Cheaper Microscope Photography?

The sand pictures below were taken with a small microscope that attaches to a computer with a USB cable. The cable provides light to the scope which is best  supplemented by conventional, additional lights.  This scope is currently selling for $119 at B&H Photo. 

I bought this scope while getting into mineral photography for my book. Unfortunately, its five megapixel resolution was not good enough to produce publishable images in hardcopy. That’s why I got my 65 pound, $1,200 (!) microscope with its 12 megapixel accessory camera. Printable images. Still, can this little scope work fo your needs? Say producing images for the web?

Differences in color between the shots are the result of different adjustments in Elements and the fact that I only had a yellow incandescent bulb to supplement the scope’s LED light. Never-the-less, you can judge if these kind of images would suit your purposes. A caution, you will always want a microscope that magnifies more.

This shot is as magnified as I can get it. The software keeps calling for “calibration” when wants to increase the magnification but there aren’t any menu choices for calibration.  I’m not sure if that is a problem with a Windows program ported over to the Mac but it may be. The free software is made for both Windows and Mac machines. Open the jpegs the scope makes in camera RAW.

And another picture. The big color and contrasts differences are from multiple adjustments in Photoshop, trying to get the image to reproduce what I saw in person.

Another shot.

I’ve taken this little scope on the road with me to view materials in my hotel room. Runs well off my laptop but it does make my Mac’s fans turn on in just a short time.

To compare these photos to ones taken with my big scope, go to my personal writing website:

Same sand, different scope.


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Again Along the Spanish Trail

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Picked up an odd rock today along the Old Spanish Trail, not far from the Junction of Highway 160. in Clark County, Nevada. What calls young fan alluvium. Lots of limestone and sandstone bits and pieces. Didn’t see anything like this rock. It has notable pockets around the rock and then lines of heavily marked material evenly radiating out from them.

There is chunk of what may be limestone at the bottom of each pocket. It reacts little to acid but I think I see some activity. The white material, less that 2 on the Mohs scale doesn’t react because it is so porous the acid soaks it up before doing anything! The white material fluoresces a strong orange/red while the pockmarked lines, full of circle and bubble shapes, does not do anything under UV.

It strikes me somewhat as being like the calcite material which I saw recently at the Kokoweef Cavern Mine complex. There are a few dead springs in the surrounding area, I am wondering if this has something to do with being formed or acted on by a spring. But I don’t know why these lines would radiate from those pockets. Or why there would be pockets in the first place.

September 16, 2019

I’ve been thinking this over by myself. No one on of FB has made any suggestions as to what formed the rock, other than it might be gypsum. Which it is not, much too soft for gypsum. I have a reference specimen of rock gypsum, unweathered, and a self-collected piece, weathered, from Shark Tooth Hill in Kern County, California. Both those rocks are chalky and too soft to compare with the mystery rock.

Here is my working theory. The white material is calcite, a mass of which formed around several limestone rocks. At some point the mass became tumbled and rounded in the small desert wash or channel that I collected it from. Being very absorbent, the round mass picked up rainwater which would contain carbon dioxide. A weak carbonic acid would develop when the limestone reacted to that. The limestone is now eating away at the calcite, dissolving the material over the centuries.

The pockets you see are all centered on where a piece of limestone is located. The residue seen in the lines is the acidic precipitate left by this slow destructive process. Thus, that residue or the limestone does not respond to UV, being limestone and limestone related, while the calcite (the white mass or host) responds to UV as most calcite does.

Under SW UV. Forgive the “blue bleed”, a common sight when photographing glowing rocks.

R.C. has just checked in. “If it’s calcite, no surprise. Rainwater dissolves limestone, which is calcite. Limestone typically has fractures which gradually get enlarged as rain water makes its way through. This is how cave systems form. The calcium carbonate (calcite) dissolved in the rainwater is what forms stalactites and stalagmites in caves, and it commonly fills in fractures between blocks of limestone.”

So, do we have a rock that was once a fractured piece of limestone, now with calcite accreting around the remaining pieces? In other words, this may not have been a mass of calcite to begin with, rather it was a block of limestone that started this all off. And then it transformed into what is seen today. Hmm. Still pondering.


