Geode Fest 2019

I have to say, this year`s Geode Fest was the wettest one I can remember and not in terms of wading in the creeks and rivers, but in the form of heavy rainfall…in the form of…well…monsoon type rainfall…with lightning and thunder accompanying the monsoon rainfall !! 

I had to place Onyx with my Vet for lodging for a few nights while I went up there, since pets are not allowed to go, and the reasoning is quite simple for that, not all dogs do well in groups that large, nor do all dogs get along with other dogs…if every other person brought their dog and their dogs didn`t get along with other dogs, it could be a nightmare for everyone involved up there. I`ll be the first to say, that Onxy does not get along with every dog out there…I wish he did, but sadly, he does not. Missy, my first Border Collie, got along with most dogs and had a lot less anxiety issues than Onyx seems to have and it seems to be a trait in the breed that I cannot do anything about, so lodging with my Vet was basically his only choice.

I drove up to Keokuk on Thursday, September 26th, arriving early afternoon and got checked into the Super 8 Hotel first thing, then drove over to the Geode Fest grounds to meet up with a friend of John`s, who is a mineral dealer in Iowa, and who was looking for a source of druse quartz. John had let me know a few weeks before about his friend and his search for druse quartz after a bad experience at a local show weeks before. I contacted his friend and we decided on meeting in the parking lot at Geode Fest, with me transporting several specimens up there for him to look through and purchase if he liked what he saw. I had the back seat full of flats of druse in every size and color imagineable, and larger ones in the bed of my truck. I had so much druse with me, that only left me with the front seat for my clothing bag for the weekend.

Soon after arriving, I spotted Charity and Jamey at their booth along the back side of the parking lot, and walked over to visit with them while waiting for the dealer to come back to his truck to see what I brought to show him. Charity told me that they had arrived early and let me know my buddy John Oostenryk was running late again and they figured it would be evening before he arrived. 

Soon the dealer spotted me at their booth and came over to introduce himself…after a few minutes of small talk, we walked back to my truck and I started showing him what I had brought. As is often the case, other dealers began walking by, spotted me showing him the druse I had with me, and they began to mill around to see what I was showing him. Word soon spread and the next thing I knew, a few dealers there for the show, some I knew and a few I didn`t know, came over and asked what we were doing. When they found out, one or two ran to a guy there that was assisting the man in charge of the show, and he came over to confirm what he was told. Luckily, he didn`t come with an attitude, but came over with an open mind about it…we straightened him out about what we were doing…that I was there as a collector of druse quartz and brought some druse quartz to show a dealer my wares, so to speak, because he was looking for such wares to resell elsewhere, not at the show that weekend. Like I told the man in charge that day, neither of us were dealers at the show, we just picked that parking lot because it was easy to find and technically, since the show had not started yet, it was a public access parking lot, too. Even if we had gone down to the far end of the parking lot, I guarantee you those other dealers would have wandered down there to see what was going on and still would have found a reason to get upset over it. After hearing our side of the story, he told us he personally had no problem with it, but we should move it to another location, so we packed up and drove over to the Iowa side instead.

Believe me, all of my dealer friends that set up their booths at the Geode Fest Parking Lot, had a problem with the way it was handled, but did not have any problem with what I did nor what John`s dealer friend did in meeting me there. Not One !! In fact, the way it was handled, really pissed quite a few of them off, especially my buddy John. He texted me that evening to let me know he was there and had heard about it, he was pissed off about it and planned to talk to Kurt, the Director of the Event, about it the next morning. Kurt is the Director of Tourism for the City of Keokuk, they took over the Geode Fest Event last year when Mike Shumate retired after building up and successfully running the entire operation for the past 25 years. Last year was Kurt`s first year and I thought he did a great job with it, plus found him to be a very nice guy to talk to and deal with.

The next morning, I was up early and stopped at McDonalds for breakfast, noticing some light rain on the way down there. As soon as I walked back to my truck tho, I spotted a storm moving in from the southwest, with thunder and lightning.

I drove down to the river access on the Illinois side just north of the highway and photographed the storm`s approach, there were a few others doing the same thing, probably due to the dramatic approach of the storm toward the Mississippi River and the color and lightning in the skies. With the highway bridge on the left side and the lock / dam directly across the river, the city of Keokuk still lit up, it made for a great show for sure…

I photographed the first image of the storm above, in program mode, which is why it looks so light given the time of the morning…here below is how it really looked, shot in manual mode….

…and you can clearly see the distinction on the north side between the clouds when I focused on the Lock and Dam building just north of the highway bridge across the river….

…it was about this time that the winds picked up and the drama in the clouds and approaching storm picked up real quick…a couple of the folks watching up river from me about 200 feet, decided they had seen enough and they were getting the flock out of Dodge…about six of us stayed to watch the show, and I decided to stay in my truck and shoot some video of it too…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 81 Fri Morning Storm Approaching From West


Geode Fest 2019 AVI 91 2nd Video of Approaching Storm Fri Morning


Geode Fest 2019 AVI 102 Storm Approaching Fri Morning 27th

Seems like everytime I started shooting video, the lightning bolts eluded me, but once I stopped shooting video, that is when they came down hard and intense, so I took a few more photos and then headed over to the Chaney Creek Boat Access Parking Lot to pay my entry fee and get registered for the event, then visit with John and the other dealer friends….

I found the parking area to be about half full when I arrived and I was able to find a pretty good parking spot about the middle of the lot, which is good for that time of the morning on the first day. I would guess and say that the storm coming in may have caught some flat footed and they were waiting it out in their hotel rooms across the river. I always take my laptop and check weather and radar on my trips…you can watch the tv news/weather and see what is going on in a much broader area, but if you aren`t in the immediate area of the news station, then you are just going to get a bigger radar, whereas with my laptop I can go to my favorite weather site, the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center site and zero in pretty tight on radar for the area I am in.  is their site address if anyone would like to check it out and use it like I do, when the site comes up on your screen, you can put your zip code into the box in the upper right hand corner and get your ten day forecast for your area as well. 

…that storm did clip us as we received a good shower soon after I arrived, but the main part clearly passed to the north of us. I heard later at supper in Keokuk that it was a pretty serious thundershower in town that morning. I walked over to visit with my buddy John O, who was setting up his tent booth, getting his geode cracker out and ready to crack geodes later for folks who found them. John is a self taught geologist and has been a tremendous help to the folks who have run Geode Fest each year for the past several years, he donates alot of his free time to help them with location scouting, location prep and physical clean up work to get the locations ready for hundreds of rockhounds to descend upon, and he assists with logical thinking when it comes time to set rules and policies as well, and he never charges them for his time and assistance, either.

Kurt came by John`s booth shortly after and apologized to me for the way it was handled…he let me know that they intended to rope off a section of the parking lot next year so that meetings like that could be better facilitated as they were in favor of that exchange and wanted to fully support it as well. He told me that he had already discussed it with Mike, the guy that approached and asked us to leave, said that should never have happened and he had discussed it with all of the dealers there as well. I let Kurt know that Mike,  actually acted in a pretty professional way and while he could have been rude and insensitive about it, he was not, which did not go unnoticed by the dealer I was talking to, or me. I think he was pretty glad to hear that after all the stories he had heard from others the day before. John and I decided to go to the site known for snowball geodes, so he went over and signed us both up for that location and we left soon after with our guide leading the way.

If you have never been to Geode Fest, it is quite an operation to behold. Years ago when I first went there, it was held on the Keokuk side at the Hy-Vee Grocery parking lot, but it soon outgrew their side parking lot and they moved the event to the Chaney Creek Access parking lot under the vision of Mike Shumate who was in charge of the event back then. Mike is a good ol country boy who is also an avid collector of geodes for many years as well as a wealth of information for the area and geodes in general. Rockhounds are allowed to pre-register or bring their paperwork with them to the event and then pay their fee for the entire weekend. Once you register and pay your fee, you then move to another booth tent and sign up for sites/location you want to dig or collect at…in years past there have been six to ten sites available to go and collect at. There are two locations available on Friday and Saturday, Sunday is a morning dig only, so for your entry fee you get the opportunity to go dig and collect at five sites/locations. For each bucket you fill up with geodes to take home, you pay an extra $ 25 to your guide and that money is given to the landowner of the site/location you went to dig/collect at. You sign up for the site/location you want to go to each morning and each afternoon starting at a pre-designated time. Your guide is determined ahead of time and he or she has a certain colored flag on their vehicle, you are notified of the flag color when you sign up for the site/location you want to go to, and then they announce on a public address speaker when that guide is lining up to head out to that site/location…they give you about 10 minutes to line up…and in that parking lot, it can be hard for everyone to line up in a single line, due to the haphazard way that some people park there…some have no respect for rules, no respect for lines, no respect for others….some park out in the open where there is no parking and that can cause folks to be blocked out completely…it can be really frustrating to say the least, in getting into and out of, that parking lot !!

This year, Kurt arranged for the Hamilton, Illinois Police Department to provide all day long protection and traffic control assistance at the event…the access to the parking lot is right off state highway 96, a mile north of Hwy 136, so there are normally three to four officers down there directing traffic all day long, and that has been a tremendous help for the event. It also creates a heavy police presence to most, likely keeps trouble from happening there and provides a great sense of security as well. As far as I know, there have not been any major problems there yet. I met a few of the officers and the Police Chief Friday morning after I pulled in and parked, very nice officers and they had good support from the county for their traffic operation there.

Luckily the guides all know the problems one can encounter getting lined up and out of the parking lot, so they take it easy and travel at a slower pace til they get to the outskirts of Hamilton…everyone including the guide, runs their flashers on their vehicles, so you can see the person in front of you even if you get separated from them by other traffic. I will say that unlike years past, the Police Chief and his officers did do something about the knotheads that parked illegally in the parking lot or blocked others by parking in unmarked areas, and I heard that a few folks who did that were threatened with a ticket and tow of their vehicle if they didn`t move them in a very timely manner as well. For the knotheads that do that on purpose without any respect for others or just plain stupidity, they fully deserve a ticket and their vehicle towed in my humble opinion, it`s about the only thing they will understand and possibly prevent them from doing it again. Repeat offenders simply need to be banished from the event and not allowed to return til they grow up !!

Our mutual friend Abigail from Nashville, was going to try and make it to Geode Fest again this year, but her medical problems got worse and she had to stay home. One of her close female friends however, came down from the Sioux City area with her boyfriend and his son and daughter, along with his daughter`s female friend, to join us. I met them in the parking lot as I was heading to my truck to get in line…introduced myself as a friend of John and Abigail and let them know what I was driving in case they got lost or separated from the rest of the line up. Her name is Shell and  her striking good looks reminded me of Joan Jett the rocker/singer. 🙂 Her boyfriend`s name is Grant, I cannot remember the names of the kids, but they were usually very nice as well as enthusiastic, but sometimes a handful as well. 

We all followed our guide out to the site known as Rod`s Geode Site, or Rod`s as most of the hard core collectors call it…a couple of miles south of Hamilton, where we turned off on to a nice white chat gravel farm lane that led to a farmhouse and outbuildings at the end of the lane…or so it appeared. However, once we topped the low hill above the highway, we soon turned left and drove down a dirt lane thru a soybean field…I thought to myself as I turned, ” I sure hope we don`t get any rain showers or this will be a lane of pure sloppy mud when we come out “. John told me before we left, to park on the right of the field near the cornfield, which would be the high point of the hill, to avoid getting stuck…his advice was mainly for those driving cars…I have four wheel drive and have never got stuck in my Tacoma yet. Grant and I parked at the bottom of the hill, at John`s direction once we arrived in the right field, he said it would be a much shorter walk with the anticipated number of buckets we would have. Now, remember, it was fairly dry when we arrived there, the grass wasn`t wet because the earlier storm passed way to the north of this farm, so there were no worries when we parked down there. Here is how the sky looked when I pulled over at the top of the field hill by the cornstalks, to allow others to pass me by and park in the next field over…


…our guide knew that a few of us were going to park elsewhere. I also wanted to stop and check to see where John was at in the lineup, because he was a ways behind us..turns out he was a little late getting there and let us know that another storm might be approaching but might also just clip us….

…and the following photo shows the bottom of the hill where we eventually parked our trucks….you can see folks walking down that hill to the trail leading to the creek where the snowball geodes are found…both in the water and in the banks….while John, arriving in his Sable Stationwagon, wisely parked up high on the hill near where I first stopped to check on his location…

…at the time we arrived, there was a storm passing by on our east side and rain could be seen falling from the skies east of the parking area everyone else was going to….

…here is the back of that storm coming right at us, tho, or so it appeared, but didn`t seem to be moving very fast either…

…and some in the parking lot field past us, wisely decided to wait it out and see what was gonna happen as it intensified to the east of us….


I started down the hill to park and looked back to see how John was doing once he parked his car…I saw that he had some help and headed on down to park my truck at the bottom, the wind was picking up at the top of the hill where he was but not at the bottom of the hill yet….

…he had wisely put his blue slicker on and once he reached the bottom of the hill with us, we all headed down the trail to the creek…everyone but Grant and his kids, who were now fighting among each other over tools and buckets…so we just left him to referee and we booked on down the trail to get ahead of others and get to John`s sweet geode spot before anyone else did. I had figured that it was gonna storm on us, after seeing the storm on approach to us, so I had put my raingear on, but did not take my camera with me. By the time I got my gear out and caught up with John, we were at the third crossing for Railroad Creek, and from there we had to wade downstream. I had the wrong boots on for wading, but figured I could always replace them at the Walmart store across from my hotel. We were looking from bank to bank as we waded down the creek, picking up some here and there along the gravel bars until we finally reached a spot where trees were down and crisscrossing the creek in a tightly congested area. This was the sweet spot  and just as we started seeing geodes sticking out of the bank on the far side and began to pull some out, the heavens opened up directly overhead and rain began to fall…monsoon style…like someone turned on a fire hose above us…THEN someone turned on the drums of thunder above us and the lightning bolts started zinging all around us. Shell bolted back up the creek to check on the kids and Grant, and another gal joined us looking for geodes. John and I decided to get out of the water while the bolts were flying all around us…the gal stayed right in the water despite our suggestion that she get up on the bank. Turned out to be one of the longest storms I have ever stayed out in…after twenty minutes of intense lightning, thunder, and heavy rainfall, realizing I had a bucket nearly full of geodes, I let John know I was gonna head back to the truck. I trudged back upstream thru the creek, picking up a few geodes along the way…and met a few others that had decided to stop and at least take a break as well. Just as I emerged from the forest to the edge of the field near my truck, I met the guide who asked how many folks were down the trail I had just walked up…I let him know that at least fifteen people were still down the trail and in the creek at least a quarter mile down, including John O. He said he had received text messages from the Event Parking Lot warning us that a huge storm was approaching…I asked him how long ago those messages were sent, he said it appeared that they had been sent before we arrived but the storm apparently bothered the signal and delayed the reception til after the storm hit and hit HARD. At any rate, they were requesting everyone return to the parking lot. Grant came walking down the hill and said folks were trying to leave up above and were getting stuck on the dirt lane of the soybean field, he said it was a real mess. He soon went walking back up the hill. The guide went down the trail to deliver the bad news to the rest of the rockhounders. Shell came out of the woods with the kids and they began to load their tools and geodes into the bed of the truck. I helped her with the heavy stuff and then I drove up to the top of the hill to see what was going on. I paid my bucket fee to the assistant guide and then drove down to the gully before the soybean field…there were folks there that told me how the dirt road was, they had already been up it and back…..

