Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fort Bridger, Wyoming

Saying goodbye to Matt and Patty we left Rock Springs and drove all of 77 miles to Fort Bridger, Wyoming and the Fort Bridger RV park. There we were pleasantly surprised as we found a nice and friendly rv park and a State Historic Site that we didn't even know existed/ We also wanted to visit a rock shop in Kemmerer and look for Muddy Creek agates so we parked for three days in a small but friendly place.
We headed to the fort after lunch and because it was mostly outside we were able to take Molly along. We drove there so we could use our state parks sticker and there was actually a gate person who would have charged us had we not had the truck and stickers. Parking our truck,  we headed to the first set of buildings, among which were a school house, a pony express stable, an ice house.
The school house was the first school ever built in the state of Wyoming. I noticed the class size of four was a lot smaller then the 25-30 students I was supposed to teach. The buildings were in pretty good shape and they they were the location of the store operated by the Carter family, the first millionaires in Wyoming.
Many of the original buildings had disappeared when the fort closed in 1890. It was a pretty common tale in Wyoming as when something was abandoned it was usually hauled off for the materials. We did see several old buildings around town that looked suspiciously like buildings in the fort.
Further down we crossed the creek and there the old fort had been reconstructed. The original fort had been burned when Johnsons Army approached in 1857. It had been appropriated by members of the Church of the Latter Days Saints,(there are several different versions claiming legal ownership and sales papers), during the Mormon War.
Inside the stockade we were treated to a demonstration and talk by the volunteer blacksmith. I was surprised by the simplicity and design of the double bellows that fed air to the forge. I wanted to start beating iron but it was not to be. The next buildings we visited  were the museum, officers quarters and commanders house. There we saw the antique love seat that was an identical match to the one that used to be in Renitas family home.
The next day we left for Kemmerer, first getting back on interstae 80 and then heading north through the samll town of Carter, Wyoming. Just north of Carter we found the agate site but didn;t stop as we were going to return the same way. A little further down the road we were halted by a cattle drive of about 100 cows and calfs and three cowboys and cowgirls. It seemd like a commercial from the Wyoming tourism board as so we stopped and waited while the cattle were pushed past us.
Arriving in Kemmerer we found Bobs Rock shop. Bob's speciality is local petrified wood and he has about as fine a display as we have seen anywhere. We discused methods for removing rind from Blue Forest Wood and so now we have heard of four different methods from four different collectors.
Unfortunatley Bob chained smoked and we left the shop smelling like we had been in a bar or casino, but it was still worth the visit to see such a fine collection,(He has the largest blue forest tree and root ball specimen we have seen so far).
Heading back to Carter we met the cattle drive and were led through the herd by a cowgirl who shook a pop bottle full of rocks.  As antelope hunting season is in full swing and we heard shots as we stopped at the agate site so we donned orange headbands. We actually found some interesting agate, at least enough for several tumblers and so we drove the rest of the trip back home happy that we had moer rocks for the fifth wheel,(by the way I did weigh the rig and we can still hold another ton of rocks).
We enjoyed our trip to the fort and a brief view of life on a fort during the 1880's. The rock shop and agate hunt was also another good excursion. If you are ever on interstate 80, crossing the high desert, you might consider staying a couple of nights at Fort Bridger. Clear skies.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Seminoe Resevoir and the Miracle Mile

