North Carolina Rockhounding
I have been married for 10 years and to celebrate, my wife and I went on a trip to the North Carolina mountains. We rented a nice place in Blowing Rock and drove the Blue Ridge Parkway back and forth doing all kinds of fun stuff. We visited Linville caverns, we hiked Grandfather Mountain all the way to the top, and we went gem hunting.
For years, I've tried to get my wife hooked on fossil hunting, but it wasn't until she found out she could find gems that she became interested in hunting for anything. I was excited about gem hunting because I like looking for anything. Our first day rockhounding, we went into the Brushy Creek mine, known for its aquamarines, garnets, and tourmalines. I asked our guide how they found this place, and he said that Native Americans found it. They used to go chip the gems out of the mountain in this spot to trade for things they needed.
We loaded up in the van with the other excited collectors and after just a short drive, we were in the pit. It was actually a hole in the side of a mountain, blasted out in true mine fashion. Some more experienced collectors went right to smashing rocks with a sledgehammer, but I decided to employ my surface hunting skills to see if I could find anything without prison style labor. Almost immediately, I began to find big chunks of aquamarine. I showed my wife and she quickly followed suit. It was a bonanza - there were aquamarines and garnets all over the place!
It didn't take long for the bonanza to end. With 28 collectors picking up everything shiny, the ground was soon barren. 95% of everything I found was in my bucket within 15 minutes. I tried my hand at the sledgehammer, but the heat quickly sapped my will to sledge. There wasn't much breeze in the pit, so I was soaked with sweat within minutes. The tiny specks of rock were sticking to me all over. I quickly gave up the sledge in favor of a small rock hammer. I dug in the dirt in the bottom and started to find stuff again. I found some shade and my wife came over to join me. We spent the rest of the day digging in the shade, chatting, drinking water, talking to our guide, and most of all, sweating. After about 3 hours, everyone was fried and ready to go back.
The same day, we decided to try our luck at the roadside flumes. That's where you buy a big bucket of dirt and rocks from various mines and sift it out in the flumes. Its not as cool as going into the mine, but there's a roof to block the sun (or rain!), a place to sit, restrooms, and a place to get something to eat. Its kindof like camping as opposed to staying at a hotel. MEIN ferret was really into this because #1 on her list to find was a sapphire. They are her favorite stone, and she said if she came back with one she would feel like she had a good trip. As luck would have it, the buckets were loaded with sapphires, emeralds, amethysts, topaz, and a host of other pretty little rocks. Her find sapphire find was unforgettable. Have you ever seen a natural sapphire? They look like ugly little rusty rocks. She was so excited to find one that she did a little dance and said "I would totally do this again, even the hot dirty mine." That made it worth it for me!
We tried some different flumes at other spots and found some nice ones at all of them. Our evenings were spent sorting, classifying, and admiring the day's finds. I have never seen my wife so excited about finding stuff. It was great! On a few separate occasions she actually pulled the finds out on her own and started fondling the serrations. Oops, did I say serrations? I meant pretty little rocks. She even said "We racked." She picked out her best find - a gorgeous, translucent, deep green tourmaline to have cut and mounted in a pendant as a reminder of how much we really did rack!