Rockhound Roadtrip

20140823 100458  The boys and I went on a guided rockhounding trip across the Cascades and into British Columbia last weekend. The jam-packed three-day trip was led by Bob Jackson, a retired geologist who happens to enjoy kids (his wife is a former teacher), and who now runs Geology Adventures. He takes adults and kids on trips all over the west coast, Australia and even Spain. 20140823 100629  Bob has his back to the camera as he teaches us about some crystals and pyrite we'll find at this location, miles up a bumpy logging road. We were on the 7:05 ferry this morning for a meet-up east of Seattle at 9am. Then we set out on the first of two mining stops that day. There are about 20 adults and 8-10 kids. I lost count! 20140823 100638  Parking on a precipice. Not my favorite thing! 20140823 102538  Sam got right to work!
20140823 102602  And so did Ben! These two were full of vigor despite long days and lots of driving! It was hot and dusty, so we kept water handy. I also tried to keep us organized - rock hammers, safety glasses, baggies and Sharpies to label who found what tiny crystal at which location. The truck was also loaded with camping stuff because I had hoped we'd be able to camp along the way. That proved way too difficult with the late arrivals and early up-n-outs. 20140823 104859 20140823 111857  Sam said "I found penite!" - very funny! 20140823 120034  Mommy got the find of the day right off with a big hunk of pyrite! Pretty exciting!
20140823 141832  Then on to the Columbia Gorge where we visited a diatomaceous earth mine. Their byproduct is dessicated opal - not precious opal. We were welcome to take what we found! The mine owner is a friend of Bob's. 20140823 141901  Looking across to the mine area. 20140823 142009  To the left on the horizon is the Columbia River gorge. 20140823 142034  This is about a third of the car convoy.
20140823 142626  Looking down into the mine. Those walls are very fragile and slippery. If you fall down into the powdery DE, you will sink to your shoulders! 20140823 143301 addition to tracking on tools, I am carefully tracking on BOYS! That is Sam and a buddy up there on the hill, profiled against the sky. 20140823 144151  Boys found great pieces! Sam's opal has very distinctive black and brown markings. 20140823 150309  Sam and Jayden coming back with some finds.
20140823 171507  Driving up to Grand Coulee. I took this video for Dave so he could get a sense of how different the topography is in this part of Washington. 20140823 182536  There is a pool at the Columbia River Inn!!! 20140823 184556  Yeah! 20140823 193545  A very humble dinner of microwaved hot dogs because we don't want to miss meet-up with Bob at 7:30 to do show and tell with our finds.
20140823 200748  Talking over the various finds with Bob and the group before the laser light show at the dam. 20140823 200835  We brought this massive opal back - 18 lbs! People walked by it and admired it at the mine, but no one wanted to carry it home. I decided I would. We have a long history of carrying home large sticks and stones, so this seemed to be the obvious answer. It's in the garden now. The kids love it! 20140823 213203  The laser light show... DSC01322  Tired but raring to go!
DSC01324  Looking out to the massive sand pile created when the Dam was dug out. Sam climbed this the last time we were here, last August. DSC01325  Just a look around Grand Coulee. DSC01326  You can see the Dam from our balcony. DSC01327  Good morning, Benji! We had a bathroom emergency the day before, in more ways than one, but that's all I'll say about the NOSE injury on Ben, which everyone keeps asking about. He is ok! Don't worry.
DSC01331 DSC01333  Funny incident the previous night. We were out of toilet paper in our room. We went to the desk and got more. For some reason, the lady wanted us to bring an extra roll up, too. So we came back down the sidewalk with two rolls of toilet paper, but wanted to get to the laser light show. I looked up and decided we could toss the rolls up just fine and they wouldn't get lost or wet due to the overhang. So Sam launched them up very nicely, right onto the balcony after banking them on the sliding glass doors. We were just about to turn away, high-fiving each other, when the sliders opened and someone came out! It was BOB! We'd been launching toilet paper rolls at HIS sliding doors! He thought an albatross had dive-bombed him the first time, but when the second one hit he HAD to come see what it was. He was laughing - thought we were the wackiest family he'd met so far I think. Thank goodness he is such a nice guy! We were crying laughing so hard! DSC01334  Loading up! DSC01335  And heading off north to Republic, WA, for fossil hunting!
DSC01337  You can see the rain showers. DSC01339 DSC01340  Truck getting slightly cleaner. I will need to give it a good bath when we get home. DSC01343  Bob points out placed to dig along the way in his notes, so we took advantage of a few stops to dig where roads had been dynamited out of the hillside.
DSC01344 DSC01347  I need one of these signs!!!! We kept seeing them all over. DSC01353  Driving north through the Okanagan where a forest fire had gone through some years before. It looked much more recent to us, though. The black trees and ground contrasted with the mist of the rain and clouds for a very striking drive. You could almost imagine that the fires were still going. As a matter of fact, a sign was up saying "Emergency Crews Ahead" so I really did wonder what was up. It still smelled smokey. DSC01354  The dried-out trees were turning red in the dampness. Pretty, but eerie.
