I left off Sunday going into day 3. Since I had gotten enough topaz and red beryl on day 1 & 2 I decided to go look for some garnets, obsidian(apache tears) and tiffany stone in the morning.
I woke up bright and early at 4am. Being 6' and trying to sleep comfortably in the back seats of your truck doesn't work out so well. So a 4am wake up call it was! The nice thing about waking up so early though was the night sky. I could clearly see the Milky Way, something I hadn't seen in a long time. It was humbling and comforting to say the least.
After 2 hours of breakfast & browsing the web, I could get 1 bar of service amazingly, the sun started to come up and I geared up to get out hunting.
The other side of the Thomas Range produces topaz as well as garnets. I hadn't collected garnets here before so I thought I should give it a try. Bad idea.
I had a map of where the garnets should be, but when I arrived at the mouth of the canyon that led to the location I was a bit shocked. The area was huge, the cliffs were very high, the terrain was treacherous and I had a very bad feeling about hiking in to try to find garnets. So I decided not to go any further.
When you are out in the middle of nowhere you really have to trust your instincts & gut. You can't push yourself because if something bad happens there is no one that's coming for you.
It wasn't a total loss though, because just across the valley is Spor Mountain which produces the very valuable and increasingly rare Tiffany Stone.
I am going to delve a bit into the geology of this area for a few paragraphs to help you understand why this is such a great area for mineral collectors, geologists & outdoors people.
The Thomas Range & Topaz Mountain are a short range of mountains that spans about 20 miles south to north. It's part of a group of mountains, including Spor Mountain, that is the result of 46 million years of geologic activity. The most recent being Topaz mountain & it's caldera which was formed 6-7 million years ago.
The Thomas Range is home to many sought after minerals like garnet, topaz, fluorite, amethyst, opal, red beryl, pseudobrookite, bixbyite, and uranium.
(pseudobrookite Fe2TiO5 on druzy topaz)
Next to the Thomas Range is Spor Mountain. In between Thomas & Spor is a fault line that separates the two known as The Dell. The geology of Spor is a little different than the Thomas range. Both are products of rhyolite tuff, but Spor is older and has been altered by hydrothermal fluids containing fluorite, opal, magnesium and beryllium. Together all 4 of those minerals form what is called Tiffany Stone.
The white being opal, black magnesium, purple fluorite and bertrandite/beryllium which is usually microscopic.
While Tiffany Stone is sought after by mineral collectors and jewelry creators, the bertrandite/beryllium content has national security implications. It is a rare mineral used in aerospace & military applications. Spor Mountain happens to be the richest bertrandite/beryllium deposit in the U.S.. Luckily several older, abandoned mines still have some tailings that contain specimens like this one.
The mines contain huge amounts of fluorspar(purple fluorite) which can clearly be seen in many places.
I collected a few nice pieces off the dumps and then headed back to the cove to hunt for more topaz.
I again decided to go up to the East Wall because I really wanted to get a feel for the area. Since I had found some good specimens on Wednesday here and I knew there was a spot I still had to find it seemed like a good opportunity to investigate.
(East Wall saddle)
What I was looking for were gas vents. Cracks in the rock in which gas was able to escape, but where concentrations of gas bubbles would also be.
As I made my way to the saddle I knew I was getting into a good zone. The rock was filled with vugs, probably each one of these produced topaz which other miners dug out.
And then I found one, a vent that had been mined.
I can only imagine the crystals they pulled out of the pockets attached to this vent.
The good news was there was hardly any other digging around the vent. Seems people had only gone into it, not around it. So I picked a seam just beside the diggings and almost immediately crystals started coming out.
This one seam that water had eroded over eons left the topaz floating in sand. I could just pick the crystals right out of the sand without much digging.
They were sherry, clear and terminated and I pulled out a lot!
One of my favorite pieces I pulled out of the mountain was this little, blade of hematite(iron oxide) on rhyolite matrix. It's so cool looking and has been sitting there for millions of years.
This spot I found will now be my go to for topaz and hematite. It was so easy to get a ton of topaz and it was the first seam I checked in this spot. I didn't even have time to look around because it was so productive. If gas prices weren't insane I would plan another trip up in a few weeks, but that'll have to wait. I guess on the bright side this spot is relatively unknown and the mountain is not going anywhere.
This concluded my camping trip at Topaz Mountain. The following morning I would begin my trip back to California, but it would prove to be a fantastic day too. I'll write about that portion of this adventure in P.3, long roads, obsidian & magnetite crystals.
Thanks for reading!