Wow has it been an eventful winter/spring. After the gem show is usually when
I plan on trying to get all of my rockhunting in, before the weather starts getting too warm.
But lately it seems all I've been doing is jewelry shows, subbing and schlepping kids back and
forth from soccer. Two weeks ago was no exception. Instead of getting off for president's day,
Tucson students get two days off for the rodeo.
A glorious four-day weekend for rockhunting, right? Not - my eldest son's soccer
team had a major tournament in Phoenix that weekend. But then, several days before the tournament,
my spouse decided to take the day off Friday to travel and maybe do something on the way there. I
suggested this site that I've wanted to go to for years but just hadn't squeezed out the time. He
countered with an offer for the Renaissance Fair - Hmmm. Foiled again, so close and yet so far.
The next day he came home with the info that the fair was only open on Saturday and Sunday -
impossible with the game schedule. Again I said we could go to this rockhound site. Non-committal
grunt in reply, then a comment about wanting something fun for the whole family. Later I showed
him my two guides which listed the site - easy access as well as parking right on a major road.
Another non-committal noise. Well, I tried. I resigned myself to another trip within spitting
distance of this site without actually going to it.
The morning that we were packing the van, my husband asks me what we need to put
in to go collecting - hooray! As I'm excited beyond words, my eldest is groaning and moaning. He
does NOT like going collecting. I told him, tough, just think of it as a hiking trip. Teenagers.
I get my maps and guidebooks, backpacks, gad, chisel, hand sledge, rock hammer and oh yeah, two
camelbacks for water. Even this time of year, it can be deadly to go into the desert without
water. As we left, we stopped to get the mail. In it was my son's acceptance letter to Salpointe,
the local Catholic High School. So nothing could make him grumpy after that, even mom collecting
rocks. Which she's going to have to cut, polish and sell a lot of this summer!
Although the maps made the road look straight, there were actually a few twists
and turns for the unwary. But part of the reason was the directions I had were coming from
Phoenix, but the maps showed I could save miles and travel time by not back-tracking if I cut
through at Casa Grande. After a few extended moments of, "where the **** are we?" finally we
made it to Route 238. From there, the directions given by either guide were very clear and we
easily found the access.
Now, one source I have claims that the material is green jasp/agate. The other,
newer source called it green quartz. I wasn't sure what to expect, especially with such a
well-documented and easily accessible site. As we parked at around two in the afternoon, the temp.
was a lovely 77 degrees. I figured that for a first trip, I wouldn't expect to find too much.
While we were securing our packs, a group of old-time rockhounds were walking out. Although
both the guides said to walk up the notch between the two hills, these folk suggested walking
around to the backside, going to about the second ridge over and we'd find all we wanted
scattered over the hill. Sounded like a plan. They were even nice enough to show us their
bucket - inside were some large green rocks, some about 12 inches long. Looked very promising.
As we crossed the railroad track and hopped the fence, we started to see alot
of snow quartz float. Then, we noticed some of it was stained an odd red color. I picked it up and
looked at it, then looked around. It looked like the area near the tracks had been sprayed with
some sort of reddish compound. How odd. Then we came upon burn damage and realized that the
reddish stuff must have been fire retardant. We saw fire damage all the way up to the hillside.
I sure hope that it wasn't a careless rockhound with a fire or a cigarette that started it. It's
been incredibly dry here and there are fire warnings everywhere. I'd really hate to see another
site get closed down due to stupidity. I soon found out that I shouldn't have touched that rock -
something about the fire retardant had started an allergic reaction and my hands were puffing
up to twice their size. Thankfully, washing off with a bit of water stopped the reaction and I
was still able to function.
As we hiked around the small mountain/large hill (approx. a mile from the road),
we saw what looked like a stream made of light green. Sure enough, the material was weathering out
of the hillside and tumbling down. I soon found out about the difference of opinion about the
collecting material. Most of it was reminiscent of high quality adventurine. But some of it was
glassier like agate, but not true agate. And some of it had different intensity layers like a
lovely green jasper. I tried to collect the best colored, yet most manageable material I could.
I hiked fairly high up the mountain to try to find the source as well as material that wasn't
too picked over. About a third of the way up, I came across a piece I would have loved to take
home. Except for the fact that it was about three feet long, two feet wide and at least two or
more feet thick. Rats! I bet Wayne's rockbot could have handled it, but not me. And I had better
sense that to even try asking my husband. I think he would have checked me for sunstroke on the
spot, then tried to drop me at an asylum. Seeing the size of these pieces, I couldn't help but
think of Jay and his spheres. He'd have enough material to cut for years from this site.
Further on, I came across a lovely piece that was about eighteen inches long
and maybe about eight to ten inches thick and about the same wide. Not being too greedy and
realizing that it would be a bit much for my backpack, I asked my husband if he thought he
could break it in half for me. Ever obliging and patient, up went the hand sledge - and it
bounced! Two more tries only managed to put a small chip in it. This stuff is hard! Looking
at me, he offered to switch off with my oldest son and carried it back to the car. Gotta love
someone who doesn't understand your obsession but will help you anyway.
We got back to the car about 4:30 or so, a really nice and easy excursion. The
following are some pictures of some of the rocks.