After weeks of planning and researching many locations for quartz crystals that I had not been to before, including talking to many former mine owners in the Mt Ida area by email and gathering information on past and present sites, my vacation finally began on Monday morning November 9th. After packing all day, Onyx and I got up early on Tuesday morning and headed to the great state of Arkansas, home of Arkansas Quartz Crystals. I had a call the night before, my buddy Jim letting me know that another blast would take place at the quarry in Eminence later that week, but as I told him I would be gone all week, so I did the next best thing, let some of my rockhunting friends know in case they might want to make the drive down to check things out. I had taken new rockhunting friend Chuck Reed down there the weekend before and we found several bags full of crystals in the blast pile that day, even brought a few yard rocks home with me and he had a great time as well. I wasn`t able to take any photos that day due to a dead battery in my camera.
Onxy and I arrived at Fort Smith a little after 10 am and I texted my buddy Adam Lageveen, who lives in Sallisaw, about 20 min west of there, to let him know I was close…he texted back that it was a great time to come by and visit so we continued west on Hwy 40. Adam had some more quartz crystals in his collection that he wanted to get rid of so he could make more room for his collection of Native American arrowheads and knives…Adam creates them from various minerals that Native Americans used long ago…novaculite, obsidian in many colors, chert, quartz, and glass…and he is quite talented with it as well. He had put some of his quartz aside for me to look thru and had some smokies for me as well.
We visited for about an hour and then Onyx and I headed on south toward Hot Springs, where we would be staying in a condo on Lake Hamilton for the next five days. We arrived around 3:30 pm and after getting unpacked, we stepped outside to shoot the sunset over the lake…
I received a call from Ray Roth, who had driven up there from New Orleans the day before, and we decided to meet at Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper. I had ate there back in July when I was there last and found it to have the best buffet I had experienced, great food including Chinese and American cuisines both. Like I told Ray tho, I was not there for the sushi, and as it turned out, he wasn`t either. We had a great meal there and talked about our plans on where to hunt the next few days, and I told him that we would be joined by good rockhunting friend Virgil Richards from Tulsa, and a friend of his as well, on Thursday morning. I drove over to the homemade ice cream shop called Scoops, and found them closed already at 8 pm…I was shocked, but found out later they were now operating under their winter time hours, decided to catch them the next day hopefully.
After a good breakfast of hotcakes and sausage at Mikky D`s the next morning, Onyx and I drove over to the Valero Station by the 270 Bypass, where Ray filled up his gas tank and I got a bag of ice for my cooler, and then we headed west toward Mt Ida, destination Twin Creek Mine. We arrived shortly after 9 am and after paying hostess Lisa our dig fees, we began digging along the wall hoping to find a pocket of crystals.
This mine is owned by a couple in Switzerland and leased out to Dixie and Bobby Fecho…Bobby used to operate the mine at Bear Mountain when his parents owned it a few years back, another good mine that produced some nice crystals in all shapes and sizes…it`s now privately owned and operated commercially. When we arrived we saw that Bobby had his trackhoe sitting partially in the public dig area and it appeared that he had dug into a sandstone rock area and may have hit a pocket or two there. About an hour after we started digging, Bobby showed up and confirmed that he had indeed found a few pockets of nice crystals in that sandstone area. I told him that Ray and I were interested in digging in a confirmed pocket area if possible, so he took me to a couple of pockets previously dug out and showed me both locations, one near the entrance that had several pockets and crystals very visible in the walls, and one at the top of the hill above the public dig area, where I could see some large crystal points laying all over a cleared area as well as crystals attached to the walls and one large point sticking out of the base of one wall, at least three pockets were visible and Bobby pointed out three other potential pockets while we were standing there in the rain. There was also a large yard rock in the middle of the cleared area that had large points sticking out of the top of it…needless to say I was drooling just standing there taking it all in. Bobby explained the process and cost of getting into each area. I told him there would be four of us but we wouldn`t be able to come back til Friday or Saturday morning. He said he would hold the pockets for us. Soon after we returned to the public dig area, it began pouring rain…I stayed along the wall for about 30 min, then got under the tarp that Lisa had put up as a rain shelter…Ray got back into his suv…I had put Onyx into my truck as he became soaked soon after and I didn`t want him to become a mud ball. I dried him off a bit before putting him in there with the fan on so he would dry out as well. Soon after the rain slacked off, and Ray and I returned to the tailing piles…this went on back and forth til about 2 pm, when he and I decided we had had enough. We drove back to Hot Springs and decided to meet at the Hibachi Buffet again that evening for another great supper. After stopping off at Scoops and picking up some home made ice cream, Onyx and I returned to the condo….it was apparent that the rain had set in for the day, which had been forecast, so we just sat it out inside the condo, which has a great view over Lake Hamilton, watching one storm after another roll across the lake.
