Central Kentucky 2017

Last year at the conclusion of my trip to Central Kentucky with the Hickory Club during Labor Day Weekend, they informed me they would like to have me back again in 2017 and this time they were going to have their annual trip there two weeks before Labor Day Weekend, since some of their club members said they could make that date rather than the holiday weekend. So they set it up for August 19th to the 22nd this year, which lo and behold, turned out to be the date of the solar eclipse as well. They also told me that my core group members could join them once again, and I found out a few weeks ago, that two of the New York Clubs were invited too. I was able to get us access to the Danville Quarry once again and also set up a day trip to the 200 year old fluorite mine that Phil had taken some of us in the spring of 2015 when a few of my core group members joined me down there. I was able to tentatively arrange for one of my friends down there, to take us hunting for Kentucky Agate hunting on the morning of the eclipse, but that fell through when Josh let me know he was sick, so we opted for Plan B that day instead…one of the Hickory Club`s locations, and it worked out very well for all of us that were left to go hunting that day….several had left to return home for work and some drove to locations closer to the eclipse to get a better view of it…most of those were the young families with kids…and nothing at all wrong with that, either.  I was more interested in finding nice geodes and/or agates, so I opted to stick around and look down in the creek for pretty geodes….and an added bonus to that was that Onyx got to go swimming in the creek in the deeper holes. 🙂  

I had made plans with Gary Griffith to stop by his place on the way down there early Friday morning and pick out a few flats of fluorites, some for rockhound friends who would be joining me on the Kentucky trip and for a dealer friend from Atlanta as well. Onyx and I woke up at 3 am on Friday morning, August 19th and headed east on I-44 by 4 am….I had kept Chuck updated on my plans and he met up with me at Marion, Illinois and followed me over to Gary`s house in southern Illinois. We arrived about 8:30 and found Gary talking to his Dad, Guy Griffith, outside their home. It was beginning to get humid, so I left the engine running with Onyx inside the ac. I was introduced to Gary a few years ago by Tina and Bill of the Clement Mineral Museum, at their annual show and dig, where Gary was set up to create octagons out of chunks of fluorite, to sell at the show. He also had specimen pieces in all sizes to sell at the show and I recall purchasing a few of those pieces while there…I have been hooked since then, and between the three of them, Gary, his Dad Guy, and son Walter, we have been good friends since then. They are the kind of people I really enjoy visiting with, and I can stop by and do just that anytime, talk with them by phone or in person for hours, and it feels like we have been friends for years. From the way Gary talks about it, most of the dealers that stop by on a regular basis to buy from him, feel the same way. Here is a neat article I came across online recently, it is a bit dated from 2010, but the story of them starting out as a three man family operation is true, told to me by Gary and his Dad a few times before…



Gary showed us the new stuff that he and Walter had been finding recently, stuff he had told me about on the phone a week before, light purple edges surrounding deeper purple cubes on a brown fluorite base, and some with patches of quartz crystals laid out on top of the cubes. He had half of them cleaned up and half were still dirty, and let me tell you, some of them looked very similar to cubes that I have pulled out of the mud of the Eureka Mine on the other side of the Ohio River to the south. In other words, very pretty clusters of cubes right there on display in front of us. Since I only had a couple of hours to visit and hand pick some fluorite, I didn`t pull my camera out to photograph as I selected.As a matter of fact, I did not pull my camera out of my camera case til early the next morning to shoot the rising sun. 🙂

After a couple of hours, I had a few flats picked out and Chuck and I headed south to Princeton to pick up the Bluegrass Parkway and head east. We filled our gas tanks and grabbed some lunch at the A & W Restaurant first tho. 🙂  We headed east and within the first thirty minutes, we observed one to two state troopers every five miles, all of them were driving westbound…and not one of them was even remotely interested in anyone going eastbound on the Parkway…we were moving along at a good clip and many drivers were passing us like we were not moving at all, and not one of the many troopers we saw in the next 90 minutes was interested in stopping anyone at all. I told Chuck later, that perhaps they were returning from classes at the academy and headed home for the weekend. At any rate, we arrived at Harrodsburg about 4 pm, Chuck peeling off first, staying at the Baymont Hotel on the north side of town, while Onyx and I drove around town on the bypass to the Days Inn a mile south of town. John Oostenryk texted me on the way down to let me know that he and Mary would arrive about 5:30 pm, and others let me know they would be getting into the area later and meet us the next morning after breakfast.

