Archive for the ‘jasper’ Tag

Sacramento Mineral Society Gem Show Review, Part 2   1 comment

Hello again rock-heads:

On Sunday, I returned to the Sacramento Mineral Society’s 75th Annual Gem Show.  After not seeing people on Saturday (I had several other things going on — I will probably write about one of them in the next few days), I returned on Sunday to see people in high spirits — vendors, customers and club members.  The floor was not packed, but people came to spend some money.  This seems to be a turn-around from the last couple of years.  Does this mean we have an uptick in the rock-hound consumer confidence index?   Did we have the vendors with the mix of things people wanted to buy?  Hard to say, but as I mingled shopped and photographed, the feedback was positive.  Vendors made money and people went home with nice new prizes.

At the silent auction, business was a bit slower than on Friday, but for those who came up, there were deals to be had: labradorite, agate, jasper, thundereggs, geodes, jade, fluorite, sheen obsidian, vesuvianite… slabs, rough, specimens… I even acquired what I’m pretty sure is a fulgurite.  Toward the end of the  afternoon, the already cheap prices dropped further.  Rock bottom prices (bad pun intended) were available and taken advantage of

The “take” on the auction was a bit over $1200, clearing the $1000 needed to award the scholarship to a Sac State geology student in his junior year.  The student was actually unable to be there, as he was on a field trip.  Many thanks to our many customers who made this scholarship possible (some spend in excess of $100, returning again and again as new treasures went out onto the table).

At 4PM, the fun was over (not really), and it was time for the real work to begin — clean-up.

Rarely have I seen such chaos move so smoothly.  As the vendors packed up, and it was clear that they had done this once or twice before, club members lent a hand, assembled the club’s property (many folding tables, power cords and display cases, as well as left-over rock and various other goodies) and generally performed a thorough cleaning.   It was not necessary to have ADD to be there, but it probably would have helped.  By 7PM, it was hard to believe there had been a show with about forty vendors, a score of club members, and hundreds of customers.  We were all intact, tired, but in good spirits.  Vendor vehicles were riding low, though higher when they’d arrived; customers’ and club members’ vehicles were lower than they’d arrived….

Hope to see you next year.

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Sacramento Mineral Society Gem Show Review   3 comments

Hello rock-heads, and happy 11.11.11….

Today I attended and worked at the first day of the 75th Annual Gem Show for the Sacramento Mineral Society.   As in previous years, it is being held at the Scottish Rite Center at 6151 “H” St., Sacramento, CA (very near CSUS aka Sac State).

The show boasts dealers of slabs, specimens, beads and jewelery making supplies (findings).  The club also provides the ever-popular prize wheel for juniors, geode cutting, hourly and daily raffles, a grand prize raffle, educational materials and a silent auction.  The auction raises funds for an annual scholarship for a CSUS student majoring in Geology or Earth Science.  I worked this table, helping Joy who is always a gas (I will avoid the obvious pun).  And, of course, I also made a few purchases toward this worthy cause (some of which are shown in the gallery below):

(Joy helping a customer)

(Thunderegg slice with Montana-like agate)

(Blue lace agate)

(Colorful “Onyx” i.e. calcite, not actual onyx)

Sharing the stage on which auction takes place, is the skeleton of a Siberian cave bear (approximately 50,000-70,000 years old).  It is on display courtesy of Applegate Lapidary, and is the last time this skeleton will be shown to the public.

(I will also get a side-view when I return on Sunday).

As a lapidary, I tend to visit the slab/rough dealers.  A few of the dealers carried some slabs, but it is not their primary focus.  Garth Duncan, proprietor of Gems of an Idea, however, carries slabs galore.   With at least 20 linear feet of table space, largely occupied by tubs of slabs, one can purchase an astonishing array of jaspers, agates, jade, tiger eye, rhodonite, and some mystery rocks.  Among other purchases from Garth, I was unable to resist some very unusual old-stock a slice of possible Botswana agate, a heel cut of Dryhead agate,Stone Canyon jasper in deep orange colors and a piece of tiger eye embedded in some (Graveyard Point-like plume agate):

Further scrutinizing what dealers have to offer, I succumbed to the sweet siren song of some gemmy Utah dinosaur bone (“gembone”) from Tom’s Rocks:

Of course, any gem show is incomplete without visiting the jade dealers.  We are lucky enough to have Mike and Joan Burkleo of Friends of Jade come to our show most years.  Not only do they sell suiseki, slicks and cobbles, but also carved and crafted jade items.  Of these, my favorite (and completely out of my price range) are the jade knives, displayed illuminated to show their translucence:

Perhaps one day…

Since I was working, I was unable to get photos of all the dealers.  Some I could not get due to lighting issues or not wanting to interfere with customers.  In any case, I will try again on Sunday.  These fine folks include sellers of magnificent crystal specimens, a mind-boggling array of meteorites and other fine  materials.  To finish, here are some more assorted photos I did get:

Gil Gonzalez, benitoite dealer/club member:

Joy Shopping at Garth’s booth:

Carrie helping a lucky winner at the prize wheel:

Bobbie working the raffle booth:

Floor activity:

Green River Formation fossils atApplegate lapidary (owners of the cave bear):

Well, that is all for now.  I have other plans for tomorrow, but I will be returning on Sunday.

Peace,

Stephan

Owl Faces in Picture Jasper   Leave a comment

Previously I discussed my budding love affair with working on jade.  Another favorite stone “family” is jasper.  Jasper, like agate,  is characterized as a “microcrystalline (or crytocrystalline) quartz.”  This just means that chemically it is mainly quartz — silicon dioxide — but does not form scepter crystals like “normal” quartz

Jasper can have a variety of of origins — sea-floor mud, volcanic ash, a mixture of both…. that has been cemented by the intrusion of silica-rich water, which left tiny quartz crystals as a sort of glue.  In geology-speak this is called silicified mud.  The minerals in the mud impart the colors; the silicon dioxide the hardness (and jasper is often very hard).  The process can be more complex, but that is the basic idea.

Many of my favorite jasper-types come from Oregon, where conditions historically were such that much of the jasper formed patterns that resemble pictures  or landscapes.  For this reason, they are called landscape, picture or scenic jaspers.  Many of the scenes resemble mountain ranges with blue skies and other, sometimes fairly wild, landscapes.

Often what is seen varies from person to person.  It can be kind of like cloud-watching.  One of the most valued varieties is Biggs jasper from Biggs Junction in Northern Oregon, just across the Columbia River from Washington.

A while ago I bought a box of slabs from a rock-hound friend/dealer in Oregon (Jason Hinkle of oregonthundereggs.com).  I had asked him to put together a box of “Oregon lapidary rock,” and he kindly included a few small pieces of Biggs jasper.  I’ve had some ever-changing ideas about one piece in particular.  It was a high-quality piece.  Quite literally harder than nails, it gave a satisfying porcelain-like “ting” sound when struck.  It’s only flaw was that it contained a small, circular druzy depression that was located where removing it would have meant removing some of the nicest features.  Often druzes can enhance a stone, but this one looked distracting.

The other day I decided to finally just work on it (I can be a bit indecisive, sometimes, and just have to force myself to actually act).  I decided on an oval, which isn’t usually my favorite shape, but it seemed right for this one.  As I ground, another druzy hole appeared, but I kept slowly grinding them down until they were smooth, but visible.  As I mentioned this stone is hard, so it took a bit of time, but gradually yielded a satisfying mirror polish.  As I worked, the patterns of the stone gradually changed, morphing until the section around the two “holes” took on the appearance of an owl’s facial disk, with the two “holes” as the eyes.  The surrounding patterns resolved into a hole in an ancient tree, from which the owl’s eyes peer.

Barn owl-face jasper

While I see a barn owl (unfortunately it looks de-beaked), I showed the cabochon to a friend who immediately turned it over, and showed me that it is also a burrowing owl.  In this orientation, the critter retains its beak.

Burrowing owl-face jasper

To me, this is the fun of working with picture jasper — letting the imagination run, which is something I can often forget to do.  Too many responsibilities and “adult” things (wait, maybe grown-up; “adult” often has an entirely different connotation) to do.

Since I dearly love owls, this cab will never be sold.  It can be my totem.  Not just an animal with which I feel a deep connection, but also a reminder not to lose the connection with my kid-self.

