Sunday, December 28, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I was set for a week and temps were forecasted above mid-twenties with rain for the time. How exciting!
I took few photos on the hike to the mine, another steep mile from the parking area. The walk seems shorter every time I take it and the number of recognizable landmarks is growing. I reached the mine
And THOUGH Ive never found anyone at the area, my crystals had definitely been discovered, and taken, by another. Someone who had visited on a rainy weekday, prepared with some very heavy equipment and no remorse for the disgusting destruction of many feet of the crystal-bearing sandstone that was the wall. I would assume that it was the doing of one or a few of the indigens, but Ive never heard a local person reference Crystal Vista with anything but negative remarks.
I did manage to salvage a pair of hand-sized clusters from the spot. One has only a handful of very large, very clear points- the other is a crowded plate of smaller ones- over eight inches long! The latter assemblage is highlighted by a large, gemmy haystack of lustrous faces and flawless terminations which rest over a fourth of the piece. The jagged, angular pile is an extraordinary ornament that, to anyone's eyes, cannot subtract from the the crystals on which it lies.
The stunning rock grew surprisingly brilliant when I accidentally exposed it to the dimming sunlight that was able to make it through the pines and hardwoods in the shadowy, glade-like setting above the wall. A moment of confusion; I guess I'd been so totally preoccupied with the quartz and sandstone that I did not notice the Ouachita's transforming above and around me. The mountains and all of their colorful pines and rocks and balding trees were now my warm, magnificent environment. It all seemed so ordinary when I arrived only a couple of hours ago.
The rock seemed to glow- it burst into orange. All those gems that had decorated one flat side of my rock were cloudy and smudged with the same pleasant orange-color that defines the Crystal Mountain Range. The clusters were not all drab, as my paragon seemed to be; many crystals had gleaming faces and it was only after a moment of feckless disappointment that I realized my treasures were simply smeared with mud.
There was much more to be done for the wall; more debris and even a small, hopeful spot of virgin clay remained to be examined and worked. It was nearly dusk though, or at least it was heading that way. I wanted to descend in time to gather some wood- 'saw an old, dead pine across the gravel road from the parking area and my camp-to-be.
I gathered some things and an armful of my favorite finds and turned from the wall and the bright horizon behind it. The marbled, peach colored sky lost it's brilliance soon after I stepped off the other side of the mine area.
There is a trail, or a road that cuts off of the main trail to and from the mine- goes to the south up to one of the taller "false summits" of Gardner. Its been almost every visit to the mountain that Ive noticed the trail. The curious thing was probably the first landmark I became familiar with some two years ago. Ive never been up the trail, which climbs for a few hundred feet though an oak-rich section of the mountain before mysteriously disappearing behind the hill or maybe into nothing at all? Perhaps this is the trail that leads to the scenic view Ive read about. Its smothered in inches of crispy, brown leaves now, but there are no serious obstacles to stop anyone from using it. I took a more than brief moment to rest. Actually I just needed a moment to decide if the temptation was strong enough to overcome the bout of tire and laziness I seemed to be suffering from. And that it was; 'set my valuables gently on the bed of leaf-litter and committed with a single large step towards the highest point of the trail. I got up and the disappeared trail was in fact hiding on the far-side of the small peak. I was not committed to anything but the top of the trail and having reached my destination and satisfied that dire curiosity which prompted the side trip, I turned to find my camp. A "Clink, clink, clack.."
A soft, but definite sound rang from the basin to my left. I could not help but to identify the noise as that of a rock hammer. I heard it again and reinforced my assumption, though nothing stuck out from the woods when I skimmed over the vista. The main trail would travel in that direction.
I retrieved my rocks and pack and such and headed down the old mine's road. With the little bit of effort I put into locating the source of the clinking, I found nothing else.
The parking lot is a big open square- The edges are a dense forest and Crystal Vista is accessed by a trail that leads from the back of the lot, behind my truck now. It takes only moments for the black night to grow to that rural dark. The fire was bright and flashes and flickers of warm colors showed on the trunks of two close trees and reflected off of the surface of the light road on the other side of the flames from me.