Onyx and I found a few folks we knew in the parking lot waiting for us, as I had let Harry know when Chuck and I left Gary`s house. He and Larry Huffman had arrived earlier and discovered that hotel staff had lost a few reservations, mainly those that made their arrangements early…most were up on the second and third floors, however Onyx and I would be staying on the first floor near the entry door. After checking out the room and turning the ac on inside, I kept Onyx outside for a bit so the room could cool down adequately for his sake. He had a bath and shave the day before, but it was a bit warm in there even for him…he wears his jacket every day year round. I found out soon after that we would be walking over to the golf course restaurant next door about 6 pm for supper, and let everyone know that was already there or would soon arrive. Some of my core group members had decided to stay in hotels in Danville and were going to be arriving at different times on Friday, depending on the amount of traveling they had to do, some driving in from as far away as New York state and Texas, Ohio, Indiana and northwest Illinois. It was looking like there might be 70 to 90 rockhounds total on this trip. 

By 5:45 pm, the parking lot was alive with rockhounds and soon after, we were walking over to the restaurant to check out the seafood buffet, which turned out to be very good as expected. By 7 pm we were all back in the parking lot, those of us with pick up trucks parked side by side for the rockhound swap and trade show….we had so much fun this lasted a good couple of hours…and there were still folks out there talking when I brought Onyx outside before retiring for the night.

Breakfast came early the next morning, since we were scheduled to arrive at the quarry by 7:30 am, to sign waivers and then begin collecting by 8 am. Onyx and I were up and at em by 5:30 am, finding it still dark outside…a few of us walked over to the golf course restaurant by 6 am, and on the way back, the sun was beginning its climb up from the horizon, so after packing the truck, loading up Onyx, and parking at the front of the line, I grabbed my camera to snap a few images of it….

…and while this wasn`t a bad view, I walked over to the golf course to get an even better view of the sun coming up with a Kentucky farm in the foreground….

…now…I know what you are thinking…wow nice sunrise, how could it get any better than this ??? …and all I can say, is yes, it did get better than this…enter SUNBEAMS !!!  🙂

…and all in just a matter of fifteen minutes…while waiting for everyone to line up so we can get the line moving to Danville to pick up the rest of the crew. Ten minutes later we arrived in Danville and I texted Dale Walker, who had everyone lined up with him by the Hampton Inn, and let him know to just join the line as we went by. We entered the quarry gate and then I had everyone park in rows…we had so many vehicles, we created about six rows of vehicles in front of the quarry office…luckily Clay, the Quarry Manager,  had some good help waiting for us and the paperwork was quickly handed out for everyone to sign, then everyone got their hard hats on, and after a short safety talk by Clay, we proceeded down into the quarry with everyone following me. I parked near the bulldozer….

….and then got out to direct everyone into some parking areas, designated by Clay to keep us out of the way of a few of his guys working in other areas…a few folks wanted to park down below and I had to re-round them up, with help from Phil who arrived behind us, and re-park them in the proper areas, from the second mill to the dozer mainly….

All the new folks came to me and I let them know where we had good luck finding pretty stuff the year before, and let them know what was going home with me…anything pretty…and then everyone spread out in search of pretty stuff.  

I go by the golden rule…Keep It Seriously Simple…KISS for short. 🙂  

They had changed the layout of the quarry from the year before just a little bit, Clay had told a few of us they were building a ramp to the top and asked us to stay off of it, due to concerns that it wasn`t where they wanted it to be yet in terms of stability, he basically asked us to park in the area of the dozer and then walk to the upper and lower levels to look and collect. He did say that they had hit a huge vein of calcite and stockpiled much of it into a huge pile to the right of the dozer and across the big ditch, as he called it..it was located down on the level where Slade had hit the jackpot last year with all of his pretty discoveries…so many folks grabbed their stuff and headed in that direction….

