Secret Field Trips for Collecting Mineral and Crystal Specimens

It’s funny that I started this page as sort of a blog on crystal collecting. I somehow received 100 likes on Facebook for doing nothing!

I would really like it if people would start posting field trip experiences, and photographs of their specimens. Come on, let go of a few secret localities!

I am planning on going to a “rare” locale this summer. I was looking at my notes and discovered I have not been there in over 2 decades! (hope I can find it again!)

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Mammoth Mine, Tintic District, Juab County, Utah USA Field Trip #159 and #160

We met at the Mammoth Mine dumps. Very old dumps from early mining operations. One of the collectors was either very intelligent, or thought he knew it all, as he was proclaiming one rare mineral after another he was finding. After I found out who he was, I do think he was probably an authority on the mine and its products. We were collecting on an area of the dump where there were many types of copper arsenates. The dump was hard to dig into, because all of the overburden would fall quickly into our holes. It became pretty frustrating. We collected here for a while, and then moved to the lower dump. There I was able to find some nice CLINOCLASE and TYROLITE, which were rare classic minerals to have from the Mammoth Mine. One of the collectors found some very showy TYROLITE Crystals. We were all sad to see that one of our friends there was going back to his car, lost his footing, and literally threw his entire day of collecting into the air as he fell. He lost much of his smaller best micromount pieces he worked so had to obtain.

I returned a couple of weeks later alone, (always a bad idea to collect alone). It was summer, and I worried about the heat, but while I was there I was very comfortable. I thought it was interesting how during the mining operation, this material was pulled out, from way below the surface of the mountain, in an area that is not now known, nor accessible to anyone now, and left in a pile, protected for us to go through at this time to find great and beautiful and interesting specimens.

I returned to the lower dump, where I was able to pull out some pretty large boulders of material, and fresh material. I did pretty well. I enjoyed myself today.

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Mercur Mine, Tooele County, Utah USA. Field Trip #167

Mercur is a very historically colorful mining ghost town (1870’s) located in Tooele County, Utah, USA. The nearby Mercur Gold Mine is an interesting place not only for Gold, but for Thallium, and Arsenic Minerals. I used to hike the area as a child, and as a young man, we’d go four wheeling on the dumps, and go shooting in the area. The Mercur Gold Mine was re-opened by Barrick Gold in 1985. We had a club field trip but little was found except for some Orpiment and some Jarosite. It was difficult finding good specimens as everything was pretty oxidized. We finally found a newer dump where we found some fresh clean specimens. At this time they had not dug down to the Silver and Cinnabar area, so when they do we’ll be back.

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Gold Hill, Deep Creek Mts, Tooele Co., Utah, USA Field Trip #170

Gold Hill is a very interesting place. The mountains are pocketed with mines. You see mineralization everywhere! It’s famous for Silver, Gold, Copper, Lead, Tungsten, and Arsenic. The Arsenic was heavily mined during WWI, to control the insects that were destroying the cotton crop that was needed so badly during the war. Then WWII started another boom, as Tungsten was needed for steel making. Several booms and busts have been here. This leaves an amazing mineral collecting area.

I was anxious to collect here again, and went with my wife’s cousin. He was not much of a collector, but loves to explore. A good match. We started in at the “150 Level” an underground tunnel known for Connellite. I did find some good pieces after pounding the wall for quite awhile. I was also able to find a nice azurite vug in the ore shoot back-fill pile. After a while, we went to the “80 Level” another underground entrance, and I was able to collect some Adamite & Aragonite. I also found some Chalcophanite and Hydrohetaerolite. We then went up to the “Glory Hole” pit and searched around. After a while I found an area where it looks as if someone had been collecting what looks like Cuproaustinite, and Conichalcite. We did not have a lot of time to continue collecting, so I need to return to dig further. A few hours here could produce several flats of good specimens. I was able to get a large amount of Olivenite near this same spot on a previous field trip. Tip, make sure you have enough empty flats and a way to carry them when collecting here!

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Golden Horn Batholyth, Washington Pass, Washington, USA. Field Trip #163

First of all, I need to tell you something important. I broke 3 chisels on the trip. This rock is very hard. I would suggest a four to six pound hammer, and star drills. Then use your chisels.

This was a very interesting field trip for me. I needed to be in Everett Washington for business, and I scheduled some vacation time after. I contacted a local collector who knew the area, and we met up, and went collecting. He came to my hotel early on a Saturday morning, and we then drove directly to Washington Pass. The view was magnificent! The weather was perfect (August). We stopped high on an overlook, and he pointed certain places where some of the minerals were found. We went to a campground and found it full. We looked, and found another likely place to set up to stay that night. We headed next to Liberty bell mountain. We hiked up a talus slope about 600 feet (just above us we saw a couple of hikers climbing up the face of the cliff!). We started to look around the boulders for minerals, but did not find much. He had worked the area previously pretty hard, and even then, the vugs ar few, and these are micro minerals we are looking for, so unless you know waht you are looking for, it is difficult to find them. Plus, as I mentioned, this is super hard rock!. After searching for several hours, we hiked back down, and crossed over the road to the “Okanoganite Boulder” (found off the road at Washington milepost 166 on State Route 20). I chipped and hammered as much as I could on this horribly hard rock. I did find some items (micros). We then went to the “Sogdianite Boulder” nearby, again, hard hard rock. I have heard there are a couple of other good boulders nearby, with rare micros. In the morning, me collected at the road cut by the Silver Star Mountain sign. The road commission cleans the area out each spring, which brings new material down. The old is dumped over the low side of the road. Zeksterite has been found there. I was able to find a very cute Galena cube which is uncommon for this area. Later in the day, we traded, and I received some amazing Washington minerals.



