WHAT TO BRING
Please bring a garbage bag and carry out what you bring in. PLEASE! Sometimes there are cans provided, but don’t count on this. It is better to plan on taking your trash off the mountain anyway, as the wind can blow it out of a can and there aren’t many things worse than finding litter in a crystal mine… it is like finding a garbage heap in the middle of church.
When you go to dig crystal at the majority of the various mines, food and water are NOT provided. Some mines have a small shop on the premises and you can buy Gatorade/coke, etc…or get a drink from a pump tapped into a well. (yes, I said well. cool!). Many of the mines are out on a mountain top somewhere and it is ESSENTIAL that you bring plenty of water. I have found that it is a good idea to freeze water in small bottles and take them frozen… then you will have cold water available most of the day (depending on the heat… not recommended in winter! haha)… snacks are good, too, as crystal digging is HARD work! Plan to bring your lunch and have a tailgate picnic.
OK! This may seem to be a very personal thing to bring up so early in our relationship… (smile!) But, alas, it is a necessity! Some mines have toilets but many don’t. Some may have port-a-potties, but it is never good to be without. It’s also handy for nose-blowing and etc.
I feel you can NEVER have too many buckets. One that is small enough and comfortable to carry and then more to put your crystal in for the trip home. I have seen people come to the mine that weren’t prepared to dig and they had to use baggies and even their shirts. Some of the mines will sell you buckets, but as you might guess, they are much more expensive than if you came prepared with your own. If you look in the picture you will see my basic digging set-up. The buckets nest. There is also a picture of a “beer flat” full of crystals.
I like to bring smaller containers to keep the smaller or especially fragile crystals in (double terms, tabby’s, etc.). I like to use Pringles cans or coffee cans with a plastic bag as a liner. When your bag gets full, it is easy to pull the full bag out of the container without having to dump the crystals out. Ziploc bags are great for this as you can zip them up and put them in a beer flat. Medicine bottles for long thin or especially fragile points are indispensable.
Here in Arkansas, they call them short boxes, coke flats, even green bean flats… whatever you call them, they are REALLY handy, and I feel a “must have”. You can fill them with crystal (usually covered with clay/mud and/or dirt) and then stack them (if you have limited space)… I did my first digging in a Chevy cavalier, so a truck is not essential, though pretty great if you have one (I have a Chevy Colorado Extend cab now… thank goodness! that poor car was a muddy mess when I cleaned it out to sell it!) anyway, I digress. Newspapers are also handy to keep your clusters from bumping into each other on the ride home.
The red dirt/clay at the mines will STAIN your clothes. TRUST me. Coveralls are nice to have if it’s recently been raining… the clay is like mucky glue. If you have on coveralls, you can strip them off and not ruin your car seats. I have a pair of HUGE overalls that I found for $6.00 at a flea market that I like to wear with shorts and a T-shirt underneath. Otherwise I wear jeans. All of the white T-shirts that I own now have rust stains from the clay. I didn’t take my own advice.
Hiking boots or high top tennies are my favorite. I have seen people at the mines in open-toed sandals and I simply cannot imagine. I’ve seen shorts, too. If you are a sturdy person, shorts may suffice. I’m not that sturdy. I prefer jeans so I can sit on the hills and the hidden crystal doesn’t poke into my tender flesh. Recently I found a pair of used army combat boots. Those are pretty great. Check yard sales and flea markets.
I like garden gloves with the fingers cut out (for when it’s cold… otherwise I don’t wear gloves). I like to feel the crystal when I pick it up. Also I’ve seen a lot of rubber dish washing type gloves in use, believe it or not… I don’t prefer these, my fingers roll around in them too much, and sweat. If you do try this, some industrial strength thick ones are best… not the “Palmolive” type… they shred! Sometimes you get to dig through the wet tailings (fresh, wet clay with crystal in it) and gloves are essential. That leads me to the next essential:
Broken crystal cuts like a RAZOR. It will cut you to the BONE if you are not careful… and sometimes even if you ARE careful. I have found that for small slices, the deep red crystal clay works amazingly well to stop both the blood and the sting. By the next day, the area is usually healed… or well on its way. Crystal is amazing.
