Arkansas Fall of 2017…Phenomenal Trip !!

Despite cooler temps and a bit of rainy drizzle at the beginning and end of the week, my fall trip to Arkansas this year turned out to be a PHENOMENAL seven days !!  I was able to get a few days of much needed rest and relaxation, and two of the three days over the weekend involved two great locations, one new one, and some GREAT collecting by everyone involved this time around. For those that were not able to make it down to collect with us, you missed out on a great time and some great crystals found and dug. I think everyone would agree with me that the Phantom Mine at Wegner`s was the real treat this time around. 

Onyx and I picked up my Mom early on Tuesday morning, Nov 7th, and headed west to Joplin, then south on Hwy 71/I-49 to Fort Smith, where I always drop Mom off to visit with her two younger brothers and their families. We ran into some drizzle about Rolla that continued off and on all the way down there. On the way down, I stopped off at a resale shop in Fayetteville, to check on some smokey quartz from Brazil…I had talked to a guy who collected it there last year and had some for sale at this resale shop…he had a lot of broken stuff, but I found one nice small cluster and purchased it at a good price. We then drove on over the Boston Mountains and arrived in Fort Smith around noon, and after dropping Mom off at the Residence Inn, Onyx and I headed on south in the drizzle which increased in intensity by the time we got to Waldron. I had slowed down a bit since the highway had been resurfaced in the past year with fresh asphalt…that stuff gets a bit slick when wet and this was a cold drizzle on top of that, temps hovering around 42 degrees…however there was a guy in front of me zipping along about 65 mph and one behind me coming on fast, when we all met a state trooper just south of Waldron. He turned around half a mile behind me and although he never turned his lights on, he did pace everyone back there and stayed back there til we reached Y City, where Onyx and I turned east on 270 toward Mt Ida and Hot Springs.

The rain picked up in intensity again as we crossed over the short mountain range fifteen miles down 270 and I slowed down again…and came upon yet another trooper on the other side of the range, this one sitting in a driveway at the foot of the big hill. I was actually glad to see more of them out and about, specially in that type of weather. We stopped off at the Phillips 66 in Mt Ida, where gas was twenty cents a gallon less than the St Louis/Sullivan area. A few min later I honked as I passed by the home of Bill and Faith of Blue Moon Crystals…they live on Hwy 270 two miles west of the Charlton Lake Park area and about a mile west of the old Monte Cristo Rock Shop/Gas Station, which is across the highway from the neat waterfall on Murphy Creek, that sits just below the highway on the north side…there are some lucky residents that live just the other side of the creek and have that waterfall view to enjoy on a daily basis. We continued east on Hwy 270 and I thought about stopping at Burl`s Country Smokehouse at Crystal Springs, to pick up a couple of smoked ham sandwiches…one for me and one for Onyx of course…didn`t stop but wish I had now…and continued on to the Pretti Point condo complex, arriving just before dark. I say wish I had stopped for the sandwiches, cause supper later that evening was not very good, could have been because of the late hour tho.

The next morning, there were a few breaks in the clouds, and I was able to photograph the pretty maples in bloom above the condo….

Believe me…they stayed this color all week and were some of the prettiest trees I saw all week there…found out real quickly that the fall color down there, traditionally much prettier down there, was very disappointing this time around. I guess the leaves on many of the trees down there, had fallen from the trees from the cold rain that was falling those first few days, because many of the areas that I have photographed in the past, were barren of leaves and color both. I contacted my buddy Justin that morning and drove over to his new house to see his home and rock collection. He now has a lot of room and room to grow as well…he had some nice pieces of green wavellite that he had self collected, so I purchased a few nice sized ones from him.

He lives close to my buddy Robert, so I took him over to Robert`s house to meet him soon after.  As it turned out, the two of them had already met at the Spirit Show earlier in the year there, and had talked shop there the whole time. Despite the cold temps and drizzle, we had a great time visiting with Robert and then Justin and I headed to Cracker Barrel to get some lunch. Afterwards, I took him to Walmart so he could get some cat food and then returned him to his house. Onyx and I headed back to the condo to get a good nap in…and believe me, with that type of weather, it was a great nap…Onyx and I had a nice bowl of ice cream for supper. 🙂   

We were up at the crack of dawn to discover sunshine and a foggy sunrise over the lake below….

…that just kept getting prettier with every few minutes….

Robert took Justin and I on a sightseeing trip later that morning and we discovered that there were some pretty oak trees up on the mountaintops that still had some good color to them….

We saw a lot of nice scenery that day and started back to Hot Springs about 4 pm…Slade let me know that he had arrived at his hotel two hours earlier than expected, and Ray having arrived the evening before, began inquiring where I planned to eat supper. We decided on Cracker Barrel and I let Slade know that I would pick him up at his hotel….as Justin and I arrived in Hot Springs…we ran smack dab into this sunset downtown….

…after dropping Justin off, Onyx and I headed to the condo to clean up, and discovered these last few rays of the sunset over the lake waters….

 Slade was staying at the La Quinta Inn on Central Avenue. He wasn`t familiar with the area, this was his first trip down to Arkansas for quartz, his hotel was on my way to CB, so I picked him up shortly before 6 pm and we found Ray waiting for us outside the restaurant. After a good meal and some good conversation, I dropped him off and then Onyx and I headed back to the condo for another bowl of good ice cream before an early bedtime. Up again at the crack of dawn, we found another beautiful sunrise waiting for us, and again some fog attached to the pretty colors…

…and this morning, this little guy perched on the boathouse down below my balcony, so I photographed him as well….

After my stretching exercises, which have become a daily routine for me, Onyx and I headed to the Valero Station to meet up with everyone else…finding Fred from Texas, and David Bruce from Georgia….already there…. talking to Slade from North Carolina…. they had already met Pete and Mary from Ohio…Paul & PJ from Michigan arrived soon after, followed by John Oostenryk & Mary from NW Illinois, and soon we were just waiting on Ray from Louisiana to arrive…he pulled in just as I was texting to check on him. I let everyone know I was going to stop at Burls and get a couple of sandwiches…those smoked ham sandwiches that I should have stopped to get the other day, and then we all took off heading west to Tony`s mine. Tony let me know while enroute, that he was going to be running a few minutes late, as he was having some work done on his new house and would likely arrive a few minutes behind us. As we crossed over the small bridge over Hwy 270 at Denby Creek, which enters an arm of Lake Ouachita at that point, on the far side of the bridge we spotted a four point buck with his nose to the ground, trailing half a dozen does…he was headed north and as we passed by him, not three feet from the sides of our vehicles, I looked left and spotted the half a dozen does I just mentioned, huddled together down in the ditch on the south side of 270, nearly right across the roadway from the buck…and trust me, he had no clue whatsoever….deer hunters will know what I am talking about. 🙂

We pressed on and soon after turning south on Hwy 379 west of Mt Ida, we started seeing deer everywhere, on both sides of the was the morning before the opening season and it looked like several scouting parties…scouting for cover. We pulled up to the gate soon after, and about five minutes later, Tony pulled in with his girlfriend Blondie and their two pups in the cab with them. After driving on up to the mine and parking, Tony showed us several smokey quartz crystals, some in baskets and some in flats, that he had been harvesting on a daily basis from his new mine with his partner Shane…they were beautiful crystals, many of them big and lustrous points. He told us they were hoping to be into some clusters soon as well, had been finding a few here and there sporadically. After paying our dig fee we all headed up to our favorite spots and began searching for quartz crystals.

Onyx and I drove on up to the top and found Pete, Mary, Slade, Fred, Paul, and PJ already up there….

I showed Slade the wall that Chuck had worked over back in July for the plates, and he set off in that direction, intent on removing a few himself. I got my boots on, grabbed my gloves, apron, bag, and tools…while doing so I was talking to Paul, who was searching the huge piles on the right of me…..

I then headed for the old tailing piles on the south side, intent on checking out some information from Adam regarding some beautiful stuff he had found in the old piles years before. For the next couple of hours I zig zagged through the pine trees and short brush, surface collecting the top of the old piles and finding quite a few small plates and clusters that were quite pretty, and small single points all over the place as well. I then headed for my truck to get a bite to eat, Onyx joining me for his sandwich break too….I set a small cluster next to the sandwich that I found first off….

During the afternoon, I found some really nice ones…one appeared to be a flat plate, I pulled it out and discovered a nice long single point attached to what I thought was a plate, and a smaller point perpendicular to the larger singe point embedded in it. Ten minutes later, I found yet another large single point and then twenty minutes later I found yet another point about half as big, but still very nice…I felt quite blessed and took it easier after that. By 4 pm, we were all ready to head for Hot Springs, a few having already left ahead of us. John and David did pretty good down below at the other mine in the veins where the large plates are found, before heading up in the afternoon to work the old walls too. We decided to meet up at the Hibachi Sushi Buffet for supper that evening after cleaning up…we were all looking forward to the Phantom Mine at Wegner`s Crystal Ranch, the next day. As long as we had at least ten people in our group, we would be allowed to go there and dig. 

Several friends in the Memphis Club MAGS, which I am a member of as well, had given me good information on their trip there just the weekend prior, and said there were huge clusters of phantom crystals laying all over the place, that could be cobbed down to more manageable pieces, that could more easily be transported out of there and home. That information alone, once shared with everyone, had us all chomping at the bit to get there as soon as possible. The information I had included photos of their finds, which I also shared with everyone, showing blue colored crystals with clear crystals in the clusters. We had to be on site at Wegners the next morning by 8:30 am to sign in so after a small bowl of ice cream, we retired for the night.

Once again, we were up by 6 am the next morning and yet another beautiful sunrise awaited us…I stepped out on the balcony to photograph it over the waters of Lake Hamilton below and found the air to be quite crisp but the eastern skies were absolutely GORGEOUS…

…and then the skies started to deepen and the colors only intensified a few minutes later….

…which I took as a sign of a good day ahead…Abbi drove in late the night before from Nashville with a bad cold…she didnt hesitate when she found out that we might not have enough to go to the Phantom Mine…as it was, we had just enough people to be able to go. Justin joined us on this trip as well and we headed to Wegners, arriving as planned by 8:30 am. We all parked out in the inner circle parking area and signed our papers, then headed inside the crystal shop to pay our fees to Annie, who had called me the weekend before to set up the group dig for us. Abbi took a few photos outside as everyone was looking at the rocks on the tables that were for sale, to give one an idea of what could be found at this mine….

We had hoped to have Mike as our driver, he was the driver for MAGS, however Annie told me that Mike had injured his back and had been replaced with Bill, and she assured us that he was as good as Mike was. They had a smaller truck than what we expected and had added four other rockhounds to our group, two were from Wisconsin and two from the St Louis area.

We loaded up and headed out by 9:30 am…Onyx and I sitting on the back edge and a couple of people up in the four door cab with Bill to make more room for us and our luggage. 🙂 We drove down a couple of smooth roads initially, then turned down a couple of bumpy forest roads…some so bumpy we had to come nearly to a stop and then forward once again…not sure why, but Onyx started barking and snapping at the branches that smacked the side of the truck…I have never seen him do anything like that before, so I am not sure where that came from. I had to get a pretty firm hold on him as he kept wanting to go to the side of the truck bed under the seats as if to bite the branches as they went by us. Weird, I know….and over my head believe me…dog psychologist I am not. 🙂 

After about forty minutes of rough riding, we finally arrived at the gate and a short time later we were pulling into the mine, skirting around several tailing piles before coming to a stop and unloading the truck…some of these photos were taken by Abbi and noted on the photo….

For the rest of the story on the rock collecting part of this trip, check out my blog site where there are more details and photos too. 

Here is one of the nicer plates that Slade found there…he was quite happy let me tell ya….

…and here is a large single point found in the pile Abbi was working in….

…and a phantom point that she found as well….

…and a phantom point that John found…ironically, I found a phantom point that could be a twin to the one Abbi found, same shape and color….

Let me tell ya, after four hours of diggging and chipping and collecting, we were all exhausted by the time we got the truck loaded down with our buckets and bags and packs and tubs full of goodies…Bill let us know when we had to start loading the truck….and thats when Abbi started snapping photos of everyone….

