The Forty-Mule-Team at The Rio Tinto Mine Near Borax, California

A life sized, authentic in every detail, Forty-Mule Team in fiberglass. Make sure to stop into the Rio Tinto Borax Mine when you’re near Boron. That’s on Highway  58, heading to or away from Bakersfield in Kern County. No public tours but a free and friendly information center. They even give away free samples of borate minerals.

At The Rock Garden at UC Davis, California

Beautiful marble boulder from the Lucerne Valley in San Bernardino County in California. Solidly in the Southwest. The red-pink color is due to rhodochrosite. The first two pictures are my own.

“Originally a limestone formed in a tropical sea, this rock was later metamorphosed at high pressures and temperatures into marble during mountain-building processes.”

More information on the rock garden here.

Well developed rhodochrosite crystals easily sell into the hundreds of dollars. Rhodochrosite without crystal faces fetches only a little money, the material looking like sad red lumps. It is only with a defined crystal form, in this case rhomboidal, that this mineral goes from being merely a formless rock to a prized collectible.

Rhodochrosite slabs for cabbing are available, but nothing sells for more than crystal forms. Condition is everything in the mineral hobby and the beginning collector may have to settle for micro mounts before affording anything better. Like antique cars, the finest examples belong to museums and private collectors with extraordinary budgets.

The only way around this, perhaps, is to self-collect. But that relies upon access to open ground. All these mineral collecting considerations will be discussed in my book.

The boulder itself, a closeup, and the mineral in fine crystal form.

This above image file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


At Tonopah Nevada’s Historic Mining Park

A young rockhound show his friend a ledge featuring outcroppings of iron-stained quartz veins bearing low grade silver. These veins were not considered economic to mine and left in place.

High grade or visible silver in quartz is rare. Sampling and assaying is usually necessary to reveal whether silver is present. Jim Butler used two assayers and multiple samples to confirm his world class silver and gold strike.

Park personnel and a geology professional recently discovered a rock on park grounds containing dozens of ounces of silver. Despite that thrilling find, it would take much, much more, a mountain more, to profitably reopen the old workings.

Points North

What makes up the Southwestern United States? There’s no agreed definition, save that Arizona and New Mexico are always included. For the purposes of my book I’m setting its northern boundary at the 38th Parallel. In Nevada, that border touches on tiny Goldfield and Tonopah.

This week I’ll be traveling two those two towns, before heading further to Hawthorne, site of the largest ammunition depot in North America, and then further into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Its a Holiday week so I don’t know what will be open. But I know Sharon Artlip’s chalcedony claims will be.

I wrote about Sharon’s fee/dig claims in Goldfield in the May, 2016 issue of Rock&Gem. If you don’t have access to that, I wrote some background on that article at my personal writing blog. Click here to go there. Her claims are about three miles out of town and still open to anyone at a dollar a pound. The chalcedony is literally everywhere under foot.

Register first at one of several local shops in Goldfield before heading to the claims. Information on that is at the link above, also be sure to visit Bryan Smalley’s rock shop. It’s called Hidden Treasures and it is truly that. Confused about directions? Find a store closed? Stop any local on the street and ask where Bryan or Sharon are. Goldfield is that relaxed. And fuel up before Goldfield, gas is 27 miles away in Tonopah.

Speaking of which, I hope to visit that city’s mining park and museum once again. They have a silver ledge there that I want a better photograph of. I wrote about Tonopah area when I went on a fee/dig trip to the Royal Royston turquoise claim in November, 2015.  It was the focus of my article in the January, 2016 issue of Rock&Gem. Background on that trip is at this link.

Unfortunately, Dean Otteson, head of the Otteson clan, died shortly after the article was published and public tours of the claim ceased. I knew him for only a few minutes but I immediately considered him a friend. There may be open ground in the Royston Hills near Tonopah but it would take careful research to determine those locations.

I don’t know of any current fee/dig operation for turquoise in the Southwest but I have a lead on a possibility in New Mexico some distance from Magdalena. Perhaps I will have more information on that before my book is published.

Until I check in later from the road,  I wish you the best this Thanksgiving Week! And, as always, check out Rock&Gem Magazine for the latest goings on in this wonderful hobby of rockhounding.

Internal Cross Section of A Fossil Sponge?

My fellow rockhounds and I have been having great fun trying to figure out what this photograph depicts. I spotted this fossil on a hike a few days ago in the Red Rock National Conservation Area. That’s just a few miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. In an area called Fossil Ridge. If you put this GPS decimal coordinate into a browser search bar you’ll call up a map of the location.

36.1123, -115.4247

Due to the sedimentary nature of the area I am thinking the white material may be chert. But since this is a no collection area I couldn’t take anything away. As a matter of fact, I felt good for not touching it and leaving it undisturbed. Due to the number of sponge fossils in the area, a local professional ecologist suggests it could be the exposed internal structure of a sponge fossil.

Update! The joy of discovery through photography. A photograph can be as memorable as anything you pick out of the ground. Dr. Josh Bonde, a local, renowned paleontologist, says this about this image:

“Not having the specimen under my nose always makes it a bit more difficult to provide a positive ID. That said, it looks to me like a stromatoporid sponge. It looks like just up and to the right of the sponge you have part of a brachiopod as well. That’s my guess.”

Isn’t that wonderful? I can now look up this sponge and learn all about it. And did you see what he saw with this low resolution photograph? A brachiopod or shell like organism at the middle and to the right of the sponge. I totally missed it before.

Thanks to all the people who helped me with hints and with finally connecting me to the good professor. I’ll write more about this kind of exploring and collecting in my book.

Click on the photo for a larger image or click here.