It`s New Years Eve 2021 and we are expecting the first Winter Storm of 2022 tomorrow morning, so I figure I can get my Rocks Website caught up this weekend while riding out the storm. Right now I am transferring photos from my phone to my computer so I can fully illustrate my last couple of big stories…I really need to get back to using my Nikon camera more than my phone, the quality of the videos and photos are much higher with the camera, but it is much easier to use the phone camera when shooting spur of the moment videos that I can then easily transfer to my FB page, and I guess that is the main reason I have shot more with my phone camera in the past year.
We had a great time in Central Kentucky this year once again, and Nathan, my new local rockhound friend, was able to go with me this time and it was his first big field trip ever. Safe to say now, that he had a great time and enjoyed rockhounding with all of my friends as much as Onyx and I did. Pretty sure I can also say that our two days at Liter`s Quarry was again the highlight of the trip, this year we found alot of pockets with new mineral and crystal finds, unlike anything we have found there in the past couple of years, some of the finds were nothing short of Phenomenal !! Some of the guys were still talking about it when they were up here rockhounding with me in November.
I was once again, ready for a break from work this year, the last few days of August we had some high winds at the golf course and we spent alot of time cleaning up trees and limbs that had been blown down all over the hill on the front nine holes. One large tree had several limbs knocked down and required the use of our new Mahindra tractor to drag them down to the woodline for disposal. Luckily, the week ahead looked great for all of us, weather wise.
I let everyone know I was going to stop off at Gary`s house to pick up some new fluorite pieces, always a hit at the swap and sell tailgate event. I had called Gary to see what they had available, and he let me know they had several nice clusters, small to big, in the purple and yellow cubes from a pocket they had discovered back in the spring time and several new clusters in purple and grey cubes from a pocket they had recently found and began to work. Some of the purple and grey cubes also had galena cubes attached and was quite pretty he said. He also hinted at some bad news and said he would explain further on it when I arrived Friday morning.
I worked four hours Thursday morning, Sept 2nd, so I could finish out the day packing the truck with flats for the swap and sell tailgate event, and finish packing everything else for Onyx, Nathan, and I. We left about 5 am heading east and got thru the St Louis area lickety split going around 270 and 255 to I-64 east…hit it just right at 44 and 270 and encountered light traffic going south on 270, figured maybe the holiday traffic went through there the day before. We arrived at Gary`s house around 10 am and found Gary and Water waiting for us, with a lot of beautiful fluorites to look over as well.
( Would have gotten back to to this earlier today, but had to re-arrange several photos that I transferred from my phone to my computer, today…not sure why, but they did not sort automatically by date when they transferred in. Aint technology just great ??!! 🙂 )
Gary had some beauties, both the grey and purple fluorites with great zoning and some phantom cubes as well as some beautiful purple and yellow clusters, also with great zoning and phantoms. I purchased a pretty good selection cause I was sure once everyone laid eyes on these beauties, they would be interested in them as much as I was….
While I was standing there admiring all of them, I took these photos with my phone camera and sent a couple of the photos to my buddy Randy Gentry…I knew he wasn`t going to be able to make it up there on this trip, but knew he would love to see what Gary had available too…the photo above was one I sent him and he said get one of those for me, so I did. Randy is one of my best rockhunting friends, in my group as well, and one I don`t have to worry about when he asks me to pick something up for him like this. The next photo shows a plate that I really liked, good color and great quality, but the price tag on it was a bit steep for even me that day….
…and the next one, this one above, is a large cluster with some malachite attached to it….the one in the photo below did leave with me tho….
…along with several smaller plates and clusters, that were quickly purchased at the swap and sell event that evening. I think Nathan was quite impressed with the fluorites he saw that morning at Gary`s place and he enjoyed meeting and visiting with Gary and Walter as much as I do each time I travel down there.
