Three Days at the Ray
Ray Mica Mine
Yancey County, North Carolina
November 11-13, 2004
By Mike Streeter

I had originally planned to spend Friday and Saturday at the Ray with friends, but, with nothing better to do on Thursday's Veteran's Day holiday, I headed out to the mine to poke around a bit. Naturally, my poking around turned into a full blown assault on an area in the spoil piles where I have previously recovered some decent minerals, including amazonite, beryl, tourmaline and fluorite var. chlorophane. You can read about my prior experience and see pictures of the recovered material in a previous field trip report: Click here for previous report

Before the day was over, I managed to recover some worthy specimens.

I had previously recovered black tourmaline (schorl) in mica specimens at the Ray. Generally, the tourmaline is relatively small, bent and broken and the following specimen was no exception.

The Ray Mine never ceases to amaze me. Just when you think you've seen it all, something else will jump out at you from the proverbial shadows. While busting rocks that I recovered from my hole, one boulder split across a large mica book. I was thrilled to find long straight schorl crystals running in all directions on the mica face. Way cool!

I dug and busted rock until around 5:00 PM on Thursday before packing up and heading out for the day. I lumbered down the creek with a very heavy backpack and a 5-gallon bucket both full of rocks. Nothing like spending a day off by performing grueling manual labor and the next two days would see more of the same.

I had made plans to dig with Gary and Ron Maddox and Mickey Cecil. Gary and Mickey had heard so much about recent successes at the Ray, that they drove all the way from Tallahassee and Jacksonville, respectively, to dig. I arrived at the mine around 8:00 AM on Friday under a light but steady rain. I noticed that the sides of the hole that I had dug on Thursday had pretty much collapsed so that it would take some effort and time to dig it out. Since it had rained all night, I decided to surface collect in areas where recent digging had taken place while I waited for the guys to show up. I also figured that the guys might want to help dig out the productive hole when they arrived. After about an hour or so and the other guys still not there, I decided to start digging out my Thursday hole alone. The boys finally arrived just as the rain started to let up around 10:30 AM. By then, I had pretty much gotten back down into fresh unpicked boulders and was working my way into the steep creek bank. While Mickey and Gary busted rocks in the creek, I invited Ron to help work the backside of the hole that I had dug. Ron's area didn't seem to be as productive as mine, but he did manage to throw out a bunch of material that somehow kept slumping down from my side of the hole. He, he, he. Ron got the last laugh when he inadvertedly whapped me in the side of the head with the butt-end of his mattock in a Three Stooges-like move. I swear I could hear Curly Howard chuckling until my head cleared and I quit seeing stars. Yes, it did leave a mark!

After a while, Ron moved on to start his own hole elsewhere while the guys continued to work the creek with some success; I saw more than one large beryl held up in excitement before the day was over. By late afternoon and after the working face of my hole caved in a big way, I decided to bag it for the day. The rest of the guys were ready to roll as well. With all the rain and gloom on Friday, no way did I bring my camera to document the day, but I did bring it Saturday as the weather forecast called for nothing but sun all day.

Chrissy, Opal and I arrived at the Ray Saturday morning at around 9:30. We arrived just as our buddy, David Peterson, was pulling in. We made our way up to the creek area of the mine. On the way up the creek, I ran into Cliff Clarkson who was already busy busting rocks. Somehow, Cliff had managed to pack in a monster sledge, so no boulder would be safe that day.

I walked up the creek to see how my hole had fared. I wasn't quite finished with this spot yet, so before long I was again up to my neck in a hole. I figured that Saturday would be my last gasp so far as this spot was concerned, as the rock type that contained all the goodies on the previous two days was starting to wane. The Ray spoil piles represent different areas from any one of a series of mines and where this particular assemblage of amazonite/fluorite-rich rock came from is anyone's guess.

By mid-morning, the Maddox brothers and Mickey Cecil joined the fun. They headed up the creek a ways where they would all work the banks for stuff. This seemed appropriate because the trio seemed to be operating on banker's hours for the past couple mornings- HA!

Randy Jones showed up around noontime eager to dig. It didn't take long before he found a likely spot on the creek bank and starting pulling out the rocks. Ron, Gary and Randy spent most of the day working their spots while Chrissy, David and Mickey did more freelancing in and around the creek. Cliff spent most of his time busting boulders that I had thrown out of my hole that and the previous two days. The day turned out to be near perfect as the temperature reached the upper fifties under a bright sunny sky.

By around 4:00 PM, Chrissy, Dave and I decided to call it a day, so we packed up our heavy loads and headed down the trail to our waiting trucks. I guess that Cliff isn't one for long good-byes, as he quietly taken off a bit earlier. We couldn't have asked for a better day for digging at the Ray.

Chrissy and I are very pleased with the material that we dragged home. Some of the more noteworthy and representative specimens are shown below.

As I have written in a previous report, one of Chrissy and my favorite things to find at the Ray is schorl in mica. This has become even more true after I recovered some sheets of mica that contain schorl on the outside and inside! I noticed a few schorl crystals on the outside of a mica book but when I held it up to the light - WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

Doesn't look like much, does it?

Well then, take a look at this:

Like Emeril Legasse would say, this one "KICKS IT UP A NOTCH!"

That ought to do it for the Ray Mine for a while. I wouldn't want to wear out my welcome there - but, man-oh-man, it was a fun ride.