Seminoe Reservoir and the Miracle Mile are two places that are definitely out of the way. Located about 35 miles north of Sinclair, Wyoming, off Interstate 80 you really have to want to go there and so they both are places seldom seen by most people. Renita had never been to Seminoe Reservoir or the Miracle Mile and so we decided to go there do a little sightseeing, maybe cast a fly or two, and most definitely look for more rocks!
So we loaded up the picnic basket and the dog and headed out, accompanied by the every present Wyoming wind and I had mixed feelings about the whole trip. See I had fished Seminoe for six years competing in walleye tournaments and while we had won it and the team of the year it was one of the hardest and most challenging places to fish I have ever been,(The first year we fished it we caught seven walleyes in 6 days and five of those were the first day prefishing. The year we won it we caught four walleye but two of them were 31 inches long!)
The drive from Sinclair, north to Seminoe was really pleasant. Antelope and deer grazed along the road, even though hunting season was on and the river called to me to stop and cast a wet fly and so the thirty miles passed quickly. I pointed out the huge sand dunes, which really are a part of the sand dune field that stretches all across central Wyoming. It is missed by Interstate 80 and so most tourists have no idea of the size of the desert in Wyoming.
Driving into the North Red Hills campground we looked at the pull throughs and they most definitely were large enough for our fifth wheel and so we snapped some images and put it on our list of places for future stays. Continuing on we climbed a steep hill and pulled over at the dam overlook, where we were rewarded with the promised view of the dam far below.
The road quickly deteriorated and we bounced down about as washboard a road as you could find anywhere. Renita pointed out a sign that said the road did not meet public standards which was really a disclaimer by the powers that be that they didn't want to maintain the road.
We reached the bottom and then passed up and over the Seminoe Mountain, finally reaching the area called the Miracle Mile.
Now the Miracle Mile is really a five mile stretch of the North Platte river that runs between Kortes and Pathfinder reservoirs and got its name from the blue water quality fishing for brown, rainbow and cutthroat trout. Well know by any fly fisherman its one of those places where the trout population reached over five thousand fish per mile and so I couldn't get my fly rod out fast enough, knowing that the fish would jump all over my flies!
Renita and Molly took off up the hill, looking for rocks as I made my first cast and then another. Nothing happened? Maybe if I tossed over there or perhaps there and I congratulated myself on the roll casts I made as the two flies and strike indicator made drift after drift.
The fish seemed to have developed a severe case of lockjaw and so I moved up stream. Again I cast and re cast, but the only excitement was the snake that moved next to my foot. Screaming a bit, I don't like unknown snakes next to my foot, I called to Renita to warn her of the reptiles presence but she told me that she had heard my initial yelp. I hadn't realized that I had shouted that loud and it was really just as scary for the snake as it crawled into the tall grass as I carefully skirted around it.
Rejoining Renita and Molly, Renita showed me the green rocks she had collected, jade perhaps, and I decided that the fish were being too snobbish for me to waste time fishing and so I started to rock hound.
However no jade boulders or cobbles or even pebbles jumped out and so we got back in the truck to drive back to the lake for lunch.
I turned down the four wheel drive road to Sunshine Beach and besides some seagulls we had the area to ourselves. Renita found some fossil shells along the beach and I showed her some sandstone ripple marks from an ancient ocean beach.
We relaxed and strolled along the shore and it was really nice to be able to show Renita the sights of a place where I had fished so hard, a place filled with its own beauty, and a wild sandy place so typical Wyoming.
The drive back to Rawlins went quickly and the local rock shop was open so of course we had to stop and admire the jade. I was pleased that I hadn't brought much money and so we left with three small slices that demanded we buy them. Clear skies

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Denver Gem and Mineral Shows

Renita is always buying newspapers and I am always whining about the money. I mean what good does it do to spend money on something you are going to just throw away, right? So of course she was looking at a newspaper and she found out that the Denver Gem and Mineral shows were being held in Denver from the 15th to the 19th of September.
Seeing as that was during my birthday and seeing as we didn't have enough rocks in our fifth wheel we of course had to make reservations and head to Denver for the shows. Getting online we found a spot at Cherry Creek State Park, in the middle of Denver, Colorado, and although it was expensive we decided to treat ourselves and so reserved the spot.
We arrived early, 30 minutes before check in time and the volunteer in charge was clearly flustered as she said, "Check in time is 12 noon,", and so we waited by our fifth wheel as she and her husband went to the spot, returning to tell us that it was open and we could proceed, but only after telling us again that we were early, talk about anal campground hosts.
Our pull through was actually huge and the spots were far apart from one another. Added to that they had full hookups and great Internet and cell phone service and we felt like we were basking in the lap of luxury!
(It really doesn't take much after spending the summer in the Red Desert).
The shows started the next day and so we left after rush hour and headed to the first shows at the Denver Coliseum. The plan was to attend three shows the first day, two the next, and then the final three, the last two days of our reservations, Of course the plans went out the window the very first day.
We walked into the Denver Coliseum Show and were greeted with rows of tables filled with gems and minerals and miner's ores from all over. Tourmaline and turquoise, jade and jasper, beryl and and beryllium all shone  and glittered and begged us to take them home. Five hours later we staggered out with a four pound piece of rhodonoite and slabs of Missouri hexacoral and Utah Lace Opal. I couldn't believe I had bought more rhodonite.
The next day we were two shows behind our schedule and so we headed back to the Denver Coliseum to check out the tents outside. These tents held the Miners Cooperative show and we hoped to find a few pieces to add to our collection. Five hours later we staggered back to the truck carrying ruby zoicite, Creede sowbelly and ameythystine, riccolite, purple jade and chrysophase. I wondered at our sanity but hey we had actually weighed the fifth wheel and we found we could hold another thousand pounds of rocks before we reach our limit so.......
The third day was the opening of the Denver Gem and Mineral Show at the Denver Merchandise Market. We left early and quickly got stuck in a traffic jam. We arrived just after buses had dumped hundreds of school children and their teachers loose on the show. Oh no not school field trips!
The floor was swarming with the little monsters and we worked our way through table after table of minerals and gems and equipment. I was able to talk with a lady carving fire agate and she had great advice on equipment and suppliers of what I need to get started in  jade carving.
We found a supplier that had the the wire wrapping pliers we had hoped to buy in Albuquerque and even found cases and  tumbler grit at really good prices. Diamond Pacific had a room filled with their equiptment and it was the first time we were able to see side by side comparisons of the three rock grinders and polishers we were hoping to purchase.
Another table had some slabs, slices of rock to make into jewelry, and the lady told me that she had three more boxes full under the table. She invited me to pull them out and look and I had hit the jackpot! Morrisonite, adventurine, Alaska and Canadian jade, tanzanian zoicite, an entire boxfull of slabs all went into my backpack and best of all they were all priced cheap. Renita arrived to see my paying the vender the last of my mad money but it was worth it!
The rest of the day was somewhat of a blur. We saw a gold nugget for sale but passed it as the one hundred thousand dollar price tag was a bit steep for us. Green River Formation ferns beckoned but thirty five thousand wasn"t in the budget. We saw beautiful scrimshaw on mammoth and walrus tusks and sadly saw some obvious fake fossils and mineral specimens, but not too many.
The trip back home was of course and hour long traffic jam and we had given up on attending all the other shows. Our specimen cases are full of beautiful rocks that are crying out to be carved and sawed and ground and polished and we relish getting down to the lapidary shop at the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society.
The last year has been full of learning and we feel lucky to be able to pursue our new dream of rockhounding Clear skies.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Miners Delight and an Extra Day in Lander

