the front porch of the office. There was a new guy working the office with them this time…I found out a bit later that Bill had recently undergone some cancer surgery and was recovering from it, with doctors orders not to do any heavy lifting for at least another three to six weeks, and the new guy was one of two now working there to do the work that Bill normally does there. Bill brought me up to speed on the current mining conditions in the Mount Ida and Jessieville area, and several events that had occurred since I was there last year in the fall. The short of it was that four mines were now shut down and no longer open to the public for digging at in the Mount Ida area alone.
A few years ago, a young couple from the East Coast had moved out to the Mt Ida area and purchased the leases on the old Fiddlers Ridge Mine and the old Arrowhead Mine. They planned to bring both mines into compliance with state and federal mining laws so that they could open both mines to the public once again, and even changed the name of the Arrowhead Mine to the Avatar Mine and the Fiddlers Ridge Mine to Fantasia Mine, boasting several new fee dig plans as well. They hired some local area miners to make the mines safe to the public for fee digging once again. After completing the work at the former Fiddlers Ridge Mine and after digging for a few months at the Avatar Mine, the local area miners decided to dig commercially instead and leased the Avatar from them for that purpose. I had heard from another good friend down there in the past year, that quartz crystals with red tips were being found there as well as blue phantom crystals, many blue phantoms reportedly found there in years past. At any rate, earlier this year, the local area miners were working one day at the Avatar and the Forest Service showed up and took control of the property once again…bottom line was that leases were not paid and property ownership defaulted back to the FS, from what I was told, and those two mines were shut down…the ironic thing is that if you do a google search for either mine by their new names, the young couple`s website comes up and reads as if they are in operation and nothing is wrong. I wonder how long that will last.
Sometime this summer, the Bear Mountain Mine was sold to another area miner and is now closed to the public as well, being mined commercially by the new owner. That makes three mines no longer open to the public and then there is yet another mine near Mt Ida, Wegner`s Crystal Ranch, that is advertising five adventure plans on their website, one that includes group mining at their phantom mine for a fee of $ 24 and allows four hours of digging time with a minimum of ten miners in each group to qualify.
Earlier this year, I emailed them to inquire about the Phantom Mine, and was told that while they planned to put this plan into operation sometime this year, the year is just about over and the plan has still not materialized. The ironic thing here, is the fee and the time allowed to dig…twenty four bucks for four hours when you can go to Miller Mtn Mine and pay only ten dollars at the most and allowed to dig all day long…its not rocket science folks…I would rather pay $ 10 dollars and dig for eight hours and keep all I find, rather than pay 48 dollars for eight hours and ” maybe ” find something good enough to keep.
The only other fee dig mine at Mt Ida is Sweet Surrender, where Ray and I wasted four hours of time and twenty bucks each at last year, and didn`t find anything worth keeping, lots of crappy rock but that was about it. Wont ever find me going back there. So as it stands now, there are these two mines at Mt Ida and the two Coleman brother`s mines near Jessieville that one can go pay to dig at. Miller Mtn Mine charges $ 10 per person or less for groups, and you can collect from sunrise to sundown and keep all you find. Ron Coleman`s Mine charges $ 20 per person….Sweet Surrender charges $ 20 per person, and Wegners Ranch fees start at $ 15 and go up for the mining and $ 10 for the tailings alone.
The Championship Dig held once again this year, only brought in sixteen diggers and many of them did not fare well, due to the mines they went to.
Bill told me that they are now digging into the mountain at Miller Mtn Mine once again, and so far the pit was about eighty feet deep and they were finding some beautiful stuff lately….they had two inches of rain on Tuesday and so conditions were still way too wet and muddy to do any digging that day, plus they needed to get some overhead rock out of the way first. I had a few hours to dig that day, before meeting a friend for lunch in Hot Springs, so I drove on up and parked, cracked the windows for Missy, and got ready to walk around in the wet mud. It was way too muddy to release her from my truck and Faith had a dog running around outside as well, and it was cool enough to leave her inside, about fifty five degrees at that time of the morning.
