new mexico rock hunting trip

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Jan 22, 2008
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elmer, nj
while at the deming, new mexico local museum I saw one of the most amazing collections of minerals, crystals and other related things, all made up from the best of local families' personal collections. the back side of the display area (as large as my apartment) was filled with displays and scientific explanations of the formations of geodes and thundereggs and also agates. there are places nearby where you can sift through the soil/sand/dust and with time, find many geodes and similarly-formed crystals. I thought it would be pretty cool to wander around some mountain trails, somewhere and find some of these things, and after this a friend of my mother's came into the museum (who happens to be a member of the local rockhounding club). my mother mentioned my interest and I was invited to the next field trip which happened to be the next saturday! :D

the morning was very bright, very breezy and quite cool, but I was equipped with several antelope/egg and cheese biscuit sandwiches that my stepfather had made the night before (antelope is pretty good!) along with lots of water, so I was good to go! I had been warned about rattlesnakes, but was also told that it would be way too cool for them to make an appearance. others also told me that in summer, there could be lots of tarantulas and also scorpions (yay cold weather!) and that often driving down the road lots of tarantulas would try to dash in front of cars (and not make it, of course). they aren't poisonous to humans, and not overly aggressive, so being careful usually doesn't result in any problems with them.

the group leader taking us to the three locations (they could qualify as 'hills' in florida) which weren't anything more than low mounds in the middle of the wide desert floor. the area is mostly made up of volcanic formations, so almost anywhere you can find different color forms of jasper (mostly brownish-red). for this field trip, the target crystals we were looking for were agates. it was asked if anyone wanted to take trip pictures so I volunteered


example of a small agate chip whose surface was 'bubbled'



people and dogs piling out of vehicles in hopes of finding that perfect agate specimen.
if you look closely you can see mountains in the distance, and over the right pickup
truck you can see cook's peak, which is a famous area known for being a stop on the
famous butterfield stagecoach line, a rare source of water in the 1800's, a location
for an indian settlement and site of many battles between indians and whoever else
was in the area at the time (water = visitors -> indian attacks in narrow places)


club members digging through loose soil


someone from previous trip had brought rock-cutting tools with them
and this was their 'dump pile' of cut chips


club member Jim who gave me ride to and from rock sites. we were on
the tail end of the wagon train, so it was jim's job to close the cattle gates
after the group went through. the sites were on BLM land (bureau of land
management) and some cattle were also grazing on that land


some of the nicest specimens I found right away at the first site. I quickly learned
that jim would park his jeep right next to some of the nicest crystals, so as
soon as we parked I would get out and look around right next to the vehicle.
the first spot we were at was supposed to have 'red agate'; the second possibly
blue agates, and the last one black agates. each spot would have some of the same
agates, plus a few different ones unique to that spot. our guide told us that in this
area, if you looked at the shape of the rocks most of them were triangular in shape
which was a signature to rocks from these hills


my rock bucket after the first stop. I soon learned to not pick up everything I
found, or else I would have ended up with five buckets full of rocks!


club member sifting for agates


to the general south of deming, there was a 'weather balloon' moored to the ground
which it was sometimes guessed that had electronic devices scanning
the area for 'unregistered visitors' moving up from the south.

(more in reply thread)
part two

the rest of the rock trip pictures


the 'wagon train' heading to the next mineral claim site


yours truly with a few choice specimens on hand (I don't usually wear ball caps
but I forgot to pack my sun hat)


interesting specimen with possible iron deposits


some hounds like the common jasper and buff it to create jewelry


black/white striped specimens were more common in the last two dig sites


another club member's prized specimen


nice day view of the floridas (flor-EE-das) mountain range. if you look to
the left side of the mountains, you can see some of the 'rounder' hills that
look like they have more sunlight shining directly on them; this is where
the RockHound State Park is located, where you can take home 15 pounds
of whatever minerals or rocks you find and collect (after paying the park
entrance fee). you can also camp or park your RV and there is a very nice
visitor's center with volunteer staff on hand to help you identify your find


this is as close to any snakes as I got on this trip (quite small skin)


one member thought that this was a specimen of some petrified palm tree,
but later on I saw that it might be just some of the common surface volcanic
rock that is very common throughout the valley region


this fellow was literally right 'on' the edge of the road (open range territory) so
we had to wait patiently until he decided to move out of the way
Pretty neat! I'll have to show this to my wife- she's a rock nut.

Antelope (pronghorn deer) is delicious!!!
I'd probably be out there looking for rocks all the time if I lived in the area. You're lucky to have had at least the experience of a few hours doing it.
thanks, I had a great time! like Jim who I was riding around with, we were just looking for things that looked interesting and pretty, who cares if it's something rare or whatever... and yes the antelope was very tasty. I actually had some antelope summer sausage as an appetizer for christmas dinner later up in wyoming which was also very good

incidentally, the group leader of the trip taught me what 'leaverite' is (mineral terminology).... when I showed him some pieces of rock that I had picked up during our trip to spring canyon park, he said to me "when you see something like these rocks on the ground... you leaverite there!" ;)
(meaning junk). he also moved to the area from california, and brought with him about 25 pounds of jasper that he had collected over the years; after he started looking around the area and saw that jasper was everywhere, he dumped his jasper collection onto the yard!
What a fun trip. I love looking at rocks and I could really get into that kind of trip. Thanks

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