Peace,

Stephan

Posted October 20, 2011 by dragonbreathpress in Jasper, Lapidary

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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

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

Vacation on the Humboldt Coast   1 comment

Vacation on the Humboldt Coast, August 2011

This year, for our vacation, my son, Justin, and I decided to explore a portion of the Humboldt Coast. The siren songs of Agate Beach and Trinidad Beach jasper have been in our ears for some time now. Additionally, a dear friend and fellow photographer has been extolling Trinidad’s virtues ever since I have mentioned a desire to visit. Her pictures of the area certainly piqued my interest further….

For my pictures, please see:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/36618387@N06/sets/72157627474355616/

08.12.11:

Justin returned from his mother’s house at 8:30 AM. I finished packing the car, and we (including Buddy and Buster, the wonder-wieners) were on the road by 10:15. Heading north in I-5, we were filled with excitement. In spite of the mild summer we have been experiencing in Davis, the air was hazy, and it became quickly evident that the northern valley (which does not receive the cooling Delta Breeze that we do) has not enjoyed this to the same extent. Within an hour from home, the temperatures were in the mid-90s (Davis had a forecast high of 88°F for that day), and the Coast Range, quite close to the freeway, was not clearly visible. The Sutter Buttes, also, were only visible in silhouette. When we reached Redding at 12:30, it was a sweltering 99°F, and the only thing I could see of Mount Shasta was a fuzzy outline of its snow-capped peak.

We turned west into the Trinity Alps. The three hour drive through the mountains on highway 299 was gorgeous and surprisingly hot. The temperatures hovered in the mid-to-high 90s until we were within about 10 miles of Arcata, at which point they dropped rapidly.

For lunch we stopped at Bagdad, on the Trinity River. I wanted to do a quick search for jade, but the area was designed for boat access of the river. Reaching the rocks would have required a swim.

All along the drive I saw numerous possibilities for future camping trips along the Trinity River (jade hunting kayak-trips, perhaps?). I imagine near Willow Creek will be the place, as it closer to the coast and somewhat cooler.

We arrived at about 5PM and set up camp. The campsite was nice: large and relatively private, secluded in ferns and bishop pines.

After set-up, we took a quick trek to Agate Beach (about a mile from our campsite), and found some goodies – mostly jasper.

08.13.11:

I woke up at about 6:00, mainly to the sounds of crows, ravens, Stellar’s jays, spotted owls and woodpeckers as well as a few unidentified birds. There were very few human sounds. The noisy revelers were still asleep and the early risers respected the quiet. I stayed in my sleeping bag, listening, until about 7:00, and then got up for breakfast. I realized then that I’d forgotten to bring my coffee (d’oh!), but green tea was just fine.

At 9:00, Justin woke, and had his breakfast. Afterward, we proceeded to Sumeg Village (a model Yurok village), where a program was put on by local Yuroks. A tour of the village was performed by Skip: a Yurok as well a Park Ranger, which provided an interesting perspective (and one that was more accurate than the usual anthropological approach, I imagine). We learned, for instance that Yurok houses have small round door designed to keep bears out. Yurok tools were chiefly constructed of elk horn, rather than stone. Also, since Yuroks consider all things alive and imbued with spirit, represent physical features in things they build. For instance, every Yurok canoe has structures representing a nose, heart, lungs and kidneys – the essential organs.

Following the tour, we were treated to Yurok songs and prayers to prepare us for a salmon feast. The salmon was delicious, slowly spit-roasted over a redwood charcoal pit. I even partook of what is considered a delicacy – the head, which was moist and quite delicious, particularly the cheek meat.

Well-fortified after lunch, Justin and I biked into Trinidad, about 5 miles away. This turned out to be slightly more challenging than I imagined. Although Justin and I are both avid bikers, I did not have my regular bike – a cargo bike is too large for my roof rack. Instead, I was riding Justin’s “spare” bike, which even at its tallest setting is too small for me. Unlike Davis, Trinidad actually has hills, which are quite tough to bike when your knees are nearly smacking you in the chin.

Upon returning, we headed to Agate Beach for our first serious agate hunt. We hit a beach packed with agate hunters, over half of whom were armed with “agate scoops” – essentially three-foot-long slotted spoons. Most of these were identical and presumably purchased. A few, though, were creatively home-made: one was constructed of a golf club handle and a small kitchen sieve, another of a wooden dowel and a kitty litter scoop. These folks had a distinct advantage as they were able to reach agates that were further away without diving for them. Most of these folks also seemed focused only on agates. Many had pint-sized Ziploc bags significantly filled with agates.

