Another Update on The Gemfield Gem Claims in Goldfield, Nevada

Sharon Artlip has been in touch. She and her sister Nadiah Beekum own the Gemfield Gem claims in Goldfield, Nevada.

I’ve written quite a bit about the claims at this site and also in the May, 2016 issue of Rock&Gem Magazine. Another name for the claims now seems to be “The Rainbow Chalcedony Claims.”

Sharon writes that, “It has been a wonderful couple of years.  We are still having fun at Gemfield and always trying to improve it.  If you would like I will send you the current brochure.”

Rocks go for a dollar a pound. Everything is on the honor system. Register at one of several Goldfield businesses before going to the claim. Easy dirt road but not recommended for large RVs.

Wild burro country. Antelope, too.

Here’s a link below to the current brochure in .pdf:

2019-03-Gemfield Gem-Claims-History-pamphlet

This is a link to Sharon’s website supporting the claims:

http://www.gemfieldnv.com

And here’s a postcard photo of the claims. Click here or on the image for a much bigger view:

 

Sharon holding chalcedony in Goldfield, Nevada. She’s at Bryan Smalley’s Hidden Treasure Trading Company at 489 Bellevue Avenue.  Notice her truck’s new personalized license plates.

Prospecting Thoughts While Traveling in Southern Nye County, Nevada

The fun stuff: Instagram — tgfarley

I went driving today to my club’s claims in the Johnnie Mining District in the hills outside Pahrump, Nevada. I never made it.

Instead, while driving HWY 160 west toward Pahrump, I thought about all the BLM land to the south of that road that may have not been recently prospected or rock hounded. The reason? A sturdy and nasty barbed wire highway fence with few breaks in it, only one faint road into the area in several miles, and few good pullouts to park. That’s enough to deter most prospectors even if the land is open and the ground unclaimed.

Compare that to Crystal Road, which strikes north from HWY 160 about four miles from I-95. No highway fence on either side. Fairly soon after leaving HWY 160, 15 to 20 large piles of dirt appear somewhat randomly over a mile or so to the east of Crystal Road as one travels to Crystal. Backhoe produced. Someone searching for gold.

I looked over some of these piles and their trenches. Must have been fairly old workings as BLM now requires a plan and  permit to operate heavy machinery on a claim. Unless some locals went rouge one day, possibly sampling on a large scale.

While I didn’t see any claim markers I felt uneasy about investigating further. Normally I would break out my metal detector or a bucket to take some rock and gravel. The more rural you get, however, the more testy locals become. I did have my laptop and there was cell coverage. I could have pulled up LandMatters to see if the area was under claim. But all map drawing websites are painfully slow with an average cell connection.

When I got home I researched the area a little. That ground was indeed unclaimed, with the only a large set of claims around the rough settlement of Crystal. If I go again to sample I will print out some maps first. In thinly populated areas, any truck parked on the side of the road gets attention. A person with a metal detector, a pick, and some five gallon buckets may be the highlight of the day for a nearby resident. Word will get out fast. If you prospect, you must handle the attention it attracts.

When I was last at my club’s claims, a fellow member pointed out the view east to I-95. “There’s gold all the way to the highway.” Hmm. Maybe washed from the hills. But in paying amounts? Some people think so, judging by those exploratory diggings and the fact there are so many claims around Crystal.

With temperatures now climbing, and my book deadline getting closer, I won’t be going back soon. But I will keep wondering about the area. And wondering what lies on the other side of HWY 160, the same looking ground but prospecting seemingly defeated by a wire fence. There is much to explore.

Okay, I will admit it. I got under that fence to sample a wash. Brought the gravel home. I don’t hope for gold when sampling blind, I look for black sand. Hardly any. But I didn’t get out my Whites GMT, which has a black sand tracking feature. It produces a  numerical readout to close in on areas with a greater likelihood of paystreaks. It’s far easier to search a gravel bar or a desert wash than with any other method.  But I ramble.

