Monday, February 28, 2011

In search of The Nuevo Silica Mine

We left at 2PM on Saturday, a last minute decision to scout the area around Nuevo to look for the Nuevo Silica quarry. The mine was reportedly located behind a road that had recently been taken over by a church. One thing we needed to ascertain was if
the church was allowing traffic to the mine. Rumor had it that a gate at the church was intermittantly opened and closed, thus causing a constant hazard to access to the mine. One of our numerous goals that day was to find a route that would bypass the church altogether. But doing that without even knowing the exact location of the mine itself would prove to be tricky.

First we drove along the base of the mountain, looking for any and all roads that headed in the right direction, but all were blocked off by gates or recently built
houses. Eventually, we realized we had little choice but to hazard the church route and were soon back at the road to the church (can't remember if there was a gate there or not!) that gave us access to a meandering dirt road until finally, ahead, we could see some structures and parked cars. Not sure what kind of reception we would get, we decided to take an alternate branch of the road that led into the hills to the left, instead of going directly past the church itself.

This side road meandered in endless spirals and cloverleaf patterns, the off roaders had obviously had some fun in that area. As we drove, the rocks slowly changed from rounded off on top to sometimes twisted and tortured shapes of nightmare. The lava here had indeed suffered before dieing but now it was reaching out even after death(2nd photo)! Other granitic rocks had large off colored bumps that looked like plague skin lesions (1st photo). One rock even looked like a weary petrified buzzard (second to last photo).

But despite the eery rocks, the area here was indeed beautiful, the artistic rocks interspersed with soft green winter grasses and white flowering bushes. The soft soil and smooth rocks also happen to be Sesame Pooch's favorite kind of environment to run wildly hither and yon, barely able to decide where she should run towards next. She trounces happily in photo 4, until in photo 5, you can see where Sesame Pooch is actually being eaten by a giant killer dog eating head chomping rock! (click on the photo to see a larger view) ;-P

As we drove and intermittantly parked and wandered, Dave told me a lot about pegmatite dykes and how they formed, most of which I have now totally forgotten! But he did assure me that the area looked promising and indeed, we did find some streaks of white rock in one area which was a pegmatite dyke running along the ground. Inspecting the white rock, we found a lot of white quartz along with some pinkish feldspar and the occasional black tourmaline. We also found an area where several large rock faces had weird indentations like the fingers of God had been poking and probing at His Playdough creation (3rd photo).

But it was getting late and Dave wanted to try a new way out, down hill instead of back up towards the church. Luckily, we soon found yet another branch of dirt road that lead in the right direction, and as we followed it, it looked more and more commonly used, always a good sign when you are hoping your road will pan out.

Soon it was already dark as we continued to pick our way along strange roads, but we knew we were almost back to the main road and eventually we did make it. At one point, we encountered one of the roads we had looked for desparately on the way in but could not find! But at least we now knew of a way into the area without going
through the church. Or did we? First and most important, was that really the route to the Nuevo Silica mine? Since we had not actually found the mine itself, we still could not say for sure. The second question was, even if it was the right route,
after all that meandering, did we even stand a chance of finding the same route twice? Both questions would soon be answered in spades by the end of day two, which will be the next posting. But as a coming attraction, I give you the bottom photo. Hint: the big black spots are big black tourmalines! (Plus it looks like Sesame Pooch actually survived her encounter with the killer dog eating rock after all!)

To see part two, "Finding the Nuevo Silica Mine" click here.
For additional pictures of the mine, click here.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Does this rock contain gold!?!

Does this rock contain gold? A friend of a friend of my car mechanic owns an old gold mine. Apparently, he is interested in having someone come and look at his property to find some likely spots for excavation. In exchange, we will get to keep any gold that we find! This location was supposedly once a very good gold producing location long ago. I was given this sample rock from the area, which I showed to Dave for analysis.

