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Mindat fundraiser - rockhounding Honeymoon in Western US - you decide!
Posted by Troy Ussery
Troy Ussery July 04, 2018 03:55AMWe are passionate amateur rockhunters getting married on July 7th. Our goal is to rock hound our way from Dallas TX to Old Faithful and back over 14 days and let MINDAT decide our route as we travel. We will donate $50 to Mindat for every rockhounding site we visit that you recommend. Whether it's fee-based or rough-terrain hiking, we are up for it. We don't care about the commercial value of our finds, we just LOVE pretty rocks (although there seems to be a correlation lol). We'd like to keep the total mileage under 4,000.
We depart on Sunday, July 8 and we will be updating our route based on your recommendations and posting pics and updates every day.
**Update July 5**
Thank you everyone for your wonderful suggestions and heartfelt stories!!! We are looking at what we can work into the route and will repost when it's updated. We are very excited to share this adventure with you all. Godspeed!
**Update July 9th**
After a "Don Saathoff" coin toss, we've decided to southern NM on the first leg of the journey and we should be in Organ NM tomorrow.
**Update July 11th**
After an amazing day with the Saathoffs, we are down for the night at Blue Water State Park. Tomorrow will be mostly driving in UT to Topaz Mountain.
**Update July 12th**
Decided to reroute through Grand Staircase/Escalante and then head to Topaz mountain.
**Update July 14**
Amazing time at Bryce Canyon. Going to Solar Wind mine at Topaz Mountain this afternoon. Thinking about Spencer Opal Mine tomorrow and Yellowstone on Monday!
**Update July 15**
The dig yesterday with Gem Tours was so amazing we stayed until dusk and decided to sleep in a REAL bed in salt lake City. We are camping in Spencer ID tonight. The plan is to hit the Opal mine in the morning and then either A) go to yellowstone, or B) drive to MT and hit the Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine Tuesday morning and then go to Yellowstone. What do you think?
**Update July 17**
Gem Mountain Sapphire mine was awesome! On our way to Yellowstone so we will be incommunicado for the next few days.
**Update July 21**
Yellowstone and Grand Tetons were amazing! We will be in Buena Vista tonight and up on Antero Mtn tomorrow!
Edited 12 time(s). Last edit at 07/21/2018 10:44PM by Troy Ussery.
Doug Daniels July 04, 2018 04:38AMGreat gravy! Well congrats on the upcoming nuptials, and good luck on your trip. Just some thoughts, looking at your possible route:
About 4000 miles, traveling at 60 MPH, is about 6 days of time (12 hrs/day). Add in time for meals, fueling, general breaks - 7 days of time. So you're left with 7 days for the fun stuff (hope my math works out there). But with possible side treks, that time is further reduced. Looking at your proposed route (assuming you take the southern leg first), between Dallas and El Paso, pretty much nothing (I lived in Midland for 8 years); you'd have to take some detours for some agate ranches, but only if they are still open to collecting. Once you get into New Mexico, yes, there's Rockhound State Park, again, agate, but the only sure-fire site on the route. The route into Utah should have some interesting scenery, if you get near Silver City, NM, stop to view one or more of the former big pit copper mines.
Into Utah, guess you should spend a bit of time viewing Zion Nat. Park - you may never get that way again. Any collecting possibilities from there, I'm not sure of, maybe someone else here has some ideas. Once you get to Yellowstone, you'll likely want at least a day to see everything. Again, you may never be that way again (believe me, I know).
On the way back, don't know of many possible collecting locations until you get to the Denver-Colorado Springs area, and any locations there would require a good deviation from you route, and time.
Sorry I didn't have any great ideas for collecting, but maybe someone else here has something. Of course, a little more warning would have helped - 4 days isn't much time for most of us. Still, again, congrats, and may your trip be at least memorable (well, it will be.....).
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/04/2018 04:44AM by Doug Daniels.
Troy Ussery July 04, 2018 05:13AMThank you so much! For better or worse, four days notice IS advance planning for us - we love spontaneity! Do you think the best rock hounding route would be to skip the NM, AZ, UT route and go CO? Our only goal is to see old faithful at some point in the trip and even that is negotiable for a good rock hunt!
