My New Mexico Chapter is Now Out

The Arizona and New Mexico chapters of my now halted book project is out. Places to go, things to do, stuff to pick off the ground. If anything is open these days, Still, plenty of open USFS and BLM managed ground to run around in. More background on the book is at my SW Travel Page, which has more abbreviated documents covering the entire Southwest.

I hope to get the Nevada Chapter out next.

These files are in.pdf. 70 pages for Arizona, about 40 pages for New Mexico. Comments and corrections welcome. As always. And, as always, free.

Arizona Western Rock Ramblings (external link to my Dropbox folder)

New Mexico Western Rock Ramblings (external link to my Dropbox folder)




Pardon the lousy formatting, that is the main reason I gave up on publication. The only decent program to use is inDesign and I have tried it many times. I’d say it would take me a year of classes to get good at it. And it is incredibly expensive.
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Another Day For Railroad Pass and a UV Night Hunt

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley

I planned to get back to Railroad Pass today to sample drainages for colors. But I injured myself again and I can only walk slowly, carefully, and in pain. If I can get to my physical therapy appointment tomorrow I might some pointers on what to do. Aspirin certainly doesn’t help.

This delay might be good. Alunite specimens are in the mail for me and they might get here Saturday afternoon. I read they fluoresce orange under long wave. That would be tremendous since it would make night hunting on a difficult hill easier. The Convyoy C8 Dragonfly I have is a great hunting flashlight, much easier to operate than my bulky and heavy SW lamp. (Although that lamp from UV Systems is very bright, about 18 watts, totally reliable, and the battery lasts for hours.)

While the Dragonfly is great for hunting, its narrow and concentrated beam is too bright for bench or display work. It blows out colors on most materials. What might be a soft orange under a normal lamp will probably turn into a white spot at close range with the Convoy.

Again, while not a display lamp the Dragonfly might be the best LW hunting tool anywhere. I can hold it in one hand while holding onto a hiking stick with my other and it is almost bright enough to use as a pathway flashlight. It proved great on some steep hills at Darwin.  Have extra batteries and don’t run it continuously. You shouldn’t need to as a hill or other area can be scanned pretty quickly. And, yes, the battery charger for it is weird and funky.

If you do go out on a night fluorescent mineral hunt right now, make sure you are close to a populated area with emergency services nearby and be extra careful NOT to need them. Get yourself to help or self-treat. Most of us have a first aid kit, I’m thinking lately of getting a trauma kit. High risk activities should be curtailed until things get back to normal. Having an SAR crew pull you off a mountain during this pandemic is a criminal use of resources.

One last thing, since we are all concerned with cleanliness in these days of COVID-19. Many people use a “black light” to identify pet stains around the house or to help clean the bathroom. These are usually 5 watt SW units. If you REALLY want to see how disgusting your bathroom is and how much it needs cleaning, get a Dragonfly LW. You will be totally disgusted and in these times of self-quarantining , you will have a multiple-day project to spend a lot of your time. Everything biologic will present itself.

NB: All links are unsponsored and there are no ads at my sites. Midnight Minerals is a great company and so is UV Systems.
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Not All Rocks Are Old

We usually think rocks are millions of year old. Not all  are. These are less than three years old. Ours is a dynamic earth: creating, destroying, changing.

Just got in some basalt from R.C. at Geological Specimen Supply. He collected these examples himself in Hawaii late last year. It was, pun intended, rocky going, walking on rock as sharp as glass.

For background, “Basalt is a fine-grained, dark brown to black rock that lava solidifies into. It is made of minerals, such as, calcium-rich plagioclase, pyroxene, and lesser amounts of olivine. Basalt is the main type of rock in oceanic environments, such as mid-ocean ridges and hot spots.” University of Oregon website (external link)

I got two specimens from R.C., one shows more olivine than the others. Olivine is commonly known as peridot.

Here’s how R.C. describes these examples. R.C., by the way, is a practicing geologist who spends most of his time wandering California and Nevada deserts looking for teaching examples of rocks and minerals.

Tholeiite basalt aa from the flow that destroyed Kapoho, Hawaii in 2018

Tholeiite basalt, rising from partial melts of peridotite in the mantle, is the most common igneous rock on earth and makes up the oceanic crust. It is the type of basalt found on the moon. Peridotite is composed primarily of olivine and pyroxine. Olivine crystallizes at a high temperature and is one of the first minerals to form crystals in the rising magma. It is common in Hawaiian basalts, weathering out of a Mauna Loa cinder cone near South Point, where it is concentrated in a cove to form a famous green sand beach.

