Archive for September 2011

A Trip To Black Butte Lake (Rocks, Dragonflies and Serenity)   4 comments

The morning of Saturday, September 24, 2011 started the way that Justin and I prefer – with a tasty tamale from Montoya’s stand at the Davis Farmers Market. After buying more provisions, Justin and I headed home packed and went to pick up his best friend, Jasper (at least a third generation rock aficionado). Another friend of Justin’s and his dad were supposed to join us, but had to cancel a few days ago.

We headed north on Highway 113, and then I-5 to the Newgrass sounds of Railroad Earth (I always find jam-bands to be excellent driving music). North of Woodland, out of reach of the Delta Breeze, the temperatures climbed steadily, but less so than would have been the case just one day earlier. The obscuring haze, obscuring the Coast Range and Sutter Buttes last month on our trip to Trinidad, was still present. I imagine it will be, until a good rip-roaring wind or a cleansing rain.

After around an hour an a half, at Orland, we turned west on Highway 32 for another short jaunt. During a ten-minute delay, due to road construction, I entertained myself by watching the darting dragonflies (variegated meadowhawks) along the roadway. After the wait, we were guided through the cone-slalom by a pilot car. Along the three miles of “construction zone,” I saw maybe a half-dozen ten- to fifty-yard stretches actually being repaved. Oh well.

When we reached the lake, it was in the upper 80s, which was a pleasant change from the trip a little more than two years ago, when we’d roasted in 105-degree weather. Happy to have missed a repeat by a day, I took a short detour to see the dam and the actual Black Butte.

The dam and the view of the lake’s name-sake were nice, but I was highly distracted by the abudance of dragonflies: dozens of variegated meadowhawks, flitted and landed on bushes, some even posing for pictures. I also saw about a half-dozen black saddlebags and two common green darners, but of course, these species did not land or pose for pictures (one of these days… I got close to photographing a California darner twice this year, but that’s another story).

We had gone up with directions to a couple of new places to look, but none panned out. The outlet of Stony Creek below the dam was running too high to expose any rocks. Other creek-beds, though dry and showing a good deal of rock, were well-posted with “No Parking” and “No Trespassing” signs. I stand firm in my belief that private land-owners are at least as responsible in restricting rock-hound access as the much-maligned “Enviros.” In the interest of full disclosure, I am an environmentalist, though not an extremist. I contend that environmentalist are the only thing that stands between big business and a fully-paved and fenced world – which would make rock-hounding difficult at best. In any case, that is my personal opinion, and I know I won’t change the minds of my conservative friends in the rock-hounding community, so please keep your flame-mail in the draft folder, as it will not change my mind either.

Whew! Anyway. Back to rocks. Due to the inaccessibility of these sites, for which I hadn’t entertained high hopes anyways, we headed to the old stand-by: Burris Creek Recreation Area. We parked (on verifiably harder ground, this time and proceeded to scrour the rocky creek-bed. This time, I wasn’t just looking for lapidary material, but also searched for material with potential for suiseki. I found a fair number of the typical red, yellow and brown Black Butte jasper, some with nearly orbicular patterns, some with hematite lines and a small amount with agatized fracture-lines. One small piece has small round spots that may be tiny orbs. Time will tell.

While some of the pieces I found have a shape that is suitable for mountain profile suiseki, they are rather beat-up. They are not the slicks one sees the pest pieces, but with proper care and oiling, the might just develop a proper patina. Again, time will tell.

Scouring the hot, dusty creek-bed, I felt the tension from the week rapidly melting away. There is nothing more relaxing than going into nature and playing in the dirt. The only draw-back was the amount of litter I found and carted out. There were beer and whiskey bottles; I collected over 50 spent shot-gun shells of at least eight different types. Personally, I find that to be a scary combination. But come on, hunters. Pick up and pack out your own damn casings. Yes, that is littering, and it is not endearing you to the nature lovers. You may have the right to keep and arm bears, er, bear arms, but littering is not part of that. I have friends who hunt and hate this crap as well, so I imagine that this is the equivalent of rock-hounds who go out and strip a site, ruining it for everyone else. But still, let’s all pick up after ourselves before we lose any more sites to public access.

