Graves Mountain, a Rockhound’s Mecca

Graves Mountain

Field Trip to Graves Mountain on Friday, January 29,

This was my first field trip, and outdoors adventure since hernia operation exactly one month earlier, and my first trip to famous Graves Mountain, so I had my gear, tools, and clothes laid out for at least a week prior. I had to take the day off of work too, so this was a special day.

Graves Mountain is the site of an old mining operation, like so many rockhound locales, and in this case Tiffany’s back in the Roaring 20’s was mining for Rutile. Rutile is an industrial semi-precious gemstone used to polish diamonds. Again, like so many mining operations it changed hands, owners, there were lawsuits, etc. and so on. In addition to Rutile, the area was mined for Kyanite for industrial purposes. As of 2021, the site is privately managed, and opened occasionally to clubs and private excursions, so I was able to visit this famous site through my membership with the Georgia Mineral Society.

The directions that Juergen Poppelreuter, one of the trip leaders, provided were perfect. I actually arrived 20 minutes before assigned arrival, and I was not the first! People were excited!

After the safety talk, we embarked on the march to the pits. There is a main, very large pit, the primary pit, and then another pit, that I believe is split in two, that is higher up the mountain. The march is not too difficult but for future rockhounds, I suggest backpack, sturdy garden wagon, or if no wagon, then some kind of trolley because, whichever pit you choose, the walk from the parking lot is about 15 minutes.

The minerals you are hunting for are primarily rutile, kyanite, lazulite, pyrophyllite, and iridescent hematite. From socially distanced conversations with the other rockhound, the iridescent hematite and rutile were arguably the most desirable, and the rutile the most elusive.

Something that is essential to bring with you is a camera, a real camera if you can pack one because the landscape, the mountain-scape is impressive. Before I got to the pit I took many photos of the landscape as we were luck to have a bright and sunny day. As this site is private and off-limits otherwise, I took full advantage of the chance to photograph this famous rockhound locale.

The style of rockhound here is primarily sifting through the overflow and fallen boulders and surface hunting. The walls are almost impenetrable without power tools, and signs mark the clear risk of being near the wall and below the cliffs. So you move from area to area cracking open larger pieces in search of minerals, and you also keep a close eye on the ground for any crystals or minerals that have washed or eroded out, or perhaps fallen out of someone else’s loot.

Personally, I believe you can only spend a day in one area, in order to substantially mine, rockhound, and collect. The are is simply bigger than a football field. I spent my day in the primary, main pit.

I was able to find some great blue kyanite, some very heavily oxidized kyanite that I will work to clean up, and one decent example of the iridescent hematite. There is a lot of quartz if you are interested in quartz! Quartz is the Georgia State Mineral, and it is very plentiful at Graves Mountain.

If you tumble rocks, the quartz and quartz composite pieces that are all over would supply you with plenty of tumbling material. I did not opt for quartz as my residence is full of it inside, outside, and we have quartz a plenty near us as we live in North Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.

A rule that I strive to always follow when rockhounding, is collect, mine, and gather a lifetime’s supply for yourself. No matter what assurance you give yourself that you will come back to a locale one day, it seems like life easily gets in the way, and you regret not collecting more. So, when you go to Graves Mountain, bring plenty of tote bags, boxes, your cart or trolley, and make sure the shocks on your car are in good order.

The tools required are pretty standard, sledge hammers, crowbars, picks, bags, water, sunscreen, and snacks. While you can go to and from your car, as I described earlier, it is not the easiest walk, and could be 1/8th of a mile or so, so plan on spending the day, with breaks, and be prepared. Last point on preparation, there are no bathrooms or facilities of any sort, so plan accordingly.

I have been cleaning up my kyanite, and it is a much more vibrant shade of blue than I expected. The dark kyanite is cool, but I do not see it cleaning up as well. I am happy with my iridescent, but I wish I was bringing home a coffee table sized specimen. I did not find any rutile, but in passing conversation with other rockhounds there that day, some smallish crystals were found.

So, like all rockhounding trips, even if you do not find a specimen worthy of contacting the people at National Geographic, the day was full of fresh air, exercise, fellowship, and adventure. I look forward to my next visit to Graves Mountain, to one of the other pits! More pictures from Graves Mountain, and other rockhounding tips, tricks, advice, and locations can be found on my blog if you Google “American Geode Blog.”

