Displaying items by tag: rockhound

Thursday, 27 September 2018 08:14

Juniper Mountain Fire Opal


My friends, and lapidary artists Dan and Cyndi Wolke, of the Vallejo, California Gem and Mineral Society invited me out on a beautiful Fall day in late September. Jamie Lant, fire opal claim owner on Juniper Mountain, in Lake County, Oregon had posted an open invite on Facebook for anyone and everyone to come out and dig the gemmy red-orange opal found on his claim.  

The morning of the dig day came bright and gorgeous as the sun rose along lines of glowing gold quaking aspens near the Oregon Highway 140 Quartz Mountain Pass access road to the mining claim.

An interesting and chilling historical note: On May 5th, 1945, a Reverend named Archie Mitchell, his wife and five Sunday school students arrived at nearby Leonard Creek for a fishing trip. The wife and children set out to explore the creek as Archie parked the car. Upon turning off the engine, Archie heard his wife call to him to look at what they had found. He saw the group huddled around some foreign object, and observed one of the children reach for it. At that moment an explosion ripped through the serene air of the morning, and Archie Mitchell was the sole survivor. This group were the only civilian casualties of World War II within the continental United States. The Japanese balloon boming campaign aimed to start mass fires and cause panic and terror on the West Coast. Out of 10,000 balloons launched, only 300 found their way to the USA, and most detonated over remote areas. The mission was ultimately a failure.

Also with our group is Lloyd Braunberger, a gemologist from Brownsville, Oregon. Here Lloyd uses two rock picks to remove matrix rock from a fluffy layer that is showing a tantalizing little glint of color here and there.

Here's a cabochon made by Erin Dana Balzrette of Tree Climbers Stones, from a piece Lloyd collected on an earlier trip to the claim.

Soon we are joined by the claim owner, Jamie Lant, a generous and open hearted individual who feels that it is important to allow opportunities for rockhounds in an area that has mostly been closed to public digging in the last five years. But Jamie must balance grace with practicality. His concern is that nobody gets injured on the claim, or causes an issue that would endanger or upset neighboring claim owners. Upon arriving at his claim, he immediately starts breaking rock. But he's not digging for opal at the moment. He's trying to make the pit a little safer by removing overhanging rock that was somewhat dangerously undercut by previous diggers.

Jamie's friend Ian also joins us and begins work in a smaller pit below the main dig. When asked how they decided to locate the pit at this exact spot on the claim, Ian replies that he stumbled on it. He means this literally. Apparently while they were out one day hiking the claim, Ian tripped and fell. When he landed, he noticed that he had fallen right by a seam of fire opal that was outcropping on the surface of the ground!

Today, Ian works away at that same seam, as it is diving down into tight rock. He fills his bucket with chip after chip of beautiful honey-amber colored opal.

Here's a miner's eye view of the seam that Ian is working on. It tumbled out lots of opal, from tiny chips to nice nuggets several inches in size.

The true beauty of the opal is quite noticeable when it is backlit with a strong source of light. It's like looking out under richly colored amber water.

Meanwhile, Cyndi starts working at that tantalizing soft rock zone in the main pit. It keeps seeming to promise something.

At some point as the temperature climbs, the Wolke's dog, Levi, gives up. He figures he's had enough of opal mining!

Lloyd and Cyndi muck the pit. An important part of rockhounding etiquette when you are working at a shared dig site, is to try to keep the area safe, and the dig neat for the next person. This means removing your tailings from the pit periodically so that the enlargement of the dig can keep taking place in an efficient way.

At some point, that old tantalizing zone in the main pit that had been yielding tiny chips, begins to get hot and yields up some larger nuggets of yummy Juniper Mountain opal. The main piece in this picture is a little over 3 inches long! That's a good sized opal.

Chunk after chunk comes out. At times there are  four or five larger chunks showing, with a network of thin glassy opal seams threading back and forth between them. The opal pile grows big, and we get some interesting matrix pieces too where remains of an opal seam still cling to the host rock.

The pit at the Red October claim has been productive. Our rockhound group has done very well, and everybody is happy. We enjoyed sharing the good company of the claim owners and the camaraderie of digging in a beautiful and unspoiled location. A big thank you to Jamie Lant and Ian for keeping this resource open for the general public!

Jamie and Ian show us some opals that they have dug recently! They have opal for sale and you can find Jamie Lant on Facebook for more information on purchasing some of this attractive, gemmy fire opal.

This material popped out of the same seams that we were digging on.

The opal ranges in color and clarity. There is butterscotch yellow such as this giant piece.


An even more impressive red-orange show stopper!

Here's one I dug, backlit. It's hard to show the true beauty and depth of these opals in photos. Your have to see them with your own eyes.

The Juniper Mountain opals remind me of the dioramas of my childhood days. You are drawn inside through a portal, into another world.

It hard to get tired of looking at these.

Here's a chunk of the host rhyolite with a large, yummy caramel colored opal at one end. You have to look close when you are digging. The discerning eye will notice that there's another opal on the other end of this piece, doing its best to hide!

What's not to like?

Back at his claim, Jamie seems to contemplate the game plan for the future. It's a bold move to invite people you have never met onto your claim to dig. The Red October claim is located in the middle of a slew of claims, and some of the other claim owners are secretive and protective. Claim boundaries are not always apparent, and visitors to the area need to be aware not to trespass. Will everybody who comes here be respectful or safe, even if they don't know Jamie or any of the claim owners? To top it off, there's an extended and ever present severe wildfire danger in Southern Oregon. Keeping this dig open to rockhounds will require everybody to be cooperative in endeavoring to make this dig as successful as possible. Catch Jamie Lant on his facebook page for questions and directions to the claim. Best of luck in the field!




Published in Blog
Sunday, 31 May 2015 09:32

Rockhounding Susanville, CA


My old rockhounding buddy Rollie down in Susanville, California called me up for a field trip, saying he had finally found a storied black tourmaline and quartz area while exploring nearby Thompson Peak. This after 6 years of searching, with the requisite getting lost, blood loss, and losing your temper, etc. (Rockhounds, you know what I mean!) While at it, I figured I could get some rose quartz from a nearby locality at the same time. Here at the rose quartz area, Rollie's dog Manny takes a proud pose next to some nice pink rocks.  


Since drive time was long for me, and we were only talking two fleeting days of blissful rockhounding, I wasted no time in getting on the road. 


As it turned out, we did neither of the above mentioned field trips, but instead got pulled along on an entirely different adventure. Here local Susanville grandfather and rockhound Floyd Tibbetts checks area quadrangles with Rollie, and a new set of field trips materializes before my eyes. Why do we use the old maps instead of modern technology? Well, in this instance, the maps actually showed more of the various roads that were out there than Google did. Plus we're stubborn old school. We might even like getting lost, what can we say?


We're joined by another local Susanville rockhounder, Scott Cavin, who can be seen here examining the tailings piles of our first objective: the old Last Chance Copper Mining District on the bank of Spring Creek, up above Frenchman Lake.  


We check the mine tailings down to a depth of a couple feet, to get a look at what has been lying buried since the last reported production of the Plumas Copper Belt, back in the 1920's. 

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There is certainly some nice color down in the tailings piles. It's interesting to note that over 65 separate mineral species are present here in what was a complex, polymetallic quartz vein system. Included are some unusual, and rare bismuth species. 


Today, not much is left of the Last Chance mining community. Here, an old ore chute falls apart in the woods below the copper producing area. 


With the day still young and lovely, we get above Frenchman Lake, on the road to Crystal Peak, to check out the old lavender rose quartz quarry that seems to move around up in the peaks above the lake, depending on who you talk to. Armed with our old maps, we think we might be able to nail it down.


A young buck notes our passing. 


After numerous wrong turns, and miles of bouncing over unmarked roads, we ultimately have to just get out on foot and start walking the jeep trails that have been blocked with downed trees, erosional gullies, etc. Finally we see a sign! The soil in the background here is strewn with chunks of quartz, some with the highly desirable lavender color. But the day is more than half gone now.


We get right to work. Here Floyd digs at the edge of the rose quartz tailings to see what is lying hidden just out of sight below the soil. The quarry is largely historical at this point, with the coveted lavender quartz lens having been long ago dug out. The land has been more or less reclaimed here, with the pit filled in. But the soil is strewn with just enough color to keep us going. 

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The most prized rose quartz here has an unusual milky, opalized, lavender-blue tint that makes it stand out as unique among rose quartz deposits. Also, it is reported that the lavender quartz here displays asterism along more than three different axes, (shows a star) when cut and polished. 

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Here's a piece of the lavender rose along side of a very nice gemmy piece of Brazilian rose quartz, to give you an idea of the color difference. And this is one of the lighter shades of lavender that I collected! An interesting side note, and one that speaks to the variability of mineral pricing: it is reported that this lavender rose quartz sold for as low as 3 cents a pound in the mid 1980's when the Layfayette Rock Shop in Contra Costa County had to close due to a freeway expansion project. Ironically, the rough was also being sold by the carat in the Lapidary Journal at nearly the same time. 


Here's a flat of some cut material that I collected showing the range of colors. I found that even though the quartz looked very fractured on the outside, it still somehow holds together for cutting and polishing.


I quickly fell in love with this material. 


Besides the unique lavender, there was some good opalescent pink in the area too. 


One thing's for certain - this color is yummy! 


Day Two: On the shoulder of Thompson Peak, area rockhounds have discovered a smoky quartz, epidote, and feldspar vein. 


Like so many of the quartz occurrances in the mountains south of Susanville, the small outcrop shows up at some elevation,  among the smoothed granite boulders of the high country. 


The site appears to be an aplite type dike that is host to the smoky quartz and associated minerals. Before I go on, I should give my requisite disclaimer: It is the sole intent of Scott's Rock & Gem to provide a record of exploration. I do not advise going into any dangerous, undercut area where overhanging rock could collapse, causing almost certain death. The safest way to handle a scenario like this is to stay out of underground chambers and dig on the tailings piles to see what has come out of the hole. 


