Saturday, June 26, 2010

Butcherknfe Draw and the North Side of Cedar Mountain

The old saying is that only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the desert sun, and I guess Molly, Renita, and I have to be added to the list! We have wanted to return to Butcher Knife Draw and so when the the forecast was for clear skies we decided that today was the day!
Now Butcher Knife Draw is listed as a site for finding crystals of chromium diopside and pyrype crystals and it also is the site of lamprocite dikes, which bring up material from deep in the Earth's mantle,(diamonds), so even though we had visited the site last year we just had to go back.
At least we knew where we were going this year and so the only difficulties were avoiding the heavy ruts in the road and a traffic jam as a herd of cows was being driven by two cowboys and a cowgirl.
The only sensible thing to do when you encounter a cattle drive is to pull over and watch the herd go bye. Molly of course hates cows, unless they are in her food dish, and so she tried her best to cause a stampede. It was neat to watch the herd being driven by and see a cowboy head off a cow and calf that were tring to stray form the herd.
They soon passed and we continued avoiding washouts and the deep ruts left by someone who had traveled this way while the road was muddy. Before long we reached Big Dry Creek and turned onto a four wheel drive road tha parallels the draw.
Now the first place you look is in the ant hills as the ants bring up small gemstones. Last year we had only found one as the Treasure Hunter Show had aired and every ant hill had been carried away by all the treasure seekers, so we had hoped that there would be new hills and a lot more gems.
We had just started up the road when we saw one and then another ant hill. Stopping and inspecting them we were both disappointed in that there were no gems visible and so we drove further north looking at ant pile after ant pile until we found one with several small pyrope crystals.
Now the pyrope crystals were small, as that's what the ants bring up, so the idea is to look away from the ant piles and hopefully find larger gems. Finding several, we were both soon distracted by all the chert nodules.
Black chert, black and yellow banded chert and a deep red chert was everywhere. The difficulty was in finding really good pieces for our collection. I had also wanted to look for a lamprocite volcanic tube, as the materials I had read said they were often blue or green in color, and that they were the source for the gems.
Crossing a ridge I spied two green outcrops and so I went down into the valley. I looked at the lower one and inspected the rock for xenocrysts,(A Xenocryst is a fragment picked up by the molten material and carried to the surface in the eruption), and it appeared that there were numerous small crystals in the rock.
Breaking off a piece I carried it back to the truck and as I neared Renita I could see she had a pile of rocks to add to our collection. Now we do live and travel full time so more rocks always present us with a dilemma, should we actually carry the piece all the way to Texas and the lapidary shop? Looking at her samples and mine we left about half of them on the ridge and saved the coordinates, in case we want to come back.
Leaving the draw we returned down the road stopping and looking for more rocks. Again chert was everywhere and so we made three further stops. At one of the arroyos we found a fairly large piece of gold moss agate. We already have a bunch of gold moss agate but we don't have any from Wyoming and so we kept it as we really want to specialize in Wyoming stones.
Molly had already decided that it was too hot to be in the sun and crawled under he truck while Renita and I picked the differentt washes. Again the chert was everywhere and so we passed up sample after sample, only keeping the best.
Arriving beck at the campsite, my arm had started to swell up from where several ants had attacked me in defense of the home,(I hadn't destroyed them but had just altered them slightly). We both appreciated the air conditioning and it felt good to be back home,(Home of course is wherever we park our fifth wheel), with mor epurope andsome neat japser and agte ofr our winter lapidy hobby. Clear skies

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wyoming Gem and Mineral Show, Powell, Wyoming