Dusk was gone and the peaceful mountains were left to me. I constantly noticed the ebony sky and the unfamiliar dark wasted my confidence. Suddenly the horizon- the same one that became darkened first only three hours ago- began to glow. It was as powerful as a good city, but the light was white and not pink. I suspected the moon, but minutes passed and the glow seemed fixed. Had I not noticed it before? I spent a few minutes setting up the tent and moved on to heat up some unlabeled tin can that appeared to hold a soup. Smelled like chicken.
The small stove seemed to scream from the back of the truck- I know that it is not loud, but there is no other noise here to balance it 'cept for the purring fire which I have allowed to dim. The Moon popped over the ridge above me and lit up the parking lot like a disco ball. The white light shot through whatever branches it could and sprinkled the ground with all sorts of isolated blobs- The tops of the trees on the road-side of the lot were stuck and the light was no weaker than a good sunrise.The moon tonight is full, and is in the "perigee" extreme of it's orbit. It is genuinely larger and brighter than any other Full moon this year- just 221,560 miles away- a distance last achieved in '93, and will appear 14%larger and about 30% brighter than all others this year-
I had my chicken something; couldn't help but wonder what hungry bears or pigs were going to take advantage of my leftovers with tonight's bright moon. A bear was recently discovered on the far side of town. The moon got higher and I grew sleepy- 'found the tent and let the short puddle of embers take care of themselves.
It was several hours before even the moon was going to hit the horizon again and my chilly tent was laid down by a sudden, violent gust of wind. I woke up with the freak and only a light breeze
persisted- even this, though, was unusual considering the stillness that put me to sleep. Morning approached and the winds only grew stronger. No bears came and I watched for any signs of daylight. Winter solstice is just around the corner and the nights remain irritatingly long.
The dark again grew frustrating and I entertained myself with another fire. the ashes from last night were still hot enough to burn me.
Impatience got the best of me and I packed for the mountain. The fire died out and a bit of heavy sand and clay was enough to kill the risk of the wind carrying any burning material. I ascended with the earliest evidence of light; several times I doubted that the dimmest light was even that of the sun. Passed the old trail that I explored yesterday; Felt a sort of satisfaction when I saw it and knew what was on the other side of the small hill.
The ground in the sandy areas on the trail and mine- once you near the top of the hill- glitters with tiny points and shards left by the commercial era of the mine. Until the area got some significant light, I spent my time gathering jars and baggies of the smallest points. Perfection is easier to find in the miniatures; the few minutes I spent here produced fine examples of all sorts of clusters and 'singles'; wands, tabbies, haystacks all are clear and magnificent. I collected handfuls of them- what I choose not to keep will surely make an appreciated gift for folks not lucky enough to experience the mountain for themselves. Serious collectors dont seem to find the tiny ones worth while, but hobbyists like myself and jewelry makers back in the city especially value them.
I fiddled around with the old tailings piles that have been set around the edges of the mine and continued on to the orange-pink wall that I dug on yesterday. Sunrise ensued and a creamy, yellow band ran the length of the eastern horizon until the sky turned all-grey. A miserably cloudy morning seemed like it was here for a while.
The ground was cold, and the air-surprisingly warm. Perhaps its the wind that brought the warmth- it wasnt like this before a breeze picked up. The rocks felt cold- the mud wasnt pleasant, either. Thank 'clink-ing" noise that I noticed yesterday was back- it flew over me with a small, round silhouette. It looked similar to a nuthatch- shared that awkward, jerky flight.
Fortunately, whatever unrepentant group of rockhounds robbed my spot was not the most observant... I cleared the thin ledge of the last exploded debris from the heist and probed deeper into the buried mass of greasy red clay- another pocket!
The filled hole was small- slimy clay dug out with only a few scoops of my hand. I took the loose crystals that were in each handful of material until I'd emptied the sharp cavity. Unlike the two larger crystal-caves that sat on top of it a week ago, this one had no floor. Its walls widened and then tapered so that it sat vertical and oblong. The patches of smaller points on every side of it seemed not worth tearing it apart. Not for the effort, though, but for the sake of the growing crevasse itself. I filled the thing with the finest dark clay that I removed from it, minus the treasures- maybe this one will keep growing? I covered up some other damaged areas below the fall and said my goodbyes- the one covey-hole has given my crystals for two years. Ive spent days on it and shed many red pints for it's wealth. How lucky am I to have discovered such a thing!?
Another few hours blew by with the intense wind. It was cool, almost cold now and strong enough to sway the small pry-bar on my waist- make my eyes water.