Larry Maltby July 04, 2018 01:34PMGreat comment by Doug,
This is a difficult subject at short notice but also very interesting. I can tell you what Virginia and I did and you can decide if it is helpful. We were married in 1956 and decided that we would try to see the United States. All of it! My interest was rockhounding and trout fishing her interest was American History. We would lay out road trips based on National Parks and Monuments and Historical Sites. The rockhounding was opportunistic. If we saw an interesting road cut we stopped and took a look. If we were in interesting western country and saw fields of alluvial gravel we stopped and took a look. If we saw a rock shop we stopped and asked about collecting nearby.
Here is an example that I remember. Approaching Yellowstone from Cody Wyoming the road follows the Shoshoni River up into the Rockies. Up in the head waters before reaching Yellowstone, I randomly stopped and walked over to the river bank and found two cobbles filled with vugs. When I got home I broke the cobbles and extracted some nice micro zeolites.
From what you describe local inquires may be your best bet. If you post your pictures as you travel I will enjoy looking.
Rolf Luetcke July 04, 2018 01:48PMTroy,
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and fun sounding trip. My wife and I met our first time collecting gypsum roses in St. David Arizona. In looking at your AZ part of the trip, I can recommend one collecting area with many mines and that is Courtland Arizona, not that far from the I 10 freeway. Many mines in the old ghost town and a scenic area as well.
Problem is this is a hot time of year to be out in Arizona. Early in the day is a must. Courtland has many minerals but most are now only in smaller specimens but friends have found nice azurite digging.
Have fun and hope a safe trip.
Chris Rayburn July 04, 2018 01:59PMTroy,
This is quite an interesting adventure! Congratulations on finding a kindred spirit to share it with. Following the original route you mapped, you’ll pass within shouting distance of literally hundreds of collecting sites. Here are some suggestions, organized by state. These are from the perspective of a mineral collector; I’m afraid I’m not much help with agate or other lapidary material. Some of them will require detouring an hour or three from main highways. Hopefully the information available on Mindat, along with a little additional online sleuthing, will let you make informed decisions about visiting them.
Fluorite Ridge: https://www.mindat.org/loc-33122.html
Gila Fluorspar District: https://www.mindat.org/loc-34793.html
Lordsburg District: https://www.mindat.org/loc-33110.html
Your proposed route bypasses many wonderful sites in SE and Central Arizona. If, instead, you take the Interstate from Deming to Tucson, then north through Phoenix to Flagstaff, you’ll pass close to the following.
Benson: drive a couple miles off the highway and visit Rolf Luetcke at his rock shop and museum. He is a wealth of information about nearby collecting sites. Sunshine Gallery and Rock Shop, 1313 N highway 80, St. David, AZ.
Finch Mine: https://www.mindat.org/loc-5390.html
Copper Canyon, Camp Verde area: https://www.mindat.org/loc-46781.html
Iron Springs District: https://www.mindat.org/loc-37387.html
Tintic District: https://www.mindat.org/loc-4192.html
Cheyenne District: https://www.mindat.org/loc-112795.html
Calumet Iron Mine: https://www.mindat.org/loc-5572.html
It’s well off your route, but if you can make it over to the Ouray-Silverton area in the southwest corner of Colorado, the mining history, scenery and mineral collecting are all spectacular. I can provide specific suggestions if you wish.
Here’s wishing you the time of your lives.
Erin Delventhal July 04, 2018 02:06PMDon't skip New Mexico - it's one of the last states with open collecting nearly everywhere.
Outside of what's already been recommended, I'd be happy to draw you a map to get you to some excellent azurite roses in the area of Cuba, New Mexico, and if you have any interest in collecting petrified wood, I can do the same for a locality outside of Farmington, New Mexico.
Phil M. Belley July 04, 2018 04:28PMTopaz Mountain, Utah is great - go high up on the left bank of the free public collecting site.
Sunstone Knoll is a good place, and I found a rough plagioclase that cut a nice 3 carat stone - in an hour of scouring the ground.