One of Renita’s many hats, is that of entertainment director,(if it were up to me we would probably fish or stay around the fifth wheel and grind rocks). So I was surprised when she found that the Wyoming Gem and Mineral Society was having its annual show at Powell, Wyoming!
We briefly thought about pulling our house,(fifth wheel), there but instead opted to stay camping at Boysen State Park and make it a day trip. Now the distance may seem a lot to you but it was only 300 miles round trip and people that live out west, especially Wyoming, don’t think much about driving that far for a day’s excursion.
So we started towards Powell, taking the short drive to Thermopolis, and then turned up Wyoming 120 to Meeteesee and Cody. From there it was only 30 miles to Powell. The drive was easy and quite nice. The Absoraka Mountains stood to the west and it was kind of fun to realize that Yellowstone was just over those hills.
We didn’t see any wolves or bear as we drove but soon after passing Meeteesee, Heart Mountain dominated the skyline. Now Heart Mountain was the site of a internment camp for Americans of Japanese descent, and as we passed the historical site I saw some of the original buildings used to house the prisoners.
The houses brought back memories as when I spent the summer in Wyoming, during my two months of Geology field camp, the dormitories were actually surplus detention camps from the Heart Mountain site. They were flimsy cheap structures and the mice had no problems invading our shelter and feasting on anything edible. Winter time must have been so hard.
Finally reaching Powell we had to ask the location of the Fairgrounds as it wasn’t on the main road and we found the Gem and Mineral Show after driving all around the perimeter of the Fairgrounds Site.
The very first dealer had a display of Wyoming Jade, but oh my the prices! One piece, had a price of 1800 dollars and I was almost afraid to touch it for fear that it would somehow shatter in my hand! That was a piece of apple green Jeffery City rough and the rock was less then a pound!
Declining the exhortations of the dealer we moved on, where another dealer had more Wyoming Jade, including some apple green Jeffery City jade for about 40 dollars a pound. Thoughts of acquiring some were evaporating from my mind, but at least we were getting to see lots of rough jade.
Edwards Black Jade, pink jade, apple green jade, all Wyoming stones, were pretty common and we did buy several slices, along with some Wyoming snowflake jade. We did actually buy a piece of the apple green jade, spending more that we had planned but we dipped into money from our jewelry sales as we just had to have some for our winter lapidary.
The society had display cases exactly like the ones the Gulf Coast Gem and Mineral Society uses and so we were able to enjoy the cases, filled with Wyoming treasures. We were both surprised at all the different minerals we didn’t realize could be found here, and so our thoughts were turned to more days and new spots to hunt for rocks.
The club had a silent auction booth and we won several specimens, some bubble gum agate, three fossil mammoth teeth, although they looked more like large cat canines to me, and I narrowly got outbid for some Guernsey agate. A club member was making cabochons and what was really wild is that he was blind and making them from the feel of the stone!
We watched another dealer as she wrapped a cabochon, and while her technique was almost identical to ours her wraps were more elaborate, with swirls of wire finishing the pieces. She gave us lots of advice about tools to buy and she does use a finer gauge wire then we do, so it was really informative.
Probably the biggest difference was that she used 26 gauge round wire for her wraps instead of the half round half hard 21 gauge sterling wire we prefer. It was nice to see a fellow wrapper who makes the complete piece form hand, so many people buy already made cabochons and the quality is usually inferior.
We talked with another couple who fulltime and travel from show to show, and it’s pretty obvious that we need to go to the Tucson and Quartzite winter shows. We really aren’t interested in turning our hobby into a business, we are mainly selling so we can afford more rocks, silver wire and equipment, (we also want to start using gold filled wire but the prices are so high).
The drive back home was uneventful and Renita drove so I could enjoy the scenery. It was a fast trip as there is nothing but the small town of Meeteesee for 100 miles and so we made it back in time for supper and some unwinding before bed. Clear skies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Powder River Pass, Crossing the Bighorns