DSC01355  But life goes on - bright green farms being worked. DSC01357  And horses grazing. DSC01358  At the StoneRose Fossil site. DSC01360  Now on to British Columbia to dig at two mines.
DSC01365  Boys like listening to a mix Dave made - Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Beatles, Cream, can imagine the rippin' guitar music layered over the clanging of the Weber grill on the logging roads and get a sense of the peaceful, relaxing driving I was doing ;) I also had sunscreen and dust in my eyes nearly constantly! But it was all good! DSC01366  Would you like to stay at Wolfgang's Motel and Store sometime? DSC01367  These guys were free ranging! DSC01369  Pretty old barn.
DSC01370  At the Canadian border! Ben likes to say "We crossed into Canada!" We also brought 4 small German roaches who had been camping out in my passport folder. ICK! I dumped them on the road as the agent was busy getting us stamps. I watched them cross north into Canada and wished them well. Interlopers! DSC01371  British Columbia. Canada just LOOKS different, doesn't it? ;) DSC01373  Got there early enough for some boy wrestling time! DSC01377  And I broke out the football and soccer ball for the kids to use.
DSC01379  All the cars from the convoy gathering up to meet with Bob before proceeding. DSC01380  Doing an activity inside while it pours. DSC01381  This is a geology lesson about hills colliding together, like the ones we'll be digging in. The icing on these Moon Pies is the crust. DSC01382  That is the core of the earth.
DSC01383  More logging roads! This doesn't look bad, though. I'm relieved. DSC01385 DSC01386  One of my Russian friends, Marina. Had several nice, but hurried, chats with her. I was able to tell her "I understand a little Russian" in Russian, but then could not say any more! DSC01387  I'm getting a little punchy now. I don't know what's next, are we in a mine, or outside? I decided to wear a headlamp since it was getting dark.
DSC01392  Turns out we were outside on a mine dump again, looking for chalcapyrite, malachite, hematite, Chistmasite. DSC01393  Ben likes to go up and talk to the other adults and tell them what he's found. He is a VERY social miner. DSC01396  He also hangs out with Bob any chance he gets and picks up so much knowledge. To our right is Jim - he's a "technology evangelist" for Microsoft! DSC01397  The sun came out! All those shiny minerals looked awesome.
DSC01398  Look, mom! DSC01399  Sam is a solo miner most of the time. He knows that geologists don't like to carry rocks very far, so he ventures out farther to find the stuff which hasn't been picked over much yet. DSC01401 DSC01402  Back in the truck to go to Grand Forks for the night. This truck is a MESS!
DSC01403  The pantry. And dump. DSC01404  The clothes, food, tools and rocks. DSC01405  Organizing shoes, tools and rocks somewhere they hopefully won't launch up to the front and hit us while we bump around. DSC01406  Nice drive down the mountain.
DSC01409 DSC01411 DSC01413  Grand Forks. DSC01414  The third day - we are up and at it again heading to Rock Candy Mine, which Bob owns. The previous night we'd been out looking for fluorescent minerals using black lights. It was spooky but fun. Ben and Sam got a good look at the Milky Way. We were up to 11pm each night with all this fun and activity.
DSC01415  Another briefing about silica in black rocks which the Canadians are using for insulation. I forget exactly what it is, but Bob said here in the US we'd probably bury it instead of using it. DSC01416 DSC01418 DSC01419  This was a pretty long fire road.
DSC01422  Talking about the mountain and how the fluorite was found by a lady running horses through the valley. She found a piece of green rock and thought it was jade. She took it to a jeweler and found out that it was fluorite instead. DSC01423 DSC01424  Bob's mine is across this little valley. DSC01425  Tucked right in there...
DSC01426 DSC01427 DSC01428  Caretakers live here during the summer to keep trespassers out. 20140825 103743  Walking up the steep trail to the mine!
20140825 104539 DSC01429  Ok we're in the long-awaited fluorite mine! DSC01431  Chiseling out octahedrons! DSC01432  Bob blasts out fluorite from time to time, but the kids and I most love getting it out of the mine walls ourselves.
DSC01436 DSC01437 DSC01438  We bashed our fingers several times. I think Sam got it the worst - he got one finger three times. These are tough kids! DSC01439  Working to get a geode out of the wall.
DSC01440  This is how you can recognize one - the warty "skin" to use my words (not Bob's!). These are quartz crystals on the outside of the geode. I think... DSC01442  Got it! DSC01444  Washing it off to see the colors. DSC01445
DSC01447  Ben also likes to bang open the rocks on the ground. DSC01448  This is his pile! 20140825 104749  Down there you need a parent with you because of the obviously tricky footing around the cave opening ;) Cool air comes out of there! DSC01449  I'm down in that area now.
DSC01450 DSC01451 DSC01453 DSC01454  These guys - the two Russian ladies and their husbands - were very focused on chopping up a huge fluorite chunk. They even had saws! They worked hard all day.
DSC01455 DSC01456 DSC01458  Let's get that out! DSC01459  We also worked on getting this shelf of crystals out.