I, on the other hand, found two agates. This is probably due to several factors. I do not seem to have “the eye.” Many of the hunters have been coming here for years and know what to look for, and take only agates. I, on the other hand, was distracted by the amazing array of jasper and jade that can also be found (in fact, they are more plentiful than agates). Also, without a scoop, I simply could not reach many of the agates that I did spot, since they do not remain in one place for long before the next wave moves them again.

Speaking of jasper, I found one piece of classic brecciated tan and pink Trinidad jasper with a gorgeous seam of agate running through it. More common are pieces with brown or tan landscapes and blue sky in colors reminiscent of Rocky Butte jasper from Oregon.

08.14.11:

At Justin’s insistence, I woke him up early for some just-past-sunrise, low-tide “agateering.” The beach already sported the hard-core hunters. As we searched, I chatted with a few of these old-timers. One was a San Francisco man who has been coming with his family every year for 40 years. Amazingly, he was not aware that there is also an Agate Beach in Bolinas. In any case, he shared some of his hints: the area where the water is an inch or two deep is best. The agates are briefly still, and give off a blue “glow.” This did not help me greatly, as every blue glow I saw was either 20 feet away, in someone’s scoop, or a “false positive” – grey chert. I again found jasper and jade more frequently than agate (once again, I found two agates, which were slightly larger than the previous day’s finds).

By about 10:00, the morning fog had almost completely burned away making all the stones on the beach sparkle in a very distracting manner. Nevertheless, after lunch, Justin and I joined a ranger-led hunt. Her presentation confirmed my suspicions about two brown stones I had found in the morning – they are petrified wood. During this hunt I actually found three agates (!), two more pieces of petrified wood (okay, auto complete just tried to turn that into petrified woodpeckers, which would be an extremely cool find), and a fairly large black piece of whalebone (a piece of rib, perhaps?).

Justin found several agates and an egg-shaped piece of Trinidad jasper that makes me drool (see the pictures link to see it).

That night, our campfire was slightly less relaxing than usual since we had some new neighbors: one family began arguing the moment they pulled in, another had three small squalling children that went on shrieking for hours…

08.15.11:

Monday morning dawned perfectly clear. Justin once again slept in. After a short morning agate hunt (I again found two), we opted for a road-trip to Fern Canyon. On the way, we stopped for pictures of one of the local herds of Roosevelt elk. They were amazing to see, but at about half a mile distant, so I don’t think we got a full appreciation of how huge these beautiful critters are. Getting to Fern Canyon involved driving along eight miles of bumpy and dusty, but decently graded, dirt road and making four water crossings. The ranger assured me that my car (not a four-wheel drive) could make it, but the first one made me a bit nervous. Luckily the crossing contained sufficient gravel that tires did not sink into mud.

The short hike (no dogs allowed) at Fern Canyon (where parts of the Jurassic Park movies were filmed) was totally worth the bouncy drive. We first crossed a meadow with a very clear creek, tall bushy horsetails, prolific wild-flowers and dozens of dragonflies (black saddlebags, I’m fairly sure) that absolutely refused to land and pose for pictures. The canyon itself is only half a mile long: a deep trench lined with four different species of ferns (so that’s how it got its name) and waterfalls. Downed logs were decorated with mosses and unusual fungi, including one growing a red, brain-shaped jelly fungus of some sort. At the end of the canyon Justin and I opted for the loop hike ascending what one kid described as the “endless stairs” for a small wood-land like. We crossed another meadow with numerous dragonflies (some sort of darner this time, I believe), which were equally camera-shy. This is a perfect flip-flop hike: wet and not at all difficult.

After this hike, we decided to head to Big Lagoon, a dog-friendly beach. One of the Patrick’s Point rangers had told us that nearly every beach in Humboldt County, with the exception of Agate Beach is dog-friendly. She had also told that many local search for agates there when it isn’t sandy, since there are fewer people. It was sandy. A sign sported a very amusing typo in reference to dogs (see pictures).

The beach excursion did not last long, since the dogs were being brats, escaping their harnesses repeatedly. Justin and I opted for a hike at the camp-ground instead. We toured the Yurok ceremonial rock, and then explored Mussel Rock, Lookout Rock and the Wedding Rock.

At night the kids across the way cried and screamed for three hours. Lovely.