A line of blue sky appeared and for the first time in days we could see the sun. As we drove to the top of a hill, just past Wild Horse Road, the Bighorns appeared in all their glory and my heart leapt. I told Renita and I could see her face brighten. We had so many memories.
She pointed out all the snow and it was pretty obvious that winter still held the mountains in its grip, and it shouldn’t have been any surprise. We both had been in the high country before and the lakes were still frozen at altitude.
Normally we wouldn’t have taken our fifth wheel across a mountain pass, when we could avoid it, but we have been on the road for three years and have crossed many passes. So, we decided to cross the Powder River Pass, and a flood of memories waited patiently for us.
I pointed out Bighorn and Darton Peaks, and remembered my climb of Darton, many years ago. That day one of our team came down with altitude sickness and we had to get him low before we could summit. A storm hit us unexpected and we felt the worms crawling in our hair. Luckily we were able to retreat from the summit before the lightning struck.
On the west side of Darton Peak was my daughters favorite place, Lost Twins Lakes. Jenny and I had back packed there on a father daughter trip and so it was one of my special places too. If you are ever in their cirque in August you can see the shadow of the bear, cast by a protruding truncated spur. I didn’t see it until Jenny pointed it out.
We stopped at the welcome to the Bighorn National Forest turnoff, and we pointed out Cloud and Bomber Peaks. I had climber Cloud Peak twice and Renita and I had day packed into the Cloud Peak Wilderness area, just after we had both retired.
Pole Creek hove into view and we both pointed out the many places we had skied in for our Christmas trees. Places and times filled with love and family and happiness. The North Fork of Crazy Women Creek looked as inviting as ever, but our fifth wheel was just too big for that campground.
We reached the Powder River Pass and stopped for a bit to relax and remember. Not too far away was the spot where we had sledded, insanely it turned out as there were hidden rocks. Our normal sledding hill had been bare that year and so we had driven high in search of snow. I hit a rock so hard I couldn’t sit on a chair for a month.
We headed down the west side , past Meadowlark Ski area and Willow Park. Willow Park was our favorite place to cross country ski. The snow was so much better on the west side of the Bighorns, as the windward side usually is.
Past Meadowlark we headed down Tensleep Canyon and I remembered the time I skied the old highway. It was amazing as you could ski for eleven miles and only had to pole twice. It was scary too as the old road had no guardrails and no way out once you had started down its trace.
I pulled over for others to pass, as we were in no hurry, life is about the journey after all. We passed Leigh Point where a British member of the royal family had fell while hunting. We wanted to stop and look for rocks, stromatolites this time, but the melting snow pack had raised the level of the creek to flood stage, and the rocks were all underwater.
We marveled at the mansions being built on the outskirts of Tensleep, progress I guess, or monuments to money. Why do people need so much space, when we are happy in so little, each unto his own. Worland came and went and it didn’t seem to have changed much. Kirby passed by and then Thermopolis neared as we saw signs for the dinosaur center.
The Wind River Canyon is always a treat and we saw the sign for the Wedding of the Waters. There the Wind River becomes the Bighorn. Early explorers had given two different names for the same river and neither name won out. We couldn’t see where a train had been derailed from a rock avalanche, earlier this spring.
Boysen Dam neared and as we passed through the third tunnel we left the reservation land and arrived at Boysen State Park, and our friends John and Flo Wheeler. It had taken longer to cross the mountains a lifetime of memories. We have been truly blessed. Clear skies

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Morning Parades and A Typical Day at Keyhole State Park