Even the tailings piles are not without their dangers, as evidenced by this little critter who came out from under a rock and lashed it's tail vigorously when threatened. Always be vigilant and stay safe! 


Here's a gallery of my tailings treasures! The area had quite a number of these appealing little platey feldspar pieces with olive green, fibrous, and somewhat chatoyant epidote sprays. 


I couldn't resist collecting a number of these. 


There were some quite fine little clusters of epidote sprays. 


Gorgeous cluster of epidote sprays with smoky quartz point, on salmon feldspar.


Beautiful little quartz point with tiny epidote sprays bursting forth. 


A rather odd, shardy but faced tabular smoky quartz "pinwheel" with a surprise on the back side...


It's loaded with epidote! 


A lot of the smoky quartz appeared to be tabular and somewhat shard-like but upon closer examination was actually faced on at least one if not multiple sides. Here's a great chunk that's larger than my open hand with a three inch epidote spray embedded within. 


A little bit crestfallen, Manny finally accepts that we're not going to go racing around in the woods, and instead are going to squat all day by this boring hole!


Just kidding about the boredom. About this time, Rollie hollers up that he's hit a pocket! He's working down in the inner chambers that the rock moles have burrowed out, chasing the smoky quartz vein. You can just make out his shovel in the center of the photo, right by Floyd's head. Rollie himself is out of sight within, but his arm periodically reaches up and hands Floyd up the crystals he is pulling out!


First out into daylight: An absolutely fantastic cluster of hairlike epidote sprays almost completely covering a large platey feldspar. 


Followed by a second, equally stunning piece. 


Here's a closeup of this beauty, showing a whimsical area of almost clear, interlaced quartz crystals. 


Next up: a large tabular terminated piece with embedded epidote sprays. 


A brilliant and quite large, elestial faced tabular DT with epidot edging. 


A great smoky point nests in a forest of epidote. 


A beautiful, geode-like epidote vug. 


A huge tabular DT takes up the whole top of the boulder. 


Here's a very unique and good sized doubly terminated piece with small crystal poking up. Because of it's odd, somewhat rhombohedral shape, we immediately nicknamed it "the coffin". 


The Coffin, after getting cleaned up a bit. 


How about this striking cluster? 


A beautiful gemmy little doubly terminated crystal with epidote inclusion. 


Here's a big tabby DT with smaller twin DT crystal riding along!


In the days to come, Rollie keeps working the pocket which enlarges to a 5 foot by 5 foot room, and the crystals just keep getting bigger! As far as I know, he's still up there pulling them out!  


Wow! What a great first day of discovery we had! Beautiful minerals... 


...fresh air, and gorgeous country. You really can't ask for much more. 


A stillness settles over the land after our day of activity. For now, my rockhounding time is up, but I'll look forward to the next time I get together with the Susanville Rockhounds! 








Published in Blog
Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:28

The Yakima River Canyon

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Scott's Rock & Gem has participated in an annual gem and mineral show held in the city of Yakima, Washington. Friday is student day, and many bus loads of local students get to preview the weekend show. 


For some students, this might be the only chance they get in a year to be able to see and touch the beauty of the rock and mineral world, which is suddenly, magically concentrated before their eyes. 


This young man radiates pride of ownership. Though his grab bag may only contain a few common tumbled stones, still this is a first step towards an interest that might open up for him later, in a good way. 


With hundreds of school children in the room, are there shenanigans? You bet! That's part of the deal. But I'm happy to put up with em, in the hopes of allowing at least some of the students to move closer to what they naturally love!


One thing's for sure: For a few hours on Friday, kids rock! 


After the show, there is still plenty of daylight left so I head up into the Yakima River Canyon, to get my exercise, and hunt for some of the well known Yakima petrified wood. 


It's a glorious day and the hills above the canyon are coming alive after their winter's sleep. As one local rockhound put it, "It's a beautiful time, before the bugs and the heat." 


As I climb, the only noises are my heartbeat and my breath. Late afternoon light shimmers on the river, and catches in the tops of tall trees, highlighting the riparian zone. 


Near the top of Selah Butte, at the south end of the canyon, the ground starts to become littered with petrified wood. 


Small chips and pieces of wood are actually quite thick in some places. Although the last time I was up here, in 2015, a lot of this had been picked up by local rockhounds. So this blog also provides a record of how things looked before Ebay sent it's minions to scour the land! (Wink)


Actually, this area has been on rockhound's radar for generations, and early diggers here found entire logs encased in the Miocene age basalt flows. Here, a large pit on the shoulder of Selah Butte signifies where a petrified log was uncovered, probably decades ago. 


Though not as colorful as the famed Arizona wood, the Yakima wood none-the-less has pleasant opalized tones of creams, browns, tans, and whites. 


Some of the larger pieces will cut showing great grain structure. 


On a tip from a man I meet down on the road who is spotting Bighorn sheep with binoculars, I head north, higher up into the Canyon, heading for the Umtanum Creek Recreation Area. 


According to this fellow, he saw a group recently digging out a large log from the roadless side of the Untanum Creek area. Truth be known - all the ridges and draws on both sides of the river here provide good hunting grounds for petrified wood. Note the rock pick at the top of the BLM map! 


A foot bridge crosses the Yakima River at Umtanum Creek, providing access to roadless terrain on the other side. My "guide" points to a pit that is visible from the parking lot. It's two small ridges upriver, but you can definitely see it if you know what you are looking for. 


I reach the pit easily with only about a quarter mile's walk, and a moderate elevation gain above Umtanum Creek.


It's a pretty good sized excavation and there is a good amount of petrified wood laying about in the tailings.


There is still wood in the bottom of the pit. I see numerous tree roots fanning out from the empty hole and going back underground into the hillside.


A large root shows opalized brown, black, and cream color and good grain structure.


What have the local rockhounds been pulling out of their pits? Back at the show, club members have various treasures on display. Here, a beautiful twisting trunk section with limb in the background. 


This case showed off a large gnarly trunk with beautiful cut and polished round, as well as numerous limbs. 


 A lovely twisted trunk sits atop a gorgeous large black full round with well preserved grain patterning. 


What a find! An excellent petrified hollow log. 


An extra large polished full round with fantastic grain pattern, in lovely creams, tans, and browns.


 The Yakima Gem & Mineral Show also hosted a very fine display of some of the best Morrisonite type jaspers from Eastern Oregon that I've seen. 


Check out this stripey, varigated beauty! 


These orbed jaspers were truly museum pieces. 



I loved this one which seemed to contain a marvelous mythological creature! 


Without a doubt the finest plume agate that ever came out of Graveyard Point in far Eastern Oregon came from the famed Regency Rose Claim. 


How about this stylish Wingate Plume from the Mojave Desert area of Southern California?


This might be some of the best Stinking Water Creek plume that I've ever seen (Near Juntura, Oregon)


Fantastic pink plume agate from the sage hills east of Nyssa, Oregon.


Rockin Eastern Oregon plume!


Inspired to get out into the field I head back up to the Yakima River Canyon, to check some less visited areas. 


The river is calm with late afternoon light blazing on the canyon rims. 


There are numerous pullouts at various locations along the winding canyon. Some have rockhound trails leading up, and others do not. Just about any of these pullouts might lead to petrified wood! 


In general though, you are not going to be able to do too many canyon wall ascents during a day, due to the rugged elevation gains necessary to get to the high, wood bearing horizons, and the weight of anything that you pack up and pack down. 


These eroding basalts erupted from mile long fissures in the earth's crust, spreading like bubbling molassas to cover more than 200,000 square miles of the west. Some flows reached the Pacific ocean. A well near Yakima was drilled almost 3 miles deep, and still did not reach to the bottom of the basalt flows. 


I'm looking for the presence of any small amount of wood to clue me that I might be near a wood bearing area. The wood will show as small chips in the soil or amongst the basalt cobbles. Some areas I've walked are completely devoid of wood, and other areas show chips like these. 


I'm also looking for a fairly large outcrop of the wood bearing rock that I spotted from the top of Selah Butte. Here it is, taken with max telephoto lens, but it's quite high up on a steep section of the canyon wall, and several ridges over from Selah. It's not visible from the road, and looks to me like it wouldn't appear until you are right upon it, so it's difficult to tell exactly how to get there, when you are starting up from below. But this site looks like it might yield wood. Telltale chip appears to be scattered below, and the knob looks undug by even the tenacious rockhounds who share these walls with the bighorn sheep. Unfortunately, I miss the outcrop this time out, so it's still up there, waiting to be looked at. 


Suddenly, and without warning, I come upon a large rockhound pit. I know I'm in a good area when I see one of these, but I'm quite high up, and the path was little more than a goat run. 



The pit is about 8 feet deep, and you can imagine the log that came out of here. This speaks to the tenacity of area rockhounds to be able to pack out this sort of a find. There are some beautiful small pieces right on the surface of the tailings, so I doubt that very many people come up this high.


Unbelievably, I find an entire log in a small excavation nearby. It's running back into the basalt with about 4 or 5 feet of the trunk exposed. I'm guessing there are over 1000 pounds here. The only problem: 600 feet of elevation gain in about a half mile, over a goat trail. I'm going to go ahead and leave this one here for you! (wink) 

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Here are some of the small treasures that I brought down: a lovely opalized wood piece with caramel colored layer of semi-translucent agate over the top. 

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Another one of those frosted agate pieces from the high pit area. Beautiful colors! 

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 Multi-colored frosted agate limb section. 

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This type of frosted agate presentation is going to cause me to go back up that goat run and look for more! 

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A beautiful little limb piece with knot that has become druzy. 

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 A gnarly rippled root with pretty reds in the color scheme. 

