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