At one point, an Army Corps of Engineers Ranger (wow! I had no idea there was such a job) rolled up and chatted. He reassured us that rock-hounding here was, indeed, fine, and that the next rainy season would provide more rocks. He wished us good luck and seemed pleased at my trash-abatement efforts. I wish more encounters were like this. Before he left, I also got advice about heading to the western shore of the lake’s southern finger, as the bridge to recreation area was damaged and closed. He assured us that the criss-crossing dirt roads remained on ACOE-controlled land, and that the roads were fine for low-clearance, two-wheel drive vehicles.

After a few more minutes we headed that way. It seemed that the roads crossed and re-crossed, but all headed to only about three places, all of them lake-front. At one point, the road was at a minimum ten-degree slope – to the side – and rather soft, but at a patient driving speed, it held. Within ten minutes, or so, we were at the lake, and parked. We changed for a swim.

While the boys went swimming, and I intended to join them, I became quickly side-tracked by the hundreds of variegated meadowhawks that flitted and buzzed around. While shy, they allowed me to approach if I moved slowly. Even when they flew off, they often returned to their previous perches in under a minute. Yellow-jackets abounded as well, so I stepped carefully. After snapping my fill of pictures of dragonflies and a common buckeye butterfly, while still watching the boys, I went for a dip as well, and found a few more pieces of Black Butte jasper.

We ran out of time, as I needed to return Jasper to his home, but for future trips, it looks like continuing down this dirt road might actually provide access to parts of Stony Creek on future trips (it appears that this is the elusive Black Butte Road). A kayak or raft could be useful as well. So at 5:30, we headed back. The temperature was entirely pleasant – in the high 80s. We stopped for dinner at Round Table in Willows, and returned to Davis by 8:00 at an absolutely lovely 66 degrees.

 

To see all the pictures (full-sized) of both Black Butte trips I’ve taken, please go to:

Another view of the lake

 

Happy hunting,

Stephan

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Give me a break already…   Leave a comment

“Tax the rich, Obama says; class warfare, says GOP”

Really?  Class warfare?  Give me a break.  We have it already.  Have had it for quite some time, in fact.  It’s what you get when the gap between the haves and everyone else keeps widening, as it has been for the last 30 years or more… when the economy is balanced only on the backs of the poor and the middle class (what is left of it).

You really do know that the tax-cutting fetish has gone too far when Warren Buffet freely admits that his tax rate is lower than that of his secretary.  “How can this be?” you ask, when the top marginal tax rate is 33%, and those in lower brackets pay at a 10% rate.  The answers are actually quite simple.  For starters, the rich enjoy far more tax shelters, many of them of dubious legality.  Second, the Social Security and Medicare withholdings phase out at approximately $106,000 (raising this ceiling, and then indexing it for inflation could solve the Social Security/Medicare  problems quite easily).  And finally, much tax liability for the super-rich comes from capital gains taxes, which are at historical lows.  The rate for long-term holdings is currently at… wait for it…: between 0% and 15%.  Granted, the 0% rate is for the low-income, but how much stock do these folks really own?

Now, benefit cuts to ordinary folks, parks, police, libraries, schools and so on have been brutal for the last several years, with cuts coming in at federal, state and local levels.  Pain to the rich who can buy a politician or two?  Little to none.  As soon as even modest tax increases (or the phasing out of tax cuts we can no longer afford, given that we are still fighting two interminable wars) are proposed there is always the scream by those in the Rainman (“taxes suck”), oops… excuse me, the Republican party that the rich need this money to create jobs.  BS!  This is, and always has been a fantasy, ever since Reagan introduced the concept of trickle-down economics.  There is only one thing that has trickled down, and it sure isn’t money.  Corporations are sitting on obscene amounts of money, but most of them are doing little, if any hiring.  Even Reagan and Poppy Bush eventually had to concede that to balance the budget revenues (a.k.a. taxes) had to increase.  I guess that makes them liberals by today’s standards.

