Nye and Inyo County

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Some of the drive in to the China Ranch Date Farm. Dash cam failed to record what may have been a gray fox crossing the road. I’ll get that camera figured out today. #chinaranchdatefarm #tecopa#geology roadtrip#inyocounty#nopahrange#roadtrip

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Out in Inyo County, California today. This is a working date palm farm with a gift shop and a kitchen that makes baked goods and date shakes. Only a few miles from Immigrant a Pass in the South Nopah Range. #inyocounty#roadtrip#palmtrees#desertoasis #oasis#mojavedesert#tecopa#deathvalley

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Gift shop at the farm. The parking lot is a trailhead for many hikes. We were the only ones there during our visit, the ranch is usually bustling with customers. #roadtrip#palmtrees#oasis#desert#armagosavalley #tecopa#deathvalley

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At the Museum. Open after an 11 week shutdown ordered by our beloved governor. Some hands on exhibits still not operating, again, by order of a state government that knows what is best for us. #pahrump #roadtrip#nevada#rocks#yuccamountainproject #radiation#nyecounty#history#

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Tuff. Learn it, live it, love it. #geology #roadtrip #geology rocks#volcanics #pahrump#museums#nyecounty#nevada#yuccamountainproject #rocks #tuff#

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The quixotic town of Blue Diamond, named after the hill of the same name. Gypsum mine nearby. At the far south end of the Red Rock National Conservation Area. #gypsum#clarkcounty#bluediamondnevada #roadtrip

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I’m Moving Out of Las Vegas

After getting back from Tonopah and Goldfield, it was very clear to me that I needed to move. I returned from lightly travelled roads to the nightmare that is Las Vegas traffic. Las Vegas isn’t as bad, yet, as Phoenix Metro or Atlanta, but it is bad.

I’m concentrating on Pahrump right now. It’s an hour’s drive west of Las Vegas. It has a hospital that takes my insurance and a 24 hour emergency room. I’d rather live elsewhere but none of the places I like have medical services anywhere close.

My present lease runs out in two months. I want to sign papers on a new place at least a month before September 1st. I know that means carrying an extra rent payment for a while but I do not want to be rushed. I want time to pack, move, arrange utilities, and settle in.

This morning I went house hunting for a rental and just missed a place I would have signed papers on. It’s a complex world that real estate agencies live in.

In the Pahrump Valley there may be 10 or 15 real estate agencies. A homeowner could decide to sell or rent their property through anyone of them. The agency they choose becomes the primary listing agency. In turn, the agency shares this availability information with all the rest of the agencies.

Today I met with the largest real estate agency in the Valley and was shown two properties. This agency was not the primary for the properties. The agent called the primary before showing me the house I especially wanted to rent. He was told there was already an application in, however, the homeowner had doubts about the renter and that the application might not go through. The primary thought the best thing was for the agent to show me the place, and then I should come over to them to fill out an application, just in case things fell through with the first applicant.

I really did like the property but by the time I got to the primary the owner had changed his mind and approved of the tenant.

I see the house is still up at Zillow as if it is available. You cannot expect real time web changes in a small town like this or information to be coordinated well. People are doing their best so I will continue looking, even with this odd swirl of multiple companies trying to get a place rented or sold.

Also, be prepared to fill out several applications, each at a different agency. These look into your financial status and most probably your criminal record. Expect a fee of fifty to seventy five dollars at every agency. At least in Pahrump, there is no central clearing house for an applicant for all the real estate companies. Instead, you fill out an application one at a time, depending on if that company is the primary agency for a property. Only the primary agency deals with the application form and the property owner, the secondary real estate agencies simply show the property, collecting a fee of a few hundred dollars if a rental goes through. Whew! I am learning much.

Although I missed a wonderful house today, I learned that I will wait for a house that is by itself. Many have been available in the past which sit on an acre of land. The second house I saw today was in a conventional neighborhood with no more than twenty five feet between houses. Yuch. I can’t tolerate living like that anymore and I am sure my neighbors wouldn’t tolerate me. Besides the better privacy of a big lot, I want to buy a rock saw again and get cutting. We’ll see what happens. I have five weeks before my drop dead date. If not Pahrump, maybe Ely, Nevada.

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Desert Pavement

Just finished uploading a file to Wikimedia Commons showing desert pavement. It’s reworked footage from my prospecting desert pavements video.

In this video, I remove all narration and free certain frames along the way. I think this works best, leaving a description of desert pavement up to educators and students.

There are many nice still photos of desert pavement from around the world at Wikimedia Commons but no video.

Many devices can’t play that file format. So, here is the same footage at Vimeo, unfortunately, more compressed. Downloading any video file always and then playing it always produces the best results.