Kokoweef material self-collected on mine dumps by permission. Limestone rock on top and “popcorn calcite” underneath, the calcite carbonate deposited in the form you see here. It is unknown whether this rock came from the cavern roof, its floor, or a wall.

This popcorn calcite responds weakly under SW, producing an uninteresting cream color. It does have a short but notable phosphorescence or afterglow.


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Hawaii In A Bottle

Self collecting is great but most of us can’t go around the world to chase specimens or go back in time to get them. Case in point is this old stock Hawaiian sand from Geological Specimen Supply, mentioned in my last post.

This sand is over twenty years old, predating the ban on removing sand from the Islands.  This specimen comes with great labeling, a summary of the fuller descriptions RC provides on his site. Did you know that Waikiki’s beaches actually came from Long Beach, California? Read on and then take a look at what I am seeing under my scope.

“Sand is derived from whatever material is locally available. Beaches are uncommon on the seacliff-ringed Island of Hawaii. Occasional small coves have sand derived primarily from basalt unless there is a coral reef offshore. This sand was collected from a small cove near South Point, Hawaii, where a local concentration of cobbles of basalt and coral was the source material for this sand. The sand is primarily coral and basalt, giving it a salt and pepper look, with occasional small shell fragments adding variety to the mix.”

“Hawaii’s white sand beaches at Waikiki were initially an import, from California. In the 1920s and 1930s sand was barged from Long Beach, though the import of California sand was abandoned in the 1970s and the beach is now maintained with locally dredges sand composed of coral and shell fragments. A locally famous black sand beach occupies a cove southwest of Hilo, where the sand is entirely basalt. At Mahana Bay, near South Point, the greenish sand is composed of grains of olivine that weather out of the basalt.”

“Set of five tubes, 16 ml each, optically clear polystyrene with screw caps. The plastic tubes are practical in a classroom and are somewhat student resistant, though a cap can be unscrewed. Good for student examination. When this sand is gone, it’s gone. A recent law prohibits removal of sand from Hawaii’s beaches.”

The focus of our attention.

Here are images just taken under my microscope. These are single focus shots, so the foreground and background focus aren’t the same. Really good photographers take a number of shots at different focal points and then have software combine them to produce a perfectly focused imaged. I’m trying to learn to do that.

White material is probably coral, dark material basalt, and the green is olivine or peridot. Shell fragments, too. Olivine is thrown out from deep within the earth during volcanic eruptions, mixed up with basalt at the same time. Basalt pieces can make up a black sand beach, the lighter peridot may weather out of the basalt and collect together, producing a rare green sand beach.

Closeup of a peridot or olivine grain, exhibiting poor conchoidal fracturing.

A shell, sharpened in Photoshop.

Unsharpened and from a different angle. Any difference?

Another shell, this one red.

Basalt with olivine from the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. This is what tribal member Stevie Joey mines on his peridot claims. His site is Peridot Dreams and you can learn all about gem grade peridot there. He is receptive to inquiries about touring his claim.

Specimen tube. Buy several to trade.

On Cats and Collecting

A single cat always accompanies professional geologist RC on his travels and collecting. It ranges free while he works. I’ve bought dozens of well labeled teaching specimens from him in building my reference collection. On my own initiative, I’ve removed locality names.

RC with Geological Specimen Supply

T Cat goes out in the field. The Sparkletts box under him is a composite. I get egg boxes from the market, cut them horizontally in two, jam the top half down over the bottom half and glue them together, so double-walled but half as high. Eight inches high, one foot square. Then, to keep the flaps down, I get Sparkletts water boxes and cut them in two horizontally as well, but glue the top flaps to a piece of cardboard inside, making a solid top. These are a hair bigger than the egg boxes but not as tall. Half of one works as a lid, pushed down over the egg box. There’s one of these under T Cat. Each one is filled with strips of The Wall Street Journal, though any fish wrap will work. The Journal comes every day in the mail, Monday’s paper on Monday.