Now whenever someone mentions that maybe, pretty please, the rich might pay a wee bit more in taxes, the Rainman, uh… excuse me, the Republican party, goes nuts.  The screaming heads on TV and radio go wild, calling those who propose the increases “Socialist,” “Communist,” “Traitor,” and worse.  Excuse me?  But Barack Obama scarcely even qualifies as a liberal (same goes for Bill Clinton, for that matter).  In fact, real liberals are in very short supply.  The Democratic party is populated mainly by slightly left centrists who are far too eager to compromise with a party which current has no interest in compromising on anything.   Once a proposal has been uttered by the President, they cannot even accept a compromise embracing an idea that they themselves laid out earlier.   Lately, dealing with elected Republicans seems akin to arguing with a drunk.  Ever since Dick Cheney told Patrick Leahy, “go f*&^ yourself,” that has been the Republican attitude on the Hill.

Meanwhile, ordinary Americans get to watch all chances at realizing the American Dream slip slowly away.

Now, mind you, almost no one is talking about punitive taxation, but the Republicans would have you believe otherwise.   Shared pain is all we ask.  Civil discourse, and a willingness to compromise.   That, and maybe a spine transplant for the Dems.  A guy can dream, right?  But all kidding aside, if we want America to remain a First World country, the gap between the rich and poor cannot continue to widen.  If we end up like Mexico with essentially two classes, things could get far uglier than they are today.  Then again, that may solve the immigration problem to the Republicans’ satisfaction.

Well, that’s it.  Good night and pleasant dreams.  I will leave you with this.  Steppenwolf’s song (“Monster”), penned in 1969, still rings true about our situation today:

Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And ’til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

The blue and grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has it’s share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it’s protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it’s a monster and will not obey

(Suicide)
The spirit was freedom and justice
And it’s keepers seem generous and kind
It’s leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won’t pay it no mind
‘Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it’s all just an echo of what they’ve been told
Yeah, there’s a monster on the loose
It’s got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin’

Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin’ the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can’t understand
We don’t know how to mind our own business
‘Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who’s the winner
We can’t pay the cost
‘Cause there’s a monster on the loose
It’s got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching

(America)
America where are you now?
Don’t you care about your sons and daughters?
Don’t you know we need you now
We can’t fight alone against the monster

Posted September 19, 2011 by dragonbreathpress in Rants

My Personal 09.11.11 Observance   Leave a comment

Today I made the choice to observe the 10th Anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 by avoiding the media coverage. I already do not watch TV, do not listen to commercial radio, and am judicious in what parts of the newspaper I read (today I only read the funny-pages). Most of my news comes from NPR, and even from this source, I have tired of the “9/11” coverage over this last week.

I fully appreciate that the tragic events of that day irrevocably changed our country; they have affected me as well. Nonetheless, I just do not believe that the constant picking at the scabs and raw wounds of the day is healthy. We need to move on and grow, and this cannot happen by the constant rehashing of the events, which actually seems serve our baser instincts: voyeurism, revenge, hatred and xenophobia. Certainly, we saw the face of evil that day, and I know we will never forget, but I feel that we also need to move forward, otherwise the now-trite phrase will be true: the terrorists will have won.

Today I choose to observe the anniversary by expressing my gratitude – because we can be grateful that even in the face of the events of the day we also saw the face of goodness (more people could have died, for instance; many people acted as heroes; people were inspired to acts of kindness; the list goes on).

I try to make a daily list of twelve items for which I am grateful. Today I will double it:

  1. I am grateful that I have a circle of friends who have taught me the value of living with gratitude.
  2. I am grateful that I was able to spend the day with my son and my parents.
  3. I am grateful to see my parents’ new house, and that they seem mostly happy with it. They seemed quite concerned that Justin and I like it (we do), but what is ultimately important is that they like it.
  4. I am grateful that the day was free of the drama that was always present in my marriage.
  5. I am grateful that I was with people who could observe a holiday without the use of alcohol.
  6. I am grateful for music. Music to me is very spiritual (the act of artistic creation, in general is). Among the artists played today are New Monsoon, Aryeh Frankenfurter, Tempest, Fela Kuti and Railroad Earth.
  7. I am grateful for enthusiastic, wet-nosed home-coming greetings from Buddy and Buster, the wiener-dogs, and for purring rubs from Sophie and Rose, the cats.
  8. I am grateful that none of the homicidal-seeming drivers on the freeway actually managed to hit me. For the most part, they probably aren’t even truly homicidal.
  9. I am grateful that the deer grazing on the side of I-680 had not wandered into traffic. Justin handled himself admirably calling the situation in to 911 (hopefully they were safely removed before they could cause an accident). This had to be an intimidating for a ten year-old.
  10. I am grateful that I have found a spiritual path the works for me.
  11. I am grateful to have discovered my creative side, which includes lapidary work and photography.
  12. I am grateful that I have learned to take care of myself, and not just others.
  13. I am grateful that I have a roof over my head. The living situation may not be as I pictured it, but I am not on the street.
  14. I am grateful that I could afford today.
  15. I am grateful for peaches from the Farmers Market.
  16. I am grateful for chocolate.
  17. I am grateful for Freecycle.
  18. I am grateful for clean water.
  19. I am grateful that I can start my day, week or life over at any time.
  20. I am grateful for my health.
  21. I am grateful for the opportunity for bicycling in Davis.
  22. I am grateful for the kindness of a stranger who gave me good directions when Google maps sent me on a detour ended in a closed road.
  23. I am grateful for my pocket rock – a piece of jade from Agate Beach, which can transport me back to my vacation when I hold it.
  24. I am grateful for yoga.

I would like to encourage all who read this to compose a gratitude list of their own, and to reflect upon what is right with the world and in their lives. Perhaps then, we can begin to live our lives with more dignity, kindness and joy. I know that I will not be, by any means, perfect in this regard, but I will aim for progress.

And then, maybe we can be what is best said by plagiarizing my favorite bumper-sticker:

“God, please help me to be the sort of person my dog thinks I am.”

Namaste,

Stephan

Posted September 11, 2011 by dragonbreathpress in Gratitude, Philosophy

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An Excellent Jade Book   Leave a comment

Author’s note: in the post below, the term “jade” will be used in common manner — referring to nephrite and jadeite, both.

Recently, I had the pleasure of purchasing the excellent book California Jade: The Geologic Story of Nature’s Masterpiece, written and self-published by Don Dupras (retired mining geologist from the California Division of Mines and Geology).  This information-dense,  slender (44-page), soft-bound tome is chock-full of stunning photography of jade and related minerals.  It tells the story of how both nephrite and jadeite (along with serpentine and other related minerals and rocks) are formed, where they occur and why.

The story is told in such a way the very complex geological processes are explained in terms that are imminently understandable.  In my experience, most geology texts are written in such heavy jargon that they are difficult to understand, even for someone trained in science (though, admittedly, not in geology).  Whenever possible, Don avoids these brain-twisting terms very effectively, managing to explain the complex genesis of jade in mainly lay terms.  While jargon cannot be omitted entirely, the author includes an excellent glossary in the back.  After reading this book, I finally understand what the oft-quoted tremolite-actinolite series really is (hint: variable mineral content).  The websites which freely bandy these terms about rarely explain them well.  In fact, after reading this book, I now realize that the labels are often used incorrectly.

The photography alone is worth the price of the book. Don’t let the pamphlet format fool you.  It is coffee-table quality.  Stunning pictures of boulders, slabs and suiseki pieces from all over the state, which could convert anyone into a jade-nut, are among pieces shown (I am even more ready than before to trudge through the upper Eel and Trinity River to find suiseki boulders).  Explanations aplenty are offered as to how location might influence the appearance of specimens and why jade occurs throughout vast swathes of California Coastal Ranges (hint: plate tectonics).  And there is a final treat: the Ultramafic Rock Map of California, which shows 14 general locations of mostly metamorphically altered ultramafic rocks and mineral that are related to, or associated with jade.

