Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Search for Black Turitella Agate - Rockhounding with The Polished Pebble

Turitella Agate
We arrived in Wyoming for our annual Elk/Rock hunting trip after the usual long drive ready for the challenge. Looking ahead to the weather, they were predicting rain in about 4 days. If you have ever traveled on the dirt/gravel roads of Wyoming....you would understand our concern.

You see, when it rains in Wyoming - the dirt roads turn to the stickiest, slickest, gooiest mess. It is really best to avoid them until they dry out. Since I had planned some trips that were farther away from home base this year...I had to get out there right away. Usually I would stick around & visit a couple of days before going out. Not this time. So the next day I was back on the road.

Heading out that morning....destination - Delaney Rim, just outside of Wamsutter, WY for Black Turitella Agate. Actually, it is "Goniobasis" - fossil snail shells in black agate. I had with me my trusty "Rockhounding Wyoming" book and was ready to go hunting.

I reached Wamsutter with no problems and the quick trip thru the edge of town was a breeze. But I was not prepared for what I saw after getting on the dirt/gravel road. It seems that the whole area was on LARGE natural gas field. There was numerous areas with large machinery & the BIG truck traffic was heavy. This could be interesting.

As I was counting the miles off to the first turn I noticed that there did not appear to be any road signs for the side roads here. And when I came to the mileage where I was supposed to turn...there was NO road. Backtracking I took the first road I came to that went to the west. No sign...oh well. The book said this road was a narrow road...not now. Then at the stated mileage I was supposed to see a structure (Metal Shed or Barn). Well, the mileage was off - but I saw something. And there was supposed to be another road sign...ugh, no sign. So I took a leap & kept going straight. The book said the road I wanted was little more than two parrallel ruts...my how things change. The road is now a well worn dirt/gravel road with lots of traffic.

The site that I was looking for was supposed to be on the top of a rim. As I climbed the hill and came around the corner I could see a bunch of black rocks. I HAD FOUND IT! Pulling off the road & parking, I got out my bucket & walked out onto the rim. There was Turitella Agate everywhere! Most were smaller pieces - but with alittle looking...there were fist size pieces that would cut some small slabs. There were also some small plates that had nice shells exposed on the top of the agate. I picked up a few of those too.

Road to Agate Bed

Remember, I had said this road was very busy...well it seemed that every truck driver waved as they passed. I always try to be as visible as possible & never trespass on Private property. This area is checkerboarded (One Section BLM, the next Private) so always know where you are. While working the area a truck driver stopped & motioned me over. He asked me if I was picking up that "snail agate", when I told him I was - he got on his radio. Knowing that I was on BLM land I was not really concerned. He talked to his boss back & forth. And then gave me directions to a location on their property that had bigger pieces. I had permission to collect there as long as I stayed away from their equipment. GREAT!

Area on top of the rim

Driving out there, I stopped along the way to look around. At first, I found much the same as the first area until I got closer to the exact area he described. The ground was littered with shells that had eroded from the agate & the area was almost pure black from all the agate. But here again, it seemed that most was smaller pieces. Then I got to looking around I found that people had been digging. This is where they were getting the bigger pieces. I spent some time looking and digging. Always filling the holes back in as much as possible.

Shells & bits of agate
 This stone is very heavy and the shells add an additional sharp edge. If you go, please remember gloves. I didn't have to break any of the larger pieces apart, but you might find the need to. If so, eye protection is a MUST. And as always, respect the landowners anywhere you collect. We don't need to lose anymore collecting areas. There is more development and land usage out here in "The Middle Of Nowhere" than ever before. By being respectful we can keep these places open to collection.

Those pieces of Turitella that I brought home are waiting to be cut. More pictures to come.

Connie - The Polished Pebble

Monday, October 18, 2010

Back from the wilds of Wyoming - The Polished Pebble

Chalk Mountains - Wyoming

Well, we survived another hunting season. Score.....NO Elk - lots of rock. It seems we are on a every other year schedule for getting an elk. On the other hand, rock seems plentiful & is only limited by how far I want to drive & how much weight I can carry back to California. Got to get a bigger truck ;)

This years weather has been interesting everywhere. And the first two weeks of October in Wyoming was right on par with the rest of the weird weather. When we left Bakersfield it was upper 80's to lower 90's....the last few days of Sept. When we arrived in Wyoming it was in the low 80's.....we were hoping for a nice cool down, but mother nature had other ideas.

With few exceptions, the weather stayed very warm our whole trip (2 weeks & a few days). The weather played a big part in the NO ELK. Because it was still so warm, they just weren't moving out of the mountains.

Earlier in the year they had LOTS of water. Which exposed more rock in areas where the pickings had been slim or even unseen. I found the prettiest Agatized Petrified Wood on a friends' ranch that they had never seen before. It had been exposed by the excessive rain earlier in the year...but more on that later.

We have been trying to get everything back to normal here after the trip. The weekend was spent washing clothes, giving the dogs a bath, giving the truck a bath..(should have took pictures before - it was covered in thick sticky mud), mowing the lawn....and the list goes on. One thing I made sure we did was clean out the rock saw. After sitting idle for over two weeks it was fairly easy to drain & then muck out the sludge on the bottom. It is running as I type. Lots of pretties to open.

Here is a look at what we brought home....

Included in the pile is Black Agate, Moss Agate, Agatized Petrified Wood, Turitella Agate, Bull or Snow Quartz, some Jade, Sweetwater Agate and a whole lot of "Pretty" rocks.

Recounts of the daily rockhounding trips to follow - stay tuned.

Connie - The Polished Pebble