My pack to grew to a satisfying weight and I had to give the grown, 4-acre clearing a last look before I bid the mountain goodbye. Ive taken a lot from it- almost twenty pounds just this trip.
I caught up to the pavement and waved to the small mule-gator vehicle that can always be found on this stretch of the road with it's two red-capped passengers. The driver waved back; he took a good look at me, too. He removed the scarf from his eyes and gave a long glance- Im sure he recognises the truck by now.
A dogleg to the left and I was rolling down a long, rough driveway. I pulled up on the road above the construction area and called "Matt" from a number posted next to an old oak. A woman answered and instructed me to pull into the mine area and find matt's red pickup.
The remaining portion of my excursion was well-spent with a day-trip to the kimberlite near Murfreesboro on a diamond hunt, a quick stop at Larry's crystal shop for instruction and a nerve-racking race with a nasty line of Missouri's best storms !
Kimberley's rainy Kimberlite, a huge vertical pipe of volcanic upchuck, was formed with it's diamonds about 100M years ago. The greenish-grey material that is currently mined within the state park is estimated to be about one-third the age of the surrounding Ouchitas. Diamonds were first discovered by the man who farmed the land in 1906 and were made available to tourists after a few failed commercial attempts before the 1950's. On a wintry day like my visit, the mine is occupied by a portion of the most enthusiastic local crowd. Part-time miners operate their arsenals of equipment in an almost business-like manner. Most people seem to keep to themselves; they will sell their finds through some of the local shops by consignment.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
At Parkville, not too far upstream of kansas city, this means that all of my favorite sandbars have a fresh stock of trash and treasures piled where nobody else has looked!
To find the spot, head to parkville and hang a left. At the river, in between some farm-land and a baseball field you can park. Here, you are on the channelized side of the water and a worthy sandbar requires only about a mile's walk upstream on the fenced-off dirt road. There are plenty, but even now, at 7.7ft, many of the gravel bars are submerged.
I found the ordinary- tires, the four-wheeler, a scummy boot and a surplus of plastic bottles. Among my finds, however, were several interesting and even beautiful things. (this is the treasures-part of the river!)
Five and a Half little mushroom heads sat on a soggy piece of driftwood. They resembled some rusty-coloured oyster mushrooms and they didnt smell too bad. I took none.
A dead gar- slender and pointed with teeth that belong in a nightmare. The creature certainly has it's place near the top of the food chain! A pair of whatever that colourful stone is that is common almost everywhere downstream of here- fire opal? Carnelian? Agate? One is definitely a fiery-red and the other is more of an amber-colour; both of today's stones are fairly translucent.
There was (still is!) a beautiful old wine bottle that has been polished gently there on the nearest sandbar. The aqua-blue glass stands tall with a very long, thin neck and a bulky base. no date or any kind of markings that would give any clues to its origins, but the thing should be interesting and pretty nonetheless. For a further look into our rivers' history, it would be easy enough to dig up some old bones or pottery. Most of the skulls, ribs or vertebrae you'll find on these greasy beaches have been dyed a nice red, similar to the colour of the mushrooms, by the clays that they have been fossilizing in. Some of them may have been brought south by the last bout of glaciers- most died here near the river during the last ice age. Whatever creatures they belong to lived and traveled along the protective river here, where the ice was the furthest south it would be. I see alot of bison and deer, and even some bones that came from a mammal much larger. One thoratic vertebra here at the water's edge on the second sandbar measured over two feet!
Pottery is white, glazed or brown clay decorated with whatever markings and patterns it's modern culture thought fit to put on it. Today's nicest find, a hand-sized hunk of clay pottery has primitive bands of geometric patterns etched into it. Handfuls of cracked and shattered cups and dishes litter the bed where the gravel is most coarse. Much of it displays an english-looking blue pattern of complex, rounded vines and leaves, birds, people and trees.
I am surprized and disappointed at the complete lack of any waterfowl or even an eagle on my several visits to the river this week!
The banks of the missouri are covered in honeysuckle, garlic mustard and impermeable surfaces- here, anyway. The whatever-plant across the river spews gallons of dirty, steaming water where the fish like to stay. A big pipe drools an unpleasant tan syrup not too far upstream from the city's park and all sorts and kinds of joggers and walkers and runners enjoy their scenic rip-rap for miles of trails and river.