I met Don while working the Sacramento Mineral Society’s information booth at the Gem Faire’s Sacramento show.   He generously donated a copy to our club (and it turns out one of our club members is pictured inside with a boulder of Clear Creek jadeite).

The book sells for $25, which includes the cost of shipping.  If you are a jade-bug, a rock-hound who casually appreciates jade, or an irrepressible learner, it is well worth the price.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please e-mail Don Dupras at geopubs@sbcglobal.net, and he will mail it to you.  This is an admittedly low-tech arrangement — no website, no Google-bombs, just word of mouth, which is one reason I am volunteering to promote his book.  The other is the generous donation to our club.

Happy Hunting, indeed,

Stephan

Posted September 10, 2011 by dragonbreathpress in Book, Jade, Review

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Access to Shaver Lake restricted specifically to mineral collecting   Leave a comment

The following was posted by Chris Rowe (President of the Fresno Gem and Mineral Society and Field Trip Leader for Rockhound Field Trip Fanatics), who was going  to lead two trips to Shaver Lake to prospect for amethyst and other minerals.  I was going to attend one of these trips:

*** Press Release ***
September 1, 2011

From: Kris Rowe, President 2011, the Fresno Gem & Mineral Society, Fresno, CA
Website – www.fgms.us

Re: SCE Restricting Public Access to Shaver Lake, Fall/Winter 2011

For over a quarter century, the amethyst deposits of Shaver Lake in eastern Fresno County, California were accessible resources for the mineral enthusiasts (aka “rockhounds”) of Central California and beyond. Then, at the end of the 1990’s, the lake level was “regularized” and the deposits of lovely lavender quartz were rendered inaccessible to mineral collection.

During the partial draining of Shaver Lake during late 2010 for repairs and improvements to the dam, a safe and successful rockhounding field trip was conducted to Amethyst Cove, Shaver Lake. Organized and sponsored by the Fresno Gem & Mineral Society (FGMS), the trip was attended by more than 40 mineral enthusiasts. Though muddy conditions made prospecting difficult, a safe & pleasurable trip was successfully conducted.
This August, an FGMS Field Trip to Amethyst Cove at Shaver Lake was announced, scheduled for September 17th, 2011.

Unfortunately, any Shaver Lake mineral collecting during this years draw down is seriously in doubt. The manager for the Shaver Lake Forestry area has informed us that the entire lake bed will be closed to mineral enthusiasts during draw down, for the stated purpose of assessing/”protecting” archeologically & environmentally sensitive sites.

We were contacted this morning by Micheal Esposito from the Shaver Lake Forrestry Resources office, and spoke with the Area Forest Resources Manager, Richard Bagley. We discussed the heretofore unpublicized closure of the lake bed, which he stated would apply to public access in general and rockhounding activities in particular during the draw down period. Though circumspect in his wording, it was clear that the main concern of local managers and So Cal Edison was to minimize liability & safety threats, which are certainly legitimate concerns.

Mr. Bagley emphasized his support of our recreation activities and his ongoing efforts to keep the lake shore and surrounding Edison administered lands open for rock & mineral collectors.
He explained that the access denial order had come from the Southern California Edison Big Creek Hydro (aka Northern Hydro) archeological & environmental studies staff, partially in conjunction with agreements with local indigenous tribes, and promised to forward copies of the applicable orders and agreements.

FGMS regularly offers its members, members of CFMS associated Societies and land owners/managers the assurance of experienced, organized and well equipped field trip leadership, in addition to field trip liability insurance through the California Federation of Mineralogical Societies. Our field trips occur at public sites, and when permitted, private lands. We welcome inquiries from individuals who are interested in allowing organized hobby mineral prospecting and collection upon their properties, through the auspices of FGMS.

The Fresno Gem & Mineral Society is hopeful that controlled, Society sponsored access to the historical mineral collection areas at Shaver Lake in general, and Amethyst Cove in particular, may be achieved during the current draw down.
As earlier noted, Amethyst Cove, and indeed, numerous mineral deposits in the area have been accessed by collectors for many decades. It is our hope to conduct safe, controlled and successful field trips to these areas this year. When the waters again rise, the amethyst pockets of Shaver Lake will again become inaccessible, perhaps for the remainder of our lifetimes.