We were back on the road about noon and headed to Danville, stopping only for gas and a light lunch…traveling across the state on four lane bluegrass parkways, four hour drive from there and an hour lost along the way. We arrived at 5 pm and got checked into the hotel at the Red Roof Inn Plus, freshened up a bit and made sure Miss Onyx was settled in, then drove up to Harrodsburg, to the Bright Leaf Golf Resort Hotel and Restaurant, where most of the crew stays at during the weekend stay. It`s not a pet friendly hotel so I can`t stay there…in years past I stayed at the Baymont Hotel in Harrodsburg, but the quality seemed to be declining the last couple of years and I decided to stay at Danville this year…the Red Roof Inn had undergone a remodeling change two years ago and is quite nice.
We arrived at the Bright Leaf and walked into the buffet dining hall behind the hotel, to find many already sitting down to eat supper/dinner. I really like this place, it is very informal…they cater to alot of golfers there and local residents as well…and their service there is fast, we no sooner walked up and said hello to everyone, then the waitress was there to take our drink order and mark us down for the buffet. Fast and friendly each and every time and good food as well. I let everyone know that while the fluorite mining was going well, they were also dealing with a lot of recent thievery down there…some mines were getting hit hard by thieves stealing diesel fuel which also is used for the pumps that keep the mines de-watered and safe for the miners, put the mine owners in a hard position. However, in this case, MSHA and other regulatory agencies, were very supportive of their position, and were making their Federal Marshals available to them should they need them to make arrests of theives and trespassers at the mines. Mainly because it seems in that area, local law enforcement has been compromised. Sad situation all the way around.
There were a few new faces this year on this trip…my friend Mark Northrup of Springfield, Missouri drove down to join us…Mark is the Field Trip Director for the Springfield Club and enjoys hard rock mining as well. Tammy and Todd Bromley, from Ohio, who I had the pleasure of rockhounding with several years ago when I was digging at the Eureka Fluorite Mine several years in a row, drove down to join up with us for the weekend. A young man who had not been rockhunting much, joined us on the drive to the second quarry location on Sunday morning, Brad McAtee, and later told me that he had a really good time and appreciated all the good advice from all the experienced rockhounds too.
We enjoyed a good dinner and fellowship for about an hour and then went out into the hotel parking lot for the swap and sell tailgate event. Weather was nice that day and evening, pleasant for visiting with everyone, got to visit Tammy and Todd Bromley and get caught up on old times with them.
My buddy Slade had asked me to pick up a nice cluster of fluorite for him so I handed that to him fairly quickly, because soon after, many of the rest of the fluorites were selected and purchased. We had a good time that evening, but by 9 pm most were headed back to their rooms to retire for the night, so Nathan and I packed it in and drove back down to Danville for the night. Our first day rockhunting was the next morning and we would be going to Caldwell Quarry, Slade graciously volunteered to lead the group down to Danville for me so that I would not have to drive up and back. As it was, Slade`s GPS took them a different route, through downtown Danville, a route I had always been advised by local friends not to take due to traffic issues, but they breezed right through the downtown business district with ease, so Nathan and I drove over to the quarry and found them already there and waiting for us.
I had been in contact with Clay, the Quarry Manager, the day before and he had liability waiver forms for us to sign and then gave a talk on the history of the quarry as well as a safety briefing. Last year, he made one of his employees available to us as a guide and this year I had put in a request to him mid summer, to see if it was possible that we could get Jeff again as our Guide this year too…Clay was able to make it happen again this year for us. Just like last year, Jeff took care of us very well, nice attitude and very safety minded, he stayed right with us the entire time we were there. I think he learned a little bit about rocks from us, too.
Caldwell Quarry is always a roll of the dice for rockhunting, never know if you are going to find a little, a lot, or nothing at all there…there is a small seam of calcite when you look at the big picture there, ten stories deep and this seam only extends from the very bottom of the pit to nearly the second level. You do not want to get near the walls of this quarry due to the height and safety risks associated with them.