The rhyolite-hosted garnet at Ely, Nevada
The sunstone mines and BLM free collecting area in SE Oregon. Super easy to get big yellows and schillers that cut nice, big stones (< 5 cts), and the mines have even better stuff but are fee digging.
Paul Brandes July 04, 2018 05:00PMWelcome to Mindat, Troy!
Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. I can certainly share your experience as I met my future wife in an undergraduate geology class at New Mexico Tech, then got married in the New Mexico Bureau of Mine's Mineral Museum on campus. One benefit to that was the venue was already decorated for us... ;-)
Also, thank you for your willingness to donate to Mindat during your trip! Those funds will go a long way into keeping the site operating. All of the above recommendations are great ones. I completely agree with Erin in that out of the states you're visiting, New Mexico is probably the least obtrusive when it comes to mineral collecting. Still, it's always best to inquire about ownership before entering any property. If you could somehow adjust your trip to go through Socorro, New Mexico, you could stop by the Mineral Museum and get some good information on where to go.
Don Saathoff July 04, 2018 05:38PMHello Troy,
Today, July 4th, 30 years ago, Cookie and I got married in San Antonio, Texas. Every Summer for two or three years prior and 20 years after we would arrange our vacations to include July 4th. We would head North, first night in the KOA (we camped) in Las Cruces, NM. In the morning at breakfast watching the sunrise over the Organ Mts we would flip a coin....heads meant North and tails meant West.....and we'd go looking for the outcrop - ANY outcrop! In '95 we bought property here in Organ, NM - just 11 miles from Las Cruces at the foot of the Organ Mts. Half mile East is the Memphis Mine, the Torpedo Mine and the Copper Bar Mine. One mile South is the Stevensen-Bennett Mine. Sixty miles West is the Mahoney Mining area, twenty miles farther is the Victorio Mining District......we thought we'd found rockhound heaven!!
Research these locations quickly on Mindat to see if they are of interest to you......
Congratulations!! and welcome to Mindat!!!
Susan Robinson July 04, 2018 06:32PMEveryone is giving info on collecting sites and other things to see, but my biggest concern would be the time of year and the places you plan to go that are more southern on the route. The temperatures and dry heat will be formidable if not dangerous. You'll need to carry lots of water with you in the car and when you get outside to do anything on foot. Also, any poisonous snakes and other critters that carry venom will be more active now than in the fall. These factors are something to seriously consider for taking this trip in the middle of summer.
Troy Ussery July 04, 2018 09:20PMOh my gosh! I just logged in and we are overwhelmed by the number and depth of responses. I am tied up today with packing, so I will read all this and respond late this evening.
Susan, you are very correct and thank you for thinking of our safety. Fortunately, although Lisa and I are novice rockhounders, we are very experienced in hot climate backpacking with medical training and excellent equipment (we are both gear freaks).
Thanks again to everyone for your overwhelming responses and I will read and respond late this evening. Godspeed!
Kyle Bayliff July 05, 2018 05:51AMWow, it sounds like you're going on a wonderful adventure (and you've got a perfect adventuring partner, too!) Here are some suggestions along a route that I've been wanting to go along:
Whiskey Bridge- A bridge over the Brazos river in College Station with a large variety of shell fossils
Llano/Mason Corridor- Check out the rock shop in Llano (good place to get info), go panning in the river, collect llanite north of town near Baby Head cemetery. You could also try the Lindsay ranch or the Seaquist Ranch for topaz hunting. Head west toward Mason and check out the roadcuts along the highway. Fly Gap Road nearby is also supposed a good site with a lot of variety.
Lake Balmorhea- Heading west toward NM, check out Lake Balmorhea. Pick up a permit at the bait shop and collect the blue agates in the fields north of the lake.
Big Bend Area- This is a detour south, but certainly worthwhile. Collecting in the park is prohibited, but it is worth going to see. Outside of the park, mineral collecting around Terlingua might yield some interesting silver and mercury-containing minerals. Contact Teri Smith for collecting at Needle Peak where you can find a variety of agates, quartz, and aragonite.
Kilbourne Crater- A volcanic crater west of El Paso where you can find peridot.