…..in this photo you see alot of folks at the ground level checking out the huge calcite stockpile on the left and a few few folks up on the second level…

…the ramp we were asked to stay off, leads to the top layer, which would have been impossible to access due to the large amount of rock laying around up there. It took a while for us to locate the good stuff, much of it turned out to be down on the ground level again, but at the far end away from the huge stockpile, in a pile that actually went all the way down to the bottom level. I walked up to the upper level and looked around, but not seeing much up there, I came back down to the ground level and walked down to the far right side…Onyx had been going nuts with the water puddles up above, then he came down below with me and spotted a lake down below…I could only imagine what might happen next. Slade and Thomas found some nice vugs in the sides of some huge boulders in the pile that started at the north edge of the ground level and dropped down to the bottom level by the lake…soon after, as I was climbing down that pile, I spotted a nice plate of small brown dogtooth crystals all over one side of it. Soon after that, I turned over a good sized chunk of dolomite and discovered a large vug of gorgeous brown dogtooth crystals with a few small blades of white barite inside too…Chuck had joined us down at the lower end of the pile by then and sawed off both ends of the dolomite matrix on the chunk for me, making it much lighter for me to carry up the hill to my truck. I met Fred on the way up to the truck and he let me use his dolly to carry it up there…here it is on my tailgate….

…and closer up of the vug and crystals inside….

…and about 30 minutes later, I had to return about halfway down the hill and announce to everyone that we had fifteen minutes left, we had to be out of the quarry by noon…here you see Dale Russell getting ready to pop some beautiful brown fluorite cubes from a vug he found in this huge boulder the size of a dining room table in front of him…

…and Dale Walker working on a boulder down below Dale Russell….

…and Finn and Alina Klein off to the left of both Dale`s….

…and farther to the left of them and across the water from me, was John Oos, Mary, and Fred…John discovered a seam of calcite with some barites inside and was working that out when I yelled down that there was 15 minutes left…Fred and Mary stuck around to help him get the goodies out intact….

…we all got out of there with seconds to spare…this is usually what happens near quitting time…when you find something nice or have just a few minutes left to get the good stuff out of a pocket or vug…John and Dale started up the hill with their saws and Dale with his goodies on his back in his pack….

…while Fred and Mary brought up the rear with the rest of the stuff…I kept hearing from Harry and Larry who were up at the front gate with the rest of the crew, everyone waiting for us so they could all go to the Goat Farm to go geode hunting the rest of the day. As it was, not everyone in that lineup intended to go to the farm to geode hunt, some were going back to their hotel to rest up, so about the middle of the line, after one turned to the right, several followed and turned the wrong way also…most of them were in my core group, so I started texting to find out if they were going somewhere different…they said no, they thought the line had gone to the right and they were simply following…I was able to pull over and wait for several of them and let Harry know that we would be delayed getting there. Harry and Larry were leading the line, so they pulled off Hwy 150 and waited for us at the next turn and we caught up to them about 30 minutes later….then followed them down to the goat farm…where as it turned out, the owner was not home and the gate to the field was locked. I called my buddy Phil, and asked him if we could come and hunt at his creek access point instead and he said sure…so I led the way over to his house near Junction City. We were going to take a shortcut from Hwy 150 over to Hwy 127, however we had a few stragglers that were not keeping up and we likely would have lost them completely, so I opted to stay on 150 and then drive out 127 to Junction City. We were only driving about 50 mph, so I`m not sure why they couldn`t keep up. I stopped in the middle of the road when we arrived at Phil`s house, and directed everyone in the lineup down his driveway to where Phil was standing to direct them to parking spots around his shed and in the field leading to the creek, as some of them wanted to park in the shade near the creek….

…and after everyone grabbed their gear and assembled near the entrance to the shed, Phil pointed out the creek boundaries and areas to avoid, then turned them all loose to go hunt for not only geodes, but corals and fossils which I can attest can be found there as well. Shortly after a few of the stragglers showed up, having gone past his driveway looking for us. I wish someone had taken a photo of the long line of vehicles as we came down that valley on approach to Phils house…that would have been something to see. Here is Pat and Finn Klein walking across the field to the access point on the creek a few minutes later….