I think Onyx looked as tired as we all felt…tired but happy rockhounds for sure…happy enough that we did try to arrange for a return trip to the mine the next day…alas they were unable to find us a driver or we would have def returned to find more goodies…GREAT MINE to go to if you get the chance, well worth the cost and the ride in and out of there. We also did a little shopping when we returned to the crystal barn, found some nice crystal plates and clusters in part of an old collection from the Magnet Cove area, some with brookites attached to them, and I think there were a few of us that bought some of those…I know I did, they were selling them by the pound…pretty good bargain in my book. I`ll post a photo of the ones I bought later on, as I am still working on cleaning up my dig finds from there. 🙂

We headed back to Hot Springs to get cleaned up for supper and headed to Cracker Barrel for another delicious meal and to discuss the Fisher Mtn Mine the next morning. I let everyone know about the inside information I had on this old historic mine and everyone was ready to go again. Sunrise the next morning was pretty blah, so I didn`t photograph it…we met at the Valero again and headed up to the mine after stopping to get the key for the gate. The road going up to the mine past the gate had been recently worked on, but was still rough in spots, very passable tho. Once we arrived, we parked in the first few spots and loaded up for bear and began the descent to the area of the info I had on it…on the way down there, we saw nothing, no crystals laying around, not even small ones…at most mines, you are tripping on the small crystals laying all over the place…but there was very little to be found at this one. We reached the area and again, found nothing, certainly nothing as described to me, so we all fanned out and began looking everywhere…John and a few of the guys eventually located what they thought was the desired area, however it  appeared to be heavily worked and possibly played out. The rest of us dug into some areas and again, found very little for our efforts, so we decided to rockswap and then headed to the Mauldin Mountain County Quarry to look for wavellite….we found the gate wide open but decided for safety`s sake to park outside the gates and walk in…by this time of the day, the temps were warming up and it was going to be a beautiful day ahead…

….the Kansas City Club was there that morning and we hoped they did not collect all of the good stuff before we arrived. John was able to make contact with them and found out they didn`t find any wavellite but did find variscite and planerite, and shortly after walking in, we did as well.

After a few hours there. we wrapped it up as some of the crew was driving back home that afternoon…while we were talking, Mr. Manley drove by, stopped, saw us and backed up to come and visit with us…he has a rock shop on the first hill just west of Mt Ida and is the patriarch of the Manley family, one of the oldest and well respected quartz mining families in the area. My friend Carrie met him down there at the quarry last year …we got to talking about the smokeys that his son Shane and Tony have been finding lately and he invited us to stop by his shop and visit more with him. He was headed down to deer camp to visit with some of his family. We packed up and headed back to Hot Springs for supper at Outback Steakhouse…this time there would only be four of us eating, as everyone else was headed home. Slade and Mary headed home the next morning…Mary after making sure we couldn`t go back to the Phantom Mine that day, possibly joining the New York Club that had arrived the evening before. Wegners staff said they needed at least a week notice to make it happen, so she headed home upon learning that. Abbi went to explore some creeks and then she headed home by evening, leaving me and Onxy to rest up for the day…at least we had another great sunrise to start the day…a near duplicate of the one two days before, and I even checked the dates on the images to make sure they were different…the sunrise this morning included the moon overhead…the one two mornings before the moon was farther to the west….I remember because I like to include if if I can and there was no way to include it two mornings prior….

and for the sunset that evening, we had a pretty pink and orange glow…a speedboat full of fishermen arced across my camera view for a few seconds while shooting so I included them in the photos too…

….as they disappeared behind the land mass on the right, I worked with the reflections in the ripples their motor prop created….

Onyx and I got some good rest, drove out to a waterfall I like and tried to find some local color, but it was mainly gone, likely the cold rain on our arrival being the likely culprit, so we had another good meal that evening, another bowl of ice cream, another good nights rest, shot another gorgeous sunrise, and then packed the truck and headed to Fort Smith to pick up Mom and head for home…..

After shooting this one, I thought the clouds might be done, but as I was packing the truck, I noticed it had deepened out and gotten even better, so grabbed my camera and headed to the balcony…..

…and soon we were headed home…we hit some rain on the way home but east of Springfield we ran out of it…it did eventually sweep thru here later that night tho…all in all, another great trip for the books tho. 

Arkansas July 4th 2017

My vacation end of June could not arrive fast enough, once again, same feeling I had end of April when my spring vacation approached. My full time job is very stressful much of the time, but things beyond my control, have increased my stress this year over years past. I get another break in August, but it will be shorter, due to even more circumstances beyond my control, code for problems and events in the past few years that prevent some of us from taking additional time off from work. A year ago mid June, I lost my Dad to a massive heart attack, and this year, on the anniversary of that very day he collapsed in the yard, Mom began having problems that prompted a trip to the emergency room of our local MOBAP hospital. Luckily for us, Dr Draper was on duty that evening…he was the attending physician the evening that Dad collapsed and we really liked his bedside manner and attitude…too many times these days, you rarely find a good physician on duty, one you can understand and one that understands you, emergency rooms are often a training ground for new doctors. Last year we found out that Dr Draper is a keeper, with thirty five years of experience, we were delighted to find out that not only did MOBAP keep him on staff, they also promoted him to Chief of Staff in the ER here. Mom had shortness of breath and the evaluating nurse quickly whisked her inside to a room right away and began trying to get to the bottom of it. From the get go, Dr Draper figured it was either pneumonia or congestive heart failure and xrays eventually confirmed it was pneumonia after she was admitted later that evening to the intensive care unit of the hospital. She was hospitalized for a week and then released on the one year anniversary of the day we laid my Dad to rest, scarey timing for my sister and I for a few days there. Later it was determined that Mom had one of the bad pneumonia`s and told it would take at least four weeks before she could go outside, which was fine with her as she barely had the strength to walk up and down the hallway at home. She has had home health care nurses taking care of her daily and they released her today due to the progress she has made with her daily exercises and she can now go outside and attend to her flowers once again as well as go to church services and eat out once again.

I was able to take my vacation and go quartz crystal hunting in Arkansas once again after receiving her blessings, aided by good neighbors checking on her often and my sister staying in touch and visiting her often as well. Onyx and I took off by 7 am on Thursday the 29th and took the shorter route, south on Hwy 63 to Hwy 67 to 440 around Little Rock and then I-30 southwest to Hwy 70 west into Hot Springs. When I was down there in May, I learned that Arkansas highway crews were expanding 70 between Hot Springs and I-30 and had made much progress since we were there then. This time as we entered from the east end, it was obvious that traffic would soon be traveling on four lanes at least ten miles in toward Hot Springs before running into active construction work. Crews were building a few bridges in the middle of the construction area and that was slowing down the progress, but I am sure that by the time we return in November, it should be four lanes of traffic moving thru there. We had to come to a stop a few times thru there for large dumptrucks turning in and out of specific areas, giving me a chance to look at roadcuts looking for quartz veins…while I didn`t see anything in the shale cuts, after mentioning that to Robert Kuhn later on, he told me that is how quartz is often discovered in that area. By the time we arrived at the condo early afternoon Thursday….


….it was already getting very warm outside. I noticed this time, there were no bugs flying all around the doorway and the flowers were in bloom and quite pretty, including all the crepe myrtles at every condo building…

I quickly unpacked the truck and moved everything inside the condo, where I discovered soon after, that my laptop had bit the dust and would not even power up, so I made a trip to Walmart to get a new universal power cord for it, but even that didn`t work, so after a subsequent trip to Walmart to return the cord and replace the laptop with a tablet, I was back in business for email and internet browsing. I soon discovered tho, that I would not be able to load up any of my photos as this was more of a chrome book, not a true tablet. Needless to say, it was replaced as soon as I returned home.

Chuck and his family were set to come down and join me on Saturday evening, so I had contacted Tony to see if we could hunt and dig at his mine on Sunday and Monday, instead of our normal Friday and Saturday. I planned to visit friends and mineral dealers the first couple of days, starting with Johnny B  on Friday morning and then checking on Fisher Mtn Mine once again, which is under the control of Judy`s Crystal Shop these days. I ate a couple of bananas on the way down there and by 2 pm, I was good and hungry, so Onyx and I drove over to the south side of Lake Hamilton, to get some fried catfish and jumbo shrimp at Bubba`s trailer…he was a little busy when we arrived but the wait is always worth it, as well as the price.  I checked in with Mom by phone to let her know we made it down safe and sound and then went to Scoops to get a few quarts of home made ice cream for the next few days of dessert, then settled in to make some contacts and set up some visits for the next two days. We had some great sunsets and a few storms roll through and across the lake while there. The

fireworks display was great again as usual…here are a few highlights from the display over Lake Hamilton Saturday evening…

…here are a few more highlights, but for more of my trip to Arkansas in July, go to my other blog site  for the rest of the story. 🙂

..sure was a great show, this was the last one before the finale of the show, which I shot all in video…you can see the videos I shot at the fireworks show on my facebook page, here is the link :

I enjoyed my vacation, it just didnt last long enough, like normal. 🙂

Arkansas Springtime April 2017

I took my spring vacation trip to Arkansas a few weeks after my early spring trip to southern Illinois and western Kentucky, joined by friends there to dig again at our friend`s privately owned quartz mine and to visit with some of my Arkansas mineral dealers as well as a new friend who has owned and dug at several of his own quartz crystal mines in the Mt Ida and Hot Springs areas for years. Mom usually goes with me on these trips, but had an appointment with her cancer doctor and stuck around for that…she is faithful in keeping her appointments with her doctor and getting regular checkups, probably a big reason why she is now a 17 year cancer survivor. Onyx and I headed west on I-44, about mid morning of April 29th, on our way to Hot Springs…I had checked the radar before we left and it looked good til at least Joplin, where I figured we would likely first run into some stormy weather on the way down there…little did I know what we were going to be in for, or even what the entire Midwest was going to be in for the rest of that week. I thought I was going to have to rent a ferry to get me, Onyx, and the truck and quartz back to Missouri for a while there. We drove down to Joplin and turned south on Hwy 71, now also known as I-49, and when we neared Neosho, we ran into the first thunderstorm, which contained very little lightning and thunder, but a whole slew of rainfall…folks I have never seen rainfall like this stuff !!  It was coming in hard and fast, blowing sideways across the road from southwest to northeast, which meant we were driving right into it…Onyx is not a thunderstorm loving kinda dog, so he curled up into a ball in the backseat and rode it out there…and normally you look for the rain in the dark clouds of the storm…not this time…it was coming out of the bright white clouds on the backside of the dark storm clouds. I didnt realize that until about the second or third blast that we encountered…and I am used to cloudbursts that last maybe a few miles and then you run out of it…nope, not this time either…I pulled over for a minute under the Anderson overpass to photograph it…..coming off the overpass in buckets let me tell ya…..

…..this first storm lasted at least twenty miles, which put us close to the state line, where I intended to fill up my gas tank. I pulled into the first Phillips 66 down there, under the narrow canopy and put my Phillips card into the gas pump…tells me to check inside with the clerk…which meant I had to run fifty feet across in the hard slammin rain to the station…nope, nada, that was not gonna happen…so got into my truck and kept driving south. Had I known there was another Phillips just south of there, I would have gone there but did not know and drove to the Caseys General Store instead, their canopy was much bigger and wider, so that when I parked in the middle, I knew I would not get wet at all, and their pumps worked just fine. Filled the tank and headed over to McDonalds to get Onyx and I some food and then continued south…the hard rain continued til Fayetteville, only then did it begin to let up, and then as we climbed up the Boston Mountains on 71, it finally stopped raining…wow what an experience that was !!

With this reprieve, I drove over to my buddy Adam Lagaveens house in Sallisaw to visit with him awhile and pick up some more of this quartz collection that he was getting rid of, this time several smokeys and arkimers and other goodies that I was happy to help him out with…what are friends for after all. We headed south once again an hour later and ran into another heavy rainstorm down near Waldron, where I had planned to stop and change out the flowers on the graves of my grandparents for Mom, since she wasnt able to make the trip…however I decided to do this another day I was there and we continued south…the rain finally came to a stop as we got close to Y City and as we turned east on Hwy 270 there, we found a little water across the roadway in our lane, so I went around it in the on-coming lane of traffic very quickly. I figured we might see more water across the roadway, but apparently that rain never moved east from there…we saw some dark storm clouds, but by then I knew the hard rain was not contained in them and we had nothing to worry about…..

… we had clear sailing all the way down to Hot Springs from there. Weird how that works up here, completely the opposite, with rain coming from the dark clouds yet down there it was in the bright white clouds….learn something new everyday. We arrived at the condo safe and sound around 4 pm and after getting everything moved inside, I looked at Onyx and asked him if he was as hungry as I was…well he is always hungry so we loaded up and drove south to the other side of Lake Hamilton and stopped off at a trailer in a parking lot, called Bubbas Fried Catfish. I had read about this place, they have a restaurant on the east side of Hot Springs but by that time I didnt really want to drive any further than I had to, and this was much closer, so we decided to try it out. I purchased the catfish plate with fried shrimp and fries, and boy was it good…took it back to the condo where Onyx and I pigged out…they believe in feeding you at that place, four big and wide catfish fillets and ten big butterfly shrimp, and steak fries too !!  We were fat cats after eating all that and then headed up to the home-made ice cream shop near Walmart to get some good stuff for later. After a good nights rest and sleeping in for a change, we took it easy the next day and visited with my new friend Robert, who owns a few mines in the area…he and I have talked by email for the better part of a year, he has been a wealth of information for me on quartz in the area and turned out he is a good friend of one of my mineral dealer friends as well. He showed me much of the quartz he has dug in the past few years and invited me and Onyx to go with him up to one of his mines the next morning.

Bright and early the next morning we were again at Roberts place and followed him up to his mine, way up in the middle of nowheresville is how I would describe the location. I offered to help him set up his new pump to remove the water in the pit but he pointed out a location down near the water and told me to dig there and see what I could find…the day before that he was finding some nice phantom crystal points that folks in Japan apparently go nuts for…I found a few of them and a few small clusters that he let me keep. After he got the pump running and pumping finally, he fired up his trackhoe and removed some of the rock back behind me and then I helped him clean out a few pockets that we found in there, filling a few buckets for him to clean and sort the next few days. By 3 pm, Onyx and I had to leave to keep an appointment with a model in Hot Springs, so we took off in that direction, running into some slow traffic as we got close and even tho we were running a little late, keeping in contact with him by text, I discovered he was going to be late as well, and it all worked out just fine. I took him to supper after at the Habachi Sushi Buffet and then Onyx and I got back in time to shoot a great sunset behind the condo on the lake….

I was trying to block the sunlight from my lens and came away with a neat photo as it was….

…lots of sunbeams and even some geese flying thru there…sure was pretty. The next day, Onyx and I drove back up to Waldron to Sehorn Cemetery, where my grandparents are buried…this is a beautiful cemetery, perched upon a hill with a nice view of the surrounding valley near Winfield, Arkansas, and majestic tall pines and cedars standing tall and guarding the knoll there. There was a fast moving tornado that touched down there last year and damaged many of the old trees, but the pretty ones survived, even though their branches were stripped bare or twisted around, while other trees next to them were left unscathed.

My quartz hunting buddy Adam, who I stop to visit with each year on my way down there, his Mom is buried here, her maiden name was Sehorn, so its like their family cemetery…she has a beautiful black stone marker with an engraved angel curled up on the side of it…it really stands out and captures your attention front and center when you enter the grounds…not far from the graves of my grandparents.  An hour later we were headed back to Hot Springs…I had thought about stopping to see my Uncle Harold and Aunt Raye, but as I drove by their house and didnt notice any activity, I thought they might be taking an early afternoon nap and didnt have their number with me to check, so drove on back to Hot Springs. I photographed some beautiful flowers in the farm fields close by….

I also stopped by the small waterfall on the Fourche LaFave River at Y City on the way back, it is easily accessible from Hwy 71 by a short walk to see…

…and then I drove out to my favorite waterfall near Hot Springs, called many things, but known as Blue Hole Falls, due to all the rainfall, it was really running heavy over the shelf of novaculite there that day….its a double decker and we rarely see that water on the left side running over the shelf at all….

I then drove over to the Phillips station in town to fill my tank, finding out that it was now a Valero station instead…on my way back to the condo I spotted two of Hot Springs Fire Departments trucks headed to a vehicle accident….

…and then decided to head over to Outback Steakhouse for supper….love their steaks and my buddy Jake is a waiter there as well, always takes good care of me. We returned to the condo just in time for another beautiful sunset….

The next day I slept in again and then visited with friends and we had yet another great sunset that evening…

…and then on Wednesday morning, we started off with beautiful skies and then it clouded up by mid morning and those torrential downpours started in again…

…above you see the clouds thickening up, and then the darker clouds came in…I`m shooting to the west from the balcony and there is a gorgeous house over there on the south shore that I am focused on…

I was going to driver over and visit with Gary Fleck, one of my mineral dealer friends, that day, but once there, I couldnt find anyone there, so I headed back to the condo for an easy day off…as it turned out, he was next door doing some cleaning at his Moms house and we just missed each other. I returned the next day right after Chris Keyme arrived in town, and he rode over there with me…explained to him that I was going to visit and prob purchase some new stuff from Gary as well…we had a great time and visit there with Gary and Chris got to see some beautiful stuff that Gary has inside and outside his home as well. That evening, after more of my rockhounding friends arrived, we had supper at the Habachi Sushi Buffet and then Onyx and I headed back to the condo for ice cream. Some of my friends came in late that night and some early the next day, meeting up at the earlier arranged time and meeting place before our drive up Hwy 270 to Mount Ida to dig and collect quartz crystals at a privately owned mine. 

We dug there two days and had a great time together, found a lot of pretty quartz crystals and plates of quartz and clusters too. On Saturday, we stopped off at Burl`s Smokehouse on the way to Mt Ida, told my group I was going to get a sandwich and chips for lunch there, and everyone followed me inside to get one as well…the next thing you knew, instead of one sandwich, the gals there were making up ten sandwiches for us…I ordered a smoked ham sandwich on white bread with mayo, double meat, and here is what it looked like when I had it later at lunch time….

…DELISH and yes, Onyx did help me finish it off and he enjoyed it too. We had supper the second night at Outback Steakhouse and since some left earlier than some of us others, I had them make reservations there and ask for my buddy Jake to take care of us there…which he did. The next morning most of us met at Cracker Barrel for a good breakfast and then held a rock and mineral swap in the parking lot, before driving over to see my friend Robert, where several of us bought some crystal clusters from him. My friend John, took a real shine to Robert as I had earlier in the week, and was invited to go to his mine on Monday morning, so John delayed his departure an extra day to go rockhunting with Robert, while the rest either headed home that afternoon, or like me and Onyx, took off the next morning.

We enjoyed the last of our ice cream and another great sunset that evening….

…and the next morning, Onyx and I headed north toward Missouri…leaving about 8 am to avoid the traffic jams that are so prevalent in the Little Rock area…I intended to take 440 around the city and on up to Hwy 67, however ran into a huge traffic jam soon after passing up 430. Needless to say I exited 440 and turned north to try and go around it, but got lost in doing so and can safely tell you that I received tremendous help from the Little Rock PD after calling their non emergency line, the Desk Sgt was able to get me over to I-630 fast and on my way north soon after. I did see a very pretty Little Rock FD Hook and Ladder truck just before turning on to 630. I also wasnt sure how bad the flooding would be north of Little Rock, but as soon as I started getting close to the turn on to Hwy 63 and near the town of Hoxie, which is a major UP town, I spotted UP Maintenance crews trying to shore up their rail lines with heavy rock to prevent the roadbeds from washing away and either side of Hwy 63 was water as far as the eye could see, water right under the train trestles and road bridges too. It was pretty scarey for a few miles up 63 to the north.

I stopped for a few minutes just south of Hardy to photograph an old mill and water race, and gave Onxy a bit of a break to stretch his legs too….its called Morgans Mill…

and then we continued northbound on Hwy 63 and arrived home a few hours later, tired but happy, another good trip with good friends, food, and scenery, and of course, more rocks for the collection. If you would like to see more of the rocks part of this trip, check out  my other blog at 



Arkansas Once Again

Well Onyx and I had a great trip to Arkansas once again this fall season…probably the most productive quartz crystal collecting trip I have made in some time. We were joined this year by a couple of rockhound friends from the Tulsa area, Virgil Richards and Doug Cunningham… and of course my good friend Ray Roth from New Orleans made it up to go as well. We had pretty good weather, mid sixties all week and one afternoon of rain, but all in all it was a great trip with good friends and lots of crystals to bring home this time around. For the detailed story, check out my rockhunting blogsite,  and scroll down to the Arkansas story. Here are a few photos from my trip….

01 Sunset Tues Night03 Sunset Tues Night11 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite16 Storms Depart to the NE19 Sunset After Storm Wed Nite25 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm28 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm34 Sun Sets On Exiting Storm52 Leatherhead Mine64 Nice Cluster Found by Ray72 Sunset Thurs Night99 Ray About to Go Collect120 Vultures Flying Overhead138 Smokey Clusters141 Heavy Fog Sunrise Sat Morning145 Heavy Fog Sunrise Sat Morning147 Digging In153 Sunrise Sunday Morning161 Smokeys From Stu167 Cluster From Collier Creek Mine

Fireworks in Arkansas 2015

I usually take the weekend of July 4th off each year so that I can photograph the fireworks, either locally or in the St Louis area. I shot the fireworks both locally and St Louis last year, the first year they moved the Fair St Louis to Forest Park, which ultimately became a cluster putting that many people in that park and the horrendous parking problem, plus the stupidity of the shuttle busses last year, which meant Chris and I had to hoof it all the way back across the park to the truck parked at the Science Center. I decided I wasn`t going thru that bs again, and this year planned to drive down to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for the weekend. My parents wanted to return to Arkansas and visit with family down there, so it worked out well, I was able to take them down there and drop them off at Fort Smith, and then Onyx and I drove on down to Hot Springs for the weekend to photograph fireworks, visit with friends, and do some quartz crystal collecting. We had an uneventful trip down there, Onyx stretching out across Mom`s lap nad the back seat while Dad and I had the front seats. We left about 5 am on Friday morning, July 3rd, and arrived in Fort Smith about 10:30, making good time with a good tail wind pushing us south.

After dropping them off at the Residence Inn, Onyx and I drove over to Sallisaw, Oklahoma so I could visit with my rockhunting buddy Adam Lageveen, who also is a master artisan in creating Native American knives and arrowheads. Adam had some extra quartz that he was willing to give me and was having a yard sale that day as well. He had this huge calcite cluster for sale in the yard sale, self collected from Marble City, Oklahoma….

01 Calcite Cluster at Adams House

02 Calcite Cluster at Adams House

…he will even load it for you and it only costs $ 50…weighs about 200 lbs, too. After wrapping up my selections on the quartz crystals, Onyx and I headed south on Hwy 59 to Spiro, eventually tying into I-541 and then turning south on Hwy 71 at the south side of Fort Smith. South of Sallisaw, we crossed Tenkiller Lake and I could see they had the floodgates open, releasing alot of water from all the rains we have all had lately….

03 Raging Waters From Ten Killer Lake Dam

I was going to try and visit with my second cousin Cassieopia, but her plane was running late getting into Fort Smith…about 12 hours late….so we continued on south to Mt Ida. As we drove through, looking ahead I could see some rain clouds, so it was looking like we were going to see some raindrops afterall….

04 Storm Clouds Ahead of Me Mt Ida

…east of Mt Ida a few miles, there is a neat old barn at the east end of a field on the south side of Hwy 270, always thought that would make some nice photos if the right clouds came along….

05 Storm Clouds Ahead of Me Mt Ida

Onyx and I arrived in Hot Springs and drove down to the condo I rented for the weekend, on the south side of Lake Hamlton near the Baymont Hotel, and found it as nice as it appeared online, two bedroom and two bath, very comfy furniture and the view wasn`t too bad either. It was a second floor unit and I was able to park underneath it, at the bottom of a steep driveway, which was prob the only drawback to it, but it did provide great exercise for Onyx and I  each day. We were joined later in the day by a couple of friends, Mark and Jerry…Mark is from southern Illinois and Jerry has lived in Hot Springs all his life. Mark and I headed to supper later in the evening, deciding on Colton`s steakhouse, and were were joined by Jerry there. After supper there, we drove to the Kroger Store Parking Lot to check out the fireworks show at Oaklawn Horse Race Track, about half a mile north of there…we were not the only ones in the parking lot, it turned out to be a pretty popular place for fireworks watching….

01 From Kroger Parking Lot

02 From Kroger Parking Lot

04 From Kroger Parking Lot

05 From Kroger Parking Lot

07 From Kroger Parking Lot

10 From Kroger Parking Lot

11 From Kroger Parking Lot

…the next morning, bright and early, Mark and I drove over to a waterfall that I like to check out when I am there…Onyx and I had gotten up even earlier and I learned from the news that morning that just south of us, over nine inches of rain had fallen…I figured that waterfall might be rolling along pretty good. I had seen it up pretty high a few years back, normally ten feet wide, it was fifteen feet wide that day…today it was more like 25 to 30 feet wide at the top of the falls….

10 Cool Pool Falls Creek

09 Cool Pool Falls Creek

…and the bottom falls were really rolling along since the rock cut prevented the water from spreading out….

07 Cool Pool Falls Flood Stage

….and the creek below was at least forty feet wide….

08 Cool Pool Falls Creek

….I photographed Mark there in and out of the water…he was a brave soul….mainly due to the temperature of the water…he didn`t get into the current itself at all….

43 Board Shorts Waterfall

…we found some other locations that weren`t under as much water and then Mark headed home by noon, as he had some other plans for later that evening. Onyx and I drove up to visit with Bill and Faith at Blue Moon Crystals, near Mt Ida…they retired from taking care of the Miller Mountain Mine at Jessieville a couple of years ago and are enjoying their retirement now…they are selling quartz crystals at their home, singles, clusters, and baskets…they have nothing but quality crystal there and very good prices for collectors. I spent an hour or so with them, purchasing a couple of quality baskets from them and a couple of clusters from the Collier Creek Mine, which is a private commercial mine, not open to the public, which is known to produce high quality candle points.

After looking over the material that Bill and Faith have from there, I discovered they also have some beautiful clusters and glassbacks too. By the time I left, it was approaching mid afternoon, so I drove over to Mountain Harbor to get some information on where to set up my camera and tripod to photograph the fireworks show there, and ran into the resort owner, Bill. He was gracious enough to give me some good info on where they would be shooting from and good locations to shoot from. I headed back to get a short nap in, tried to call Jerry since he wanted to go with me to photograph the show, and get ready to go. Unable to reach him. I decided to head up to the dining lodge at Mtn Harbor and get some supper there before the show…its a popular place and they have great food there. I left Onyx in the ac in the truck, and walked inside, to find the place packed to the rafters. I didn`t mind since the food is well worth the wait, and only had to wait about fifteen minutes for a table to open up.

After a great meal there of hand breaded chicken strips with bbq sauce, steamed veggies, and their handmade baked potato salad, I checked on Onyx and then headed toward the Marina to find a spot to photograph the show from. I stopped and talked to a couple of security guards before heading down the hill, about how to best go about getting out of there after the show, due to the large crowd there already. They told me that if I didn`t get back to my truck very fast, the best thing to do was wait about 20 minutes for the traffic jam to ease off and said there would be security personnel at each intersection on the way out. One of the guards said he was going to remain near the Lodge and would keep an eye on my truck when I told him I had left it running and the ac on for Onyx. They are a very dog friendly place there and I really appreciated that right then. I walked on down and decided to set up under some pine trees between the ramp and the marina, as the crowd on the marina looked pretty heavy and I was told later that was mosquito heaven anyway…some nice folks from Hot Springs set up next to me and provided me with some Deep Off spray too. They also told me that they preferred the fireworks show there at Mtn Harbor over the one in Hot Springs, which I thought was unusual, since I had photographed the one in Hot Springs a few years ago and found it to be as nice as the ones at the Arch in St Louis each year. We had a huge thunderhead above the lake and the sun set very nicely around it as the boats were beginning to gather out in the water….

00A Thunderhead As Sun Sets

00B Thunderhead As Sun Sets


00C Thunderhead As Sun Sets

00D Thunderhead As Sun Sets

…Bill had told me earlier in the day that the large fireboat that they now have, would be going out into the marina and standing by as well….he wasn`t wrong, just before the sunset, I saw the firefighters take all three of the fireboats out into the bay….here is the lightened up version….the large fireboat is on the left side, retired Coast Guard Cutter….

00F Sunset Fireboat Goes Out Into Harbor

00G Sunset Fireboat Goes Out Into Harbor

00H Sunset Fireboat Goes Out Into Harbor

00J Sunset Fireboat Goes Out Into Harbor

00K Skies Begin To Darken in Harbor

…and while we were all waiting for full darkness to set in, there were some campers on the far side of the lake that entertained us with some smaller fireworks bursts….

00L Harbor Skies Begin To Darken

00M Harbor Skies Begin To Darken

…there was also some guy on the ramp that had a huge toy airplane, one of those remote controlled ones…but this one was lit up in neon bright lights along the wings and the nose of the plane…I have never seen one lit up like that…the only way you can see it in the next few photos is the multi colored streak in the images….

00P Harbor Skies Darken Toy Plane Flits About

00R Harbor Skies Darken Toy Plane Flits About

…he was flying that thing all over the place, across in front of us, then up high, then nosediving down toward the water and combined with the smalltime fireworks show on the island across the lake, it was quite a nice show for us…and well received by all….

00S Harbor Skies Darken Toy Plane Flits About

00T Harbor Skies Darken Toy Plane Flits About

00TT Harbor Skies Darken Toy Plane Flits About

…I was shooting time exposures, that is why you only see a streak of it…about ten minutes later the show finally started with wagon wheel bursts….well worth the wait too….

00U Harbor Skies Fireworks Begin

00V Harbor Skies Fireworks Begin

00W Harbor Skies Fireworks Begin

00X Harbor Skies Fireworks Begin

00Y Harbor Skies Fireworks Begin


02 Near White Starburst

06 Red & Green Starburst


09 Multi Color Bursts

10A Red & Blue Starburst

11 Blue & Gold Starburst

12 Gold Starburst Over Lake Ouachita

13 Red With Blue Tips Burst

14 Red Bursts Over Lake Ouchita

15 Red With Blue Tips Burst

17 Blue Tips White Center Burst

21 Christmas Colors


23 Multiple Colored Starbursts

25 Purple & Red Bursts

28 Multiple Bursts of Color

30 Blue Starburst

33 Multiple Colors

34 Purples Greens & Reds

36 Huge Blue Burst With Green Tips

37 Huge Blue Burst With Red Trails

…and then the finale began…because they were only shooting two or three at a time, they shot the finale in waves of several….

41 Huge Red Bursts

42A Multiple Bursts

43 Multiple Bursts

…I was able to get back up to my truck pretty quickly so I decided to get on out of there and made it out ahead of much of the crowd, thanking the guys directing traffic at every opportunity, too. Onyx and I made it back to the condo in about 30 minutes and had some homemade ice cream before hitting the hay.

We got up early the next morning and headed up to Twin Creek Mine, arriving right after the gate opened up…I visited with owner Bobby Fecho for a few minutes and then parked in the shady spot that he offered due to having Onxy with me, got my boots on and grabbed my tools and a bag, and headed to the spot that he had recommended that I dig in. True to his word, there were crystals all over the place and I had a bag full in just a few hours.

03 Looking Across Upper Tailings

I also got to meet his new wife and partner, Miss Dixie Fecho, when she arrived about 10 am, and found her to be a very pleasant person to talk to…she is also a USMC veteran, having served a few years and seen plenty of action in quite a few countries. As noon quickly approached, the heat began multiplying and I started slowing way down, the humidity was growing as well…I decided to check out the wall and along it, I discovered another rockhound not only from Missouri, but from Crestwood in St Louis County, and one that knew a few of the firefighters that I dispatch at work. Matt said he also knew one of my Captains with Shrewsbury Fire Department and we talked about that for a bit while he opened up a nice pocket along the sandstone wall and pulled out some beautiful crystals. I took a photo of Matt working the wall to the right in the photo below….

05 Matt Coppin on Right In Wall Pocket

…the same wall that Bobby had worked over a few months ago with a gadpry bar while filming a video showing folks how to open up pockets along the wall with one of those bars…there is a U tube video online of him working that same area of the wall and liberating some beauties too. Onyx and I returned to the condo and waited for a friend of mine to come down and visit from Little Rock the rest of the afternoon…he had just graduated from massage school and tried out his techniques on me, and I can safely say that he is very good at it, one of the best massages I have had in a very long time. He and I had supper later on at the Hibachi Sun Sushi Restaurant across from the mall in Hot Springs and the food and service there were great…no, I did not have any sushi…I`m not a fan of it. 🙂

After finishing off the homemade ice cream, Onxy and I retired for the night to get up early the next morning and make the drive home…picking up Mom and Dad at the Residence Inn in Fort Smith a couple of hours later.  Other than a guy trying to join me in my lane and my spot in the lane, on Hwy 71 around Jane, Missouri, the drive home was again uneventful and we arrived home mid afternoon, after stopping off at Bandana`s BBQ in Lebanon for lunch. All in all, another great trip and I brought home a couple of hundred pounds of quartz crystals too. I felt like I lost another five lbs down there, walking Onyx up and down that steep hilly driveway and climbing the staircase going up to the condo a few times a day…who needed an exercise bike when you have a stairmaster like that ??

James 🙂




Arkansas in the Springtime

Ray Roth called me back in February and told me that he was getting tired of the winter blahs and weather and would like to meet me at Hot Springs in April. Ray was going to Texas for a metal detecting treasure trip and visit some friends there in early March, but figured he would be back and ready for Arkansas by the first of April. I was able to secure enough vacation time at work to get nearly a week off and we coordinated our schedules to arrive there on the last day of March. Initially, my parents were going to ride down with Missy and I, they were homesick and wanted to see their birthplaces and visit with family and friends there, however some unplanned things came up that prevented them from going with us. My Mom and Dad were both raised in the same area of western Arkansas on dairy farms, in dairy farm country, an area that I am also very fond of.

This time of year I am normally down in western Kentucky with friends helping the staff of the Mineral Museum at Marion to expand the collecting opportunities at the Eureka Mine, enabling rockhounds to go there and dig more easily throughout the remainder of the warm season to find beautiful fluorite treasures. This spring tho, the staff was unable to track down any machinery to assist us in our efforts and we had to delay those plans…that enabled me to meet up with Ray at Hot Springs instead. I contacted my buddy Adam Lagaveen and let him know I would be driving down there on the 31st and he said he would be ready to meet up again and provide me with some nice stuff and more info on the Mt Ida area. Adam is a super nice guy and a wealth of information on quartz crystal collecting in that area, as well as a very talented craftsman of Native American artifacts…you should see the Indian knives and arrowheads that he has crafted from raw materials like rainbow obsidian and novaculite in various colors on his FB page at Adam Lageveen`s Lithic Art…truly beautiful stuff !!  Adam was also raised in the area that my parents are from and knows some of my second cousins. Combined with the info he had provided back in the fall, I had researched several locations to check out this time and was looking forward to seeing what additional information he had for me. 

Missy and I got on the road the morning of Tuesday, March 31st, at an early hour, down around Springfield by the time the sun came up over the horizon. By the time we pulled into Fayetteville, it was time for a break. After a brief break there, we drove on down to Fort Smith and picked up I-40, where we headed west to Sallisaw. As we passed through Van Buren on the way, we observed some recent storm damage, a tornado had ripped through there a week prior and heavily damaged some motels along the interstate…weather that we were really hoping to avoid on this trip. We arrived in Sallisaw twenty minutes later and drove over to Adam`s house…he had some tubs of quartz crystals laid out for me to take a look at…and as we were putting Missy into his fenced in backyard, I also noticed some flats of other pretty minerals that he had picked up in a sale recently. For those of you interested in rocks and minerals as I am, check out the rockhunting interest of this trip at my rocks and minerals blog site, for photos of the minerals and crystals that I picked up on this trip and other trips as well. 

Adam gave me some info on some places to collect fossils in Scott County near my grandpa`s farm and  quartz in the Mt Ida area as well, before we headed on south. I decided to stop by the fossil location first since it was on the way and so we headed south from Sallisaw to get there about an hour later…which by that time, the temps were up in the high 80`s and the humidity was climbing too, so I just stopped by to photograph it and then drove on down to Hot Springs. I had planned to get into Hot Springs by 4 pm and meet up with a new rockhound cause I had some flats of Missouri and Kentucky minerals and crystals to give him, to help him with his growing collection. I had also planned to stop and visit with Faith and Bill, the former caretakers at Miller Mtn Mine, now retired and living just east of Mt Ida on Hwy 270, but wasn`t going to have time to do that today, so I called them to let them know we would get back up there later and visit with them. Missy and I arrived in HS about 5 pm and drove over to the condo that I rented from April, where we stayed on my fall trip down there, too…..


26 Condo Area I Stayed In


This time we were staying in the downstairs condo and it turned out to be just as nice as the upstairs unit…however it was def warm in the springtime there, as there were several bumblebees hovering right around the front door…at first I thought they were hornets…I called April to see if she knew about it and she said she would call the Maintenance guy and see if he could come spray for them. He did show up later and sprayed but apparently the spray didnt have any effect on them, cause they were there every warm day, only leaving when it cooled down on Saturday and Sunday. Turned out they were bumblebees tho and the biggest ones I had ever seen, too…guess they grow them big down there…I didnt let it bother me much, was there to enjoy myself and put it out of my mind soon after, just had to be aware of them when you came and went. After a brief visit with new rockhound friend Justin, we met Ray, who was staying at the Long Island Lake Resort on the longer island south of my location at the Italian restaurant in the plaza across from the Hot Springs Mall….April had recommended it when we were there in the fall. We had a good meal there, but I couldn`t believe the price for one glass of sweet Reisling wine…it was $ 9.25 a glass…geez, I could have bought three bottles of it for that price….Ray was astounded as well. I had the spagetti and the meatballs were the size of baseballs…only been to one other Italian restaurant where they were bigger, one in Florida had them the size of softballs !! It wasn`t as good as my Mom`s homecooked spagetti and meatballs but pretty good after a long drive down there.  

…I remember the sunset that evening was pretty bland, so I didn`t even take any photos of it…..the next morning I woke up from the couch in the living room, having crashed there after the news…the sliding glass door was open and the waves outside the condo put me right to sleep….I shot the beautiful sunrise the next morning…

07 Sunrise Wed Morning

08 Sunrise Wed Morning

10 Sunrise Wed Morning

…and that little bit of red in the middle photo above just blossomed a few minutes later into even more of a red glow….

11 Sunrise Wed Morning

12 Sunrise Wed Morning

13 Sunrise Wed Morning

After a good breakfast at Mc D`s, Ray and I decided to head up to Twin Creek Mine and check it out…I called Bill and Faith, retired caretakers from Miller Mtn Mine near Avant,  to see if they were home…Bill said they were waiting on some carpenters but would park their white van out by the road so we would know which driveway to turn into…we arrived about 25 min later and found them in a nice brown split level ranch home with a two car covered carport on the east end of the house, on the north side of 270, one mile west of the Garland County line…we passed this beautiful waterfall right across from the old Monte Cristo Store and Rock Shop just before the County line…I really wanted to walk down to the creekline and shoot it without all the trees in the way, but there was a house next to it and it was likely on private property there…

43 Beautiful Waterfall Near Monte Cristo

..the old Monte Cristo Store and Rock Shop, once a very popular stop for tourists and locals back in the 40`s and 50`s, possibly even into the early 60`s, is now covered up by vines and vegetation, looking much like many of the reclaimed mines in the forests around Mt Ida these days….

44 Old Monte Cristo Store

….it featured a gas station, store inside and they sold quartz crystals on those big racks in front…here is a link to the history of it in its heyday….plus there were some crystal mines not very far from it back then as well. 

Bill looked soooo much better than the last time I had seen him, which was at Miller Mtn Mine before they retired, he was recovering from surgery then and just looked worn out…he looked more like a younger and vibrant Bill this time and Faith looked great too…they were setting up their crystal shop in their home and doing very well. We visited with them a while and then got a basket of quartz each and then drove on over to Twin Creek Mine…a newer mine opened back in September last fall to the public, and we had heard good things about it and wanted to check it out for ourselves. For those of you curious about a quartz crystal mine, here is what they look like in southern Arkansas….

17 Entrance to Actual Mine

…they generally have an area where you can park, someone nearby to pay a digging fee too….

19 North End of Digging Area

…a digging area outlined with boundaries, this one has a wall where one can look for veins in the rocks and find crystal pockets….or find crystals in the tree roots along the edge of the rocks as well….as I did that day there….

20 Looking South

…or you can dig in the massive tailing piles as many do and sometimes get lucky and find some really nice crystals…Ray and I chose to walk up to the top near the wall and dig alongside a nice couple named Ed and Lisa…..

21 Ed & Lisa Digging on Wall

…they were there with their son and he found some really nice crystal clusters embedded in the dirt driveway down below and behind my truck…

22 Looking Back Tow Entrance

…it was supposed to start storming by 3 pm, so we decided to take off about 2:30 pm…I did not want to be up on that mountain with lightning popping all over the place. I had a bag full of small clusters which cleaned up pretty nicely, plus I was able to chip out a nice smokey quartz plate that was in between a couple of sandstone layers, too. Missy and I were exhausted and ready for a nap on my return to Hot Springs…Ray decided to stop off at Burl`s Smokehouse on the way back and get a smoked meat sandwich, and I kept on truckin toward HS….by supper time,  storm clouds started rolling in across the lake….

28 Storm Moving In

…and pretty soon the rain was coming down in buckets across the lake and it got dark early….

29 Raining Cats and Dogs


30 Raining Cats and Dogs

31 Night Shot Stormy


…and the rain just settled in for the night…Missy and I drove Central Avenue to have a late supper at Cracker Barrel…at times the rain was coming down so hard you couldn`t tell what lane you were in, the lines were hard to see, at one point coming out of CB, I couldn`t find the lines and accidentally crossed over into a turn lane for the bypass, luckily for me no one was coming at me and I was able to get back on track quick enough. We drove down to check out the homemade ice cream store on the way back to the condo and I photographed the wet streets as well…

34 Wet Streets

After another night on the couch with the sliding glass door open and the waves putting me to sleep once again, I woke to sunrise looking like this….

35 Sunrise Thurs Morning

…and after another hearty breakfast at McDonalds nearby, we decided to drive down to Glenwood and check out an old zinc mine that I had found while researching the area. It was called Pigeon Roost Mine and was now reclaimed and on US Forest Service land, so very accessible to the public…looked more like a big gravel pit dug into the hillside down there….

38 Pigeon Roost Mine at Glenwood

…and its obvious that the county now uses it for roadfill material too…there was a huge patch of slate they were digging into with a big trackhoe, probably to use for gravel road building and pothole filling…here is Ray below picking up some pyrite that he found there…I didn`t find anything worth picking up there, but it was a good way to kill two hours. 

39 Ray Finding Pyrite

After that, we decided to drive up close to Mt Ida and check on an old reclaimed mine that Adam had told me about. I had an idea in the back of my mind of the general idea where it was located, but when we arrived in that area, the road names were different from how they were marked on the google earth maps I had looked at. I didn`t have a signal in that area, so I wasn`t able to call Adam to recheck either. We found what looked like a mine entrance road and decided to drive down and check it out…we figured we were in the right area because we were seeing massive quartz on both sides of the roadway and the road was lined with it as well. Needless to say, we were not at the right place and were nicely informed of it by some very nice property owners and we decided to head back to Hot Springs and re-group. We stopped by the Dairyette in Mt Ida for a good lunch before driving on back to Hot Springs. Ray decided to contact some friends of his that were into metal detecting in the area, they were considering driving down to check out an old ghost town nearby, while Missy and I decided to drive over to the north side of Hot Springs and check out DeSoto Lake and waterfall. I had photographed this lake last fall while there, and found an old power station down below the lake`s waterfall over the old rock dam…it wasn`t as pretty this time of the year as it was when we were there in the fall…..

45 DeSoto Lake Waterworks Powermill

….this old power station was also constructed from rock and there was a huge steel waterwheel attached to the creek side of it to create electricity to the estate house above, owned by a Colonel during the Civil War….

47 DeSoto Lake Waterworks Powermill

… it is in the fall last year for a comparison…..

91 Old Waterworks Powermill

89 Old Waterworks Powermill

…..there was also a rock wall that crossed the little creek right above the powerhouse with an arch over the water….

49 DeSoto Lake Waterfall 2

…and the lake`s rock dam and waterfall about one hundred yards upstream….

54 DeSoto Lake Waterfall 1  56 DeSoto Lake Waterfall 1

…many of the little lakes scattered throughout southern Arkansas are constructed in a similar fashion, many by the US Forest Service or CCC Corps, many with manmade dams like this one and very pretty and scenic too. One of the highlights to his little lake there is a neat footbridge on the upper end of the lake, completed with stone columns supporting it….


59 DeSoto Lake Footbridge

…and from here, one can merely look up to the top of the hill on the far side of the footbridge and see the old estate house of Colonel Fordyce…..

60 DeSoto Lake House Above Lake

…from there, we drove over to Gulpha Gorge, where I just stepped out of the truck to take a few photos of the small waterfalls along the creek with a flowering redbud tree in the background….

64 Gulpha Gorge

…this is the section of Gulpha Gorge Creek that runs below the National Park campground…some of the best scenery I have seen, specially in the fall seasons, of the Hot Springs National Park…most of the park centers around the bathhouses in downtown Hot Springs. From here we drove back to the condo and cleaned up before having supper with one of my good friends from that area at the steakhouse. It continued to rain off and on through the night and we woke up to cloudy sunrise the next morning that was pretty for just a few minutes….

66 Sunrise Friday Morning

…its a little on the shaky side, due to the brisk wind out on the balcony that morning, moving me and the camera around a little…from the color in the upper left side clouds, I thought that it was going to blossom out into a gorgeous sunrise, but some blue clouds moved in quickly and sealed its fate instead. Ray and I had set aside this day to visit with friends, he going fishing and metal detecting, and me spending time with friends in the area, dinner the night before at the steakhouse, a prelude to that. We had to wait on our friends to get up, so Missy and I drove out to a waterfall that I go to frequently when there, a beautiful set of two falls down over a novaculite ridge south of Lake Hamilton…..

72 Cool Pool Falls

…that also looks alot better in the fall…

139 Cool Pool Falls

…after that, we drove over to the dam on the east end of Lake Hamilton, and photographed the big manmade waterfall there and then took some nice walks in the city park there as well….

74 Waterfall Lake Hamilton Dam

…we had a good time visiting with friends…Ray said later on that he went fishing that morning, but the wind was pretty brisk and a bit cool for him, so he only lasted about an hour..ironically enough, was down in the area below the dam where we were at briefly but didn`t see us and we apparently didn`t see him either. After another great night of rest on the couch with the waves putting me out like a light, I woke up to a beautiful sunrise on Saturday morning….

75 Sunrise Saturday Morning

76 Sunrise Saturday Morning

77 Sunrise Saturday Morning


…after a quick breakfast Missy and I drove up to Scott County to meet up with Virgil Richards to look for fossils at a location that Adam had told me about last fall. Ray decided to remain in Hot Springs as he does not like those drives up and over the mountains on the curvy roads, so Missy and I were on the road shortly after 8 am…a nice crisp morning cooler than the prior days by at least twenty degrees. We arrived and met up with Virgil by 11 am and drove over to a reclaimed coal mining area nearby….

06 Reclaimed Coal Mine at Bates

…where some really neat fern fossils can be found on slate and some organic material that resembles dinosaur poop and quite possibly is just that, millions of years old, too….some of the pieces I picked up crumbled to the touch, due to the exposure to the elements and some stayed intact…I hope to return and check this site again, paying more attention to the organic matter next time, where the fossils were definitely intact and stronger, plus more colorful…this area reminded me of the Mazon Creek Fossil area in Illinois. We lasted for a few hours there, the temps began rising and by the time we finished, it was quite warm…as Virgil turned to head west back into Oklahoma, we noticed smoke rising not too far from us, signs of a possible forest fire that was quickly gaining ground with a brisk wind driving it….

79 Forest Fire Smoke at Bates

…course with the recent rains, there was probably little to worry about too. On the way back to Hot Springs, I stopped off at Burl`s Smokehouse and picked up some chips and a couple of sandwiches, I had experienced some food poisoning the night before and decided it would be best to eat on the light side for a few days and see if that helped. This is a place I have passed by on several occasions and wondered how good it was…Ray liked it and I had some local friends that stopped there last year on one of their trips to Hot Springs and really enjoyed it as well…inside I found a neat old rustic building where they fix sandwiches to order…they have chips and wines there, too, and the biggest home made cinnamon rolls I have ever seen…had my stomach been stronger, I prob would have bought one to eat later on. I will def have to stop there again the next time I am down there, those sandwiches were great !!  Here is a link to it with a photo of the cinnamon rolls too….

Missy and I continued on to HS and made arrangements to visit one additional site in the morning, before we headed home. It was a full moon that evening and I stepped out on the balcony to shoot a few images of it illuminating Lake Hamilton….

84 Big Moon Over Lake Hamilton  85 Big Moon Over Lake Hamilton




By the next morning, my stomach felt a little better and I decided to try the one last site, before Missy and I headed home. The sunrise was a cloudy one, but there was def some red in the skies to the east…that should have been a tip off for us….even though the weatherman had promised the rain would hold off til noon…I guess he was referring to the Little Rock area, not the area around Lake Ouachita….


91 Sunrise Sunday Morning

92 Sunrise Sunday Morning

…after grabbing a sandwich at McDonalds up the road, Ray and I headed over to the last spot we were gonna dig for smokey crystals at and on the way, it started sprinkling rain on us before we arrived at the location at 8:30,  and after talking with the owners for a bit, we drove up the hill and began checking out the areas near where we had dug on our previous trip there. For the first hour, Ray and I turned over many pieces of massive quartz, before we started finding a few smaller clusters of crystals. I then decided to check out another area closeby and soon found a larger cluster of bigger crystals…by this time it was raining more steadily and I decided it was time to stop for the day. We packed up and headed out, and soon Missy and I were headed up I-30 toward Memphis, where we planned to stop and visit with Matthew and Carolyn Lybanon, rockhound friends in the MAGS Club. Matthew is the newletter editor and Carolyn is the Hospitality Director. Carolyn called as I was driving thru Benton and told me not to eat anything, that they planned to have a late lunch and that Missy and I would be joining them for dinner. As I entered the Memphis area, I discovered they have quite a bit of construction going on with their highways, reminding me when Modot had I-64 in St Louis County all tore up….

94 Crossing Miss River into Memphis

…and shortly after crossing into Memphis, I saw a neat looking pyramid shaped building that was a former arena and now houses Bass Pro Shop there….

96 Bass Pro Shop Memphis

…..and soon enough we were pulling into the Lybanon driveway.

We had a great time and good food and talked about rocks alot…they showed me their collection and I showed them what I had found and shared some of my finds with them…Carolyn had made me a beautiful oval shaped window made up of stained glass and some pieces of fossils and crystals as well…it is displayed on a metal stand and was quite pretty. They also gave me a huge ammonite that they found down in the Denton, Texas area on one of their fossil excursions down there.

After a nice two hour visit with them, Missy and I got back on the road and headed home via Hwy 63, which I discovered soon after leaving Jonesboro, was another hotbed of construction activity…Arkansas crews appear to be attempting to widen the roadway for several miles to the north. I spotted several sunbeams near Jonesboro…..

97 Sunbeams On Way Home

103 Sunbeams On Way Home

Once I hit the Missouri line though, it was smooth sailing on Highway 63 and we arrived home safe and sound by midnight. I decided to lock the truck and leave the unpacking to the next day.  Sure was a good trip. 🙂



Arkansas Fall Trip 2014

A few weeks out from my annually planned fall trip to southern Arkansas, I received an email from WC with the MAGS Club, letting me know that the club`s second planned trip to the Vulcan Quarry in Black Rock, in the northern part of Arkansas, was scheduled for the same weekend I planned to be in the southern part of the state. I emailed him back to let him know that I planned to be in Magnet Cove on that weekend, with Ray Roth joining me and we were going to be checking out a novaculite quarry in the Magnet Cove on Friday morning. This particular quarry has four different types of novaculite and comes in a variety of beautiful colors, looking more like agate or jasper than flint, and very popular with those who enjoy the hobby of knapping…creating arrowheads and other Native American artifacts….and checking out some locations on private property on Saturday, where over one hundred minerals could be found, including smokey quartz, brookite, and rutile. We would also be checking out a new quartz crystal mine in the Mount Ida area that recently opened to public fee digging and possibly checking out a phantom crystal mine nearby as well as following up on a lead on private owned property on the north shores of Lake Ouachita that had both wavellite in green and blue colors, and quartz crystals too. WC emailed back to say that he would rather go with us on our planned trip and would get back to me…he was having problems firming up the trip to Black Rock and might just switch the trip to Magnet Cove with us. I let Mr. Parker, the quarry owner,  know that this might turn into a club trip and he was okay with that. I had begun talking to him by email the year before, but didn`t make it down to the Magnet Cove area that year, due to time restraints. About a week out from my planned departure, WC advised me that many of the club members had encountered some conflicts with the dates and would not be able to make it, himself included, but he would put any others interested in joining us, in touch with me by email. As it turned out, my good friend Virgil Richards, was the only other club member that decided to join us on the trip.

Ray and I had both planned to leave the morning of Nov 6th and travel to Hot Springs….my trip would depend much on whether my Dad made it through emergency surgery that he underwent on Nov 4th. I had driven my parents to Barnes Hospital in St Louis early that morning, as my Dad had to be there to prep for Abdominal Aortic Anneurism Repair Surgery. His abdominal aortic artery had a couple of bad spots just above the wye, where the artery branched off to supply blood to his legs, and the Chief of Vascular Surgery for Washington University and Barnes Hospital, Dr Sanchez, was going to perform the operation, and place a specially made graft around the artery at that point, snap it into place, and then suture it as well as place four to five stints in the artery all around the graft, which would further secure it in place. This special graft was designed by Dr. Sanchez and made in the country of Australia according to the specifications of Dr Sanchez, which required about six to eight weeks to make and get to the United States through customs. My Dad was on the operating table for approximately six hours while Dr Sanchez and his medical team performed the surgery. It was a long wait and our many prayers were answered for a successful operation, and Dad came through it just fine, very stable throughout the surgery. My sister joined us in the waiting room before the operation began and stayed with my Mom and I throughout the day, and some of Dad`s closest friends came by as well to check on him while we waited. His surgery had been scheduled for early morning, however a patient with a worse situation was moved in front of my Dad`s scheduled operation and so his operation was delayed about four hours.

Dad woke up from his operation about ninety minutes afterwards, and we were able to see him for about five minutes in the recovery room, before they moved him to a hospital room. As is usually the case with general anesthesia, from past experience myself with outpatient surgery, it is hard to wake up from it and about the only thing you want to do is rest and sleep it off, so I returned home at that time and Mom began calling a long list of friends and relatives to let them know that Dad had made it through the surgery just fine. I returned the next morning with a box of donuts and Dad was glad to get them, his breakfast was pretty light after a bowl of soup the night before after the surgery. He looked much better and after a few hours, gave me his blessings to go to Arkansas on my fall vacation.  

The next morning, Missy and I headed west to Joplin and then turned south on 71 toward the Natural State of Arkansas…I stopped off in Fayetteville to check out some minerals for sale at a flea market, where I found some pretty pieces of amethyst, a couple of nice dogtooth crystals from a calcite quarry in Ohio, and a chunk of matrix with three perfectly formed cubes of pyrite. We then continued south after a short break for Missy, and stopped off at Sallisaw, Oklahoma, to visit with Adam Lageveen. I had been talking to Adam for a few weeks after answering his ad on CL regarding Arkansas minerals for sale, discovering in those few weeks that he was originally from the same small farming town that my parents were from, that he graduated from the high school there with one of my second cousins, Cassie, and found that we both share a love of Arkansas quartz. Adam had started out rockhunting and mineral collecting and then ventured into the art of knapping and found that he enjoyed it much more, and needed to part with some of his minerals in order to create more room for his knapping material. I was only too happy to take some off his hands and he was gracious with good information as well. He allowed Missy to run free in his fenced in backyard while we visited for a couple of hours, and gave me a flat of beautiful green wavellite as well as some neat fern fossils from Scott County…all these years I had never seen anything come from that area, thinking it only contained ugly rocks, but he sure proved me wrong with that plate of fern fossils, and the more I gazed at that plate, I was simply floored by the beauty of it !!  Adam creates some beautiful arrowheads and Native American knives from different types of stone, some of them in beautiful shades of color, should check out his work on his Facebook page under Adam Lageveen`s Lithic Art…he has been working with rainbow obsidian lately and that material really radiate some nice sheens of different color.  

From Sallisaw, I drove back to Fort Smith and fueled up, then headed south…I had intended to stop off at the farm in Waldron on the way down, but as luck would have it, it was going to be all I could do to get to Hot Springs by dark, and since I would be coming back to the farm on Sunday, I decideded to drive on down to the condo instead. In years past, I have normally stayed on Lake Ouachita at Mtn Harbor Resort, but my plans this year included several locations closer to Hot Springs in general, so I opted to stay on Lake Hamilton this trip, finding a pretty two bedroom condo close to Highway 7 not far from the Mall at Pretti Pointe. The owner of the condo had given me a great rate for five nights and it was so much roomier and comfortable than any of the hotels there, that I booked it a few weeks back. As I got closer to Hot Springs, I could see that the sunset was approaching and was shaping up to be a nice one…traffic was slowing in front of me and I wasn`t sure I would be able to get to the lake in time to shoot it, so I picked up my camera and at each stoplight, photographed it…starting with this one…

01 Enroute Lake Hamilton Sunset

02 Enroute Lake Hamilton Sunset

03 Enroute Lake Hamilton Sunset

04 Enroute Lake Hamilton Sunset

Finally, I reached the lake and drove past the entrance to Pretti Pointe, stopping on the first bridge, to photograph the fading clouds out over the water of Lake Hamilton….

05 Arrived Lake Hamilton Sunset

08 Arrived Lake Hamilton Sunset

10 Arrived Lake Hamilton Sunset

…I turned to look out over the waters of the other side of the bridge, which is the first bridge crossing Lake Hamilton on the south side of Hot Springs, the location I photographed the fireworks from back in 2010, and saw the full moon rising up over the waters already….

09 Moon Rises Over Lake Hamilton

11 Moon Rises Over Lake Hamilton

…and then I drove on over to Pretti Pointe to find the condo before the sunlight completely faded away. As soon as I located it, and was able to get Missy situated, I grabbed my camera and walked down to the waters edge to shoot a few more images of the sunset, using a boatdock located directly behind the condos for my foreground….


12B Fading Sunset Lake Hamilton

14 Fading Sunset Lake Hamilton


and the condo building as well…..

15 Fading Sunset Lake Hamilton

I returned to the condo and found Missy checking out the beautifully furnished condo that would be our temporary home away from home for the next four days, and I think she liked what she saw as much as I did…..

17 Condo Living Room

20 Condo Living Room

23 Condo Kitchen

26 Master Bedroom

…I walked out on the spacious back balcony and while Missy was checking it out as well, I took a few night shots of the nightlights across the lake from the condos….

18 Lights Across Lake

19 Lights Across Lake

My buddy Ray checked into his hotel about thirty minutes later, about a mile north of my location…he had a late lunch on his eight hour drive up, so Missy and I decided to grab a sandwich at Subway at Walmart, since I needed to get some Bluebell Ice Cream while there too…found out the next day that there are about fifteen Subways in the Hot Springs area alone…three Walmart Supercenters, and multiple McDonalds as well…unfortunately for me, the nearest Phillips 66 station was all the way over on the other side of town. Oh well, cant have everything conveniently located nearby all the time.

Missy and I woke up about 6 am the next morning and I shot the sunrise from the balcony, on a very crisp and cold morning, with a big of fog rolling across the lake waters….

30 Sunrise Fri Morning


35 Sunrise Fri Morning

38 Sunrise Fri Morning

39 Sunrise Fri Morning

40 Fog & Sunrise Fri Morn

41 Fog & Sunrise Fri Morn

46 Fog Rolls In Fri Morn


Ray and I met up at the McDonalds next to his hotel, for a good breakfast, before driving down to Magnet Cove to meet up with Mr. Parker, who owns and operates a novaculite quarry at Magnet Cove Stone Company….

49 Novaculite Quarry Magnet Cove

68 Rest of the Quarry

…where we found beautiful shades of novaculite stone with dendrites attached to many of them….

61 Dendrites on Novaculite

54 Dendrite on Rainbow Novaculite

Novaculite is used for Arkansas Whetstones, which are used to sharpen knives and instruments, but it`s also catching on in popularity for knappers and as a decorative stone, both in the USA and abroad as well. Virgil arrived about noon and we spent a couple of extra hours there while he selected a few nice pieces to use later on in his knapping work. We met later at Colton`s Steakhouse in Hot Springs for supper to plan out the rest of our rockhunting weekend.  We didn`t get a very nice sunset that evening but the next morning`s sunrise sure was pretty….

71 Sunrise Sat Lake Hamilton

…looking east above and even west below looked really nice, the sky just filled with clouds….

72 Sunrise Sat Lake Hamilton

74 Sunrise Sat Lake Hamilton

We drove back down to Magnet Cove to meet Mr. Parker and follow him out to some fields that he was leasing from a property owner, to look for garnets and rutile. He showed us where to start looking, and we set off in search of treasure…..

75 Hunting Rutile & Garnets Magnet Cove

…I was lucky to find one perfectly shaped rutile crystal laying right on top of the dirt, on closer examination it appears to be one of those sixteenlings, bout the size of a large pea, and silvery in color…prob one that someone else found and accidentally left behind.  We actually dug for about two hours there…we didn`t find much in the way of rutile, we were finding a lot of chards of novaculite, alot of them almost arrowhead shaped and many were in beautiful pastel colors…I found one that could be a thinking stone in a pastel pink. As we were packing up and preparing to leave, the property owner and his grandson showed up, and we stood around talking with them for an hour about the history of the area, they were very nice and provided alot of information on the area. From there we returned to Hot Springs, Ray for another nap, Virgil driving up to Mt Ida to scout out the crystal mines up there, and I decided to drive around and photograph the fall colors. I drove over to DeSoto Lake on the north side of Hot Springs, it features a spring fed small lake with a stone footbridge, manmade dam and waterfall, and an old powermill downstream from the dam that powered the estate of Col Fordyce that still sits on a hill above the lake….

81 DeSoto Lake & Waterfall

84 DeSoto Lake & Footbridge

85 DeSoto Lake

86 DeSoto Lake

89 Old Waterworks Powermill

91 Old Waterworks Powermill

92 Old Waterworks Powermill

95 Old Waterworks Powermill

 I returned to the condo a bit before sunset and saw a speedboat approaching a pretty set of maple trees abloom with color….before heading out to supper after a plain sunset. 

79 Speedboat Passes Autumn Maples


I again woke up about 6 on Sunday morning, in time to photograph the sunrise and morning fog that started rolling across the lake once again….

97 Sunrise Sun Morning

98 Sunrise Sun Morning

99 Sunrise Sun Morning

101 Sunrise Sun Morning

…and soon after, Ray and I were headed to Mount Ida to a new crystal mine location for us…one we had heard of before but had never actually been to. It turned out to be a unique experience for us and we did well there, but by noon we were on our way farther north to my grandfathers old farm near Waldron, for dinner with several of my relatives, an annual family reunion and my Uncle Joe had given me permission to bring my friends with me. We arrived at the farm about an hour later….

Arriving Wed Afternoon 1

….the farm sits at the base of the mountains a few miles from the Oklahoma state line, where my grandparents were dairy farmers for sixty five years….

Family Farm from Ross Creek Road

…we parked up near the old barn and then walked down to where everyone was eating dinner by the garage…I told everyone there that I had no idea who the guy was in the purple sweatshirt with LSU in large letters on the front…Ray was asking for duct tape so he could cover up the letters…I had told him he would be taking his life into his own hands wearing that down there, cause he was deep within RAZORBACK territory there…they took pity on him and fed him anyway. Virgil liked the line of food entrees so much that he decided to put his diet on hold for half a day and he chowed down big time, before heading on home to Tulsa. Ray left soon after, headed back to Hot Springs and I stayed a bit longer visiting with my cousins before heading back to the lake as well, arriving just in time to capture yet another stunning sunset on the lake….

110 Sunset Sunday Night

111 Sunset Sunday Night

112 Sunset Sunday Night

115 Sunset Sunday Night

116 Sunset Sunday Night

118 Sunset Sunday Night Rosebush

119 Sunset Sunday Night

123 Sunset Sunday Night Geese Flying

…and after a quiet night of tv and relaxing down after two hundred miles of driving today alone…Missy and I woke up to another sensational sunrise on Monday morning….looked like the sky was on fire….

125 Sunrise Monday Morning

126 Sunrise Monday Morning

130 Sunrise Monday Morning

…and looking to the west, all pink layers of clouds….

132 Sunrise Monday Looking West

133 Sunrise Monday Morning

134 Sunrise Monday Morning

Ray had a rough night sleeping Sunday night so while waiting for him to nap a bit Monday morning, Missy and I drove down to Cool Pool Falls, a local waterfall favorite of mine, and while we normally find great color there, it was pretty barren up behind the falls this year, even though it looks great in this photo, but the color in this image is actually on the west side of the falls and up the hillside….

139 Cool Pool Falls

After a good breakfast at CB, we drove to Miller Mtn Mine west of Jessieville and dug for quartz crystals there for a couple of hours, and then drove over to the private landowner`s place, that I had talked to earlier by phone. John turned out to be a super gracious host and welcomed us to his farm to hunt for quartz crystals and wavellite. We found several quartz singles and small clusters in the few hours we were there before darkness fell and enjoyed the time we were there looking. Here is one of the prettiest smokey clusters that I found at John`s farm….

149 Smokey Qtz Cluster Found

150 Smokey Qtz Cluster Found


Soon after darkness fell, we thanked John for his hospitality and headed back to Hot Springs to clean up and then met at the Bleu Monkey Grill for supper. 

Ray said he was going to hang around a couple of extra days, at least until the bottom dropped out on the weather, while Missy and I were set to head home on Tuesday morning. I headed back to the condo to start packing and then hit the hay. We woke to cloudy skies the next morning, and started packing the truck soon after. It began drizzling rain as we headed out of the parking lot…I drove over to Walmart and picked up three half gallon containers of that delicious Bluebell ice cream that I had polished off on Sunday night, MOO-ENNIA Crunch, to take home with me. I iced it down real good, but it turned out to be a moot point. I drove thru Little Rock on the way home and the farther north we traveled, the more cooler the temps became. We stopped off in Batesville to grab some lunch and I found out soon after that, Ray had decided the falling temps and rain hitting Hot Springs, were too much for him and he had headed home as well. 

I shaved about two hours off my driving time, stopping off in Rolla to fill up the gas tank once again and boy was that wind cold and sharp, blowing out of the northwest, when I got out of the truck !! I wasted no time in grabbing my jacket out of the back seat, Missy had kept it nice and warm for me, and from there on to the house, the heater was on low and felt great. We rolled back into the driveway about 2:30 pm on Tuesday afternoon, glad to be home, but a great vacation get away too, all about quality time spent with good friends and quality material found this time, rather than quantity. 🙂



Arkansas Fall Trip 2013

Mom and I traveled down to Arkansas a few weeks ago for the fall season and I figured there would be more color down there, since the state of Arkansas received more rain than the state of Missouri did over the summer months, but it was about the same actually, and spotty as well. Normally when we cross the Boston Mountains on Hwy 71, the leaves on the trees are brown and falling off, but we were mildly surprised to see a little bit of color on the south side of the mountain range, from about Chester southward, and just in spots, too. 

I dropped my mom off with my Aunt Dorcas and after having lunch with them there, Missy and I headed south to Waldron…where my mom and dad both grew up and we used to spend time visiting my grandparents out on their dairy farm…lots of fond memories there. I drove over to Sehorn Cemetery to change out their flowers on their graves for my parents, who always try to take care of that around Memorial Day but were saddled down this year with major roof damage from the small tornado that tore through Sullivan back in May. Missy and I changed out the flowers on the shepherd`s hook….

2013 Flower Change


…and the drove over to the dairy farm, which is taken care of these days by my Uncles Joe, Harley, and Harold….

Arriving Wed Afternoon 1


…I remember so many times during my childhood, of coming down this road, gravel back then, and approaching these tall pine sentinels on both sides of the road, and seeing my Grandpa`s dairy farm ahead just around the bend…Uncle Joe added the white fence in recent years and has restored the old farmhouse as well.  After visiting with my uncles that afternoon, Missy and I headed back to Highway 71 by way of Ross Creek Road and then continued south toward Lake Ouachita.

I was seeing a bit of color up in the mountains on the way south toward Y City, but the heavy cloud cover was making it hard to see anything near the top of the treeline….

Down Hwy 71 Near Y City


Down Hwy 71 Near Y City 2


Driving Down Hwy 71

As I drove south through Y City, I was able to survey the flood damage from earlier this year when one of those hundred year floods ravaged the entire valley floor there…ripping homes from their foundation walls and washing out roads and bridges, sweeping vehicles off the roadways….minutes before my uncles were telling me about their Sheriff and Game Warden who risked their lives that day to float across the raging Fouche La Fave River to a home on the far side where two people were trapped inside by the violent floodwaters….they were both wearing life jackets, however the swift flowing water collapsed the house upon all four once the rescuers were inside and all four perished. I could see the barren foundations left behind as I turned on to Hwy 270 from Hwy 71, and the remains of a mobile home as well, only the steel frame remaining and twisted violently as well.

They told me of a pickup truck, occupied by a man and his girlfriend, who had attempted to flee the rising floodwaters, swept off the highway into a deep culvert…the woman had opened the passenger side door and was swept immediately under the truck where she soon drowned, and the man stayed inside the truck. Firefighters were unable to get to him until many hours later when the floodwaters receded..then waded out to the truck, carrying a ladder, which they lowered down into the truck, and he was able to climb up to safety. There was evidence of destruction from high floodwaters for at least ten miles down that valley floor, til I reached the base of the first mountain.

We arrived at Mountain Harbor and got checked in with thirty minutes to spare before the sun began to set…I had figured from the heavy cloud base on the way down there, that we might just have a beautiful sunset tonight, and boy, was I right…..take a look at the series of photos of it…

Start of Sunset 1106


…and as I was shooting the clouds gathering and turning colors, with areas of blue sky in between, I heard a sound and looked up to my right and saw a flock of vultures flying around in circles above….

Start of Sunset 1106 Vultures Flying 2W

Start of Sunset 1106 Vultures Flying 3


…I was shooting the approaching sunset from the wooden bridge shoreline, which is quite rocky and rugged, and while there have always been a few vultures along this shoreline in years past, it was quite evident to me that evening that the flock had increased in numbers this year as they flew over me to the south…..

Start of Sunset 1106 Vultures Flying 4


Start of Sunset 1106 Vultures Flying 6W


Start of Sunset 1106 Vultures Flying 7W


…and while waiting for the clouds to turn into their beautiful colors, I pulled out one of my sunset filters to play around with it over my lens….

Sunset 1106 Forming Up


..but a few minutes later, it was obvious I didn`t need it any longer, the colors were turning out just fine without it….and looking to the right, I saw a splash of color along the rugged rocky shoreline…

Sunset 1106 Splash Of Color on Bank

Sunset 1106 Forming Up 4

Sunset 1106 Forming Up 7


Sunset 1106 Forming Up 8


Sunset 1106 Forming Up 11


Sunset 1106 Forming Up 12


Sunset 1106 Forming Up 14


Sunset 1106 Forming Up 15


…this turned out to be one of those sunsets that just hangs up there for an extended period of time…def not your normal sunset that is over in about ten minutes or less….God had a great canvas tonight and the colors and clouds just kept turning colors and getting better every minute….I just kept on shooting….

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging


…now this one above is dead center and the next one is to the left, where the clouds are lighter on the fringes….

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 2


…and even lighter to the right side….

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 4


…and deeper colors dead center…..

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 5


…I call these types of sunsets, cotton candy sunsets, cause the clouds resemble whispy pieces of cotton candy much of the time. I decided to drive on down the road to another spot, called Micah`s Point, where the staff of Mountain Harbor built a lookout platform at the top of the hill, and there is a trail down to a rocky point below it…when I pulled up to the lookout platform and saw the sunset getting even deeper and the cotton candy forming up in lines, I practically ran down to that rocky point and began shooting once again….

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 6


Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 8

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 9


Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 11

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 12


…I backed up a bit and looked at the sunset through these pines and it looked great, so I decided to shoot it….

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 15


Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 17


Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 18


Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 20


…and then I drove back up to the bridge, thinking it had to be fading away now…but no, it was just hanging up there….so I stopped and shot some more there.

Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 21W


Sunset 1106 Cotton Candy Hanging 22W


In all, I believe I shot about two hundred images of it, before heading back to the guestroom and then meandering down to the lodge restaurant for a great plate of fried catfish strips with their famous baked potato salad and steamed veggies. They have several great food entrees there, no matter what time you are there to eat…and from what I have heard, they also bake some great tasting cinnamon rolls for groups. The only bad thing I can think of, is that they actually shut down the restaurant from the first of December to about the first of March.

Missy and I woke up about 7 am the next morning and headed out for a good walk, getting in about a mile of small hills just walking around the immediate lodge and marina area. Below is what the main lodge looks like from the lake side, guestrooms are to the left, dining area to the far right…

Lodge Guestrooms


There was some light fog out on the lake, covering some of the boats and docks, and I took my camera and photographed some of the scenery with the fog rolling across the waters….

Fireboat in Fog


Marina Fountain in Fog


Fishermen in Boat in Fog


After taking Missy back to the room and getting her fed, I wandered down to the lodge restaurant for a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast with grape jelly. Besides the great atmosphere there, they also have a great view of the lake and marina area from the restaurant windows. After checking my emails, Missy and I then headed to Miller Mountain Mine on the northeast corner of Lake Ouachita.  We drove in and I stopped up at the mine entrance office, to find Bill and Faith sorting through single quartz crystals on the front porch. There was a new guy working the office with them this time…I found out a bit later that Bill had recently undergone some cancer surgery and was recovering from it, with doctors orders not to do any heavy lifting for at least another three to six weeks, so the new guy was one of two replacements now working there to do the work that Bill normally does there. Bill brought me up to speed on the current mining conditions in the Mount Ida and Jessieville area,  and several events that had occurred since I was there last year in the fall. The short of it was that four mines were now shut down and no longer open to the public for digging at in the Mount Ida area alone, making for a sad state of affairs down there this year. 

 I had a few hours to dig that day, before meeting a friend for lunch in Hot Springs, so I drove on up and parked, cracked the windows for Missy, and got ready to walk around in the wet mud. It was way too muddy to release her from my truck and Faith had a dog running around outside as well, and it was cool enough to leave her inside, about fifty five degrees at that time of the morning.