The Unexpected Joy of Rock Tumbling

In August 2020 I was presented with the opportunity to move temporarily from New York to a cabin in the mountains of North Georgia. While very reluctant to leave New York, under the COVID limitations, and my work being 100% online, I thought why not accept this once in a lifetime opportunity.

We drove to Georgia with a stop first in Chester, Massachusetts where I had the chance to rockhound near the old emery mines of Chester. That is the topic of another writing. Then, we got to North Georgia, and I was in rockhound paradise. I wasted little time to start hiking, exploring, and rockhounding along the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Cleveland, Georgia.

The Georgia State Mineral is Quartz, and there is plenty of it around. The cabin is also situated near a stream, full of rocks and stones, and possibly artifacts too. So, for weeks I was rockhounding and collecting fine quartz specimens, and panning for gold and gemstones in the creek. It was a great way to spend each weekend.

Then I suffered some pain one day, and went to the doctor who informed me that I had a hernia and it required surgery! After repeated, “you’ve got to be kidding me, I accepted the planned surgery, and also started to plan on what I would do while recovering indoors, resting and relaxing. That is when I thought why not try rock tumbling? I have a creek nearby, a lifetime supply of rocks and stones, so while I can not be our working on my mineral collection, let some work be done FOR ME, by a new rock tumbler!

So, I started to shop around, and researched and read reviews of various tumblers. There are two types of tumblers, the small kiddy ones and then the larger PVC Piping for the Barrel industrial types. There is a price difference between them of course, but the time is the same. If you have a small rock tumbler, or a large rock tumbler, each project takes a month. So, my thinking was, I have a lifetime supply of rocks right now, and I would like to try larger rocks, around size of my fist, so I will opt for the larger tumbler.

I ordered one large tumbler off the internet that is very popular on eBay, Amazon, and other online marketplaces. I was large, with a 20 lb. barrel. It arrived however, and it requires assembly. The problem with this one, and I would guess this is not uncommon, is that each piece must fit together PERFECTLY and EXACTLY right. On mine there was a steel peg that was just a few millimeters too long and it would not allow the motor to attached straight. I did not have a metal saw and would not want to pretend I could fix it either. The problem, I believe, with this popular large rock tumbler is that, since you have to construct it yourself, each piece must for perfectly together, and if it does not, you do not have any spare or extra parts. So, I can not recommend the large tumblers that require self-assembly. Even if all the pieces did fit, I am not sure I trust myself to know what needs to be fully tightened, what needs to be lubricated, and what to expect for maintenance. I returned that tumbler for a refund.

The next tumbler I bought was from a small business that mostly sells through their website. I was also a 20 lb. barrel, so suitable for larger stones. When it arrived, I was delighted to see if consisted of a base with the motor in place, and the base had two horizontal rods that would rotate. Then it had a large 20 lb. barrel made of steel with a lid. That was it!  You fill the barrel with stones, water, and the grit, secure the lid, place it on the rods and plug it in. The rods start working and the barrel starts rolling. The tumbler also had explicit directions on the manual, and written on the tumbler itself. It does require lubrication every single day, and the bolts need to be tightened monthly. That has proven very easy to accommodate. Once a day I check on it, unplug it, add the lubrication, and then plug it back in.

For the stones I have chosen, it’s been a mixture of quartz and schist from the creek, and I am tumbling stones 2-3 inches across. You change the grit every 7 days, for a total of 4 weeks. Each stage has finer and finer grit to achieve a polished look. I have been delighted to see the stones at every stage. Probably the first stage completion, the rough grit to bring out the potential of what looked otherwise like very uninteresting rocks, was the most exciting. The quartz is looking brilliant too. This is also a fantastic way to improve, polish, and have fun with the minerals you collect that are not natural display specimens. If something had a fine point, or was a beautiful crystal, or mixture of minerals on matrix, I would clean it to display it. But every other sort of interesting rock you pick up, that is not so interesting when you get home and clean up your loot, are PERFECT for rock tumbling.

As I write this, I am just beginning stage 4, week 4, the polishing stage. Below are photos of how it started, and how this rock tumbling project is coming along. I am also in week 4 of recovery from my hernia surgery, and hopeful to be more active in February.

If you have the place for a rock tumbler, they can be noisy, and the time to check on it once a day, and also keep it running 24 hours a day, it’s a great complement to your rockhounding hobby. If you have rocks from past excursions, that are not on display, tumble them! If you have stones that are not as shiny or pretty as you wish, tumble them!