...I didn`t take my camera down to the creek with me, as I have been down on this creek before…back then, two years before in the early springtime tho, it was not nearly as grown up with foliage and brush tho. A few folks walked the creek downstream to the church parking lot and then drove their car down there to pick up their buckets of geodes. I found a couple of nice halves that someone had found prior and left behind, here is one of them, love that SUNSHINE QUARTZ….

About 4:30 pm, Onyx and I drove back to the hotel, with a few rockhounds following us…Chuck got held up by a couple of them and went a different route suggested by his gps…he told me the route he was taking and I let him know where he would come out and to watch out for the curves…that was the first route I took to Phil`s house a couple of years before, nice road, just gets a little narrow and curvy in spots…he confirmed that part quickly after. 🙂  We walked over to the golf course restaurant for supper about 7 pm that evening, and afterwards I pulled a few flats of fluorite out for Fred and John to look over, along with a few other choice items I had brought along for Slade and a few others to look over. Soon after doing so, we drew a small crowd, everyone thought we were having another tailgate party in the parking lot…as it were, it did turn into a nice small party tho, and I wound up selling a couple of flats of choice material to some of the more serious collectors there. The next morning, we lined up for the trip to the 200 year old fluorite mine at Mundy`s Landing didnt set their alarm clock the night before and had just woke up, requesting ten minutes delay before we headed to the mine so they could go with us. I sent everyone to the other side of the highway to wait for us on the shoulder while I waited for them at the hotel entrance. When they showed up I pointed out how to get in line on the other side of the highway and told them to keep it tight in line. Onyx and I then drove to the start of the line where Fred was holding my place for me and we headed north on Hwy 127. We crossed the Kentucky River near Shakertown and discovered the Highway Department was replacing the right lane of the bridge, with a traffic light set up on either side of the bridge for one way traffic…we lost about half the line in the crossing, Harry and Larry staying on the south side while the rest of us crossed over. Luckily I had a good signal with my cellphone in the rocky canyon as we started up the windy,curvy hill out of the river valley, and I was able to let them know where to turn at the top of the hill, where my wingman Chuck waited for the rest of them. The rest of us proceeded down the road and made the next turn, and by the time we reached a second turn a half mile later, Chuck had the rest of them caught up to us and we proceeded down the road to meet up with Phil at the old mine.

We passed by some beautiful old homes and farms along the way and a few residents were probably a bit amazed at the long line of cars and people making their way down their road, which kept narrowing down as we drove on down it. We met a large dump truck, luckily, on the wider stretch of the road…I am not sure what would have happened had we met him on the really narrow section of roadway that was ahead of us still by then. We drove down a large hill on that very narrow section of roadway and at the bottom of the hill, drove thru a gate and I parked everyone right after I parked my truck, in the big open field….

Phil came down behind everyone to give a safety talk for the mine and the tailings area, outlining the boundaries and off limit areas, before turning everyone loose to walk back up the hill to the mine tailings area. A few members of my core group had joined me at this old mine two years before and we had a blast digging there all day long in the tailings, finding some beautiful lilac, white, and gray fluorite cubed clusters, barite balls, and double terminated calcite crystals, on a much cooler day due to a difference in seasons. I turned Onxy loose and we headed up to the mine gate, where we found several already digging in to the tailing piles…John, the owner, had already filled up a couple of trucks and removed some of the tailings…the dump truck we met and another flatbed truck hauling some of them off to another location, but believe me, there were tons of tailings left to dig thru….

I decided to walk up to the top of the tailings pile after checking out a couple of areas of the piles below…up to the area that we had dug into two years before. Slade and a few others followed me up the trail and we came in on an upper trail above one of the old shafts of the mine, finding Harry digging into a small bluff and finding some good stuff there he said. As with two years prior, we started finding some good stuff shortly after digging in there, and stayed to dig for a few hours. I was hitting waves of calcites, at least four or five areas of calcite chunks before I found my first dt calcite crystal and then a few more of them, all smaller than two inches in length. Alina was digging to my left and her oldest son Finn was digging to my right…Chuck was behind me, Slade and his Dad were about fifty feet to our left and after digging in a bit, they started finding some nice crystals too. After a few hours up there, everyone decided to take a break for lunch and some started leaving to head off to other areas of Kentucky in preparation for the eclipse the next day. I walked back down to the truck to get a bottle of water or two, and Mary offered me a chicken salad sandwich for lunch…I love chicken salad so I accepted and of course Onyx helped me with the last few bites of it. He was beginning to warm up a bit so I put him in the truck, turned on the ac for him, and repositioned my truck in the shade nearby…I noticed a few others doing the same thing with their vehicles. Pat, Alina, Finn and Cohen took off shortly after, headed to Hopkinsville to do some camping that evening for the eclipse event the next day, it was great seeing them again. I havent heard yet how they did with that event down there yet. 