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A Mystery Metal, The Whites’ GMT and the Falcon MD-20

Yesterday I went out to Lathrop Wells in Nye County looking for placer gold in featureless alluvium, possibly 240 deep where I was. I had the audio on my metal detector turned way down to save on battery life. I wasn’t listening for gold nuggets or gold in quartz that day, instead, I was reading the display on my Whites’ black sand tracker feature. It gives a numerical reading on any ground the coil is moving over. I sample when I see it go above 45, unfortunately, it only hit 42 once.

But one sandstone rock with black streaks blasted out despite the volume on the speaker being turned down. Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Aside from the possibility of gold, I wasn’t aware of any other metallic ore in this ocean of alluvium. No mining district here or any past mining activity. The signal sounded like the hot rocks I encountered everywhere in the the canyons of the forks of the American River. You get what sounds like a good signal and then you listen as the GMT cancels the signal out. I should explain.

A decent gold signal is a strong, low, mellow tone that happens each time the search coil passes over a rock. The signal remains no matter how many times the search coil goes over the target. What usually happens with a bad rock, often with an iron component, is that a signal is heard initially but that signal disappears after several passes. With each sweep the GMT is logging information to determine if a rock is ferrous or not. If so, the signal weakens and then goes away. This is called cancelling out. This rock did not cancel out. That’s what you look for with gold. Most non-metallic rocks are neutral and the GMT also passes them by without raising any signal.

The signal, however, was weak and wavy. Not good. You want to hear a steady signal, nice and low. You’ll rarely hear this. The Whites also has a probability of iron meter. It was reading at nearly 100%. Okay, I thought, this is coming home with me to figure out later. When I broke it open at home it revealed a dark material like that which it showed from the outside, hardness about three. Not attracted to a magnet, not even my super magnet. No U, no UV. Dull, off-white streak on a black streak plate. Metallic luster when freshly broken, annealed appearance in some spots with fresh breaks. Crushed and panned a piece, nothing unusual, no free gold at the macro or micro level.

To get the ID process going I mailed off a chip today by regular US mail to Kerry Day. He charges less than ten dollars for a seasoned opinion based his experience and the results produced by his electron scanning microscope and its supporting software.  I’ve written about his service many times before. I taped a small chip to my business card, put it in a normal envelope and the charge for mailing was less than $2.50.  Make sure your sample fits into a No 10 first class envelope, anything bigger might be considered a package and then mailing rates go up enormously.

My Falcon MD-20 handheld metal detector indicated that the material was non-ferrous, despite what my Whites said. Ferrous material produces a noise when an object goes away from the Falcon’s probe. Non-ferrous produces a signal as you move material toward the probe. This material only produced a signal going toward the probe, however, there are cases where a material is so strong that it may overwhelm the device and make it impossible to determine which is which. There were also some tiny gold colored spots arranged in lines here and there in the black material.  On seeing gold coloring, always assume mica or pyrite. The nice thing about the Falcon handheld and the GMT is they do not react to pyrite. Never. I have lumps of pure pyrite and both devices stay silent when moved over that nonsensical material. Pyrite is an iron associate but too weakly so. Yet the rock continued sounding off. I suspect that it was is not those gold colored specks making the noise but the black material.

Unable to resolve the difference between the two metal detectors, I gathered up the rock pieces and went back to my truck and the GMT.  I ran the coil over the rocks again. Sure enough, I hadn’t read the meter right in the field. This time the meter did not go above the halfway line, indicating something less than ferrous. The signal remained weak but still would not cancel out. Now, I just wanted to figure out what the material was, never mind that it wouldn’t be worth anything.

After further research I discovered that there are three long abandoned copper mines in the hills that drain to the wash I had been in. I still don’t know what that black material is but I am now convinced that I have a rock with copper. Not worth anything but a nice find. Those exploratory diggings are now unclaimed and the ground is on open BLM managed land. A little close to the Nevada Test Site boundary but at least a mile away. I may go exploring there to look for copper mineral specimens. Here’s a link to one mine listed at the the MRDS if you want to go:

Lucky Claim:


Materials Type of material
Malachite Ore
Hematite Gangue

Fractured quartzsite with slight banding

Lathrop Wells Collecting from Thomas Farley on Vimeo.

More From the Desert Floor

As a beginning florescent mineral collector I am excited about what I am finding, even if my discoveries are routine for the seasoned vet.

In a recent post I described how happy I was to find a rock with afterglow in an area not written about by collectors. Just last night, though, I discovered something else: one of my rocks fluoresces a different color in different wavelengths.

Normally, a rock or mineral will respond either well or poorly to a certain wavelength. Most materials reacting to shortwave will sit quietly under longwave.  And longwave materials respond weakly to shortwave.

What’s different with this chunky piece of field opal, or something like that, is that it changes colors under different wavelengths. The first photo is visible light, the second shortwave, the third longwave. Some calcite will change into a different color under all wavelengths, that including midwave.

I discovered this change accidentally last night as I was looking over my small group of rocks from my Sunday field trip. In the future I will be sure to check if any rock changes color, not just if it lights up. Multiple wavelength response is something collectors look for and something I will look for, too.

Visible light

Short wave

Long wave


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