Friday, June 10, 2016

Devin Does Reno

Recently Devin hopped on a plane to do some good old fashioned crystal diggin'.  Today he tells his tale:

My latest rockhounding hunt took me to Reno, NV, the Biggest Little City in the world!  I had the opportunity to do some crystal digging at a private, commercial mine.  The target: quartz scepter crystals!

Before I even headed out to the mine I found my first rock: a Carboniferous limestone sample that just happened to a piece of the actual Blarney Stone from Ireland.

After a quick rub for luck it was time to head to the mine to hone the fine art of "scepter" finding.  We loaded up the 4x4 and headed out to the classic locality of Hallelujah Junction, very near the California/Nevada state line.

After a rough and woolly 4x4 drive up a few desert hills to get the blood pounding, we came to the mine.  Not open to public (no trespassing!) – this is an active, federally permitted open pit mining operation, complete with excavator and a fantastic and educational team of professional diggers and rockhounds.

All of these amateur and professional geoscientists and collectors were here, picking through weathered granite rocks, to seek “the prize” - large smoky quartz crystals of a first generation fluid, growing from the walls of pockets weathered into the local granites by hot hydrothermal fluids. They form the unique “scepter” shape to make the holder feel like, well, a king.

What makes these crystals special is what happened next.  2nd, 3rd and even 4th generations of fluids moved through the pockets, and like lollipops, deposited layers of different quartz minerals onto the existing dark crystals.  The result are beautiful clear amethyst and quartz crystals growing like helmets on the smoky quartz.

These are rare – only a few places on Earth exist known where the ingredients came together to make this particular mineral form. After many hours shoveling broken rock, chain gang style, I was able to gently prod and poke these pockets with heavy duty chopsticks.  Sometimes the chopsticks would penetrate far into the wall of the mine.  A pocket!  If lucky, in a few minutes you are cleaning off great beautiful crystals.  

Enjoyed my two days of digging, and was sore and happy when I got home.  I had plenty of smoky quartz and a few small scepters for my collection. The one large one above was so nice, the mine kept it to sell in trade for some other minerals. But boy was that one nice!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Flashback: Rock City 1982

Back the Delorean into the Tardis and prepare calculations for slingshotting around the sun because we're about to go time traveling.  While scanning old photo albums for posterity, we found great pics and memorabilia from a trip to the 1982 World's Fair.  During the many stops along the way, our group of fun seeking travelers made several stops and one of them was at an interesting geologic destination.

"Rock City" near Chattanooga, TN contains outcrops, cliffs and great views and was celebrating its Golden Anniversary in 1982 so it was a perfect time to stop by.  Check out these early '80's brochures to see what the place had to offer:

You might have noticed the inclusion of various fairy tale characters in various locations.  Those are the residents of Rock City's "Fairyland Caverns" and of course our plucky group had to check it out:

And they made sure to pick up the postcards to go with their pics:

After visiting the fairy tale creatures in the cavern, the gang headed out to get a better view of the area and that included a walk across the "Swing-Along Bridge":

If it looks like a great view to you then check out this marker that the gang photographed that shows just exactly how much visitors can see from on high:

But enough of the touristy stuff!  Let's see some rocks!

The good news is that while this seems like a classic, old school roadside destination that can only be seen in post cards and old pictures, you can actually still visit today!  According to their website, they still have all the cool stuff from the '80's as well as some new stuff so plan your summer road trip accordingly.

Hopefully we'll get there some day to shoot some video and maybe smash a penny or two.