Chaparral Rockhounds' Agate Rendevous
Apache Creek and beyond, New Mexico
August 2009
Report by Docia Lenz

Last Wednesday (8/26), I headed out about 9:00 a.m. on the first leg of the trip. Drove to Benton, KS to meet up with Jan and early Thursday morning she and I began our drive towards Apache Creek, New Mexico. Spent that first night in Socorro and then on Friday we had the entire day for the short drive to the headquarters for the event. After a stop at Walmart to pick up a few additional supplies, we were on the road. Driving thru Kelly, NM we saw a rock shop sign and couldn't resist - a small place loaded with mostly the blue-green smithsonite that came from Kelly mine. We oohed and aahed over the pretty stones and then drove out to the mine to explore around for a bit.

Kelly Mine established for the mining of zinc and silver has produced beautiful blue/green smithsonite - for a $10 permit fee rockhounds can go to the mine and dig in the tailings piles. As we only had a couple hours to spend there we decided to just explore a bit around the exterior of the mine but would love to go back another year and spend a day there

Picked up a few pretty rocks/stones, one large piece covered with crystals, and took pictures and Jan walked up on a fresh kill - we expect from a Mountain Lion - luckily no large cats at the site and so we decided to move along!

The rugged mountains are beautiful in this part of the country and a challenge to the rockhound - especially those of us from much lower elevations, lol

Arrived at camp but were unable to get signed in as the event leader was out exploring sites for the week long event. Met some of the fellow rockhounds from Texas and California and visited just a bit before heading south to Glenwood. Jan has been out in this area a couple times in the past for trail rides/pack trips and had arranged for us to stay at U-Trail for that first night as the hotel didn't have a room until beginning the next night. So we drove out to Jim's place and had an enjoyable evening visiting and admiring the horses/mules and of course the great scenery from his hilltop location. Jim had some roadwork to do filling in a gully that had washed over at a gate into some BLM land that his wranglers were out on breaking in some new mules, so Jan and I jumped in and helped by finding larger rocks in the vicinity to place in there while he shoveled gravel in. Later we were treated to a good dinner for our efforts.

The next morning we arrived back at the event headquarters around 7:30, were invited to ride with one of the Texas rockhounds who was there by himself in a brand new dodge with 4WD. So we all loaded into vehicles and lined up and headed south to Gila area - this was the furthest drive of the event and one of the more difficult trips - the last 4.8 miles took about 45 minutes to drive - up and around - up and around - up and around. The drive ended at the bottom of a 45 degree slope that if one could handle the heat and altitude one could climb about 125 yards, more or less, up to an old fluorite mine.

This picture shows the road we traveled to climb up to the site where the flourite mine is located - it was up and around, up and around, up and around, then down the other side - took about 45 minutes to go 4.8 miles

We were told the best materials would be found there. The fluorite here runs in veins/seams although a few pieces with smaller crystal shapes were collected too.

This is a view of the "gully" we climbed thru to head up to the flourite mine

Another view of the gully - this pretty well shows how steep the climb is, plus much of it climbing over loose rock - flourite pieces can be found in the sides of this gully with minimal digging

I hiked about halfway and started finding pretty green pieces and stayed there for awhile hunting while Jan forged on. She was able to attain the top and visit the mine where she tells me there is a beautiful wide vein of the material in the top of the mine, however not something that could be worked with the hand tools carried up there. I slowly made my way up but found that I was just not up to the entire climb, so I stopped about 3/4th of the way and started working my way down collecting small pieces.

This is Yonis Lone Eagle the fieldtrip leader with Jan Stalcup with whom I drove out for the event coming down - you can see by Jan's face that she is pleased with the specimens she is bringing down

Actually found some really pretty pieces all the way back at the bottom while visiting with other r'hounds as we waited for all to return to start the trip back to camp.

Here I sit (in green shirt) with Peggy Morris from Nevada - she is a club member along with Joann (a frequent lurker on McRocks and a rare contributor - however I got Joann's name on the Christmas swap last year and she and I have also become email buddies and so I had to find Peggy while there) Peggy will be 80 in January and is quite the gal! sorry don't know who the gal is in the blue shirt.