I love rock tumbling, and even when I am better, I plan to keep tumbling various stones from my collection, and consider how much you can tumble during the winter months, when you are not going out anyway!

If anyone has specific questions about the rock tumblers I tested and researched, or the tumbler I use, please contact me through “Contact Us” on www.americangeode.com.

I have been posting videos of the rockhounding adventures in Georgia, and the discoveries can be found by searching in YouTube for “Crystal Discovery at NEW and UNUSUAL North Georgia Site.”

Indian Trail Trees or Trail Marker Trees

Indian Trail Tree

Indian Trail Trees or Indian Trail Marker Trees were not what American Geode was hunting in the woods of North Georgia. We did find a very interesting tree however, and we believe it is an Indian Trail Tree or Indian Trail Marker Tree.

It does point in the direction of a fresh water stream that we had discovered earlier so it’s a neat “street sign” that would point one to water, which would be matter of life or death in these unforgiving woods of North Georgia.

We welcome your thoughts though, please email American Geode directly with your insight. http://www.americangeode.com

Indian Trail Tree
Indian Trail Tree
Indian Trail Tree
Indian Trail Tree
Indian Trail Tree
Indian Trail Tree
Indian Trail Tree
Indian Trail Tree

Many Reasons to Join the Northeast Georgia Mineral Society

Northeast Georgia Mineral Society

Early August of this year, the opportunity to leave New York temporarily presented itself. I had been committed to supporting New York through the COVID crisis, and had adapted to a professional and personal life that mostly took place over Zoom, while praying for the safety of fellow New Yorkers and family. However, the chance to stay in a cabin in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, with the Chattahoochee National Forest outside the cabin door, was pretty compelling. So after taking a detour north to Chester, Massachusetts, for a job, and the chance to rockhound near the abandoned emery mines of Chester (another story), my better half and I moved to a cabin outside of Cleveland, Georgia.

                One of the very first things I did, after registering to vote, was to contact the nearest gem and mineral club. I found the Northeast Georgia Mineral Society, https://www.negms.org/, and sent an email to the President announcing my desire to find out what they were doing, and then I waited. I did not have to wait long before Claudia Barton, President of the club reached out to me over the phone for introductions. She invited me to the next meeting, that take place the first Thursdays of every month, reminded me to wear a mask and that the meeting, while in person, would be socially distanced, and to expect a meeting that starts on time and includes announcements, a lecture, a raffle, social chit chat, Eastern Federation news, and a meeting that would end on time. All of that proved accurate!

                The club is very supportive of each other. Presently some members are in the hospital, and each meeting includes an update on their progress, and a way to send a card or message. We are very lucky that Joe Cooper, the Eastern Federation Region 7 Vice President is one of our members, as well as our Field Trip Coordinator. Joe always share any news, updates, matters from the Eastern Federation, and as the club’s Field Trip Coordinator, has arranged some field trips that are a rockhound’s DREAM!

                My real-life job is in antiques and fine art. In the 18th century, people of means would visit the finest cities of Europe, seeing the sites and collecting souvenirs (now quite valuable antiques and works of art) along the way. This trip to see the finest cities of Europe was known as the Grand Tour. Well, our Field Trip Coordinator Joe Cooper arranged a rockhound trip that I immediately started referring to as the “Grand Tour of Rockhounding!” Joe, club members Robin and Jennifer Findley, and members of another Georgia club visited the finest mines of Arkansas, the 2 different Coleman Mines, and another near Mount Ida to collector minerals and crystals, and what impressed me most was that They Took a U-HAUL! While I was not able to attend this field trip, at the November meeting they showed off a fraction of their finds, and they were so good, personally, I would have preferred an armed guard to accompany them to and from their cars! So, the club likes to arrange rockhound field trips, and as another member of the club shared with me, “in this part of Georgia alone, you can find just about every North American mineral.” I am personally indebted to Joe Cooper as well because, as (due to work projects) I could not attend the Grand Tour of the Finest Mines of Arkansas trip, I was eager and anxious to get out in the field and rockhound. Joe was kind enough to share a local site with me for quartz crystals, and while it took me 3-4 phone calls to Joe , including Facetime visuals of where I was so Joe could guide me, I found the unusual, small quartz vein exposure, and was able to accomplish some rockhounding on my own.

