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




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,



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.

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.


Lois Papner
Mining Supplies and Rock Shop

760 244-9642


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:


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:


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.




















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:

What Is A High Clearance Vehicle?

Many rock club field trip leaders advise taking a high clearance vehicle to certain destinations. But what is a high clearance vehicle?

A vehicle’s lowest point is usually measured at the rear differential. The distance from the bottom of the rear differential to the ground is the clearance. This is, unless things like steps hang lower than the rear diff. A base Jeep, the Wrangler Sport edition, has 8.4” of ground clearance. For comparison, a Subaru Outback has 8.7” and a base Ford 150 has 8.8”. These should be considered minimums for rockhounding vehicles. (Although an all-wheel-drive vehicle like a Subaru, despite its clearance, should not attempt 4WD rated roads.)

Larger tires and a lift kit will increase clearance and void any current factory warranty unless modifications are manufacturer approved. Larger tires impact a speedometer’s readings, requiring readjustment when the vehicle gets a bigger set of tires. Unless a rockhound is fording creeks and rivers, increasing the height of a vehicle with a lift kit or tires does little if the rear differential remains at about the same height. That’s what will catch first unless something is hanging lower like steps. These steps should be replaced in favor of rock sliders.

Rock sliders protect a vehicle’s rocker panels. Just below the doors, rocker panels are the long lengths of steel between the front and rear wheel well openings. Getting in and out of a vehicle means stepping over a rocker panel. Rock sliders are bolted or welded on components that can act as steps but are really meant to protect the side of a vehicle. Weakly constructed running boards or steps will not protect a rig from an unexpected boulder or stump. These aluminum or light steel running boards, sometimes called nerf bars, will likely crumble under the crush of a boulder, with the vehicle’s frame getting pinched in the process.

Rock sliders constructed from 3/16” thick steel or better are enormously strong and heavy. Make sure they do not extend below the height of the diff. Welded on rock sliders may be strong enough to act as jack points in an emergency. Some companies like Hefty Fab Works make bolt on rock sliders. Ideally, these are installed with the use of a lift and at least two people. All rock sliders are expensive, often requiring weeks of lead time to be fabricated. They are cheap insurance.


As pictured above, the most important measurement in clearance is the distance between the ground and the bottom of the rear differential. Some people jokingly call the rear diff “the pumpkin.”


Common and flimsy nerf bar pictured above.


Heavy duty rock sliders from Hefty Fab Works for a Toyota Tacoma in the above photograph. These may weigh sixty pounds to a side. I have their rock sliders on my Nissan Frontier.

Photograph showing a rocker panel. This is what rock sliders protect. From the video below:

Last Note From Plymouth: Siderite Sighting?

NB: Thanks to a kind German researcher whose inquiry prompted me to update this page.

Tuesday, April 30th. 2019

My mistake. Not siderite. Thanks to everyone who tried helping.

Had a great talk about my mystery rock with two people at the Geosciences Department of University of Nevada at Las Vegas here in town. Kind and informative folk. What follows is NOT the exact wording of what they told me, rather, my interpretation of their remarks as a collector and a rockhound. Any mistakes or poorly put remarks are my own.

For background, the relevant map is the Preliminary Geologic Map of the Irish Hill 7.5 Quadrangle, Amador County, California. The loose rock I carried in, as well as the larger outcropping I have photographs of at my website, is at the contact between two parts of what is called the Gopher Ridge Volcanics, Jgo, and Jgof, respectively.

This is from the map:

Gopher Ridge Volcanics (Late Jurassic)—Named by Clark (1964) for exposures along the Calaveras River south of the quadrangle. Consists mostly of massive mafic and intermediate tuff, breccia, and occasional greywacke and agglomerate. Likely Oxfordian in age (Clark, 1964). Includes felsic facies (Jgof) that was originally mapped as quartz porphyry by Turner (1894) and Taliaferro (1943).

After careful examination and handling of the large rock and associated small samples showing the interior of the rock, these are some of their observations.

1. Streaks red for hematite. Rock most likely an association of hematite and goethite.

(I hadn’t streak tested because it seemed the powdery, iron-rich red coating cold only produce a red streak)

2. The large rock seems severely eroded on one side by preferential weathering.

3. A thin quartz vein appears to run through the width of the large rock.

4. Some of the large rock may have originated as a conglomerate and was then altered heavily by hydrothermal activity.

5. My microscope photographs of the interior, showing a botryoidal texture, are exactly what they would expect given the texture of the rock’s exterior.

6. Isolated outcroppings like this may exist  by themselves without like them around. It is possible other material like this is below the surface, covered.

7. Not slag or manmade occurrence

That’s all I have for now. A beautiful outcropping that certainly deserved the time to be looked at and discussed. A suggestion was made to saw the large rock into two pieces and I am thinking about it. The rock may yet reveal more.