Every piece of rock gets wrapped up. The paper gets reused. These boxes are strong, will hold about 50 student specimens, and two will fit on my pack frame. Depending on what’s in them, I may or may not be able to get up!

The Idaho Spuds Box is full of giant oyster fossils, about a foot long. Still not unpacked! I didn’t take enough field boxes on that trip.

T Cat comes to a bell, so when I’m ready to leave, he’s in the van. He was waiting for me to finish packing. T stands for Tyrannosaurus. He was the biggest of the bunch, twice as big as the smallest. Born in a basket beside me Memorial Day last year.

I have a 7 pound and a 10 pound sledge in the van, a pick, shovel (more for roads than for rocks) a couple of Estwing geologists’ hand sledges and a couple of Estwing 12 ounce rock hammers. These have chisel heads and are easy to trim with. Estwing stopped making them, but now make a brick layers hammer that’s the same.

I don’t want to have to lug rocks very far for those I sell. I can tie a couple of field boxes onto a pack frame, but I want whatever I’m collecting to be close to the van.

Different story when I’m looking for something for my collection, since weight isn’t going to be much. The best exposure of Ordovician brachiopods in the Great Basin is _____________. A couple of hours hiking gets you to the fossils. One year I was up there with a geologist friend and a student. After a long day with our noses in a shale talus slope, picking out pencil eraser sized brachs, we had hiked about half way back when my student said he had forgotten the rock hammer back at the rock pile. I had five, and I sure wasn’t going to hike back for one, all uphill!

One hammer wasn’t a big loss.

The next year I went back. Going up the talus on hands and knees, I put my hand on the missing hammer. Rusty, but it wore off. I’ve lost hammers, but that’s the first time I found one. Only time.

I don’t like the west side of the Sierra Nevada. Too much vegetation, so it’s hard to see the rocks. And then, poison oak, ugh. When I can collect in roadcuts, I do. Phyllite and serpentine, both from roadcuts in
___________ near Foresthill. In the coast ranges, I get graywacke from a roadcut. The rocks are more likely to be fresh where a road was cut through. Hopefully a road without much traffic!

Some rocks have to be collected from a dry stream channel to be unweathered. Tumbling down the stream removes the weathered stuff. I find the white anorthosite in the river bed of ______________ River. Took me forever to find a way to drive down into it, but eventually did. In all of the roadcuts I looked at, it was weathered all the way to China, and besides, in the San Gabriel Mountains, you have to buy a pass to even park at the side of the road, so I stay away.

T-cat is indeed an orange tabby. He rode down with me to Ridgecrest tonight, and took up the same position on the boxes, though leaning on my shoulder. Helped me with a Jumbo Jack at Ridgecrest.

His mom was a tabby, became a meal for a coyote, unfortunately. She had already used up eight lives, out collecting with me near Lompoc, ran across the road to the van at just the wrong moment. Going full tilt, she hit the outside of the front tire of a speeding car, was slammed to the road and then bounced into the air, screaming. Landed, writhing, on the pavement. I thought that was the end of her, but I could see nothing broken and not a drop of blood, only a pink ear. Tail was still attached. I gently picked her up and put her in the van. She tried to climb onto the back seat but needed a hand up. Spent the rest of the day on a pillow, was better the next day, and came back to life the day after. Lucky. One second faster and she would have been under that tire, and flat. After that, she had a low reserve of extra lives, I would say. Went out one evening and disappeared. Coyotes ate two of neighbor’s daughter’s cats also, so he shot two coyotes and they have stayed away, recently.

Brother, Ralph, dark tabby, eats anything and everything. Brought in a rabbit this morning and thought it was ok to eat it on a Navajo rug. Caught that in time, so he had his snack on a towel and didn’t complain about the move. Ate all but the back legs, started with the head and ate all of it, amazingly, leaving nothing. Rabbit was half his size. Second time he’s done this, and he has made some plants in the yard grateful, as the rabbits have lost interest in them. Sister, Cucumber, snacked on the back legs. A calico tabby – tabby markings but with some orange in her fur. Cool as a cucumber riding in the van, sits on the back of my seat with her front legs over my shoulder and looks out the front window, purring in my ear. Here she is at the Gold Nugget Mine, east of Quartzsite, where I was collecting milky quartz. Not as easy to keep track of when she’s out running around, but she also comes to the bell. All hree do, actually. When T Cat is out exploring, he really stands out.

