At around 8 AM, I dropped my daughter off at daycare and headed west from
Huntersville, NC for Marshall and the Little Pine Garnet Mine. As is usually the case, the
2-Ĺ hour trip was uneventful. I made it to the BP gas station to pay the $10 fee at just
after 10:30am. From my brief conversation with the man behind the counter, I learned that
I was the only one to sign in for access to the mine that day. After packing far too many
tools and supplies, I headed up the road to the mine with my trusty handcart. The handcart
is a must have since the mine is up a hill about 300 yards.
From one previous trip to the mine with Mike Streeter, I knew exactly where I
wanted to go in the mine. Fortunately, a dangerous piece of rock that had hung above this area
and that would have forced me to find another place to dig in the mine was either knocked down by
someone else or it simply fell on its own. Using my tools of choice, 4-lb hammer, chisels and
pry bar, I cleared more rock to provide more working room. In the process, I was able to pull
some nice matrix (chlorite schist) pieces out that you can see in the pictures below. I was also
able to pull a few matrix pieces out with part of a quartz vein. It gave a little bit of variety
to my day's take. I did this for about four of the seven hours I spent in the mine. I feel like
I learned more about the structure of the mine and where the garnets form. I noticed the matrix
was typically harder near the quartz, which made it better for the matrix pieces since the garnet
crystals were less likely to break loose from the matrix. If you have ever worked the mine, you
know that sometimes the chlorite schist is very loose making it difficult to take home any sizable
matrix pieces with the crystals in place. Just about anybody can pop out single crystals of all
sizes from the mine but getting out decent matrix pieces is the real trick.
I spent the last few hours working a section just below were I was pulling the
matrix pieces out. This was very difficult and frustrating because every time I tried to work
around a garnet crystal, I would inadvertently chisel into another one. This particular section
had crystals in the 3-inch diameter range. My prize from this section were two crystals that had
grown together to form one long crystal (see picture). All future trips to Little Pine are likely
to include working this particular area before any others.
As is typical for me, I wanted to take far too many matrix pieces home. This
made for an interesting exit from the mine. It took me four trips to get everything I wanted to
take home. If you are like me, I would suggest taking in two backpacks so you can pack them with
your matrix pieces. They allow you to keep your hands free to navigate your way out of the mine
or carry a bucket in one hand and a big matrix piece in the other. The latter part was what I
tried (and failed to do) on my last trip out of the mine. The silky residue from the mine and
the loose tailings contributed to a very painful fall. I lost my footing at one point in the
loose tailings and with a heavy pack, fell on my bottom, spilling the bucket and the big matrix
piece. I replaced the big matrix piece into the bucket and noticed that I had a big scrape
from elbow to wrist. Fortunately, the scrape was the worst of my injuries.
All in all, it was a great day working in the Little Pine Garnet Mine.