Side note. These were Rolf’s comments which the people at UNLV found informative:

Hi Tom,

From Rolf  Luetcke:

I looked at the photo you sent and to me at the lower left I saw something that to me looks like goethite. It is a seam and a bit hard to see in the photo but it looks to me like a fibrous inner structure to the seam. To me that means goethite. Could be a mixture of the iron oxides, which wouldn’t necessarily give a metal detection on equipment but sure seems like a botryoidal iron, either goethite or hematite-limonite.

Dear Rolf::

I think you may be onto something. Under my 10X loupe I can see what are definitely threads or fiberous material that looks like thick strands of hair. The Geosciences Department at the University of Las Vegas has asked me to bring in any info I have on the rock so I will print out your thoughts. There is a picture of goethite with hematite at Mindat that looks like my rock, although the specimen photographed is quite small. Now, the most important question, how does one pronounce goethite? Is it gur-tite or something else?

Here’s photo showing botryoidal  texture on the interior:



This odd looking lump is on my friend’s horse ranch on Carbondale Road, outside of Plymouth, California in rural Amador County. Near the center of California’s Mother Lode Country. I wrote about this place in a previous post. The soil is nondescript, red foothill clay, with the most common rock underfoot being broken pieces of iron stained quartz.

And then there is this thing, which my first guess was a bunch of leftover concrete that someone had attempted to color. Perhaps they dumped out their concrete mixer at this spot? There is no sign of any unusual concrete work in the area, but who knows? I did not have my rock hammer as I was traveling and renting a vehicle.

Usually concrete aggregate has much smaller stones than the blobs we see here. I am up to any guesses. There is a creek nearby with what I presume are rounded stones but it is not on my friend’s property so I haven’t checked it out. I can’t imagine anyone making their own concrete with locally collected rock, think of the work, but I suppose it is possible.

Another possibility is siderite, which Mindat.org lists as being in the general area. A nice man named Brice on the Facebook group, Rocks and Minerals – identification and information, made this suggestion.

Siderite is an iron mineral, of which I am only now reading about. Apparently, siderite is valuable mineral in theory since it contains a high amount of iron, possibly 48%. In such a small outcropping it is totally uneconomic but an interesting curiosity to any rockhound or mineral collector walking the woods. Its presence may lead to the discovery of other nearby minerals such as manganese.

The odd looking lumps may be large siderite crystals that have weathered to their present shape over time. More on that below.


This is an overall view of what I will call for now, the outcropping. For a much larger picture to ponder over, click here. Or click on the photo itself.


Closeup photograph. Pen for scale.


A damaged or otherwise altered section of the outcropping. Broken concrete doesn’t turn black, it retains a whitish color due to the Portland cement. If the concrete were mixed with a colorant originally, however, in the drum, the color would run throughout the mix.  But you would have one color, and not two as in the photo. An iron ore deposit just might make sense. The outer layer has weathered and oxidized red, rusted if you will, while the more newly exposed material has yet to change.


The above picture is courtesy of Dennis Miller. Used with permission. It’s siderite from an area near Chihuahua, Mexico. Note the globular forms. I’m speculating that the globular material in the outcropping I came across are weathered, eroded permutations of this siderite’s original form. Or not.

The Henry Holt Guide to Minerals, Rocks, and Fossils (very British) says that siderite crystals can be, “[M]assive, fibrous, compact, botryoidal, or earthy.” The outcropping seen here is definitely botryoidal.

The book goes on to say that massive siderite is widespread in sedimentary rocks. There are notable, economic clay deposits several miles distant, which leads me to this quote from Holt’s book.

“Massive siderite is widespread in sedimentary rocks, particularly in clays and shales where it forms clay ironstones which are usually concretionary in origin.”

Concretionary. And an outcropping that looks like concrete. Iron stains every piece of broken quartz on the ground. So iron must be in the soil. Can anyone put this all together?

Mindat doesn’t show siderite as found in Amador County, however, these reports are usually confined to recording occurrences of economic value. Or a citation in the scientific literature. Like in a geology report. Not all outcroppings everywhere can possibly be recorded. Siderite has been reported in the county of El Dorado, immediately north, and Calaveras, immediately south. In the plant world, we would call an occurrence in a new area as a range extension. And you thought rocks and minerals had a peculiar vocabulary!

There is a mineral deposit of economic nearby, in fact, two. The named one is a copper deposit with the odd title of Mutual Life Insurance, Record ID 1016243. That can be looked up with the Mineral Resources Data System or MRDS. The closest point to these two spots is at the end of Poppy Hill Lane, which branches off of Forest Home Road. Although Google Maps shows some conflict with that, Poppy Hill being off of Long Gate Road.