It looked just like I figured it would look after a hard rain…sloppy mud…I was next in line and took off, floored it down thru and across the gully, then when I got to the top of the gully on the far side, I slipslided back and forth across the soybean field a bit, not sure how close I got to the plants at times…hoped the farmer had insurance on his crops tho. I pulled over and waited for John for a bit and shot some video of the others coming out of there….

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 127 Access Road Muddy After Storm

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 134 Third Storm Coming in at Rod`s Snowball Site

After shooting the second video on the white chat farm lane, I decided John did not stop hunting so I headed back to the hotel to change from my wet clothes and boots to dry clothes and boots. I then drove to Walmart to get another pair of boots and some boots to wade in as well. Then I drove down to Burger King to get a sandwich before heading back to Chaney Creek Parking Lot. When I arrived, I saw that John had returned as well. I decided not to go out on the afternoon dig after taking a look at the radar…it appeared we were locked into a storm track for the rest of the day, if not the entire weekend. Storms were popping up down around Kirksville, Missouri and tracking to the northeast right up into our area. My buddy Chuck Reed of St Louis County, texted to let me know he was gonna be on the road earlier than he originally thought he would, and should arrive around 3 to 4 pm. John always brings me some Linwood Calcites and Barites from the Buffalo Mine, but this time, he discovered when he was going through his stuff as he was re-setting up his tent, that he had apparently gone off and left them at home once again…first time was during the Central Kentucky trip over Labor Day. 🙂 He dug out what he had brought with him and turns out he had a big egg carton full of some gorgeous agates…so I made a deal with him for those instead…


Throughout the afternoon, I visited with dealer friends, Dennis Kossow, Charity and Jamey, Robert Kuhn from Hot Springs, Arkansas, and met a few new ones as well, and we had rain showers and a few small storms all afternoon and into the evening hours. Chuck arrived about 4 pm and started helping John crack open geodes for folks who were successful finding some big ones earlier that morning and some who braved the afternoon storms to find some as well….

By the time it started to get dark, the crowd had thinned out considerably and we were getting hungry, so the consensus by many was to go up to the Hamilton Cafe and get some supper. Charity and Jamey were the first ones to wrap up and head out, followed by Marv, one of the John`s dealer friends from Cedar Rapids, Robert, Dennis, and John, Chuck, and I. Just as we were getting ready to head out, we heard the tornado sirens going off across the river in Keokuk, then the alerts came across our cellphones for a storm just southwest of Keokuk with a doppler radar indicated tornado. We drove up to the Cafe and most everyone walked inside…I stayed outside to shoot the storm…we were up on a hill and there was a pretty good view to the west and north from the parking lot. There was a local firefighter out in the parking lot with me, he and his family had just finished eating supper at the Cafe and were preparing to leave when they heard the sirens and saw the alert. They decided to stick around with me and watch the storm for a few minutes…he was taking photos of it as well…

What he and I were seeing initially was a HUGE shelf cloud, parked over the top of Hamilton and extending east to the city limits and north at least a mile, at times it looked like a GIANT spaceship parked overhead….here is some video I shot of the storm approaching Hamilton…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 137 Sat Evening Storm Coming In With Tornado Warning

…and then my stomach started talking to me, so I took this one from the door of the Cafe before walking inside….

We had a great meal and conversation time together, some of the other dealers were there as well at other tables nearby…the storm outside broke down into a regular thunderstorm and passed over us while we ate.  Chuck and I headed back to the Super 8 afterwards…it rained all night long, which raised the river and creek water levels to the point that it would have been unsafe to do any collecting during the morning dig times, so they cancelled the morning digs and stated they would come to a decision regarding the afternoon digs by 11 am. Figuring it would be a long day, I walked over to V`s Restaurant and Pub next door to the hotel for a good breakfast…they have good food all day long there, it used to be a Golden Corral years ago, now more like a bar and grill with good seating and good food. I ate there Thursday evening too. Marv was just finishing up when I walked in Saturday morning…I sat down and talked to him a bit before he headed over to the Chaney Creek Access Parking Lot. He`s a great guy to talk to and deal with, John has known him for years…he has those Tranca Geodes from Mexico that I like alot, he had some bigger ones this year and I was able to get my boss one…they have gorgeous interiors of blue quartz crystals. 

Chuck had gotten up earlier and drove over to assist John with cracking open more geodes. so I took my time eating, then filled my gas tank at the Phillips 66 just down the street before leisurely driving over to the parking lot at Chaney Creek. There was a pretty good sized crowd there by then, but i got lucky and found a parking spot on the front row next to the highway when someone pulled out as I was driving in. I walked down the highway side of Dealer Row and stopped to visit with Dennis Kossow a bit more, and purchased some more of his smokey quartz crystals from Hallelujah Junction on the California – Nevada line, a well known location for smoky`s…Dennis always has great prices on his crystals and minerals and he is a great guy to talk to and know. He is a stonemason full time and stays quite busy throughout the year on projects for his clients….

I found him explaining limb casts to a couple of women buyers that morning, he had some exceptionally beautiful limb casts for sale at his booth, too. 

I then wandered over to see what the Amish families had brought in on a huge trailer…the high river levels kept rockhounds from going to any of the three Amish sites/locations to rockhound at, so they did the next best thing, they brought in a long trailer full of big and small geodes to the event parking lot to sell !!  The Amish folks are some of the nicest people up there to deal with on anything, their womenfolk are some of the best cooks and bakers as well,  they had a food booth set up near the highway each day, and a booth near the registration booth where they made and sold home made ice cream. Here is one of the Amish lads cleaning off the grid inside the ice cream bucket….

I talked to him a few minutes between customers about the engine set up…they are part of the Amish community that does not use electricity, and those big ice cream churns are way too big and heavy to turn by hand.  One of the other Amish lads there was Amos, he brought the trailer load of geodes up there that morning, said the Fox River, which runs through the property of his farm and the other two Amish farms nearby, was bank full…these were geodes they had previously pulled out of the river and saved for a rainy day….Amos is the big guy in the beautiful blue shirt and straw hat….

…they had some big and beautiful geodes they had collected on their farms..Amos was telling me that he had a set of draft horses to plow his fields with…I went to his brother`s farm last year and his brother has a set of beautiful tan draft horses with yellow manes. Amos told me his horses were a beautiful grey color with black manes, just as pretty, strong, and hard working. He said the Amish men work full time building sheds and small barns that are sold to people like me, and then they work on their farms in their spare time, often from sunrise to sunset. Here is Amos with Kurt, the Director of Geode Fest, and a female customer who bought a few of their geodes….

I wandered back to John`s booth to check on him and Chuck, and found them busy as bees cracking open geodes for folks…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 157 John Cracks Open Geode & Explains Interior to Young Couple

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 158 John & Chuck Open Smaller Geode for Young Girl

…some of them would often brought buckets full of geodes for them to crack each and every one they thought had potential to be hollow and full of beautiful crystals….this time they were dealing with a couple of young boys and their mother…John is really good with kids, he takes the time to explain things to them in words they can understand and he takes things slow and easy for them so they can watch and learn as they go…

Geode Fest 2019 AVI 165 John & Chuck Crack Open Small Geodes for Two Brothers


Well shortly after 11 am, it was announced that three sites would be available for everyone who pre-registered to go to in the afternoon and Sunday morning looked like it would be alright for digs as well. There was a break in the weather coming. John, Chuck, and I decided to go to Josh`s site/location on Railroad Creek…this was a site that John had scouted a few times for Geode Fest and put in a tremendous amount of hard work into getting it available for Geode Fest in many ways the past year. We drove out there ahead of the main group to visit with Josh for a bit and see if he was in need of any assistance with traffic control and parking when everyone else arrived, but he said he had plenty of help and we should go on down to the creek and do some hunting…he said the water level was down to a manageable level, but we would be able to see the water mark of how high it had gotten that morning.

We walked down the hill to the creek and he was right, the water had been quite high down there earlier, which would have made it impossible to do any hunting or get within fifty feet of the creek. The water was maybe a foot high and we were able to wade out across the gravels without any problems…

….we went upstream first and found several geodes laying all over the creek bottom, especially in the riffles and exposed gravel bars…many were solids but we found several nice cracked open halves laying around filled with gorgeous crystals…

John was working ahead of me in the creek, checking both side banks for geodes…not finding many around the banks themselves, so we checked the ones in the middle riffle instead. We found a few that felt hollow but many felt solid..keep in mind we were looking for snowball geodes, so some would have a bit of weight to them, but not so much they would be solids, so we were working a fine line here. John has more experience with snowball geodes so he was a good judge of weight of them…needless to say, we didn`t find many that held up to his standards even. From here, with a few geodes in our buckets, we decided to go back toward the entry point and check the long riffle in the middle….

…and here you can see how large some of those geodes were there….

As soon as we reached our entry point to the creek, we started seeing more rockhounds, some who had arrived soon after us and more that arrived with the larger group…they were spread out up and down the creek, some with waders on so they could access the deeper wading pools and some in shorts and tennis shoes to stay cooler…John led Chuck and I down to one of his secret spots where there was a flat grassy area and soft dirt bank to dig into…

….Chuck and I soon discovered why he prefers the dirt banks to dig into…John dug out a couple of basketball sized geodes with big calcite crystals exposed on the outside even, like this one….

So dig into the bank we did and pretty soon, Chuck and I were pulling out some nice geodes as well…I pulled one or two out that resembled the nice calcite geode that John dug out and some other big ones as well…digging there filled a bucket or two pretty quickly…

I had to ask Chuck where he got his firemen`s boots from, figured I should have brought mine with me too…would have made wading in the creeks much safer and easier. After about an hour, Mike, one of the event guides, came rolling down the creek on a four wheeler, he was looking for a section where big rocks could be found…

….someone directed him downstream further and he nearly drove that thing off into a very deep hole during his downstream trek…had it not been for that gal walking down the creek pulling that little boat behind her, warning him of impending doom just ahead…he prob would have drove right off into a ten foot deep hole !! 

John had wandered on down to that gravel bar you can see just ahead of Mike, said he had found some nice stuff down there last year when he was there scouting the creek at that location. Chuck and I didn`t make it on down there but we waited for John to return and then we headed back to our vehicles. While we were up there changing out our boots and putting away our buckets and tools, we spotted this mishap…the landowner told us that happened earlier in the year when a tornado struck the area…the carryall remained there because it turned out there was no insurance coverage on it….

I believe they did get some use of the tree, cutting up the wood and burning it over the winter for heat…prob not as much compensation in exchange for the use of the carryall tho. The next morning, Chuck and I opted to go hunt for agates, geodes, and fossils at the gravel plant near Wayland, set up by John for us to join up with the Central Iowa Club, like we did a year or two ago…we were joined this time by Kim and Richard Hill, who were up there for Geode Fest too, from the Memphis Club MAGS, which Chuck and I are members of as well. We drove out there about 8:30 am from the hotel and met up with the Iowa Club members shortly after they arrived. It was a bit froggy out there…

…..but we found a lot of agates in pebble size and form, they were literally all over the place….

This year I walked down to the lower area of the plant along with a couple of the older members to search the dirt and weedy area for geodes…we found a few halves that were pretty, but the whole geodes down there seemed to be mostly solids…like 99 % of them were solids, so we left them right where we found them…the agates we found more than make up for those. 🙂  John had his geodes from Josh`s riverbank cleaned up when I got back over to the parking lot to say my goodbyes and see you later`s to everyone….

…I got back home by evening time and in time to catch the sunset at Cracker Barrel as well…despite all the rain and flooding, it still turned out to be a great weekend up there. Hope everyone else had a great time. 

Kentucky Central 2019 Trip

I worked at the golf course all summer, starting my second year there back in April and did not ask off for vacation time til mid August, then submitted time off requests for my annual Labor Day Weekend trip to Central Kentucky and end of September for Geode Fest, with both approved by my bosses. They kidded me a bit about it at first, but after working with them my second year now, I know when they are joking, even with a serious look on their faces. Four out of five of my bosses like rocks too, so that helps as well, since my trips are mainly about rock and mineral hunting and collecting. 🙂

I called my good friend Gary Griffith about a week out, to check and see what he had in fluorite this year, as many of my rockhound friends who join me down there, like fluorite as much as I do, and always ask me to get some for them too. Gary told me they had a difficult year this time around, the rains and storms we had up here in central Missouri this summer, heavy torrential rains often times, that caused us alot of damage to the golf course at work…also caused Gary and his son alot of problems for the fluorite mining. It mainly created them a lot of mud that they were unable to work in and sometimes some damage to equipment, but mainly just delays in actual mining time. He has also become well known for good quality fluorite and so many dealers who sell fluorite now go to him for southern Illinois fluorite. In the weeks leading up to the Clement Mineral Museum Show, they had four or five dealers trying to buy fluorite from them, they wanted all of it, whatever they had available and were calling on them on a daily basis sometimes, darn near pestering them, not taking no for an answer.

