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Month: April 2014

Petrified Wood From the Paulina Area

Petrified Wood From the Paulina Area

A couple of weeks ago I promised to get pics for the RHS1 members of some wood that I was extremely excited about finding in the Paulina area.

I had been to the area a few weeks before and had found pockets of potch, but it was brittle and breakable, and after hiking some ways in and having to hike some ways back to the car, I didn’t have much left (including time) for digging so don’t know if the wood becomes more stable lower, of if it’s just an area that the wood is potch that shatters into pieces when hit, and a few pieces of brown toned chunks of wood in earth tone colors  – browns and oranges on previous trips to the general vicintiy.

This time I went in a a bit further close to an area I had previously found a few small limb casts  and found several small limb casts, a few nicely colored orange/brown chunks and one piece that really wowed me.  Perhaps you have seen wood like this from that area, or another area, but this was the first time I have.  When I picked it up I just thought I had an agate despite the half-moon shape of the wedge.  When I cleaned it in water later I got a little surprise.  It was a half round of limb cast agate.

Before I cleaned it, I could not see the outside edge that identified the piece as wood:

Cleaning also brought out many interesting markings throughout the cast.

Paulina petrified wood

Not all of the patterning details show up in the pictures, but the green and white inclusions seem to be common opal.  It will be an exciting one to cut in half and polish.

Naturally, I will be going back to see if I can find more wood with similar petrification.  Wish me luck!

Life’s Short – Rock hard.

Fallon/Middlegate Nevada Trip Report

Fallon/Middlegate Nevada Trip Report

My trip started late –  it was 2:00 am on Thursday night when I got out of work and hit the road.  I wasn’t due to meet up with the others til 10:00 Friday night so figured I’d have time to sleep and stop and do some hunting on the way down.  Since I didn’t sleep as long as I expected, I ended up in the Peterson Mountain area around noon unexpectedly and decided to try to figure out where it was.  I stopped at Hallelujah Junction to ask which road led back to the Mt. There were no atlases or local maps, so I had to ask people who were coming and going.  Finally one gentleman gave me some directions.  I’m still not sure they were correct, but I did get back onto the peaks and did some hunting, even though I never saw anything that looked like the pics of Peterson that I’ve seen. So who knows where I was. I was just happy to be out and actually picking up a few crystals.

There were a few other people on the mountain hunting and some pits, so I was at least close to being where I wanted to.  At one point there was a very steep dirt “road” that I found a nice little smoky at the bottom of.  There were some pits up high and I figured that’s where the smoky came from so I decided to try the road.  I was about 10 feet from a landing I could have turned around at and something caught my eye on the side of the road and I slowed down – and that was it.  I was stuck on one of those roads that there’s nothing on one side of you, no way to pull off on the other side, and a rig that wanted to slide when the brake was on.

So I just gave a silent and very sincere thanks that the guys at RHS1 weren’t around to help me not live it down forever (there would have been pics, oh my God).  I backed down the mountain slowly lifting off the brake just a little then braking again and letting the jeep slide a foot, rinse and repeat.  The guys hunting a couple hundred feet over on the hill seemed to be entertaining themselves watching me back down and were probably placing bets with each other whether the stupid woman driver would go over the edge or not. It was a white knuckle back-up job and, with almost no sleep under me, my nerves twinged more than just slightly.

Finally down, I decided to go back and take a split in the road that took me to a ravine that led up to the pits and hunt there.  I knew backing down the hill left my nerves in rougher shape than I thought when a little rattler shook his tail at me and I turned around and yelled at him real hard about not being in the mood for his crap and he fled. I felt bad for that.  He was just letting me know he was there.  But the tantrum made me feel more solid again and I ended up finding some nice, but small, smoked quartz crystals and promised myself the next time I went past that area I’d be armed with the correct directions to Peterson.  Had I expected at all to be there, I’d have done that this time.

