Saturday, March 8, 2008

"Rock Hounding" Trip to McCain Valley

"School Mineshaft" -- McCain Valley

T on the mountain finding garnets -- McCain Valley

T with Hank and the Rock Hounders, showing the gem-quality garnet he'd discovered -- McCain Valley

Way too early this Saturday morning, T and I set out to meet the Rock Hounders in front of the town library in order to caravan out to McCain Valley, north of Boulevard (about 30 minutes east of our town). After a wrong turning that took all ten vehicles into off-roading conditions (I was driving a minivan, so this was NOT fun!) and several miles on rather rough abnd rocky dirt roads, we arrived at the site Hank, our fearless octogenarian leader, had known as a younger man. Years and years ago he had discovered huge garnets on the side of one mountain (the one above), clear quartz crystals behind the small mineshaft, and long shafts of deeply-hued tourmaline in several locations. As T went off with Hank and other people in thr group, I settled into a beach chair and did some Bible study. Two hours later he returned, his pockets and canvas bag filled with moonstone, feldspar, mica, one gem-quality garnet almost 1/4 inch in diameter, a nearly-crystallized quartz, one good-sized tourmaline, and a few other beauties.

T has always been a rock hound; I have quite a collection of his precious "finds" on the shelf above my desk. He has discovered and identified all kinds of interesting rocks in our yard and in the meadow behind our home. On our road trip in late 2006, T was thrilled when we spent an afternoon digging trylobites (fossilized beetle-like animals) in the middle of Utah. So today my near-teenager was in his element, tapping open dull rocks and finding treasures inside, tailing Hank, the resident expert as they discovered quartz and feldspar, eating lunch with the gang while discussing different rocks, and hearing Hank's tale of his school building the mineshaft 80-some years ago. I enjoyed sitting in my chair and reading with the breeze blowing and the early-spring green of the usually brown mountains surrounding me, content to sit and wait while T enjoyed soaking in rock lore and identifications as well as adding a few new specimens to his collection.

After three hours on the site, we all drove half a mile further down the dirt road -- rather rough and rocky in places -- to the lookout over the old San Diego-Yuma railway with its tunnels through the rocky cliffs, and the Salton Sea glimmering far in the distance. Soon we were on the way home, back along the rough dirt road ill-suited for a minivan; I definitely breathed a sign of relief when we reached paved roads again! T and I drove back to our little valley, taking the scenic route of Old Highway 80 rather than jumping on the freeway. We meandered through Boulevard, Live Oak Springs, Posita (I think), and other worn and wispy settlements that feel distinctly ghost-townish since the big freeway came through and these small towns were no longer directly on the most southern route to the California-Arizona border.

It was wonderful to spend alone-time with my eldest son, to hear him chatter away and share his thoughts. He'll be thirteen later this month, and he's fewer than three inches shorter than I am. He's swiftly growing into a young man, so making a memory today was well-worth the loss of my usual habit of sleeping late on a Saturday morning.

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