Greetings From the Nopah Range Wilderness Area

Working the grade off the desert floor into the mountains of Inyo County, California. This is on the Tecopa Road, the truck heading up to Emigrant Pass.

Not a tree anywhere. Can you see my truck back at the road?

Generally, trails in the mountains lead to other trails or a mine or prospect. Here, they may just wander off into the rocks.

A lonely Old Spanish Trail marker a mile off the Tecopa Road stands sentinel over the broad basin below.

An lava rock exhibiting flow direction? Or just another igneous rock?

Don’t know what is happening here.

Something to slab and cab. Maybe just polish the slab, one side smooth, one side rough.

The Southwest According To My Book

No agreed upon boundaries mark the American Southwest. For my book  I place its northern limit as the 38th parallel,  the United States’ border with Mexico its southern limit. This image shows the area I write about, in the main, with no Mexico or Texas coverage.

My Apologies to the BLM

I wrote previously that the BLM doesn’t recognize rockhounding anymore as an activity. While that may be the case at the national level, the BLM in California still recognizes rockhounding as the vital and rewarding hobby that it is.

This page recognizes rockhounding with a video featuring Bill Depue, Founder and President of Diamond Pacific Tool in Barstow, perhaps the leading manufacturer  of lapidary equipment in the world. I had the great privilege of meeting Bill a month or two ago and I wrote about it here. In keeping with his modest character, Bill wears a Diamond Pacific hat but never mentions his involvement.

Interestingly, that page does not list all California BLM  rockhounding sites, it just mentions that the activity exists. Their Needles field office once had no reservation about describing sites.

Click here for an archived page that list sites under Needles’ management along with photographs showing what might be collected at each one. This is true endorsement. But I appreciate any effort that BLM California makes. Thank you!

Photograph below of Bill Depue.

 

 

 

 

Field Trip in The Mojave Desert Coming Up!

I’ve been to this rock shop several times and gone out on one of their field trips. Highly recommended to do both. If you can’t catch this trip, check out their schedule for future events.

Field Trip March 23d

Mining Supplies and Rock Shop and Hesperia Recreation and Park District are sponsoring field trips for $10.00 per person paid in advance, in our store.  If you wish to pay through our website it will be $11.00 per person.  Go to miningsuppliesandrockshop.com, choose field trips and buy the field trip you wish to attend by clicking the “add to cart” button. Paying at the sight is $20.00 per person. Everyone paying in advance will receive an email explaining where the gathering site is, what time to meet, what we will be finding, what to bring, approximate times, etc. You are welcome to join up with others at the site who may have 4-wheel drive. We will be accepting only 50 people for this trip.

Saturday, March 23rd, North Cady Mountains – 4-wheel trip

Hi all, we will be meeting right off the Basin Rd exit on I-15.  We are meeting at 8:00am and will be leaving the staging area by 8:15am sharp!  This is a location that never fails to please.  Collecting areas exsist for fluorite, many colors of agate, Sagenite, nodules and so much more. At this site there are many options to choose from.  Collecting can be done in the parking area or we can hike to any of the many locations all with 1 mile or so of the parking area.  This is an advanced 4-wheel drive out to the site. All vehicles going must be high clearance 4-wheel or all-wheel drive. Deep sand and a few very rough hills are included in this drive.  There is a gas station one exit past Basin Rd, but it is not cheap!  Those who want to go and do not have 4-wheel drive may try to team up with people who do at our gathering site, but this is not a guarantee.

You will need to bring a rock hammer and a bucket to carry your finds in.  You may also want to bring extra tools such as a heavy hammer, chisels, protective eye wear, and a pickaxe, in case you want to try and pry loose some of the agate seams still locked in the hard matrix rock.  Make sure to have plenty of water, some snacks, sunscreen, and a full size spare tire (or two) for your vehicle.  Some of the sites require a bit of a hike to get to and the ground can have a lot of loose rocks so please where some good shoes!  Hope to see you all there!!!

