My North Carolina Trip
April 3-8, 2004
By Scott Braley

I decided a few months ago that I would try to squeeze a trip to North Carolina into my schedule, after reading the field trip reports on McRocks. In February or so I ordered Mike’s book, which I promptly devoured. I live in the DC area, and travel extensively for work. Late in March, I suddenly realized that I could wedge about a week’s worth of travel into the first of April, so I posted a tentative schedule, asked for advice, and got some good help from members of the McRocks community, especially Mike. The plan was to drive down on Friday, stay in a motel that night, (camping the rest of the time), spend a day each at the Crabtree Emerald Mine, Little Pine Garnet Mine, Ray Mine, Redmond Prospect, and Corundum Knob. Carl Rogers got in touch with me and wanted to collect together for a day or two with his dad, so we set up to go to the Ray together on Monday, and see about maybe collecting together on Tuesday as well. I’d left a “free” day in case I wanted to double up on a site, then I’d drive back on the following Friday. I also decided to take a scenic route, driving a decent chunk of the trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway and spending the first night in Little Switzerland.

Have you ever had one of those nightmares where, as you get closer to your goal, things get slower and slower? This is what happened to me. As I got closer to NC I hit construction, traffic, etc., all the usual things that slow you down on the road. Once I got on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I discovered what everyone in the area already knows, that the speed limit is 35/45 and for good reason. Well, ok, no big deal, I wanted scenic, right? I got it – here is a pic or two....

That was great, I stopped at a bunch of the overlooks, took some pictures, etc. I saw a lot of wildlife – vultures, grouse, deer, turkey. Yeah, a little slow going, but nice. Then, this:

Yes, it was snowing pretty heavily, slush on the road, etc. So, I slowed down more. There was a lot more snow than in this picture in a lot of places. So I’m down to about 25-30 mph for the last 75 miles or so. Anyway, I get to Little Switzerland, and start looking for the motel I’d picked out. I drive the whole loop that Little Switzerland is on (26A or something like that) without seeing the motel. Finally, a little ways off the road as I start my second lap (heading for a different motel I had noticed on my first lap), I spot a restaurant/motel with no sign. I stop in, it’s the one I wanted, their sign had blown down in a windstorm the week before. This place had a great view!

I also drove out to Crabtree to check it out, since that would be my collecting site the next day. Here’s what I saw:

If you think you might want to head out there, you definitely want a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Steep, heavily rutted dirt roads are the only way in and out. There are 2 places to park (both small pull-outs from the road), this pic is taken from the first.

This is where the Plan started to go astray. I decided that, with nighttime temps in the high 20’s/low 30’s, I wasn’t going to camp here, maybe at the next site. In the end, I did not camp at all, despite the best of intentions. At Crabtree, on Saturday, I started by breaking some rocks in an area on the far right of this picture. I didn’t find much at first, but got at least an idea of what to look for. I tried some sifting, but didn’t find anything of interest. Then I moved to a bank that is not in this pic (off to the right a bit more). Two of the boulders I broke up had some nice (nice!) golden beryls. Here are a few of them that I photographed, I have more that I need to clean. I’d say that largest in diameter was about 5/8” long, the longest complete crystal I found was just under 2” long.

Not the best pictures, I apologize. I did find some flecks of emerald, garnet et al. The best stuff I got was golden beryl, and I was well pleased with what I got. On my own scale of 1 to 5, I gave Crabtree a 4. My scale is PURELY subjective – my own personal experience with the site. You’ll see that I dinged Ray Mine, for example, but you might get great stuff from there; I didn’t! Anyway, that was Saturday. It was quite chilly, but you warm up some breaking rocks! I went back to the same motel I was at before, and spent the night.

Sunday I got up early and headed for Little Pine Garnet Mine. I had trouble right from the start. It took me a couple of tries to find the road, because the cable company had taken down the street signs to lay cable. I was worried that it might be crowded, but I was the only one there all day. I also had trouble on site – there are three roads and 2 streams, and the directions I had said to take the road the roughly parallels the stream – they all did, to some extent! Well, it took me a while to find the right place. While I was hiking around, a very tame deer followed me around, trying to nose over my shoulder, poke into my bag, etc.

