My family was busy with work and school so I knew I had some time to dig. Since I had the opportunity on President’s Day, Feb 19th, I thought I’d go to Graves Mountain. I let Mike Streeter know that I had secured permission from the caretaker, Junior Norman, and was going to the Mountain. Considering his self-professed plan to slow down a bit as it relates to rockhounding, I found it somewhat comical that he decided to head down on Sunday to dig with Jeff Deere and then with me on Monday. I couldn’t dig on Sunday, but I did share a room with Mike at a local motel that evening – it sure beat having to sleep in my truck.
Upon my arrival at the motel, Mike told me that he and Jeff had not had huge luck digging, but did manage to find a relatively small quartz pocket with nice color. He informed me that he was going to take it easy the next day by walking around the mountain to see what else he could find. I didn’t know where else to dig, so I decided I would continue working in the area where Mike and Jeff had left off.
We got up bright and early Monday morning to take advantage of being the only people at Graves that day. Manned with our handcarts and tools, Mike and I headed off in opposite directions. I walked around the main pit with a few tools to look at some of the big holes that others had created, so I could try to figure out what they had been looking for. In my wanderings, I found a rutile crystal about the size of a quarter. You know you are a rockhound when you walk around looking at the ground not to watching ahead to see where you are going, but to see what might be worth picking up.
After wandering for a while longer, I settled into the area that Mike and Jeff had worked, but I didn’t have much success. Mike joined me around lunchtime and we worked together until about 4pm. By then, we hadn’t had any luck and we were both ready to give up the chase. But, as a last parting
shot and mostly for the future safety of others, I decided to pry away a very large slab of rock that was sitting precariously against the wall next to where we had been working. Mike, sensing a good picture opportunity, decided to record the event. Wanting to test Mike’s ambidextrous skills, I gave him
my digital camera and set it to video. Mike held his digital camera in his right hand and mine in his left. I climbed back up next to the rock and pried the rock slab off the wall and it fell down with a huge crashing sound.
Wanting a complete picture description of the event, Mike moved down to a lower part of the pit to take a shot of the area from where the slab had fallen while I stayed above to see what might have been hiding behind the rock. I looked at the wall where the slab used to be and saw a long crack and a small opening filled with dirt. I poked the pry-bar into the hole and Mike asked what it was. From his vantage, he could see a 12” circular opening. I told him it was just part of the crack where a piece of rock had fallen out. Mike commented that the opening looked roundish and not part of the crack and that I should
see what is in it. While precariously perching myself on a foot-wide ledge where the slab had been and holding onto rock where we had been previously working, I proceeded to clean out the opening with my hands. Within minutes, I
pulled out a quartz crystal point about two inches in diameter. When Mike and I saw this, we realized that we may have been onto something good.
Sensing something special, Mike went to work cleaning out the small pocket. He began to retrieve hematite-coated quartz crystal after quartz crystal. Many were oddly curved, bent and broken with healed fractures. According to Mike, the quartz crystals must have been subjected to heat and stress that caused partial melting and fracturing after they had formed. Henry Barwood refers to these types of crystals as "melted". Hematite and goethite deposition occurred thereafter, thus covering the imperfections.
With daylight quickly running out, he turned into “Iron Mike” going to work trying to expose more of the pocket. His assault on the rock was
relentless; it tried to withstand his fury and pry-bars, but to no avail. In clearing the rock around the pocket, Mike exposed what appeared to be two more
pockets above the one that we had already found. It turned out that one of these new pockets was actually a continuation of the original pocket. It was then that we realized we would not be able to complete cleaning out the pocket within the short time remaining until sunset. So, we decided to stop so that Mike could check with Junior about the accessibility of the site for the following day. I worked on wrapping what we had thus recovered, while Mike telephoned Junior. As it turned out, we were allowed to come back Tuesday to continue working our pocket!
We secured lodging and the local motel for another night and enjoyed our combo meals from the nearby Hardee’s. I made the necessary phone calls to my boss at home and my boss at work to let them know I would be away another day.
We were up early the next morning, excited to see what else the pocket had to offer. Clusters and crystals continued where they had left off the previous
day. Mike and I worked hard to clear out the pocket as quickly and efficiently as possible, ironically hoping that it would not go any further into the mountain so we would be able to walk away that day. Although rockhounding is fun and exciting, our real jobs pay the bills and for our rockhounding trips.
By lunchtime, we had cleared the pocket of all we could reasonably get out.
The pocket had grown to accommodate half of a man inside going back into the mountain about four feet for a total length from where we started of about 8-feet. Being on a ledge 20-feet off the ground made for interesting body positions.
We had amassed quite a spread of loot. It took us almost three hours to pack up the tools and wrap and load the crystals and clusters. Mike was kind enough to take the majority of the bounty home and clean it so that it could be divided between us when time was more in our favor. Besides, he knows me well enough to realize that, once the dig is over, the goods usually don’t get unwrapped and cleaned until I get around to it, which has been years in some cases.
On our way home, we stopped by Junior’s garage to leave an offering for allowing us stay the additional day - the biggest partial crystal that came out of the pocket, weighing about 15 lbs.
Mike had everything cleaned, graded and ready to divide by the following Saturday. We met at the Streeter home and leisurely took turns picking out specimens that were laid out in the driveway under a bright sunny sky. It was a good thing that we did it that day, because I heard that it snowed on Sunday.
I had an amazing two days working the pocket with Mike and I want to thank him for the hard work and effort he put in to allow us to find and clean out the pocket. It was one of the best dig trips I have ever had and I look forward to future opportunities to dig with him again. Thanks also to my wife Jackie and daughter Hannah for continuing to indulge my rockhounding passion.
The following pictures show some of the specimens that we recovered.
(click on each specimen picture to enlarge)