Once we all had our hard hats and boots on, we assembled once again for a group photo by the huge boulder in front of the office….
Soon after we followed our Guide Jeff, down into the quarry, finding the layout vastly different from last year. Last year we couldn`t find the bottom floor of the quarry because there was this huge pile of rock sitting in it that was almost two levels high. This year, the bottom floor was completely open and available to explore….
Several brought their power saws, power drills, and small power hammers, mainly because when you find a boulder full of pretty crystalized vugs, it is much easier if you have a saw to cob down the boulder and then saw out the vug intact. Once I had folks lined out on where to look at this quarry, Miss Onyx and I did a walk around the ground level and found several clouds of dust where saws were in operation, meaning that several were finding some nice vugs of pretty crystals. Jeff brought a smaller saw with him and got it out to show us how it operated in comparison to the bigger saws the guys had…
…Slade decided to check it out….Jeff is in the white hard hat above standing next to Dean Russell, both watching Slade as he works with Jeff`s saw. Harry Polly is looking for pretty rocks in the berm pile back behind them. Nathan is checking for anything pretty in the more extensive berm pile further down the wall…this was his first major field trip and he was having a blast, pun intended. 🙂
I can`t recall who it was, but someone found a nice purple fluorite cube that morning at the quarry….
and someone else liberated this vug full of beautiful calcite crystals….
I believe we were out of there around noon that day and we headed to Junction City to look for geodes in a half mile stretch of White Oak Creek at the farm of a longtime good friend of the Hickory Club Members. The Hickory Club has been going to this creek location for several years and they enjoy visiting with the landowner as much as they enjoy walking his creek stretch to search for beautiful hollow sunshine quartz lined geodes…here is one that I found about an hour after we arrived…
…it`s a basketball sized one and for the first five smacks with the hammer, I was beginning to think it was another solid one, but it finally cracked open for me. Some rockhounds take them home and clean them out with a soak in Iron Out, which removes that beautiful sunshine color…I prefer the sunshine color and leave mine as they are. 🙂
Here is what the creek looks like close to where we park and enter it….
Onyx really likes this location on that first day of collecting, because quite naturally, she can go wading or swimming there and cool off…we normally have some warm weather down there on Labor Day Weekend and the quarry on Saturday morning doesn`t always have many water holes for her to get into, so this creek is always a lot of fun for her….
You`ll notice the water looks a little green behind Onyx above…that is due to the green colored shale creek bottom there, similar to the Green River in the Stanford area, it has a green shale bottom as well.
The first half geode I found today was this one, filled with a beautiful brown colored quartz, reminded me of the brown calcites found in geodes in northeast Missouri and Southern Iowa….
There are two major ways to search for and collect geodes in the creeks in that area…by wading or walking the gravel bars and visually searching for geodes…I first generally look for geode halves, consisting of geodes that have tumbled downstream during flooding and cracked open on their own, or someone finding one, cracking it open, and it doesn`t measure up to their satisfaction, and they then leave it there for others to find and take home. There are literally, hundreds of whole geodes, in all sizes from thimble to beach ball, laying all over those gravel bars, sometimes 2 or more feet deep, stacked on top of each other, from one end of the bar to the other and lining the creek bed bottoms, including the deeper water holes, waiting to be dug out or raked out with a potato rake or hoe, cracked open, and taken home by an appreciative rockhound.