                Another leader of the club is Richard Walter, who, in addition to giving great lectures (I have only heard Richard speak once, but I consider myself a tough critic of public speaking), is also the club’s newsletter editor and Recorder and Secretary. Richard puts together monthly a newsletter that I really enjoy because he includes detailed notes from the previous month’s lecture. That is so valuable as we do not always have pen and paper with us to take notes at a meeting, and there are always nuggets of gem and mineral information one wants to research independently. As well, like a paparazzi, Richard is able to catch some photographs of the meetings that add great context to his descriptions. Not every member of the club uses email on a regular enough basis to rely solely on an electronic newsletter, so I find Richard’s commitment to mailing the newsletter to those members very commendable. Richard was the speaker at the first meeting I attended. The topic was “The Lazurite Minerals,” and from Richard’s very welcoming style of speaking, to the specimens he had to pass around, to the interactive aspect of his talk, I was very impressed, and when I came home that night I said to my better half, “I just heard a lecture about lazurite and sodalite minerals that I would have paid $50 to see!” It was just that good a lecture, and I don’t think it was meant to just impress me.

                Other leaders in the club I have met include Robin and Jennifer Findlay, who have held various board roles. At the last meeting I attended in November they shared a fraction of their finds from the “Grand Tour” of Arkansas Mines that I can not stop talking about. They brought back museum worthy specimens, admitted they will be cleaning crystals for “at least a decade,” and shared stories comparing and contrasting one mine to the other. As someone new to the area, that was a very valuable part of their November talk. We all have limited time, and with the investment in time required by any rockhound trip, knowing where to go is invaluable. Robin and Jennifer have also both been responsible for the club’s messaging outside the monthly newsletter, so I welcome all of their emails to my inbox.

                There are many other members I have not met yet, but I hear very good things about them, and look forward to 2021 when we can all assemble together in fellowship and celebration. COVID has kept the meetings to a minimum, albeit responsible group, and, coming from New York, the tragic epicenter of COVID, I was very comfortable, grateful, and thankful for the COVID safety measures I found at the Northeast Georgia Mineral Society.

                In summary, the club President, Claudia Barton, leads a club that I have found educational, interesting, friendly, and welcoming. Keep in mind I come with a very high bar of excellence having been a member for many years of the New York Mineralogical Club led by the late Mitch Portnoy, a friend whom I miss, and also as a member of the Island Rockhounds, led by Janice Kowalski, and by Cheryl Neary, both dear friends of mine whom I love hanging out with and also miss.

                I recommend a membership to the If any members of the Eastern Federation, or the AFMS, have plans in 2021 to visit Georgia, whether that be a business trip to Atlanta, or for a holiday to North Georgia for hiking or rockhounding, please get in touch with the North Georgia Mineral Society. You will find you have friends there, as I discovered.

Join the Northeast Georgia Mineral Society, and find fellowship, field trip opportunities, and gain gem and mineral knowledge at https://www.negms.org/

Charles Snider continues to post rockhound adventures through the rockhounding blog American Geode, at http://www.americangeode.com

NEW and UNUSUAL Crystal Local Discovery in North Georgia

We heard from a new friend here in North Georgia about a location near Toccoa, Georgia that may have crystals. With a vague description of the locale, the outcrop and the erosion that exposes the crystals, I set off on a Sunday morning drive to a remote area in North Georgia.

At first I spent two hours scanning and scouring the eroded outcrop along the side of an unmarked gravel road. I found a lovely creek, some giant old trees, and was in the secluded peaceful woods of North Georgia. I gave up, got back in my truck and left. After about a quarter mile down the main road, I saw another unmarked gravel road, and quickly turned down it.

After slowly spanning the outcrop, scanning for crystals, scanning for anything, I found it. I saw crystals splattered among an eroded hill and outcrop on the side of this road.

The hills and raised earth and outcrops were along the ENTIRETY of this road, but in one specific area for about 20 feet, I found crystals and quartz points.

From examining the locale, and how tight the area was with crystals, I believe this was once a quartz vein that the geographic and geologic activity caused to “uproot” and almost “explode.” This is in the area near the North Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains, so very likely the geologic events that gave us the mountains of North Georgia, also brought this quartz vein to the surface.

From nearly a decade of rockhounding, American Geode knows when a site has been discovered, and picked over, and this locale was pristine, virgin, and untouched. We could find no description of a site like this on any other mineral and rockhounding website. American Geode believes this is a NEW and UNUSUAL quartz location in North Georgia. We took plenty of pictures and filmed two videos of this special quartz crystal site.

American Geode always welcomes insight and advice about the minerals we have found. Please contact American Geode with your comments.