Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Gateway Arch, on the Way to Iowa

We left Ogallala with thoughts of petrified wood dancing on our heads, (ok we are the first to admit we are dancing to a different tune). As we crossed eastern Nebraska we passed under the Gateway Arch Exhibit and decided to take a break, eat lunch, and walk through the exhibit.
Soon after entering we purchased our tickets, ($11 bucks each senior rate, yikes), and were each handed a walking tour headset. After one of the"sheriffs"explained how to use it we were up the stairs and off on the self guided tour.
Now in fairness, I thought the exhibits gave a good explanation of some of the the pioneers trials and pitfalls as they journeyed across the country. I had to laugh at the one exhibit where the husband is whipping the oxen while the wife pushes the wagon. I am sure Renita would have soon figured out a reversal of roles.
Outside the Arch way several exhibits depicted a ceremonial lodge, metal stands of buffalo, and a nice trail to stretch and walk while taking a break form the highway. I thought the lodge was an interesting exhibit especially since we have come across tepee rings and large stone rings, (ceremonial lodge bases), while rock hounding in the deserts and plains of Wyoming.
Now we have been very fortunate to travel throughout the west and have actually visited all of the stops depicted along the walkway. With that in mind, I might recommend the stop for someone that is just starting their first journey out west, but twenty two dollars is a lot of money, for what we saw, (remember we collect rocks while living full time in a fifth wheel and people often shake their heads when they hear what we do). Clear skies

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Finding An Unexpected Treasure, The Petrified Wood and Art Gallery in Ogallala, Nebraska

As you travel across the country you get so busy driving that you sometimes push your journey. Instead of driving the recommended two, two, two, (drive two hundred miles a day, find a park by two pm, and stay two days), you drive three or four or even five hundred miles. Its a good way to get somewhere but you miss so much, What you miss is what we call unexpected treasures....
So when we pulled into Ogallala, Nebraska, we just happened to notice a sign that advertised the Petrified Wood and Art Gallery. Calling the gallery, we found out that they closed at four pm and so we grabbed a water bottle and headed out the door for a twenty minute hike.
Reaching the gallery, a volunteer explained that the gallery represented the work of two brothers, Harvey and Howard Kenfield. They had been collecting petrified wood, minerals, and rocks and had created unique art works. She also told us that other artists had contributed their own work.
The first display cases showed stone buildings, all made from pieces of petrified wood collected in Washington State. A button allowed you to play each one of the fossilized music boxes. We were instantly mesmerized at the detail and beauty of each building.
On the wall another artist had taken their collection of arrowhead pieces and turned it into a stone buffalo. The image I took is pretty bad but each little piece is another arrowhead fragment!. The buffalo head was just one of many arrowhead art works!
Around another corner we found an amazing display of stone butterflies. Each had delicate and thin of minerals, ground and then polished in a vibrator rock tumbler. As we work rock we were amazed at how the delicate wings had survived the process and I could see that Renita and I were inspired in our attempts to work beautiful stone.
Another corner and more work, this was a wall hanging of drift wood inset withe a stone building. Next we saw frame after frame filled with more buildings, and all made from petrified wood pieces. Each piece had been hand sawed and meticulously placed and glued together!
Other frames held paintings on rock slices and slabs. One was a large piece of Icelandic Spar/Selenite gypsum, On the polished surface a polar bear had been beautifulyl painted! Of course there were case after case filled with polished petrified wood from seventeen western states. These include quite a bit of petrified wood from The Blue Forest of Wyoming, Eden Valley, Big Sandy, and Whiskey Basin  where we have also rock hounded, (they opened our eyes to the quality of our own collection).
So if you are ever in Ogallala, Nebraska, or just passing through, we highly recommend you stop and take the time to visit the Petrified Wood and Art Gallery. The unique collection and works of the Kenfield brothers show a love of stone and fossil that will inspire you, regardless of your medium! Clear skies

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Two Days in the Jade Fields near Jeffery City, Wyoming Fall 2014

