And the road goes on forever...

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rock hounding Quartzsite

The boondockers are surprisingly scattered like pearls upon a sea of rock and cactus. We expected Quartzsite to be chock full this time of year, but even across the small mountain range east of Quartzsite on old Hwy. 72, headed towards Bouse, they dot the landscape like ants foraging for food. We’re surprised some of them made it into their spots given the ruggedness of the terrain and the small dirt tracks that the area is riddled with. This is ATV heaven.
We’re here not only for a nice camp out, but trying to follow the trail to some good rock hounding areas, my current passion. Arizona is filled with areas of great mineral wealth and although we came here hoping to find the “the giant piece of ribbon candy” of minerals my book touts in this location, after two days it still eludes us. But I’ve maybe gotten close. For some reason when photographed out in natural light, the small crystals known as druse don’t show their iridescence they way they literally glittered in this specimen to the naked eye. Regardless, iridescence does show up; in piles of tailings of hematite, pyrite and other materials as we peruse mine site after mine site. The day’s cloud cover leaves us with a blazing sunset.
Rock hounding is a popular pastime for many RVers in the area and the territory shows both lots of dig activity and also the ubiquitous stakes denoting someone’s mining claim. I have already found several as yet unspecified minerals including some fossil ferns from the Jurassic period known as dendrites, which appear as small black fern-like imperfections on a red, shale type rock. I’m excited; it’s a major find for a brand new novice.
We while away Saturday until lunch bouncing along bumpy bypasses leading through wash after wash, stop after stop, and bucket after bucket of “finds”. Marc gets bored and target practices as I dig. I find it a fascinating adventure and the topography in this section of Arizona is striking, especially in evening. The expanse of so much open vista just melting into the horizon 50 miles away is breathtaking.
We leave today but not before a sleep-in morning followed by a big breakfast and another try at the “ribbon” as I guide Marc back. I am certain after re-reading my book and studying the very poor black and white photograph that we inadvertently passed our spot yesterday. The reason? The author has written the directions backwards to the way we came in through a long wash. There in front of us, this hill we topped and went down the far side—should be the ribbon and room enough for one vehicle to park. We scramble out of the truck and Eureka--it’s there, as we go crazy among all the beautiful specimens, covered in druse crystals. We spend a couple of hours working the ridge, lugging piece after piece of varied rock back to the truck, consisting of barite, red jasper, orange and yellow agate and hematite. I spy some lavender bands contrasted with browns and white—throw them in too! It’s amazing how the colors and the minerals vary from rock to rock as we advance up the slope. The “rough” as they call this natural rock, is never as pretty as when it is cut and polished of course; our ultimate goal. My imagination has no problem picturing that though as I weigh the merits of each piece I pick up. Back at camp, it is quick to hitch up and pack up with this small rig and then it’s one last hill climb out and we hit the highway for home.