A few months ago I received an email from Harry Polly, of the Catawba Valley Gem and Mineral Club out of Hickory, North Carolina…I consider Harry a good friend, have talked to him extensively on the McRocks board and even exchanged minerals with him during the secret santa events…over the years he has given me information on sites and I have given him some as well. I thought this would be a great opportunity to travel back down to the Danville area and meet him in person, but to rockhunt again and this time with another nice group of rockhounds, because I have always heard good things about the Hickory club and their members. I had to move my schedule around a bit, mainly because where I work, a new policy was in place for on-call status due to staffing issues, but I was able to make that work two weeks ago and let Harry know that I would be able to make it down there afterall. I also contacted Clay at Caldwell Stone and obtained permission to return to the quarry there and bring the Hickory Club with me. I decided to leave Onyx with my Mom as she was preparing for a huge garage sale the weekend after, and I figured he could keep her company while I was gone…she and Dad loved him just as much as I do so I knew they would be just fine and keep each other company. I took Thursday off so I could get to sleep and get on the road early Friday morning, as I intended to stop off at Garden of the Gods on the way down and visit with a friend there, get some hiking in, before driving on down to the central part of the state. I shot this beautiful sunset Thursday evening while filling my water cooler with ice at the Zephyr station….
Friday morning I was up and out the door by 5:20 am…having packed the truck down the day before with some flats of minerals and crystals from Missouri and Arkansas, as well as some Texas agates that the club from Tyler had brought me…I knew that Harry liked to cut up lapidary minerals and figured some others in his club would like some as well. I also took them some dogtooths from Missouri as well as some Viburnum Trend calcites, and some quartz crystals from Arkansas. I crossed the JB bridge over the Mississippi from south St Louis County into Illinois about 6:30 am as the sun was starting to light up the morning sky….
and then drove on down to the Garden of the Gods to meet up with my friends down there to do some hiking. If you have never been to Garden of the Gods and Rim Rock Trail nearby, do yourself a favor and go there sometime…I am looking forward to getting over there this fall and seeing how pretty it is that time of the year as well.
From here I drove down to Cave in Rock and boarded the ferry for the short ride across the mighty Ohio River, then drove on down to Princeton where I picked up the Bluegrass Parkway east…sorry I didn`t have time to stop and visit with Tina and Sherry at the Clement Museum this trip…I knew that Harry and most of his crew were due to arrive at the Days Inn at Harrodsburg about 5 pm and I had just enough time to get there at the same time. From here it was about a three hour drive and I would lose an hour as well…I arrived just before 5 pm and discovered on check in, that they arrived about an hour before I did. On my second trip up to my room with my stuff from the truck, I discovered Harry and one of his club members, Slade Harvin, waiting outside my door. I had my September issue of my Rock and Gem Magazine in my hands and he let me know that one of his club members, Larry Huffman, had written one of the articles inside the magazine and was along for the trip and could autograph the article for me. He let me know that the group would be assembling down in the parking lot for supper in about an hour..giving me time to freshen up from the trip and check my email, and let Mom know I had made it down there fine.
Harry introduced me to everyone as they all assembled in the parking lot at 6 pm, and then we walked over to the Golf Course Resort Restaurant for a seafood buffet supper there. It was great meeting everyone, I have always heard good things about the Catawba Valley Club members and even discovered that there were three brothers in this group that had made the trip out, Dean Russell with his son-in-law Ryan Sims from North Carolina, as well as his older brothers Dale and David Russell from upper state New York. As it turned out, Dale was a good friend of Dale Walker, a rockhound I met online on the McRocks board a few months ago and gave some good information to about digging for fluorite at the Eureka Mine in Marion at their August Open Dig…small world after all.
We had a great time at supper, good food and good conversation, then walked back to the hotel parking lot……Harry had told everyone I was bringing them some goodies from Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas, so they were all anxious to see what I had brought them. I walked over to the east side of the hotel to get my truck and brought it to the south side where they were all parked at…and shot this sunset image while doing so…
As I pulled out several flats of material for them to look through and select, it was obvious from their reactions, that I had selected some nice stuff for them to take home. I brought a couple of flats of Viburnum Trend calcites as well as some druse quartz and dogtooths from both of the quarries I go to locally. I also brought some flats of Arkansas quartz and wavellite, and some agates from western Texas that the club members of Tyler shared with me. I detected a few members drooling over the Viburnum Trend calcites and dogtooth crystals. Harry and a few members of his club really like the lapidary side of things so I knew they would enjoy the agates as well. We stayed in the parking lot for a good 90 minutes talking and they also gave me some nice crystals and minerals to take home with me….some blue calcites, kyanite, some quartz clusters, and some limonite morphed garnets. Many of them also provided me with locations for each one…something that I am not used to…so far, I just remember in my mind where I find my stuff, but they def had it all together on paper, very nicely done I might add. Very phenomenal group to visit with, I was very much looking forward to rockhounding with them the next two days. We decided on 7 am for breakfast and then meet in the parking lot at 8 to prepare for the trip to the quarry at Danville. Travis Tracy, my buddy from Knoxville, was set to drive up early the next morning and arrive about 8 am, as well. After checking my email, I retired for the night and was soon asleep after a nice long day.
After breakfast with a few of the club members the next morning, and then checking my emails, I met the rest of the group in the parking lot…Travis arrived soon after and I introduced him to everyone as well, we then shot a group photo….I will try to identify everyone in the image below…front row L to R is Travis Tracy from Knoxville, Dean Russell from NC, Robin Coulter from NC, David Russell from NY, Ryan Sims from NC, Larry Huffman from NC, Danye and Thomas Davis from NC. Second Row is Harry Polly, Field Trip Leader for this trip from NC. Third Row is Slade Harvin from NC, Sue Russell, and Ken Twardik from NC.
We then loaded up and drove down to Danville, I led the way to the Caldwell quarry there, set to meet Clay at the gate at 9 am…we arrived a little early and I showed the group the large boulder in front of the office that was covered by barite, fluorite and calcite crystals…I had told them about this boulder the night before at supper, relaying to them how a member of an unknown club, that had been allowed access to collect at the quarry there, had decided to chip some of the calcites off the boulder one day before leaving the quarry after a field trip there, which is what cost his club, as well as many other clubs, the priviledge of being able to go there and collect from that point on.
I made contact with the quarry manager back in March earlier this year and gained access for my group to go there in April and collect…it had been some time since any clubs had been allowed in there due to the reckless attitude of that one disrespectful rockhound.
This boulder is just gorgeous up close, and after Ken wet down the right half of it, it was even more beautiful in the sunlight….
We met with Clay about 9 am when he and his son arrived…he gave us a safety talk and told us where certain minerals could be found in the quarry, had us sign paperwork and joined us for a group photo with his son…..
L to R is Ken, Travis, Robin, Sue, Joan, Ryan, Rick, Larry, Dean, Dale, Harry, Slade, Tom in red shirt behind Slade, Danye, and Clay…his son is that big guy in the blue shirt in front of Dale holding the crystals we gave him. I also brought Clay some goodies from Missouri.
….then turned us loose to collect for a few hours. Everyone headed for the lower level when they saw a huge blast pile in that area…it was about three stories high and every bit of fifty yards across….
….after getting my steel toed boots, hard hat, and gloves on, I grabbed my tools and walked over to check it out…Travis did a walk around as well and after finding nothing at that level, we drove up to the next level, which is where we found some nice stuff back in April. After about thirty minutes of searching the west side of that bench, joined up there by Slade and a few others that followed our lead and drove up there too…we wandered back to the center of the berm and within a few minutes, new rockhound Slade made a HUGE discovery of a couple of small boulders with vugs of gorgeous brown dogtooth calcite crystals and some big white calcite crystals nestled inside the sprays of dogtooths….here they are set out away from the berm a bit….first two are boulder number one….with a small chunk of crystals on top that was found separately….
and boulder number two featured a nicer vug with the white calcite crystals in the spray of brown dogtooths….
…and it had some smaller vugs full of calcite dogtooths in other areas of the boulder as well….
….talk about a great find for a newbie !! He was elated and so were the rest of us when we saw what he had found…luckily for the rest of us, there were some great smaller pieces of nice sprays of dogtooths to find too…here are three that I found fairly quickly after….
…after that find, everyone fanned out to search that specific area of the berm and surrounding area quickly…
Pretty soon, we heard Dale start up his power saw, he had found a nice boulder as well and trimmed it down to get this nice chunk of brown calcite dogtooths from….
Then a few minutes after that, we heard him down in the lower pit just south of the ground level we were working on…the pit where Jimmy Ericson discovered a big yellow snake laying around when my group was there in April…Clay must have found that snake and disposed of him cause we never saw him and the waterhole that had been there was pretty much dried up now…at any rate, Dale told me to check the floorboard of his van and this is what he found down there…
…a big beautiful yellow calcite crystal in a pocket of dogtooths !! gorgeous stuff there…I walked down into the lower pit to see what else he had found, followed by some of the others and he pointed out a huge boulder on the side of the pit covered on top with some huge masses of calcite in white and yellow colors and a small section of purple fluorite crystals as well….
…and then on the other side of the lower pit pile, he was working on yet another one that he found with three pockets of dogtooths on top of it…
…he was very happy with his finds so far and by now, everyone else was as well and they were thanking me for helping them gain access to the quarry there. In fact, I don`t remember seeing anyone there that morning that wasn`t happy with what they were finding. Travis and I drove over to the southwest corner of the quarry to check out an area that Clay said they had hit a seam of calcite in…Harry and Larry were already there checking it out when we arrived, but it turned out to be massive calcite in the floor and no pretty crystals at all, so Travis and I returned to the lower pit to find the Russell brothers carving down yet another boulder with pockets that Dale found in the sand at the bottom by a water pit occupied only by cat tails now….
…he made several saw cuts and then started applying wedges and hammering them lightly into the cuts…I shot some video as it sounded like music when he started tapping those wedges in…
and pretty soon the pocket split off of the boulder and he had several nice pieces to take home from it.
Around 1:30 pm, we noticed that some of the members had tired of the quarry and left, so the rest of us packed up and decided to go get some lunch and then head south toward Stanford and see if we could locate the roadcuts I had been told about that contained purple fluorite cubes, so after a short lunch break at McDonalds we headed south to the cuts…and after searching about eight of them, finding very little pretty stuff and a few fossils…we all headed back to the hotel to clean up for supper. We decided to walk back over to the Golf Resort Restaurant for their buffet of fried chicken and roast beef, and it was yet another great meal. Afterwards, Larry, Harry, Slade, Travis and I drove down to see my good friend Phil Daly, who lives just south of Junction City…I had told them that he had his entire collection for sale and these guys wanted to so see what all he had for sale. We got there just after dark and had a great time visiting with him, and even bought some of his collection to add to ours…I purchased some of his calcites from the quarry that we were at that morning, and one of his nice plates with fluorite and barite on it as well…..
Larry purchased some of Phil`s fluorites from the Eureka Mine. We headed back to the hotel about 9:30 pm to rest up from the long day.
Breakfast came early again at 7 am….
…..and then we headed south to an area farm where the Hickory Club goes for geodes each year…I had been there about seven years ago with my buddy Jimmy Ericson of Minnesota, he is an avid geode fan as well, and we did pretty good that day seven years ago there. As we entered the valley, I remember telling Travis that there were a few new homes along the road that had not been there seven years before when I was last there…we soon rounded the curve and there sat the house and barn that I remembered. After visiting with the farmowner for a few minutes, we drove thru the gate and down to the creek and fanned out to look for pretty geodes…its not hard to find geodes at this location, they are all over the place, in the creekbed as well as up on the banks…the hard part is finding the pretty ones and the large pretty ones that you want to take home with you….
Above you see David Russell, cracking open a few geodes that he found in that one spot on the gravel bar…by the time he finished, he had nearly built a dam across the creek with the ones that he didn`t want to take home with him. I shot some video as well and just missed Slade taking a bath in the creek when he slipped on a wet rock…only photographing him after standing back up….I think he was a little worried yet that I had caught him taking a bath there….
…here are a couple of sets of beautiful citrine center geodes that I found and cracked open there, and brought home with me…
Joan even photographed me in the creek looking for geodes and then holding a pair that I found upstream….thanks Joan…
here is another one I found upstream, just sitting there, half gold colored interior and half black…told everyone it was my hometown school colors…black and gold geode….
and a beautiful agate filled one that I brought home too…
…and while we were taking a break, Dale got out his power saw and trimmed up Slade`s beautiful boulders some more from the day before….