I hit Reno at Rush hour.  I’ll never do that again. Serious.  If I get there at that time of day, I’ll park and wait until the roads clear.  I’ve never seen drivers  so wildly aggressive anywhere – and I’ve driven all over the states and Europe. That night I spent at my friend’s in Silver Springs and Jess and Jay who arrived after dark, a little nose broken that they missed the crystal hunting but excited about the weekend.

Feeling a little more lively after a good night of sound sleep, we headed out in the morning with our first stop being for Lahontan agates. The area that we hunted had plenty of light blue agates, lots of red and blue, and just truck loads of browns, oranges, etc.  It’s hard to be discretionary about what to keep and what to leave in a field like that where you are just walking over agates everywhere, but we were good about being fussy this time. We wanted room in the rig for other things.

Here’s one of the more colorful pieces we picked up there:

Lake Lahontan Agate
Lake Lahontan Agate

Next we were off to get Wonderstone. We drove around that area for awhile looking for the mystical blue agate but only spent a little time since we had a special area for blue we were headed to the next day.  After seeing only chips of blue we decided to hang that up and headed over to the hills.  We found a few excellent locations and got a lot of beautiful wonderstones. The picture really doesn’t do this sample much justice, but, you get the idea:


Here’s a close up of one:

We got a good variety of color - this one more to the red.

I have to include a note here about the excellent food that Jay cooked for the trip.  The homemade salami and the Gumbo were absolutely incredible.   It’s the first time I’ve sampled his cooking skills and I was extremely impressed.

We spent the night in that area then proceeded on the next day to a road South of Highway 50 and closer to Middlegate. Our aim for this hunt was agates  and jasper.

We were looking for blue agate.

We didn’t refuse anything just because it wasn’t  blue, though. My favorite find of the day was a yellow jaspagate.


Of course – being Easter, we did do a little egg hunting.  Jess had the best find of the day:

Blue Geode

We had plenty of the locals come out and watch us hunt:

NV desert wildlife

Our last stop of the trip was to pick up some of that nice colorful jasper on the way back from the agate location. We had to make this stop especially for jasper for me to take to the RHS1 2014 meet-up next month so nobody can carp at me about never picking up jasper like some of the guys there love to do.

Here’s a sample of the jasper I picked up for you, guys.  You can take your pick of them at the meet:

Jasper Navada Style

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good trip out.  We filled up the back of a pickup and a jeep:

With the sun getting low and everyone having to work the next day we headed out a little reluctantly, and more than a little sunburned.   I still had room in the back for another day at Wonderstone!

Oh yes – and here it is 2014, so I guess I’ll end this report with the obligatory “selfie”.

Life’s Short – Rock hard.

Rock Hunting Begins as a Visual Skill

Rock Hunting Begins as a Visual Skill

Some stones are easier to recognize than others.

It is not a bit unusual for someone to start an avid rockhounding lifestyle purely by accident. One day you see a curiosity lying on the ground and pick it up to find a beautiful specimen of gemstone and you are hooked. That’s how it started for me. I had no education in geology, and though I’d seen specimens here and there, I really didn’t think the average person could just go out and find the things we see in jewelry stores, museums, and gift stores. Finding those first crystals was a life changing experience.

Unfortunately, after a first terrific strike, it is very easy for the beginner to give up in frustration, thinking that all finds will be as easy as the first. Even a beginner that has taken the time and effort to study, may find they have a lot of difficulty finding prizes out in the field. If you are becoming discouraged with telling your friends “well, I needed the fresh air and exercise anyway” instead of “wow, you should see what I found” there are a few things you need to know.

Finding minerals does not require an education in geology. When you are in the field, brain power doesn’t hurt a bit, don’t get me wrong here. In fact as your hobby grows, you will probably become more and more interested and involved with geological study. Recognition, however, is the key to beginning to find excellent gemstones. You can spout geological facts all you want while you are in the field, but if you can’t recognize a stone in the raw or the rock it is associated with when you see it, no amount of knowledge is going to help you out. The plain fact is that many stones just don’t look the same after being cut and polished as they do in the rough and if you don’t know what the gem bearing rock looks like in any specific area, you can be very close to a great outcropping of incredible stones and walk right by it without a glance.