In this rock, Dave sees lots of white quartz with iron staining, and also some darker banding of heavier metals. The white quartz also has little holes and vesicles in it where Dave says the gold often grows. However, you can't see it well from the photo, but the darker banding on this rock is very thin and mostly on the surface. Dave says we need to look for rocks with thicker dark bands and layers of schist (schist once was old river bottom). These are all technical details which I only half understand!

So does this rock have gold in it? According to Dave, this rock is NOT an excellent candidate for gold in itself, and is probably not worth bothering with. But wait!?! Didn't he see all that shiny gold colored sparkle in the cracks and fissures of this rock? Sure he did, but unfortunately, that's just gold colored mica flakes, a common gold lookalike. They peel off in large flakes when gently probed. Darn! However, Dave does feel this rock is indicative of a potentially interesting general location for gold hunting that would be worth further exploration. Hopefully, my mechanic will get back to me eventually with more information on this site!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pretty in Pink

San Diego is famous for its tourmaline mines, but sometimes it's just faster to buy one than to try to find it yourself, especially if you want a big one! Here Dave helps Rick weigh the tourmaline he recently bought from the Quartzsite, Arizona show. For any machine related question, big or small, Dave is the one to run to!

Rick usually trends towards blue colored stones but this rock is mostly pink and only shades into blue on the end. It weighs approximately 14 grams but since Rick had already added a small piece of plastic onto the rough edge to help level it for capping, we don't know the exact weight. In the second picture, you can see the not yet completely polished silver cap that Rick made for it already placed onto the stone.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Name that Stone!

This blue stone was sold to a store by a mystery person off the street. Its origins are unknown. I bought the rough and cut this blue agate material out of the host rock to make these two blue cabachons and this necklace. The color of the cabs is a striking bright blue and on one corner along the side (too small to be visible to the camera), is a small 'flower' of what looks like malachite. I got the rough for nine dollars, what a deal! Does anyone have any idea where this material might have originally come from? Since it's blue and looks like agate, I am guessing it's likely to be a high quality gem silica of some kind, probably from an older collecting location.

Update: OK, looks like most people agree this rock is probably gem silica, perhaps from Arizona. It also looks similar to Needles Blue agate, which is also a very nice colored blue stone, but the host rock on my cabs does not look like rhyolite which is often the host rock of Needles blue. Here is a pic of the back of the cabs which shows some host rock that I left behind when I cabbed it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How big is it?

How big do you think this nugget of gold is that Dave found in the river recently? He sent this picture out to a friend of his who was impressed by how HUGE it was. The San Diego area is not known to have many large gold nuggets, unlike the rainier regions further north. Whereas Dave insisted his nugget was really quite small and not much to look at.

Confusion reigned until Dave's friend was finally told that the black 'plate' that the nugget is sitting in is not a plate at all, but is in fact a small film canister lid. The nugget is really only a few millimeters wide, not such a big deal after all. They were having trouble getting the camera to focus on the nugget instead of the lid, so they tried taking the picture from directly above, but not only did that tactic hide the edges of the lid, but the photo still came out blurry. Dave had not realized at first that, with the picture angled that way, others might assume the black backing to be a large plate instead of a small film canister lid. Perspective is a powerful subterfuge! Oh well, next time we will just have to find a bigger nugget that is easier to photograph!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Red Fever

A giant handful of thick red garnets, the size of gumballs, their edges gently worn down during their long travels along the sandy river bottom, this vision I had in my mind as I waited in the parking lot for the others to arrive. Sesame Pooch, perhaps sensing the impending adventure, wagged her tail eagerly at my side. Of course, Dave had thought Mike wasn't coming. And Mike had thought Dave wasn't coming. So the whole thing was almost called off by accident, but finally we got it all sorted out that everyone was in fact coming. And so we came. But where were we going? That was the REAL question!