Gary is one of the nicest guys I know, and when he says no, he means it. No means No…I mean, how hard can that be to understand ???   Dealers can sometimes be difficult to deal with, they usually do not understand what NO means and sometimes will try to do some really dumb things if they think you are stretching the truth or trying to avoid them. I have personally been there and experienced it myself, so I can truly understand what Gary was going thru during that time period, let me tell ya, cause I have dealt with some of those dealers from time to time myself.

Gary is also one of the good friends of everyone at the Clement Mineral Museum staff and Board of Directors, and he helps them whenever he can…a couple of years ago, when the digs ran into trouble, he pitched in and provided them with a dump truck load of mine spoils filled with fluorite chips, so that the kids at the Museum`s annual show, had a big pile to dig thru and find pretty stuff in. There may have even been some big kids in that pile from time to time, too. It was much appreciated by everyone there and a real hit with the younguns. Since he likes to help the Museum folks with their show, he was able to hold back some material to take to the show this year, and he had some gorgeous stuff back then…I made sure to get a few pieces, came from a special pocket that they located earlier this year when they had a good run of weather to work in, gorgeous deep purple cubes in a complex array and pattern of cubes, very detailed and very pretty. A couple of friends in my group of rockhound friends, were there as well and they purchased a couple of his fluorites as well. 

This year, despite a not-so good year of mining, he told me he would see what they could find for me, in the week ahead, and asked me to call him back the night before I was going to drive down to central Kentucky. When I called back, they were fortunate to let me know they had some good luck and found a few nice pockets and some good cubes and clusters in their tailing piles too. Onyx and I got up and on the road by 6 am, headed that way…Gary was going to work that morning and Walter would be meeting me at their house by mid morning. I got delayed on the trip down by the construction work on I-57, becoming an annual thing to deal with, must have something to do with job security…but really becoming an aggravation for many more than me, I am sure. Doubt if they will ever get that area between Marion and Mount Vernon completed, sad situation for all of us that travel in that direction. Walter gave me an alternate route in case I ever need it for that stretch of roadway for future reference. 

Onyx and I rolled in there about 10:45 am on Friday morning, August 30th and Walter came out shortly after I arrived. I was looking at the flats of gorgeous stuff they had located for me to look through…

…quickly finding out they had found some nice pieces with big cubes and even more surprising, they got into a pocket of lead, with purple fluorite squeezed in between the lead like grape jelly !! 

I stayed long enough that Gary came home with a few more pieces and we had a good visit, and I bought a few nice yard rocks this time around as well. I purchased quite a few of those grape jelly and lead pieces too, they were NEAT !! Onyx and I got back on the road by noon and soon after, crossed the Ohio River and headed south to Princeton, to pick up some food and access the Western Kentucky Parkway. The only bad thing about this drive across Kentucky, is that it`s at least a 3 hour drive from there and you lose an hour going into the eastern time zone.

Luckily traffic was very light going east and we were able to make good time, but by the time I was about an hour out of Harrodsburg, I received a call from my buddy Jim Bartle, the editor for my local newspaper that I shoot for occasionally…he asked if I was still home or in Kentucky. I let him know I was in the heart of Kentucky and he said that a small tornado had just gone through my hometown, trees were down over on my side of town, and golf ball sized hail had fallen as well across town…he was looking for a photographer to respond to some of those calls and told me the Fire Department was responding to multiple calls as well. I called my neighbors Glenn and Dianne, who live across the street from me, and they told me my two trees were still standing, the one in the front yard is one of the tallest trees up and down my street, if not the tallest..prob around 75 yoa too and very big around at the base. Dianne was at the local grocer when it started hailing, she confirmed the size of the hail and said it lasted 45 minutes. She did say other trees up our street a few blocks away, were down as well and fire trucks were going everywhere. They walked over to check for hail damage to my sunroom, texted me back later to let me know they saw no damage to my house or sunroom. I worry because a hail storm a few yrs ago shredded the lexan plastic panelled roof of my sunroom…it too was golf ball sized hail. The saving grace of this storm, was that it came in from the north, not the southwest as the bad storms normally come from.

Onyx and I rolled into Harrodsburg about 5 pm, stopping at the Baymont Inn to check in and get settled in…have to say the staff there this year were much friendlier and nicer to deal with from our arrival to our departure. Last year was so bad that I had to contact Wyndham Hotels to lodge a complaint against the owner there, in order to get things resolved and money back on a night not spent there, was told this year that the hotel was under new management and many things there were much better…one of the nicer conditions there besides the clean rooms, great design and decorations, is the soundproof rooms there…you don`t even hear doors opening and closing next door to your room, or any noise for that matter, inside or outside the hotel. Great place to stay at !!  I checked in with Slade Harvin, to make sure supper was going to be at 6 pm at the Bright Leaf Hotel Restaurant and then headed that way soon after getting Onyx settled in. 

Slade is the President this year of the Catawba Valley Gem and Mineral Club, the hosting club for this trip…they graciously allowed me to join their club a couple of years ago after I was able to get them access to the local quarry to collect at, and they have allowed my group to join me on this trip the last few years as well. Slade and two other members of their club, are in my group as well. A couple of clubs from New York State have joined us on this trip as well. One of the highlights this year is that the Russell brothers were going to be there again, all three very passionate about rockhounding, safety, knowledge, and experience, and great people to hang with as well !! 

Most of the members were staying at the Bright Leaf Resort Golf Course Hotel, about a mile south of Harrodsburg on Hwy 127, which also has a buffet style restaurant that has great food and service, so we take our breakfast and dinner there daily while there. I walked in to find several members on the far side of the dining room at a table that extends the entire width of the dining hall along the west bank of windows, always reserved for our group. They were already chowing down on the seafood buffet and I joined them very quickly. There were some new folks from New York there this time around and some from north Georgia as well. We had a great dinner and then went out to set up the annual first night of the Tailgate Swap and Sell Event….everyone brings crystals and minerals to sell or swap and it`s a great time to visit with everyone as well…lasts a couple of hours each night. During this time, John O and a few others arrived as well…think John ran into some road construction as well on his way down from northwest Illinois. Others who came in late had been rockhunting along the way, which explained their delays. I headed back to the Baymont around 10 pm, exhausted after the long day, and after taking care of Onyx, we were both asleep soon after…I didn`t even turn the tv on to check the news or weather.  We awoke to a beautiful morning and headed over to Bright Leaf Restaurant for breakfast shortly after 6 am…still dark that time of the day there, and soon after good food and fellowship, we waited in the parking lot to line up and the sun came up behind a big horse farm across the highway from the hotel…

I shot a few stills and then some video as well of the sun rising in the eastern skies…

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…and while waiting for a few stragglers to arrive, one guy I had been talking to by email, that had found my website by searching for fluorites or geodes in Kentucky, and when I invited him to join us for the weekend, said he would drive down this morning from his home in Louisville. Dawson showed up a few minutes later and I introduced him to the group right before we shot a group photo….this first one I am taking the photo….

…and this next one, Dale Russell, front row kneeling on left side in orange shirt with silver stripes, graciously offered to shoot so I could be in the photo…

Incidentally, that is his brother David Russell, standing to my right in the yellow shirt and his younger brother Dean, kneeling next to me in the yellow shirt with silver stripes…Slade, kneeling on the other side of Dean in the blue shirt, is their adopted brother…or son…or something like that, lol. 🙂

Stephanie and her husband Kim arrived as well, they are from North Carolina as well and stayed with us all weekend…she also found me online as Dawson had done and I had been talking to her a while as well. We then loaded up, lined up, and took off to Danville, 8 miles south, to the Caldwell Quarry, to meet Clay, the Quarry Manager, at the gate. We arrived a few minutes before Clay did but we left the middle of the driveway open so he could reach the gate to open it for us. After signing the liability forms and a safety talk, and another group photo by the big beautiful boulder in front of the office…..

…one of his employees led us down into the quarry…

…to this area of the quarry, ground level, which is where we found most of the nice stuff we found last year and the year before that too…sometimes fossils can be found higher up but they are sporadic…

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…the basement level has a nice pond across part of it…that became a playground and go to spot for Onyx right off the bat…luckily for me, he found another cleaner body of water to wash off before he got back into my truck…

Soon everyone had spread out to three levels, one above ground level and the basement level and were actively searching for beautiful stuff…soon after that saws could be heard running and sawing as well as hammering and the musical tones of chisels and wedges…

…we truely could not have picked a prettier day to go rock collecting at the Caldwell Quarry, we had the whole morning to dig and hammer and saw and collect there…

…my buddy David Bruce, soon had his saw running…

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…he was cobbing down a small boulder that David Russell found with a vug of dogtooth calcite crystals inside…but a lot of heavy matrix included…

I looked across the ground level and found Dean Russell and Dawson up on pile of boulders looking at something special, so I walked over to take a look at the find by Dawson…

they were trying to figure out what it really was…I was as perplexed as they were…it looked like oil covering crystals…John later confirmed that is exactly what it was….oil on calcites….and completely natural too….

About 11:30 am…as we were wrapping up and getting ready to head out of the quarry, I came across Dale Russell who had found some nice plates of barites…gave me some…and some with calcites attached as well as what looked like Millerite hairs included…so I took some photos of his find that he really liked…

…he cut this from a huge boulder with his saw…keep that in mind…Patty Hermann came up and looked at it too while I was photographing it…

From the quarry, most of us headed to one of our favorite geode hunting locations south of Danville, took us about 30 minutes to get there, but it`s a cool creek in many ways, to hunt at. Last year they had a good heavy rainfall before we arrived, which helped to raise the water level and wash many big geodes out of the banks..this year was a dry and hot summer for them,not much rainfall, so even though we didn`t find as many nice big ones, we find some nice ones and it was a good side location for us as well. Most of us were there a few hours before heading back to our hotels to clean up and rest before dinner. 

…here is one of the nicer ones I found and cracked open…filled with sunshine quartz…my favorites in Kentucky….

After another good supper at the Bright Leaf, we returned to the parking lot and set up for the second night of the Tailgate Mineral Sales and Swap Event….

the photo above is John Oostenryk, a good buddy of mine from northwest Illinois, totally surrounded by folks interested in the gorgeous barites and calcites that he brings with him from the Linwood Quarry in Iowa, he is one of the dealers to buy from if you are as appreciative of their beauty and bedazzle as I am…he is one of those rare dealers that will always be honest with you on pricing and quality of material, the kind of dealer you hope you find each and every time. John is also quite knowledgeable about Iowa and Northwest/Western Illinois Minerals as well. He is one of those go to guys during Geode Fest, too.

After another good night, I headed back to the hotel about 9 pm, again exhausted, for another good night of rest. We were slated to  leave at 7 am in the morning, headed to Liter`s Quarry near Fort Knox…not for gold exploration, but more crystals and minerals found in vugs of boulders…it`s a two hour drive over there and we were scheduled to meet the Quarry Manager there at 9 am. Some of us went there last year and in four hours time, found some great stuff, were looking forward to a return trip with even more folks this time around. Breakfast came a little earlier on Sunday morning, and the sunrise was again, nothing short of beautiful….with a little fog thrown in for special effect….

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We arrived a little after 9 am, slowed down by some more road construction in the Elizabethtown area on local roads, and found the gate shut and locked, no one waiting for us. Unfortunately, the number I had for the Manager was his office number, not his cell number…I found out his address wasn`t located too far away, so Mary took me over to his house and I was able to leave a note on his wife`s suv in the driveway…after a couple of hours had passed, some of our folks decided to return to Harrodsburg and drive out to a road cut to look for goodies, not knowing how long it might take us to get in. Fortunately tho, we had some locals stop by that knew him and tried to contact him for us. Eventually someone with his cell number stopped and provided it to me, and I was able to reach him pretty fast…he thought we were coming on Monday morning,  but he drove right over and let us inside, then showed me three areas that they had been working heavily on, let us know the rules and turned us loose to look for the good stuff. We started in the first spot we were at last year…back then it was a small spot but they had expanded it to three times bigger than before….

…and everyone hit the boulder piles pretty quickly, finding a lot of good stuff…everyone telling me that the wait to get in was definitely worth it….I texted Harry to let him know we were inside the quarry, but never did hear back from him til much later in the evening. 


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In the photo above, on the next level up from that red suv on the left side, I found a seam of orange calcite in ball form, from golf ball size to pea sized…pretty tho, so brought a few home with me. Dawson found some purple fluorite on some rocks in a druse fashion, on one side of this pit. we weren`t sure if it had rolled down from the level above or out of a pocket above.

From this pit we went over to the large older pit that we found some great geodes in the walls at, last year…well as with the first pit, they had re-worked this older pit and it was hard to find the old walls we had seen last year…maybe 100 feet of it remained and it was empty of goodies, so we spread out and searched the boulder piles and let me tell ya, no one left there unhappy at all…

It didn`t take my buddy David Bruce very long to find some suitable boulders to cob down with his saw…after looking around myself, I could see why, many of them were loaded with vugs full of gorgeous crystals…many of them pink dolomites with bright yellow calcite crystals inside them, some with sphalerites inside the crystals…great stuff for us rockhounds…

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here are some of the vugs I saw in boulders as I was walking around…

…and in this photo below…Don is the guy waving to me on the right, he is a good friend of the Russell brothers and in the same club in New York with Dale Russell…he is waving at me here to get Dean, on the left, to look at me.  good job Don !! 🙂

I found a nice yellow calcite vug in a boulder and pointed it out to Dale….

….he liked it so much he decided to see if he could pop it out with his hammer and chisels instead of his saw since he was pretty tired…

…unfortunately he hit his thumb with his hammer and had to take a little break, but he did finally liberate it and was happy with it…

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In the meantime, Mary from Ohio, had driven over to join us for the day and she wasted no time in finding a few buckets worth of crystals from the other side of that quarry pit….

…here is one I found under a couple of boulders, David Bruce was able to help me liberate it so I could bring it home….

Dorsey, the Quarry Manager, let us know we were welcome to return the next day if we wanted to so we drove back the next morning for a few hours again…some like John O had to head home right then and there, as did Mary and others headed back to Harrodsburg sooner than the rest of us did. We did so well, we stayed til 7 pm and then after I gave Dorsey a few dozen winter socks for his work crew, which he told me that his people really appreciated, I led Slade, Dean, and David Bruce back to Harrodsburg, we got in around 9 pm and drove down to Cheddars at Danville for dinner. 

