With a hydration bag on my back packed with a hammer, chisels, water, a heavy plastic bag, chocolates, and two apples, walking sticks in our hands, we set out for another rock hunting day. We hiked on the rocky Little Florida Mountains towards the best digging spot – the white stripe above the boulders high up.
We walked among cacti, sotols, and other spiky desert plants. It didn’t take us long to walk half way up to a big flat boulder with a small juniper growing on it. Resting on the boulder, we enjoyed the view of the magnificent Florida Mountains. The mid morning sun in late fall started to put out some heat on the desert. We kept walking on the ridge of the slope following paths which seemed to be walked on. An elderly man was on the north side of the slope. Stephen greeted him. We climbed higher and got closer to the group of the boulders. A sign stood on the ridge marking the border line of the park. Then we didn’t see any trails along the ridge that could take us up to the boulders. The elderly man had climbed up to the crevasse I was yesterday. We saw a gap among the boulders. So we turned to north and fumbled our way towards the gap. There we climbed up the steep rocky hill and arrived at the white stripe!
Standing in front of the magic door to treasures, we had no idea how to knock it open. There were no magic words to open it. A large concave hole has been dug out on the rock wall by numerous rock hunters. The color of the rock wall was actually tan not white. Stephen started to dig the wall using the hammer. Nothing but crumbled rocks. After a while, I took over and hit the hammer on the hard wall. Small chips of rocks flew to my face, and dusts of rocks danced in the air. I was glad that my sunglasses protected my eyes. Should have a mask on. The pounding noise on the hard rocks were loud. The elderly man also climbed up here. He had a long wooden stick in his hand, wearing a hat and a backpack. We exchanged greetings. He then climbed further up a little bit.
It was noon and it was hot. We found a bush nearby and rest on the rocks in the shade. Up on the hill, the eldery man bent down searching for rocks with the long stick supported him. That gesture and the long stick seemed familiar. I thought he might be the one who were on rock hunting up high on the hill we saw from the binoculars yesterday. After a short break, we moved on to a different spot. There were big broken rocks laying on the ground by the rock wall. It was a light colored wall. Stephen started to dig. I looked through the broken rocks on the ground hoping to find some good ones. The broken rocks had layers of pure white minerals, and white semi transparent minerals in them. I found them pretty but had no idea what they were. Stephen also had no clue. I raised one rock and asked the elderly man up there. He came down and took the rock in his hand and observed it. He said it might be some kind of quartz and he liked rocks that could see through. Stephen said he could have that piece of rock. He then hammered the rock and took the part he wanted.
He was from Florida and has been on rock hunting for two years. As they chatted, I started to dig the wall. Part of the wall had a layer of ash covering black rocks. The black rocks were easily broken. I asked the elderly man what those black rocks were. He said they might be obsidian covered with volcanic ash. I noticed a dark stone on the other part of the wall. The wall was mostly volcanic ash. I used my chisel digging around that stone. To my surprise, a small brown nugget came loose intact onto my palm. It shaped like two hard balls connecting together. I handed it over to the elderly man and asked him about it. He observed it and told me he didn’t know what it might be, but it was heavy and there might be something in it. I liked the cute nugget and was very happy to dig something out of the wall. Then I searched around the ground again and found a bigger nugget. The two nuggets had similar characters with rounded bulges. They were keepers! It was getting hotter and we were hungry. Time to return. I couldn’t pass the broken rocks with white minerals. I thought they might be thunder eggs. So I packed a big hunk of the broken rock in my backpack. Gee, it was heavy!
We took the steep rocky hill down and then found a trail taking us heading to the big boulder on Thunder Egg trail. My knees were sore going downhill. But going down was much quicker. Soon we came back to our campground. “Would you like to take a look at my kyanites?” The elderly man asked. Although we were exhausted, we accepted his invitation. He had a van with three folding solar panels on top facing three directions. He brought out his collections of rocks from his van and put them on the picnic table. Wow! He had a small bag of kyanites.
He picked one piece up in front of his eyes and said, “You can see through them.” Then handed it to me.
“It is beautiful!” I uttered.
“Here are some kyanites for you!” He handed me some pieces of kyanites and a rock with kyanite in it.
“Thank you!” I said with a big smile.
He showed us black garnets he found. They were so pretty. Then he gave me a beautiful garnet. “Wow! Thank you so much!” I couldn’t believe the gifts I got.
There were different beautiful rocks in his box. I told him that one piece of stone looked like the stone that Chinese use to carve seals. He returned to his van and came back with something in his hand. He unwrapped a cloth and unveiled a light brown colored seal. There was a rabbit figurine on top of the seal and a Chinese character of rabbit on the side. He showed the bottom of the seal to us. It was carved in Chinese: “福” – fortune. I told him about it and said he had a lot of treasure. We went back to our camp site and rest in the afternoon.
Before evening, we walked to his camp site but he was not there. But we met him on our way back. I gave him a red Chinese sachet with “福” (fortune) on it. He took it out of the package and said it was beautiful. He was leaving the next day. We said farewell to him. He said, “Hope to see you on the road.” I hope he had a safe travel, a quiet and honest guy.
I took our rocks to the visitor center the next day and was told the two nuggets were thunder egg nodules. The pure white material in the big broken rock was opal. It might be worth to have it cut open and see what was inside. Later we went to the Geolapidary Museum Rock Shop nearby and met the white bearded man who donated three thousands rocks to the museum downtown. He confirmed that I had two thunder egg nodules. The broken rock was in the process of becoming a thunder egg but somehow it burst and failed. I left that big rock to him.
I feel that the fun of rock hunting is the experience along the way. We might be empty handed most of the time. But curiosity, discovery, learning, and the exploration of unknown might be the factors that propel people to go rock hunting.