Saddle Mountain, WA
February 25-26, 2005
Richard Price

Hi gang:

I thought I would post this report, even though I still don't have a digital camera. Sorry there are no pictures. The day was gorgeous, the hounding was wonderful, and the views were fantastic.

February 25, 2005

Wanting to get an early start I spent the night with Garry Mahan in Port Orchard. We left his house at 6:05 am, and stopped for fuel in Cle Elum. Our next stop was the Washington Mineral Council site at Saddle Mountain, where we met up with Jerry Alexander and Bob Bradley.

The weather was almost perfect, sunny and in the mid to high 50’s with a slight breeze to keep one cool.

The Saddle Mountain site is located north and east of Mattawa, next to the BLM R road, about 6 miles from Mattawa. We arrived at about 10:00 am, and after changing shoes for hiking boots, I started hiking over the hills looking for possible digging sites. The area around the parking lot had plenty of previous dig spots but I like to explore and prospect for areas untouched by others. I’m always hoping to find the one in a million piece of material. Garry and I had decided to look for a particular type of “picture wood”, which was known to be found in the Saddle Mountains. We had one sample of this “picture wood” that was given to Garry. The old gentleman who gave it to Garry was not able to remember exactly where he had found it, so our search area covered a lot more area than we could get to in two days. We had to give it a try though.

I hiked over the hill to the south and worked my way back to the parking area to check in with Garry. When I got back Garry was gone and Jerry indicated that he went north east, so off I went again, looking for Garry. I never did catch up to him, although I spotted what looked like him quite a ways north of me. This trip around the hills I located an area that looked promising, so I started digging. All I was getting was small chips of what appeared to be jasper. I wasn’t after jasper, so off I go once again. On my way back to the truck to see if Garry had returned, I dug a little in an area of other dig holes and pulled out two very nice pieces of petrified wood.

Garry still was not back, so I headed to the area where I saw him last. I hiked over the ridge and down into the canyons on the north side where I located some float of wood chips. I followed the float up the hill for a ways and then started to dig. I was pulling out some nice pieces of blond wood with excellent grain, but not very good color. The best pieces I kept were quarter rounds of blond wood weighing about 1 pound apiece. I still hadn’t found Garry, so back to the truck I go. This time Jerry said that Garry had been there looking for me and had taken a portable radio with him. I got the other radio out and called Garry and found out he had been 100 yards up the hill from me, digging in a spot with some nice colored jasper.

I returned to my blond wood spot and dug for a few more minutes, but since I was looking for wood with color and pattern in it, I gave up on this site and worked my way down the canyon and up the other side to an area that had been previously worked. I started working this sport and was finding some nice limb sections encased in what looked like opalized bog. The colors were mostly dark, with not much pattern. While I was working this site Garry had gone back and brought the truck over so we didn’t have too far to hike with our treasures.

Garry and I then worked this site until it started to get dark. We headed back to the Mineral Council site to spend the night.

February 26, 2005

We started our day before the sun was up and decided to go farther east. We drove to Sentinel Peak and hiked around for about an hour. There was no sign of any digging activity, and only a few small pieces of white wood float, so we decided to head back to the Mineral Council site and finish up or last few hours working in the area of previous digs.

I had Garry drop me off about a mile form the Mineral Council site and I started hiking back along the ridge, looking for float and previous dig sites. I located what appeared to be a major dig site on the top of a ridge and when I started working in the fringes of the old holes I immediately found some almost perfect limbs with a beautiful gold ring around the outside. The limbs were small, maybe an inch in diameter, but perfectly formed. I was getting excited, now and decided to search the rest of the dig site for evidence of the patterning that I was looking for. I did find a number of small chips left from previous digs that gave some promise, so back to my first spot and moving dirt and basalt. I was able to find quite a number of really nice limbs, all the time trying to get Garry on the radio. Finally at about 10:00 am, after digging about 15 pounds of good quality limbs and broken pieces, I returned to the truck and convinced Garry that I had found a better area to work. Many of the broken pieces had especially nice colors and patterns in them, and would probably make some nice pictures.

We had planned to leave around noon, but when you get into a good spot and start pulling out top quality material it is hard to leave. We finally managed to pull ourselves away at 2:30 pm. I ended up with about 40 pounds of nice wood in the two days digging, and after the 6 hours of driving to get home I was well ready for a nice hot shower and bed.