 

 

 

 

Minerals Unlimited in Ridgecrest, California

What do the best bars and rock shops have in common? They all have a gravel parking lot. Whenever you hear gravel underneath your wheels in the desert, you know you’re going to have a great time. Don’t fear for your vehicle though, as you only have to go fifty feet off pavement. And that distance will take you very, very far into a wonderful rock, mineral, and jewelry world.

 

Wendi “Ace” Elkins, singlehandedly owns and runs Minerals Unlimited in Ridgecrest, California. It sits next to a Salvation Army thrift shop and is one the finest rock and mineral stores in the Southwest. Its been operating for seventy years, always family owned. Minerals are neatly arranged in alphabetical order in dozens and dozens of wooden drawers, all of them inviting you to tour our rocky planet without leaving Ridgecrest.


A tremendous rock yard exists outside, with rough of all kinds and descriptions.

Working under the moniker of “Jewelry by “Ace,” Wendi fashions jewelry as a creative outlet for herself and to show off the many rocks and minerals her store offers. This description and picture is from her website:


“This lovely slab of native silver in calcite was mined from the Alhambra Mine, in Grant County, New Mexico. I used sterling silver wire to compliment the design. I had to let this one “talk” to me for several months, to make a complimentary wrap, but I think it was worth the wait.”

Wendi and I commiserated over static photographs being unable to convey the sparkle of jewelry and of rocks in general. You have to see in your hands the play of light from her designs  to see how special they are. Another reason to go in person.

You never know what you’re going to find at this store. I pulled out a drawer at random and it produced a stunning display of violet fluorite with cleaved octahedron shapes.

Stop in Ridgecrest whenever you’re in Southern California or traveling to nearby Death Valley. You may want one thing but you’ll carry out many more. She sells online, too, so check her website or give her a call. Make sure to phone before visiting in case she is out of town at a rock show.

And if you want to buy an entire rock shop, not just a rock, talk to Wendi. Running the store has become tiring and Wendi is considering serious offers on her business. She has worked at Minerals Unlimited since she was eight, on the payroll from 16, the owner since 2003. During this decision making time, however, the store remains fully open and operating and there is no thought of closing. There is a tremendous inventory here,  built up over decades with a great deal of material no longer available and unique to this shop. If you buy the store, you’ll have a head start on running it because everything is labeled!

Ridgecrest is centrally located to the historic mining districts around Randsburg to the south and Ballarat to the east. Nearby Sequoia National Forest to the west offers great rockhounding, especially along Highway 178, and the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is revealed by heading north on U.S. Route 395. Starting at Ridgecrest itself, guided tours organized by the Maturango Museum go out in spring and fall to visit Little Petroglyph Canyon. There, rock art images by the thousands were etched into canyon walls and boulders by native people long ago. Plan well ahead for this bucket list tour.

Ridgecrest is a relatively small, quiet town, supported economically in large part by the Naval Air Station called China Lake. Its role is ongoing and vital, its decommissioning practically unthinkable, lending stability to this tranquil desert community. If you are near base at twilight, you may hear the lilting sound of “Retreat” over loudspeakers. This marks the lowering of the flag for the day. Cars on base stop and park for this short interlude. People get out of their cars and face the flag or the direction of the music.

A unique shop. A unique town.

Minerals Unlimited
127 N Downs Street
Ridgecrest, CA 93555
760-375-5279

wendi@mineralsunlimited.com

 

The Ernst Quarries Near Shark Tooth Hill, Bakersfield, California

Rob Ernst explains large concretions at a one-of-a-kind fee dig in Southern California. These large specimens are retained for education and scientific research, however, one can keep nearly anything dug up in a designated area.

For a limited time each year, the Ernst Quarries near Bakersfield opens much of their ground to the public to collect marine fossils. Shark teeth are the big draw. Rob will patiently and enthusiastically explain the ocean environment that was present 150 million years ago. Tiny to small shark teeth are everywhere, they can even be found on the surface. Digging and screening with persistence will reveal bigger teeth on most days.

