I guess you could call my daughter and me rock hounds. My love of rocks started early – any rock that was sparkly and shiny in the sun was a keeper. And what kid does not like to play in the dirt, get as dirty as they possibly can and collect rocks to take home and fill their room, the car, the house and the yard with their collection?
I had always wanted to take a trip to Arkansas and go mining for crystals and diamonds. Crater of Diamonds State Park is the only place in the US that you can mine for diamonds and keep what you find. I had planned the trip with my grandma to do just these things, but of course we kept putting the trip off – life. Two summers ago I had finally mapped out the trip and planned to do it with Stella. At our family reunion I was telling my grandmother that we were finally going to do “our” trip and she told me that she was going to join us – I could pick her up on our way through Virginia. At this time, my grandmother was very ill and in a wheel chair, but I told her of course we would find a way that she could come with us. My grandmother passed away a week later. She was definitely with us on our trip, watching over us and guiding us to great finds – we were not successful in our quest for diamonds, but what a trip we had!
Last summer we stayed closer to home – heading up to the Catskill and Adirondack mountains to hunt for Herkimer diamonds and garnets. Most of the time it rained while we were there, we played a lot of go fish and yahtzee, but the rain made it much easier to find what we came searching for. The rain washed away the dirt and the Herkimer diamonds, which are really double pointed crystals, were much easier to find and we did not have to do as much cracking of rocks. The garnets were fun – very similar to panning for gold. You pour some dirt on the ground and then wash it with water to search for the ruby red stones.
Yesterday we drove about an hour north-west into New Jersey to search for fluorescent minerals. We ended up at the Franklin Mineral Museum and Buckwheat Dump. Franklin, New Jersey is supposedly the fluorescent mineral capital of the world. If you go I highly suggest that you go on the museum tour – very interesting. After arriving, we looked at the exhibit of the rocks that we would be searching for and headed to the dump. We brought with us a neighborhood friend – this was his first venture into rock hunting – and he has already asked when are we going rock hunting again and can he come – I think we have another convert!
The thing about fluorescents is that you aren’t sure what you have until you put them under an ultraviolet light – and then it is magical. We hunted and searched for about 1 1/2 hours and then up the hill we went to the testing facilities – we had found success! The glow of orange, yellow, purple and green were seen when we held the rocks in the fluorescent light boxes – some of the rocks rubbed off on our hands and we had colorful fingertips. Each one of us put every rock under the light and decided what we wanted to keep and what not. It was time for a break – we had our lunch and then went on the tour, which is about an hour long. Then it was back out to the dump for another hour of hunting.
On the way home I got to listen to fun facts about fossils and rocks and minerals. Stella had bought a fossil book and Noah a rocks and minerals book. We walked Noah home and he showed his parents his back of rocks – I am sure they were thinking “wow, nice rocks – he probably could have picked them up in the backyard”. So off we all went to the stairway up to the attic – the fluorescent light came out and Noah started putting his rocks under the light and all you could hear were oohs and aahs, wow look at that color!