Las Cruces- Check out NMSU's Zuhl museum
Deming, NM- a.k.a. thunderegg heaven and home of Rockhound State Park
Tuscon- Museums, rock shops, trade shows, etc.
Wah Wah Mtns- one of the only localities for Red Beryl (a.k.a. bixbite)
Spencer opal mine- Dig through the tailings. If you're lucky you'll find fire opals!
If you're interested in extending your trip slightly, swing a little further east before heading back to Dallas and hit some of the major sites in AR.
Murfreesboro-Crater of Diamonds State Park. Out in the boondocks, but lots of fun and there are even a few rock shops in town.
Mt Ida- Dig for quartz at any of the local mines. Coleman and Wegner are popular, Judy's dig on Fisher Mtn is also great.
Have fun and Happy Honeymoon ^^
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/05/2018 05:52AM by Kyle Bayliff.
Troy Ussery July 05, 2018 03:01PMThanks Phil - We're working on a travel plan to include those places in UT. Going to Ely would add about 4 hours - how difficult is it to find garnets up there? We would love to go to SE Oregon, but I don't think it's an option for us on this trip.
Troy Ussery July 05, 2018 03:19PMThanks Kyle! Funny you should mention Mason County - we are there a lot. We dug some excellent fluorite there before. We've also dug some great quartz at Mt. Ida. Thanks for the suggestion of Lake Balmorhea - if we go through Organ NM, it we will be passing right by there. Demming is a definite yes and we would really love to look for opal ore in ID.
Troy Ussery July 05, 2018 05:40PMDon Saathoff Wrote:
> Hello Troy,
> Cookie just reminded me of the fact that I
> neglected to mention that although the locations I
> mentioned are prolific they are essentially micro
> to thumbnail hunting locations.....sorry for the
That's what we assumed. We both have short attention spans and would much rather collect a handful of small, pretty minerals than spend hours searching for a museum piece. The three fee-based mines we've been to were great experiences, so we not opposed to that.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/05/2018 05:58PM by Troy Ussery.
Daryl Babcock July 05, 2018 07:38PMIf you are good with fee based mining and you come through Utah check out http://gem.tours. They have both the Solar Wind (https://www.mindat.org/loc-8830.html) and Starvation Canyon (https://www.mindat.org/loc-105588.html) claims, and I have heard they are about to open up Maynard's again as well. They can either let you go on your own or someone can be there to help, but I've never had a problem finding nice samples at either place. I've both screened and chiselled and found plenty both ways.
When you have your schedule post it so we can point out good places to stop along the way.
Alfred L. Ostrander July 05, 2018 09:22PMTroy,
Thirty six years ago this August my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Bancroft, Ontario collecting all sorts of good specimens. Way back east and out of your way but what great plans you have. Our plans back the played out wonderfully well. Still are...
Taking the direct route from Dallas, as you go through Colorado, consider crossing the front range and head to Salida. The Calumet mine has been mentioned by others here. Go to salida.com At the top of the home page click on "Best of" then on "rockhounding" on the drop down menu. The Calumet Mine is listed under the Turret Mining District. Other sites in Chaffee County are also listed, along with information and directions. It has been a few years since I was there but some sites appear to be open. Good luck wherever you go!
Troy Ussery July 09, 2018 04:24PMAfter the best wedding ever, we've got some last minute preparations and we'll be off later today. Based on everyone's suggestions, it looks like southern New Mexico and Colorado are both a must for either the first or the last leg of the journey. The question is, which should we go to on the outbound and which on the way back? Godspeed! Troy and Lisa
Troy Ussery July 10, 2018 04:40AMBased on mindat consensus, we are off to Organ, NM! Everything fit in the Adventure Wagon and we are geared for rockhounding, kayaking, fishing, backpacking and general mayhem
We even brought the kitchen sink lol (it's an outdoor kitchen built on a cargo carrier).
Wayne Corwin July 10, 2018 02:45PMTroy
When you lift the sink top up, is there a bathtub under it?
I like your idea of solar power too!
Looks like you're pritty loaded down, and won't be able to carry to much more weight or have much room, so plan on sending some of your big rocks home, or to a friend, and keep the small or delicate specimens with you.
keep your tire pressure up and have a great trip !