Aa forms when lava cools quickly and moves fast, with the surface breaking up into a clinkery mass of loose jagged pieces. Aa flows tend to be thicker than pahoehoe and are almost impossible to walk on. This aa was formed on the flow that consumed the community of Kapoho in 2018 and completely filled in Kapoho Bay, forming a lava delta.

This aa is extremely scratchy and will impress any student that walking on an aa flow would be a challenge. Textbook example.

Closeup of texture.

For comparison, this is vesicular basalt from San Carlos in Arizona. It displays olivine more prominently. Stevie Joey mines this kind of basalt at his claim on the reservation. His website is Peridot Dreams and he is good people.

I also have some self-collected vesicular basalt from the Dixie National Forest in Utah, however, I am in too much pain right now to find it. Matter of fact, I was lucky to put on my socks this morning

R.C. mentioned “aa.” Cornell says this, “Lavas, particularly basaltic ones, come in two primary types: pahoehoe (pronounced ‘paw-hoey-hoey”) and aa (pronounced “ah-ah”). Aa forms when lava flows rapidly. Under these circumstances, there is rapid heat loss and a resulting increase in viscosity. When the solid surface crust is torn by differential flow, the underlying lava is unable to move sufficiently rapidly to heal the tear. Bits of the crust are then tumbled in and coated by still liquid lava, forming the chunks. Sometimes the crust breaks in large plates, forming a platy aa. ”

A little look at olivine sand from a green sand beach in Hawaii. Old stock. Hawaii’s coastline doesn’t favor beach formation. For decades, the white sand beaches of Waikiki were maintained by bringing in sand dredged from Long Beach Harbor in California.

“Around Kapoho.” Credit: Graeme Churchard: Wikipedia Commons.


“Views from HVO’s helicopter overflight at 1PM HST, show the remains of the Kapoho Beach Lots subdivision and the fissure 8 flow front. The northern flow margin in this area was unchanged from HVO’s morning flight and appeared to have stopped advancing at the time of the flight.” Credit: USGS.

I wish you and yours good health.
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More on Railroad Pass, Clark County, Nevada

Crushed and panned out some of that grey colored volcanic rock I collected two days ago. Appears to be plain old basalt. Before doing anything with it, I ran my Falcon over the material, just to see if I could get lucky. I didn’t although several pieces were metallic, although ferrous. Hard to tell what they are and iron related pieces are common seemingly everywhere a prospector goes.

I crushed and panned out some rocks to fifty mesh, producing a few gold glinting specks in the pan. Always assume pyrite or mica. I had found mica on the hill on my last trip but pyrite I suppose was possible. One fleck did interest me because it appeared corrugated and granular, not flat like mica.

The piece turned out to be mica, though. Didn’t need the scope. Looking at the piece on its side with a 10X loupe showed its platy character, that onion skin like texture that mica has, in the way it can be peeled back in sheets. I rendered the image below into monochrome.

By Pascal Terjan from London, United Kingdom – MicaUploaded by Magnus Manske, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

I’m a total beginner with a microscope. I use this plastic lid with embossed lettering to orient me. I place a speck of something near some letter and I can then find the speck near the letter. Everything is reversed under my scope. Move something to the right and it goes to the left.

Chief problem with any microscope work is keeping stray animals from interfering. John Charles Fremont The Explorer was tremendously interested in my project and repeatedly tried to help. Alas, no help at all. I usually hook up the scope to my desktop computer since the microscope camera draws power from a USB port. I have not yet heard, however, my laptop’s fans come on. So, the draw must be low. My LED lights are powered by the mains, I wish they were dimmable.

Another view of my setup. Note the lettering of the lid on the computer screen that I mentioned before. This is a Chinese scope that I could afford. Not the best optics but an integrated digital camera. Without such an approach, you are forced to kludge together a scope with a digital camera that you might have, trying to get various lens adapters to work, finding the right lens to begin with, and so on. Nightmare.

Crushing out the bigger rocks on an empty road with my hand sledge and a small rock crusher.

Crushed pieces revealed a fair amount of quartz. That surprised me since none was visible before I broke the rocks down. But quartz is one of the biggest rock building minerals so perhaps this is not surprising. Perhaps this is not even basalt, rather something more granitic.

I will try to get back to the Pass tomorrow to get some samples from the gullies I mentioned in the last post I wrote at my personal writing site. Click here to go there.

The Alunnite Mine, Alunite Mining District, Clark County, Nevada, USA (Link to

Clark County image from the:

Index of Granitic Rock Masses in the State of Nevada By FLORIAN MALDONADO, RICHARD W. SPENGLER, W.F. HANNA, and G.L. DIXON
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy
A compilation of data on 205 areas of exposed granitic rock masses in Nevada
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My First State Chapter is Out!

