Rockhound State Park near Deming, New Mexico, is one of the two parks in the U.S. that allows visitors to take souvenir rocks home. Rock enthusiasts come here to hunt gem rocks, and snowbirds stay here for its mild winter. We are here for both.
I took a hike on Thunder Egg Trail in the late afternoon when we arrived here. There was a big boulder by the trail after a short climb up the western slope of the Little Florida Mountains. The trail forked here. One of them went uphill, the other ran towards the north of the mountains. There were no signs. I chose the trail towards the north because it looked like it was less steep. From the name of the trail I guessed thunder egg gem stones might be discovered along the trail. I walked along the trail that hugged the hillside but didn’t look for any rocks. There might not be any gem stones near the trail since lots of visitors have walked on this nicely maintained trail. Looking up across a field of prickly pear cacti, the peaks of the mountains stood against the blue sky like a wall. I came back to the campground in about an hour.
The young man camping next to our site asked me if I got any rocks. I said no and told him where I went. I asked him where to look for thunder eggs. He pointed to a spot up on the slope and told me to take the trail going up by the big boulder. That trail led to the place he hunted for gem rocks. He pointed the place to me but I was not sure where it was. Then he showed me the rocks he found. There on the picnic table laid a dozen different rocks. He got some thunder egg nodules among other rocks. I asked him how many trips it took him to get those rocks. He said it only took him one trip of one hour. Wow! I was impressed by his collections and it kindled my curiosity of rock hounding.
A brilliant sunset swept across the plain. The small town laid placid on the upper Chihuahuan Desert. Darkness soon enveloped the high desert and a cool evening embraced me. I looked it up on the Internet at night and one image pinpointed the location of the best place to look for thunder eggs – a white stripe. We looked through the binoculars the next day and determined that the white stripe was above a group of boulders on the slope, not the white area below the boulders. We took a hike on Jasper Trail and went off the trail looking for jaspers. There were several other people also hunting for gem rocks. They carried hammers and other tools. There were holes under big rocks or bushes which were evidences of treasure hunt. This area has been scouted by lots of visitors. There might not be many gem stones left. We just picked up rocks that caught our eyes. They were mainly red jaspers. I found a small half round rock that had a brown center. As novice rock hunters, we had no idea where to look for. Rattlesnakes were less active this time of the year. But we still need to take cautions. We had walking sticks with us to aid us hiking and also use them as defensive tools if needed.
We climbed half way up the slope, trying to figure out a path to the white stripe. But we didn’t see any obvious trail. The view of nearby Florida Mountains was magnificent. After a short break on a bench, I continued my hike up the hill and see where it led to. I ended up in a steep crevasse. There were different kinds of rocks laying around. I picked up some small black rocks and rocks with some characters. Cacti and bushes blocked my way going further up. I tucked the rocks in the back pockets of my jeans and returned. We later went to the visitor center and showed our rocks. The volunteer told us the black rocks were perlites. We were pleased with the collection of rocks from our first rock hunt and bought some chisels for the next trip.