Scott's Blog - Scott's Rock and Gem
Monday, 06 June 2016 14:31

Rockhounding Montana

OldFaithful

My Seattle rockhound friends announced that they were going to Montana and then on to South Dakota for some rockhounding, and did I want to join them? Immediately thoughts of famed Yellowstone National Park jumped into my mind. 

ElectPeakEve

Though there's no collecting within the park, there are hundreds of miles of trails through some of America's best wilderness. The four winds move about the mountain tops and ragged peaks sigh fog out into seemingly infinite space.

ElkAtMammoth 

Besides the otherworldly geothermal features, the park is like a zoo without bars. Here young elk practice rutting beneath the steaming travertine terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. 

ElkClose

There's nothing like the bugle call of a bull elk beneath the stars on a crisp Montana night. 

Aspens

I decide to go for it! I'll be happy just to be in the magical Montana high country once again. 

BearCnynCamp

The plan is more or less Bear Canyon for fortification agate and fossils, maybe a side trip to the Yellowstone River for Montana Agate,  and then on to Teepee Canyon for red fortification agate, and Fairburn agates. What's not to like? Heading over to the east side of the state, my rockhounding buddies and I meet up at Bear Canyon, south of Billings by about 60 miles, and located in the Pryor Mountains. We camp at the mouth of the Bear. The red butte in the near distance is a remnant of the Jurassic Chugwater formation.

RedButte

 The red rock is not fossiliferous, but the lighter cap rock is, and it extends from the top of the butte, just above the thickest red rock outcropping, and on down the back side of the hill.

Rabbit 

A few cottontails live in the red Jurassic soil on the side of the butte. 

Montana 002

The light cap rock at the top of the butte looks barren, but if you split layers of it, you will find shell fossils. 

Montana 001

Here's a nice positive and negative specimen. 

CoralHunt

We had our best luck searching for coral on the more gentle slopes of the west side of the red butte. Small pieces were randomly around in the soil, but it did seem like there were lucky spots where there was a little more concentration of coral pieces. 

Montana 004

Thumb sized coral pieces from the west side of the red butte. 

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The surfaces of these corals showed very nice star shaped patterning. 

RimCampView

Time to hunt for the elusive Bear Canyon agate. From our camp, the road enters the main canyon. About a half mile up on the left is a side canyon coming in which we called "First Canyon". You can begin to hunt the walls and floor of Bear Canyon at this point. Below the First Canyon, you do not seem to find much if any nodules. 

HatRock

The mouth of "First Canyon" is marked by this feature which we called "Hat Rock". Continuing up the ridge from the hat, Billings rockhound Doug True made an important find of a large concentration of Bear Canyon agate nodules about 10 years ago. He filled something like 10 five gallon buckets from just this one dig alone. 

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Here's Doug, fending off a T-Rex attack at a Concord, California gem show. (wink)

KevRakes

The Bear Canyon nodules seem to crop out in certain areas below the cap rock of the canyon rim. Here, Kevin Rust rakes through the soil below the rim searching for agate. 

UpFirstCnyn

The nodules have been weathering out from below the rims and rolling downhill for thousands of years. You find them in drainage channels, and erosional features all the way down to the main canyon floor. Here our group searches small meandering runoff flow channels below the rims of "First Canyon".

1stCnynDig

After a bit, the Seattle gang settles in to dig out an area up near the head of First Canyon, where the Billings rockhounds have previously done some digging.

KevsBearCnyn 

With determined effort, Kevin McDonald scores a nice agate. It's a partial nodule but what a beauty! 

Sunset

In the evenings, we were treated to a string of nice sunsets which were so pretty that we even heard locals commenting on them the next day! 

Foundation

One morning, I decide to explore the gently sloping south facing shoulders of the Pryors, curious to see if any nodules occur outside of Bear Canyon. I don't find any, but I do spot this old foundation of a camp, or homesite tucked up on the shoulders of the south Pryors. Beautiful view, but with the nearest 4x4 road several miles off it's definitely a walk-in site. 

EastSideDig

It seems like the nodules only occur within the Bear Canyon, but it should be noted that they do occur on both sides of the canyon walls. Here, I'm digging on the East side of the main Bear Canyon, just across from "First Canyon", at the lower terminus of the rimrock, where the nodules are squeezing out in a little seam just below. 

Nodules

I get a small pile of nodules in just a short time. Many of them do not have the prized fortification inside. (I've cracked them to see with the intent of windowing any nice ones) But one out of every 10 or so does show some nice pattern. 