For further information please call: Mining Supplies and Rock Shop 760.508.1080 or William A Johnson Trip Leader Cell: 760-267-1333.

Thanks,

Lois Papner
Mining Supplies and Rock Shop

760 244-9642

 

What Rock, Gem and Mineral Photographs Can’t Show You

A static photograph can’t adequately show sparkles, often the most joyous character of a rock, gem, or mineral.

Here’s a static photo of rose muscovite, an absolute star in the sun:

 

We see poorly defined points of light but not sparkles. Perhaps a hint of sheen. If this rock is put into absolutely perfect focus those spots will disappear completely.

Contrast this to a dynamic portrayal of the same rock. Watch the video all the way through.

Amazing difference, eh?

When looking at a photograph of a rock, gem, and mineral, you may not be getting the whole picture. When out in the field, even in country full of volcanic material, watch for sparkles. Some of those rocks shine. Just not in pictures.

Print Out a Map, if Not for You, For Someone Else

On Sunday I drove a little bit of the Lake Mead Recreation Area, aided in part by a map created by Jim Boone, the producer of BirdandHike.com. His site is the ultimate resource for exploring the natural world around Las Vegas, Clark County, and Southern Nevada.

Although it is a non-collecting area, I was there to take a mental health break and to bring back photographs of different volcanic features.

As I made my way back to Highway 93 on the Kingman Wash Access Road, I was stopped by a couple driving a low slung Subaru. The driver asked, in an excited and somewhat nervous sounding voice, “Do you know where this road goes? Are you from around here?” Hmm, I thought, traveling off-pavement with no map and no idea about what lies ahead. Not my style but certainly adventurous.

I handed him the map I printed out from Jim’s site. The driver grabbed it eagerly, clutching it with both hands. The couple stared at it intensely while I described the main road as fairly decent but not the side roads, which could turn into Jeep trails. They nodded and continued to look at the map. Jim had outlined the area, not in fantastic detail, but enough to get one in and out and to show some points of interests. Just right.

As they continued staring, I asked if I had written anything on the map. They turned it over and said no. I said, “Keep it, I know my way out.” They were very pleased with that and had big smiles on their faces as they drove off into the previously unknown wilderness.

This reminded me of hikers I have encountered who have run out of water and have eagerly welcomed a refill. We’re all out there together and we need to watch out for each other.

In my truck are three different navigation devices and four to communicate with. Certainly not everyone should be expected to carry all that equipment. But it is equally certain that we should be ready to share the wealth with any decent person who needs it. Now that I think about it, when you print out a map, make two copies!

BLM Doesn’t List Rockhounding As An Activity Anymore

This is so depressing. It’s like there is a war against rockhounding. Nearly fifty activities listed by BLM and none of them rockhounding. It’s not that all BLM land is closed to rockhounding, much is open, but there is something wrong when BLM hides our hobby. It’s even more strange because BLM has areas they’ve specially set aside for rockhounding, with no claims permitted in most of these designated areas. So why aren’t they listed at their search site?

I get the feeling they think we are destructive. And yet a BLM permitted quarry or mine can destroy countless fossils or specimens of copper and turquoise that any rockhound would love to have.

In a commercial ore mine, most mineral or crystal specimens are not economical to recover so they are run through the mill. Rockhounds treasure even the smallest specimens. We don’t tear up thousands of acres or make pits eight hundred feet deep. Yet today on much of BLM land we’re not allowed to pick up a single rock.

