This is about a GREAT rockhounding time my wife and I had this past weekend. Not very technical or exotic, but isn't this kind of stuff what it's all about?
After seeing my pictures from the hike Mike Streeter led to Mas-Celo 6/27, my wife Michelle really wanted to go also. She's wanted to go back to the Ray, but has had to watch me drive off 4 or 5 times and return with tales of "adventure" while she watched the kids again. Well, my parents were already coming up for the Sugar Grove Musicfest (bluegrass , Krueger Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops - check them out) Saturday, so I surprised her a few days out with an offer for my parents to watch the kids and for us to go up there by ourselves Sunday.
Sunday morning we were on the road from Boone by 9am. Didn't get too far before this little family made us stop to let them cross.
Made good time, stopped for a sausage biscuit and diet cokes a 1/2 hour out and drove straight to the parking area. Dang, there were already 3 cars up there by 10am. A first-time-to-the-Ray father and son from Norfolk, VA took the last spot and I had to park below for the first time. I chatted with them while Michelle got all her gear together. One of our differences is that I'll throw on a pair of sandals and be ready to go anywhere. She spends an hour "organizing" and over supplying. And I'm being nice because I know she'll read this. Well, it wasn't a bad deal on this trip because we'd need all the water we could carry hiking up there on such a humid day.
We were soaked in sweat by the time we got to the Ray. She was guzzling water at a rate I was worried she'd run out too early or get a cramp. There was a fellow digging in a hole (expansion of the hole started a few weeks ago, I think). This is what he'd found already. It was only 10:30am...
None of the crystals she's seen me bring home compared to those in size. I was glad she was excited. The next segment of the hike would be a short, but grueling (for me and her, not for some of you I know, lol) 40 degree climb. There's a trail to follow 2/3rds of the way up, then you make your own.
We made it up finally. She didn't think she would, but she did and recovered after a few minutes. The trail led to the "road" and I began pointing out kyanite in schist specimens to her as we went along. For some reason, I was seeing a lot more than I did 3 weeks ago. She was ahead of me since I had to stop and inspect everything that caught my eye, and hollered for me to see what she'd found. Sure enough, it was blade of blue kyanite. Nice blue, no schist. Great find. Beginner's luck, I thought as I searched the ground. Another holler from her. Another nice little blade. Ok, I'll find one any second.... And then she really hollerd out and had found a big rock with multiple blue kyanite blades running through it. An awesome find! Now I was really getting mad. Then she pulled this out of the road after another few minutes.
It was unreal. The we got to "Kyanite Juction". You can see the erosion in this pic.
The last 2 weeks of rain had really done wonders. Tiny bits of kyanite were in this area like mica at the Ray. We were definitely in the right place at the right time.
We had a great time mockingly competing with each other. There were so many pieces laying out to be found. Soon our pockets and my poor, ripped backpack were bulging and we headed to the actual mine.
I took a wrong turn, but we were able to get to the mine just before the raindrops started falling.
We wolfed down our lunch inside. It was very buggy outside, but we got a break
from the insects inside. Cooler temperature maybe?
While we were eating, Michelle spotted this kyanite above her.
Luckily, the thunderstorms never really took hold over us and we had a great hike back down. Found several more small kyanite blades we had walked over on the way up. We started joking that we were actualy becoming "rocksnobs" because we were getting somewhat picky by then. Found the place I'd hid our "big" rock off the trail, rearranged the packs (threw out all the schist kyanite, being rocksnobby once again), and loaded it up.
Somehow, we managed to find the buckets I'd left off the trail halfway down on the Ray side of the mountain. We wanted to find some beryl also, so we started going though some rocks on the way down. Unfortunately, the Ray was not to giveth to me that day. Michelle found a small bit of amazonite and I found a nice 10" rock with large schorl and a beryl, but that was it. The fella we saw digging on the way up was just finishing (it was 4:30pm). He showed us a rock he found that had 4 thumbsized green/blue beryls in it and several smaller ones. It was incredible. We left shaking our heads. He had struck the proverbial jackpot. But on the drive home, we realized that we'd struck the jackpot too. We had one of those days where everything works out and leaves you smiling, a great hike together, and found some nice stuff.
We wound the day up dragging our dirty, tired bodies into our favorite all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet resturaunt to meet my parents and pick up our kids. We gorged and listened to them talk non-stop about everything they'd done that day. As that fella at the Ray said, "the Ray giveth and the Ray taketh." He was thankful for what he'd found and we were too. The Mas-Cleo gaveth pretty good to us that day and lit the fire in my wife. Rockhounding fire, that is.