ROCK HOUNDING – THIS PAGE IS DEDICATED TO KIDS & NEW COLLECTORS
Rock hounding is a wonderful way to make a connection with a child. ANY child. Yours or someone else’s. The child within yourself.
It is my wish that in sharing the breath of my inspiration,
it will give rise to that bubble of excitement within yourself.
I will forever have the bond I created with my Granny so many years ago, spending quiet hours picking up stones and spending time.
This page is to encourage you, as a new collector. To feed that spark, fan that flame so it will grow.
So you too will have the desire to collect more and learn more.
To feel the same excitement when you hold a new stone as I still get even these 40 years later. To experience the thrill of discovery, to make a new mineral friend.
HOW I BECAME ADDICTED TO ROCKS: THIS IS MY STORY
I started picking up rocks with my Granny on our summer vacations to Crescent City, California.
We would pick up the water tumbled agate on the beach.
Sometimes we would lay in the pebbles and sift through them, holding them up to the sunlight to see which were most translucent.
The top layer, dried by the sun, which beckoned us to sit and dig, was deceptive.
The sea water would seep up from the under layer and soak our knees and elbows.
When the agates we found dried and became dull, we would lick them to rediscover the shine.
Granny collected patches and buttons from her travels and sewed them on her favorite rock hounding jacket.
She would giggle as she pointed out her favorite button which I still have.
It read simply: “I’m an Agate Licker”…
You can imagine the stares she used to get from wearing that one!
My grandparents were both avid rock hunters and were members of their local Gem and Mineral society in Northern California.
When I was about 10 years old, I can remember how proud I was when they allowed me to tag along on one of the Gem and Mineral Society’s group digs.
We were looking for hematite or rhodonite or some other “ite”… I don’t even remember now… It was over 40 years ago!
I spent that day happily scrambling over logs that crossed rushing creeks, wandering about for hours, having no idea what I was looking for and having the time of my life.
I learned my first rock term that day, asking if it was the particular “ite” we were looking for, (as I picked up so many of them)…
To each inquiry they would reply: “No, that’s a Leaverite.”
Finally, in exasperation I asked, “What are Leaverites and why aren’t we picking them up too!?”
Laughing at my having fallen for their inside joke, they would then reveal, “It is a Leaverite because you’re supposed to Leave ‘er right there!”
They also dug antique bottles from old home sites.
My Grandpap used his metal detector to search the edges of the woods for the “trash pile”, where the previously discarded bottles were to be found.
Since the trash piles contained tin cans and the bottles had metal lids, they were easily detected. The bottles ranged in color from purple to blue to green. They were beautiful.
Granny and I would pick up rusted and bent square nails which were handcrafted so many years ago. They were left behind after the remainder of the home had all but disappeared.
What my grandparents were going to do with it all was beyond me. It didn’t matter. It was the thrill of the find.
It was such an adventure to rumble down the old wagon trails in their old truck.
We slowly bounced in, out and around ruts and potholes and rubbed so close to rain-moistened ferns and leaf-covered tree limbs on each side that we had to pull our arms back as they lashed at our open windows.
My grandparents also had claim to 5 gold-mining sites in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest on Mule Creek. Summers were spent there in the cool-dark woods, knee-deep in the icy cold stream, playing in the summers’ heat and panning for gold.
We would shake the dirt off the moss growing under the roots of trees on the creek bank that had been eroded away by high water the previous winter.
Squatting in the rocks and pebbles at the waters edge, we would swirl the water over the dirt in our gold pans.
With the rhythmic swish swish swish, we carefully washed away the brown dirt and debris.
We were looking to reveal the black sand where the gold was typically found.
In the black sand we were hoping to find gold, which was heaviest of all. It would settle to the bottom of our pans.
At the end of the day, we would marvel at the nuggets my Grandpappy would reveal from a long day of dredging from under bedrock in the deep creek holes and beds.
Pictured with the noisy dredge is my sister, Renee.
While we ate hot-dogs and marshmallows around the campfire, it was time for the reveal. Grandpap would reach in his pocket and bring out the large quartz and gold nuggets he had found. My sister and I would proudly show off our tiny glass jars filled with water, black sand and gold flakes.
Seeing all the gold nuggets, the constant drone of the gas engine seemed worth the noisy intrusion that we had endured all day.
During our summers camping and gold mining with my grandparents, on the most rare occasion, a black bear would surprise us by making his presence known.
My sister and I, straining for a closer look, were always quickly shushed into the travel trailer by Granny.
At this sudden panic by our grandparent, imaging our peril (real and imagined), my sister and I would stand inside the safety of the trailer, stock still, barely breathing.
It was as if holding our breath would prevent alerting the bear to our presence. Our mouths hung open and our eyes darted around. We would watch the bear and wait for the “all clear”.
Unceremoniously, the bear would amble off as unaware of us as he was when he appeared from the dark woods.
For days, the hiking restriction which was “within eyesight of the camp”, was strictly enforced and to be followed without exception.
Of course, as kids do, we would slowly push our boundaries as far as we could, until we were pulled back by the reminder of the bears and other dangers lurking about.
Eventually, the feeling of fear would fade and we would then spend weeks hoping for another “sighting”.
I wouldn’t trade the memories of those summers spent rock hounding and gold-digging for anything in the world.
They hooked me on minerals and stones like an addict to a drug…
enter quartz crystals…
In the early eighties, my grandparents partitioned off an acre in our pasture, where they built a house, so they could be closer to us.
They continued their rock hounding, but since Grandpap was now retired from the Forest Service, they were able to travel, and expand their mineral lust beyond the Trinity National Forest to include the entire United States.
They used to drive from California to Arkansas and mine for crystal for weeks at a time. They had to ship it back by UPS because there was too much to carry back in their car.
I can still remember the huge clusters and points, laid out on the tables that Grandpappy made in the front yard.
They were more like frames, really, with wire mesh for tops, so the rain would wash through as it cleaned the clay off the crystals.
There were rows and rows of them, 3 feet wide and 10 to 20 feet long.
The spikes and shining crystal clusters’ points glimmered and flashed like diamonds in the hot California sunshine…
At that time I never got to dig crystal. That wouldn’t happen for another fifteen years or so.
But if I wasn’t completely enamored by rock hounding before, now I was hooked for sure.
After spending a lifetime of rock hounding, the thrill of adventure and the anticipation of the unknown is still with me.
It urges me on every time I pick up a new stone.
Even though it’s been well over 20 years since Granny made her transition back to Spirit, I will always maintain my connection with her through the closeness we shared through Mother Earth.
I hear her in the breeze when I walk along the beach.
I feel her every time I bend over to pick up a new stone.
I see her every time I hold an agate up to the sun.