Cats are smarter than dogs. All Pavlov could do was to get his dogs to drool when they heard a bell. These cats come to the bell and jump in the van when they hear it, if I’m outside. Their reward is a tube of Churu.


T-Cat in the field

Cucumber at a mine


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The Buzz is Building for Tucson 2021

2021? What about next year?

Well, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society (TGMS) theme for 2020 will be World Class Minerals and that will be fine. But the theme in 2021 will be Fluorescent Minerals. 1996 was the last time this theme was presented. 2021 promises perhaps the largest exhibit of fluorescent minerals ever seen.

Conrad North of the Fluorescent Mineral Society (FMS), reports that the Society has “secured a large, dark, display area in a room just off the main display floor at the Tucson Convention Center. This area could accommodate approximately 100 fluorescent display cases, compared to the 78 featured in 1996.”

Can you imagine that? One hundred UV display cases filled with glowing rocks from around the world, good displays, Tucson worthy. Although the traffic bothers me around the Big Show weekend, I plan on going. You should, too.

The dates of the 2021 TGMS Show are February 11-14, 2021.

I am a proud sustaining member of the FMS, although they still list me as an individual supporter.

The Fluorescent Mineral Society

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society


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Rattlesnake fear should not stop desert wandering. They are a risk but so is a flat tire, a dead battery, or a water bladder that leaked and left you thirsty. “Those things won’t kill you!,” you might say. Well, actually, those things can. From what I read, an otherwise healthy person will face a terrible night of sickness from an untreated rattlesnake bite but nothing close to death.

Do what you can to minimize the risk. Don’t put your hands down any hole or cavity that you can’t see into. All sorts of biting creatures may be there, as well as underneath rocks. Rock piles are a favorite hiding places for snakes as their cavities and voids give them shelter. It’s really impossible to spot a rattler while walking along, they are too well camouflaged to be spotted ahead of time. Most often they will rattle at you if you pass too close, which may be only a foot or two away.

My first rattlesnake encounter was while prospecting in El Dorado County in the Central Foothills of California. I heard a strange sound from out of nowhere, something I hadn’t heard before. I looked at the ground and there was a large rattlesnake, coiled, head back, seemingly ready to strike. Maybe. Or maybe just telling me not to step on it. Anyway, I jumped back about three feet in the air, instantly enough distance to avoid getting bit. I walked off. What I noticed most was how different that rattling sound was from something in the movies or on film. Learn to listen for anything unusual and sudden in the desert, sound may be your best key. I’ve also had encounters with silent rattlesnakes, noticing them just before I put my foot down on them. That time was on a rock pile, again, beware of hounding that kind of ground. In my experience, rattlers can be moving around anytime of day.

Above all, DO NOT SHOOT A RATTLESNAKE! Just move away. You’re far more likely to shoot yourself and this kind of accident occurs throughout the West on a regular basis. Just move away.

On Mount Diablo in the Bay Area I was at a trailhead parking lot when a woman ran up to me, completely out of breath. She asked if there was a ranger around and I said no but that I could try to help her find one. “What was the problem?” She said her hiking group was stopped on a trail with a large rattlesnake in front of them. I didn’t understand what she was getting at. And then, taking a guess, I said, “Have the group walk around it. Give it a wide berth.” She kept staring at me, obviously wanting another answer. I then said, “It will not follow you or chase you down.” Her whole face lit up with happiness and she went off running from where she came. No, they will not follow you.

Some people have the background and interest to move snakes by hand but this is the sort of thing that requires training and knowledge. My friend and mineral dealer Rolf has many rattlesnakes on his southern Arizona property and he has learned to deal with them, even the deadliest. He does not shoot them!

This is a story with pictures that he sent me this morning.

Hi Tom,

Yesterday we had an interesting thing happen. After the big rain Saturday, Sunday was much calmer and no rain. Yesterday afternoon Mary drove to town to pick up a few things for dinner.

