Friday, February 26, 2010

Here's a new resource for every Rockhound ...

Now, I know that there are tons of Rockhounding sites out here on the Net. Still,  I haven't seen one that really acts as not only a place to post Field Trip reports, but a place to organize and communicate with others wishing to plan and execute great field trips.

So, I went out and started Rockhound Field Trip Fanatics! This Ning site has every tool that you need to communicate, coordinate and promote your Field Trip, or post your Trip reports, pictures and videos.
There are forums, event announcements and personal pages.
Perhaps the most useful feature is the "Groups" feature, which allows Members to post messages by specific categories of interest, directly to those who share that interest.

I've already posted some pics and the Little Panoche Field Trip, so go take a look, get connected and start sharing our hobby with everyone we can!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Re: The Panoche Field Trip and the Weather ...

    We will definitely be going on this trip, rain or shine! We have folks coming from all over the state and it's one of those sandy, flat land sites that yields material the moment you open your car door. (Well, ok ... you might have to walk 10 yards ... )

Go ahead and zoom the Google Map for the site in all of the way, and you'll get a street level view of the site. It's one of that rare breed, a truly productive surface site that has been completely overlooked, as far as we can tell.

When you reach the correct offramp (Shields Ave. / J-1 / Little Panoche Road ) you'll see a 4 foot sign that says "Rocks!" with an arrow pointing the way.

If you're in need of a place to RV camp, or a good motel, or food, or a market or ...
Well, CIVILIZATION... be sure to check out my Tumey Hills/ Panoche Road Google Map.
It's only about 1/2 hour south of the Little Panoche collecting site.

So, bring along your rain ponchos, and if you have one, a folding picnic shelter. Remember your folding camp chairs, too. The weather forecast is for partly cloudy, and the site is lush & green, and dust free!
It's truly the best time of year to visit, the wildflowers are lovely!

We look forward to meeting you, and seeing what you bring to swap!

Be Well!
 P.S: If you're attending and need my phone number for "just in case," feel free to drop me an email at         

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Best directions for the Little Panoche Field Trip!

Mark, Glen (a new friend from F.G.M.S.) and I went out to Little Panoche yesterday, and after walking the entire area, it looks even better than we'd thought! We found cutting material that made our eyes pop out, and there's plenty for everyone!

We also found that, if you're coming out from Fresno, the fastest way to get there is to head north across the San Joaquin River on Hwy 99, and take the Ave. 7 exit. Head west on Ave 7, and keep going west until you reach Ave 7 1/2 ("Firebaugh Blvd.") which becomes 13th St as you cross the bridge & enter Firebaugh.
Once you're in Firebaugh, go past the 2 stop signs with the blinking lights, and take a right turn at N St, and a left turn one block north at 12th St. Stay on this road as it becomes W. Nees, then head south on I-5. You'll want to exit at Shields Ave., where you'll see the big white sign that says "ROCKS!" Go west from there.

If you're coming from the South Valley, take your favorite way of getting to I-5. From Kerman, take Hwy. 180 west to Mendota, then go west on Shields Ave. Kepp going west, you'll get there!

If you're not certain what kind of tools and other "stuff" to bring,, be sure to look at the left bottom of my Blog page to find my Tool list. Be sure to bring "swap" rocks, slabs and other cools stuff to share with the many (20+!) rockhounds who're planning to attend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Field Trip Fever!

Well, dear friends, it's almost ... well, okay, so it just seems like it's Spring!
The flowers and hay fever are blooming, the grape vines have decided to start budding, and the Water Wars are heating up for another growing season.

And, so soon after Valentines Day, the rockhounds heart feels the warmth of the Sun, and turns to thoughts of Field Trips! So, lets talk details!

Yes, I know that you know about the "Going Home From Tucson" Field Trip, scheduled for Saturday, February 27th. This was originally planned for the benefit of Rockhounds@drizzle e-list members who're attending the winterr gem shows, but has greatly expanded since I hooked up with the Fresno Gem & Mineral Society. At this date, it looks like we should have at least 20 folks on this Field Trip to the Little Panoche Reservoir site.

I'll be out at the I-5 & J-1/Little Panoche road off ramp by 9 am to put up signs for the directionally challenged. Be sure to take a good look at the Google Maps link, and remember that the site is 3 miles west of I-5, on the north side of J-1. If you reach the power lines, you've gone too far.

If you're coming from Fresno, you've got lots of choices for lunch. If you're coming from the south on I-5, the closest stop is at the Panoche Road/I-5 off ramp, with fast food & sit-down dining opportunities, and a good motel. Coming from the north, Santa Nella, Los Banos, and the Nee's/Firebaugh exit from I-5 feature lots of food & lodging choices. The Chevron at Nee's has a good Subway's inside, and friendly service.

The materials to be collected at this site are a grab bag of California favorites, with jasper/agate, chert, fossils, jade, serpentine and many more identifiable and "mystery" materials.

A high silica serpentine (I think!) with hematite inclusions

A high silica ironstone concretion ... Takes a mean polish!