I got to the Quarries on a day threatening rain. Weather can knock out a dig day when the final stretch of quarry road becomes impassable. Depending on conditions, Rob may arrange for people to walk a few hundred yards from their cars to the dig sites, rather than cancel a date.  Rob is keenly aware that people from as far as back East make flight plans, car rentals, and hotel reservations to get to his property. He does everything he can to make dig days happen.

Visitors can help by reading the information packet sent to them by e-mail and by  printing out the location  map and release form ahead of time. As of right now, there is a road repair project happening on Round Mountain Road with traffic control in effect. In leaving the property, wait for a pilot vehicle before turning onto the road, otherwise, you may wind up facing a line of traffic coming directly at you in the opposite direction.

The image below show a tooth in matrix, the species I do not know. I think this looks better than a tooth alone. Be careful in digging. The silt will now have to be stabilized first, perhaps with a diluted solution of Elmer’s white glue and water.  Rob can explain how to do this.

I knew nothing about marine fossils when I went and my trip opened my eyes into another world of collecting. Fossil collectors are as rabid as rockhounds are about their pursuit. If you are lucky and put in the hours, you might have a chance at finding something like the tooth below. This dig is highly recommended and I wish you luck if you go.

The shark teeth pictured below were gathered by surface collecting over no more than fifteen minutes of off and on looking. The white teeth and fragments show  bleaching caused by lying on top of the ground. The teeth with more color were pulled from the ground as these show indications on the surface of where some teeth are. I’d say your chances of finding something better over a period of a few hours of actual digging and screening are pretty good. Note the nice little one in the shadow.

Make sure to look for other things. Jeff spotted these two vertebrae pieces lying on the ground of a trench. Although identification is often impossible for vertebrae of this period, he thinks they may be from a junior whale or a sea lion. Perhaps. He also says that upon close examination of fossils like these, most show tooth marks, evidence of the food chain in action from long ago. Few things died a natural death of old age.

It’s All About The Gram

An upcoming road trip will take me to Boron, California to stop in at Desert Treasures, if they are open. On the outskirts of Boron, the Rio Tinto Borax Mine Visitor Center is next and then on to Barstow to visit the Desert Discovery Center to view The Old Woman Meteorite. Then over the Tehacapi Pass to Bakersfield.

Next day to Shark Tooth Hill and The Ernst Quarries, next to Randsburg, and then on to Ridgecrest to visit Minerals Unlimited.

North after that to Death Valley, then east to Beatty, and then a drop back down to Las Vegas. I will be posting photos along the way if I have cell coverage.

If you are not on Instagram, consider joining. It’s all about the gram.

My username is: @tgfarley

On the web: https://www.instagram.com/tgfarley/

A Destination Rock Shop Opens in Arizona!

Rolf and Mary Luetcke are back in business, after a five year hiatus. The store was open as a rock, gift, jewelry and art store for over 23 years in southeast Arizona. Located only three miles from Benson, Arizona on Highway 80 on the way to Tombstone.

Being in the mineral business for almost fifty years, stock on hand is in a few thousand flats of minerals and piles of outside material for collectors and cutters alike. The store also houses a number of museum displays of natural history items, which are not for sale and a small black light room with colorful minerals under UV lights.

If you plan a trip to Southeastern Arizona, stop in and say Hello.

Sunshine Gallery and Gifts
1313 North Highway 80
St. David, Arizona 85630

+1 (520) 586-4560

marieluetcke@hughes.net

 

 

Dear Thomas,

We had a shop for 23 years before we retired for a while and reopened only last year. Over the years we accumulated a few thousand flats of material and so far have priced and labeled over two thousand flats and more still in several sheds to do. After 50 years of collecting have a ton of material to sell as we go. How did this all get started?

Well, I have been a collector as far back as I remember. As a kid in Germany I picked up fossil crinoids in my grandmothers’ back yard area where they had brought in a load of crushed rock.