In my mind, I could only think of those garnets that Dave had shown me several weeks earlier. He had said they came from the river, clogging the sluice boxes of the gold hunters, of all places! The gold hunters had looked upon them distainfully as mere hindrances to their travails. But Dave had found the common sense to save as many of the garnets as he could. Now I wanted some for myself. Oh sure, they were rather opague garnets, and their edges were gone, but hey they were big! And they were red! And they would make a reeeeeaaaaally nice necklace after being cut into halves and made into cabachons. I have always wanted to make some garnet cabs from self hunted garnets, but in California, large garnets are not common. So far, I had only hounded small specimen samples of garnet. And yet Dave had found these large garnets right in our own backyard of San Diego! As the boys yammered on about this and that potential location for the day's travels, I realized that I had little to add other than, "Yeah but does it have garnets?"

Perhaps because they were getting tired of me, Dave did indeed assure me that a place they had finally chosen along the 76 freeway did in fact have garnets. If you could find them. But that was enough for me. We took off in 3 separate cars, I and my friend along with Mike heading toward the river and Dave going back to his house first to pick up gold pans. Why had we not brought gold pans in the first place? I guess that's just how organized we really are. And of course it ended up taking Dave two more hours just to catch up with us because the route he had chosen ended up being clogged by an overturned vehicle. And not long after he arrived, he ended up having to leave because of a prior engagement. Sometimes, it sucks to be Dave.

But at least we did arrive at the river, and eventually we did even have some gold pans. First taking up residence near a large downed treetrunk that crossed the river from bank to bank, I spent a long time digging in one spot looking for... (I think you can guess at this point) ...garnets! But there were none, not even a tiny little bitty one. Next I spent time picking up pieces of quartz and inspecting them. Since this location was downstream from several well known tourmaline mines, we could potentially expect to find any kind of pegmatite material, quartz crystals, tourmaline, kunzite, etc. Indeed, we did find many pieces of schorl (black tourmaline) as well as some half formed quartz crystals. One piece of rock even sported some tiny bright red translucent spots that might even have been garnets, but you had to squint hard to see them as they were so small. I guess I would not be making any cabs out of those!

It was hard to imagine this this lazy trickle of water called a river had only a few months earlier been a seething monster that had tried to drown Dave. As we picked through the lazy silt, Mike told me the story of how Dave had been standing behind that very same large treetrunk now in front of us, in the middle of the river, panning the sand under his feet, thinking this would be a very likely place for gold to have accumulated, when suddenly a hoard of sand flushed under the log. That was the sand that Dave had been standing on and so instantly, Dave was pulled under the log by the raging current, the underside of his chin hitting the top of the log as his feet went down and under the log. Luckily, he was, with difficulty, able to drag himself out of the current safely, but not before recieving a bit of a scare and also losing his gold pan downstream to the river current. But what kind of gold hunter loses his gold pan to a measly little river, that's what I want to know! Oh well, I guess I'll forgive him. This time at least.

Back in the present, we continued to look for gold and garnet, but most of the silt that Dave had so eagerly panned previously when the river was in high flood was now covered over by larger rocks. Rocks that were not garnet, I might add!

Eventually, we decided to trek upstream through a low but rather thick hedge of poison oak, to a picturesque water fall area where the river percolated gently between large boulders. There, Sesame Pooch frolicked happily with my friend's dog, oblivious to the dangerously itchy three lobed leaves all around her. Until eventually, Sesame, in her carelessness, accidentally slipped and fell between two steep boulders, clawing and scratching but unable to make the high leap out, panicking in her frenzied efforts to escape the water below, until my friend finally came over and dragged her out by her collar. First Dave and then the dog had almost fallen victim to this innocent looking river!

From my perspective some distance away, all I heard were a few anxious sounding exclamations from my friend about the dog and some kind of problem. But by the time I made my way over and figured out what was happening, it was already over and my dog was already running back to me where she felt the need to recuperate for all of 7 seconds before going back to leaping between the boulders in glee. In this scenic area, we took many pictures and critically inspected the silt for gold panning potential, but the sun was already slipping behind the mountain and it was time to go. Maybe next time we would bring a sluice box and find some of those garnets! Right now, I am thinking that would be the best course of action, but then again, three days from now when I find out how much poison oak response I will develop, I just might change my mind!