Every morning we are treated to several parades. The first ones are pelicans and geese and then we do our own parade. The days here are peaceful ones nicely interrupted by friends and the nights are usual quiet.
Soon after first light a flock of American white pelicans swims out from their roost in search of food, I don't know who leads who but they all fish in unison and its really special to watch. They swim as a group and all turn forming a hook, herding a school of fish toward shore. When the time is right they all dip their bills into the water in an exhibition of synchronized feeding that any group of Olympic swimmers would envy.
Soon after a pair of Canadian geese swim from across the lake herding their ten goslings and keeping them on the straight and narrow. As they approach shore the female checks out the shores safety while the young ones swim in circles, anxious to wade ashore for that tasty grass. The male then follows and both parents stretch their necks watching for danger, a hungry coyote or even a viscous shi-tzue!
Soon after Molly and I go for our morning walk along the cement path. There are so few people in this campground that we almost always have it to ourselves. We often disturb a feeding pronghorn antelope, who snorts his warning to his harem of does.
Our days are filled with quiet sometimes broken by the welcome sight of friends stopping by. A daily bike ride or a stroll along the lake shore, although more often we simply sit and read. We don't have electricity here so we make do and often wrap stones,antique pottery, or sea glass.
Renita and I started to sell our work on Etsy as its either sell some or stop collecting more rocks and so we part with our pieces, reluctantly. Our goal is to sell enoug for a grinder polisher machine that has been designed for rvers,(the size of a shoebox).
We have made more campfires this past week then we usually do in a year and I have tried to cook chicken, steaks, hamburgers, and bratwursts over the open fire pit. Its worked surprisingly well, with only a few burned pieces here and there.
In the evening the sun sets and we are sometimes treated with a still reflection of the far bay on the water. The evenglom,(last light after sunset) is always special and then the stars come out in the thousands.
Soon afterwards our dog, Molly goes to the bedrooms steps and turns and looks at me, as if she is telling me its time for me to go to bed. She lays down when I do but then goes back downstairs after I am sleeping to wait for Renita to quit reading and come to bed.
So the day is filled with peace and then nights are so quiet. Its great to be spending two weeks here after our long journal north from Texas. Two weeks at our old home lake. Clear skies.

Our shop is at the following address.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Grand Terre, I saw the Birds dying....

I saw the news tonight and watched the pelican coated with oil trying to lift it wings. I saw the news tonight and watched the cormorant unable to lift its head above the oil sludge. I heard the newscaster talk about one of my favorite places, Grand Terre, and realized it wouldn't ever be the same.
No more otters swimming amd playing, no more dolphins feeding off the bar of the pass. no more redfish tailing by the thousand. It didn't seem possible that we had just been there, walking the beaches and feeling such peace...
My sister emaled me that the oil had finally reached Grand Isle and that they had watched it come ashore. We had spent so much time with them sitting on their front porch and watching the dolphins playing and now they were watching the oil come ashore.
She wrote us that the stench from the oil is strong, even inside their house. The authorities had talked of evacuating the Isle but where would they go?
She wrote us about the President going by in a motorcade at fifty miles per hour. She wrote about the oysterman telling her how his beds were all coated in oil and that BP(bullshit petroleum as cousin Janet calls them) was slow paying the shrimpers.
I saw the news tonight and watched the pelican dying on the beach...........

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Prairie and Fairburn Agate Hunting

We were both excited as we put on our day packs and headed towards the stream. It was our first real day of prospecting for Fairburn agates and we had just been at a rock shop in Hermosa, Sd. There the owner had shown us what the rough Fairburn agate looks like and had told us how to get to the BLM Agate Beds.
We found the road easy enough but recent rains had turned sections into mud and we passed several deep places where trucks had been stuck. Reaching the stream we saw that it had flooded big time and while it had receded it was still of unknown depth. There were fresh tire prints in the mud and we watched as a four wheel drive truck crossed the deep water. The water reached above the bottom of the door and so we decided to pass on the famed beds this trip.
Several outcrops were along the way and we did stop and collect some Prairie agate, which is the state rock of Nebraska. We just didn't collect any Fairburn Agate, which is also called fortification agate as it looks like the old time forts of the 18th century.
The next day we decided to head towards Rapid City and look along the terraces of Spring Creek. Now its all private land and so we would be limited to looking in the road cuts, but we have found some nice rocks in the public places before, so off we went.
Our first stop was at a cut along South Dakota 79, on the south side of Spring Creek.It didn't take long before we found more Prairie Agate. While its not composed of the sharp bands as Fairburn is its still pretty bands of gold and white and even has some reds and purples. I found a few small pieces and by the time I got over to Renita she had a large pile of possible keepers.
Sortng through the pile was really hard as she had a lot of good agate. So I added it to mine and we already had enough Prairie Agate to keep us sawing, grinding and polishing for quite a while.
Returning home we washed the agates and sorted them into a keep and don't keep pile. There was a lot of keepers and so our long long long trailer has gotten some more weight added to it, and these rocks are round. Perhaps you should call us Luci and Desi, from now on! Clear skies.