Keep On Rockin !
Patrick Haynes (2) July 11, 2018 03:17PMHi Troy.
There are several interesting locations in Socorro County, NM, with the first being already mentioned, the mineral museum at NM Tech in Socorro. To the East is Bingham, with fluorite, etc. To the West is Magdalena and the Kelly area mines with their dumps, etc.
If you are travelling North on I-25 there is a convenient spot to collect micros at exit 100. Head west a short distance to NM Hwy 1. Turn right/North to a nearby roadcut. There is amethystine quartz, sanidine, etc. It takes some rock breaking, and again, it is micro material.
Have you ever ventured underground?
I may be able to help you if you visit the area.
Patrick Haynes, Socorro, NM, email@example.com
Troy Ussery July 12, 2018 07:34PMWe are headed to Grand Staircase / Escalante, if anyone has a recommendation for tent camping, let us know.
Based on MinDat recommendations, we'll be heading to Topaz mountain region after that. We are considerating guided hunts with Gem Tours' Searle Canton mine and Solar Wind mine. If anyone has any thoughts on that, please post or pm them to us. Godspeed!
Jim Allen July 13, 2018 05:58AMFor camping in GSENM, consider Kodachrome Basin State Park.
or. . .
stay on Highway 89 skirting the monument on the south and west, and collect yellow-calcite-filled septarian nodules near Orderville, Utah. There are commercial campgrounds all along Hwy 89 north of Mt. Carmel Jct.
Troy Ussery July 14, 2018 05:54PMBryce Canyon and Kodachrome were amazing! We didn't camp there because we wanted to get closer to Topaz mountain.
1. What are these in the picture? They feel like sandstone.
2. Does anyone have any opinions of the Spencer Opal Mine in ID? Google has mixed reviews. If it's worth it, we will go there tomorrow.
Wish us good luck today at the Solar Wind mine and thank you for sharing our honeymoon - we've donated $100 so far to mindat.org!
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/14/2018 05:57PM by Troy Ussery.
Troy Ussery July 16, 2018 02:54AMThank you Daryl Babcock for the recommendation for the Solar Wind mine with Gem Tours. It was an AMAZING day with Jeremy and John and we highly recommend their guided digs.
We found lots of micro and thumbnail topaz and bixbyite and Lisa found this little 25 mm gem
We need your help mindat, should we add Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine to our trip?
Douglas Schonewald July 16, 2018 05:22PMTroy,
Both Crystal Park and Gem Mountains Sapphires might be worth your time. Crystal park has plenty of camping but probably will take the better part of a full day of digging and screening. Not sure how long you want to spend.
Another stop that we found worth our time was Montana 324 running on the north shore of Clark Canyon reservoir. It is said that trilobites have been found there but we didn't find any. We did find plenty of crinoid, bivalve, sponge, and coral fossils in a short 3-hour search of the road-cuts. We also found some colorful chert and some satin spar calcite. The chert was easiest to find on the circled beach (the only one we really searched) and the fossils were found on the road-cuts between the 1st and 2nd and the 3rd and 4th red hashes ( where the banks were high). We didn't dig at all for the fossils we just picked up float from the cuts and the hillside.
Troy Ussery July 16, 2018 08:46PMThanks Douglas. We are on our way to Crystal park. We went to Spencer Opal mine, but when they showed us examples of what we should expect to find, we were not interested in digging. Does anyone have any advice on what to look for when selecting a place to dig at Crystal park?
Godspeed, Lisa and Troy
Troy Ussery July 21, 2018 10:56PMAfter an amazing three days at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons, we will be in Buena Vista tonight and digging on Antera Mountain in the morning! Thank you Chris Rayburn, Tom Tucker and the rest of the mindat community. Wish us good luck tomorrow!!!
**Update** Sorry if the picture below of the obsidian confused anyone. We didn't keep it - we are both Scout leaders and know it's illegal to remove resources from National Parks!
Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/23/2018 03:40AM by Troy Ussery.
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Copyright © mindat.org and the Hudson Institute of Mineralogy 1993-2018, except where stated. Mindat.org relies on the contributions of thousands of members and supporters.