A strong cold front was forecast, with winds in excess of 45 miles per hour, so we decided to spend another day at Lander. As we like the area, the extra day would allow us to check out the gold fields of Atlantic City and visit the Fremont County Museum.
Letting it warm up a bit we headed up the pass and fought strong winds that buffeted the truck. Near the abandoned Atlantic City Taconite Mine, we turned onto the road to Atlantic City and South Pass. Our goal was to find the ghost town called Miners Delight.
The directions from Google were clear, go 2.5 miles and then turn left for 1/2 mile and then park in a lot for a 1/4 mile hike to the ghost town. So we turned left after 2.5 miles and didn't see anything that resembled a lot, only four wheel drive roads and old prospect pits scattered everywhere. We did drive further and discovered the Big Atlantic Gulch BLM Campground and a nice place to boondock near working gold claims.
The campground only costs six bucks and had quite a few spaces large enough for us to fit, an unusual thing for a small campground in a pine forest. We drove further on a nice four wheel drive road, with gold claim posts.
The road was so good that we wouldn't hesitate to take our fifth wheel there and we are particular about clearances and rocks. The spot was obviously used by gold prospectors and we looked down several shallow prospect pits lined with quartz veins that had promised to be the mother load.
Now Miners Delight only has a few buildings left standing and ten old mines that are no longer worked so one would think it would be easy to find. However there were patches of forest everywhere and it became clear that the old town was in a patch or hidden by a patch of trees, so we never did find it.
Renita did spot another campground sign, Atlantic City BLM campground, and we did check it out but most of the spots were too small or too crowded with trees for us to fit in. We decided to drive to the old antique store where we had purchased some rocks last year but it was closed as was much of the towns of Atlantic City and South Pass. Tourist season is over.
Returning to Lander we found the Fremont County Museum to be housed in a Large new building and the curator was pleased to see us as he welcomed us in! We were only one of two couples there and so we looked and enjoyed the exhibits. There were some really nice articles of Araphoe and Shoshonee clothes and a nice but small exhibit of local bright green jade, much nicer then any we have ever been able to purchase(Allthough we do have some beautiful apple green and emerald jade)! We both liked the sheep herders wagon, it looked comfy and even had places to store rocks!
We returned home, planning to return next year and find Miners Delight. It was obvious that I would need to do some better research, but that is a good lesson for me, proper planning prevents piss poor performance, the rule of the six p's. Clear skies.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sweetwater Station, Bull Canyon, and Agate Flats

