Chrissy and I pulled up to the Fort Drum, Florida general store around 8:30 AM on Saturday, October 11, 2003 to find a throng of eager rockhounds milling around the parking lot. Dozens of cars, vans, trucks and trailers were parked in several rows. We spent about half an hour shooting the bull with a bunch of old friends. We listened to brief introductory talks by the organizers of the trip, Mickey Cecil, Gary Maddox and Dr. Ed Petuch, before we drove in a large caravan about 10 minutes to Rucks' Pit.
We spent Saturday and Sunday digging in the pit for clamshells filled with honey colored calcite crystals. It was very hot and muggy, especially for us North Carolina Appalachian Mountain folk; the temperatures reached the high 80's both days. We all did our best to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated but the sun and heat forced all of us to take plenty of breaks. I used Mickey Cecil's trick to cool off; I dammed up some of the cool clean groundwater that entered the pit through bedding planes and fractures to make a small pool. I dipped water out of the pool with a bucket and poored it over my head and shoulders. It was a little shocking but boy did it do the trick.
Chrissy found one of the best specimens of the weekend.
Sunday afternoon, we left Rucks' pit and headed for the Tampa Bay area. We had been told about agatized coral that could be collected on the beach at Honeymoon Island State Recreation Area. The tide was supposed to be low around 8:30 AM Monday morning. We spent the night in Dunedin only about 2 miles from Honeymoon Island.
We drove out to the island early Monday morning to greet the low tide. The sun was bright and it was already very warm day when we arrived.
We walked up and down a 3/4-mile stretch of beach and found plenty of agatized coral hiding amidst the rocks and sand. It was wonderful to walk on the beach while the ocean continually lapped at our feet. One area south of the second northernmost beach house seemed to be especially productive.
The following pictures show a couple of our more noteworthy specimens of agatized coral.
On Tuesday, October 14th, we drove about 65 miles north of Dunedin to the Cross Florida barge canal near Inglis. Just as the day before, we timed our visit to coincide with the early morning low tide. This particular location is known for calcite crystals and unusual dolomite formations that resemble coral. This was the first time that we had been to this location so we weren't exactly sure where to look. We scampered down to and along the edge of the canal looking for likely suspects.
We discovered elaborate carbonate formations; what appeared to be mud concretions of varying sizes size from pea size to 3 feet across lined the edge of the canal. Some of the larger concretions were covered with elaborate coral-like formations of dolomite.
We filled up a couple buckets of the dolomite concretions and coral-like rock. We didn't see any calcite - until we got home, that is.
When I was cleaning off one of the specimens at home, I discovered that it had a smattering of calcite on one of its exterior surfaces. The calcite was obscured with iron oxide and algae that was able to remove with a little dilute muriatic acid and bathroom mildew cleaner. As you can see in the picture below, not a bad specimen considering it was obtained by shear luck!
On Wednesday, we packed up our things and hit the road. We had planned to go to a northern Florida river to collect agatized coral on our way back home but recent rains in the area had made collecting impossible in the river due to high water levels. We decided that it would be best for us to simply head for home. Spending four days off in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina was a great way to top off a terrific vacation.