We will be out at the site just about 9am, and will stay there 'til at least 1:30. Be sure and bring water & lunch, and extra snackables. There is a larger parking area and porta-potties 5 minutes further west on J-1, at the Little Panoche Dam. If Mark & I see enough enthusiastic folks who can't get enough great cutting material, visiting additional sites that day is a possibility.

If you plan to attend, please make sure that I know, so I can bring along a special "surprise" for you! Also, be sure to bring along stuff to "swap," especially if you're coming from "away's." Remember, what you think is pedestrian may be another rockhound's treasure, and vice versa!

FYI, this is not an official Club, Society or Federation event. All attendees do so at their own risk, and will be asked to sign a "Waiver of Liability." The conditions at this site are as safe as most roadsides in western Fresno County, so this is just a formality to cover our as*es.

In March, we're planning a multi-day Field Trip to the Mojave Desert, with from the 26th through the 29th. We'll be basing ourselves in Barstow, at the Motel 6, but would welcome adventurous souls with RV's who want to camp "onsite." Lavic is great for this, if you don't mind the trains!

Collecting certainties so far are the Lavic jasper/agate area & the Sierra Pelona Travertine Claim.
Other possibilities are Opal Mountain, Kramer's Junction, Castle Butte, and Chambliss. Acton Canyon, Cadiz and many other sites are easily accessible from Barstow, as is Calico Ghost Town.

View Directions to Lavic, California in a larger map

If you can attend for at least one day, please let us know ASAP, to aid in coordinating the trip. We'd like to get together with as many rockhounds as possible, and do a little cleanup at the collecting areas, to be reported to the BLM.
We all need to make as much of a statement about keeping the Mojave accessible for rockhounding as we possibly can, since many "Environmentalists" would like to shut us off of these "public" lands.

If you have a trip going on, or one to propose, don't hesitate to contact me. I'll gladly help to plan or promote Field Trips, or tag along!

'Til next post ... KEEP ROCKIN'!


Thursday, January 28, 2010

More from the "You never know what you might find" file ...

To "whet your whistle" for the upcoming Field Trip to the Little Panoche Reservoir site here are some more pics!

First, some from my Field Partner, Mark:

A fine, brecciated "jasp-agate" fom the Panoche Hills

Another fine "jasp-agate" with incredible "plumes!"

A "poppy" jasper of the "Morgan Hill" variety,
collected in the Panoche Hills of Fresno County!

I recently joined the Fresno Gem & Mineral Society, and had the chance to cut and show around the "jello salad" jasper that was recently collected at the Little Panoche Reservoir site that was ferreted out by my partner Mark. He'd been looking around with Google Maps and got that old "feeling" about the area, so we went there on a day long trip in December.

Different light sources were used for each photo

Here are some pics of the pre-polished slab, complete with saw marks still intact! Yes, I WILL be polishing them out, I'm simply in a long established process of "learning the stone."

So far, there are marked variations in hardness between the darkest green areas and the largest quartz "stringers." There's a tendency to undercut, and the polish was "metallic" with tin oxide.
I expect that cerium oxide, or possibly high mesh diamond will give a mirror polish and stop the undercutting.

Will the fractures prove to be a problem or a "feature?"
Stay tuned!

As with any "new" material, there's a learning curve. I tell student lapidaries that they have to learn that most dreaded of all virtues ... PATIENCE!
I explain that, if they take the time to learn what each new material is trying to teach them, rather than simply "bullying" the stone, they'll save trouble, sweat, blood (literally!) and most importantly, valuable material.
You never know, especially in the case of alluvial materials, whether you'll ever find a comparable piece. So, to end my lecture, I say simply; Treat every stone as "precious."

My other advice for today? Plan to attend the February 27th Field trip! Email me for more info!

Friday, January 15, 2010

From the "You never know what you might find" file ...

Recently, my Field Partner, Mark, called me up and said, "Hey, lets go out to the West Side for a whole day!" He was in the middle of a 2 week vacation, enjoying his rest, his family, and his new lapidary equipment.
Of course, this suggestion was like spilling a barrel of honey in front of a black bear, and in a flash, I'd checked with my life and business partner Laura, and after admitting she could survive a daylong break from me (I LOVE YOU, Honey!), she acquiesced and the trip was set.

Now, I know I'm leaving you hanging, but I'm writing a full goose "magazine article" type Field Trip Report, so I'll leave the full trip details for later. Suffice to say that it was a truly amazing day, spent with a delightful and adventurous Field Partner.

We left before first light, and by noon, we'd visited more than 9 separate sites in 3 counties. Only one site was truly great, but we found something at all but 2 planned stops, where we ran into access problems. Yep, you guessed it, (Vermont accent, please) "You can't get there from here!"
This is, after all, California, and ALL Ranches have fences, and are generally well posted with "No Trespassing" signs.

A little after noontime, we headed toward the junction of I-5 and County Highway J1 in Western Fresno County. Heading west from the off ramp on J1, we decided to check below the dam at the Little Panoche Reservoir and see if we could find a digging site before we ate lunch.
Which we did, and along with several buckets of notable (and cuttable!) jasper and agate, I found a real "Whistler!"