Despite heavy rains and storms passing through, there was no dangerous lightning and as the storms cleared the lake by 5 pm, the skies cleared to reveal a beautiful setting sun…
At supper that evening, I told Ray we would need to be on the road toward Mt Ida by 7:45 am the next morning, as we needed to meet up with Virgil and his friend on the west side of Mt Ida and then drive on out to the privately owned Southfork Mine where we would be digging all day at. After a pretty sunrise and another good breakfast…..
…..we got on the road on time and luckily didn`t hit much traffic, stopping off at the Phillips 66 in Mt Ida so I could fill my gas tank. I had heard from Virgil prior to leaving Hot Springs and he said he was at Waldron, an hour from Mt Ida. Shortly after we arrived at the intersection of Hwy 270 and 27 North, Virgil was just a few miles away and we headed to the mine to meet up with owner Tony Thacker. I had contacted Tony several weeks prior and let him know that we were interested in digging at his mine, which he said would be fine with him, letting me know that the tailings there had not been touched by anyone in over a year, so I figured they would be prime for finding crystals in. We arrived a few minutes before he did and waited for him at the gated entrance at the foot of the hill. Virgil introduced his friend Doug Cunningham to Ray and I, and after a few minutes of explaining the history of this mine to them, Tony soon arrived in his Toyota pickup and introduced us to his red heeler dog.
After a bit of small talk, we headed on up the road to the mine, after crossing a creek and driving thru a few mudholes…
…..I didn`t know how Ray would do, since he drives a Jeep suv with front wheel drive only, Virgil and I both drive Toyota pickups with four wheel drive, but I looked back a few times and saw Ray gunning thru the mudholes just fine….they felt like solid bottom holes to me. In the middle photo above, we came upon that tree across the road, and Tony had to pull it back out of the way with his chain hooked to the tow hook on the front of his pickup…he said it appeared to have come down the night before when they had some wind with the rain. Luckily that was the only obstruction in the road going up, soon we were at the top with a great view not only of the mine, but the surrounding area as well….
….and after each one of us paid Tony our dig fee, we grabbed our tools, buckets, bags, and gloves and headed out in different directions to find quartz crystals, and let me tell you, they were laying all over the place. Tony decided to fire up his trackhoe and walk it down to the lower area and stir up the tailing piles for us.
Ray and Doug and I worked on some plates and pockets on the old wall below where we parked, and found some nice stuff there, I hit a couple of old pockets and came away with about ten nice plates and some nice clear crystal points, giving a few to Doug and Ray. Doug and Ray had found some nice crystals just walking around the slope below where we parked initially as well, and there were yard rocks laying all over the place as well. After the first hour we all took a break and then decided to drive down to the piles and check them to see what Tony was stirring up.
We no sooner walked up into the piles and we started seeing crystals laying all over the place. Here is a yard rock I found, that had yellow golden healer crystals attached to the base of it…Doug look a liking to it so I let him have it….
…and here is one of the nicer crystal clusters I found up in the wall pockets….
Virgil liked it a lot and used one of his bottles of water to wash it off….
…I don`t think any of us stopped for lunch break, we were all finding so many crystals that no one wanted to waste a single second of digging time. Tony drove into town and left us there for a few hours from mid morning to early afternoon.
Ray and I both found a couple of nice medium sized clusters, I gave one to Doug since he had never been quartz crystal collecting. Soon after Tony returned, I had three bags full of crsytals, many of the better ones wrapped up, and I was quite happy with my plates and crystal points, many of them good sized points. Doug took a couple of photos of Virgil and Ray during one of our breaks…
By 3 pm, we were all tired but happy with our finds and ready to head out…we thanked Tony and his pup once again for a great time of digging at his mine….