The first chapter of my new travel list book is out. Plans for a hardcopy book were scrapped. This chapter is on Arizona and is 70 pages long. My other state chapters are at or near completion. Pardon the lousy formatting, that is the main reason I gave up on publication.

The .pdf file is in black and white to reduce file size. See an illustration example below from my California chapter. This chapter is only seven megs. It should print out, however, at 300 DPI, enough to read the maps.

Arizona_West_Rock_Ramblings (external link to my Dropbox folder)
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Site News and What’s Coming Next

I hope you and yours are well and safe. Nevadans are still free to move about the state, even here in Las Vegas in Clark County. As such, I am getting out as much as I can while I can.

With many of you staying at home, I will be posting much more often. In addition to reporting on whatever day trips I take now, I will be posting photographs from my travels across the Southwest that I have taken over the last three years. They won’t be well processed or described in too much detail (this is the greatest time killer with photography) but they will be something interesting to look at. Until my server space runs out, these will be full size images that you can download and use in any way you like without a need to credit me or worry about copyright restrictions.

As far as my health, I badly wrenched my back two weeks ago while working on my truck. I took aspirin for two days and then admitted defeat by turning myself into an Emergency Room at three in the morning. Since then I have visited three more medical facilities, each time getting good care but also exposing myself to whatever might be in the air. It’s a bit worrisome.

My injury somehow produces pain from my lower back to the sole of my left foot. I have no pain for ninety percent of the time unless I move the wrong way. Walking around and staying active helps if I am careful. Somehow, I can still do cautious, slow hiking up hills without much discomfort. I don’t understand this. On the other hand, I stiffen up so much at night that when I get out of bed in the morning I am screaming in pain. Literally. I have an appointment with a physical therapist soon.

What else?

My book project is taking up too much of my time and patience. I am a perfectionist and I wanted this hardcopy book to look a certain way and to be in a spiral bound format to lay flat. Bringing this about has caused me to waste too much time indoors. As such, I will be roughly formatting the document and then releasing it for free, chapter by chapter. The Arizona chapter is 70 pages by itself. I don’t know whether I will put it out as a .pdf or a Word doc. I will be locking down the content in some form, my one restriction for the time and effort it has taken to produce this writing.

I’m going to try to get back to Railroad Pass today to try to source some andesite for a friend who is looking for it. Unfortunately, it may not be there, despite the simple geological map that I was using previously from I pulled the official USGS geological map for the area and the real outcroppings of andesite are miles distant and off pavement. See the image below, “Ta” stands for andesite. Scattered occurrences of andesite may occur at Railroad Pass since maps cannot locate every rock. But again, andesite is quite a bit away and I shouldn’t go off pavement too far since I can no longer change a tire on my own. I also have other reasons to return to Mountain Pass which I will detail later.

I hope all of you are well and safe.

This is Macrostrat’s simplified description of the hill I was on at Railroad Pass.

Harding Pegmatite Mine

Random photos of the Harding Pegmatite Mine in Taos County, New Mexico. Some of these might have been posted before, some of them may have been downsized at one time. Follow the link I just gave, many more details there. More pictures to come.

Visitation rights are now subject to change because of the virus. Check the University’s websites. And check my current places to visit travel list for attractions around the area. Subject to when we can all travel again, of course, and with the hope our rock shops have not gone out of business.

Harding Pegmatite Mine

Between Taos and Santa Fe along NM 75. Bring all your maps.

The Harding Pegmatite Mine is a former rare minerals quarry located in Taos County. Now maintained by the University of New Mexico, the Pegmatite Mine is open to rockhounds for no fee. Five pounds of material may be taken provided guidelines are followed. Large groups must pay a fee and they need to call ahead.

Visitors must fill out a release form available at the mine’s website. Follow the University’s instructions exactly as it will be necessary to fetch the caretaker before entering the mine. The road to the first mine gate is short and passable by passenger vehicles. Parking is extremely limited at this first gate. No trailers or RVs. If the gate is open, a larger parking lot is farther along the road.

Pegmatites are unusual and interesting rocks igneous rocks, originating from volcanic activity. At the Harding Mine, white sparkling rock is all around, some with pink tints, often with gray or darker inclusions. The pegmatite is the white rock, the various colors and inclusions the minerals. These can be quite unusual, needing an expert to identify them. Bityite, eucryptite, and fluorapatite are some. More common is the pink tinged lepidolite.

A lepidolite tinged rock showing nice pink coloring is a challenging but satisfying project on a warm day in the beautiful hill country of Taos. If possible, bring a short wave and longwave lamp, along with a barbecue lid cover. Hunting fluorescent rocks enlarges searching beyond what appears in daylight.