DSC01461  Going down to the bathroom at the outhouse, then back up to mine some more. DSC01462  Steep, but pretty. This will be fun with rocks on the way down... DSC01463  They were so focused on mining some more that they bypassed an offer of... DSC01464  cookies! Can you believe it!?
DSC01467  This is my favorite picture! Bob is sitting next to Sam and Ben who are working hard in a vug - a hole where crystals have formed. DSC01468  Note the roll of toilet paper, too. Why does toilet paper seem to follow us everywhere? DSC01469  Sam exploring some other smaller vugs. DSC01470
DSC01471  We worked all day here - about 6 hours. Small space to work and tricky footing. The boys did better than I did. I was overstimulated by all the fluorite lying at my feet and had a hard time getting a "job" to focus on because I was so busy tracking the kids and their tools, making sure they stayed safe, responding to finger-bashings, and keeping them hydrated. Oh well - I had a great time and got more fluorite than I could ever use! This was the highlight of the trip for all of us. DSC01472  Sam working with Bob to get a good octahedron out, intact. DSC01474 DSC01475
DSC01476  A good one! DSC01477  "It's a slot machine - I'll catch it for you!" DSC01478  Ben and Jayden - they were in this little vug (well, big for a vug, but little for two boys) working side by side for an hour or so without hitting each other with a tool! DSC01479
DSC01480 DSC01481  Almost got it! These crystals are sharp, too. DSC01482  Yeah! It's out! That is sticky mud on the top. We'll have to wash that off and see what we have. DSC01484
DSC01486 DSC01488  All done mining. I really wanted coffee and ice cream. Where to find that in Grand Forks? I took a short-cut back to the town and ended up driving RIGHT BY a place called SMILEZ - coffee and ice cream. Can you believe it? DSC01489  We got cotton candy. All three of us. I rarely get ice cream. It looked like fluorite, though, and I was hungry so it made sense. DSC01490
DSC01491  See? Couldn't have been more perfect. These two Canadians were nice. I even heard a few ay-yahs! They must think Americans are a bit nuts, though. I was definitely punchy by the time I got there! Remember the Led Zeppelin-grill-rockin'-dusty-bumpy road? DSC01493  Going back to the US! DSC01494  Driving down through Repbulic and over to Winthrop. It's going to be a long day. This is 4 hours of driving on top of 6 hours of mining. DSC01495
DSC01502  But a super pretty drive, and wonderful time with my boys. This picture makes me tear up. I loved looking back at Sam's face relaxing in the afternoon sun on his sleeping bag while we listened to music he is learning to play on his guitar. DSC01506  Ok, enough sappiness. This is how we spent the more dull miles. We are SO funny. Aren't we? DSC01508  Ummm...typo? DSC01509  Pretty sky.
DSC01510 DSC01511  Love the old western styles in these little towns. We know right where the bathroom is here. This is our third stop at this particular gas station in two days! DSC01514  Republic Brewing Co. - what I would give for a nice brew right now, then jump back in the car and have Dave drive us to Winthrop. Oh that's right...Dave is not with us to tend to all our food and beverage needs! Darn! DSC01515  Well-maintained roads in the middle of nowhere.
DSC01516 DSC01519  Look at the name of this ranch in central Washington, on the way to Omak! DSC01521  What is this? It's an apple truck. DSC01525  We are in Twisp and the road is out due to erosion. This just happened over the weekend. I knew one lane would be closed, so we were prepared to wait a little.
20140825 210412  Finally in Winthrop! We are famished! These nachos were devoured. We all decided Canadians do not know how to make nachos (we had some the other night). Where's the beef??? 20140825 210450  Looks like he is hunting for barite here :) I might have been a little naughty at dessert. I had Sam smell his cherry pie, and then might possibly have smushed his nose in it! This caused mayhem, so we quickly vacated, laughing and carrying on through the small town. DSC01528  Here's our room! It's very nice. I'm on a scouting mission to come back for ski season. DSC01530  Ben is a little tired. Bathtime at 10:30???
DSC01531  Sam said "Here's the photo-bombing foot!" DSC01535 DSC01537  Next morning looking out over the river! DSC01539  And hot chocolate after packing up, just because it was there.
DSC01542 DSC01544 DSC01546  An outdoor ice rink! 20140826 094129  Winthrop is so cute!
20140826 094620 20140826 094935  The scene of the cherry pie crime. 20140826 112141  We're going tubing! imagejpeg 4  We had such a good time lazying down the river!
imagejpeg 3  Sam really knows how to relax while tubing! Boys had a good time on the rapids, for sure! DSC01547  After tubing and an old-tyme photo session, we are heading home over the North Cascades. DSC01552 DSC01554
20140826 133055  Mazama Deli - pretty nice! It's the only show in town, for sure! 20140826 133122 20140826 134157 true! DSC01555  Diablo Lake. Amazing color!
DSC01557 DSC01559 DSC01573  On Day Road again! DSC01574  Daddy! We're home!!!
20140826 191842  Time to see all the loot and weigh it. 70 lbs of rocks!!! 20140826 193311  It was a great trip! Definitely EPIC! The boys kept saying what a good time they had. I am so thankful. Driving up Rock Candy Mtn