The trip from Star Valley to Lander was uneventful. Now it was time to wait till my last doctors appointment before heading east and south for the winter. Of course I could have scheduled the doctors somewhere else, but Lander is near the jade fields and so we figured we could mix some pleasure into the week.
This year two friends, Barbara and Lynn were going to meet us for rock hounding and we were both pleased when they arrived safely and on time. The question always is, do we go to Agate Flats first or last? The reason for this is because good jade is extremely rare and hard to find. Normally Renita and I would search for jade before becoming frustrated and then go to Agate Flats, but we had talked it over and decided we would take the newbie rock hounds to Agate Flats. There they would have some success, (finding jade is kind of like finding gold, you have to put in your dues days before you finally acquire the skill/luck to find some quality jade).
So we headed to Agate Flats where Renita and I regaled them with our stories of Sweet Water agates, World War Two artifacts, horny toads and rattlesnakes, along with the pleasure of being out in the middle of nowhere. We stressed that the chances of seeing any rattlesnakes was minimal but it still is something to keep in mind when visiting Wyoming's high deserts.
Turning off the main road we drove down a four wheel drive track, finally stopping near where we had hunted agates last year. The goal for the morning was to find enough to fill our tumbler which we then polish and give away to kids at the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Show. Barb and Lynn were also planning on buying a tumbler and so we hoped they would find enough to fill its hopper.
 Heading down hill I walked for a while before finding my first agate and then another. Slowly but surely I filled both of my pockets before returning to the truck. Barbara and Lynn both showed up with a nice handful of agates! Renita had also had success and so we drove to another spot to eat lunch and get a few more agates for the polishers.
Next it was time for the mythical jade and so we drove back to Jeffery City before turning north to Beaver Rim. The first stop was a road curt where we had found snowflake jade in the past and everyone found some pretty rocks to put in the truck. Next we drove to the rim itself where we followed the power line, the site where we had found several slicks in a previous visit.
Not having much success, although I did find a very small jade slick, we decided we had had enough fun for the day and headed back to our base camp, (Lander). The next morning arrived, along with Barbara and Lynn and soon we were looking for Bull Canyon.
Now Renita and I had been to Bull Canyon in years past, but the roads had changed since the last time and we missed the turnoff. Also there has been some significant oil filed activity and road work and so Renita suggested we look along the recently bladed ditches.
We found lots of common opal and honey agate and Barbara actually found a cobble with small inclusions of high quality green jade. Renita had also found some sea oak petrified wood, definitely petrified wood anyway, Lynn found some green rocks that were almost jade, (you see these sold all the time as jade on EBay from people that don't know what jade really looks like). Lin did find a beautiful sample of pink feldspar with a crystalline band of fibrous serpentine.
Heading back to the power line and Beaver Rim we stopped and walked several stretches of the line but we didn't find any quality jade. I did find some snowflake and at least it allowed me to show Lynn and Barbara another example of good jade versus the quartz crystals that fill in the snowflake.
Driving along Beaver Rim we stopped and had lunch before the afternoon jade hunt began. Li\ynn did find a nice piece of snowflake jade with some interesting inclusions that were perhaps pink jade/ thulite.
We were all tired, by this time, and so we headed back to Lander. As we passed through Jeffery City however, the Mad Potter's pottery shop, in Jeffery City was actually open.  Barbara had wanted to look at his art work, (she owns and operates Raven Lunatic Art Gallery in Alpine, Wyoming). At first no one was around but Byron spotted us form the bar and walked over to answer our questions about his unique pieces.
Barbara bought a piece of his work and wishing him well, we headed back to our base camp. Everyone was tired as we moved their rock from our truck to their car. It had been a successful couple of days, days filled with pleasure and hope as we walked the desolate, barren, but beautiful high desert of the Granite Mountains. Clear skies

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Gold Aspens, Wild Horses, and Crossing Passes

I don' really like traveling on my birthday but a strong low was approaching from the southwest and so we left Star Valley for far distant Florida. Of course this was just the first leg, to Lander, Wyoming, where we would hunt for the mythical jade as we waited for my cardiologist appointment.
So the plan was to leave on the eighteenth, but a strong storm threatened from the southwest. and so we left a day early. Hoping to leave in the early morning we were forced to wait as a storm with hard rain and cloud to ground lightening shook our fifth wheel. Finally hooking up and pulling out we headed up the valley and as we rose in elevation the aspen started to show their gold colors. It was definitely time to head south.
Stopping at the top of Salt Pass, to check our brakes, we looked east and west,savoring the colors and remembering the summers memories of friends and fish, and rock. Descending the pass the trucks engine and transmission handled the  easy pass and so we sped by to Cokeville and then to Kemmerer.
Turning east for Farson and South Pass, we passed the quarry where we had dug for fish fossils. further on a large herd of wild hoses grazed in the barren landscape and seemed to be oblivious to our presence. The BLM is currently conducting a roundup and removal of eight hundred wild horses from the Red Desert and who knows how much longer this group will roam the sand and rock and sagebrush of their home.
Eastward we crossed the Green River and our thoughts turned to past rock hounding, Blue Forest petrified wood, Big Sandy plant fossils, the Farson Fish Fossil Beds, and Farson petrified wood all enticed us with their siren call, but while we wished to stop we answered not this year.
We still had one more pass and the truck heated up a little as we climbed and so I slowed and of course cars caught up to us. The pass is pretty easy so they were able to pass us as we drove by the abandoned US Steel open pit mine, (I had toured it while it was in operation during my summer Geology Field Camp in 1973 and it closed soon after).
Luckily the  wind sock was limp as we headed down the steep east face of the Wind River Mountains. Stopping several times, to let the transmission cool, we made it safely and quickly drove the rest of the way into Lander. Tomorrow, friends will arrive to join us in our search for jade and Sweet Water moss agate. and what could be better than prospecting with friends in the wild Granite Mountains. Clear skies.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Colors and Cats, A trip to Matt and Pattys