I will have a friend test the outcropping with a magnet. That may be diagnostic. Although I see on Mindat that siderite is paramagnetic, a new term for me. It essentially means weakly magnetic. I’ll mail my friend one of my rare-earth magnets. Maybe that will make a difference in testing. I’ll report back later. Thanks, again, Dennis, for the photograph.


And here’s a citation to a paper that is beyond my understanding. The example labeled “D” is interesting. These are examples from Washington State. “Excrement-shaped masses of siderite and limonite have been reported from clay-rich sedimentary rocks . . . ” Click on the image for a larger picture. All the information is from the providing site.


Miocene siderite specimens from Salmon Creek, Washington. A, B, C, E, and G are coprolite-like extrusions that show pointed ends and longitudinal striations; D is a botryoidal concretion; F is an extruded mass with botryoidal encrustations.


Figure 3. Miocene siderite specimens from Salmon Creek, Washington. A, B, C, E, and G are coprolite-like extrusions that show pointed ends and longitudinal striations; D is a botryoidal concretion; F is an extruded mass with botryoidal encrustations.

Enigmatic origin of ferruginous “coprolites”: Evidence from the Miocene Wilkes Formation, Southwestern Washington – Scientific Figure on ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Miocene-siderite-specimens-from-Salmon-Creek-Washington-A-B-C-E-and-G-are_fig1_249527075 [accessed 21 Feb, 2019]

The geologic map of the area, however, points to volcanic origins, igneous rock, not sedimentary. Minerals.net states that siderite can be in igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock.

Preliminary Geologic Map of The Irish Ill 7.5 Quadrangle, Amador County, California:


Outcropping exists at the border of Jgo and Jgof.

From the geologic map:

Gopher Ridge Volcanics (Late Jurassic)—Named by Clark (1964) for exposures along the Calaveras River south of the quadrangle. Consists mostly of massive mafic and intermediate tuff, breccia, and occasional greywacke and agglomerate. Likely Oxfordian in age (Clark, 1964). Includes felsic facies (Jgof) that was originally mapped as quartz porphyry by Turner (1894) and Taliaferro (1943).

Note: af stands for artificial, man made workings. Outcropping not close. But what about forge slag? That would make this outcropping an archeological find, not a geological find, although the two would be related. Look at the picture below:


Source of the forge slag photo: http://bertan.gipuzkoakultura.net/es/16/en/1.php


Perhaps the “af” in the geological map suggests other former forge placements, these would have to date back to the gold rush era, certainly before electrical power was available to work iron ore in a modern forge.

Interesting photo from eBay below. “‘Siderite “Balls” with Calcite (Nikolaevskiy Mine, Dalnegorsk, Russia).”

A BLM Permit for Rockhounding?

I visited the BLM office in St. George, Utah yesterday morning. It’s well done  with some interesting displays and local maps and books available. This is BLM’s Arizona Strip Office, which manages land in Arizona north of the the Grand Canyon, mostly remote, rugged ground with no services. An empty quarter if you will.

When I mentioned that I was a rockhound they asked me to sign a permit. I have never encountered this. Good for a year, it outlines the rules and regulations for casual collecting in the Arizona Strip District, much of which is closed. Rather than being an actual permit that one has to possess, I think it is  more of an official way of notifying rockhounds as to the ground rules. An employee explained it as “a backup” to have when rockhounding.

You might enquire about a permit if you are visiting a BLM district office and intend to go rockhounding in its local area. It could put you on better terms with field personnel encountered later. Although, in truth, I have never read about these permits nor the necessity of having them.

As an aside, although the BLM people were very friendly, they knew much more about ground that was closed than open. I received no information on good places to collect. Unless you happen to run into a district’s geologist by sheer chance, you may find that better open ground information will come from BLM web pages and telephoning the Right People before you visit. Frustratingly, some information handed out at the office was simply wrong.

The permit, for example, says that BLM managed National Monuments are closed when in fact some are open, like Gold Butte in Nevada. Just check BLM’s website of the monument. This office had maps and brochures of Gold Butte, but, again it is open to casual collecting, not closed. Print out web pages disclosing open ground information of any area before going. This may save you from arguments in the field.

On a positive note, I visited the Virgin River Canyon Recreation Area outside of St. George and found the scenery beautiful. BLM notes it as a rockhound area. Although I didn’t have time to search, only to take pictures, I would like to spend more time there in the future. See the photo below.


A happy hiker in the Virgin River Gorge area looking for petroglyphs.

Where In The World is Thomas Farley?

Rain has dogged me throughout my trip. Few brilliant blue skies. I am getting good information but the publisher’s stock photography site will have to be used for many images. The Petrified National Forest in Arizona, for example, was clothed in deep gray. I am reassured, though, that there are professionally done shots of every National Park and Monument.