The other way to collect geodes, is to dig them out of the creek or river banks…the photo below shows the shale layer at the bottom of the dirt bank as well as many geodes congregated right above the shale layer in the dirt with some a foot or two higher than the shale…
Some rockhounds use just a hammer to whack the whole geodes with, 4 or 5 times…more than that you are usually dealing with a solid geode…and some use a hammer on a chisel all the way around a geode to crack one open and hopefully wind up with two halves. The bad thing about just using a hammer is that you sometimes wind up with multiple pieces. I am as guilty as some others, who simply use a hammer and smack the whole geodes without the use of a chisel…I admit it…have done it several times, and sometimes other rockhounds see it and yell at me about it…most let me do whatever I want but some will say something to me about it. 🙂
I think it is fair to say that we all had a good time that day, most of us did well at the quarry that morning, some found some good stuff and I am pretty sure we all had a great time at the creek…lots of geodes to be checked out and the opportunity to get wet and cool off…just ask Onyx, she can tell you all about that. 🙂
About my third trip back to my truck with some pretty finds, my activity came to an abrupt stop, thanks to a couple of red wasps that for some reason were checking out the side of my neck, and when I went to brush them off, stung me. I waited and checked on the swelling and then took my eppy shot, plus an allegra tablet and then just chilled out for a while…red wasps and yellow jackets are the worst for me, in terms of pain involved from the time of the sting and for the next day or two you can still feel the pain quite well in the area of the sting and a bit beyond. Luckily I had collected a couple of buckets worth and I was getting tired, so it was a good time for me to just chill out and relax down and visit with everyone. Once Nathan was good to go, we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit and clean up for dinner at the Bright Leaf and another tailgate swap and sell event afterwards.
The next morning, we drove up to the Bright Leaf to lead the group to the second quarry we go to, the drive to it takes us nearly 90 minutes but it has become the favorite location of the entire weekend, due to the material that we have been able to find and harvest there the last couple of years since we began going there.
I hesitate to identify this location anymore, because these days more rockhounds will not do the right thing and seek permission from the Quarry Manager to go there. Some do not have quarry safety training and some do not care about safety training, but they have no problem dropping my name if they are discovered inside the gates of certain places I rockhound at.That isn`t going to work for you if you decide to do that, because the property owner or Manager that I talk to and deal with, know that I will contact them first, with information about someone that wants to go to their location. They also have my name and number in their cellphone rolodex, they can call me and ask me about someone, and if I don`t know you, I am going to let them know they are dealing with a trespasser.
I receive a lot of emails from folks every month, mainly folks I do not know, asking if I can get them into certain locations that I have collected at, asking if I can take them to those locations, usually it involves a quarry that I have been to. My first question to them is if they are a member of a club, if their club provides training on how quarries operate and safety policies at quarries, if their club requires safety equipment worn at quarries while collecting…if the answer is yes then I ask for a contact name and email addy or phone number so I can contact that person and verify what the person told me and then I do just that…9 times out of 10, we dont even get to that point in the conversation and I never hear from that person again. I have become increasingly more vigilant in who I take with me to quarries where we are allowed to collect at, because I don`t want to lose access to them myself and it can happen so easily from someone going to one and not treating the place with respect nor following unsafe practices or ignoring safety procedures and policies.
On the other hand, if you have the knowledge, training, and act in a safe and prudent manner while rockhounding, and can prove it, and if you are willing to go the extra lengths to secure permission before entering private property to collect, I am willing to help out where possible. Just want to put that out there, enough said.
My group always looks forward to the two days we are allowed to rockhound at this second location, and each year it seems to get better and better. This year was no exception, it was probably the best year we have had there so far. It was quite muddy this time, water and mudholes all over the parking lot and roads around the piles……
…you really had to watch where you were walking if your boots weren`t waterproof and we had to some cleaning up before we got back into our vehicles for the most part, at the end of the day as well. David Bruce and I elected to check out a few of the berm piles once we arrived…starting along the top of the piles at this point and going all the way over to the other side of the green pond on the far side…..
….finding some nice surprises here and there, David was finding some beautiful calcites at the base of the walls as well in a few spots. Dawson, Thomas, and Michael were checking out the walls on the far side out of sight in the photo above, and found some nice calcite pockets there.
Once I returned to the area where I parked, I checked out a short berm pile and found a flat stone, that had some purple and yellow coloring to it…
Once I washed it off in a nearby stream of clear water, it became evident to me and others, that the purple was fluorite…here is the other side of the flat stone….