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One of the interesting and unique things about these deposits is a material I call "mash" which is like an opalized ash flow in which vegetable material, small twigs and limbs were swept along and buried. Chunks of this will cut with neat little opalized limb cross sections.

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A couple of nice limb sections, one with sweet knot detail. 

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Cool rippled root with two colors of opal replacing the wood. 

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The same piece after I zipped a contour polish along its long edge, to accentuate the beautiful shades of cream, tan, and brown. 


Dusk had blanketed the canyon by the time I got back down, just as it has for the last 17 million years. I stayed well within my legal limit of 25 lbs. of wood per person per day, so there should be plenty of collectibles left high up within these lofty canyon walls for you to find. Have fun and be safe. I wish you all the best in your collecting efforts here!  




Published in Blog
Wednesday, 17 December 2014 21:24

Southern California Fossils and other Surprises

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A full moon sets over the fabled Sierra Nevada Mountain Range as I head from Oregon down into Southern California in search of Trona halite and other field trips in the great rockhounding region of Owens and Searles Valleys.

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I'm joined by the intrepid Kevin and Carol Rust, who had to drive much farther than I did, coming all the way from Seattle. Here they are pulling together a pile of Ballarat marble, gathered from the gravel fans just south of the ghost town of Ballarat, at the south end of Panamint Valley. 


If you're unfamiliar with this material, it's a beautiful salmon pink marble with dark green streaking, and it takes a nice, high gloss polish. 

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Kevin's got a nose for rocks, and almost immediately upon heading up an unnamed canyon off the Ballarat road, He finds a deposit of natrolite. The seams are exposed, but not too damaged, just a little dusty. The rock here is laced with stringers of natrolite. 

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I've always been fascinated with this zeolite, but its delicacy does present a true challenge in getting it out of the host rock, and in from the field in one piece. 

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Below the main outcropping of natrolite, the deposit seems to grade into seams of a more flowery aragonite coated material very reminiscent of cave formations I have seen. 

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Some of the natrolite is actually fairly clean and gemmy. 

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Here's a beauty with double hedgehog mounds of radial crystalline sprays. 

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We collect up a fair amount, enjoying the silence of the canyon, and the camraderie of collecting out a pocket with enough material to make everybody happy. At some point, the rock gets a little harder to move, and we just give up, even though the seams continue to run on back into the country rock. We've definitely got enough! 

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Trona local Gail Austin has been commissioned to create a table centerpiece for a cowboy wedding that will soon be held. The "groom" is rared up a fixin to lasso his darlin, but hold onto your spurs folks - she's already got him bull-whipped around the midsection an he don't even know it! (wink)

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Night peacefully blankets us and an amazing bright full moon is out. I alway feel more connected to the celestial nature of existence when I am out in the desert.

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In the morning we head up to Mazourka Canyon, outside of the town of Independence. The Mazourka Canyon road heads east off of Hwy 395, and accesses the interesting north-south running canyon, with its multiple outcroppings of fossiliferous Silurian age limestone. Here Kevin Rust strikes out to explore the small hill of tilted and uplifted parallel beds of fossil bearing strata. 

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Fossils are not hard to find here. They abound on virtually just about any fin of exposed limestone. Most are sponges and colonial coral. 

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Multiple coral branches with quite good detail network across the rock, and stand out in bas-relief, having been partially etched from the encasing limestone by centuries of rains and weathering. 

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A horn coral floats among the debris of an ancient sea floor, some 425 million years old.


 Ascending through a Silurian sea bed. There's more rock here than we can possibly look at. Multiple fins of black limestone erupt and cover the hillside, and this is only one of the exposures that Mazourka Canyon holds. 


Once I got some of these pieces back home, I etched away some of the limestone with hydrochloric acid (Muriatic acid) to reveal a little more of the coral. 


After something like 5 or 10 minutes of acid washing, the lovely detail of the myriad corals and sponges of the primordial ocean becomes more visible, allowing you to "create" some very nice display pieces. 


Back out front on the Owens Valley floor, Kevin has discovered a suspicious looking boulder. It's some type of marble with bright lime green streaking. I get after it with my pry bar! 


In her little known, and out of print book, "Where to Find Rocks in the Owens Valley", Irma Kittle mentions that there is green opal somewhere out on the Mazourka Canyon road. Could this be what she is talking about? I get out my hammer and chisel and beat on the mighty boulder with all my strength. To my delight, the boulder almost magically splits in half along a green seam, revealing an interior laced with the fine green color. 


With my manly factor dangerously elevated from boulder splitting success, I set about breaking down the boulder halves into more manageable chunks. For the sake of our survivors, we saved a few requisite "giant chunks" which took all the muscle that Kevin and I had to get up into the rig. Oregon rockhound Jack Benedict has noted that these apparently impossible acts are done with "brute strength and ignorance". I don't fully understand it, but there is some old rockhounding tradition that requires one to pepper their pile with chunks too big to fit in any saw, evidently for the sheer purpose of confounding their survivors after the crusty ole rockhound passes on. 


Once cut though, you can see that this is a truly beautiful material and we were lucky to find, and be able to collect the giant boulder. Upon seeing this rock, an old timer identified it as "Verdi Antique" marble, and said that the green is a nice, translucent variety of serpentine, which means that Irma Kittle's green opal must be still lying out there somewhere in the canyon!


 We pack up and part ways, with me heading over to the Kern River and the famous Ant Hill fossil bone beds, and the Rust's heading north along the rainbow road. 

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Scott's Rock & Gem arrives at the Ant Hill! 

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Though the land is under private ownership here, access for fossil digging was open when I visited during the second weekend of October, 2014. However,it does seem to be hit and miss. I have heard that this same gate that I walked through is currently strung with more barbed wire than the Berlin Wall.  The hills in the background have seen some epic digging at the proper horizon by scores of fossil hounds, and the trenches appear like a roadcut near the top of the front hill, and dip down, following the layer to near the base of the back hill.

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Here, a set of marine mammal ribs is exposed in the sandstone of the Round Mountain Silt formation, which is of Miocene age and is dated at 18 to 13 million years ago.

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It doesn't take me long to pull out a large whale bone partial - probably pelvis section, encased in rock. I'll carefully chip back some of the surrounding rock, to reveal the bone more fully and it will make an awesome display piece!

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Almost every concretion in the layer contains miscellaneous marine mammal bone fragments. One large concretion that I split reveals an entire whale vertebra.

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The consistency of the rock grades into more soft, moveable sediments in some areas and I am able to recover this beautiful whale vertebra with great spiny processes largely intact. 

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A nice partial shark tooth with good complete tip appears out of the sediment. 

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Here's a beautiful complete tooth in matrix. Hard to see in the photo, but there is a section of a marine mammal bone just underneath the tooth - a great sample piece showing a combo of fossils. 

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I recommend paying attention to the small details at this site. Here, a tiny bony plate from the jaw of a fish or small shark is cemented onto the sediments attached to a rib bone section. 

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A gorgeous full tooth shows it's ferocious and deadly curve. 

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I enjoy a peaceful evening sunset, rich with changing colors that are hard to name. In the following days, I head north to Placerville, and connect with a rockhound friend of mine who has made an important find of large, beautiful plates of druzy quartz on a brecciated serpentine matrix, near Washington, California. What follows are some photos of these wonderful specimens. 

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This druze has a very bright sparkle that is not conveyed by the camera! 

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Some amazingly sculptural and frothy pieces have been recovered. 

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Beautiful sub-surface colors lend blues, pinks, yellows, and greens to the various pieces. 

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Large, multi-layered pieces adorned with bright chalcedony icicles are my favorites.

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How about this monster museum piece?


Once again, I am amazed at the things that vigilant and persistent rockhounds are bringing in out of the field these days. Makes me want to get back out there as soon as I can! Happy Rockhounding! 




Published in Blog
Monday, 15 September 2014 19:30

An Exceptional Rockhound

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I recently had the pleasure of visiting a friend of mine, Mr. Lloyd Bryant, who I consider to be an exceptional rockhound. Here he shows off some bookends that he made from very nice quality local Oregon petrified woods. The top pair is especially impressive, and looks like it could easily hold the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica. 

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Lloyd immediately invites me into his living room, and shows me his gemstone knife collection, which he has painstakingly assembled over the years. Here he holds up the very first knife that he made, with its gorgeous and flawless petrified palm wood blade, and local Oregon petrified wood handle. 

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Here are a couple of one piece knives in the Bryant collection, the bottom one made from the finest quality British Columbia jade, and the top one made from a local Jackson County, Oregon petrified redwood tree, discovered by fellow rockhounding buddy Wes Riley, on Mt. Ashland. Wes admitted to me that he initially didn't think that the redwood log was worth shaking a stick at, but now, seeing the beautiful flowing grain pattern of Lloyds knives, he knows different.

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Out in his shop, Lloyd explains the various steps involved in the knife making process. Here a drill press cores out a knife handle with a precision rout that will be matched by the pin on the blade exactly. Lloyd will drill underwater, and the bucket he is using is salvaged from an old refrigerator. The ability to see other than intended purposes for all manner of gear is just one sign of the true old school lapidary. 

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Here's a closer look at the knife coring setup, with a view of the dual vise assembly that Lloyd created to hold the knife handle with unerring accuracy. Lloyd's style of lapidary is very adaptive, and visionary. A highly skilled machinist, he can problem solve and fabricate just about anything to get the job done. 

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Back in Lloyd's living room, here's a super sweet piece of Imperial Jasper out of Mexico, that he windowed superbly, showing off the almost unbelievable array of orbs. During Lloyds heyday, this jasper was more readily available than it is today, and it would now be quite difficult to come up with this quality of rough.

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A fantastic Blue Mountain Picture Jasper complete with glowing butterscotch heart! The claim for this material was held and worked by Leonard Kopcinski, of Lucky Strike thunderegg mining fame. Leonard passed away on September 1, 2014, at the age of 96. He was another wonderful, kind, and loveable rockhounding soul from the previous generation of miners and lapidaries. Rest in peace Leonard. 