Before she came back I was going to go over and turn off the air conditioning in the store since it was on for about two hours and we keep in off after about two hours on so as not to use too much juice.
I was about to let the dogs out but thought Mary was about to come back and they could get in the way when she parked since Shadow “don’t know nothin about cars” yet, so I decided to leave them in.

I was walking down our ramp and didn’t get far before I saw the rattlesnake. It was right where the dogs often run. It was crawling in the open. I went over to see since it looked different. Sure enough, it was a Mohave Green Rattlesnake, which in the 38 years we have been on the place we have never seen. The Mohave Green is the most dangerous rattlesnake because of its temperament and its much worse poison. They are one of the most toxic snakes in the world. Our bio-habitat is not quite right for them but here it was.

I put it in a bucket and was surprised it was not any more aggressive than the diamondbacks we always find. Since I know if its toxic nature I wanted to document we had found it but not put it out again to get a natural background so got a piece of glass and just finished cleaning it when Mary got back. I put the glass on the bucket instead the lid and got the camera.

The snake was a beautiful snake, if you like that kind of thing, and had coiled up but kept rattling. I took some photos and then replaced the lid and put a piece of railroad rail we use for a door stop on top of the lid, you know just in case kind of thing. We certainly don’t want that one on the place. I was going to take it off with the ATV to where I often release snakes but Mary said she had a better idea. First it was about 15 miles away and a much better habitat for this species.

We drove to the place and found a good release spot and it was still only about 5:30pm so not too hot anymore and a good oportunity to get a couple of photos.

I did just that and thought I attach the three best photos so you can see the snake.

Fortunately my snake eye is still quite sharp and my working with them is like riding a bicycle, you don’t forget all the years of doing it.

Great animal and I have a big respect for them but not on our property.
Mary thought since it was so plump it could have been ready to give birth and that would certainly have been bad. So, off it went and we were again talking on the drive home how pretty that snake is and just how dangerous.

Otherwise not much happening here.

Hope things are good your way.



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Sandstone Collecting and A Gila Monster

Sandstone Stuff

I self-collected my first piece of sandstone yesterday in a desert wash near Las Vegas. It has two bullseyes which I think is extremely unusual. Most sandstone exhibits bedding or strata.

Here’s a single still picture below, then two videos. The rock is this picture is wet from my cleaning it; it looks better when dry.

My friend the geologist R.C. says. “The curved lines are liesegang banding, an iron oxide stain. It forms the picture rock like that sold in Kanab, just from a different rock formation.”

I have a piece of picture rock that has been heat treated to bring out the iron color. I bought that small slab two years ago. I show it in the second video.

Here’s a short vid with good color of my rock. I made it on the tailgate of my truck when I first found it.

This is a longer video with sound and indoor light. It’s a more informative video but the color of the rock is not so good. I am still learning about video.


Update: Just noticed that a piece of sandstone I bought at Vanderford’s Gold Strike in Goldfield, Nevada also exhibits orbs. Perhaps they are more common than I thought. Much to learn and notice. Let me know in the comments below if you have any bullseye sandstone.


 Rolph’s Luetcke’s sends some pictures of his sandstone collection and shares some of his recollections on same.

Hi Tom,

Cool piece you found. I have some from Nevada and got those in a neat way. One trip up to Oregon to collect Obsidian and Opal back in the 70’s. One motel had a bunch of the picture rock lying in the weeds by the side of its property. The gal who owned the place happened to come out when I was looking at the stones and I asked her about them and she said she was sorry about that mess and she had meant to get someone to clean it up. I smiled and said I would be glad to remove them for her. She was so very happy to get rid of that junk. To some it is junk, to me it was treasure and free for the picking. I still have some of the pieces lying out in the back yard. Made some cabachons out of the material too and it worked up fairly nicely as you can see.


The next is from Arizona and a fellow who used to run the Pima College mineral class used to stop by our store, that is another story, but they had gone collecting and got a bunch of this stuff and gave us a nice piece.