After breakfast at Mc Donalds in Harrodsburg, a few of us did make the trip back on Monday morning to give it another shot…Stephie and Kim were part of the crew that returned that morning so they met us at the gate, as did Dawson and his girlfriend, joining Slade, Dean, David Bruce, and Onyx and I.

I only took a few photos on Monday morning…here you see Slade and Dean going back to the boulder pile we were working in Sunday evening…a pile we had been directed to by one of the New Yorkers and his son who were finding a lot of great vugs in the boulders there…

….we found more boulders with vugs of pink dolomite and yellow calcite crystals nestled in the pink dolomite crystals and went to work on extracting those vugs…I looked around for corner vugs that I could chisel off or loose ones around and under those boulders….found quite a few actually and with help from Slade and David Bruce, was able to take quite a few home with me, like these…I looked up about an hour in and spotted David Bruce walking around another boulder pile next to the one we were working, turns out he was shopping for more vug laced boulders to work over with his saw…


…a couple of my finds included the pink dolomites, yellow calcites, and some purple fluorite druse that we were finding alot of this morning…beautiful stuff up close….

I also found a medium sized chunk of limestone with a nice calcite rectangular shaped crystal in a bed of pink dolomite crystals…Slade kindly came over and used his saw to knock some of the weight off for me…

After a few hours, we all headed for home…Dean and Slade returning to Harrodsburg and then traveling south through Danville, with instructions to stop off at the roadcut and use their saws to extract some nice plates that Harry found there on Sunday afternoon. Onyx and I decided to drive south to Leitchfield and then take the Blue Grass Parkway and Western Kentucky Parkway back to I-24 and then on home through Southern Illinois, pretty much the same route we took down there. We were doing just fine, til we got within ten miles of I-57 and then northbound I-24 traffic came to a stop…we crawled along sporadically moving, took us an hour and 45 minutes to cover those ten miles, then found out there was an accident 2 miles north of the 24/57 interchange that had traffic backed up not only on I-24 but I-57 as well…I decided to go south on I-57 and exited on Hwy 146 west to Anna, Illinois and then over to Cape Girardeau, where after filling the fuel tank and hitting McDonald`s for some food, we headed north on I-55 and home by 10:30 pm. Only later did I find out it was a semi driver that struck the columns of the Hwy 148 Overpass, but refused medical treatment at the scene, and for whatever reason, Illinois State Police could not figure out how to move two lanes of traffic past a non-injury accident…plus Illinois`s DOT does not have messageboards along their interstates like MODOT does, to let you know of traffic backups like that so one can take an alternate route wayyyyy before they even get close to something like that. Guess that makes too much sense.

Other than that, had another great trip with good friends, good food, and great rock and mineral finds. Next week is Geode Fest in Hamilton, Illinois, across the river from Keokuk, Iowa and a few of my friends will be up there next weekend with me as well.  🙂


MFQ in August 2019

It was the first weekend in August before I had a chance to go to MFQ again…when Patty, Colby, and Gabriella came to visit the weekend of July 4th, they didn`t get to go there, so we kept in contact and she decided to drive up and meet me there on the morning of the 3rd. Gabriella was visiting Colby`s parents up north in Illinois and would not be back in time to come down with her on this trip. She had a three hour drive and arrived before I did with a two hour drive, however it was quite foggy when we arrived there at daylight…

We headed down to the pile and started up from the west side again, this time working several visible pockets along the wall..many filled with some nice calcite druse and some of those druse plates had some gorgeous and sparkley blades of clear calcite on them, sticking out at angles from the druse and later, when the sunlight captured them, they just sat there and glittered like sugar frosting….

Here are some of the first ones I pulled out of the pockets I began working along the wall and as you can see, there were some poker chips inside as well…

Here is Patty getting prepared to work the pockets along the wall….

She started out about 30 feet to my left, on the west side of me, and we were working our way along the wall to the east side. We had worked several small pockets and she passed me up and went around a corner sticking out from the wall, and called me over to look…I had been there about 20 min before that and discovered five to six nice looking pockets, at least one of them I figured was going to be a dogtooth pocket..I didn`t say anything to her as it was her first time there and I wanted her to find it on her own…she did, took to it like a duck to water, and here is what she started pulling out…..

…..of what turned out to be a HUGE pocket of blade plates and dogtooth plates !!!

Here are a few photos of the pockets before we began working them…

I worked the pockets in the 2nd and 3rd photos above while Patty concentrated on the huge dogtooth pocket, stopping only to walk a few flats down to her car and get more empties to fill. On one of these trips to her car, she told me to help myself to the pocket, so I did…I handed a few off to her when she returned and worked it for about 45 minutes and then turned it back over to her, and she worked it the rest of the time we were there. It went further back a few chambers, then up, over to one side or the other and down…I told her that many rockhounds work the pocket they find and then stop…to be completely thorough, a rockhound should explore for more pockets as there usually are more chambers that will open up as you remove crystals. She did a good job, but by the time early afternoon arrived, the sunlight, heat, and humidity were fast catching up with us and we came to a stop. Here is what the wall of pockets looked like when we finished…

the one on the left, with the much larger opening, is the one she was working much of the day…

She let me know that she got home okay, and then started updating me on cleaning up her plates of dogtooths….Patty used a few window screens to clean hers…I let her know she would likely only need to wash them off, as they normally come out pristine or a little dusty from those pockets, but normally nothing more. Here are some of her finds, enlarge these and you will spot the dogtooths where there are several clusters in one photo….

this next cluster of dogtooths and blades, has a bit of a purplish tint to some of the blades and crystals…I had a couple of plates with a similar color variation to them…a variation that I like….

My finds include a pocket of green poker chips I found as I was climbing down from the pile that day…they cleaned up rather nicely…one of those pockets that blasted out of the wall and fell to the pile, landing fairly intact, which is unusual for green poker chips as they fracture more readily than the other colors seem to do…

My purplish colored plates above….

and just to give you an idea, this is how they normally look dirty, coming out of the pocket….a little dusty is all….no need for a power wash either….

…and here is tired Patty climbing down from the pile, bucket and flat of crystals in her hands…

It was fun and we had a blast, pun intended, and brought home some beautiful crystals including some beautiful dogtooths !!



MFQ Producing Once Again

Around the second weekend of June, I got the word that a blast had occurred on the east wall so on Sunday, the 9th, Onyx and I got up early and drove down there to see what we could find.

It had been some time since the last time I was there and almost felt like the first time there once again…the last good time I had been there was end of July in 2018 when Chuck Reed, Nathaniel Reid, and Abigail from Nashville came to visit. We had a good time that weekend rockhunting there, let me tell ya. It can get really hot and muggy down there that time of the year, stretching into September, plus the horseflies and wasps can be really bad during that time of the year as well, and are getting to be this time of 2019 as I have already found out and experienced.

I got stung at work about ten days ago, my eppi pen shot failed to work so my boss whisked me over to the Kirkwood Mercy Urgent Care, another part of that day I would rather forget as well, and eventually Kirkwood Fire Department picked me up there and transported me to St John`s Mercy Hospital, where I had to be monitored for a couple of hours after receiving my adrenaline shot.

Onyx and I arrived about 6:15 am and for once, it wasn`t foggy there that time of the morning…

…and we found a pretty good sized pile of rocks waiting for us to explore. After gearing up and heading up from the west end of the pile, I didn`t find many pockets to explore along the wall, so then I branched out to check the pile itself and began good signs of poker chips all over the place. One of the first indications that this was gonna be a GREAT day of rock collecting, was when I ran across four ( 4 ) nice beach ball sized clusters of green and black poker chips, they were all found nestled in between some bigger boulders…not hard to spot at all….here they are in order of found…

Number four is not shown as it was very similar in looks to number three…I decided to hand carry each of these down to my truck, while I had the strength to do so…and as I got down to the bottom floor at the edge of the pile, I started noticing some round, geode like shaped rocks like we have found at work, called chert nodules, some were even small boulder sized. We have never found anything like this at this quarry before, to my knowledge…

…this was one of several firsts this summer for this quarry. Got those four beautiful beach ball sized clusters wrapped up and stored in the bed of my truck and headed back up the pile to locate some more beauties and needless to say, it did not take long for that to happen, as I just about stepped on these next three in the path on my way back up to my bucket…

…and I no sooner had those wrapped up and placed in my bucket when I came across these beauties as well…

…spotted in a vug of a huge boulder and easily chipped out for once. 🙂  Normally, they do not come out willingly, nor do they seem to cooperate when you find them at the end of the day there and you are nearly exhausted. Within the next hour, I located several nice calcite druse pieces as well, and a nice poker chip cluster, shown here on the tailgate of my truck….

…and a nice plate of root beer colored calcites as well as dogtooths nestled in…


All in all, I think I filled four buckets and the bed of my truck was covered in clusters of poker chips and calcite druse pieces…not a bad haul for the day. A few weeks later, my buddy Pete Stoeckel, from the Philly area, drove down to visit and rock hunt with me, and Patty, Colby, and Gabriella came to visit from Southern Illinois as well. We had a great time that weekend too !!


Park Hills Mineral Show 2019

Had some problems with my website for a few weeks, that stretched into a couple of months before I was able to get them resolved with the help of a good photographer friend in Arkansas…at this point we think it`s resolved now, so I will be posting on a regular basis again soon.

I drove down to the Park Hills Show on Saturday morning, the second day of the show, to see what they had this year. I always make it a point to stop and visit with my friend Johnny B from Mt Ida…..

….who is always on the second row near the info booth gate. Johnny usually has his green carved dragons and some new stuff…he did not disappoint again this year…the new stuff this year included a few flats of the last of a new discovery of creedite balls with multi-colored fluorite cubes attached to the balls. He allowed me to look through a flat or two so I could make a selection…he had some on display in a glass case on the table too….

and here is the one I selected, with a nice smattering of multi colored fluorites on it…

Afterward, I visited with my geode hunting buddy, Ken Vaisvil, he was also on the second row but further to the south east end of it, selling and cracking geodes as he does each year, and beautiful ones at that. I picked up a few more special ones from him, he always has some gorgeous ones….

Great talking to ya again Ken, see ya at Geodefest 2019 !!

From there I wandered over to the back row to see the new dealers and what they were selling, ran into some friends of John Oostenryk from Iowa, that were down to buy some druse quartz…the gal they bought some from didn`t even have the decency to clean them up before she brought them to the show. I let them know I had some much prettier stuff and would be happy to sell it at wholesale prices, as I normally do, and she said they would be in touch soon. From there I wandered on down the row and came upon my miner buddy Josh, who had some great chalcopyrite pieces with bladed barites attached in the snow white colors, as well as some new finds…galena cubes with double terminated golden calcites attached to them….

…large calcite crystals and the nice sphalerite balls attached to the chalco pieces…

…I plan to drop by his residence next week and see if he has some more nice stuff for sale, to take to Kentucky with me in a couple of weeks. Will see if anyone else down there likes it too. 🙂

Hope everyone is staying cool this summer, so far we cannot complain too much about excessive heat here in Missouri. 🙂

MAGS Annual Trip to Missouri May 2019

When I received the call from my Manager Shawn at Greenbriar Hills to come back to work this year, I let him know that I had a couple of rockhound clubs that wanted to come up and rockhunt with me…MAGS Club was one of those two clubs…one of three clubs I am a member of…he asked me for the dates of the weekends I needed off to take both clubs rock collecting and allowed me to take both of those weekends off. I was sooooo glad to hear that. 🙂  I do love working there and I will say…they did work me pretty hard the day before both of those weekends. 🙂

I had been in contact with Kim Hill, the Field Trip Director for MAGS, for at least a few weeks on FB, regarding the timing of each day, locations we were going to, and final details on the trip, helping them with lodging information after discovering that their normal stay location was booked solid. I made some inquiries and found out there was a major Ozarks Mountain Festival in Eminence that weekend, so they would have to book pretty fast there if they wanted to stay there…Kim got the word out to her members and they booked their reservations pretty fast. I then had a text from W.C McDaniels, the President of MAGS, and he was concerned because he wasn`t able to contact a good mutual friend of ours, Betty Marler, of Park Hills…they always invited Betty up to go rockhunting with them and now he was not able to get in touch with her. I began making some inquiries with friends in the Park Hills Gem Club to see if they knew another way to reach Betty over the next week…they let me know that they really missed seeing Betty and hoped she would soon return  and tried reaching out to some of her relatives as well, by email.

However, I struck out…or thought I did, until W.C. texted on Friday and said he had finally heard back from Betty, that she was having phone issues and everything was okay. I was glad to hear she was okay tho…she and her late husband Lloyd have been good friends for years, they were very instrumental in not only starting the Park Hills Gem and Mineral Club, but the Park Hills Mineral show that is held annually at the Federal Hill Mine Complex and has grown to be one of the largest shows in the Midwest over the years, as well as one of the most enjoyed shows in the Midwest…many rockhounds not only talk about this show every year, but literally thousands look forward to it each year as well. It`s definitely one of my favorite shows to attend.

I was also contacted by Rockhound Bill from Chicago…I had rockhunted with him and his girlfriend Debbie, a few years before at Geodefest and a prior MAGS trip to Missouri, but then both of them went silent for the past few years since…so I was a bit surprised to hear from them all of a sudden. He let me know they were going to be in the KC area the week before the MAGS trip to visit family, then drive down for the rockhunting weekend a day ahead of time. He asked if I knew of any locations where they could rockhunt before the group arrived…I let him know that I did not know of any locations in that area that allowed rockhunting through the week, including the two locations we were going to that weekend.

