This was a wild fee digging in Oregon season. Even though too much “real work” interfered with a “proper” mining season, it was an awesome year!
There are tons of photos for this page, so be patient while it loads – The images of mining locations, stunning scenery, wildlife, AND NEW MINES will be worthwhile. I hope you enjoy!
The Bonanza Sunstone Mine
We finally got our Sunstone claim up and running this year, though didn’t get to put in a respectable production… We spent lots of time and work early in the season getting the paperwork and preparation in place to open our pit.
We spent a couple of weeks there in late June and early July, with the high desert treating us to the usual wonderful weather (even milder than normal), gorgeous sunsets, and intriguing wildlife.
Cat-Master Steve Hackler of the Dust Devil Mine did the honors of opening the ground for us:
Many people think that profitable mining must scar the land, but a pit the size of a small back-yard swimming pool seems tiny in miles of open desert. You have to use distant land-marks to find your way back if you stray more than 50 yards or so:
This is true of most of the small mines I’ve seen. Even the famous Dust Devil mine pit is only a few acres in size. Except for the camp trailers you could easily lose the place from 50 yards away. Bring a GPS if you intend to hike very far from a mining camp in the desert!
This is our home in the desert. Quiet, and miles of scenery like this backdrop are some of the best things about this place.
Our good friend Dave from Key West was with us again this year. The Conch Republic Flag on his van flaps in the desert wind as he phones home.
The desert can seem a bit barren until you look closely.
After any light sprinkle the flowers come out.
The local fauna can also be elusive unless you are very observant.
Can you see the baby bird in this photo?
I found this Nighthawk chick while on a morning walk. The mother’s “broken-wing” routine caught my attention so I knew babies must be close-by. I spied the chick under a small sage brush just 5 feet away. Then, I suddenly realized that the bird’s sibling was within six inches of my foot – in the open sand:
The hawks seemed undisturbed by our mining nearby, and the parents treated us to great aerobatic displays, complete with the charactaristic zooming sound-effects as they captured flying insects in dinner-time dog-fights.
Not all of the fauna in the area are as shy as the elusive hawks. Some species are downright pesky – like the scorpions and deer-mice that thought boots and gloves left out overnight were a ready-made nest, or this kangaroo rat that Dave named “Jerboa” – the generic name for the family of jumping
This little guy was so excited about a tortilla that he didn’t hesitate to jump right into Dave’s hand to sit and have a snack. Rodents are like visiting family – never, EVER feed them – or they’ll move in with you and stay – forever. Even after Dave was gone, the Jerboa continued to come around at supper time every evening.
Fee Digging Sunstone Mining:
Scrape off the sage brush and sand –
a friend with a D-9 is helpful!
Once you find the Sunstone-bearing rock,
break it up with a pick, chisels, etc.
Shovel the broken rock into your wheelbarrow…
…and haul it up out of the pit…
…where you can shovel it into your hand-screen.
Shake the screen.
Sort through the broken rock.
Break by hand anything larger than an egg.
Sometimes, you’ll find – a Sunstone!
Side-trip to Hart Mountain:
You can only do that above procedure for so many hours and days in a row – even if you’re finding nice stones. So, when a break is in order Hart Mountain calls.
This year we hiked up into Arsenic Canyon,
searching for Jaspers and Agates, a grand view, and some cooler air.
One out of three ain’t bad – We found the view!
After Arsenic Canyon, we decided to visit Petroglyph lake on top of Hart Mountain. A rough drive and a short hike led us to the lake, where we watched a small herd of antelope – and consulted the ancient images.
Still craving some agates, we decided to visit Flook Lake – which looks like the surface of Mars. The sky is so big at this place it makes you feel like an ant. Small agates are plentiful hereand it didn’t take us long to find a pocketful.
Back at camp, a little storm blew through, treating us to a colorful sunset…
…painting the Rabbit Hills shades of magenta…
…and lighting Hart Mountain up with an eerie glow:
You can see why this magical place
seizes the emotions of everyone who comes here.
After some more Sunstone mining, we decided to visit the Juniper Ridge Fire Opal Mine owned by my partner Ken and his son, Chuck.
Digging at Juniper Ridge was “typical” for a day there – great fun with great friends. We pounded on some rock for a while and collected a few pieces of Opal, but decided to take a hike to explore a nearby mountain where Ken believed another Opal deposit may exist.
In a short while, I put Trish on the scent of some surface “float”, and let her uncanny “finding” talents go to work. Though Ken and some others had been searching for this deposit for some time, it took Trish only about 45 minutes to walk directly to the spot – A seam of Fire Opal protruding from
I took a chisel and removed a bit of rock…
…exposing a collection of small facet-grade pieces.
It was obvious we were going to need some posts, so we got busy, and spent the rest of the afternoon figuring out where the deposit ran, setting the discovery monument and corners, and preparing paperwork for the new mining claim!
A tired but very happy Trish reluctantly poses at the location monument for
the deposit she discovered. No amount of tired can wipe off the grin a discovery like that brings!
One of the location’s charms is this view over a local valley.
A few weeks later we invited a few close friends to visit and help with a more detailed mineral survey – and some expanded prospecting –
Looks like we lost our car keys or something –
couple of rock-heads in a field
looking for a likely place to test the ground.
But, my other buddy Jim had already found a sweet spot!
He was well on his way to examining the quality of the material.
This is part of Jim’s take for the day.
Jim let me pose with a few pieces.
The day was very productive – including a discovery that the deposit extended far afield. We were going to need still more posts…
So, Ken and his brother Robert and I returned within a few days, posts in hand and ready to locate yet another in our growing collection of Fire Opal Mines.
The day was cold, cloudy and windy, but the rocks were great. Among the mysteries are some specimens of porous Basalt in which the cavities contain a powder-blue-colored mineral:
Other vesicular basalt in the area shows similar cavities,
though lined with an intensely copper-green mineral.
We also found a specimen of clear, facet-grade botroidal Opal.
Here’s a photo of some nice Fire Opal that shows whitish
included masses – Looks very much like Mexican material.
This was my take for the day –
a nice handful of facet-grade material.
Some of the pieces we found that day rival the best
Mexican Fire Opal I’ve seen…
Here’s a nice large piece of facet-grade material,
windowed to show the red color zoning and dendrites.
I am certain that once we decide on a working location and move into
real mining there will be much more of this stuff. Stay tuned for information
about possible rough or cut stones available from this exciting new deposit!
That was the season, 2004 – Hard to imagine that we did all that in just a few weeks of exciting fun in the sun. I can’t wait for 2005!!