Needless to say, when starting out your rockhounding lifestyle, you need to gather all the visual information you can get about minerals and gemstones, and the particular areas you are going to search in. While most people have heard of rubies, sapphires, agates, jasper, and the more common stones, there are hundreds of lesser known stones that you may have never heard of where you are going to search. For instance you may never have heard of orpiment, yet it is a common mineral you may run into out in the field in many areas of the states. So your first quest is to actually see as many different stones as you can to get an idea of what types of minerals you can find.

You can find pictures of minerals on the Internet or in books. While these pictures do help immensely, you’re going to want to see as many different types of minerals up close and personal in the raw as you can, too. Museums and rock and gem shops and shows are a good place to go to see samples of mineral specimens. Sometimes these will be displayed “raw”, with no touch-up other than cleaning. Just as importantly, many times the matrix (host) rock will be attached to some specimens. Learning to recognize matrix rock is vitally important because the matrix rock will often be what you use as your beacon when figuring out exactly where to hunt when you’re in the field. Remember, even when you are following a guidebook to get to a good location for a mineral, you still will have a wide area that you’re going to have to cover to find what you’re looking for once you get to the “x” that marks the spot in the book. Knowing the name and composition of the host rock may be important later as you become better at finding stone, but as a beginner, you just need to learn to recognize it when you see it.

It is important to note that matrix rock for a given mineral may different from location to location, too, so you will want to be aware of the matrix rock in the particular area you are going to hunt. For example, if you find garnets at Ruby Hill in Colorado then go to Idaho to find garnets, you will not find them in rock that in any way resembles the garnet bearing rock at Ruby Hill, Colorado. If you then go hunt garnets in Upstate New York, you’re not going to find them in rock that resembles either of those locations. You could spend ages walking past garnet bearing rock and just not recognize it if you use what you found elsewhere as reference.

Shape also varies from location to location. Keeping with the example of garnets, you are not always going to find them in nice little stones with multiple faces. In some locations they will be massive, different colors, or rounded from water wear.

In the field there’s also the added problem of the minerals not being clean. What you have seen at rock shows, museums, and in pictures, no matter how “raw” they are…they’ve still been cleaned up. One of my favorite dogtooth crystal plates had been walked over by many people. All I could see in the mud coated cavity were a few telltale prism shapes poking through the dirt. When cleaned up, that rock was a beautiful half of a geode. Only because I recognized a few shapes under the coating allowed me to take home the prize that so many others had missed. My niece learned to quickly recognize agate by the way it looked when struck by sunlight. I took her to an agate field and just started pointing them out to her, then pointed out the waxy look when we picked them up. She was off and running in no time, able to distinguish agate from quartz or other rock with ease.

While you might be able to tell you have a particular mineral, sometimes you have to have that specimen cut before you can see the full quality of what you have picked up. Agates are often very misleading, even after cleaned up. Yet a good eye can be developed so you can tell which specimens have the best odds of being incredible when cut.

Below is an example of one agate in the raw and after cutting.

Owyhee agate
On the left is this agate as it looked in the field. On the right is the same agate sliced.

A little bit of instruction can go a long way in starting your hobby. It’s a good idea to connect with experienced people who will take you out with them on a hunt. You may have a local gem club that will allow you to go on field trips. They may charge a small fee to join the club, but you will save a lot of time learning what to look for in the field. If you have fee digs in your area (mines that let you dig for a small fee), those are excellent places to start learning to hunt on your own. There are attendants there that can help you learn what you are looking for. There are forums, just like the one on this site, where people are willing to meet-up for hunts with other forum members.

Be patient if you are having trouble finding great gemstones when you first start your hunting trips. It takes time and practice to train your eyes to see what you are looking for. Once your eye is trained to recognize what you are seeing when you see it in the raw, you won’t be telling your friends “at least I got some fresh air” nearly as much as you will be showing off the specimens you brought in with you. Until that time comes, just remember, even the best of the hunters get skunked sometimes. Trust me on that one.

© Sally Taylor