…and headed toward Hot Springs…I had told Virgil about a dealer that lived along the route back, who had some quartz clusters and points with green chloride and he was as interested in them as I was…so we stopped off on the way back to see Stu. I had told him a few days before by email that we would stop by on our way back from Tony`s mine, but he forgot earlier in the day that we would stop by…I had tried to call him from the top of the hill at Tony`s mine, but lost the signal apparently before I could talk to him. Luckily for us, he was there and we were able to take a look at some nice material that he had on hand there. I purchased some Jeffrey Quartz as well as some nice small clusters and singles with shale inclusions. Virgil made some purchases as well and we then headed for Hot Springs.
Virgil and Doug decided to stay at the same hotel that Ray was staying at…the Best Western just north of Oaklawn on Central Avenue…I do have to say they have the best breakfast bar I have ever seen out of all the hotels I have stayed at, bar none. Ray had stayed there before on prior trips and liked it. We got back to HS right as the sun was setting and decided to clean up and then meet at Cracker Barrel for supper. While cleaning up at the condo, I was able to photograph the sunset too…
I arrived at Cracker Barrel first and found the line into the restaurant to be about 30 people deep, so we opted for the Outback Steakhouse next door instead. All three of us had their smoked burgers and boy let me tell you, they were excellent tasting. We decided to meet in the parking lot there the next morning at 8:30 prior to driving out to our first stop. My Hot Springs rockhound friend Justin Baird was going to join us the next day on our hunts.
There was another beautiful sunrise Friday morning….
Justin`s allergies were acting up, so we got a little late start the next morning, he parked his car there and joined Onyx and I, and we drove south on Hwy 270 to the Magnet Cove Martin Marietta Quarry to see what minerals we could find there. Mindat shows a list of over one hundred minerals found there, including pyrite, purple fluorite, and quartz…I am used to quarries where you can readily find something pretty every few feet along the wall or in the blast pile, this quarry was nothing like any I have been to before. After a safety talk with the acting Quarry Manager, Jimmi Clifton, we donned our hard hats, steel toed boots, and safety glasses and drove down to the pit of the quarry, where no one was working that day. Jimmi told us the top bench of the quarry was Level A and the lowest area, the pit, was Level H, each level was forty feet high, eight levels, so the pit was about 320 feet deep. This quarry is known primarily as a micro mounters paradise, however I was hoping we would find something bigger to take home. The first photo below is looking north toward the entrance and the second photo is the south wall of the quarry.
…we parked about middle of the pit floor and then started looking in that pile of rock in front of our trucks…
Doug, Virgil, and Justin began finding some nice stuff right off the bat, the fluorite there was almost like powder, and the pyrite was very small as well…
….Justin found some nice sized calcite crystals and stayed to look for more in the pile…in the meantime, I decided to make a circle of the pit floor and see if I could find anything worthwhile…I have to say this quarry had some of the ugliest rock I have ever seen….leaverites for sure….
…we took a break about 11 am, Ray and Justin continued to look for minerals in the pile in the middle of the pit floor….
We decided to drive up to Level A and see if we could find anything up there…I called Jimmi to let him know we were changing areas in the quarry as he was going to come get us before they blasted a certain section above us….
…and while we didn`t see anything up there either, there were many vultures flying around above us…that got our attention for a few minutes at least…
..not having found anything substantial there, we decided to try out a location that Justin knew of for wavellite. I called Jimmi and thanked him for allowing us to collect there and then we headed north back to Hot Springs to check out this abandoned quarry….we drove down a logging road a little ways so that no one would mess with our trucks…Virgil was carrying a large generator and a power hammer as well, sure didn`t want anything happening to it. We walked in the rest of the way to the quarry….
…needless to say, after a 35 min hike into the place, we found very little worthwhile to take back home with us. We left about mid afternoon and decided to drive down and see a guy about some smokey quartz clusters that he had for sale. We arrived at his place a little after 4 pm and boy did he have some nice crystals….
…while we were there, Justin and Virgil started talking to the owner and darkness came and settled in…I didn`t think we were ever going to get out of there and back to Hot Springs for supper. The temps started dropping and I grabbed my jacket out of the truck, my allergies were starting to bother me and there I was out in the boonies without my meds, and three guys who like to talk shop, going at it non stop…Doug and I just rolled our eyes and hoped for the best, talking to the owner`s nice daughters. Eventually we did get out of there and headed back to HS…Ray called as we drove thru Mt Ida to see where we were at, said he had waited as long as he could and then ate supper when he didn`t hear back from us. We decided that we would eat at Cracker Barrel this time and since our clothing wasn`t too dirty this time, we decided to just drive there direct and eat…I had to drop off Justin at his car next door anyway, and he was going to join us, until I got him to his car and he found a note on the windshield from his girlfriend letting him know she was next door at The Border. I let him know what time we were gonna drive up to the mine the next morning and he took off. Virgil, Doug, and I had a great meal at Cracker Barrel, since it was fish night there.
Onyx and I were up early at dawn on Saturday and discovered fog covering much of Lake Hamilton….
I skipped breakfast for the most part, stopping to get a bag of ice and some cash at the corner store. We then drove over to the McDonalds on the west side of HS where we were to meet Justin at 7:15…he wasn`t there nor did he show up by the time Virgil, Doug, and Ray showed up, so we drove on up to Twin Creek Mine, paid hostess Brittany our pocket fees and then drove up the logging road to the private pocket area at the top of the hill above the public fee dig area. We parked our vehicles in the woods, and while Ray was trying to park his jeep, Virgil and I walked over to the private pocket where I intended to point out all the highlights to him, that Bobby had shown me on Thursday…as we walked up, me in front, I immediately spotted tire tracks in the soft mud that were not there on Thursday…I came to a sudden stop and quickly noticed the large yard rock was gone…looked to my right and noticed no large single point sticking out of the mud wall…no no crystals laying all over the place like they were on Thursday when there. Virgil knew right then and there what had happened, he had been thru a similar experience years ago….cause it appeared that those crystals and pockets had been highgraded…meaning crystals dug out and removed before we arrived !! We drove back down to the camper office to get our money back, and were met by Bobby…we explained to him what we found up there…he stood there and claimed someone must have snuck into the mine and stole all those crystals, claimed he was just as angry as we were, but sure didnt look angry or even upset, sure didnt sound angry or upset, his facial expression never changed nor did the tone of his voice…I have been around angry people and you normally can tell real quickly that they are upset using your hearing and sight alone…he returned to us all of our money and then after some small talk, offered the other pocket pit to us at a good price…he took us up there and showed us where the pockets were at, as well as one pocket that he asked us not to dig into…we decided to give it a try and see what we could find.
There were actually several crystal points laying all over the place so it looked pretty good. After we grabbed our tools and started looking around, this special pocket pit started looking better and better. Virgil and I dug into the small tailing pile on the right side and crystal points started rolling down right into my waiting hands, it didn`t take long to fill a bag in that one spot alone. Doug walked up to the end of the pit and Ray walked around checking out the boulders for vugs and pockets.
Ray called me over after finding a few boulders with what appeared to be smokey points all over them…he was right, they were definitely smokeys and I was able to chisel a few plates of them off the boulder, then looked around and found a few more boulders covered as well….
…which then led me to look closer at the wall, and discovered crystals lodged into heavy thick clay that were acting like glue holding them to the wall. I went to my truck and dug out my small pry tool, that resembles a big white two pronged fork and began prying crystals out of the wall…I had grabbed my screwdriver as well but the fork was working better…Virgil soon joined me along the wall and began prying some out with his screwdriver too…..
…at one point, I was even using a couple of fairly flat rocks stacked one on the other for a makeshift ladder so I could reach some real beauties higher up on the wall….
…and even climbed up on the wall at one point in order to reach some higher up than that…then went and got Virgil`s lightweight aluminum ladder from his pickup….thanks to Doug for the photos of me in action…
…after we cleaned off a couple of walls, I decided to take a break and take a flat of crystals to Brittany, to give to hostess Lisa when she returned…they were crystals with some dogtooths from the quarry at Eminence…I had found out Wednesday while there that Lisa liked dogtooth crystals. While visiting with Brittany, I found out that Onyx had been making the rounds with the public diggers and everyone up there really liked him…I wasn`t surprised by that. I returned to the special pocket pit and found Doug and Virgil up at the other end popping off some beautiful plates from the end wall….
…I decided to take a water break and then popped a few plates off walls myself and then walked around picking up small clusters, yard rocks, and crystal points that were just laying on top all over the pit.
It was about this time that Ray decided to leave and apparently as he did, Onyx took off and followed him up the road and out of the mine property, then started walking down Collier Springs Road to the west. A few minutes later, as Virgil, Doug, and I were taking another break by our trucks, I received a call on my cellphone from a young man who said that he had found my dog…said he was on a gravel road near Crystal Vista…I asked how close he was to Twin Creek Mine and he said not too far away and said he would bring Onyx to me on his four wheeler. Earlier this summer, I had found some custom engraved collar tags at my vet`s office and attached it to Onyx`s collar, had a flag emblem on the front that was really pretty as well as eye catching, and engraved my name, cell number and Onyx`s name on the other side. I walked down to the parking lot entrance and a few minutes later Jordan came riding down the hill on his four wheeler with Onyx sitting in his lap appearing as if he was driving it and a big smile on his face. I thanked Jordan for finding him, as well as calling me and returning him to me, said I would have to add four wheeling to Onyx`s resume. Lucky for me Jordan was riding his four wheeler in the area, cause we normally come in from the east and leave to the east as well, and had not noticed Onyx gone since he had been back and forth to the public dig pit all day long. I felt blessed to have him back and such a nice young man to discover him and return him to me.
Shortly after that, I had walked over to the office to use the Johnny On the Spot and afterwards, heard someone call out my name and ask if it was really me…I looked over and saw Janyce Sorrells and she called her husband David over to talk to me…they are rockhound friends from the Paducah area that I met and dug with at the Eureka Fluorite Mine at Marion, Kentucky…they were camping on Lake Ouachita while there and had been digging at various mines in the Mt Ida area. They too were heading for home the next day.
Virgil, Doug, and I continued to dig for a couple more hours, until Brittany came and told us that it was near closing time and time to pack up our things and prepare to leave, after a bit of small talk as well. She was a very good hostess that day and very nice to talk to as well and I heard from other diggers in the public area that she was very helpful to many of them as well. We left shortly after 4 pm…Virgil and Doug headed to Oklahoma and I headed back to Hot Springs to clean up and have supper with Ray one last night.
As soon as Onyx and I returned to the condo, I discovered my battery on my cell was nearly dead, so I quickly cleaned up and changed clothes, then ran out to the truck to charge it up so I could call Ray about supper. We decided to meet in about 20 minutes at the Hibachi Sushi Grill for supper again, giving me some time to charge up my phone first. As soon as I returned to the condo from supper, I saw and photographed the moon in the clear spots over Lake Hamilton….
Onyx and I slept in a little bit on Sunday morning…getting up early to photograph the sunrise before returning to sleep a few more hours…..
I first thought about spending an extra day til I turned on the news and spotted the weather forecast for heavy rain and storms on Monday…I decided I really didn`t want to drive back home in that type of weather, so we got up and began packing at 9 am and headed out the door. We stopped off at Waldron on the way home, for the annual Thomas Family reunion at my grandfather`s farm…my Uncles Joe and Harley actually have the farm now, but I still refer to it as my grandfather`s farm…..we took Ross Creek Road in from Hwy 71 and approaching from that direction always affords me a great view of the farmhouse and barn up on the hill across the valley when I get close…
..and by 2 pm after a great dinner with dessert and fellowship with relatives and friends there, Onyx and I headed north toward home…arriving about 8:30 that evening. All in all, it was a great vacation and very productive rockhunting trip.
Here are some of my finds and purchases too….the first ones from Stu, smokeys and shale inclusions….the big single crystal in the upper left hand side has green chloride attached to the base of it….
…and this one from Collier Creek Mine….
…and these next crystals are smokeys from near Glenwood….
this next one shows the shale inclusions very well in this cluster….
I will add more as I get them cleaned up….give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want.