The next piece is a stone from the mountains just to our West. We used to have access to one canyon that is actually visible from our place but someone locked the gate now. I went up there often when we first started here to get flat rock for a big area I used the stones as “paving” stones. Many had these banded patterns and those were the favorites to pick up.

The last one is from Sedona, the sandstone there had wonderful banding and I have better ones too but this photo was fairly easy to find. The patterns in the sandstone were iron also.


The Gila Monster

Today I saw our area Gila Monster on my late afternoon dog walk. I went back to get my camera and got some nice photos. Thought you would enjoy seeing it, my favorite lizard. This one seems to show itself every 4 years. We first saw it in 2011 then again in 2015 and now this year. You are welcome to post those photos or for that matter, any we send you.

Have a great day.


Rolf and his wife Mary run Sunshine Gallery and Gifts in St. David, Arizona. It is a destination rock and mineral shop.

Another angle


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Sad News From Land Matters

From: Land Matters <>
Date: September 4, 2019 at 5:19:19 PM PDT
To: Thomas <> Subject: Changes at Land Matters



The Landmark – September 4, 2019

Land Matters

Your Resource for Land Research
Changes at Land Matters

RIP Leigh Johnson





Land Matters Executive Director, Leigh Johnson, recently passed away unexpectedly. Leigh was a founder, board member and unpaid volunteer for Land Matters. Her belief in the Land Matters mission led her to dedicate the last 5 years nearly full time to it’s development. I know many of you had corresponded with Leigh and know how helpful, responsive and dedicated she was to the Land Matters mission. She will be missed by all who knew her.

With your support Land Matters will continue to be the premier Free non-profit source for land information.

As a result of Leigh’s passing Land Matters has fallen behind on it’s regular claims updates and Member reports. Land Matters is a very small non-profit with limited resources. Rest assured that the Land Matters maps, reports and data will be updated over the next few days. Land Matters will continue in it’s mission to bring users reliable current land information.

We have been notified that some Claims Advantage Members didn’t receive the latest report. If you are a Claims Advantage Member and you didn’t receive your August 15th report please contact us at the link below so we can email you a link to the report download.

Contact Land Matters

We apologize for any inconvenience this delay may cause you. Thousands of people a day rely on Land Matters resources and we take that responsibility seriously. Please bear with us as we get updated and please let us know if you see anything that isn’t working right.

Keep Land Matters Free

Donate Today

Your Resource for Land Research

Editor’s note.  I extend my deepest sympathies to everyone at Land Matters for their terrible loss and in appreciation of all the good works Leigh achieved. I corresponded with her numerous times and she was always helpful and kind.

I am told that new ways of presenting information are being tested at Land Matters and I look forward to these developments as time and grief allow.

Back To The Nopah Range

Back to the Nopah Range. I was at Emigrant Pass on the Old Spanish Trail in Inyo County, California. Flew my drone for the first time in two years. Forgot the controls. Soft crash landing. Military controlled air space? It might be due to China Lake in Riverside County. That’s a Naval Air Station. But at least fity miles away. I spent some time later trying to read this map:

I thought land maps were complicated! Here are two versions of my doomed flight.

The first is video that Dji did automatically with their online editing footage. They added sound as well. Which means they probably compressed the file and then Youtube compressed it some more.

The second video is the original raw footage, looking dark on a dreary day.

Both videos are pixelated but the original shows well on my monitor. I bought some video editing software yesterday to see how it might lighten the darkness in the film. Some other stills from the North Nopah WA also below.

Watch for NOTAMs. Notice to Airmen. Real pilots and us drone operators.

A thin granite marker from the early 1920’s stands watch over the Old Spanish Trail in the background, now paved and not marked by the ruts of wagon wheels.

Broken yet intact. Why I don’t have to find gemstones or gold to love rockhounding. As my geologist friend RC said, “This is where sand comes from!”

Thought this was chert but it is not. More like deeply stained shale. Leached out from the soil mound uphill. Two hundred yards from here is shale in road cuts which yield partial trilobite specimens. That shale cleaves into shingle like pieces with a brick hammer. The stuff here simply falls apart into powder.