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Lloyd is also a sphere maker and this one he calls "The Angel of McDermitt" named for the heavenly figure soaring over the picture jasper hills.

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I couldn't resist this gorgeous rhodochrosite heart which Lloyd crafted out of some very fine and flowery Argentinian material. 

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Out in his shop building, Lloyd shows off a 1000 lb. hoist that he has fabbed together out of forklift parts and other equipment. If your initial impression is like mine, you might be wondering what in the world anyone would do with one of these. Well, like I said before, Lloyd is an exceptional rockhound. I might want to make that "Rockhound" with a capital R! 

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He takes me into his petrified log room, and you can see what the hoist has been used for! 

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A glowing log of excellent quality Arizona rainbow petrified wood, weighing several hundred pounds, expertly contour polished on top stands tribute to Lloyd's incredible lapidary skill. 

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Equally large and impressive is this fantastic log out of Butte Falls, Oregon. 

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Another Arizona stunner, even more massive, and fiery than the first one. 

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I think almost everyone would agree that the Arizona rainbow is the cadillac of woods. Here's another incredible log, with brilliant contour polished top, representing hundreds of hours of work. 

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While the Arizona wood is striking, it is also somewhat abundant. There are other localities that produce interesting woods in less quantities, and the well known Hampton Butte collecting area in Eastern Oregon is one. Here, a gigantic agatized green wood log has been secured from that coveted locality. Collected perhaps 50 years ago, you can be very sure that it would be impossible to find something of this magnitude there today. 

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Here's another view of the Hampton Butte green wood log, with both of its ends contour polished out. The days and weeks of work done to accomplish this seem almost irrespective of the nature of time itself, and the log becomes something archtypal and timeless, rendered hither by some vast labor of love.

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Lloyd's property was initially a cattle ranch and the outbuilding that houses his shop was equipped with a milking station. Lloyd converted the area into his wet sanding and polishing station, and this is where he does the time consuming work of wet sanding his logs, and other smaller projects.

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For example, here's a more managable piece - a lovely carved Davis Creek, California electric rainbow obsidian that he is working on for his wife. 

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He calls this glowing beauty "The Monster" alluding to the hundreds of hours he has in on it. 

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The small details do not elude Lloyd's attention. Here, "dog and cat" survey another awesome standup specimen of Blue Mountain Picture Jasper. These two critters cut exactly as you see them, Lloyd explains. "I didn't do anything to them except put them on a base."

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In the fine tradition of the exceptional lapidary, Lloyd can make any machine that his mind dreams up. Here's a custom built 8 inch sanding drum attached to a flexible cable, for use on free style sanding projects using rock too large to hold up to the traditional arbor setup. 

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Here's a tumbler design that is straight out of Lloyds mind. I've never seen another one like it, and Lloyd claims that it's "ten times better than the traditional rotary drum style tumbler." I'm inclined to believe him! 

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A closer look at the setup, showing the brackets that hold up to six standard sized rotary drums, and swing them end over end. Lloyd's tumbling recipe is to load each drum with 50 unfinished cabs, and fill the drum the rest of the way with tiny stone "workers". (the term he uses for the small bits and pieces of agate, jasper and petrified wood leftover from various trimming and cutting projects) The resulting run can produce 300 finished cabochons. 

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Lloyd weighs out lapidary materials on a scale that was used for weighing newborns, and was discarded from a local hospital. There is an innocence to this, and a sweetness that I feel is somehow getting lost from today's lapidary world, and I long to preserve it, or at least document it, so that we have some record of it's seemingly forgotten elegance and goodness. 

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I'm only a fraction of the lapidary that Lloyd is. Some of his concepts and skills are barely comprehensible to me. His shop is like a magician's lair where pure magic becomes routine. He reaches down under a bench and pulls out a dusty old piece, handing it over to me as we say our goodbyes.

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It's a fantastic specimen of rare Louisiana petrified palm, in the round. Over the days to come, I take on the sanding of it in my own shop, and work it down, getting closer to a mirror finish. It's a challenging project that he has handed over to me. I lack Lloyd's exemplary skill, and his range of ability. My equipment is not designed for large sized pieces. My arms and back are aching by the time I come around to putting a final polish on this piece. In the end, I finish it less with skill, and the proper equipment, and more out of a singleminded and stubborn desire.

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I want to at least be able to hold up a candle to Lloyd's greatness. I'm proud to know this exceptional rockhound, and be inspired by him. He's a vanishing breed and if I stand in his shadow enough, than I will for sure get a better compass on what kind of person I would like to become. That's what rockhounds can do for each other! Pass it on!  





Published in Blog
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 21:49

Southern California Collecting 2013


If you've read my earlier blogs, then you know that I make an annual trip to Trona, California, for the Searles Valley Gem and Mineral Society Show, and to go out on the Searles Lake field trips, to collect world class evaporite minerals, such as this marvelously textural, large pink halite.

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One of the great rockhounding sites I pass by, on my way south, down Hwy 395, is Peterson Mountain, also known as Hallelujah. Here the road to Peterson invites me to drive on in and get a little digging done, with the peak directly ahead, and flaring orange in the last light of the setting sun. Believe me, I definitely think about it!

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Anywhere you dig has potential for smoky quartz crystals, but there are two claims up on the very top of the mountain, where permission is needed. In this picture, you can see the slide zone which extends on either side of the main rampart of rock near the summit. Crystals have definitely come from this area, and also from the sage slopes to the either side. 

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How do you know when you're there? Peterson Mountain is about 70 miles south of Susanville, CA, and 30 miles north of Reno, NV. It is accessed by an unmarked dirt road, spurring off of Hwy 395,  that is exactly one mile south of the road signed "Red Rock Road". You will see Red Rock Road as you are traveling south on 395. If you are heading north on 395, you will see these red rock formations, and know that you are very close. 

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Here are some of my best finds from nearly 20 years of rockhounding on Peterson Mountain. It strikes lightning into your heart when you find something like this! But remember, large scepters are rare. Realistically, you would probably need to make repeated trips over many years to hit a pocket that would yield a specimen like this. But then again, I've seen some first-timers that were handsomely rewarded by the mountain. Are you feeling lucky?

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An ancient earthen union, brought to light.

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Huge elestial scepter, with smaller (but still good sized) scepter keyed into it. 

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Here's the other side of this beauty!

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How about this otherworldly design? The main stem crystal actually is terminated, although it's hard to tell from this angle. An almost  ridiculous, yet entirely awesome amethyst and citrine elestial scepter head is partially wrapped around the large central smoky. 

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Who would have believed that such a geometry is possible?

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A burly "turkeyhead", as diggers call these large elestials. 

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Smoky amethyst tips!

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Back on Hwy 395 and heading to Trona, I pass through the scenic Walker River Valley, on the east side of the Sierras, south of Topaz Lake. Snows have been coming early to this part of the country, and you can see the hill on the horizon is dusted. 

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As the highway climbs higher, over on the back side of Yosemite, geothermal features are plainly revealed in the cold snap. 

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Just before I get to Mono Lake and around 7000 feet, I come to my favorite forever view of the high Sierras. Quaking aspens are turning gold, and running up and down just about every draw, as the land does a slow, undulation up towards the cloud capped summits. 

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 Aspens turn to flame beneath the silence of the frozen peaks. 

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Just around the corner, Mono Lake glitters enchantingly in the sullen light. The lake has been pulled back from the brink of destruction since a 1994 ruling mandating that water levels be restored to a higher mark, though still 25 feet below historic levels. Years of water diversion have brought a loss of 98% of the migrating duck population that once visited. The future now seems to hang in balance, like the scene over the lake this morning, with the fullness of the silvery light still shrouded by the circling storm. 

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I drop down from the snow zone, closer to the shore of Mono Lake, and can't resist taking a walk among the Quakies. Their golden bounty is fluttering down to earth, and covering the hillsides. 

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Creamy boulders of granite, smoothed by the weathering of eons are everywhere on the back side of the Sierras. To the stones, the brief pagentry of the trees must appear as only some quick flame that exhausts itself before one can turn and behold it. 

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I make it to the desert! There's some daylight left, so I decide to explore the mine grouping around the Talc Hills, accessed out of Lone Pine, via Hwy 190, just before it drops into Panamint Valley. The Talc City Mine produced nearly all the steatite grade talc in the US. By 1950, it's total production was a quarter of a million tons.

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A ramshackle talc ore chute falls apart at the top end of a cut. 

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A logo is still visible on one of the metal sheets. 

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There is a little druzy botryoidal chalcedony around here, but not much. 

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The miners' last ride. A rusted hulk sits down in the bottom of a talc pit. 

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The next morning, I catch the dawn at the Trona Pinnacles just south of Searles Lake. The murky hold of night is slowly washed away by the oncoming light. These ancient tufa towers are composed of calcium carbonate, deposited by calcium rich groundwater mixing with alkaline lake water during the Pleistocene Ice Ages. 

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During this time, massive runoff spilled from the Sierra Nevada, creating a chain of "inland seas" - a system of interconnected lakes that stretched from Mono Lake, to Death Valley, and included Searles Lake. 

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The silent monoliths from a bygone time stand witness as the muted tones of the night are thrown off in a golden sunrise. 

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Markers of ancient groundwater upwelling episodes that spanned 90,000 years, the ragged spines of pinnacles run out into the emptiness of the new day. The steam from the Searles Valley Chemicals processing plant is barely visible at the top left of the picture. 

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Interestingly, I learn from an interpretive sign that over 30 film projects a year are shot here at the Trona Pinnacles, including movies like Star Trek V, The Gate II, and Planet of the Apes. 

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Let the gem show begin! Bonnie Fairchild, shown here staffing the show office, along with her husband Jim have been the show anchors for decades. Without them, and a small number of volunteers from the club's membership, there would be no show and field trips! 

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Outside the show building, Jim Fairchild gives instructions to hundreds of eager field collectors, who are lining up for their once a year opportunity to collect some excellent pink halite. Check some of my other Trona blogs to get more details of this very significant weekend of field tripping. 

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Another pillar of the Searles Valley Gem Show, resident and miner Gail Austin cuts hundreds of geodes for attendees at the show. Here he shows off his 1873 first generation Peacemaker, made by Colt. 

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It's "the gun that won the West", and has been fully, and painstakingly restored by the same person who does antique gun restoration for the Smithsonian. 

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Additionally, I'm hanging out with rockhound Monica Travis, who is showing off an excellent boulder of Ballarat marble that she has found, just south of the ghost town of Ballarat, in Panamint Valley. The beautiful salmon colored marble with forest green streaking takes a very nice polish.

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This rock has about as nice a patterning as I've ever seen. 

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We are joined by University of Texas at El Paso geology graduate students Jade Brush, and Josh Glauch who are doing some masters work in the area, re-mapping geological units in Pleasant Canyon, over in adjoining Panamint Valley. As Jade put it, "When I looked at the existing geological map of Pleasant Canyon, the units just didn't make sense."

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We all set out on a field trip to the Stockwell Mine, on the flanks of the Slate Range, east of Searles Lake, where it was reported that a couple of sheriff's deputies, who are also rockhounds, made a find of chalcanthite earlier in the year. Soon after this photo, the road gets washed out and not even Josh's 4x4 can proceed. 

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 We move up into the canyons on foot. Josh is a strong hiker, and he is able to access multiple ridges, looking for the mine. Jade tries to recollect the exact location from memory, as she was here years before, but at that time, you could drive right up to the mine. 

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Like many mines in this part of the country, the Stockwell Mine is actually a mine grouping. We are looking for a specific tunnel, but there are numerous adits and shafts in various canyons in the area. Josh and I get distracted by an old can dump at the bottom of an ore landing.

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In a neighboring canyon, Jade has confirmed that this is the tunnel she visited earlier, and where the chancanthite was reported. It's showtime at the Stockwell! 

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Before we go in, my disclaimer: Exploring a mine tunnel is inherantly dangerous. In posting this blog, it is the sole intent of Scott's Rock & Gem to provide a record of exploration, and not to encourage anyone to enter a mine. To do so is to enter at your own risk. In fact, the common wisdom among rockhounds who operate safely, is to stay out of all mine tunnels! We have it on the authority of the two sheriff's deputies who explored this tunnel and located the chalcanthite, that it was safe. Also our miner friend, and Trona local, Gail Austin has said that it is a good tunnel. But as we make the decision to go in, each of us knows in the back of our heads that anything can happen. 

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We head in, and the light of day drops away behind us. The air deadens and grows stale. Large piles of rodent dung lie drifted here and there, and we try not to think about the dreaded hantavirus. Or falling rock. Up ahead, the tunnel tees and we make a right, into complete blackness. 

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A ladder descends into a vertical shaft that is just big enough to admit one person. Josh goes for it. Again, we had the assurance from miner Gail that the timber in this mine would be good. He based that on his knowledge that the mine had been worked as recently as 1975, and his experience of how well wood holds up over time in mines in this arid land. But as each of us takes hold of the top rung and we begin to lower ourselves into uncertain darkness, there is no doubt in our minds, that this is getting more dangerous by the minute.

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The ladder holds and we drop down into a lower tunnel, which quickly confronts us with another ladder. Still no chalcanthite in sight. We start to doubt ourselves because the deputies had only mentioned one ladder. Did we miss something somehow? Did we get off track? Josh forges ahead, determined. But the second ladder drops us onto a makeshift plank scaffolding that traverses a vertical shaft of unknown depth. Without a doubt, things are getting a bit hairy.

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Here, Monica descends a third ladder, and navigates a missing rung, while Jade spots. Josh has already continued across more funky planking, and has discovered a fourth ladder. I'm starting to think that we must have missed it. But just then, Josh calls up: "Chalcanthite!"

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The Stockwell chalcanthite zone exists as a secondary mineralization after mining, in a very fractured seam of white clay. It's quite rich with nice, fibrous blue crystals of chalcanthite filling in between the fractures in the clay. But there are some large lumps of fractured clay up at ceiling level that look like they may want to come down. Hopefully, not on anybody's head. Believe you me, I am looking up at that ceiling frequently, as I gingerly pull a few samples from the crumbling wall. But there is a good amount of chalcanthite, and no rocks fall. Everybody gets some nice samples.


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I think we all breathe a sigh of relief as we round the last corner on our exit, and see the heavenly light of day. 

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Back outside, Josh shows off an awesome, large chunk of clay just chock full of brilliant blue chalcanthite sprays. We work quickly to seal the mineral specimens with a clear coat of varnish. This is because chalcanthite is a pentahydrate. Having five waters in each molecule, it wants to give off water and dessicate very quickly. It must be sealed and protected from direct sunlight, and heat. 

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Here's a great piece, with large area of undamaged, bright blue fibers.

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Another very nice specimen with good coverage. 

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A superb, larger than hand-sized specimen with feathery tufts exploding across the surface. 

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How about this blue? Just to cure any skepticism: no photoshopping of any sort has been done to this photo! If you've made it this far, thanks for reading. As always, I wish you good times in the field, good memories, and good luck in your collecting!










Published in Blog
Monday, 25 November 2013 09:12

Lake Creek Oregon Agate Hunt

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Back in the early nineties, I spotted an ad in my local, Jackson County, Oregon, Nickel classified ads newspaper. (Yes, this was well before Craigslist) A guy was selling agate. I visited his house, and bought some pieces, including this rather large nodule. He said that he had found the agate near Lake Creek, Oregon, after having noticed that a lot of the agate at the Crater Rock Museum, in Central Point, Oregon, was labeled as being from the Lake Creek area. 

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Our friendly neighborhood Crater Rock Museum was founded in 1954, and houses a shop, with a saw big enough to cut my large nodule. They also have a world class mineral collection, and the museum is well worth the visit, if you are in the southern Oregon area: 2002 Scenic Avenue, Central Point, OR. Generally open Tuesdays through Saturdays. Phone number 541 664-6081 

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I was stunned to see that my "garage sale" nodule cut with a fantastic, white plume interior! From then on, Lake Creek was on my rockhound radar! I have made trips out there for almost 20 years now, and the area still holds a few surprises each time I go.

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On a gorgeous golden Sunday, in late November 2013, I decide to go agate hunting, to see what might be found. The Lake Creek area can be accessed from Ashland, Oregon, via the Dead Indian Memorial Road, which takes off from Hwy 66 at the south end of Ashland. The photo shows the DIM road ascending below the summit of Grizzly Peak, a prominent landmark on the horizon, east of Ashland.

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 On the way up, I notice that somebody had a little extra holiday spirit this year!

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 The route up provides some excellent vistas of the quaint little town of Ashland, with Pompador Bluff seen on the right, in the middle distance. 

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As you round Pompador Bluff, at just the right angle, you can see "the old man in the mountain", open-mouthed, and seemingly asking a question forever to the empty sky. 

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Pompador Bluff, and other cliffs in the area are composed of the sandstones and conglomerates of the Payne Cliffs formation, which was deposited during the Eocene time, some 40 million years ago, when rivers flowed slowly across the land, periodically flooding, and  moving large amounts of materials.

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From Dead Indian Memorial Road, I take the Shale City Road. As the sign indicates, there is a very nice trail to the summit of Grizzly Peak, up this road at the 4.7 mile mark. The Lake Creek Road is just a short distance beyond that. 

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 The Lake Creek Road is signed (37-2E-7.2) but the photo shows a far more prominent sign at the juncture. The Cascade Cattle Ranch has definitely made recent efforts in this area to out-sign the BLM, and you will note numerous "No Trespassing" signs along some stretches of the Lake Creek road. Please obey all signs in the area, so rockhounds will remain welcome. It only takes a few people thinking that the signs are for somebody else and not them, to get the area closed.  

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A couple of mourning doves take some sun on the Lake Creek Road. Even the days stay cold now, and these birds are reluctant to move from their sunny patch. 

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Just around a corner in the road, deer are browsing. This photo was taken earlier in the season, as evidenced by the green grass, but I see several deer today, and they are abundant in the area. 

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 At about 5 miles down the Lake Creek Road, a clearing opens up, and you get a marvelous view of Mount McLoughlin, a picture perfect cinder cone. Here, BLM spur road 37-2E-17 leads into one of the agate bearing areas. Note: this road is currently under question as to whether or not it's actually open to collecting. On my most recent (March 2015) trip out here, the local ranch had this road signed "No Tresspassing" but it still retains a BLM number designation. I have yet to contact the BLM to determine the status.  

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The road, and woods in this area are underlain in some parts by a vessicular basalt, and some of the vugs are filled with agate nodules of various sizes. Most are small, as shown in the photo, with pea sized agates, up to the largest one, which is about one inch. But occasionally, bigger nodules are found. 

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The spur road runs for about a quarter mile, and leads down to an irrigation canal. One possible approach to this rather large area, where agate is thinly scattered, is to dig adjacent to the road, in any area where you see  a concentration of agates. You could get lucky. The area in the photo occurs just before the spur road makes a final descent down to the irrigation canal.

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Over the years, I've done some scratching of the surface, down to about 10 inches in this area.


I spot a pretty good sized one right in the road. Only the tip top was poking out. You have to use a pick and pull at anything you see in this area. You never know when a small piece will turn out to be larger than it first appeared. 


Back at my shop, I cut the large agate nodule, revealing a nice interior of milky gray/blue depth, with some interesting detail at the edges where the agate contacted the surrounding basalt during formation. 


It's not the most aesthetic piece that I have ever found here, but it's not bad, and will certainly make a good display piece once polished. 


Here is a nice nodule that I lucked out and dug up, just off the side of the road in this area. To me it's somewhat reminiscent of the more famous Brazilian agate nodules. I love the hollow crystal lined chambers hidden within some of the nodules found here. 

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Here's a little secret that very few if any rockhounds know: There are some beautiful agatized limb casts in this exact little area. I haven't found them anywhere else, in these agate bearing hills. These are obviously extremely rare, and I may not even find one per year. But occasionally they do show up. 

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After the spur road has dropped down, but just before it gets to the irrigation canal, there is a large downed tree. I always check the root wads of these fallen trees, hoping for agates. You can continue to check each year, as rains wash out the root wad, revealing more material. 

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At the juncture with the irrigation canal, the spur road effectively ends, as it is bisected by a creek coming in from the right, which continues on downhill, through the metal chute. The irrigation canal continues straight ahead, through the black culvert, and a maintenance road follows along it's side.

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Walking the maintenance road, along the irrigation canal, I spot a pretty red moss agate, which grades to a yellowish area, and finally into a milky gray blue area with green moss - cool! 

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A few feet further on is this decent sized, cuttable four inch nodule.

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And just a little down from that, is this sweet little druzy piece of rock crystal from a geode cavity of old. 


As you climb up a down on the hillsides here, you periodically get some very nice views of Mt. McLoughlin peeking above nearer ridgelines. This is a December view, with the mountain fully cloaked in wintery robes. 

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Walking around in the woods, I find this standard, but decent five inch agate and crystal geode which would clean up, and could be windowed to make a presentable piece. My finds today aren't top notch, but these are the kinds of things which keep you going on the hunt. 

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A little further on, I make my find of the day in these wooded hillsides - a real nice large, fist sized agate chunk that is all wormy on one side with chalcedony coated tubes. This will most certainly cut with a great display, and could just be cleaned and left as is, for a fantastic specimen.


What follows is a short gallery of my best finds, from the past two decades of collecting in this area. Here a large and gorgeous nodule is festooned with green moss, threading throughout moonlight gray/blue agate. Nodules of this size are very uncommon, and it is quite lucky to find one.  


Fantastic almost ten inch nodule with very artistic interplay of agate and moss. 


Sweet eliptical nodule with large clay tubes running through translucent gray agate. 


 A perfect balance of moss and agate, with sparkling druzy pocket for accent. 


 Spectacular multi-colored jasper discovered after the flood of 97 made the irrigation canal jump it's banks, and carve out a section of hillside. 


Weird and beautiful gnarly nodule. 


Botryoidal druzy cavity. 


This one rivals Brazilian agate in my mind. 


An exceptionally large geode nodule that I dug out from underground, up on a wooded ridge. 


Wonderful gray mossy nodule with fantastic stalactitic chamber. 


Crazy jasper cored moss agate with botryoidal agate covering. 

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There's not enough time in a day. For every agate that I find, I believe that there are dozens still hiding under the soil. Exploration of this area takes a lot of patience and time due to steep, thickly wooded terrain. You will notice that none of the agates in my gallery looked anything like the original white plume nodule that got me going on rockhounding this area. There must be another area, but I may need another lifetime to find it! Or maybe I'll get lucky and find it the next time I vist the Lake Creek agate beds. Happy rockhounding! 


Published in Blog
Tuesday, 20 August 2013 23:01

Precious Opal from the Virgin Valley

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While the high desert of northern Humboldt County, in Nevada may at first appear empty, unpopulated, and even desolate, you might be surprised to learn that within the Virgin Valley mining district, there are thousands of claims, some of them patented, which mean that the Federal Government has passed the title to the claim owner, making it private land. Here, a BLM sign points the way towards a precious opal mining adventure for those rockhounds who want to fee dig at one of the several mines that allow public digging.


The Virgin Valley mining district is contained within the Sheldon Antelope Refuge. It's the middle of June, but this female still sports a bit of winter scruff and she might still need it. With elevations on the refuge ranging from 4000 to 7000 feet, cold temperatures are never far away. 


Throughout the valley floor, low mounds of eroding clay yield small chips of petrified wood, yellow colored selenite, and in certain areas, precious opal! 


Scattered black cap rock from an ancient horizon that is now all but gone, gives little clue as to the fiery treasure that could be hiding at depth below. 


About 20 million years ago, this area was forested, and received over 50 inches of rain annually. This opalized limb of an ancient tree was buried in volcanic ash from eruptions that occurred 12 to 20 million years ago. as the limbs from trees disintegrated in the ground, they left hollow casts which were later filled with a silica solution, as hydrothermal water flows percolated through the ash layer. 


Not all opal is precious. While the rind, or outer skin of this awesome limb shows the mesmerizing play of color that is characteristic of precious opal, you can see that its core is composed of milky opal, also called common opal, which is glassy and beautiful, but does not have the play of color. 


There are varying kinds of "fire" or "play of color" in the Virgin Valley opals. Here a fiery little limb displays "direct fire" which is where you can see the color directly head on, whichever way you turn the opal in the sunlight. 


In this photo, a clear glassy opal (known as crystal) displays "contra luz" fire. Literally meaning "against the light", this type of fire emerges in the opal when you hold it up to the sun, and let the sunlight come through the opal from behind. 


Stringy fire - I'm not sure if this is an accepted gemological term, or if it is one of those rockhound names, but you can see that the fire in this lovely opal is definitely stringy in the main mass. Towards the edge, the fire goes more into "broadflash". 


Black Fire - this is the most rare of all the types of opals from the Virgin Valley. And, it's what the Virgin Valley is famous for. By some accounts, this area is really the only place in the world that produces true black fire opal. 


Opals from the Virgin Valley come out of a wet clay layer, and must be kept immersed in water or they will dry out and craze (show a million fractures) possibly greatly reducing their fire, or totally losing it (and with it, their value). While opinions on the successful stabilization (drying out without fracturing) of Virgin Valley opals will vary, one claim owner shared his opinion that the percentage of unstable opals from the area was in the high 90's. In other words, very few Virgin Valley opals can be used for jewelry making. They are specimen opals only. 


But if the fire can be taken away, it can also be given! Some opals that at first appear only milky, have the potential to "fire up" as they dry out. Here, a freshly dug milky opal still holds that mystery. Some opal hounds have a practice of keeping everything, just in case the white opal decides to fire up later on. Others toss their un-fiery opal, and the tailings diggers coming behind them are hoping to come across some of these discards that have gained fire.


The first mine workings in Virgin Valley were started in 1905. Today, there are more people, claims, and encampments then ever, but it's still a pretty isolated, and tiny enclave of humanity. Here, opal hounds caravan down dirt roads leading to various claims where they can pay a fee to dig in the tailings, dig in the opal bearing clay on the virgin wall, or buy their opals direct from claim owners and millsites in the valley. 


Let's get digging! Here comes a load of virgin opal bearing clay, fresh out of a mine, as opal diggers wait with great anticipation. 


Fresh out into the daylight! A completely opalized limb holds potential for play of color. 


Here, a limb over 6 inches long surfaces, held in the 20 million year old embrace of clay. It doesn't appear to have any opal content, but still, a long limb like this is a beautiful geological treasure in and of itself. 



After a day of digging, the nearby CCC camp offers free camping, potable water, restrooms, and a tepid swimming pond complete with toe nibbling minnows. 


The Friends of the Refuge have restored the old bath house at the CCC Camp, so you can have a shower. 


Or just soak your cares away after a hot day's labors.


A sweet touch at the CCC Camp, from a local boyscout troop. 


For a quick access field trip that is a good wind-up, or wind-down to opal digging, go directly across Hwy 140 from the main entrance to Virgin Vally, and check the low, chocolate brown rocks that outcrop on that side. 


Small chips of a nice, gummy bear orange carnelian can be found throughout the soil below the rock outcrops. But you will need to search dilligently, as this area has been rockhounded by several generations of surface hunters. 


Or take hammer and chisel and attack the rocks themselves, which are the source of the carnelian, and offer tiny pockets of this material. But be forwarned, the rock here is extremely tough!  


If you can't find opal when you go digging, you will almost certainly be able to find some "standard" brown petrified wood. Here, a good sized limb that is not opalized has come out of the wall at the Royal Peacock Mine. 


Now this is getting better! Here's a piece of petrified wood with a thin seam of precious opal traveling through its interior. 


A Virgin Valley oddity: an opalized limb with petrified rootlets within. As one claim owner explained, millions of years ago, the area had lakes. As these lakes dried up, willows were among the first trees to colonize the drying lakebeds, and they had aggressive root systems which plumbed some of the hollow casts left in the deeper soil by decayed wood. As the casts filled with silica solution, the roots were encased and fossilized along with the limb cast. 


You have to look close. Precious opal can sometimes be easy to miss. This piece of opal didn't appear to have any areas of fire at first. 


But when a small chip was popped out of the center, it revealed a nice area of rare black fire core that was stable! 


Despite all your best efforts, you might get skunked, and it's not really your fault if you work hard and find nothing. As one claim owner at the Bonanza Mine put it, "Your chances of finding opal are slim to none". I dug the wall hard for 7 hours at the Royal Peacock Mine, and got nothing to show for it. But I saw a digger right next to me pull a beautiful precious opal limb! 


Here, a nice long opalized limb has been found in the opal bearing clay, but shows no hint of color. 


Here it is cleaned up, and it's really quite a nice specimen of crystal (glass clear) and white opal limb, even if it doesn't have any color. But this piece could mysteriously fire up later on as it drys out, and of course that's what everybody hopes for! 


A wild burro brays in the distance, and the sound is overly large and obnoxious in this empty land. It's as if the burro is laughing at the fool diggers out there scratching at the dirt. And it's true: we're pretty far out of our element and engaged in the rockhound equivalent of a Quixotic quest, searching for that proverbial needle in a hundred haystacks! 


But the lure of black fire keeps diggers coming back to try again! 


Opalholics, we're called! And you can see why. Here, a beautiful, large, domed limb shows deep reflected points of colorful fire that dance within, in a way that the camera cannot possibly convey. 


A fiery white limb section shows off some poppin' flashes. 


A real sweet, direct fire limb. 


How about this whopper! What are Virgin Valley opals worth? While travel videos on TV toss out big figures as diggers pluck opals from the wall, other claim owners prefer to keep quiet, and let the opal speak for itself. I will say this: some of the opals in these photos, which I purchased from the Bonanza Mine millsite, back in the mid 1990's, were not very expensive. I'm not sure I am able to believe some of the pricing I'm hearing today. 


One miner told me that if the Virgin Valley opal was stable, he would just be cutting, and not running a fee dig. I think that's a telling statement. It's true that the very best specimens of any kind of mineral, including opal, will always command a high price. So a fantastic specimen opal from the Virgin Valley might be right up there in price, when compared to a fine cuttable opal from Australia. But in general, the capricious, unstable nature of the Virgin Valley opals will probably always preclude them from being readily embraced by the gem industry.  


It's good to admire beauty for beauty's sake, without notions of price, and the Virgin Valley opals make it easy to do just that. The wall of fire in this opal looks like some other-dimensional realm out of a Star Trek movie. Live long and prosper. And maybe get an opal dig in while you're out there travelling the universe!




Published in Blog
Sunday, 18 August 2013 19:24

Davis Creek Rainbow Obsidian

 Editor's note:For 2020 and perhaps longer, the obsidian sites mentioned in this blog, which are in the Modoc National Forest in Northern California are closed to collecting, while the Forest Service and other stake holders in the area decide how to best manage this resource. The Forest Service writes:

"More recently, commercial mining impacts have increased as overseas purchasers sought large quantities. This led to a number of unsustainable impacts to the resource, surrounding forest and nearby communities. Theft and illegal mining activities have increased substantially with evidence of heavy equipment, unauthorized roads, wildfire ignitions, unsafe mining practices, impacts on other forest users and an overall unsustainable removal of this non-renewable resource.

“We have the responsibility to insure this resource is available to tribal members for traditional cultural practices for generations to come and we appreciate providing this unique recreational activity for those who can use the resource sustainably,” said District Ranger Lisa Spahr. “We know it is a small percentage of users causing most of the issues, but the current situation has become unmanageable and we are forced to make the tough decision to put a moratorium on all collection until these issues can be addressed.”


My old rockhound buddy, Rollie Emerson, out of Susanville, California called me up out of the blue, and asked me if I wanted to go digging. I hadn't heard from him in about eight years. "Well, let's get one in for old time's sake", I said. "We aren't getting any younger!" We chose to hit the Davis Creek Obsidian area in Northern California. Prior to arriving at the dig sites, Rollie and I stopped at the Davis Creek Store to get our free forest service permits. The casual rockhound is allowed to collect and keep 100 pounds per year. That's roughly two 5 gallon buckets full - more than enough to play with. 


At the Davis Creek rainbow area today, commercial mining is on the decline. Large, established commercial digs like the Broken Pick Mine above are a thing of the past. As always, it's hand digging only at Davis Creek. No mechanization is allowed.


For safety reasons, the tall bank that you see in the back in this old photo has today been terraced by the Forest Service to cut back any dangerous overhangs.

Many trees were removed in the process of re-contouring the bank, so the area is much more open today and can get quite hot in the summertime. 

According the the clerk at the Davis Creek Store, a few bad actors have been disrespecting the rainbow area, acting recklessly, and pilfering. In response, the Forest Service has installed a gate at the bottom of the spur going into the collecting area. I lucked out in 2018 - the gate had been opened for a gem and mineral club, and was not yet locked when I visited the site. So I could drive in, but apparently the gate is now usually locked which means you will have to carry out any obsidian you collect. The carry out is approximately two tenths of a mile, so it might be beneficial to bring a wheel barrow, or hand truck to carry out your obsidian (up to 100 lbs. only) unless you just like pretending you're one of the characters in Dante's Inferno!

A road that was illegally cut into the obsidian collecting area has been blocked by the Forest Service. This type of thoughtless behavior can only result in the area being closed to everyone. There are more and more land closures every year, so we all need to be responsible to help keep open what precious few opportunities to collect still remain. Please do your best to respect the land here and maybe our children and theirs will still be able to come here, collect material like grandpa and grandma did, and be enriched by the beauties of the natural world.  



In this archival photo of the old commercial diggings, you can see about 6 feet of soil overburden has been cut through to get to the obsidian layer. An old obsidian miner friend of mine reported that they once got a 750 pound rainbow obsidian boulder out of the mine. How do you load a piece like that without any mechanization? "Brute strength and ignorance!" the old miner says.


Days gone by. In the past tons of obsidian had been transported by bucket load out of the area. Commercial miners would sell this material to rock shops, and cutting houses needing bulk amounts. I have gotten several calls from Chinese sourcers, looking to buy container loads of the coveted Davis Creek obsidian, but I have to tell them that I am a hobby digger, not a commercial miner, and the days of container loads are over. 


Anxious to get digging, Rollie and I park at what used to be the tree covered separate public digging area. As noted earlier, this entire area has now been stripped of trees, and is a sun drenched, terraced bank about 30 feet tall.  In this picture you can see one of the old tailings piles, at the far right. 


Here, Rollie and I set in on a wall that has about 7 feet of exposure, getting us down through the soil overburden and putting us right on top of the obsidian layer. Not too bad! Rollie checks a piece of obsidian. We look to see if we can see visible striping on the outside of the rock, which indicates the presence of the rainbow flow bands within. 


I work at the juncture of the floor and the wall, since that is where the zone turns from mostly dirt, to mostly obsidian cobbles. 


Rollie mentions that there is obsidian in the soil overburden also, and sure enough, he soon uncovers a nice sized boulder. 


Being more fluffy, the soil layer is easier to dig in, and Rollie quickly pulls down the boulder. But we're not sure if it's the prized rainbow or not. There is a mixed bag of obsidian present in this pit, and while some is bright rainbow, some is more black, some silver or gray sheen, and some is mahogany. 


We're in luck! A stroke of the rock pick flakes off an edge, revealing some nice banding of rainbow colors. We have to hold the rock at an oblique angle to get it to fire, but this can be helped by cutting, or doming the rock at a more parallel angle to the striping of the flow banding. An ideal angle is probably about 10 or 15 degrees offset from parallel. Please note that chipping or cracking obsidian is inherently dangerous. Obsidian breaks with razor sharp edges, and tiny needle sharp fragments can fly up into your face with great velocity. Always wear protective glasses when chipping or breaking obsidian. 


Meanwhile, my dig looks like it's going to produce a big rock!


I pull it out, and can see the color from a flake off the end. 


Rollie holds a rock showing lovely pastel banding. 


There are some awesome purple sheens coming out of this pit. 


This rock had marvelous stripes of rich, vibrant color. 


Here's one that has purple stars that dance around on the surface. 


The colors at the Davis Creek rainbow pit are electric. This is a premier gem obsidian. Rollie and I get a full bucket of great material.  

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A Davis Creek rainbow obsidian piece after windowing into a dome shape to capture the bullseye effect. Almost any piece you work on will yield an exquisite piece of natural art! 

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Interestingly, this and the previous piece are cut from the same rock, showing the color variations that come within a very short amount of space.

Because of pulses and movement in the original lava flows, you get these rippled banding effects that look like the Northern Lights.

Golden rainbow of light!

Beautiful teals and golds with a textured look.

Peppermint stripe.

 The patterns are endless, and it ends up that there is not enough lifetime to get all the lapidary work done that there is to do out here!  


On the way up to the Pink Lady mine, which is about another 8 miles uphill, we pass the famous Needle Hill digging area. This hillside yields intersting, long, thin shards of black and mahogany obsidian that look a little like knitting needles. Generations of rockhounds have dug here, but there is still material available. The needles have a tone when struck, and are often used by crafters to make nice, musical sounding windchimes. 


The ground at Needle Hill is absolutely littered with black and mahogany obsidian cobbles. But there is no sheen obsidian here. There is one commercial pit on Needle Hill, but the hillside is big enough to accomodate a bus load of diggers, so there should be no problem finding a spot to dig. Rollie and I move on up the mountain however, anxious to locate the Pink Lady Mine. 


It turns out that the Pink Lady is not so easy to find. It's not visible from the Forest Service road, and you have to spur off on an unmarked dirt road that takes you back a few hundred yards to the digging area. After a few false chases down the wrong spurs, we finally find the area, which looks a bit like a moonscape with numerous craters. Obviously, a lot of work has been done here by generatons of rockhounds. There are good sized trees growing on some of the tailings piles. Rollie and I try to decide where to dig in. 


Driven by some instinct that can't be fully explained, Rollie burrows into the ashen white soil.


He's got something, and it looks big. Tightly keyed into the rocky soil, it's not moving. 


But Rollie prevails and the Pink Lady yields up a boulder of pink sheen! 


The thing I like about Rollie is the thing I like about most good rockhounds. He's a generous person. Here, he lets me into his hole, since my luck seems to have run out, but his is running strong. You can see the large cavity that his boulder left, and there's another good sized rock right below it. 


You did say I could have this one right Rollie? Friend...old buddy...old pal?


I pull out a significant boulder. Not quite as big as the first one, but that's OK, because I need my back to stay in one piece!


Nice soft pastel pink and gold sheens in the boulder from the Pink Lady Mine. Most certainly, there is more down in the pit, but it's getting late, and it's been an awesome day of beautiful sheen obsidian collecting.