Its almost time for us to leave, before the snow traps us in the high country. We still had several trips we wanted to make and so we first headed to Matt and Patty's house, to say good by for another winter. The trip there was full of color as the maples have turned to the bright reds and yellows.
So not a lot to say today just lots of images and colors we don't see in Eastern Wyoming as maples are absent there. You might alos n otice that the aspens haven't even thought of turning but they should soon,  Oh and finally there is no doubt about who rules Matt and Patty's house. The dogs are outside and the cats well the image of them on their thrones tells the story.
Clear skies

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Fall Colors, Getting Ready for the Winters Journeys

The signs of the coming fall are all around us. Every day the trees are turning into bright reds and yellows.  Another day I spotted a giant caterpillar looking for a place to build its cocoon. The final sure sign of fall here is that the peaches have been arriving and the time to buy the sweetest ones is right now, after the first of September.
In the winter and spring we fill the freezers full of shrimp and ocean fish and feast on them till they are all gone, In fact we just finished the last of the red fish the other night. Now its time to fill the freezer with the plentiful fruit and so we bought a box of fresh and sweet Utah peaches.
Never having done this before meant it was time to look up freezing peaches on the Internet and then to frantically head off to town to buy the supplies we needed. The toughest thing to find was fruit fresh but I finally found some and bought the last bottle within twenty miles!
Heading back home we got everything ready and then blanched peeled and sliced them into segments. Next we tossed them in the fruit fresh solution before packing them into vacuum sealer bags, (the vacuum sealer we bought in Alaska has worked great keeping all our fish and shrimp tasty and has protected the food from freezer burn).
The next step was to take the unsealed packages to the freezer as the sealer won't work right until the peaches, and the liquid in the bags, are frozen enough for the machine to work. Finishing up we packed away an entire box, (a peck), of peaches.
So we have added ten quarts of peaches to our frozen cherries, rhubarb, kokenee salmon, and homemade service berry jam. Now its time to make some sugar free peach jam and taking my sisters advice we decided we will make freezer jam. I am afraid its going to be a sweet fall and winter. Oh well we can always diet next spring! Clear skies and beautiful sunsets.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Art in The Parking Lot and the Birthday Bash, Alpine, Wyoming

We fine tuned our displays and spent the week,( ok we played pickle ball), preparing for our last summer show of the year. It was a new show, being sponsored by Raven Lunatics and the Tack Shop in Alpine, Wyoming. Among other things our friend Barbara had asked us if we would bring our equipment and demonstrate how we make cabochons.
The forecast for the weekend was very good as a cold front was going to blast through on Saturday afternoon and evening, but being the optimists we are we loaded everything up and set up our shop. Barbara had found a place where we could have electricity and water and so we were good to go and awaited the massive crowds, (actually as a new show we had no idea if anyone would show up).
I decided to make a crazy lace agate cabochon hoping that the grinding noise would attract some attention, but it didn't bring anyone over. At least I made a beautiful cab that I knew will sell once its wrapped and on display. Finally some people came over and we had our first sale of the day. Of course we emphasize that all of the work is done by us and that everything we sell is made in the USA.
More people came and we sold a Wyoming fossil bracelet. Next we sold a brown swirl algae pendant and matching kumihimo necklace, (Renitas braided handmade necklaces have been a real hit this year).  One thing we have learned this summer is that handmade Wyoming  pendants and bracelets, using Wyoming rocks and fossils, are what tourists and locals want! Its lucky for us that there are so few lapidarists left and so our jewelry is unique.
Things were moving along well, when dark storm clouds came in and Barbara warned us that a strong storm was approaching. It was only one o'clock but we packed up our materials and lowered the tent. Before closing the sides we anchored the legs down with six gallon water jugs.
It was a short drive back to our fifth wheel and we had just got there when it started to rain and hail and blow. Lighting and thunder blasted and roared and we were really glad we we protected in our place. Now our thoughts went to the show tent and if had survived?
The next morning we arrived to find it intact and even dry inside! Even though it was raining off and on, we set everything up. A truck arrived and a young couple walked over and bought one of our new bracelets! That made our day as the rain settled in and we closed two more sides trying to keep open but to also keep everything dry. The people continued to trickle in and we met more fellow Escapes.  They talked of Quartzite, Alaska, and the full timing lifestyle and the biggest benefit which is meeting new people all over the country.
The rain stopped about the time the show closed, but it was still good as we had had a good first show. Hopefully this one will continue next year, and hopefully the weather will be better! Returning back to the house we packed things away for the long trip to the east coast and Florida. We don't have any shows planned till we get to Texas, but you never know what we will find as we travel down the road! Clear skies.