1 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.
2 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!
3 Parking on a precipice. Not my favorite thing!
4 Sam got right to work!
5 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.
7 Sam said "I found penite!" - very funny!
8 Mommy got the find of the day right off with a big hunk of pyrite! Pretty exciting!
9 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.
10 Looking across to the mine area.
11 To the left on the horizon is the Columbia River gorge.
12 This is about a third of the car convoy.
13 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!
14 So...in 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.
15 Boys found great pieces! Sam's opal has very distinctive black and brown markings.
16 Sam and Jayden coming back with some finds.
17 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.
18 There is a pool at the Columbia River Inn!!!
20 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.
21 Talking over the various finds with Bob and the group before the laser light show at the dam.
22 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!
23 The laser light show...
24 Tired but raring to go!
25 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.
26 Just a look around Grand Coulee.
27 You can see the Dam from our balcony.
28 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.
30 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!
31 Loading up!
32 And heading off north to Republic, WA, for fossil hunting!
33 You can see the rain showers.
35 Truck getting slightly cleaner. I will need to give it a good bath when we get home.
36 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.
38 I need one of these signs!!!! We kept seeing them all over.
39 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.
40 The dried-out trees were turning red in the dampness. Pretty, but eerie.
41 But life goes on - bright green farms being worked.
42 And horses grazing.
43 At the StoneRose Fossil site.
44 Now on to British Columbia to dig at two mines.
45 Boys like listening to a mix Dave made - Led Zeppelin, the Stones, Beatles, Cream, Creedence...you 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!
46 Would you like to stay at Wolfgang's Motel and Store sometime?
47 These guys were free ranging!
48 Pretty old barn.
49 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!
50 British Columbia. Canada just LOOKS different, doesn't it? ;)
51 Got there early enough for some boy wrestling time!
52 And I broke out the football and soccer ball for the kids to use.
53 All the cars from the convoy gathering up to meet with Bob before proceeding.
54 Doing an activity inside while it pours.
55 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.
56 That is the core of the earth.
57 More logging roads! This doesn't look bad, though. I'm relieved.
59 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!
60 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.
61 Turns out we were outside on a mine dump again, looking for chalcapyrite, malachite, hematite, Chistmasite.
62 Ben likes to go up and talk to the other adults and tell them what he's found. He is a VERY social miner.
63 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!
64 The sun came out! All those shiny minerals looked awesome.
65 Look, mom!
66 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.
68 Back in the truck to go to Grand Forks for the night. This truck is a MESS!
69 The pantry. And dump.
70 The clothes, food, tools and rocks.
71 Organizing shoes, tools and rocks somewhere they hopefully won't launch up to the front and hit us while we bump around.
72 Nice drive down the mountain.
75 Grand Forks.
76 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.
77 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.
80 This was a pretty long fire road.
81 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.
83 Bob's mine is across this little valley.
84 Tucked right in there...
87 Caretakers live here during the summer to keep trespassers out.
88 Walking up the steep trail to the mine!
90 Ok we're in the long-awaited fluorite mine!
91 Chiseling out octahedrons!
92 Bob blasts out fluorite from time to time, but the kids and I most love getting it out of the mine walls ourselves.
95 We bashed our fingers several times. I think Sam got it the worst - he got one finger three times. These are tough kids!
96 Working to get a geode out of the wall.
97 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...
98 Got it!
99 Washing it off to see the colors.
101 Ben also likes to bang open the rocks on the ground.
102 This is his pile!
103 Down there you need a parent with you because of the obviously tricky footing around the cave opening ;) Cool air comes out of there!
104 I'm down in that area now.
108 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.
111 Let's get that out!
112 We also worked on getting this shelf of crystals out.
113 Going down to the bathroom at the outhouse, then back up to mine some more.
114 Steep, but pretty. This will be fun with rocks on the way down...
115 They were so focused on mining some more that they bypassed an offer of...
116 cookies! Can you believe it!?
117 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.
118 Note the roll of toilet paper, too. Why does toilet paper seem to follow us everywhere?
119 Sam exploring some other smaller vugs.
121 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.
122 Sam working with Bob to get a good octahedron out, intact.
125 A good one!
126 "It's a slot machine - I'll catch it for you!"
127 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!
130 Almost got it! These crystals are sharp, too.
131 Yeah! It's out! That is sticky mud on the top. We'll have to wash that off and see what we have.
134 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?
135 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.
137 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?
138 Going back to the US!
139 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.
141 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.
142 Ok, enough sappiness. This is how we spent the more dull miles. We are SO funny. Aren't we?
144 Pretty sky.
146 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!
147 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!
148 Well-maintained roads in the middle of nowhere.
150 Look at the name of this ranch in central Washington, on the way to Omak!
151 What is this? It's an apple truck.
152 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.
153 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???
154 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.
155 Here's our room! It's very nice. I'm on a scouting mission to come back for ski season.
156 Ben is a little tired. Bathtime at 10:30???
157 Sam said "Here's the photo-bombing foot!"
159 Next morning looking out over the river!
160 And hot chocolate after packing up, just because it was there.
163 An outdoor ice rink!
164 Winthrop is so cute!
166 The scene of the cherry pie crime.
167 We're going tubing!
168 We had such a good time lazying down the river!
169 Sam really knows how to relax while tubing! Boys had a good time on the rapids, for sure!
170 After tubing and an old-tyme photo session, we are heading home over the North Cascades.
173 Mazama Deli - pretty nice! It's the only show in town, for sure!
175 Awww...so true!
176 Diablo Lake. Amazing color!
179 On Day Road again!
180 Daddy! We're home!!!
181 Time to see all the loot and weigh it. 70 lbs of rocks!!!
182 It was a great trip! Definitely EPIC! The boys kept saying what a good time they had. I am so thankful.