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.”

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.

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,, 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

Charles Snider continues to post rockhound adventures through the rockhounding blog American Geode, at

Black Bear Sighting, Videos and Photos, 8-15-2020 near Cleveland, Georgia

Black Bear

Rockhounding and hiking near Cleveland, Georgia, and spotted this black bear. Believe this is the same bear we spotted the day prior. Noticed that he was wearing a collar, so assuming this black bear is tracked by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

For all the rockhounding adventures, please keep reading, and subscribe to the American Geode channel on Youtube,

Please share with everyone you know and can think of, and contact American Geode directly through

Rockhound Sites in Georgia

Native American Arrowhead

Rockhound sites in Georgia are plentiful and vast. American Geode is camped out near Dahlonega, Georgia (site of America’s first Gold Rush), for the next few months. American Geode will chronicle all the rockhound adventures, gem and mineral discoveries, and encounters with wildlife (including black bears).

Right now we are exploring the area around our new temporary home. The chiggers, the overgrowth, the mosquitoes, and the ground cover are fierce. We would like to try gold panning, will definitely look for unusual stone formations, and this is an area that should be rich in Native American points and arrowheads. The main photo of this blog is the single arrowhead discovered here a few years back by the property owner. So we have a lot going for us except after 3 trips, I have been able to take some great outdoors photographs, saw a black bear, and are covered in chigger bites.

Nearby by Helen, Georgia are at least two commercial gold panning operations. They have gift shops, outdoors area for panning through soil and sand, and look like great fun for a family. That is an option that would be less pest-infested for certain, but I remain hopeful that this property will offer a treasure. We are also looking into local clubs, but we expect they will be very limited and suspended in field trips, and likely conducting meetings over Zoom.

As always, if anyone has suggestions, comments, or feedback, please directly contact American Geode through the website,