…very pretty and yes it came home with me. 🙂 I decided from there to walk down the main large pile of boulders where several of the guys were checking for vugs, and I happened upon some nice vugs myself, worthy of photos….
…this one was quite nice…I don`t know who the lucky guy was that sawed it out, but it was GREAT to look at…dogtooth calcites up and down the length of it and snowball calcites mixed in as well…just gorgeous !!
I also spotted this nice vug with what appeared to be some smokey colored crystals inside it….
As I moved on down the muddy lane, I came upon Thomas trying to dig out what he thought was a fluorite find in the floor of the road….
It took him quite a while to remove it and once he did, it turned out to be something else. Thomas took it all in stride and moved over to another wall and began looking for pockets again…and soon found a nice pocket in a vertical crevice that was chock full of some weird calcite formations….
He called me over to check them out…
there are calcites and snowballs combined on many of them..and then he told me to pick out a couple of them and I did…pretty nice guy. 🙂
I left Thomas there to work the pocket some more and zagged over to the boulder pile where I saw Don Lapham, from New York state, working on some vugs in some boulders…
right away you notice Don has a power saw in front of him, but did you also notice that he has a lot of prybars and a sledge hammer within reach as well ? Don is one of my hard rock miner rockhound friends…he isn`t afraid of hard work to acquire what he wants to take home to add to his collection…and keep in mind, a power saw still requires hard to work to operate it, they are no picnic, but they do make it much easier sometimes to remove those vugs full of crystals from a boulder, yet sometimes you have to fall back on the tried and true hand tools too….
I then zigged back to the other side of the muddy lane and moved on down the wall in search of more treasure…thinking I really liked those snowballs mixed with the calcites. Down the wall a ways I spotted Dawson on the other side of the lane checking for pockets in a short wall, he had a big smile on his face and a nice calcite crystal in his hand….
THAT is what a happy Dawson looks like, we get to see that occasionally on our trips. 🙂
I continued to move down the higher wall on the opposite side of the muddy lane. Soon I came upon an area that appeared to be vuggy and several pockets were visible, but higher up on the wall, well out of our reach with the safety of a nice ladder. I spotted some sparkles on a small flat boulder at the base of this section of the wall and looked down to spot this beauty….
…just sitting there waiting for me to come along and find it and take it home. After picking it up and giving it a closer examination, I gave out a bit whoop and yelled ” EUREKA “…and a few minutes later Dawson showed up to see what I had found…think he was as excited about it as I was. We stayed in that section for a few more minutes trying to figure out where it may have rolled down from…unable to spot anything viable, we kept on moving down the wall. Eventually we reached a vuggy area where he stopped to check on a certain area and about 15 feet further down, I spotted an opening with some of those snowballs in sight….
Naturally, the bright yellows caught my eyes immediately, the ones that were somewhat illuminated by the sunlight that was catching the ones on the front edge of a rather dark and deep looking pocket between two massively thick ledges of dolomite rock. I carefully removed the larger plates and set them on another ledge in the sunlight…
…and then this one, I set it all by itself on a ledge to my right….
…so you can see how nice and exciting it was to find a pocket like this and work it, even if only briefly. The pocket turned out not to be as deep as I initially thought it was, but I was very happy with what I did pull out of there, here is how it looked when I finished up….
Dawson did not spend a lot of time on his pocket either, but we figured we could return the next morning and check for extensions in each one, and soon we were on the move yet again, looking for more treasure. Shortly after, I did come across this nice vug, but cannot recall where I spotted it at….
…I know what yall are thinking tho…you are thinking I should remember where this spectacular poker chip calcite cluster, surrounded by snowballs, was located since it is definitely one of my favorite specimens to collect all the time !! If my recall re-appears and lets me know where it was located, I will do an edit and correct this part of the story.