I grabbed a bag with some wrapping cloths, got my gloves on and grabbed my mattox and headed up into the tailing piles of fresh wet clay to see what I could find on the surface. I walked up the outside of the huge pile, away from the office, to the interior access turn in, and checked the outer edge of the mud pile, and within a few minutes had turned over a few medium sized clusters that were sitting upside down, pretty side down and ugly side up, that apparently had been ignored because of that. I wrapped them up and placed them in the bag and continued on…saw that the new machine dig area was fenced off at the top of the hill beyond me, near the camping area at the back of the pile. I walked back to the turn in and climbed up to the top of the center of the pile, talked to a few people digging in the back of the tailing pile and then started down the center of the top of the pile, checking the freshly overturned small piles and the new small piles as well, and seeing glints of crystals shining in the sunshine all over the place. After checking the first three piles on top, I had my bag half filled with small clusters and double terminated small crystals laying all over the place. After about two hours of walking around in the ooey gooey mud, I had my bag filled completely and I had found a couple of yard rocks as well. I took a break and checked on Missy, she was doing fine,but obviously wanted to get out and stretch her legs. I decided to wait til we got to Gulpha Gorge to check out the fall color in the creek and campground area. I wrapped up my crystals and cleaned up, then drove back down to the office to get a couple of baskets of quartz crystal plates and talk with Faith and Bill a bit more before heading out.
I drove down to Hot Springs to pick up a friend and go hiking some…that evening, we drove over to Harbor north to see if we were going to get another pretty sunset when we came across some beautiful deer grazing by the road on the plentiful acorns….
…and we definitely found a pretty sunset about an hour later….
Later that evening, I met up with Aaron, a private area collector who I had corresponded with online earlier in the week, and we made arrangements to meet up and trade some material. Aaron had some great minerals and crystals from the Magnet Cove area including some smokey quartz with phantoms, pyrite cubes, brookite crystals, some with pyrite….
….magnetite crystals, and some novaculite suitable for cutting material. I had brought Aaron quite a bit of druse quartz from Missouri, at his request, as well as some purple fluorite cubes from western Kentucky, and some Doe Run minerals too. He parked next to my truck and uncovered the goodies that he had brought to trade, and I discovered he had a couple of tubs of pyrite with white feldspar from Cove Creek, one large chunk of pyrite on white feldspar that weighed at least twenty pounds by itself, a tub of shell and screw fossils from Leslie, Arkansas, a large slab covered in trilobites that measured eighteen inches high by ten inches wide and at least three inches thick…..
…a few large chunks of novaculite that was as pretty as some agates, a box full of brookite crystals from Cove Creek….
….and a few smokey quartz crystals, one large one with a phantom at the top of it…..
He then proceeded to unwrap a nice large cluster of quartz crystals from the pit at Miller Mtn Mine and handed it over to me….it was quite beautiful !!
Thanks again, Aaron !!
I had a bit of trouble with acid reflux that night and lost a few hours of sleep…so I opted to do nothing at all on Friday til later in the day… afterall, it was a vacation and I felt that I needed at least one day of doing absolutely nothing, so after a good hike at daybreak, capturing more fog on the water…
….we moved from the guestroom, to a log cabin at Harbor North. While out hiking, we came across this neat outcrop of layered, colored shale on the lakeshore…….
Later in the day though, I drove into Mt Ida and met up with Jeff Burrows of Collier Creek Crystals and saw some of the prettiest quartz crystals I have ever seen…aura quartz in a few colors….
smokey quartz, golden healers, large clusters, and then he showed me some Mexican minerals including dogtooth calcite crystals in flower form, selenite, fluorite, and huge pallets full of geodes coated with druse quartz, Jeff was able to fill me in on some more happenings in the quartz mining of the area as well. He said he could remember a time when there were about twenty five mines operating in the area, but these days, due to the extensive regulations by the present administration, only a few mines remained open to the public. You can view more of the crystals Jeff has for sale at www.colliercreekcrystals.com
Saturday, after a good hike with Missy around the north lakeshore, I had a good hearty breakfast at the lodge and then we drove down to Charleton Lake Park and hiked down to the waterfall and checked out the fall foliage…..
..there is a neat looking rock on the right side of the falls, looks like a magma flow, specially up close….
I had received a call from a good friend the night before, and he decided to drive down to visit that afternoon so I spent the rest of the morning repacking the truck, redistributing the rocks and minerals in the bed especially. After a short nap, I drove up to the firehouse to wait for my friend Pierre to show up. We had a great visit, went for a nice hike to some beautiful fall foliage areas and then had some great food at the lodge restaurant before he headed back home that evening.
The next morning, I headed back up to Waldron to the family farm for an annual reunion with family and friends, and a big dinner. On the way up, we spotted some pretty foliage along Hwy 270…
Mom and I visited with several family members and area friends before heading for home about mid afternoon. Luckily, this year I had taken a few extra days off to catch up and rest up before heading back to work. As soon as I get caught up, I will post some photos of my finds and trades.
If anyone is looking for some novaculite for cutting material or knapping material, I know a great little quarry one can go to and be welcome at, to get some great pretty material there. Give me a shout and I will put you in touch with the owner.
if you have any questions or wanna say hi, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org