The "Jello Salad" Jasper

Sticking just a thumb sized tip out of the alluvial "bank," in the right-of-way we'd found, was the stone pictured above. I'd kicked at it (Official Rockhound Collecting Technique #1) thinking that it was a less-than-usual black jasper with "spiderwebs." Basinite, as black jasper is known, isn't unusual for this area, but we seldom find it with quartz stringers.

After a couple of minutes of uncovering the piece by toe, and prying it loose with my shovel from the crusty, gypsum rich soil, this strange and wonderful stone was revealed.

"What, no walnuts?"

From the unbroken "rind" patches on the stone, it would appear that the silica gel that became jasper might have been held in a gel state long enough for mineral concentration to occur, causing the "blobs."
The other possible origin that comes to my mind is that they were brecciated material and alluvial pebbles, and were carried into the vein emplacement with the gel, which then cooled. Cracks formed during cooling, and were filled with low temperature quartz, causing the spiderwebs.

Alluvial pebbles or brecciated material?

From eyeball examination, there's little evidence of sand inclusions, though the shapes that show on the exterior are mixed, some rounded, some ragged edged. (Magnification shows that there's sand.) Perhaps the vein began as a watercourse, and underwent subduction, then was filled with the silica gel. If anyone has any other ideas, I'd love to hear them, please!

We'll be taking a "Going Home From Tucson on I-5" Field Trip back out to this area on February 27th, and anyone who wishes to come along is most welcome to attend. If you'd like to attend, please RSVP so I can bring along a special goody for you. Or, if you're not able to make that date, you can contact me at, and I'll be glad to send a Google link with map and directions to the site, or meet you if I am free on your chosen date.

Here are more pics of the "Jello Salad Jasper."


2.5 pounds of jaspery goodness!

I can't wait to slab this one!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

BLM announces Clear Creek Management Area Draft Plan hearings

From the Hollister Field Office of the BLM:


BLM is pleased to announce the release of the Clear Creek Management Area Draft Resource Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. A 90-day public comment period on the CCMA Draft RMP/EIS began on December 4, 2009 and runs through March 5, 2010. During this period, any person with an interest in the range of alternatives considered in the draft RMP/EIS is encouraged to submit written comments.

The BLM Hollister Field Office will host three public meetings to gather comments on the CCMA Draft RMP/EIS in January 2010. Each public meeting will begin with an open house where the public can gather information, talk with BLM specialists, and provide written comments on the draft RMP/EIS. Following the open house, the BLM will give a brief introduction followed by an opportunity for the public to provide oral comments on the draft RMP/EIS.

Although oral comments will be noted on flip charts, BLM will only respond to written public comments in the Proposed RMP and Final EIS. Comments must be postmarked or received by BLM no later than March 5, 2010. The public is encouraged to attend the public meetings to gather information and provide comments on the draft RMP/EIS.

All public meetings will take place from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. at:

  • January 13, 2010: Harris Ranch Garden Ballroom, 24505 W. Dorris Ave., Coalinga
  • January 14, 2010: Veterans Memorial Hall, 649 San Benito St. Hollister
  • January 20, 2010: Santa Clara Convention Center, Great America Meeting Rooms,
    5001 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara

Written public comments may be submitted to BLM at public meetings or by any of the following methods:

Mail: Bureau of Land Management
20 Hamilton Court
Hollister, CA 95023


Fax: (831) 630-5055 Attn: CCMA RMP/EIS

If you wish to withhold your name or street address from public review or from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your written comment. Such requests will be honored to the extent allowed by law. All submissions from organizations and businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be available for public inspection in their entirety.


Okay, dedicated Rockhounds, it's time for you to come forward and do your best to help restore access to the Clear Creek Management Area (CCMA). Please follow the link above and download the PDF file of the Draft Resource Management Plan.

Then, try to read it. Don't give up, ok? This document was written by and for Lawyers and other persons who use what is basically incomprehensible language and speak with forked tongues. you can cut through the intentionally confusing writing and use your Adobe Reader (or Preview, for you lucky Mac users!) to go directly to the 'Management Alternatives' section. On page 19, you'll find the proposed Alternatives.

Please read these Alternative proposals. Be aware that, according to the EPA, even a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of a visitor being adversely affected by chrysotile asbestos in the environment of the CCMA is justification for restricting or even completely denying entry to the CCMA.

If you don't believe that could actually happen, you're deluded. It has happened, and such an order is currently in effect in the CCMA.

The EPA wants to make this closure permanent. Be assured, dear friend, that if they can do it here, they'll use it as a precedent to close other "sensitive" or "dangerous" areas.

Draft Plan A is the only proposed plan that follows current environmental law. This is the proposal that I support.

With the ongoing efforts by "Environmentalists" and Senator Feinstein to make so much more of the Mojave Desert into 'Wilderness,' we have to stand and make our voices heard. Please stand with us.

We'll stand with you, when they come to do this to your area.


I'll be going to the Harris Ranch meeting, and hope that you can attend. Local Rockhounds will be meeting at the Fresno Gem & Mineral Society clubhouse ( Fresno Gem & Mineral Society, 340 W Olive Ave, Fresno, CA ) and leaving at 4 pm on January 13th to caravan down to Coalinga. I hope to see you there!