I found a few more nice vugs, photographed them as well…
and this next one was already on someone`s tailgate when I finally caught up to it…
Pretty soon we discovered Slade and Dean appeared to be missing, so I asked a couple of guys if they had seen them, and it seemed they drove over to check out the smaller pit near the entrance. Nathan and I loaded up and drove over to check on them and the rest of the crowd eventually followed us over there as well…we found Slade and Dean working on wall pockets over there…
…so low and behold, there were calcite pockets to be found over there as well. There were a couple of water holes in between them and where we initially parked…more on that in a few minutes…so Nathan and I check out this huge, widespread debris field and found a few goodies within it….
…we both found a couple of big ones, yard rocks, and I really didn`t feel like carrying them back across or around that water hole, seen below…
…so I opted to drive my pickup over to where I was standing instead, to get much closer. I was parked over beside Don`s jeep, and after checking to see how deep that water hole was, it varied in several spots, I opted to cross the narrow section which would be at an angle from the passenger side front corner of his jeep to the left in that photo above. Let me just say that I misjudged the depth at that point and luckily it was rock solid bottom, but for a brief second or two, I thought Don might have to hook up and pull me out of there, but then my trusty four wheel drive kicked in and pulled us right on through, across, and out of there. Needless to say, I found a much better place to cross going back, clearing out alot of those big rocks in the water hole in front of, and to the right of, Don`s jeep…the water level there was much more shallow. 🙂
I did snap a photo of some vugs sawed out of some boulders, that I spotted in someone`s truck, either Slades truck or David Bruce`s truck, and I cannot recall whose truck it was, but they are very pretty vug finds…
Once Nathan and I had our finds loaded up, we decided to head back to the hotel and clean up for supper. A couple of the guys followed me back, while the rest decided to stay and work pockets a little longer. Mark Northrup decided to head home from there, he was a little tired and had such a good time tho. I was a little worried about him making that long drive back after a workout like that…it`s mostly interstate from there, but not a lot of scenery to look at going across southern Indiana and Illinois…speaking from experience, those boring drives can make one pretty drowsy. I was greatly relieved when he texted me later to let me know he made it home safe and sound.
The next morning, there was a smaller group of us returning to the quarry again, the rest of the group heading home from Harrodsburg, so the rest of us made the drive back over, Dawson, Thomas, and Michael, drove down from Louisville and met us there. Nathan wanted to check out the dump pile at the top of the hill between the original pit and the newer larger pit, and some of the crew split up, some going back to the newer larger pit to see if we could open up some more of the pockets we worked the day before, and some went back to the original pit to check out more pockets there.
Dean and Slade first returned to the boulder pile in the middle of the newer pit, to recover some more vugs from select boulders…Dean is in the green reflective outfit and Slade in the Safety Orange colors…
Nathan had spotted some crystals in a vug on that level as well and was trying to remove them with the chisel and hammer before he walked up to the top of the hill…
I think Slade and Dean returned to the larger pit partially because of a bad experience Dean had in the original pit the day before…Slade told me that once Dean got his pocket opened up a bit, he reached in there and a big rat came scurrying out of it and both were pretty shocked when they saw it…I would be too, cause that is the last thing I would expect to find in a wall pocket like that !!
Nathan, Miss Onyx, and I headed for home about mid morning, and when we left, most of the others were all in the original pit checking out more pockets. I had heard from a few of them, that clusters of dogtooth calcites were coming out of those pockets…hopefully some of them will send me some photos of them that I can include in the story here.
We took a new route home, pretty scenic drive, mix of two lane and four lane roads, that took us over to Gary`s house the back way…I decided to stop and get some more fluorites from him after selling everything I bought from him on the way down there…really like the purple and grey clusters alot, that combination of color is really nice and the zoning in those cubes is pretty neat as well. We had yet another good visit with him and Walter, before heading for home. All in all, another good trip for sure.
As always, if anyone would like more information, give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org