This is advice I normally give to rockhounds all the time when asked…advice I hope that they take me seriously on and heed the suggested warning. We all know what can happen if someone decides to go into a location like that ahead of time, on a weekday no less…if caught by property owners…it can be bad not only for the person or persons who went there when they were advised not to, but can have dire consequences for clubs or groups of rockhounds afterward as well, such as the cancellation of a scheduled dig or collecting date and generally no invite back as well. Many clubs, including MAGS, also have rules for their members to abide by, regarding scheduled field trips…members attending field trips to quarries or other off road locations are not allowed to drive or walk into the location before the scheduled meeting time, within a time period of a few minutes to several days before the scheduled meeting time at the meeting place. It`s not fair to others waiting in the parking lot of the quarry or meeting place for a dig location, abiding by the rules waiting for everyone to show up and enter together, then all of a sudden they see a member of the club drive out of the quarry…their first thought is what was that member doing inside the quarry ahead of everyone else, and how long was that member inside the quarry…have they already done some digging and found some goodies that the rest of us would have had an opportunity to dig for as well…and even if nothing happened, it leaves those rule abiding members with a sense of violation, disrespect and a lack of trust for the member who violated the rules…no matter what explanation the violating member provided…so another piece of advice for anyone reading this….if you join a club to go to field trips, like many of us like to do…PLEASE FOLLOW THE RULES…they are in place for a reason…if you don`t understand the rules, ask for an explanation….and if you ask me for advice, PLEASE FOLLOW MY ADVICE OR GUIDELINES…believe me, mine are simple and I offer them for a reason…if you need to know the reason, you need only ask and I will provide it for you. 

Kim and I had decided I would meet with the MAGS members at the area High School on Saturday morning, May 4th at 9 am…allowing Onyx and I to sleep in a bit longer than what we normally do when going rockhunting. We arrived at the parking lot just ahead of the main group, about ten minutes to 9 am…I figured most were prob at the nearby gas station using the bathroom. It was a little cool that morning, around 48 degrees and we had driven through some valleys with fog on the way up there, some misting as well…I sure hoped the forecast for clearing was correct.

The rest of the group arrived and soon we were on our way to the first location to do some druse quartz hunting…it`s alot easier to do with sunlight, because you can see the sparkles all over the hillside, but we made do once we arrived…..

…..this was the location I took them to last year and they loved it so much, they requested a revisit of it this year, you can find small pieces of druse and all the way up to small boulders of druse here…


….we spent about two hours there and then once everyone was ready, we drove down to the second location, where the smoky druse quartz could be found….it was a bit muddy down there…afterall, we had been receiving rain on a daily basis for the past couple of weeks…why I do not know….


I stepped over into the mud at the side of the road and picked up a nice plate of bubbley smokey druse quartz to show them what it looked like as well as a few small plates in various colors….

….once they observed how easy it was to find  and how pretty it was, some in bubble form and some in soda straw form, some big, some small, plus all the other colors of druse available there…well, let`s just say they were nothing short of ecstatic !! They spread out on the tailing pile and began searching for pretty druse…easy to find as it was EVERYWHERE !! 


…suddenly it seemed like the sky had lightened up quite a bit…I looked up to see the clouds rolling apart and could see some blue sky here and there finally…it even seemed to be warming up a bit….NOW, I was ecstatic !! 

…and yes, I did manage to fill a couple of buckets of druse as well…here are a few of my finds…

It should also be noted that there are some lapidarists in this group and in MAGS as a whole too…lapidarists are those that like to use rock saws to cut slices of rocks like agates…and create cabochons to make jewelry…in the past few months of collecting here, we have found some pretty translucent pieces of what appears to be some form of agate or jasper or chert…whatever it is, it sure is pretty stuff !!  Anne Pender Pinkerton was asking me about it and so I gathered up a few chunks of this agate for her….

My good long time MAGS friends Matthew and Carolyn Lybanon were able to make this trip, they both enjoy surface collecting and druse at this location was a good one for them as well, fairly easy walking…here you see Matthew walking down the slope of the tailing pile toward me in the green rainsuit….

…and Rockhound Bill sitting in the middle of the tailing pile collecting druse….

…and a few of the gals hunting as well….Kim Hill at the top of the photo in the tye dye shirt and Anne in the bright green/yellow shirt kneeling in the roadway……

…and then Carolyn came walking down the slope as well….


Soon after that, we drove on over to the SSQ and everyone spread out looking for pockets and crystals…I was able to find a couple of pockets in the hour we were there. The problem there was the amount of water in pools everywhere…making it difficult to get around to various places to look for pockets…it sure didn`t bother Onyx any, he looks at those pools as potential swimming pools. 🙂 Afterward, we drove down to see Miner Dave and see if he had any new Viburnum Trend crystals and minerals for sale…I was finally able to get in touch with him by phone just minutes from his house, he was cooking some chili and said sure, come on down !!

He def had some new ones, four tables covered by some of the most gorgeous crystals I had ever seen from a recent blast out of a couple of mines, however he already had that collection sold and was waiting for the buyer to come pick them up…we were able to look and drool, but that was it…out of respect for the buyer and Miner Dave, that is all we did, look and admire. He had some nice phantom calcites and some other nice ones too, and the MAGS members purchased some from him while there. They then headed south to Eminence to take in the festival there, while Onyx and I headed home.

Onyx and I were up by 5 am the next morning and on the road by 6:30 am, driving down to meet up with MAGS members at MFQ…the weather noticeably warmer that morning with a forecast high of 75 and sunny skies. We arrived about 8:30 with a meeting time set at 9 am once again, this time at the quarry parking lot. I had received word the week before that recent blast activity had occurred then, however I was unable to get down there to check it out.

As soon as everyone else arrived, we had a short safety meeting…I let those that didn`t bring their hard hats, know that they should stay away from the walls as there are some rocks way up high that do roll off the wall and fall….we then traveled down to the pile and spread out around it to look for goodies. The sun was out now in full force and the temps were beginning to rapidly warm up…within about five minutes, I spotted a couple of nestles chocolate brown poker chips and then a medium sized green poker chip cluster immediately after…I let out a loud ” Holie Cow ” and everyone came running to see what I was finding. I had brought samples of what could be found there, just in case they didn`t have good luck finding anything, but if what I was seeing in a short time was any indication of what we were gonna find, it was obvious those samples they selected earlier in the parking lot, were just gonna be some nice extras for their collections. Be advised, from this point on, things happened very fast and I had no time to take any photos, I left that up to the rest of the members there, as I was busy finding nice crystals, making more loud ” Holie Cow ” calls and then tossing them down to various members to take home with them….one was a nice small plate of chocolate dogtooth crystals with a golden colored stream through them…I handed that plate to Anne and told her she could only take it home if she wrapped it up before putting it in her bucket. The last I checked, she heeded my advice and put them in her vehicle. 🙂

Mike, one of the members, and I climbed up on the pile and soon started spotting some more nice crystals, and clusters, alot of calcite druse plates and even a few vugs in boulders full of crystals and druse. Pretty soon I had to go back down and retrieve my bucket as well as a couple of bottles of water, as the sun was really starting to warm things up. The others spread out around the pile and began looking for, and finding goodies, others looked along the walls for pockets and fall down material. Everyone was having good success finding nice ones to take home. Pretty soon Onyx and I were the only ones up on top of the pile and I was finding stuff laying everywhere, much of it in great shape, all things  considered. Everyone else was looking for shade…I just removed my sweatshirt and then long sleeved shirt and kept drinking my water, and finding more nice stuff. I left some nice stuff in the pile in case some friends of mine from North Carolina, who were traveling to Missouri in the next week, might want to visit the quarry and find some nice ones to take home. Since the MAGS members had about a five hour drive home, they left about 1 pm…Onyx and I headed for home about 2:30 pm with a couple of buckets of nice goodies and a couple of yard rocks. I`ll post some photos of my crystals as soon as I get them all cleaned up. All in all, another enjoyable MAGS visit for sure. 🙂

Batesville Again and Mt Ida in Late March 2019

Two weeks after driving down to join MAGS members at the Batesville Quarry, Onyx and I got up early on Saturday morning, March 30th and drove down to Batesville once again, this time my group would be joining up with members of CAGMAGS  at the quarry, and since they were gracious enough to allow us to join them, I invited them to join us the next day at the quartz mines near Mt Ida. Onyx and I had another good trip down, this time I decided to drive down Hwy 63 to Hardy, Arkansas, where we then turned south on Hwy 412/167. Between Mammoth Springs and Hardy, I discovered that road crews had transformed several areas of Hwy 63 into a much straighter line and a few extra lanes here and there in each direction. They still have their work cut out for them between Ash Flat and Cave City along 167, especially around Evening Shade, but at least they seem to be addressing those areas more now, as 167 is now four lanes from Cave City to Bald Knob.

I had word from about fifteen in my group that they would meet us at the parking lot of the quarry around 8:30 am…Fred Mahaffey and two friends from East Texas, Julie Parkhans from Nashville, David Bruce from Northern Georgia, Chuck Reed from St Louis, Mary and Pete from Cincinnatti, David Hodge had the shortest trip from Heber Springs, Bill Gorham and his daughter from Toledo, Ryan & his Dad Michael Maher from Iowa, Justin Baird from Hot Springs, and Paul and PJ from Kalamazoo. Most were staying in Hot Springs hotels, while a few of us were staying at the remodeled Joplin Inn and Suites.

I stopped off at the Phillips 66 on the north side of Batesville, a couple of miles north of the turnoff to the quarry, they had a decent price on gasoline there, prices were at least a quarter a gallon higher than my trip two weeks prior, all the way down there and this station was about fifteen cents a gallon less than all the other higher prices. I figured I was getting about 23 miles to the gallon the way down there, which was pretty good for a four door pickup. We drove on over to the quarry and parked near the office, hadn`t been there very long before others began showing up…I passed an suv on the way up the drive that I didn`t recognize, turned out to be Fred and his crew from Texas. Chuck texted me to let me know he was about 30 to 45 min out, coming down Hwy 67 from Poplar Bluff and was going to make some connecting roads over to Hwy 167, he wound up arriving before some others did. Justin had texted me earlier as I was driving down 63 in Missouri to let me know he was leaving Hot Springs to drive up, his drive about two hours shorter than ours, and some spent the night before in Batesville at area hotels, which are only about a mile south of the quarry. Soon after much of the CAGMAGS crowd arrived, Bill Pryor, the Arkansas State Geologist, who was our guide once again, arrived and after signing the paperwork for the owner of the quarry, we all drove up to the scenic overlook of the quarry for our group safety talk….



Bill is in the second photo in the white hard hat talking…while Mike Lowe is the owner in the first photo in the red shirt and white hard hat. Mike explained the history of the quarry and went over the safety rules with explanations for each rule, letting us know they had a perfect safety record and would like to keep it that way. This is a quarry where rockhounds are required to wear hard hats, safety glasses, and steel toed boots at all times on the grounds of the quarry, and to exercise good common sense at all times. 

Bill explained the geology of the quarry and area, let us know that the area where calcites could be found was in a fault zone in the quarry and consisted of a small area in the quarry, which is huge and deep….first photo is the south wall to the left and looking west straight ahead in the view….


…and the next photo shows the north wall on the right side…


At the end of the safety talk, we all headed to our vehicles….

….and followed the Owner down to the bottom floor of the quarry and parked…the weather was overcast with rain threatening from the west, radar indicated it was on the way from the west and we might have a few hours of digging time before the skies opened up. The only problem with that, is that later this afternoon, a cold front would also sweep through with or after the rain and temps were expected to drop to the mid 30`s…as my buddy Jim Bartle likes to say often….LOVELY….just lovely !! 

So we wasted no time in walking over to the calcite fault zone….the tan colored dirt area on the other side of the pond….

….shown above, and this shows one just how small an area this fault zone actually is in relation to the rest of the size of the quarry…


and many began digging in to find crystals specifically in the tan colored dirt area, while many others found crystals that were again laying all over the sloped area. On this trip, with rain closing in on us, I didn`t take my camera over there with me. Within two hours, we had one shower after another coming down in waves, some of us had good rain gear and others did not. We had let Bill know that we preferred to stay down in the calcite fault zone as long as possible this trip, so he did just that…the last of us left there after three hours…we were on our way out when David showed me a nice one he had dug out of the gooey clay mud pocket wall…

…and on this trip, let me tell you, I saw at least half a dozen crystals come out of there the size of beach balls and larger…yes I said LARGER…one or two so large that David Bruce, who found them and was taking them home with him, was given permission by Bill to drive over there on the ledge road to pick them up, rather than attempt to carry them down that rocky slope without damaging them, because by then the rocks were slick with rainwater. They were also heavy enough that David had good help over there to load them into his truck. We stopped off at the top of the quarry walls to check the shelves around the crusher, where quarry employees had placed several calcites they found down below…I found a few nice small calcites up there to take home, there were some in many different sizes up there to select from.

Again much appreciation to the Owner Mike for allowing us to come to the quarry and collect there. 

Many had already headed south toward Hot Springs and soon Chuck, David Bruce, and I were headed that way as well…David dropped out at Hot Springs where he was staying, while Chuck and I drove on up the road to the Joplin area, our hotel across Hwy 270 from the entrance to Mountain Harbor Resort. Onyx and I stopped off at Burl`s Country Smokehouse on the way up Hwy 270 at Crystal Springs, to get a couple of smoked ham sandwiches, for lunch the next day, then drove on up and got checked in at the Joplin Inn and Suites…this was the former Colonial Inn, purchased a couple of years ago by Mountain Harbor Resort and remodeled to nice rooms with nice furniture, tiled walk in showers, new heating/ac units, and free wifi provided. There is also a suite and a house available for rent on site, they were remodeled as well. I never stayed there before the remodel, but can safely say that Mtn Harbor always furnish their cabins, condos, lodge rooms, cabanas, and suites very nicely at the Resort on the Lake. 

A little while later, Ryan and Michael Maher arrived as well. We got cleaned up and drove over to the Lodge Restaurant for supper, good food and great company, plus a nice scenic view out over the lake as well. Chuck and I had a great time talking to Ryan and Michael about our mutual friend John Oost, who had driven back out to New Mexico to take possession of inventory from an old rock shop out there.

We wanted to try and work in some time looking for wavellite this trip, however a week out, I learned that the wavellite location remained posted and patrolled by local law enforcement, so we decided to skip it until we can either return there legally or find another location for it. 

The next morning we had breakfast at the Lodge Restaurant, Chuck leaving his suv at the motel and rode with me and Onyx… and then we headed west on Hwy 270 to Mount Ida, to the Subway Store, which was the designated meeting place for my group and CAGMAGS members who were going quartz crystal hunting with us. They have a pretty good sized parking lot there and since Subway opens early, I figured if anyone needed a sandwich for lunch later, Subway was a good place to get one or more. Bill Gorham from Toledo, pulled in shortly after we arrived, with his daughter and came over to talk to us…he is a truck driver full time and you can tell from his emails and the way he talks in person, he loves to dig and collect crystals and minerals. After the CAGMAGS crew arrived, I let everyone know where we were going, to Tony`s Southfork Mine for the morning hours and then about 1 pm, we would drive an hour over to the Jessieville area, to Tony and Shane`s new mine, where we would be digging through the tailings there, as we did back in the fall. Going by the condition of the road last fall, I let those in two wheel drive vehicles, know that they likely would not be able to make it up to the top of the hill and would have to park near the 3 yr old mine halfway down the hill from the top. Once we arrived at the mine gate, finding it open meaning Tony was likely up at the mine waiting on us, I again let those in the two wheel drive vehicles know where to park and then those of us in four wheel drive vehicles, headed on up the hill. I was surprised to find the road was in much better shape this time around, not muddy for one thing, and fairly solid and smoother…the only problem we had was that no one stopped down below to park, they all just kept coming to the top, so instead of having anyone back down the hill, with assistance from Tony, we made do and parked folks where we could do so at the edge of the forest and along the road. I was able to get Paul and PJ up at the top of the hill by the new mine, as PJ needed all the help she could get, saving her strength for the entire day and two mine locations. PJ is recovering from cancer treatments, which as many of you know, can really take it out of you, sap you of all your strength as you work your way through all the treatments, and take many years to recover from…I say this not from personal experience of it myself, but from seeing my Mom go thru and recover from it, as well as many firefighter, dispatcher, police officer, photographer, and rockhound friends who have personally walked through it. I was pleasantly surprised when I received word from Paul letting me know that they would both be there this trip, deciding to fly down this time around to avoid the long drive from Michigan. I really didn`t expect them to return til later this year…to me this shows that not only are they both dedicated rockhounds, but it also shows alot of bravery on their part to venture out so soon after and live life to its fullest !! I didn`t get a chance to talk to them much this trip, but WELL DONE you two, hope you had a great time down there and hope to see you on the next trip. 🙂 Chuck grabbed his hammer and chisels and headed for the big boulder covered with crystals on top of the hill…I grabbed my bucket and tools, and headed up on top to the new dig area that Tony is currently working on…found Mary already down in that pit surface collecting and checking out the boulders down there…Michael found his way down there soon after and Mary pointed out crystals on one boulder that he decided to work over and see if he could liberate some from it….

In the meantime, I was working the walls behind the two of them, looking for crystal points and clusters, found a few, where they were sticking out from plain site and dug them out, luckily the dirt they were in was nice and soft to dig into….and soon both pockets of my apron were filled and I had to go looking for my bucket…here is what I was seeing in the dirt walls….

..and this next one was a real beauty !!  loved digging it out as soon as I photographed it too…

While wrapping these up and emptying out my apron, I looked up and spotted Ryan digging around not too far away and snapped a few photos of him…

…then I continued down the wall finding even more pretty single points partially exposed in the clay dirt….

…and this next one was in a vein of quartz, the crystal you see exposed turned out to be a nice medium sized cluster….

…as noon came and passed, we started getting ready to head out and over to Jessieville to the new mine…everyone had a quick lunch and started packing up a bit…

…that is Tony in his white Powerwagon on the right talking on his cell…get a great signal there at the top of the hill, even on my phone with Verizon….that`s John in the orange hard hat and jeans walking down out of the new digs center of the photo, he is with CAGMAGS…

…Michael asked me to take a photo of him and Ryan, as I was getting a bite of lunch for Onyx and I….

Once we got everyone turned around and headed down the hill, Chuck and I were able to back up and leave as well…last ones out…I had everyone pull off the road just past the gate so I could lead them over to the new mine. We made the trip over there without any problems and drove down to the end of the road to the location we had dug at back in November, finding that hole filled in and the tailings spread out in a huge area, so we spread out and began searching and digging, finding some nice crystals and small clusters there as well…many of the ones I found had a nice smokey tint to them…

…about an hour into the search, we started finding more nicer stuff at the back area of the tailings….

When we first arrived, Shane followed us to the old mine dig area and showed us some clusters he had dug up earlier in the morning down near the old smokey location, told us we were welcome to go down there and collect too if we wanted to. About two hours in, a few of us walked down there to that location and checked it out…

…thankfully, Chuck was able to take a few photos of me digging along with David Bruce and David Hodges down in the smokey pit area….


….we didn`t find much until we spread out to the erosion ditches, we then found a few small clusters and single points laying around waiting to be discovered…those went home with a few of us…when we got done and returned to the original area, we found that many had left, some headed home and some headed back to their hotels, leaving out the next day or two. The CAGMAGS crew had headed home and it was down to Ryan, Michael, Chuck, and I, so we headed back to the hotel to clean up and then had to resort to supper at Subway as it was the only food place still open at 7:30 pm…by that time of the day, none of us had a problem with a good sandwich and chips for supper. 🙂 

The next morning Chuck was the first one up and on the road about 6 am…Ryan and Michael asked me about a good rockshop to go to, so I recommended Bill and Faith`s Blue Moon Crystals Rockshop, about two miles east of the hotel on Hwy 270, so I checked with Bill Sunday evening and he said they would be expecting us about 9 am…after another good breakfast at the Harbor Lodge, we headed over there and found some great stuff for sale, as usual. After about an hour visit with Bill and Faith, Onyx and I headed for home, as did Ryan and Michael…their trip was much longer than mine, but they let me know later that night that they arrived safe and sound about dusk. All in all, another great trip with good friends, good food, and good hunting !! 





Batesville Quarry

I decided to drive down and check out the quarry at Batesville with the Memphis Club MAGS on March 16th…my good friends Matthew & Carolyn Lybanon in the club, had told me about this quarry last year when they first went there and sent me photos of it as well, said there were pockets of fluorite cubes sometimes found there as well as some huge calcite dogtooth crystals…more calcites than fluorites naturally, but still nice stuff. My buddy David Hodge, the Field Trip Director for CAGMAGS, which is a sister club to MAGS and based in central Arkansas near Little Rock, had some nice samples of Phantom Calcites and Dogtooth Calcites found at this quarry, when he came to dig with my group at Tony and Shane`s new Jessieville Mine in November. David set up a dig there for my his club on March 30th, two weeks later, and invited my group to join up with his club there that day. I looked up the location on the map and decided I would simply get up early in the morning and hit the road by 4:30 and arrive four hours later. Onyx and I were on the road by 4:15 am Saturday morning, March 16th, and drove down Hwy 63 out of Rolla, then took Hwy 289, from Mammoth Springs that saved us about 20 minutes as it dropped straight south from there and skirted around a short mountain range that took us down the valleys instead. We passed by a little fishing resort called Southfork Resort on the South Fork of the Spring River that looked really nice and pretty, then came out on Hwy 412 just west of Ash Flat, where we continued south on Hwy 167 to Batesville, arriving about 8:15 am. We were the first to arrive so I parked up by the office, entered and talked to a nice employee there about what they find there…he showed me six beach ball sized massive calcites they had pulled out of the pocket they were going to take us to dig at. I met the owner of the quarry a few minutes later, and gave him a poker chip calcite crystal to show him the difference in calcite forms, four hours distance apart. He and his employee were impressed with the poker chips…so I told them I would bring them some more when I returned in two weeks for the other group dig there. Kim Hill, the Field Trip Director for MAGS, and the rest of the MAGS crew showed up in the next 30 minutes….

….and then Bill Pryor, the Arkansas State Geologist, who was to be our Guide for the Dig, showed up as well.  Bill and the owner gave us a short history talk on the quarry and then we drove up to the leading edge of the quarry pit, which presents one with a commanding view of the pit and walls….

…that area in the very bottom center, where the two pieces of yellow colored machinery were sitting, is where we would be for the next three or four hours….the next photo shows the left side of the quarry where the road begins the descent into the quarry pit, several stories below…

…and this next photo shows another view of the pit below….from a different angle…

We gathered up on the other side of the parking area of the scenic view, for a safety talk…

…and I snapped a photo of Kim resting on the hood of her truck….

…she is a good gal, heavily involved in pet rescue in the Memphis area big time, too. 🙂  Bill and the Owner told us that if we struck out digging calcites, down below, his employees had brought up a truckload of calcites from that pocket and spread them out at our feet and we were welcome to return there afterward and take what we liked, home with us. Plus he had them put some up near the crusher on top of some huge boulders as well. Nice guy. 🙂

We got back into our vehicles and descended into the quarry pit, following the Owner with Bill bringing up the rear in case anyone got lost on the way down….

…if you look closely above the second vehicle you can see a waterfall that started flowing out of the rock above and was flowing pretty heavily while we were there….once we reached the bottom and parked, Bill pointed out the tan colored dirt where the calcite pocket was embedded, so we all walked over there and began picking up crystals almost immediately, that were laying all over the place…before finding a place to dig into the hillside to locate pockets of them….

…that`s Mike Baldwin, the Website Editor for MAGS, pulling his wagon over to the pocket to pull his finds back to his vehicle later….

…look at the top of the photo above and you will see Kim Hill in the brown shirt and hot pink helmet leaning over to the right, working the pocket that I found and allowed her to take over a couple of hours after we arrived and started digging up there. Anne Pinkerton is next to her, then my buddy David Hodge and then Charles Hill, Past President of MAGS, is on the other side of David…

….we did very well up there at the top as there was an extensive sized pocket up there just full of them, waiting to be pulled from their spots in the ooey gooey clay mud. 🙂  We dug up there for at least 3 hours, maybe 3 and a half hours, then Bill decided we should go back up near the top levels and see if we could find any fluorites or trilobite fossils…believe me when I say, many of us did not want to be uprooted from that prime collecting area, but I am equally sure that there were some that did want to go up there and see what could be found up there, too. Here below you see Kim making her way carefully down the boulder field below the pocket, and I mean, you definitely had to be careful with each step of your feet, everything up there was covered in that clay mud so things were a little slick…the quarry personnel had graciously drained the water pond that we had to cross to get to the pocket, but everyone had to exercise caution on every step across there…Mike was nice enough to have his wagon handy and available for anyone to use as well…Charles Hill had some nice big crystal finds and gladly took advantage of Mike`s offer of assistance….

…while David went back to assist Kim with getting her bucket of crystals down that hill safely. Bill was stationed over on the road, trying to get us to move a little quicker out of there with our finds, like a traffic cop….

David was in front of me as we drove up the hill past that waterfall again, so I snapped another photo of it with sunlight on it this time….

Only a few people found any fluorite cubes up above, one in a huge boulder that he tried to cob down to a reasonable size, never did find out if he was able to do that tho…and a young lady walking along the level road up there, found a nice chunk of matrix with a beautiful spray of small purple cubes all over one end of it…right next to Bill Pryor`s suv, too !!  🙂

I`m still cleaning my finds from this trip and the one two weeks later at the end of March, but here are the photos of the calcites David brought to Arkansas to show us what could be found there, and as soon as I get more of mine cleaned up, I will post them here and the next story too…..

Semi Retirement Mid Nov 2018 to April 2019

Well if what I have heard about retirement from all my friends and family older than me is true, and I suspect it is, then I am sure I am going to enjoy it…I found out I do like semi retirement quite a bit, especially the part about sleeping in as late as I want to, and going to bed as late as I want to. 🙂

I heard from one of my bosses soon after returning from my fall trip to Arkansas in November of 2018, that while down in southern Arkansas collecting quartz crystals, they had received two small snowstorms and that ended my seasonal employment, which launched me into my semi retirement a little earlier than expected, mainly because our winter season was about to become a bit rougher than the previous five winters had been. I was ready to start my semi retirement phase…even though we usually get up early to go rockhunting, I was really getting tired of rising way before the crack of dawn for my daily workout. Yes we rockhounds get up early, but rarely do we get up as early as I had been getting up to go to work.

I kept myself fairly busy, got the two and a half acres of leaves raked at Mom`s well after we returned from Arkansas, last few days of November, mainly due to the wet and cold fall season we had, think it was two weeks after raking and leaf blowing before we could burn them, had to wait for it to dry out and then wait for a low wind day to do so….


Normally we rent a blower from a buddy of mine here in town, a Stihl blower, but found out he stopped renting them out when Stihl failed to keep their word and allow him to remain the sole rental on them in my area…I don`t blame them, they gave him their word, they should have kept their word. Matter of Principle…I believe strongly in that…Stihl blowers are the best product out there…but if you cannot keep your word, you have nothing…your word is your bond, matter of trust. I went shopping at Lowes and found they had a Poulan leaf blower on sale, at an unheard of price, so we bought one of those…runs great, starts great, only drawback I found, is that when you shut it off to refill it with fuel, you then have to allow it to cool down, at least 20 minutes before you can start it again…guess they want you to rest up as well.

During December I cleaned house and basement, put some shelves up in the basement to get things up off the floor, never know when you live in a low area, with two sump pumps running, when something might stop working or something back up and then you have things damaged. That happened about five to seven yrs ago, stormwater sewer backed up into my basement, got about ten inches deep down there, burned the sump pump up completely, was able to borrow a trash pump from my roofer and then replace the sump once the water was removed. I capped off that drain to the stormwater sewer and got one of those trash pumps for that corner, one that kicks on when the water gets up so high on it, hose attached to it takes that water over to the sump pump well in the basement and the sump pump ejects it from the basement. I wanted to avoid that again and organize the basement better, took me the better part of two weeks to do that….

…..I also joined the Rehab Gym here in town and kept walking a few miles a day, which helps my KETO do it`s job a bit better, kept my weight down to 160…over Christmas tho, I put a few pounds back on with all the goodies out there, but by February, I had that back under control again too. 🙂 

My friend Tim Weiskopf, who has his own Body Shop, was busy thru December, so I waited til the middle of January to take my truck over to him, to have the damage to the passenger side of the cab repaired…

…he and his sons and crew did a great job with it, looked brand new when he finished with it…and during the process of it, I found out that his son Dillon, also likes to collect rocks and minerals, so I took him a nice flat of various crystals and minerals from my collection, and since then have taken him rockhunting as well. I also had the chance to drive a nice Ford four door pickup during the week that Tim had my Tacoma in his shop…

…it had a lot of bells and whistles on it, picked it up the morning I dropped off my Tacoma to Tim at his shop, and could not find a manual on it, and the Enterprise guy didn`t have time to explain anything, so I drove it to a good friend who drives Ford pickups…Jack Cuneio, and asked if he could show me the basics on it…he came out and walked me right through it all…thanks again, Jack !!  About the only thing it didn`t have was four wheel drive, and luckily for me, Tim finished my Tacoma just in time for the first snowfall of 2019….

…and as you can see, it looks like it just rolled off the lot of a dealership…thanks again Tim, you guys did a great job with it !!   I finished out January by adding an area in one corner of my basement where I can clean rocks during cold weather or bad weather….

…yes as you can see, I have collected and cleaned up a lot of druse quartz…if you know someone that wants some, let me know…I took several buckets of grab bag material to MAGS, the Memphis Club, back in March, for their show later this month, and still have a few buckets of that if someone is in need of grab bag material. Also had a few dealers visit me over the winter to get some nice druse plates to sell in their locations as well. During February, I was kept busy shooting emergency calls for the local paper…we wound up with a lot of snow this winter and some ice as well, one ice storm causing all night calls for our local responders and snarling I-44 in several spots with overturned semi`s, five of them on the east side of our East Overpass…

…very few injuries, but could have been a real humdinger for sure…maybe the next time the authorities ask people to stay off the roads, there will be a few more truckdrivers comply with that request. We had a commonsense rule when I was driving fire trucks…you won`t do anyone any good, if you cannot get the truck to the scene safely…meaning slow down or stay off the road completely…won`t do anyone any good if you have a wreck or get injured or killed. Duh….

Few nights later was a house fire at the neighboring town…five fire departments trying to save something for the residents with water problems getting in the way…huge house up on a hill and firefighters had problems pumping water up that hill to the hoselines manned by other firefighters…during another snowstorm mixed with sleet no less….

…I can safely tell ya, firefighters do not like to sit or stand around and watch someone`s property or house, burn down….it is the most helpless feeling one will ever have and it just demoralizes us when it happens…luckily soon after I took these initial photos of this house fully involved, they were able to get water up the hill and into the hoselines so firefighters could do the job they were called there to do….

…and then four days later, I woke to the sound of chatter on the scanner early in the morning about a fire at our local truck stop, so I got up, dressed, grabbed the camera, and Onyx went with me to the fire…turned out to be two tractor trailers parked side by side on the back row of the truck stop and well involved in heavy fire…smoke from it could be seen for miles….

the one above was taken by a truck driver parked a few feet away and facing the fire, shot it through his windshield….the others I shot…this fire had many on edge in town fearing hazardous materials were involved, they heard explosions before I arrived…those were the semi tires blowing up….both trucks were carrying food products only….

I got to watch a young department come together with a lot of teamwork at this fire, lots of young firefighters on this department once again, they did a great job and were there all morning long, trying to gain access to the trailer transporting Mac N Cheese Edibles, hence the heavy fire seen before…

Then one day in mid March, I drove out to photograph a car on fire and wound up helping the lone firefighter who responded to the call with the fire truck…the paid crew went to a reported vehicle accident involving a semi and while listening to the second call, I thought he had a crew on board the truck, but on my arrival to photograph the fire, found he was alone, so I offered to run the pump on the truck while he fought the fire…something I had done for 36 of my nearly 40 years on the local fire department….

He had a few minutes of excitement when he trained the hose stream down into the cab of the car through the front windshield and the water stream hit the steering column, obviously made of magnesium which reacts with water and looks like roman candles going off around you….

…then he discovered by accident that the gas tank was obviously leaking gasoline, as the flames kept jumping from side to side underneath the car…refusing to go out…you can always tell flames that are fuel fed, they are extra unique looking….

The paid crews arrived about 25 minutes later as Jimmy was beginning to get more control over the fuel fed fire….I am sure he was glad to see them too…

After posting the story on my FB page, one of my female friends who is a reporter with St Louis Channel 4 News,, spotted it and called me to see if they could use my video for a short story and I gave them permission to do so…she put together a very nice story on it….thanks again Paige !!

By this time in March, our weather was beginning to lighten up and warm up, and I was looking forward to doing some rockhunting in the weeks ahead…:)


My Fall Vacation in Arkansas 2018

This year was the coldest fall season in southern Arkansas I can remember…been going down there for about ten years now for my fall vacation and I don`t remember a day when the temps fell under 60 degrees down there in years past. For ten years before that, I used to drive out west, starting in Breckenridge, Colorado and would spend about a week driving around the state before driving to Utah and then south to Page, Arizona, near Lake Powell and spend a few days there before making the long drive home.  It was always cooler out there, sometimes I even saw snow, specially at the higher elevations, even drove thru it at times, usually on my way to Aspen to photograph one of the prettest locations on God`s Green Earth…the Maroon Bells…if you ever get the chance to go there, DO SO…you will not regret it…especially if you go in the fall when the aspen trees are turning color…best time of the year to go in my humble opinion. 🙂

The last time I was there was 2012, when I took Mom and Dad out to Colorado to see the fall color for their 50th Anniversary…we got there before the sun came up over the mountain behind us…which is why that shadow on the left is so deep, you have to wait til 9 am for the sun to come up over that hill and fully illuminate the left side of the lake and hillside…we were there long enough it finally did so…

…btw, the Bells are those two twin mountain peaks covered in snow…they appear to be towering right over the top of the lake, but believe it or not, they are actually 28 miles behind the lake…and one other thing, if you have to stop multiple times on the way up the road leading to the Bells…only one way up there and back out…don`t feel like the Lone Ranger, cause I don`t know anyone, myself included, who could come up that road or drive back down without stopping about every 50 feet to shoot the gorgeous color and scenery. One of these days, I wanna return to Colorado and just spend a couple of weeks shooting the scenery and rock hunting !! 

The only thing I didn`t pack for my trip to Arkansas this year, was my heavy winter coat…I recall thinking I might need it if it turned cooler than normal, which it did, and was a bit cool on the way down there too…but for whatever reason, I did not pack it in my truck, but I sure did miss it a few days and nights down there. Onyx and I dropped Mom off at Fort Smith at the hotel and then we headed over to Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to visit with my buddy Adam, who used to do a lot of quartz and wavellite hunting in the Mt Ida area, in his younger years…these days he is into knapping big time. He was going thru some of his older collection the other day and found a bucket of old wavellite from the Avante area…he told me to come by and visit and check it out, so I did. We had a great visit for about an hour and then he had to get to his new job and we had to head south.

I wanted to get to Mt Ida by 4 pm, but that didn`t happen, so we motored on down to Hot Springs, arriving at the condo with just enough daylight left to unpack the truck. I like to get there with a little daylight left so I can capture the nice sunset, but there would not be a nice sunset this evening, unless you like two or three tone gray colors in your sunset…

…the sunrise, the next morning, was a little better, not alot, but some better….

…and while it appeared to dawn clear and bright…it didn`t last long…clouded up and rained most of the day so my plans to drive back up to Mt Ida and visit some dealer friends fell through. I did get a chance later in the day when the rain shut down a few times briefly, to photograph some fall color at a couple of my favorite places in the area….this one is a waterfall I like to shoot occasionally near Hot Springs…

…and this is a house on a pointe across from the condo I stay at…called Tanglewood Pointe, they have lights down by the water all the way around it that stay on all night long…

and another one of my favorite places is De Soto Lake on the north side of town, with a man-made dam….

…about 50 yards below the dam, there is a neat little stone building with a huge steel water wheel attached to it, an old motor inside the building with gears and wheels…it`s an old pumphouse that generated electricity for the Colonel Fordyce Estate up above the lake and pumphouse…usually very pretty in the fall season but this year the trees around it had already lost alot of their leaves, so here is how it normally looks in the pretty fall season as it did here in 2014….

…the stone bridge in front of it, has a little waterfall below the opening too…and the road that runs along the lake above is named after the bridge, Stone Bridge Road….however there is another stone bridge at the other end of the lake, so it might be named after that one….decisions, decisions…

…stunning huh ?  one of these days I have to get up on the hill and check out the estate up there, see if it`s as pretty as this. 🙂

The weather finally cleared off by mid afternoon and I was headed up to Mt Ida when I received a phone call from the condo owner, she had been trying to reach the direct tv people in Hot Springs for me, to come fix the main tv in the condo for me, and she finally had them on the way, so I had to turn around and head back to the condo to wait on them, as there was no one else in the area that could let them in. Not long after they arrived and fixed it, I heard from Slade that he had made it into Hot Springs, was checking into his hotel and could meet me for dinner earlier than 7 pm…I let him know I would meet him at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet about 6 pm. Everyone else that was coming in for the Friday dig, would be arriving later that evening and we would meet up at the Valero the next morning and drive on up…John and Mary from Northwest Illinois were driving in late that night and were staying in Mt Ida, along with Pete and Mary from Ohio, and would meet us along Hwy 270 up there the next morning. Slade and I had a great meal at the Buffet as usual, they have American and Chinese cuisine both, as well as a 30 foot long sushi bar. I asked Slade how much room he was gonna have for the trip back, cause I had six flats for him to take back to Harry Polly and Larry Huffman for me, they purchased some poker chip and druse quartz combination clusters from me…he said he brought some cases to put them all in and thought that would be the best way to transport them back…I thought that was a great idea and commended him for good thinking. Onyx and I drove over to the home made ice cream place called Scoops, to get another quart of turtle tracks for me and some vanilla ice cream for him, before heading to the condo. I heard from John just before 10 pm, that he had just crossed into Arkansas from Missouri…he had drove down thru my town on his way to Salem to deliver some Linwood Barites to a buyer, earlier in the day…I figured he had at least another three hours of driving before he reached Mt Ida.

The next morning`s sunrise was very pretty…


…an hour later, as Onyx and I were leaving the condo complex to head up to the Valero Station to meet up with the others, I shot this looking west…

….the news that morning said something about a chance of rain that morning in the Mt Ida area…the clouds looked at that moment, like rain clouds to me…I hoped it would be done raining by the time we arrived. We got to the Valero Station to find Slade there parked and waiting, ready to go and a bit worried that no one else was going to show up…I let him know it would prob just be us and Julie, and we would pick up John, Mary, Pete, and Mary at Mt Ida, and Tony would meet us at the mine gate at 9 am.  Julie arrived soon after in her big van, with her daughter Stephanie,  and we took off westbound on 270 toward Mt Ida. We stopped briefly at Burl`s Country Smokehouse so I could get a sandwich for me and Onyx, however they were not even open yet…which from years past, is highly unusual…we have stopped there several times early in the morning like this and found them open at daylight…we drove on to Mt Ida and a few miles out of town, I called their Subway to make sure they were open…they were so I let Mary and Pete know we would stop there for sandwiches for lunch. We arrived there a few minutes later and found Mary and Pete waiting for us…John and Mary were still at the hotel but drove by while we were inside getting food and they went on to Southfork Mine to meet us there. When the rest of us pulled up to the mine gate about 20 minutes later, we found John and Mary waiting on us, and shortly after, Shane Manley pulled in and parked on the right in front of my truck…he is Tony`s partner and was bringing some flats of smokey crystals for us to purchase. I have talked to Shane by email and Facebook several times, he was very helpful on several rockhunting matters, and we finally had the opportunity to meet in person. He also brought four baskets full of crystal points with very nice prices on them…Tony arrived while we were looking thru the baskets and flats of goodies….

….they did not last long with my group there, let me tell ya….as I was talking to Tony about where we could dig the next day, after our plans had been changed twice before we even arrived down there, explaining to him how Wegner didn`t stay in touch with us and kept changing the rules on the second truck for the Phantom Mine trip….Shane suggested that we drive over to the new mine and dig there on Saturday…we were ecstatic to hear that and we quickly said YES !!  We agreed on a time and location to meet up with Shane the next morning and then we loaded up, crossed the creek and drove up the hill to the top…the first part pretty and easy….

…Tony had his expansion order approved and brought in a logging operation to help him clear the area…they in turn had messed up his road going up the hill.

Normally it`s a solid road, has a few ruts, but we have never had any problems going up or down it…this time, it was a different story, soft mud, limbs down, a BIG boulder close to the uphill left side, and deep ruts…John and I stopped Julie who was in front of me and behind John, and we convinced her to park in the wide spot behind us and then walk up the hill, her van would never make it even halfway up and she might get stuck blocking the road, so she decided to take our advice and park down below…a few minutes later, riding up with Tony and his dog in his powerwagon pickup, she was glad she made the decision to park below…..

…the rest of us had no problems either, although even with new tires on mine and in four wheel drive, I did slip and slide a little…fun ride tho, nothing like off roading once again, felt like a youngun again, lol. 🙂 We all got up there, got our boots on, grabbed our tools, our buckets, our wraps, my camera, and headed up to the mine to look around and start looking for pretty quartz crystals…when I got up there and looked to my right,  where Tony had started digging a new pit, I spotted Slade on the other side holding up a nice big crystal point that he had found within minutes….

…then I looked left and spotted Ohio Mary down below clowning around in the red clay dirt…

…and behind me was Tony`s trackhoe with Stephanie and Julie getting organized to the left of it….

…when we arrived at the top of the hill at the old and new mine combined, there was a small black and tan dog waiting for us, looked as if it had been dumped and she was as cute and nice as could be, well mannered, hungry and when she saw Onyx and Tony`s dog, she lit up and you could tell she just wanted to play. She stayed right with those two dogs the entire time we were there, and later when Tony headed home, he took her with him, which I thought was very nice of him to do…here she is with Onyx following John up the tailing pile hill because he had ” treats ” in his hands….

John and Slade went up and over the hill and down into the old mine area and began working the walls looking for quartz pockets…and found some…they were still down there working them when I wandered down in the afternoon. I started surface collecting in the upper end of the new pit area, found several fist sized clusters and single points right away and dug in to the soft clay dirt in a few areas and found even more small clusters. I filled a bucket pretty quickly and returned to the truck to empty it, wrap up the good ones and then return for more collecting.

As I did, I spotted Julie and Stephanie over on my right, above the old area and just behind the new pit area…

and I looked down below and spotted John talking to Pete along the old wall, while Mary was surface collecting the center tailings area…

…and looking back toward the entrance at the top of the hill, there was Julie and Stephanie on the left side and Ohio Mary down in the pit Tony was digging out….

Tony decided to climb up into his trackhoe and clean out the upper end of the pit for us to comb thru some more…


….I spotted Slade`s pick on the other side and went to retrieve it before Tony got to it with the bucket, let him know I was going after it, and then I climbed up on the hill on the other side…Julie held on to Onyx for me so he would not naturally follow me over there….


I took a lunch break after retrieving Slade`s tool and ate my half of the sandwich, well all but the last few bites, gave that to the new dog, and Onyx his half as well. I then grabbed my mini mattox and bucket and headed down to the lower area where John and Slade were working the old wall, wandering around the tailing piles, picking up small clusters and single points too, that were laying all over the place. I came across a couple of skinks in the clay dirt, one under a rock and another out in front of the rock…John was seeing them all over the place too….

…while I was up on top of the hill, I also let the others who were driving down that evening, know we were going to the new mine tomorrow and as expected, the reactions were much the same as ours…everyone was excited !! David Hodge called me to check on our plans for Sunday and when I told him where we were going the next day, he forgot about Sunday and decided he would meet us at the meeting place the next morning instead. I made a wide loop around the base of the old mine on top of the hill and then made my way thru the pines on the south side like I did last year, finding a few more nice small clusters to add to my bucket. By 4 pm, everyone was pretty much ready to leave, including John, so we made our way down the hill and to the gate, which I had to re-open so we could all get out, as Tony had locked us in when he left earlier in the day. I was pretty tired by this time, luckily Pete was right behind me and he came up and helped me with the heavy steel gate after I finally got the lock opened. After everyone got thru the gate, John came back and helped me re-secure it and then we headed back to Mt Ida, where Pete, Mary, John, and Mary dropped out of the wagon train and the rest of us headed back to Hot Springs. At some point we lost Julie to a gas station along 270…I heard from Fred who had arrived in Hot Springs a little earlier and was hungry, asked where we were eating supper and what time. 🙂 I let him know we would prob return to the Hibachi Sushi Buffet about 7 pm and let Julie know as well.  Slade and I got stuck in some slow traffic til we got to Royal and then things finally opened up a bit for us and we then made good time to Hot Springs. We met up with Fred at the HIbachi just before 7 pm and had a great supper. Onyx and I returned to the condo for some ice cream and tv before bedtime. I had a few text messages from the others letting me know they would likely be in late and Chuck, who was riding with me in the morning to the new mine, so his wife and kids could go shopping, let me know he would be outside my door at 6:15 am, as we were going to have to go pick up Justin, whose car was in the shop. The sunrise the next morning was absolutely gorgeous and I had just enough time to shoot this image and some video of it…


Well I had just enough time to post the sunrise on my FB page before Chuck and I took off…I had Justin`s address, he forgot to give it to me the night before and texted me about 5:30 letting me know he was awake and ready to go…think he was like everyone else, supercharged and excited for what we might all find there. Tony told us the day before that all we were going to have to do was sit down at the tailing piles and dig in, and the crystals were so plentiful that they would just roll down into our hands and laps…I haven`t been to a mine like that yet, so I think we were all looking forward to seeing and experiencing that. We arrived and picked up Justin and then headed over to the Valero Station…Slade was again the first one there and lined up ready to go…we had eight more this morning and there had been eight of us total on Friday, so we were now at 16 rockhounds.  Everyone but Patty, Colby, and Gabriella Herman had arrived at the Valero meeting spot….I had let them know last night to meet us instead at the De Soto Park parking lot, on Hwy 7,  just north of the Hwy 7 Business Route that runs thru the National Park Campground. We arrived there at 7 am and did not find them there, so I called Patty and she said they were at Whittington Park, I let them know to get on Hwy 7 and go north and they arrived a few minutes later, and after talking a few minutes, we headed northwest, forty minutes later we arrived at the meeting spot to find John, Mary, Pete, Mary, waiting for us…a few min later, David showed up and soon after, Shane and his son-in-law arrived too. After paying him our fee, he took us up to the new mine and helped us park, then explained the boundaries to us and turned us loose to dig and hunt.

…sure was pretty on the way up there….

…here are the tailing piles around the pit….

….which had some water on one end, but luckily Tony and Shane had told us where to dig, so we would not get wet….and let me say this…what Tony said the day before about digging in the tailing piles and the crystals rolling down into our laps…was SPOT ON CORRECT…cause that is EXACTLY what happened to us !!

Here you see John and Slade down in the pit digging where Tony and Shane told them to, while Colby, Justin, and Chuck are up above on the other side, checking the tailing piles….

….there were several piles around the pit and they all had some GREAT stuff in them, from single large points to baseball sized clusters to candle stick size points…Justin found one that was like a scepter of two long crystal points somewhat blended together. Many nice ones were found both in the pit and in the tailing piles. A few of us took off and backtracked along the road to a few other dig sites and checked them out to see if there was potential for the group to go to one of them and find some nice stuff as well, however we did not find much of anything at any of those spots, and we returned to the new mine pit shortly after. We took a lunch break and David came over to show me some beautiful calcite crystal plates that he had found at a quarry in north central Arkansas…I had heard about this quarry from some friends at MAGS…this first plate he showed me has a few sharply pointed crystal tops with very small pagoda caps sitting on the very top edge of the crystals…


He also showed me some phantom calcite crystals that were very pretty and unique as well…

….I called John over to take a look and he was like me, very interested in each type of crystal that could be collected at this location….

Justin walked over and was totally mesmerized by one of the pagoda calcite crystals…you can slightly tell by the look on his face….lol….

David also brought some large dogtooth calcites to show us…

….and John was very taken with them as well….


we dug for another four hours and then began to get out of there and off the hill and back to Hot Springs to clean up and go to supper at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet again. I was pretty tired and intended to take a nap when I got back but for some reason, I did not do that. We were to meet at the Hibachi about 6 pm…I shot the sunset…..

…..and then stepped outside to drive to the restaurant….Chuck and his family offered me a ride there in their new Chev Traverse SUV and I wish now I had taken the offer. When Chuck and I returned to the condo, I had backed in to the parking spot at an angle and I did not straighten it out…I should have, but didn`t…so when I got in to head out, I came out at the angle I was in there at, and struck the rear bumper of a pickup sitting next to me…I stopped and got out to look, and found my cab doors damaged and paint removed as well at the bottom of both doors, just from hitting the bumper and tail light of the other truck, which was smaller than my…kinda bummed me out a bit. I had not seen the truck there before, and had no idea where the owner was, but there were only a few condos occupied, so I went to the two below me and found the owner in the second one I checked. I let him know I had struck his truck, think he was a bit upset at first, not that I had struck his truck, but that I was taking him away from the Arkansas football game on tv….he and Chuck assisted me in getting my truck unhooked from his bumper, he finally had to pull his truck forward about a foot in order for me to do that, and then it was obvious that I had damage and his truck had none…all he had to do so was buff his bumper and tail light with a cloth the next day and it was fine. He was very nice to deal with, we exchanged info and he told me that if he felt there was any damage the next day after looking at it in the light, he would call me. I never did hear from him…I took some photos the next day after I got back from the mine…

…and reported it to my agent on my return home…first accident I have been at fault,  in 42 years of driving…Fred called while we were exchanging info, he thought maybe I had napped and overslept or forgot to set the alarm…let him know what was going on and that we would be there soon. We arrived about ten minutes after the meeting time, there were about 14 of us there and they ushered us into a private dining room. I think some were afraid to talk to me, thinking maybe I was mad, but like I told Slade and Fred, my doors still open, close, and lock just fine, and this is exactly why you have insurance and full coverage at that…I have always carried it from the time I began driving because back then I was driving to fire calls and it was pretty much required, so I have just always  continued to carry it and you never know when you might run into someone that has no insurance, even tho most states these days require it, some still fall thru the cracks. As I said earlier, I was a little bummed out that the guy`s smaller truck bumper was tougher than my Toyota truck doors, but what can ya do about it…take it to the body shop and let them restore it to it`s original luster is all. While at supper, I called Shane to see if it was okay for us to return to the new mine the next day about 11 am…I told him we wanted to visit his Dad at his rock shop about 9 am and then drive over to the new mine, and he said that would be fine, he would meet us at the same spot at 11 am. A few of the group had heard of the forecast for bad weather north and east of us, so they decided they would be on the road home early…Slade for one, as he had a good 12 hour drive home to North Carolina and didn`t want to hit that bad stuff on Monday instead. Chuck decided he would drive up to see Mr. Manley at his rock shop with us and then return to Hot Springs, pick up his family, and head home too.

So the next morning, we met at the Valero Station once again..we had a little speed bump in the road when Patty called and said they were apparently at the wrong Valero Station cause they didn`t see any of us there…they were at Central Ave and 270 Bypass, so I told them to get on 270 westbound and go half a mile and look for us on the shoulder, and then we would motor on up the road and pick up the others at Mt Ida, so that is what they did and we were soon on the way west, arriving to find John and Mary already there and talking to him at 8:45 am. We had a great visit with him, I think everyone bought something from him, he still had a few pieces of smokey quartz from the new mine that was found in February earlier this year…and some great wavellite too…I purchased a few quartz pieces and some wavellite for sure too. We then bid Chuck good bye and then we headed toward Jessieville, arriving just ahead of Shane, who was again out deer hunting with his son-in-law…Shane had shot a deer just moments before we arrived at the meeting spot…he opened the gate for us and then returned to clean the deer, said he would check on us later. I decided that this time, I was going to check out a test hole dig down the hill a bit from the main mine first…I found a few down there, but nothing really super nice…John came down there for a few min and found a couple of nice points too…then we walked back up and I sat down where David was sitting the day before, and immediately started finding several crystal points just rolling down into my lap, much as it had been the day before…here are a few that I put on the tailgate a few min later….

…as I was arranging the crystals above to take some photos, Colby came back to his car to retrieve a pick, and I mentioned something about the ski gear he had on to stay warm, it was much colder today at 11 am then it had been the day before…he posed in his gear with the pick in his hands for me…

…thanks again Colby…great job !!

  I grabbed another bucket and decided this time to get down into the pit and dig into the wall next to John and see what I could find down there….

….he put me in the spot Justin had started in the day before…just left of Mary in the photo above where the pick is leaning up against the dirt….

….and within seconds, I was finding several nice crystal points and some long slender crystals as well as a few nice clusters….I was giving some to John as well and within 90 minutes I had filled two five gallon buckets and decided to take off. I had a friend driving over from the Memphis area and I wanted to get back and cleaned up before he arrived, in case he got lost on the way in…I took a few more photos before leaving…here is Patty and Julie, with Stephanie behind her, digging in the front tailings pile…and doing well I might add….

…and Patty`s plastic tub of fried chicken that she brought to share with everyone…I mean her plastic tub of crystals that she found…they look like fried chicken up close….

…and up close with crystals she just found in the pile….

…and Julie with her phosphorescence pink bucket….I woulda swore that was fuscia colored myself….lol 🙂

…I took off shortly after and headed back to the condo to meet a friend that was coming down from Tennessee to visit with me while I was nearby. It rained pretty much the whole day on Monday so we were limited what we could do and he headed back home by early afternoon, so Onyx and I just cleaned up and prepared to head home the next morning. I had my last quart of Turtle Tracks and rested up a bit. I figured I would try to contact two of the dealers in Mt Ida the next morning on my way home, but both were unavailable so I continued to head to Fort Smith, even thought about stopping by the family farm to visit with family, however Mom had told me by phone the other day that they would be in the woods hunting til about 11 am, which is about the time of day that I picked up Mom and headed north toward home. 

**  I want to explain one thing about this trip….maybe this will prevent someone else from going through the same bs that I experienced. My group and I went to Wegner`s Phantom Mine one day last year in November 2017, and enjoyed it so much, we returned in March of this year for two days in a row, and again, had a great time, although most would prob tell you that the one day last year in November was much better than the two days in March, and that would be because they had 18 inches of rain the week before we arrived in March and we were limited to the tailing piles only, which had not been turned over for sometime.  I contacted Wegner`s a few months back and started inquiring if the dates of Nov 10th and 11th were available for us to return there again…they were I was told, so I let them know my group would like to return and reserve those dates, my initial head count was 20 rockhounds and I requested two trucks so that it would be a comfortable ride, I let them know that Mr. Wegner had told us in March that if we returned with at least 20 folks, he would commit to two trucks for us. When staff checked with him, he said we would need at least 22 people before he could commit two trucks…two weeks later my head count was 23 rockhounds and I updated staff…they checked with him and I was advised that he now wanted us to bring 30 rockhounds before he committed to two trucks…my response was not pretty nor did I intend for it to be…when I get aggravated like that, I get pretty sarcastic…I told him to pick a number and stick with it, keep his word !!  Staff promised to find us seven additional people so we could have a second truck…a week went by, then ten days, and I checked with my group, told them what was going on, let them know I had a backup mine we could go to, possibly for two days, they were all fine with that, plus it was going to be less money. Wegner wanted $ 44 per person for four hours dig time, including that amount for three kids that were going to be there, two of them under the age of ten, the other mine was going to be less than half that cost, we could stay all day, and no charge for the kids. I let Mr. Wegner know that we were cancelling our trip and he replied that they had found us seven more people to go in with us…I told him too little too late, he could have, and should have, communicated that much sooner, we exchanged several emails, I told him he was going to miss out not only on our full amount times 23 people, but each time we had been there before, everyone in my group had spent even more money in his nice rockshop and he would miss out on that as well, mainly due to his inability to keep his word and his inability to communicate with us…but of course, none of that was his fault, he placed all fault on me…I still have the emails to prove it if need be. He did promise to refund my deposit that I had paid a month out for everyone in my group…however he did not put it through, staff did that a few days later once they became aware, through me, that I had cancelled the trip…he didn`t even update his own staff that we were not coming down there…makes one wonder for sure. **

Other than that, we had a great trip down there this fall season….Mom, Onyx, and I rolled into Sullivan by 4 pm on Tuesday, Nov 13th, a day ahead of the big snowstorm headed our way. Had a great time, just wish it would have been warmer down there, hope everyone else had as good a time as we did. 🙂

Here are a few of my crystals cleaned up from the new mine….