08.16.11:

Another early-morning agate expedition. It started off foggy, but by 9:00 the fog was down to thin wisps. This was apparently good for Justin’s “agate-eye,” as he found a good 20 pieces, including two that resemble faces. I found four agates, but struck an absolute jade-jackpot. I talked with an old-timer couple, who, like me, had a more eclectic focus, also pursuing jade and jasper. The man told me that the blue and brown Oregon-jasper-like pieces I had been finding could often be cut to reveal black agate in thunderegg-like formations. I will have to try it.

After brunch, Justin participated in a Junior Ranger “slug slam” program where we learned that slugs breathe through a hole in the side of their heads, and we also made artificial “slug-slime” – yellow oobleck.

Next on the agenda was a trip to Trinidad. We arrived to perfectly clear weather and headed to the lighthouse overlooking the bay. I have to say that this is one of the most spectacular views I have ever seen. This place seriously gives Kauai a run for its money in terms of sheer, breath-taking scenic beauty. I vowed on the spot that we will return next year. Since the dogs had been brats on the beach the day before, we decided that they would not be going to the beach today. To make up for this, we took them for a nice hike of Trinidad Head. This was a long enough hike to tire them out (Buddy, the 14 year-old, had to be carried for the last bit). The views were stunning, and I saw many wildflowers with which I am not familiar

The next item on the agenda was exploring Trinidad State Beach which contains spectacular boulders of multicolored jasper with tafoni-like features, caves and off-shore sea-stacks, one of which is 10 acres in size and covered in bishop pine. The beach also contains a creek that is the source of Trinidad Beach jasper. I managed to find three pieces. Two look promising, but one revealed many fractures after I cleaned the creek-slime. No worries. We will return here! When I know whether I picked well, I can get more. I also lugged a few 30-pound landscape boulders through a half mile of deep sand. A very good work-out.

08.17.11:

Our last full day dawned to weather that is more typical than what we had been experiencing: heavy fog. Our last agate hunt lasted only about two hours. The fog wasn’t burning off, and Justin was thoroughly chilled. During our time there, I did have the time to speak to an old-timer, who claimed that agates are getting more rare with more people coming. He claimed that it used to be possible to find 100 – 150 agates in an hour, and that he is lucky to find 20 or 30 a day now.

After warming the boy up with oatmeal and green tea, we decided that an inland hike of the big trees would be in order. Once 101 turned inland after Orick, it soon became sunny.

Parking at Big Trees, we found a nice, shady spot for “the boys,” since dogs are not allowed on the trails. We picked a nice 6-mile hike off the map and got going. Evidently this map marked trails “as the crow flies,” since it did not show switch-backs, which expanded the hike to at least 10 miles and made it moderately strenuous. It was Justin’s first exposure to totally wild, dense vegetation, and he became convinced that we were lost, and was visibly relieved with every trail-marking sign.

This hike earned us a substantial dinner, so we headed to eat at the Trinidad Eatery and Gallery, which had been recommended by a friend (the same friend who raved about Trinidad itself). Justin and I shared a plate of calamari for the appetizer, followed by clam chowder for him and an excellent cioppino for me. For dessert we split some dynamite blackberry cobbler.

Justin fell asleep by 8:30, and I read by the campfire. The screaming, sobbing kids were gone!

08.18.11:

Homeward-bound. The last day of vacation is always a melancholy event. I am usually blissful from the experience, but sad to be leaving. This time was no exception. After one last hike of the campground trails, Justin and I packed and headed out, opting for the highway 101 to 20 route, to make the trip a loop. Just like 299, this is a beautiful drive, though much of it seems studded with tourist traps (Bigfoot themed and redwood themed). I saw many possibilities for future explorations of the area, and also managed to lose count of the number of times we crossed the Eel river (Justin insists it was 29).

Much of this drive was quite a bit cooler than the trip in, until we neared Laytonville, and from there until past Clear Lake and Williams, temperatures hovered near 100°F. As we drove south on I-5, it cooled very gradually until we hit Woodland, which is apparently as far as the Delta Breeze reaches.

Justin’s favorite hot-and-sour soup welcomed us back to town. Everyone (including the dogs) took a thorough shower and relaxed in our own beds.

I am very grateful for this experience.

Happy Hunting,

Stephan in Davis, CA.