You read the history of the area around Jeffery City and you read of the discoveries made by the early jade hunters. One found a nine hundred pound boulder of apple green jade. Another man found one of 3000 plus pounds. You talk with a local who tells how her mother knew the sound of her hammer striking a jade  boulder and of her many discoveries.
Knowing full well that jade has been hunted in the area for 60 years and yet you still dream of finding a newly eroded piece and please please please let it be the bright green apple. So it should be no surprise that Renita and I were heading to the jade fields and like fisherman everywhere, or any prospector, full of the eternal hope.
Our first stop of the day was at Sweetwater Station, along the Bison Ridge Road. it was a place we had first hunted jade last year, a place where we had picked up green rock after green rock. We hadn't really known what jade looked like but we still hunted. This year we knew what we were looking for.
Parking the truck off the road Renita headed south and I north as we hunted a ridge formed from a terrace of alluvium, ancient stream deposited rocks. We combed the area and did find some lined green rock that we had found last year. It had made a beautiful cabochon, but it wasn't jade. We looked at our samples and decided we probably hadn't found any jade and so we headed for another spot, Bull Canyon.
Now Bull Canyon isn't very far away and soon we stopped at an old jade claim. It was in a formation called the Ice Slough Conglomerate and was a place that had held jade in situ, which means enclosed in the solid rock, but we didn't find any.
We took a four wheel drive round down to the canyon and we did find lots and lots of good agate, but it wasn't jade and so we kept on looking. Tired we finally took a break and decided to go to Agate Flats and look for more Sweetwater Moss Agates, and maybe some small pieces of jade. At least it was a place where we knew we would find something of value.
We were not disappointed. Quickly finding an agate and another I headed out to a ridge while Renita hunted near the truck. I found a draw in which I found agate after agate and quickly found over a hundred. Renita hadn't done as well and so she joined me and started to find her own honey hole or agate jackpot.
We ended the day with a huge pile of agates and another pile of rock that wasn't quite jade, but had still tantalized us. It really didn't matter what we had found as the time together was the real treasure. See it really isn't the finding but just the looking that makes life worthwhile. Clear skies.

(As we drove home we talked of the day and decided that maybe we really should be looking around the jade prospects of Douglas and so we are heading east tomorrow!)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Southwest Face of Cedar Mountain

We had finally run into a stream that crossed the road and there was no way that we could cross it. A jeep could have made it but our truck was simply too long, and with such a long wheel base we would have been high centered so it was time to turn around and head back. It didn’t really matter as we were in a new place, high on the southwest face of Cedar Mountain and the view was worth the trip up the rocky four wheel drive road.

A day earlier we woke up to see a dusting of snow on the Uinitas and so it was almost time to head to a lower elevation but we still had a few days left and we still wanted to prospect for diamonds on the southwest face of Cedar Mountain. The book, Gemstones and Other Unique Minerals and Rocks of Wyoming, had told of the discovery of brecciated volcanic pipes on the southwest face and the discovery of diamonds in one of the pipes. It also told of diamonds being found in an alluvium north of the DK spot and so we had to look for it.

The Blm sign greeted us a s we turned off the county road and the four wheel drive track was pretty good for a while. Renita spotted an ant pile and so we looked for indicator minerals, cape rubies and cape emeralds, but didn’t find any. A road turned off to the left and so we had to make a decision and we took the more traveled one.

Quickly our road became rocky as we crossed ridge after ridge but the rocks weren’t large enough to cause any problems. I concentrated on the driving, either missing the large ones or driving over the top of them so I wouldn’t hit one with my sidewall and have to change out a tire.

The road alternated between rocks and dirt and luckily it was dry as it was pretty obvious that this was not a road to be on in the rain. Another fork and this time we went left as we wanted to continue southwest. Smaller ruts promised a way to the top but they weren’t really meant for our truck as most of the roads were from the fifties, having been made by old small jeeps.

A ridge appeared above us and it looked like it was made of conglomerate, a solidified layer of various size rocks, and the book had told of the dikes having intruded thought the Bishop Conglomerate so I had to climb the ridge and look. As I hiked up to the ridge, I picked up several interesting specimens, that didn’t seem to belong, and also several agate fragments. Reaching the outcrop the conglomerate appeared to be cemented and so it appeared I was at the Bishop Formation,(The Bishop Conglomerate is also the rock layer from which jade was mined near Jeffery City).

I didn’t find any indicator minerals and I could see Renita below as she checked out the rocks. Sure enough she had a pile of specimens she wanted me to look over and so we had more agate for the trip to Texas. We are definitely going to be busy with the rock saws!

The brecciated dikes remained hidden from us. Perhaps they were the depressions that we found, as some of the diamond bearing stratum is softer and so weathers into a small marsh or pond. I walked to one and was quickly swarmed by deer flies. The trip down the mountain went by quickly and we talked about another unsuccessful day of prospecting for Wyoming diamonds.

It reminded me of the quote on one of the displays at the Arkansas Diamond State Park, the one that says you have to pay your dues and we are certainly doing that! The thing is that it is just plain fun to be in such beautiful country, much better than being stuck in a windowless classroom with twenty eight teenagers. Clear skies.