Beginning at the Ending: Railroad Ballast and Slag

I’m starting this field trip report, not at the beginning, as I am still running down identifications of a few things . . . .

Toward the end of my last field trip I walked to the Union Pacific railroad tracks that run alongside I-15 in this area. Railroad ballast intrigues me because its rock could come from nearly anywhere. Or, maybe not rock. Maybe other things.

Railroad Ballast Collecting? from Thomas Farley on Vimeo.

Although collecting isn’t permitted on any active railroad lines, there were some scattered rocks nearby that represented the ballast at this location. Old railroad beds are first choice for investigation.

As I describe in my video, ballast can be made of several things, including slag, minerals, or rock. I look at all three in this video and I mention meteorites along the way. By the way, I am going to redo this video, I don’t like the way it came out in a dark room. I’ll do this on a tailgate soon. And vesicles can occur in meteorites, although extremely rarely.

Railroad Bed Collecting: Slag, Minerals, Rocks, and Meteorites from Thomas Farley on Vimeo.

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Another Desert Field Trip Coming Up

I didn’t find what I set out for on my latest trip to the desert. I did gain, however, a tremendous number of insights that I want to share with you. To do that will take some time over the next few days.

The video below introduces my unsuccessful hunt for uraniferous sand and gravel, no indication of what yet to come.

7 Magic Mountains Desert Wash from Thomas Farley on Vimeo.

And now it is on to another part of my visit. Click here to go to part two.
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Rock Related Places to Visit and Collect in The Southwest

This 1.4 meg .pdf contains descriptions and locations of rock shops, fee/digs, BLM and USFS district offices, museums, traditional collecting areas, and many more rock related places in the United Southwest.

Seventy pages from my book. Already in its second revision. Discard previous files and keep checking back for the current file.

Please distribute freely but make sure to send in corrections and additions. Thanks!

Southwest_Places_To_Visit_Or_Collect_02

 

 

 


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 layer’s 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. A couple of hours of hiking results in the the best exposure of Ordovician brachiopods in the Great Basin. 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 the American River Canyon near Auburn. 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 the Santa Clara 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.

https://geologicalspecimensupply.com/

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, she comes to the bell. All three 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.

RC

https://geologicalspecimensupply.com/

T-Cat in the field



Cucumber at a mine

https://geologicalspecimensupply.com/

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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

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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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

Hello,

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. https://geoscience.unlv.edu/rock-identification-2/

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 ; geodept@unlv.edu


University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Department of Geoscience
4505 Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, Nevada 89154-4010
702-895-3262
https://geoscience.unlv.edu/

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 MyLandMatters.org or especially at Macrostrat.org. 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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Carnotite Musings — Experimental Video

I dislike the time and bother of video production but I am trying a one-take approach with my iPhone. If this works out I may put more videos up. This video on carnotite is unscripted and only meant to try out lights and sound.

I forgot to add is that the counter with a probe works well for detecting on the ground. You just dangle the probe above the ground by the cord as you walk. Maybe not the most elegant way to test alluvium but you can’t possibly test the ground while walking around with the other machine.

There may be a handheld geiger counter compatible with the Mac, able to download data to same. It’s Russian but only $249. I have ordered one and will post results:

Soeks Quantum Professional Geiger Counter / Radiation Detector
http://www.dosimeter4you.com/geiger-counter-radiation-detector-soeks-quantum-p-94.html

 
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Desperately Trying to Organize

I put off organizing my rock collection until two weeks ago because I was too busy writing. It got to the point, though, where I couldn’t find things, much still wrapped up, never opened, or else sitting in cardboard boxes everywhere around the apartment.

I’m still organizing, although not in alphabetical order. Or any order at all. I got wire frame shelves since they are light weight, cheap (WalMart), and wouldn’t have to be dusted. I put the individual shelves at different heights to accept different things. The three shelves are zip-tied together.

The wire frames accept “S” hooks and hanging baskets.  Note the UV lamps hanging down in the last photo. Not everything can be seen in these pictures, especially individual collections within their own cases. Like my mad rare earth mineral collection and the lead sheets I have on top of it.

I’m happy the way the shelves are working out.

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Bryan Smalley and Hidden Treasure Trading Company in Goldfield, Nevada

I visited Goldfield, Nevada twice this past week, stopping in each time to check on Bryan Smalley’s Hidden Treasure Trading Company. Byran continues to do fine things in Goldfield.

Bryan runs one of the Southwest’s most interesting rock and gift shops. His rock shop complex encompasses three buildings; don’t leave until you look into all three. Bryan carries jewelry, much of it local, much made by himself, maps, books, cabs and slabs, and some rough.

Check out this wonderful jasper he is now cutting. He has hundreds of pounds more.

Hidden Treasures Trading Company
489 Bellevue Avenue
P.O. Box 512
Goldfield, NV 89013
775-485-3761
775-485-3485

Bryan is expert on local rockhounding and accomplished at lapidary. He does knapping and can talk authoritatively on making flintlock strikers from locally collected chalcedony. Need advice on polishing? He has it.

Ask locals where Bryan is if you can’t find him. Try the Dinky Diner. Goldfield citizens won’t mind you asking, in fact, they are very friendly. You should give a wave to people as you drive by. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find his shops at first. Drive around. You’ll enjoy your time.

Bryan has a minimal web presence but he is busy with real life, finding rocks, cutting rocks, and making jewelry. When investigating the nearby Gemfield Gem claims, make plans to see him. Well worth the effort.

bsmalleyhiddentreasure@gmail.com

Yes, he made that door himself. And the shop.

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