Garden trowels and small shovels like the ones pictured are great. They are small enough to fit in your bucket, but big enough to be useful. HINT: spray paint your tool handles with a bright color so you don’t lose them when you set them down. Believe me, you will likely set them down and lose them. The broken pokey thing on a garden tool that has lost its shovel is handy, too (or do they sell them that way) ? Sometimes the crystal is embedded in dirt and you need to gently pry the dirt around it to loosen it. Catch that? You dig the dirt that is around the crystal not the crystal. Be careful not to scratch the crystal! That leads me to…
I never go crystal digging without this awesome tool. They are also called hemostat clamps. You can usually buy them at hardware stores like Harbor Freight, some are quite small, but you can get really big ones, too. They are handy for so many reasons. They extend your reach, they can be used to dig the dirt out from around a crystal (carefully!), and when you aren’t using them, you can clip them onto your shirt.
I put this in here for ambitious types only, and because I see other people that like to get plates off some rock walls at times: I don’t prefer doing this for two reasons… the main one is it seems like its horribly rough on the crystal… hammering it away from the matrix. It seems so cruel. Usually the crystal breaks or shatters…and it rarely EVER looks as alive or shiny OFF the matrix as it does on. It is always a temptation, but never what you think it will be. I highly discourage this type of gathering . My other reason I don’t do it is it is brutally hard on your body. I figure these two things combined are reason enough not to do it. I prefer to pick up or go through the tailings because it feels more like a rescue operation than a kidnapping. Perhaps it’s all semantics. I am certainly not making judgment on others who prefer this method… it is simply not for me.
I know it sounds trite, but I truly do say a silent thank you to the Earth, the crystal or Spirit each and every time I pick up a crystal. A lot of the time I mentally tell the crystal I have just found how beautiful it is (and they always are…even covered in muck and mud)… I think it is a truly essential part of the crystal dig. We are borrowing them from their home, and they are graciously allowing us to do so. I am reverently thankful for each and every one I pick up. I look at each one… I don’t grab and toss them into my bucket. (I see this done time and time again). I am gentle. They deserve that, I think. They are ancient and deserve our respect. Sorry for the preaching, but I think it’s important. I also leave lots of crystal that I see or even pick up. Sometimes I just get the feeling a particular crystal is not for me. I thank it none-the-less and set it prominently on a boulder top for the next digger who may need that particular crystal.
WHERE TO GO:
If you have the time before your trip, you can write to the Chamber in Mount Ida … their address is
MOUNT IDA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
P.O. Box 6 Mount Ida, AR 71957 (870) 867-2723 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or they have a very nice web site. Visit them at: www.mtidachamber.com Lots of the mines now have web sites that you can access through the Mt. Ida chamber homepage. If you don’t have time to write for brochures or etc, print out the crystal mine websites and take it with you when you go. Mt. Ida is a tiny town, and all the shop owners are very helpful. Ask questions. You are sure to get help for nearly everyone you come in contact with.
WHEN YOU ARE AT THE CRYSTAL MINES, USE EXTREME CAUTION, FOLLOW ALL THE RULES, AND KEEP SAFETY AS YOUR NUMBER ONE CONCERN.
IF CERTAIN AREAS ARE ROPED OFF OR MARKED RESTRICTED, PLEASE OBSERVE ALL SIGNS AND REQUESTS. THE ONLY WAY WE ARE GOING TO BE ABLE TO KEEP THE CRYSTAL MINES OPEN TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS BY POLICING OURSELVES.
BE CAREFUL, BE RESPECTFUL OF THE MINE OPERATORS REQUESTS & BE SMART!
HAPPY DIGGING! Genn