As a child I collected butterflies, lizards, snakes and about anything critter. I did photography for years and worked at a zoo and ran a nature class. I got into rocks because a fellow I knew in about 1972 in Bisbee was going to a small rock shop in Mexico. The fellow who ran the rock shop was an old gentleman who reminded me of my grandfather. He sold mineral specimens and I had no idea what they were. In his yard he had piles of minerals, mostly discards he tossed out when he got a new batch of minerals. My friend happened to see this one pile and since I ran the nature class and was looking for things to give the kids, he thought I could get those piles for next to nothing.

I asked the old gentleman what he wanted for the one pile and he said $40. I got a bunch of boxes and loaded my station wagon. Turned out to be a thousand pounds of minerals. Tons of different kinds of things, copper, black tourmaline and a large number of other minerals. I ended up buying three piles, each about a thousand pounds and each pile a few bucks more. All three about $150. I didn’t know what they were and luckily I had met the geologist for the Bisbee mines. He helped me with identifications and suggestions of books and such.

That got me going and I ran with it. Started buying a reference collection at various sales and at the Tucson show. Ended up pretty much learning all I now know just by doing. Got pretty good at it and then about ten years later, started the rock shop we had. Just kept soaking up knowledge like a sponge and I guess after about 50 years, know a thing or two about minerals.

I have also written over 50 articles on my Mindat.org page so did a good bit of writing too. Also wrote sci-fi stories and much more. Now I do articles for an online Australian mineral magazine.

My interest in all of nature has not changed but my main focus is on minerals now.

As for the shop, you can list address and phone number if you like. Number is 520 586-4560. We are open most of the time since we live on 5 acres and one building is the store and one our mobile home. So, hours are open most of the time unless the gate is locked.

Today was a busy day in the store so had to stop often to go and wait on customers.

We are not at the store all day but live right by it so when the buzzer says someone drove in I go over. Generally open from 9 to 5 in winter and 9 to 6 in summer. I am a person who likes doing something most of the time so keep busy with all kinds of things. Don’t know what the word bored means.

Well, that is a bit about us here.

Hope it gives a bit of info.

I did write up the one story I told you about getting started with minerals on the Mindat.org article Mexican Rock Shop. That was one great way to start with minerals.

Take care,

Rolf

 

This morning my project was to put the Rock Shop sign on the front of our place. Had picked out a bunch of the smaller slabs we had in boxes to use for the letters and made the words in the house and then took each letter out on a beer flat and then used hot glue to mount the letters on the wall. So, that was our morning project.

Keep That Spray Bottle Handy!

Found this crazy looking piece on or near the east border of Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, where limited, non-commercial collecting is allowed. In response to the photos I posted to Facebook, Joel Coombs on The Rockhound Connection responded, “I believe that rock is slightly metamorphosed limestone. I have found smaller pieces with the same colors. Put a drop of pool acid on it. If it effervesces it is limestone.” I did put some acid on the back of the rock and it did indeed fizzle. This all agrees with Jim Boone’s identification of plain looking limestone in the same location.

I found it on the side of the road, a dusty and dirty rock but one showing interesting markings. My spray bottle revealed what I thought might be great material for a cab or a slab. (If I wanted to do that since I rarely get around to lapidary.) A friend pointed out, though, that the red areas were rusty splotches, possibly iron or hematite related and that being soft would not easily cab up. Something like Superglue might be applied to those areas, then the whole piece sanded later on.

I decided to keep it as it was. A former rock shop owner suggested clear glossy spray lacquer which could always be sanded off later. The first picture is of the rock wet, the second is after three coats of spray, now dry. The third picture is of the untreated back. Given the ease of effort, I think the spray worked out well for this particular rock.

How did I find it? I was volunteering on Tuesday to help fill in potholes on Gold Butte Road, the somewhat paved road that provides the main access to the Monument. Right now, under the direction of The Friends of Gold Butte, many volunteers are helping out on this multi-day project. Clark County and BLM are also supplying workers and cold patch. I found the the rock on a break. But I had my spray bottle nearby. https://www.meetup.com/Friends-of-Gold-Butte/

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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: