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EFMLS Wildacres was an experience that Joe had heard about, but I had never heard of the place. He did not know much about EFMLS Wildacres either but anecdotal background from our friends at the Nassau Mineral Club and the Island Rockhounds. We did some research on Wildacres, got permission and week long passes from our respective girlfriends, and we were on a road trip!
The drive from New York City to EFMLS Wildacres can take a day, but if you plan a ahead, stay overnight in nearby Asheville, North Carolina and make a journey of it. We found a great bar scene, numerous local beers on tap, and varied menu at a pub and brewery called “Wicked Weed.” If we did not have to hit the road the following morning for EFMLS Wildacres, we’d have shut down the place.
Now the directions to EFMLS Wildacres may be confusing, as the location is remote, but once you find it, you exclaim to yourself “Wow! This place IS remote.” The grounds, the trails, the layout of the cabins makes the grounds very walkable, the temperature is mild, the humidity is low, and the air is clean.
Looking back on the week, the quality of the education makes you realize you paid a tenth of what others pay for the mineral and gemology education. Joe and I are both self-taught geologists, and rockhounds, so the week-long lectures by professional dealer Leonard Himes was perfect. From how to rockhound and find minerals, to how to clean your minerals, to tutorials on what equipment you can, and should, or should not buy, to what to do with your collection once it outgrows it space,,,,,this was a high-quality education that took into respect that we were amateurs, some advanced, but we were not professionals. I doubt anyone was bored by any topic.
Complementing this was the faceting class. Joe and I both spoke how we could not have been luckier to have the group we did all working independently, yet together on our respective citrines. In the end we crafted a finer stone than most found in retail stores, and for self-taught geologists/gemologists, we both left feeling like we had completed and passed a college course on gem-cutting.
The camaraderie was fun, warm, full of laughs, we were all in the same boat together for the week. From the chance to sell, buy, barter and trade with the fellow campers during a tailgate, to the auction of items donated by the group,,,,you left with as much as you gave away. Joe and I sold and donated our trademark geodes, and peridot from the Apache Mine. Feel free on your way to EFMLS Wildacres to stock up on spirits, or beer or wine if that’s your thing for while there is no bar there, the nearest place to buy wine or beer is a 30 minute drive. Feel free to have a glass after class, after you are done using lapidary equipment and saws.
The food was good, ranged from your chicken, beef or fish, something different each night plus an all-you-can-eat salad bar. The rooms were lodge style cabin rooms. Very nice to keep your window open at night, personal bathroom and shower, double beds were great for what little time you spent in your room.
The grounds, the lodges, the buildings are a rockhounds paradise. The dining hall has impressive gem and mineral display cases with gem and stone folk-art as well as museum quality and rare specimens.
The field trip to Mitchell County for thulite and garnet was well worth the trip, and based on what you found, could pay for the trip. Now on the way there our mini-van got stuck going up the hill to the mine site, and I ordered everyone to evacuate as I was going to go down with the boat of a mini-van, but our crew got out and pushed me up the hill. Unbeknownst to our fellow rockhounds that day, on our drive back we jumped out at different outcrops and banged away with our chisels and hammers for more unique gemstones and minerals from North Carolina.
The final day was a warm farewell with our friends at “rock camp,” and a new confidence in our talent, and knowledge, and experience in gemology, rockhounding, geology, identifying and appraising gems and minerals.
To close, if you are also self-taught geologist, gemologist or rockhound and would like a “crash course” then EFMLS Wildacres is the place for you. If you are seeking a vacation to relax, enjoy clever conversation and learn a new craft, or practice a lapidary hobby of yours with expert guidance, then EFMLS Wildacres is the place for you. I think we all appreciate the outdoors, the spring, and nature, and there is plenty of that at EFMLS Wildacres. Thank you to the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies (EFMLS) for sponsoring, and arranging this annual spring and fall retreat.