I spent the weekend once again out in the California desert collecting opals, quartz, turquoise & agates. I hit a jackpot at a new turquoise locality and it really got me thinking about prospectors, especially old timers 100 or more years ago, specifically in America. While they were able to hit jackpot deposits all over the Western United States, most people didn't get rich even if they did find the deposit. Often times the prospectors would sell the claim to a politician or other wealthy individual who had the capital & means to get the mine producing, making them the fortunes.
Prospecting is brutal. Even with all of our modern technology, geological reports and stories from miners of the past, you still have to find the gem or mineral. That means you have to do hours of research, drive out to the locality and walk, hike & climb, hopefully to the right spot. Then you have to locate the mineral and dig it out. Even with my rock killer sludge hammer, a 3/4" steel pry bar, cold chisel, screwdrivers & framing hammer, most rock is hard, insanely hard and it won't give up it's treasure without a fight.
While mining for amethyst & quartz this weekend, even when I found some veins I had a very hard time getting any loose from the hard granite that held them.
My luck came from locating areas and rocks that had weathered enough to loosen the material enabling me to chisel it out or dig it out by hand. That and no human had discovered the veins before I had.
(The quartz here is very shiny.)
(Soaking in cleaner right now.)
(Needs to be soaked in cleaner.)
Even when I was able to get nice specimens I had hiked in about 2 miles mostly up a mountain side. Which meant I had to carry everything back out 2 miles over rock outcrops, through shrubs, in 90 degree heat. Luckily I didn't encounter any rattle snakes, coyotes or ticks, but I did see a few tarantulas.
By the time I got back to my truck I was totally exhausted and bruised in a few spots. I passed out as soon as I made it to my campground about 2 hours away, I had to take the long way due to washed out roads. The sunset kept me company.
The following day I went hunting opals and while I found quite a few good pieces.
I was beat from the day before so I called it a day after just a few hours. Then I was off to prospect for a new turquoise spot.
I made it to the turquoise locality at about 2pm and began to follow a creek where I had found some turquoise 2 weeks ago.
The creek led me to an old mine and I hit a small jackpot.
It looked like mining had ended abruptly because there were so many large boulders littered with the blue/green gemstone. The host rock, matrix, was a hard granite, quartz monzonite or granodiorite. This makes for a nice, hard matrix for the turquoise to sit in. The downside is you have to beat the hell out of the rock or know where to exploit it's weak spot to get the turquoise out. Usually that weak spot is the vein of of what ever it is you are mining so you have to be careful.
As I was breaking the boulder apart a chunk of it made a b-line for my shin. While it didn't hurt too badly, it left a small gash that bled quite a bit.
Unfortunately I had left my first aid kit in my truck a mile + down the mountain. The good news was due to the heat and my bloods clotting ability, after a while the gash hardened and the blood stopped flowing. Again, this took me back to the old time prospectors, who if injured would have to treat themselves because there were no phones, no cars, and no cities for miles. I guess that's life though, sometimes you have to take risks if you want to get out of the 9-5 rat race. I haven't made it quite yet, but I'm getting closer. I heard there is a kimberlite pipe in California....
I'll post some more finds later this week after I do some trimming and cleaning.
Thanks for reading!