On a current BLM page I read this:

“Collecting may not be allowed in special management areas, such as wilderness and national historic sites or on mining claims.” That’s totally misleading. Unless expressly prohibited, wilderness areas, both USFS and BLM managed, are completely open to casual collecting. I’ve been in correspondence with top people at BLM management in Washington D.C. and I have their written assurances that such collecting is allowed. This is that misleading page:

https://www.blm.gov/visit/marble-mountain-rock-collecting-area

On another current BLM page, this is stated: “In most instances, public lands are open to rockhounding although no collecting is allowed in National Monuments. BLM can help you make this determination.” Again, completely misleading. Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada and Mojave Trails National Monument in California allow rockhounding. There are probably others. This is that misleading page:

https://www.blm.gov/basic/rockhounding

As Jim Boone points out, most BLM land that has not been shut down to collecting remains open to rockhounding or claiming. But that acreage dwindles every year, as former BLM land is moved into National Parks or Monuments.

The area now known as the Mojave National Preserve had a rich history of rockhounding as well as commercial mining. But in going to Preserve status, the Federal government ended all mineral entry, including specimen collecting by rockhounds. Every one of its 1.6 million acres is now totally closed to picking up a single rock. I once had to ask staff personnel if it was permissible to make a plaster cast of an animal track. They debated that for a while and then said it would be legal as long as I didn’t step on any other tracks while I was making one. Sheesh.

Here’s a web page that shows you how to determine land BLM still considers public rockhounding areas. You have to search for rockhounding by that name. Know, too, that many BLM pages which featured rockhounding areas are now gone, like the one for Burro Creek, Arizona.

https://www.blm.gov/visit/search/0/0/rockhounding/1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you want an idea of an area that has been closed down, get a look at what 1.6 million acres looks like:

Pala Chief Fee Dig, Pala California

Many people wonder if a fee dig operator has picked through pay dirt before they get to a site, thinking the owner has kept the best material. At the Pala Chief fee dig, that’s certainly not the case.

Here, Jeff Jeff Swanger, Owner and Chief operator of the Ocean View and Pala Chief Mines, digs up untouched ground, piling it to one side so rockhounds can go through it. He must have spent fifteen minutes at it, removing a tremendous amount of material.

After the excavator retreated, some jumped into the new trench, to see if anything was down, rather than up. In either case, no one had gone through that ground before!

Besides that treat, we were free to dig, chisel, pry, and hammer at any rock or rock face on the mountain. Many people did very well just surface collecting. And we kept whatever we found.

https://digforgems.com

 

 

 

Bill Depue, Founder and President of Diamond Pacific Tool

Today I had the great privilege of meeting Bill Depue, Founder and President of Diamond Pacific Tool in Barstow, California. He founded Diamond Pacific in 1973 and they have been in continuous operation ever since. In good times and bad, under Bill’s management, they have never missed a payroll. Anyone who has run a business can appreciate and perhaps be in awe of that five decade accomplishment.
 
Running late on time while traveling back to Las Vegas, I called Diamond Pacific to see when their gift and rock closed. I wanted to take photographs for my book. The woman on the phone said that it should be open until four and that they would see me when I got there. I told her I was an hour away and at at 3:30 PM I arrived. The parking lot suggested most of the employees had gone home.
I introduced myself to the man at the counter but he didn’t tell me who he was or what he did for Diamond Pacific. By his age, he said he was in his nineties, I assumed that he might be a retired employee or possibly a volunteer from a local rock club. I started peppering him with my usual questions for rockhounds, about when he started collecting, collecting areas that he liked and so on.
He said his favorite rock gem, or mineral was agate, and that one reason was because so many nice specimens came from the Mojave Desert. He enjoyed making cabs, and he never used a template. As he talked, however, he seemed to be extremely knowledgeable about Diamond Pacific and offered to show me the factory, a tremendous opportunity.
 
After several photographs, I determined him to be a long term employee. I asked when he started working for the company. “Well, I started it in 1973 . . . “ Started it? Yikes! Who was I talking to? I asked him his name and he identified himself, being more modest than anyone should be capable of. He said that Diamond Pacific now sells lapidary equipment in over fifty countries.
Anyone who has worked a cab knows Diamond Pacific. Now, I know The Man.