Besides that, we have to leave something for the next person - That's you! Yes you. So go ahead and turn off your device, Go get your permit, and get out there (Once the Forest Service decides to re-open the area). It's waiting for you! Happy rockhounding!




Published in Blog
Tuesday, 16 July 2013 22:18

Eastern Oregon Rockhound Ramble, Part 2


As detailed in Eastern Oregon Rockhound Ramble, Part 1, I was out in the field, thoroughly enjoying the first part of a three week rockhounding tour, organized by some Seattle friends. I joined the group at the famous eastern Oregon Glass Butte obsidian grounds, where we collected rainbow, fire, midnight lace, and other beautiful obsidian varieties. 

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Then we moved on to a white plume agate site, in the drainage of Stinking Water Creek, near Juntura, Oregon. Here's a large boulder of luscious white plume agate that I discovered while collecting at this prolific site. The persistent rains that had hung in the skies the whole time out, finally abated as we left the white plume site, and we decided to take a look down the Warm Springs Reservoir road. Norma McDonald, our trip navigator had some GPS coordinates for points along that road, and the area was also listed in the Gem Trails of Oregon guide.

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Probably we were due to strike out, after the last two awesome sites. Half of rockhounding is figuring out where things aren't! There were some small sized, plain white agate nodules in some of the open fields and low hills adjacent to the road, as the photo shows, but nothing of any size. It was a beautiful day, transitioning out of the rains. The bright sunshine and big puffy white clouds were much appreciated after so much wet gray weather. One member of our group did find a nice little obsidian arrowhead while wandering around, so the area wasn't completely without reward.


We only got one day of transition from the rains. The next day was full strength sun, with temps shooting up into the high 90's. Norma had some GPS coordinates for a picture jasper site, out on the Rock Canyon Road, south of Vale, Oregon. We arrived at the spot, and our group fanned out, hiking up, and combing the sides, top, and back of this good sized hill. 


As foreshadowed in Part 1 of the Eastern Oregon Rockhound Ramble, we were skunked again. Here, I mercilessly rate the site, clutching my meager collection of incredibly scarce, leaverite style jasper, with no pattern!


From the "Picture No Picture Jasper" site, it was about another 10 miles to the base of Negro Rock, a remote landmark, and reportedly home to some colorful, though scarce petrified wood. I had one piece of literature in my rock collecting folder that indicated that the Model A was the best vehicle to make the trip out to Negro Rock, so you get an idea of how many years this site has been on rockhounds' radar. 


On the way out, we encounter two creek fords with water depths of up to about 20 inches - too deep for my passenger van. For a precarious moment, it looks like I am going to have to walk in - the logical consequences of bringing a low clearance vehicle out on these roads! But happily, the group softens to my plight, gear is shuffled, and I park my insufficient rig, and  jump into a higher clearance, more "submersible" vehicle.


The printed guide indicates that the digs here are hard to find and that the wood is deep, at least 6-7 feet. I circumnavigated the entire hill, changing elevations up and down along the traverse, looking for any sign. Others in our group struck out in different directions, but when we reunited, the story was the same. There was no sign of any digging in the area, no real sign of any float, save for a couple chips of jasper-like material that were too small to be recognizeable as wood. I think this might be an area that you would need to plan on staying at, and digging in deeply, hoping to get lucky. Those guys that drove the Model A's probably got most of it. Today, with heat close to 100, and no obvious sign of any sort to encourage us, except the entire bleached skeleton of a cow on the hillside, we weren't sure we were up to it.


Several months later, I came across this slab in an old rockhound collection. It was marked as "petrified wood from Negro Rock" - beautiful material with its golds and subtle lavenders. I guess it must still be out there somewhere, in the sun baked emptiness of Malheur County, far eastern Oregon. 



With guides, and GPS coordinates turning out to be less than optimal, we decided to rely on the good ole fashioned tribal knowledge of our rockhound friends Ken and Jeanine Metz, shown here at Negro Rock. The couple had visited a pink plume agate site in the Owyhee country, out of Nyssa, Oregon, years ago, and they said material had been abundant. In the morning, they would attempt to guide us to the site, using only their memory. This conveyance of knowledge using the rockhound oral tradition proved to be a valuable asset. 


Now this is more like it! A rockhound longs only for the bright sky, the yielding earth, and the clang of steel! Ok, maybe a little Taco Bell thrown in there somewhere (wink).  As we neared the base of the low "Pink Plume" hill, we saw the first signs of agate float in the road. Again, almost magically, I was only on site about 30 minutes before I discovered a big agate mass just under the soil, and it wasn't moving. On the way back down to the rigs, to get bigger tools, I found another large chunk, poking out of a small drainage channel on the hillside. 


Meanwhile, Carol Rust had discovered a large knob of Owyhee jasper over on the hillside across the road from Pink Plume. Now the rockhounds had work to do! In the photo, the knob is only partially cleared off. It eventually yielded several hundred pounds of material. 


Would you put down the camera and grab a pry bar already? Here Kevin McDonald works the jasper hole, while the whole group is happily digging up the hillside in various spots. Temperatures are climbing, and nearing 100. But the fun of finding seams of agate and jasper allows the rockhound to somehow transcend physical limitations - at least for a time.  We drink lots of water, and manage to stay productive and ignore the long slow build of roiling heat.

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At my hilltop pink plume hole, I pull out a very nice looking 5 pound chunk with pastel pink plumes arising off a greenish base, and dancing into snowy agate. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. The rest of this nice rock comes out, and it's a 20 pounder! The hole continues to yield good sized chunks of rock, and then the fantastic happens. Ken and Kevin dig in and pull out a giant agate boulder well over 100 pounds! 


Here's a smaller piece from the same hole, that polished up quite nicely. 


Here's a dome-polished, hand sized piece from the Pink Plume hill float, showing some nice colors.  

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 A very nice pink plume agate, with excellent patterning, representative of the best that the site had to offer. 


A short gallery of some additional pieces from the Pink Plume Hill site, that I worked on when I got back from the Owyhee country. 





Pink Plume Parfait!



 Owyhee Country! After collectively loading hundreds of pounds of material, we drive some rough roads to the canyon rims, where it's a few degrees less sweltering, there's an awesome "forever" view, and a nice breeze blowing. Interestingly enough, there's a little pink plume float even way up here. 

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At sundown, we make camp at the bottom of a four wheel drive track that ascends to a nearby mesa where Owyhee jasper can be found. At night, temps lower a bit, to sit in the 80's and the canyon rock and walls stay radiant with heat. 

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In the morning, we'll ascend the dirt track, which pops up in the saddle to the left of this flat top mesa, and leads into jasper country. 

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To inspire our tired group, and renew the desire for the chase, Norma McDonald brings out a color flyer she has, that features some very juicy pictures of varietal Owyhee jaspers. Here's an example from my personal collection that I call "The Ascension"

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Another specimen that should be illustrative of why rockhounds comb this rugged country, in search of elusive, beautiful jaspers. 


The sublime beauty of even the simple toned Owyhee jaspers.


Can you spot the Owyhee Jasper dig in this picture? Hint: blue backpack marks it. 


In the words of Norma McDonald: "Now that's an Owyhee jasper seam"!


Owyhee jasper color. This seam yielded material that looked a little bit like the famous Australian mookite. 

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By evening the heat builds, and with it thunderheads, that threaten rain. In the middle of the night a large bank of clouds moves in, and I can see it's filled wth lightning. I'm about 15 miles back in the rugged Owyhee country, over dirt roads that will quickly turn to mud, should the true force of these rainclouds cut loose. Reluctantly, I decide that I had better get back to pavement, rather than risk getting stuck out here, and causing the group to be delayed.

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On my way out: A gorgeous sunrise, and some rain does fall. In the next couple days, a heat wave hits. Little did we know, it had been cool at 100 degrees. The daytime highs climb to a near record 113, and warnings go out in town to stay inside. Our group retreats to a hotel in Nyssa, and holes up, until things cool back down to a nice, comfortable 100!

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I Head for home, back over the shoulders of the Cascade Mountain Range, past the amazing ramparts of Mt. Thielson.


After the heat wave and thunderstorms, lightning set off fires in the Succor Creek area of Eastern Oregon, which burn right up to the road, and cause the rest of the group to abandon collecting plans in that region. 


 The group heads for camp in snakeskin agate country, near Rome, Oregon. 

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Collecting is still good, as you can see, even though this area has produced quantities of the whimsically shaped snakeskin agate for generations of rockhounds. 


Snakeskin agate has very little to no color or pattern inside. It's simply the fantastical shape that rockhounds can't resist. Kevin Rust poetically comments that, "When I hit one big one underground, it was like hitting into a swarm of weiner dogs! A whole bunch showed up."


A visit to the Purple Cow hole, near McDermitt, Nevada. This pit has produced a variegated jasp-agate that has some nice purple, amethystine areas. 


Kevin McDonald finally finds some McDermitt petrified wood!


A Disaster Peak jasper hole, McDermitt, Nevada. Note the weird giant picasso concretion, leaned against the pit wall, to the right and up behind Kevin McDonald's head. 


At the Davis Creek, California obsidian area, claim owner Frank Newman shares some shade that was produced "miner style". 


Carol Rust nicknamed this large boulder of Davis Creek rainbow obsidian "The Birdbath". 


Another Davis Creek rainbow obsidian in the Kevin and Carol Rust collection. The great color and fantastic swirling pattern of the flows, really does make this material some of the best rainbow that you can collect. 


Spectacular play of colors in Davis Creek rainbow obsidian. 


Beautiful purple sheen moves across a Davis Creek obsidian slab like the Northern Lights. 


Captain, she can't take much more! Maximum capacity has been reached. Lifespan of vehicle suspension at this rock load level: dubious. At some point, you know it's time to head for home. I'll hope to see everyone again on the rockhound trails!

Published in Blog
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