Bates Brothers Oregon Trip
June-July 2006
Report by Lee Bates

I left early in the 24th of June to head to Oregon for a yearly trip with my 2 brothers Jay and Scott. On Satus Pass WA, I hit a deer with my car and killed it. I hate to see animals suffer. My deer whistles on my 1967 Cougar car have worked many times but this deer jumped from behind a hill and did not hear them. I did not swerve since I did not want to roll the car. Ten hours later I met my brothers at Mann Lake OR for fishing. The fishing was poor so we sat around in the 100 degree heat telling stories. We went to soak in the hot springs on the Alford Desert to soak in the 100 degree heat. This is the only time of the year that I am not cold. We met Carl Thomas there our old prospector friend who lives on the Alford Desert. He needs a knee replaced and looks like he is dying. He is 88. I will never forget his late wife chewing him out for giving me her best rocks. I am good at getting free rocks. You ought to see me get free hats at air shows. My wife says where are going to put all these free hats? We had a milk shake in Fields OR but since the restaurant changed hands the shake was more expensive and not as good.

The next day we headed for the Virgin Valley in Nevada to camp at the Hot Springs and mine Precious Opal. My brother Scott was worried about seeing his son in Whitefish MT so he drove back the next morning. That night it rained so we went to bed early. A wild burro brayed in the desert keeping me awake. I think he was calling his harem. I sleep in my 1967 Cougar on a board and a foam mattress. I have for 20 years. Ever wonder why I walk slumped over? I take the passenger seat back out to make room. Beats putting up a tent. I amaze $150,000 motor home owners who look out their picture window in a campground at me sleeping in my 39 year old Cougar camper. We went to the Honeymoon Opal Mine the next day but had no luck. People back at camp told us how they were getting good Precious Opal at the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine but it was closed that day. Precious Opal is formed when the silica replaced the wood and opalizes instead of petrifying. This form an irregular pattern which reflects light in every direction and angle creating every color of the rainbow. It is beautiful to behold. The next day we went to the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine and started finding Precious Opal right away like everybody else. I was digging away when I hit a dirt clod that suddenly gave off a reflection from the sun. I cleaned the dirt clod and " Stuff dreams are made of appeared" ( borrowed from the Humphrey Bogart movie Treasures of the Sierra Madre also famous for the line "We don't need no stinking badges"). A precious Opal about 80 carats reflected every color of the rainbow. Was I dreaming? I finally hit pay dirt after all these trips to the Opal mines. I showed everyone around my find. We kept digging and found about 20 more Precious Opals. That night a yuppie from Sacramento pulled in at 10 PM into the campground with his huge trailer and new pickup with an ATV. Since I could not go to sleep with his noise, I joined him at his fire. We burned beautiful cabinet boards from his father's construction sites. He told how daddy paid for his power boat racing. Why was not I born with a rich father?

The next day we drove to Lakeview OR for supplies but forgot to dump off the garbage. Then on to the top of Hart Mountain OR an Antelope Reserve to soak in another hot springs and camp. I told a woman camped near the hot springs that I was going in nude. She said that was ok since she had been married several times before. We saw two Pine Martins which were extremely rare. Then all hell broke loose. The hail storm hit us just as we were dividing up our Precious Opals. The hail bounced off the hood of my car and I was afraid it would dent the good steel. The thunder was weird. It went boom, crackle and boom. Three tornados tore through the Sunstone Mines on the valley floor below.

The next day we met Jay's rock club, the San Francisco Gem and Mineral Society, at the Sunstone area near Plush OR. A Sunstone we were looking for is a precious gemstone which is cuttable into jewelry. The next day at the Dust Devil Mine people found good Sunstones right away but I had no luck. A guy found a 155 carat Sunstone from our group worth about $1,000 dollars. The next day we went to the Spectrum, Mine where Jay and I found many good big Sunstones with red and schiller. We dug for 8 hours. We used water to wash our tailings which from now on I will never be without. At the potluck that night we invited the mine owner who showed us a huge 300 carat Sunstone.The potluck was excellent with grilled chicken, crème puffs and pizza. I had olives stuffed with garlic for the first time in my life. At the Spectrum Mine, I bought tailings from the Himalayan Tourmaline Mine near San Diego CA which had 40 good cuttable red and green tourmalines in it. Also at the Spectrum Mine, I bought Diane a Namibia Blue Agate pennant which was wire wrapped for $50 which was a good buy ( worth $150 ). My wife loves me again. The next day we headed for Hampton Butte OR to dig for beautiful red and green petrified wood. I arrived at Riley OR after crossing the desert with only 1 1/2 gallons of gas left. I could just see someone coming across my bleached bones in a rusting Cougar in the middle of the desert. Jay and I ate in a restaurant in Burns OR. I think I scared the waitress with my 10 day old beard ( prevents sun burn ). At Hampton Butte I hiked out 1 mile looking for loose roundels on the surface but found nothing. What beautiful Juniper Pine country. The next day we hit it big with beautiful green and red petrified wood becoming a king. It was perfect 80 degree weather while Ellensburg had 100 degree weather. I told people I had to go to the desert to escape the heat. Also there were no bugs since there was no water. I used up Jay's hot shower water cleaning my rocks. That night we sat around talking about UFOs so I naturally told my Sasquatch story. The next day we drove to the Paulina Limb Cast Area in OR famous as the area which Jay stepped on my hand to out reach me for a big Limb Cast. A Limb Cast is a clear glass like piece in which the silica replaces the wood in a clear duplicate of part of the tree. Jay as usual found more pieces than I did ( but I found the big Precious Opal ). Then all hell broke loose again. It thundered and rained so hard I and everybody else got the hell out of there before we became trapped in the gulch. I drove to Satus Pass WA against a 60 mph headwind. When the trucks went by they almost blew me off the road. I stopped in a campground at Satus Pass to spend the night. I showed the campground host my big Opal. She did not realize that I was the same guy after I shaved.

The next day after 14 days I arrived back at Ellensburg WA. After my shower, I had to call a plumber to clean the rocks and dirt out of my drain. The trip cost $400 and was typical of the trips I have taken with my 2 brothers for the last 34 years. Our dad used to go with us and my nieces and nephews but my dad is dead and my nieces and nephews are grown up. Since all 3 of the Bates brothers have had prostate cancer, I hope we can continue to do these trips. I like the trips since Jay is a good cook of steak and beans every night. I wash the paper plates every night. We vary the menu with steak and pork and beans one night and steak and chili the next night. "Cookie we have to stop feeding these boys beans"( borrowed from the Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles ).

PS What is the big 85 carat Precious Opal worth? Tune in next summer for the conclusion.

Lee Bates 7-10-06