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Bob Ingersol Mine Black Hills South Dakota Field Trip #132

Several Years ago our family had a great trip to South Dakota. We went to Devils Tower, Wyoming on the way, and saw Mount Rushmore. I was hoping to do some collecting when we arrived at our destination, but it wa raining, and I thought it might not be possible. But, we settled in, did a few family things, and I took off by myself for the Bob Ingersol Mine. I was given directions from a fellow I knew in Rapid City who had collected there may times. I went over to the road going up to the mine and decided not to drive up alone, as the road was very rough and muddy. I was also worried because I only had one hour to find the place and collect, and return! The trip up the mountain took about fifteen minutes. When I found the place, I was amazed at the minerals all over! Books of Mica, blue and green and black Tourmaline. I filled my backpack as fast as I could. I wish I’d had more time, and that my vehicle was not at the bottom of the hill. I was also mad I forgot my camera because you can see so much more of the black hills from there. WATCH OUT! There is poison Ivy on the road and trail up to the mine. I missed it. It took another twelve minutes to hike back down.

FT#132 Green Tourmaline in Mica from the Bob Ingersol Mine, South Dakota, USA. Crystal is 31 mm X 5 mm

The second day on this trip, I started out early while my family slept in the motel. I started out at the Dan patch Mine. This was a very interesting large hole filled with water. I did not see any minerals to collect. Then I made it back to the Bob Ingersol Mine excited to find more good specimens. It was a beautiful July morning on a day after it rained. On the way up, I saw two deer, lots of chipmunks, a bunny, and heard some amazing birds. First I went over to the #2 Dike. Checking carefully, I did not find much. Moving over to the dumps again, I also went around the bins behind the mill. I did not get a chance to get to the upper dumps (Dike #1). This morning I found a couple pieces of Lepidolite, and Garnet in Schist, more Mica, and some really pretty Tourmaline. I was able to also locate some Columbite / Tantalite specimens. I did not recognize any Beryl or Spodumene that comes from the area. As usual to my experiences, I was a bit spooked being alone in the hills. (Lions & Tigers & Bears, you know!) I did come out with a couple of flats of great self collected specimens.

I was able to see the Museum of Geology in Rapid City, which was a real treat. We drove by the Homestake Mine in the Deadwood / Lead area. I was also fortunate to do some trading with a collector in Rapid City. I got some Elk Creek Barites from him.

My handwritten map of FT#132 Bob Ingersol Mine, South Dakota, USA

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What is a “FLAT” of Minerals?

The common term for mineral collectors and dealers, and rock shops to store and sometimes sell minerals and crystals is a “flat”. A “flat” is simply two cardboard bottoms holding beer or pop cans. They carry 4 six-packs of beverage cans. Mineral dealers and collectors have found these as the free, and useful standard for packaging their rocks. You fill the bottom, and simply cover it with another half, and write the contents like “Pyrite” and the location on the edge of the flat. These are common field trip tools, and a great way to protect your precious finds too. When loading up a flat for carrying in the field, use another important tool: toilet tissue! Take the specimen in one hand, and a long piece of TP in the other hand, and start around the side, bunching loosely around it, causing a padding effect. This technique, when done correctly and carefully to all of the pieces causes a nice packing effect within the box. Every piece, although a different size seems to fit together like a puzzle within the flat snugly. Even fragile specimens with tiny crystals can be protected nicely this way. Even if you drop or bump the flat, you should see that you are still saving your hard work and precious treasures. Remember TP (loose bunches) Newspaper (tight boxes) when packing minerals on the field trip. I collected some nice, but very large and VERY heavy Barite crystals from the Dugway mountains in Utah. We actually used bubble pack to safely carry them out. These were especially heavy pieces, so they needed extra padding. Other great field trip packaging tools include fiber egg cartons. It seems sometimes the mineral specimens actually wedge themselves down in the carton as you carry them. I’ve even used folded interlocking crate dividers I carry in. I expand them when I need to fill with pieces. For smaller crystals and specimens, always place them on top of your flat carrier, or backpack, heavy pieces lower in the pack.

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Packing Mineral Specimens While Collecting on a Field Trip

Tips for wrapping and packing your fragile crystal finds in a backpack out in the field. Use newspaper, roll it up in a long tube and have it sized so the diameter when flattened is wider than the mineral specimen is tall. When you do flatten this tube, wrap this around the mineral tightly, creating a custom sized “box”. Then make another flattened tube to wrap over the top of this “box,” thus protecting the top & covering the bottom, or back of the piece. Lastly, wrap the specimen overall, like a gift package, taking care to remember which is the top of the parcel. These may now be stacked on top of each other safely inside a backpack. Taking extra care will be worth much in the long run. If not, you might as well just have a rock garden, instead of an interesting and valuable mineral collection. QUALITY is very important.

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We are going to discuss mineral collecting!

I will post field trip reports, maps, and photos of my mineral collecting adventures here. Mostly in Utah and Nevada, and Idaho, or nearby. Keep watching. You are welcome to post your adventures too.

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