Here’s a shot of the three shafts from mine entrance – I dug in the top one:

Little Pine is great. I got a bunch of baseball-sized garnets, and some nice (and big!) matrix specimens that I’ll clean up. I’ve not had time to clean up my finds from this trip more than a quick brush-and-water scrub. Once I get stuff nicely cleaned up and trimmed I’ll post some more pictures. Besides, other people have posted lots of pics from Little Pine and some of these other sites! For those interested, I’ll try to describe where I was digging with very good success. The top hole has a “front” and a “back” section. The back section has a little shelf, 1’-3’ wide, that you can sit/stand on to dig. I was at the very front of this back section, if that makes sense. At one point, the garnets were so close together they were interfering with getting them out! When I left the mine, I was wet, muddy and cold, so I decided not to camp – I wanted a hot shower and a bed. I give Little Pine Garnet Mine a 5 out of 5 – very much worth the visit!

Monday I was to meet up with Carl Rogers and his dad at the Ray Mine. After some false starts (someone else was up there too!) we figured out who was who and started out climb. Ray Mine is really a large complex of pits and spoils piles (aside from the “main” mine) that I think you have to know before you can really find stuff. We poked along to about 2/3 up the mountain without finding anything that even hinted at being encouraging. I only give the Ray a 1 of 5 – I know others have good success there, but I did not. At about noon, we decided to give up and get lunch. From there, we decided to go to the Redmond Prospect. This was a ways off, but with plenty of daylight we had lots of time.

Four-wheel drive: can’t see Redmond without it, especially if it is at all wet on the roads. I didn’t take pictures either here or at the Ray (forgot). The first 60’ or so of the shaft are full of water to about 30” deep in places. My rubber boots are about 20” tall – I got wet. The rock is very fractured, so I was pretty nervous about hammering in the mine. I took it pretty easy. I came out with a small plate of quartz (not a habit I am familiar with, so maybe not quartz?) and a lot of “color” – copper minerals. I haven’t examined everything yet, but I have found 1 micro azurite crystal so far. Once I got back to the hotel, I pulled out the UV light on a whim. Some of the Redmond stuff fluoresced brilliant white and bright blue with unknown minerals. I give Redmond Prospect a 4 of 5. Nothing exciting that I found, but some decent stuff. If I go again I’ll be taking a UV light in with me.

Carl and his dad wanted to go to Yates-Brooks Farm (sp?) for mica clusters and parallel growth quartz. Since I had a free day and had already knocked out 2 sites the previous day, I went along.

This is me, with the local dog in the foreground. It followed us around. Also in the hole with me is Flat Stanley – any of you have young kids/grandkids? Flat Stanley goes on trips with me for my kids :)...

This is Carl and his dad – boy were they busy! Just kidding, someone else dug this out. We were pretty disappointed, a few decent bits of quartz, nothing great. We tried to figure out what everyone had been digging for, but no joy. I gave this place a 2 out of 5. Nice folks running it though, and I appreciate them letting folks on the property.

If you notice, the original plan is now in tatters. I was warned off Corundum Knob by a couple of people (you can find stuff, but not really worth the trip), so it was Tuesday, and I was done, even with Yates-Brooks thrown in! Well, in the end I was able to arrange to get in to Diamond Hill in SC. You’ve seen tons of pics of what the site looks like and the material coming out of there. It was great. I didn’t think I’d have fun digging “mere” quartz crystals, but I was wrong! 5 of 5. I knew I was in good shape when I saw the stuff other people had left behind – there was a lot that I’d have picked up from anywhere else. I wound up with some nice skeletals pried from the floor of the “upper” pit, and a lot of mixed smoky/white quartz plates from the lower pit. I’ve got to go through and highgrade it sometime soon.

I drove home on Thursday, which pleased my wife greatly. I was very tired, and had spend more money on hotels than I had intended (since I had planned to camp, even cheap motels were too much!), but I had a great time and got some nifty stuff. I want to thank my wife, for letting me go, Mike for his book and assistance, and Carl and his dad for letting me hang with them some.