Print the “Walking Tour for the Harding Pegmatite Mine” file before visiting. It references the numbered markers that are spotted about the quarry.

If possible, a tour of the old quarry should start at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in Northrop Hall, home to UNM’s Department of Earth & Planetary Sciences. A museum in Room 124 displays specimens from the mine. A dimly lit case on the first floor also exhibits specimens, including a large chunk of beryl. In that case, notice how one rock seems to intergrade with others. The rose muscovite, the lepidolite, and the spodumene all seem variations on a theme. What’s not obvious is the sparkling nature of some of the rocks, which comes into play in bright light.

The mine’s entrance off Highway 75 is on a strong uphill grade and is difficult to find. There is no sign indicating the mine road, save for a small wood plaque on a juniper asking people to pack out their trash. On a fair day, you will be caught up in looking at the surrounding countryside. This is the land D.H. Lawrence fell in love with and you will, too.

36°11.890′ N 105°47.346′ W

This link is for the mine tour.pdf and the release form:

The Taos hill country is populated with artist studios, wineries, and scattered Indian Pueblos. Cottonwoods in the fall blaze yellow along streams and other watercourses. It is a delight in fair weather. Iceland spar may still exist in the area, check for possible locations and for land status.
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Adding Glow To Your Life

Forgive the long load time for this page. You’ll need a fast connection. These three videos will load faster at my Instagram account linked below. I wish everyone good health and hope.
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Darwin, California. Inyo County.

Night time fluorescent mineral hunt with Pat Dolan in the hills above the remote hamlet of Darwin, California.

No services, no businesses, no gas station, no cell coverage, nothing, save a Post Office and 42 people, all of whom rely on water delivered by a gravity fed pipe from a spring on the the property of the China Lake Naval Air Station.

Darwin was a major mining district back in the day. The area does have electrical power and hard-wired phone service.

Lone Pine to the west has the nearest hotel, the Panamint Springs Resort in Death Valley has lodging and a campground as well. I don’t know if either is still open during the this virus crisis. Panamint Springs is only 23 miles away but it will take at least 40 minutes of driving to cover those twisty miles. Lone Pine is 38 miles away and maybe 40 minutes, too.

I found a room at a house in Darwin through The owner’s name is Lawrence and his entry at Airbnb is called “an unexpected paradise.” He is an entertaining and engaging host, however, he does turn off the heat at night, so be prepared. Darwin is near Death Valley but it is also high in the mountains at 5,000 feet.

You won’t have WiFi, cable TV, or anything internet at Lawrence’s house. I knew all of that, though, going in. He does have a fine book collection, though, and can talk about Gore Vidal at length. He is not a rockhound but he knows the country.

I think a link to my review of his place is here:

My hope is to return when the days are warmer so I can camp up near the mines. Perhaps for two or three nights. It is all open BLM land.

I am only now looking over what I collected.

“Darwin / The town was named after Darwin French who explored the area in 1860 giving his name to the Falls, Canyon, and Wash. First recorded mine [unreadable], was discovered in by Rafel Cuervo October, 1874. Darwin was the center of activity of the new Coso Mining District. By 1877 three furnaces were in operation, the greatest producing mines were the Christmas Gift, Defiance, and Lucky Jim . . . .”

This is BLM managed ground with unmaintained and often narrow dirt roads. A full size pickup might get its paint scraped. 4-High only on our trip, no 4-Lo or lockers needed. Surprisingly, my on-pavement Garmin Navigator showed all of these BLM roads on its screen, although it did not name them. I was not traveling as an arrow on a blank screen. I did not have to use my handheld Montana 650 to navigate,  although did I set waypoints with it. In the end, with the Garmin, I had a clear route highlighted on my screen at night to get back to pavement. Very unusual.

There is absolutely no cell phone coverage anywhere near Darwin. Preload your cell phone or come with sat based navigation like the Garmin and the Montana.

Pausing to set a waypoint at this intersection: 36°18’3.20″N 117°35’33.71″W. My low slung Nissan Frontier (about 8.5 inches at the pumpkin) and Pat’s Jeep Trailhawk did fine, I did not hit my skid plates. Heavy fog that day came and went. Over 5,000 feet in elevation; lower 40s that night.

Random assortment in a not so dark room under SW. Better in person.

Three rocks thrown together under SW. About eight inches across. Accurate color and true to what I see under my lamp, which is an 18 watt Way Too Cool.

Single rock under visible light. Color fairly accurate but a little too pink.

Same rock under SW. Accurate color.
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