Just because it is black and craggy doesn’t mean that it is volcanic. These mountains fooled me when I first came here. These are actually limestone boulders, the entire area is made up of marine rocks. Check for the geology in any given area. Here’s a screenshot from their app.

How do you know if something is igneous? Generally, nothing igneous or volcanic will react to a bit of acid. Unless the rock has calcite encrusted on it. Which is everywhere in the southwest. Test different parts of a rock to be sure. Never approach a geologist with an ID question if you haven’t done an acid test. That’s the first test they will expect you to have done.

Here’s a photo of some acid bottles I made up for field work. 10% hydrochloric acid although you can use toilet bowl cleaning fluid in a pinch if it has HCI. That will probably be blue and not clear. A dropper bottle contained inside another bottle is a great way to carry an acid bottle anywhere.

Here’s the overall collecting area. This is about twenty minutes from Tecopa, California which has a must stop, the China Ranch Date Farm. They let you wander through their commercial palm tree orchard. And they serve date shakes. Really. Be prepared to wait in line for those.

You have arrived at the ranch.

And a view of the ranch in the distance. Most vehicles will have no problem with this road.


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Visual Rock ID Sessions at UNLV

This just in from the Geoscience Department at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, located in downtown Las Vegas. Session is back in and rock ID for the public continues as it has for some years. This year they have changed their days and increased their hours. The Department’s notice below, my comments below that.

From The Department

From: Geoscience Department
Date: August 30, 2019 at 4:03:35 PM PDT
Cc: Maria Rojas
Subject: UNLV Visual Rock I.D. Sessions


Here in the department, we hold visual Rock I.D. sessions on Monday 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Tuesday 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Thursday 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm (does not include holidays) for the Fall 2019 semester. We will not be accepting any more walk ins after 4:45 pm.

Rock IDs are visual inspections only; we do not keep or buy any rocks/fossil and we do not give any monetary value.

In terms of making an appointment, you don’t have to make one, you can just come during the listed time and day.

Regarding the limit on amount of rocks brought it, we have a limit of 3.

For parking and directions please click on this link for more information.

To do Rock I.D., make sure you come to Lilly Fong Geoscience Building Room 104.
Questions or concerns feel free to contact us (702) 895-3262 ;

University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Department of Geoscience
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-4010

My Comments

I’ve been to several sessions and met good people. You will be lucky if you run into Drew Barkoff, he is a P.hD student and has been a friend of my book. I am always astounded at what he knows and I learn tremendously every time I talk with him. I also met Sara last year, a Masters student. Everybody is excellent.

Locality is extremely important in any ID, of course, so bring in as much information as you can. A geologic map or a small printout of same, no matter how simple, will help tremendously. You can find these at either or especially at I once brought in a rock from Plymouth, CA and did not and could not expect anyone there to know the geology of the area. Bring a map if possible. Oh, and a small flashlight since the conference room is dim. And a loupe. They have some simple things like streak plates.

Parking can be tough. Many meters accept quarters but in some lots you will get only 10 minutes to a quarter. On many of those meters they have a credit card system also in place. You call the number on the meter and voice prompts walk you through a ten minute process to register your credit card, take down your license plate, and so on. It is frustrating and lengthy to set up for the first time, considering you will be in full sun the entire duration. If you return at a later date your account will be all arranged and it will be just a matter of calling the number back.

There may be other options for parking listed at the link the Department mentioned above that I do not know about. Check them out. If you are a short distance from campus a Uber of Lyft may be a good idea.

If you have large or heavy rocks, bring a cart or hand truck. You will need it, the Geosciences Building can be a long walk from wherever you wind up parking. Everything is on the first floor and handicap accessible. There is an outstanding display of rocks and minerals on the first floor and I noticed that they must have replaced all the lighting this semester. Things look great. This collection is almost worth a visit it just by itself. All campus staff is friendly and people will happily point you out to the Geoscience Building. Take water and they have a nice water fountain bottle filler near the conference room.

Good luck to anyone going and understand that at times people may get hung up or delayed for a little while before meeting you. Such is life.


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