…from there we decided to drive over to Kings Mountain, an infamous location for geodes with amethyst, pink dolomite, barite, and arragonite interiors…with quartz and calcites as well…its a huge rail cut thru high rock walls for at least three quarters of a mile, that replaced an old tunnel there for train traffic. Trains pass thru these high walls every 15 to 20 minutes and cannot travel fast due to the high grade there, most trains are one to two miles long in length….we saw the first one as we walked into the cut….
We walked in on the right side since it was much easier walking on the ballast on that side, and then started seeing some geodes in the walls on the far side, so after the initial train passed by, we crossed over to check them out…btw, buckets were best to carry out my geodes at this location as they get heavy fast and sometimes with a lot of matrix attached to them as well…it was a lot easier carrying them in buckets here cause we had to take many breaks on the long walk back to the vehicle and was able to sit down on your bucket to rest as well…and I should have taken a dolly with me too…hindsight is always 20-20 tho….here is Ryan standing by the wall on the other side by the first geodes we saw in the wall there…
…something that one has to always be careful about this place, other than the high volume of train traffic, is that sometimes the geodes fall out of the walls from high up, due to the vibrations of the train traffic, which you can feel through your feet when standing on the ballast…and sometimes snakes fall with the rocks from the high walls, as they sometimes sun themselves up there with the rocks…I put in a request with the Almighty the night before and he answered well…we saw no snakes on that trip, nor any other location that weekend…I was very glad and I know others were as well…pretty soon we were all scattered out along those walls and the next train came from the west…here you see Travis, Ken, and Harry searching along the high walls….
..and as the train passes by approaching the signal, you can see the Russell clan working down near the bridge at the wall where we initially saw the first geodes in the wall…they never moved past that spot the entire time…
…they were finding some very nice amethyst and pink dolomite interior geodes in that high wall but it was brutally hard work taking them out of that wall as well…while the rest of us were finding some very nice geodes on the ground already having vibrated out of the high walls..the first few I found had some pretty arragonite interiors and some orange barite as well…below you see Harry and Slade, then Slade and Travis searching along the base of the high walls…and Dale Russell joined us as well before moseying on down around the bend…
Harry helped me and Travis get started finding some nice ones that had fallen unbroken, before finding a few of his own…many of us were tired from the farm creek location and it didnt take long for that to catch up with us, as warm as it was in the cut. A few folks including Travis, Thomas, Tonie, Ken, and Dale had walked down and around the bend to check things out down below and soon were wandering back with full buckets of goodies…and we all began the long trek back to the vehicles…
here you see Thomas making the long haul back to where we were standing about halfway down the rails and cut…a very long walk and even longer when carrying a full bucket or two of geodes…
…add to that some heat, humidity and exhaustion and you can understand why we were not there longer that day…luckily it wasn`t very humid at all that weekend. I was checking out the main Russell Clan work party up near the bridge…Larry was supervising and Slade had joined them as well on his way back….they were finding some very nice geodes there and were doing a great job of pounding them out of the hard rock wall….
…when Harry and Dale caught up on the other side of the tracks. Harry stopped to rest while Dale searched a bit more…
…..I helped Harry carry his bucket up to the bridge from there….that helped me on my carry as it evened things out for me…we took a few breaks before reaching the nice refreshing cooling shade of the bridge, and waited til Ken and Travis caught up with us, before walking on back up to the vehicles…watching the last train come up around the bend and go by us….
…where we packed up and headed back to the hotel to rest up, clean up, and prepare for supper in Danville. Everyone had the option to stay the next morning and go to yet another available location for geodes, however most of us opted to make the drive home…I left about 5:30 am Monday morning headed for home, picking up an hour on the way back and took a three hour nap that afternoon before my return to work that night. I had a great time collecting with a great bunch of folks and really appreciate the invitation to hunt with them Labor Day weekend as well as the invite back next year as well. Thanks again Harry and look forward to hunting with you some more next year !!
I cleaned up some of my geodes finally and will get those photos posted soon.