Just a picture of the rugged beauty of the area there

Another view of the road that is taken to get to the mine - it is only one way in/one way out

Notice the 8 and arrow carved in this rock - there are many stories of Spanish treasure in this area and many signs to be deciphered to locate it, but don't know if this is Spanish or Indian

Had a stop on the drive back in Glenwood for ice cream - that really was a nice cool treat after 93 temps on the side of that mountain.

That evening there was a potluck style supper and lots of visiting and talking about the day and getting details on the rest of the week. Was sure wishing we were able to stay more than just 2 more days, however Jan is attending a school and has classes on Wednesday evenings so we will be leaving Tuesday.

One picture of the campground - beautiful tall pine trees with plenty of shade in a free camping area - no running water available but there is a store within about a quarter mile for the necessities and a shower down the road about 3 miles that one can utilize for about $4

Day 2: After a good breakfast at the hotel in Reserve (fresh squeezed orange juice was like drinking a cup of sunshine) we arrived back at the event headquarters around 7:30 - loaded our bags, tools etc. into James' truck and talked to the event leader, Yonis Lone Eagle. He had some samples of chalcedony roses that he had collected - this location was on the schedule for Wednesday but since we would not be there he said that it could be a stop that afternoon after the first location. After the first day there are at least 2 locations each day for collecting. At 8:30 we lined up and headed out - stopping along the way for a geology lesson - heard from Yonis about the volcanoes that had created so much of the topography of the land, followed by uplift - evidence of both in the craggy hills.

On the way to Red Hill we stopped for a geology lesson

Another view of group at lesson stop

Oh ain't he cute?

Then we headed on to Red Hill - the red hill is a center-cone volcano. Arriving there around 10:00 the collecting was for bloodstone, jaspers of various colors, and agate - of course the higher the hills you are willing to climb the more choice of specimens you can bring down.

Red Hill - center cone volcano - for which the town/area gets its name

I was delighted with the colors - reds, orange, green & purple. at 1:00 we left the area, stopping for photo opps of red hill, then on to the next location in the area of Toriette Lake. This was an easy collecting location with the chalcedony lying all around on the ground and a few pieces of agate were also collected - here they call the agate Toriette agate and Yonis tells us that is often has banding of different colors - I can only hope the pieces I collected have that, but I'm very happy with the chalcedony pieces I brought home.

Near the camp headquarters there is a trail that leads up to an area with petroglyphs - Jan and I decided this was a not to be missed chance, so we hiked the mile long trail up and around, all the while a thunderstorm moving in. It was not an easy climb but we both felt it was well worth the effort.

Sunday evening - the climb up to view the petroglyphs

As we climbed and walked around the petroglyphs we kept a close eye on storm clouds moving in

Oh yeah, it was time to get off that hilltop/mountain, lol

Day 3: Today we headed to Luna, NM for agate - first location was for Luna Golden Agate, also some blue is located there and again if one is willing to climb the hills the possibility of finding agatized dino poop is the draw.

I think I am very much infected with this disease

Day 3 - morning gathering of the 'hounds before heading to Luna

Another stop for lesson in geology of area

In lower part of hill notice the conglomerate - it is mostly rounded stones/rocks showing that it was once a large river thru here, yet at top it is the remnants of a desert

Not being an "ist" I can not confirm that I have any of this prize however I do have a few samples that are suspect. Then Jan and I headed back down the hill to collect the golden agate - this is collected in a very large field - we were told it is approx. 100 acres in size - took a bit of looking until we finally got far enough out to start finding. Our collecting bags were fairly weighted down as the time drew near to head back to the vehicles to caravan to the second location of the day to look for more of the blue agate. Second location was another climber - steep hills but not too difficult - found enough to fill another collecting bag with the blue agate.

Afterwards we caravanned to Reserve to a restaurant for a great rib dinner and fellowship with a good number of the r'hounds. There were 74 participants at this years event, approx. 40 went to the restaurant for the optional group dinner.

This ended the time Jan and I had for collecting, however I had taken several crates of druse and/or calcite with us and we were able to trade materials with a few of the other rockhounds.

Came home with lots of material, both collected and traded for and memories galore. The landscape of the area is awesome, the wildlife abundant, the camaraderie fantastic, and the collecting wonderful.

I know I have probably left out some, if not many, of the highlights of this trip. The memories are swirling around in my mind of it all. I'm very happy that I was able to make this trip, Jan and I had one awesome time and we are already planning next year to go for the entire event.

Driving home - sunset in Kansas

I hope you enjoyed this report.