——————-
Helpful links & email addresses:

The Fresno Gem & Mineral Society – www.fgms.us
Kris Rowe, FGMS Publicity – fgms.publicity@gmail.com
Richard Bagley (Manager, Forest Resources) – richard.bagley@sce.com
SCE Media Desk – mediadesk@sce.com

California Federation of Mineralogical Societies – www.cfmsinc.org
American Lands Access Association – http://www.amlands.org
——————-

The Fresno Gem & Mineral Society welcomes inquiries about our ongoing activities in promotion of the study and practice of mineralogy, geology and the associated arts & sciences. We welcome interested individuals to visit our website at www.fgms.us for more information on our ongoing activities and offerings. We also welcome attendees of the Big Fresno Fair to visit our annual Rock & Gem exhibit, located in the first building south of the Grandstands.

——————————————————–

If you wish to help preserve our access rights, Chris suggests the following:

” Probably the best folks to email would be the media desk at SCE or Mr. Bagley. Their email addresses are linked at the bottom of the press release.

The most direct avenue of comment would be to call SCE regional manager Mr. Bill DeLain at (559) 685-3213.

I know you’ll keep your comments courteous and constructive, my friend.”

—————————————————————–

Unlike many people who have discussed this, I do not believe that these closures are always due to “enviros.”  I believe that corporate greed plays a far larger role than many rock-hounds are willing to admit.  In this case, at the very least, So Cal Edison seems to be behind the decision.  In any case, this is a bummer.

 

Peace,

Stephan

 

Gratitude for the little beautiful surprises   Leave a comment

I like to be outside, taking pictures of things of beauty that catch my interest.  It reminds me, that I must find the joys in life myself.  I have to take the time to do it.  It takes an effort to do this, but now that I am no longer married, it is easier.  Things can, so often, seem bleak.  But I have choices.  Some days the only part of the paper I read is the comics.  Other days I go “odeing,” looking for dragonflies and damselflies (Odonta).  There is a wonderful little pond a little less than a mile from where I live.  Okay, it’s green and murky, but in the Valley’s heat, it always has some dragonflies and some surprises.

Here are some of my new friends from this weekend…

 

The familiar bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile)

The Virginian Tiger Moth (Spilosoma virginica), with Andy Warhol’s hair:

I know spiders aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I think this lady is beautiful: the black and yellow garden spider  (Argiope aurantia)

Alas, she is spoken for.  The zig-zag in her web indicates the presence of a male.

And finally, upon returning home, I found this handsome fella enjoying our blooming chives:

It’s name — the Gray Hair-streak — sounds like something people strive to cover, and doesn’t do justice to its coloration.  This was a lone butterfly among a buzzing mass of bees (that should make for some interesting honey), and they seemed quite content to share.

So even though I didn’t get the pictures I wanted, I got pictures with which I am pleased.

Another lesson.  They don’t seem to stop.  For that, and for remembering to take the time, I can be grateful.

Namaste

Snyder’s Ranch 37th Annual Pow-Wow   Leave a comment

Yesterday I decided to head out to the annual Pow-Wow and rock show Snyder’s Ranch in Valley Springs (located in Calaveras County, CA.) for my first time ever.  This is the first time that it has been held over Labor Day weekend, due to rain and muddy conditions in previous years.  I had not attended in these years, when it was held in May, because of a conflict with the Whole Earth Festival.  This year with my son at his mom’s (too bad, he would have loved it), I made the hour-and-a half trek from Davis.  From the point where I exited Hwy-99,the drive drive through rolling, golden hills was quite pleasant.

I arrived a little bit after noon (I had gone to the Davis Farmers Market first), and parked in a bumpy, dry cattle pasture, along with many others.  Parking and admission to this event are both free, which is nice.  In the less than 100 yards that I walked to enter the show, I acquired a nice coating of red dust.  Free sunscreen, I suppose.