BearCanyon 002

 Here's some nice ones that I dug out and windowed. The most sought after nodules are the ones with black and white fortification pattern. This one has a druzy quartz geode center as an added bonus. 

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A striking double geode with a little bit of white lining to emphasize the quartz crystal cavities. 

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Another nice druzy! 

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BearCnynFull

Here's one of my favorites: It's a little short on fortification, but makes up for it with a marvelous black druzy botryoidal interior, and an extra large size that made even veteran agate hunter Doug True whistle in surprise! 

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BearCnyn 004

BearPair1

A nice Bear Canyon Pair.

BearPair2

Another nice pair with black druzy geode center.

Heart

Just cracking nodules at the doorway of the heart. 

 

 RdToOysters

On the Helt Road, to the nearby oyster beds. 

OysterSoil

 The soil here is totally littered with fossil oyster shell fragments. 

Montana 009

A patient search will turn up oysters that are largely, if not fully complete, and have both valves present! 

StarCrinoid

Also scattered in the soil are tiny fragments of pentacrinus, the star crinoid, shown here with a fragment of an ancient sea urchin shell. 

Montana 007

In some areas, rocks of lithified clay are weathering out containing multiple oysters. This piece had a beautiful arrangement - a trident of three oysters bound together for eternity. 

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How about this whopper. I cleaned the multiple oyster chunks I collected by dunking them in muriatic acid for about 5 seconds, and then neutralizing them in a bucket of water. The resulting beautiful display specimens had shiny, crust free oyster shells popping off of lighter clay matrix, as if they had been professionally prepped! 

RedPryorRd

On our way back to Bear Canyon from the Oyster Beds, we explore up the Red Pryor Mountain Road. There are a couple old mines up there and a site where you can dig for Red Pryor Mountain agate. 

RedAgateDig

The red agate dig is about a half mile up Red Pryor Mountain Road on the left. There is a flat landing with lots of agate in the soil, and the dig site pictured above is just downhill from the landing. 

RedDruze

One of the sweet things about some of the agate here is the nice bright sparkly druze which isn't conveyed well by the camera, but is rockin when you see it in the sunlight with your own eyes! 

Rainbow

Nice double rainbow over Bear Canyon upon our return. 

KevLeroy

In camp, we're joined by local rockhound Leroy Pickens (on the left). Leroy is a master stone knapper. 

Knife

A close-up of a double flow obsidian knife that Leroy has made. 

GoodbyeBear

The next morning, we say goodbye to Bear Canyon. I have to return to Oregon, and the group is moving on to Teepee Canyon in South Dakota. 

Roadsign

A sign on Highway 310, heading north to Billings. 

TRex

This life sized T-Rex provides a whimsical vision that is appropriate for the land I'm driving through now, even though this artist's conception was an installation at the 1964 World's Fair in New York! 

CrystalPark

On my way back west, I can't help but to stop at Montana's famous Crystal Park and dig around for part of a day, looking for the sought after varietal quartz crystals that come from here. In the photo, the cratered moonscape of Crystal Park commands a view of a lovely alpine valley, with the East Pioneer Mountain Range on the horizon. 

Diggers

On the back side of the hill, a couple of diggers from Washington State are already hard at work. Screening the soil really does help here. 

 Crystal1

They've each got a little to show for the morning's work. 

Crystal2

A nice little amethyst head pops out! 

Deer

In the heat of afternoon, a group of deer move in and lay down in the pits, seeking the coolness of the shade and the shadowed soil. 

Owl1

In the evening, my camp is visited by a Great Gray Owl. 

Owl2

It fixes me with a fierce glare, and I'm glad I'm too big to carry off! 

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A handful of little treasures that I pulled out of the park. 

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A pagoda crystal.

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 My best scepter with light amethyst tint at the tip, and several smoky phantoms within. 

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Another beautiful little smoky amethyst scepter. 

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A third smoky scepter with distinctive growth lines on the facets - a signature of Crystal Park. 

KevNormaCrystal

Here's one dug by Kevin and Norma McDonald on a subsequent 2016 trip to Crystal Park. 

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It's a super nice little star-shaped crystal with smoky amethyst points shooting out in all directions. 

DinoBone

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, locals have shown the group a site where Jurassic age dinosaur bones are weathering out of a clay badlands type formation. It's illegal to collect vertebrate fossil on public land, and in this instance the bones are extremely friable and would basically fracture into hundreds of pieces if handled. It's a look only site, but what a wonder to see this type of fossil bed.