I returned to the digging spot and moved over to the spot Alina had been digging in, and within a few minutes, I found two larger DT Calcite crystals…shhhh…keep that under your hat tho, dont tell Alina about it, okay ? I wouldnt want her to feel bad about that. Harry returned to his digging spot but was just out of view behind that small outcropping of rock from my location, and Slade and his Dad kept digging at their spot for about an hour more, before heading back to the hotel. Fred joined me for a bit up there and I lasted about another hour before my hands started getting sore…by that time it was about 4 pm and I walked down to the truck to check on Onyx and grabbed my camera again…found PJ and Paul still digging above Mary in the tailing pile below by the gate…John, Abigail and Mary were up above everyone on the hillside…

I heard from several later that day that they had all found some pretty stuff…Phil was down below showing everyone what he was finding and what to look for. During one of my breaks, I had a good chance to talk to him and he was able to bring me up to speed on the Kentucky Agate situation over near Irvine and Berea and let me know a place we could go look for it at, where to park and where to collect and hunt at if needed. He told me why Mr Flynn had moved into town…that he had suffered some medical issues, which I hated to hear about because he is such a nice guy and knows so much about Kentucky Agates..I really hope his health improves so that he can continue to enjoy the agate hunts and work that he does with them. I started hearing from my buddy Josh, who was scheduled to take several of us hunting for Kentucky Agate the next morning…but it sounded like he was sick and wasnt going to be able to take us, so I let Harry and Larry know that later on and we reverted back to their original plan of returning to the Goat Farm to look for geodes in the creek instead. Onyx and I headed back to the hotel about 4 pm, leaving a few diehard diggers there, wore out and ready for a good shower and then some supper. Fred and a few others followed us out…I stopped up on top of the hill to photograph an old barn with blue doors….

After another good supper at the golf course restaurant, alot of us hung around in the parking lot once again that evening…there were about twenty folks less and some said they were going to go explore some other areas the next day. John broke out some of his barites from Iowa while he was re-arranging Mary`s suv, they were quite popular with everyone too, he had a few with him this trip that had pyrite in amongst the barite blades, making them look great and very be-jewelled. Here are a few I have purchased from him in the past year, some are quite pretty….

…anyway they were a hit with everyone who saw them and as usual, he didn`t bring enough of them with him…but as he said, one never knows how many to bring when dealing with large groups like that and not everyone likes to buy pretty specimens like that one rockhunting trips…some go just to collect and hunt, some go to also visit and trade with rockhounds, and some go to do all of that and buy even prettier stuff that is basically inaccessible to them…I am one of those types of rockhounds, interested and willing to do all of it…because I know there are locations that produce great stuff that is mostly inaccessible to many of us and you have to break down and buy them if you want them in your collection, as I do. I know people like John, who realize this stuff is pretty and in demand by collectors all over, however they also realize that most people cannot afford to pay a lot and so they dont charge an arm and leg like some dealers do. I pulled out some stuff that John had asked me to bring, some old material that I purchased from the Pea Ridge Iron Ore Mine in my area that was probably at least 50 years old and some new stuff coming from an hour south of me that included gray bubbly druse with chalcopyrite covering it blanket style, snow white bladed barite and sphalerite balls. I also brought some dogtooths from area quarries that I find alot of and I had some fluorite for Fred as well…when I pulled the fluorites out, everyone came over to look them over and several folks purchased a few of them…John had the same thing going with his barites.  Harry and Larry were really taken with those barites, as I had told them about a few weeks ago…I really don`t know anyone that isn`t mesmerized by their razzle dazzle and beauty.