Once in, I was treated to booth after booth of rocks, minerals, crafts etc.  I’ve never been to the Quartzite or Tucson shows, so this was impressive.  Boulders, slabs, cabochons, spheres and other products of agate, jasper, jade and other lapidary materials (including man-made materials) were available in droves.  Selenite wands and other metaphysical products were on display as well.


Most items were reasonably priced for what they are, though some seem expensive at first blush. When looking at an item, I always like to remember the advice of Joe, the president of the Sacramento Mineral Society.  To paraphrase, he tells that once you’ve determined that the quality is there (that it is likely take a polish, that there aren’t excessive fractures or pits…), ask yourself, “how many cabs do I have to sell to make my money back?”  If the answer is one or two, and that you will have sufficient material leftover for myself, then don’t feel too bad.

I decided to wander before purchasing.  Off to one side, I saw a bunch of old-timers doing the “antique gas engine demonstrations,” which consisted mainly of the engines sitting there sputtering, but not really running anything.  I don’t really see the point of this, but then I’m not any sort of gear-head or car buff.

Of the actual Pow-Wow, there was little evidence.  Mainly, there was a booth selling fry-bread and “Indian tacos,” but little else.  A healing ceremony was performed for a local woman with kidney issues who had apparently outlived the doctors predictions by several years, but that was the extent of it while I was there.  I have attended Pow-Wows at UC Davis, and also at Deganawida-Quezalcoatl (“D-Q”) University, just outside Davis, before this Native American University was closed, due to financial and accreditation issues.  Having been to these Pow-Wows, that portion of this event was a little underwhelming.

After some wandering, I came across the booth of the Sacramento Mineral Society, staffed by the usual suspects (Terry, Paul, Carrie, Mike and a few in-and-outers).  They were giving information and cutting a few geodes.

After a while, I resumed my shopping.  I, of course wanted far more than I could afford.  I don’t know if it helped that nearly all of the dealers were willing make good deals for buyers of multiple items.  It was nice, of course, but made deciding harder.  I finally opted for a few slabs from J2B2 rocks.  I bought a small slab of bumblebee jasper, which essentially looks like yellow tigers eye.   Apparently the miner in Indonesia is not able to produce as much as he’d initially hoped, so there wasn’t much of this.  I also purchased a slice of Prudent Man agate, which, while pricey, ended up being cheaper than what the mine itself sells it for.  My favorite buy, however, is a slice of Indonesian orbicular river jasper.  This stuff looks like Ocean jasper of a quality that is hard to find.

The orbs are floating in a lovely clear agate, and there are druzy vugs everywhere.  There may make placement of cabochons on the slab a tad difficult, but the same vugs should also provide a nice sparkle-accent to cabs.  One things I expect to see soon (if it isn’t already happening) is for this stuff to be passed off as OJ at a three- or even five-fold mark-up on eBay.

I also had a hard time resisting a milk crate of assorted jade pieces that sold for less than what the chunk of Clear Creek  jadeite (probably nearly 15lb) is worth.  The dealer, Sam Brown, was well aware of this, and was just happy to clear out some material he’d acquired at a recent estate sale.  It probably didn’t hurt that we chatted for a while, and it turned out that he had previously worked and lived in Davis.

The other person I spent some time with was Adam “The Agate Hunter.”  Those of you on Yahoo rock-hounding groups probably know of him.  Not only is he an inveterate advocate for public lands access, but not too long ago, there was a standing invitation to his (and Theresa’s) wedding and subsequent rock-hunt in Afton Canyon (in the Mojave).  From our conversation, I am quite sure that we are on nearly opposite ends of the political spectrum, but that through rocks and some other issues, we also found a great deal of common ground.  From him, I purchased some Wyoming jade and a couple of agate slabs from his Sandy Mesa claim.

Luckily, by this time it was a little past 5:00, and time to head home, as my wallet was sorely depleted.  Luckily, for each item I bought, Joe’s “rule” is intact: I should be able to more than break even if I sell a single cab, with enough material left over for Christmas gifts and such.  Proceeds from any other cabs that are sold will be used to bolster my son’s college fund.  Now, all that remains is to make and sell a few cabs….

Peace,

Stephan