TP1 

Over at Teepee Canyon, the group has exposed a large formation that is ripe with rounded nodules. Note the red agate showing at the bottom of the photo. 

TP2

Then the fantastic happens! Kevin Rust randomly splits a nodule to check for red agate and reveals an inner amethyst chamber with perfect golden calcite crystal perched in the middle! 

Tp3

How cool is that? 

WhitePlume

I can't stop rockin! On my way through Eastern Oregon, I stop at my favorite white plume agate site along Stinkingwater Creek. Within 15 minutes I find this 12 inch botryoidal beauty with white plume. There's a ton more here just waiting for you. Happy rockhounding! May your luck run strong, and your buckets fill fast! 

AspenClose

Published in Blog
Sunday, 31 May 2015 09:32

Rockhounding Susanville, CA

Manny600

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.  

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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. 

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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?

ScottOnDumps600

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.  

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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. 

Copper Color600

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. 

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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. 

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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.

Buck600

A young buck notes our passing. 

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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.

FLOYDdIGS600

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. 

RQ 001

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. 

RQ 003

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. 

CutFlat600

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.

CutFltCloseA600

I quickly fell in love with this material. 

CutFltCloseB600

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

RQDetail600

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

ThompsonPk60

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

TPArea600

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. 

Dike600

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. 

Scorp600

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! 

TailingsA600

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. 

TailingsB600

I couldn't resist collecting a number of these. 

TailingsC600

There were some quite fine little clusters of epidote sprays. 

QtzEpidote600

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

QtzEpidoteB600

Beautiful little quartz point with tiny epidote sprays bursting forth. 

PinwheelA600

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

PinwheelB600

It's loaded with epidote! 

QtzEpidoteC600

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. 

 MannySad600

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!

FloydInHole600

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!

PocketA600  

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

PocketB600

Followed by a second, equally stunning piece. 

PocketC600

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

PocketD600

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

PocketE600

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

PocketF600

A great smoky point nests in a forest of epidote. 

PocketG600 

A beautiful, geode-like epidote vug. 

PocketH600

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

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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". 

PocketCoffinB600

The Coffin, after getting cleaned up a bit. 

PocketJ600

How about this striking cluster? 

PocketK600

A beautiful gemmy little doubly terminated crystal with epidote inclusion. 

PocketL600

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

RollieBigSmoky550A 

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!  

WhatADay600

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

BeautifulCountry600

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

Stilness600

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
Wednesday, 27 November 2013 21:49

Southern California Collecting 2013

Halite

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.

Trona 2013 001 

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!

Trona 2013 003

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. 

Trona 2013 007

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. 

PMxtls 002

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?

PMxtls 003 

An ancient earthen union, brought to light.

PMxtls 004 

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. 

PMxtls 010

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."

Trona 2013 130 

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. 

 Trona 2013 134

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!"

Trona 2013 141 

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.

 

 Trona 2013 142

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Quartz, Rose Quartz & Smoky Quartz

Download our Wholesale Pricing PDF for a more complete list of items and approximate prices. Important: for current pricing and availability, call 541 621-2558, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Clear Quartz cut & polished points, sizes up to 150 grams, 3 lb minimum.
Clear Quartz cut & polished points, sizes 150 grams and up, 5 lb. minimum.
Clear Quartz cut & polished points, XL (5 - 10 lb/ea). Special Order.
Rose Quartz cut & polished points, sizes up to 150 grams, 3 lb minimum.
Rose Quartz cut & polished points, sizes 150 grams and up, 5 lb. minimum.
Smoky Quartz cut & polished points, sizes up to 150 grams, 3 lb. minimum.
Smoky Quartz cut & polished points, sizes 150 grams and up, 5 lb. minimum.

Natural Quartz Clusters, specify SM (1" - 2") (pictured at left), MED (2" - 3"), or LG ( 3" - 4") (pictured Right).
Natural Quartz Points, SM (1.75"-2.25"), 11 lb. lots.
Natural Quartz Points, MED (3-5"), 22 lb lots.
Natural Quartz Points, LG (6"-9"), 44 lb. case.

Natural Rose Quartz Chunks, 1"-4".

Download our Wholesale Pricing PDF for a more complete list of items and approximate prices. Important: for current pricing please call 541 621-2558, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Published in Wholesale