The next morning we had another great breakfast next door and I shot this sunrise afterward….

I checked out of the hotel after that,  intending to head home after hunting for geodes during the morning at the Goat Farm…I figured it would be better to drive home all afternoon and get a good nights rest before going back to work the next night, than to get up early the next morning and drive home, then take a two hour nap and go to work, figured I would be tired from driving and a two hour nap just wouldn`t cut it for me. Harry and Larry led the way down to the Goat Farm near Crab Orchard and this time we found the owner home and the gate unlocked, and we drove down thru the field to the creek below. This location is known well for large geodes upstream and buddy let me tell you, several rockhounds found as many as they could carry back to their vehicles. After I let Onyx loose, he headed for the creek and found a couple of deep holes he could swim in, so he was in hog heaven pretty fast…I took a few photos of the parking area and creek first….

…and I saw Slade looking over geodes at the creek crossing before heading upstream to look for some big ones…

Fred, Harry and George were all working the creek as I finished shooting a few photos and joined them, finding some that had been left by others that were quite pretty and cracking open some new ones that were filled with sunshine quartz, as Harry and Larry call it….

…just upstream from our location, was Larry Huffman and a couple of gals further upstream from him…Larry was cracking open some sunshine quartz geodes…

I walked back down to see how many geodes Fred had piled up…he had cracked one open that I had tried to crack open earlier, he used a chisel that I did not have with me, and it opened perfect for him…so he gave me half of it…his half is at the center base of his white bucket, the large one with the beautiful white and yellow quartz crystals….

…and here is one of his basketball sized ones…

…in the meantime, the rest of the crew downstream was doing quite well too…I checked with a few of them and they were quite happy with what they were finding just a few yards below us….

…after shooting some photos and loading up my tailgate with my finds, I decided to walk upstream and see what I could find that might be bigger. I met Dale Russell coming downstream with his arms full of a huge geode half that was full of gorgeous sunshine quartz and in big bubbles of it too…and his backpack was full of a few smaller ones equally beautiful too. Here is that half he was carrying downstream in his arms…

…and here are the two halves he had on his back in his pack while carrying that one downstream in his arms….talk about loaded down….


He told me where he left his bucket, up by Slade, and said there were more up there just laying all over the place, so Onyx and I headed upstream, running into Slade as well….I picked up a couple of halves I found laying around up there, after making sure they were not any that Slade or Dale had cracked open to take home…and returned to the truck tired…I photographed Dale with his beauties and Dale Walker as well who had found one downstream too…..

Both of these Dales are great to rockhound with and they both have great taste in gloves…I like the heavy leather ones at the quarries and quartz mines like Dale Russell is wearing and when I am digging in water or mud or both, I like the rough rubber face of the gloves like Dale Walker is wearing. Both of these types of gloves are long lasting, too, takes a lot to wear them out.

I spent the next hour repacking the truck bed to accomodate all of my geode finds, while Onyx did a little more swimming, then we said our see ya laters to everyone in sight and headed over to Mt Vernon to pick up I-75 to head north to Lexington and then west on I-64 to St Louis. We were on the eastern outskirts of Louisville when the eclipse began, spotted thousands gathered in a city park on that side of town to observe it, then noticed all the streetlights in Louisville that lined I-64 were activated for it…they wasted some electricity as it never even darkened down a tiny bit. We caught up to some eclipse traffic headed home when we hit northbound I-57, luckily that only lasted a few miles, all of it going northbound…I filled the gas tanks at the Phillips 66 there and we headed west on 64 again with normal traffic. I did drive thru a nasty little cloudburst complete with some straight line winds just east of Okawville…everyone slowed down to about 45 mph and turned our flashers on and headed on, lasted about ten minutes only. I ran into a little northbound eclipse traffic when I hit 270 but all traffic going westbound was just fine…we finally got home about 7 pm and I was in bed after unpacking the truck, by 10 pm. All in all, another great trip and one for the record books this time around. Hope everyone else had a great time and made it home safe and sound. If anyone needs any of my photos, just give me a shout at my email addy below. 

 James at jwjphoto7@gmail.com  🙂