Miller Mtn Mine


After about two hours of walking around in the ooey gooey mud, I had my bag filled completely and I had found a couple of yard rocks as well. I took a break and checked on Missy, she was doing fine,but obviously wanted to get out and stretch her legs. I decided to wait til we got to Gulpha Gorge to check out the fall color in the creek and campground area. I wrapped up my crystals and cleaned up, then drove back down to the office to get a couple of baskets of quartz crystal plates and talk with Faith and Bill a bit more before heading out.

I drove down to Hot Springs to meet up with Tre, stopping off at the National Park campground to check on the colors there first. Missy and I drove over to the racetrack area where we picked him up,  and then drove down to the waterfall south of town to check it out as well. With the two inch rainfall a few days before, it was up and running pretty good….

Blue Hole Falls

….higher than  I had ever seen it in the three years that I have photographed it.

It runs down over a huge shelf of novaculite that is mostly gray to black, but there are areas of beautiful colors mixed in that make one think it would make great cutting material for jewelry, if one only possessed enough strength to break off a nice chunk of it.  I tried one time to break off a corner piece, and it just laughed at me….very strong stuff. That evening, Tre and I went over to Harbor north to see if we were going to get another pretty sunset when we came across some beautiful deer grazing by the road on the plentiful acorns….

Deer Feeding on North Drive


Later that evening, I met up with Aaron, a private area collector who I had corresponded with online earlier in the week, and we made arrangements to meet up and trade some material. Aaron had some great minerals and crystals from the Magnet Cove area including some smokey quartz with phantoms, pyrite cubes, brookite crystals, some with pyrite, magnetite crystals, and some novaculite suitable for cutting material. I had brought Aaron quite a bit of druse quartz from Missouri, at his request, as well as some purple fluorite cubes from western Kentucky, and some Doe Run minerals too.  He also brought me a nice large cluster of quartz crystals from the pit at Miller Mtn Mine and handed it over to me….it was quite beautiful !!  Thanks again, Aaron !!

I had a bit of trouble with acid reflux that night and lost a few hours of sleep…so I opted to do nothing at all on Friday til later in the day… afterall, it was a vacation and I felt that I needed at least one day of doing absolutely nothing, so after a good hike at daybreak, capturing more fog on the water…

Sunlit Maples Early Morning


Wooden Bridge Harbor North


….we moved from the guestroom, to a log cabin at Harbor North. While out hiking, we came across this neat outcrop of layered, colored shale on the lakeshore…….

Shale Lakeshore Harbor North


Later in the day though, I drove into Mt Ida and met up with Jeff Burrows of Collier Creek Crystals and saw some of the prettiest quartz crystals I have ever seen…aura quartz, irradiated quartz, smokey quartz, golden healers, large clusters, and then he showed me some Mexican minerals including dogtooth calcite crystals in flower form, selenite, fluorite, and huge pallets full of geodes coated with druse quartz,  Jeff was able to fill me in on some more happenings in the quartz mining of the area as well. He said he could remember a time when there were about twenty five mines operating in the area, but these days, due to the extensive regulations by the present administration, only a few mines remained open to the public. You can view more of the crystals Jeff has for sale at and as soon as I get caught up, I`ll photograph some of the crystals I got there and post on here, believe me, everything there was quite pretty !!

Saturday dawned bright and clear and cool, and after a good hike with Missy around the north lakeshore, I had a good hearty breakfast at the lodge, and then we drove down to Charleton Lake and hiked down to the waterfall to check out the fall foliage…

Charlton Lake Nearby 2


Charlton Lake Nearby 4


Charlton Lake Falls

I had received a call from a good friend the night before, and he decided to drive down to visit that afternoon so I spent the rest of the morning repacking the truck, redistributing the rocks and minerals in the bed especially. After a short nap, I drove up to the firehouse to wait for my friend Pierre to show up. We had a great visit, went for a nice hike to some beautiful fall foliage areas and then had some great food at the lodge restaurant before he headed back home that evening.

The next morning, I headed back up to Waldron to the family farm for an annual reunion with family and friends, and a big dinner. On the way up, we spotted some pretty foliage along Hwy 270…

Color on Mountain W of Mt Ida


Mountain Color Near Y City


Mom and I visited with several family members and area friends before heading for home about mid afternoon. Luckily, this year I had taken a few extra days off to catch up and rest up before heading back to work. 

Arkansas in May

Missy and I loaded up the truck two weeks ago and headed south to Arkansas for a week`s stay on beautiful Lake Ouachita west of Hot Springs and east of Mount Ida….I was asked to photograph the scenery down there four times a year and this was our spring trip down there.

I stopped off in Waldron, on the way down, where my parents are both from and my Mom was raised there on the family farm. I have many fond memories of the family farm and my grandparents and many cousins and relatives in that area from several trips down there at various times of the years, and we still travel there for family reunions at the farm in November each year. My grandparents are buried nearby and my parents usually travel down there for Decoration Day at the cemetery, but were unable to do so this year, so I offered to take care of it for them. It was a beautiful drive out to Sehorn Cemetery, which sits up on a hillside overlooking a creek valley near Winfield, just west of Waldron.

Mom takes hanging baskets down each year and changes them out, I set the new ones on the grass and removed the older ones from the Shepherd`s hook and changed them out…


03 Sehorn Cemetery Thomas Graves



02 Changing Flowers Thomas Graves



From there, we drove on south to Mount Ida and east on 270 to our turnoff, Mountain Harbor Road, at a wide spot in the road called Joplin. We were staying in a beautifully furnished condo in Harbor East, which was within sight of the lake waters…I photographed the condo and several others when there in November last fall and would mainly be concentrating on scenery around the lake and boating activities on this trip. I had intended to drive on down to Hot Springs and get a good steak dinner at Colton`s, and visit with one of my good friends Scott Effird, who works there, but found myself a little too tired after the long drive down today. We had alot of headwinds on the way down, and I was wore out, so we went over to the Harbor Dining Lodge instead and had a good dinner there. I really enjoy the atmosphere in the Harbor Lodge, very friendly people that work there and there is a great view of the lake there while eating. After dinner, we went down and looked at the big fireboat again, its a retired Coast Guard Cutter retrofitted to use as a fireboat….


05 Neat Fireboat Mtn Harbor



…it was purchased by a resident of Mountain Harbor for the Harbor to use as a fireboat….it almost went to Alaska and would have if it hadnt been purchased, from what I understand. It sure is impressive looking and I was treated to a tour of it while there as well.

Missy and I wandered over to Micah`s Pointe after that and photographed some speedboats racing across the west side of the lake as the sun began to set….


06 Speedboat Races Across Lake Sunset



…and a sailboat tied up in one of the many docks at Mountain Harbor….


08 Sailboat Reflection Harbor



…and then I spotted a couple of fishermen trying their luck from the waters near a beautiful wooden bridge near the Pointe….


09 Fishermen Off Micah Point



..pretty soon after that, the sun began setting and I photographed it….


10 Sunset Micahs Point



…this is a great place to shoot sunsets from, the Pointe sits atop a beautiful high bluff overlooking Lake Ouachita with a great expanse of water to the west right in front of you…there is a nice wooden platform built up on top of the bluff and nicely framed with beautiful pines and cedars…I know I`m using the word beautiful here quite a bit, but thats what this place consists of….alot of beauty….and as we stood there and watched, the sunset just kept getting better and better….


11 Sunset Micahs Point



…and while we were there, a buzzard swooped down in front of me a few times so I photographed him as well…


12 Buzzard At Sunset



…I then repositioned at the wooden bridge to get more water reflections in my images….…and while this sunset didnt fill the entire sky, the narrow cloudline in the middle sure did turn some nice colors as the sun finally dropped….


15 Sunset Wooden Bridge



16 Sunset From Wooden Bridge





…and that blossomed into this….


19 Last Sunset From Wood Bridge




and then this….


20 Last Sunset From Wood Bridge



Well the next morning, I started photographing a few things around the condo for Sami….she has a very nice condo that she lets me stay in while there, and she runs a management service for other condo owners there…she goes above and beyond for pet owners like me….provides dog bowls so I dont have to bring Missy`s….


23 Pet Bowls Provided



…her cleaning staff do a tremendous job as well, and always leave these cute characters on your bed to find when you arrive…neat greeters…..


21 Bed Character in Condo



…and even though she cant be there to greet everyone herself, on your arrival, Sami still makes you feel welcome as you walk through the door….


25 Welcome Sign in Foyer



Missy walked in past the welcome sign, saw her reflection, and prob though Sami had arranged company for her visit…


24 Missy Reflection in Foyer



…and once we got settled in, opened the fridge to stock my bottled water and Arizona Green Tea and found some treats inside waiting too….


27 Fridge On My Arrival



28 Treats In Fridge



Sami also thinks of your breakfast needs too….and she will also stock the fridge and kitchen for you if you have a shopping list, so its all there when you arrive…


29 Breakfast Treats



30 Breakfast Treats



I`m never sure if one can find what the basics I have to have…I drink a certain type of bottled water and Arizona Green Tea isnt found everywhere either…so I just take my own stuff when I travel.but she was right on the mark with cereal for me. She also provides pet pillows for your pet to sleep on and treats…


152 Pillow and Treats for Pet




…so if you ever want to stay there, give Sami a shout at Lake Ouachita Vacation Realty and she can make it happen.

After that, Missy and I got outside and took a walk around to re-acquaint ourselves with the layout of Harbor East, and get a good walk in as well….we were walking down a hill and I noticed in the ditchline and hillside that there were chunks of massive quartz sticking out of the dirt all over the place….


31 Quartz in Ditchline Mtn Harbor



 …I rarely see any crystals in the quartz in this area, found a few small ones, but I have heard that they can be found in the wooded areas surrounding Lake Ouachita and there are a few old abandoned mines along the trails outside this area as well. I talked to one of the maintenance men working that morning outside and he told me that he lives just a few miles west of Mtn Harbor toward Mt Ida and there are quartz crystal clusters that pop up on his property each spring during the spring thaw season…so they can be found in some areas in the woods for sure.

We walked on down and saw that the Harbor East pool was being prepared to open soon for the season….


32 Pavilion Above Pool



…there is a nice pavilion on top and restrooms down below…there is a nice tennis court behind me and a basketball court to my left, right there with the pool…and the lake is right below the hill from the basketball court about 100 feet….as we were walking back to the condo, I saw some neat wind catchers in the form of hot air balloons….


33 Hot Air Balloon Wind Decorations



…on returning to the condo, I got word that a buddy of mine couldnt make it down to visit, so Missy and I loaded up and headed to Bear Mountain Mine to look for quartz…as we got to the entrance to Harbor East, we saw a doe feeding in the grass…


36 Doe Feeding



We had a great time over at Bear Mtn Mine, for that story and photos visit my rock collecting site at

I was driving in a different route than I normally take, and we came across some deer on the very east side of the property along East Basin Road, and I understand they are there every day at various times…this one was standing up at the top of a road cut…its a little fuzzy, mainly because the truck was running and my arm was resting on the windowsill while shooting….


37 Doe At Top of Bluff



…I drove down to a different section for my sunset photos this time…down to a boat ramp in Harbor East, right below and just east of the pool and pavilion area…we found it during our morning walk and it looked like a great place to shoot some photos…and it was….


38 Sunset Second Night



41 East Basin Rd Dock Sunset



42 East Basin Rd Dock Sunset



48 East Basin Ramp Setting Sun



50 East Basin Setting Sun



The next morning we got up bright and early and headed over to Miller Mountain Mine, on the northeast corner of Lake Ouachita and about 12 miles west of Jessieville off Hwy 298…another of my favorite quartz mines to go dig at…that story is also in my rock collecting site.  I wore out there by 1 pm and then we headed down to Hot Springs to grab a pizza and headed back the condo to rest up the rest of the day. I think the heat must have worn me down two days in a row, it was early May and already hot and muggy down there. I didnt shoot the sunset this evening because there were no clouds in the sky and it was just not very pretty at all, which is highly unusual for Mtn Harbor cause its a very pretty place to shoot sunsets and this time of the year they are normally very nice. 

Friday morning I waited for Sami to get back from some errands, and while waiting, I visited with Stu Schmidt, who is a rock collector and buyer, he used to have his own quartz mine near Mount Ida, and a wavellite mine near Avante, on the north side of Lake Ouachita, but recently sold both mines and now he just buys and sells rocks and minerals. I went to see what he had in green wavellite and wound up purchasing a few specimens from him that were covered in bubbles and cats eye. Pretty stuff.

When I returned to Harbor East, I stopped off to photograph a trailhead for Sami, located next to Turtle Spa….


51 Trailhead Near Spa



52 Woodland Workout Circuit Trail


Apparently its a nice trail to get a good cardio workout on…located next to Turtle Spa…


54 Turtle Cove Spa



Friday afternoon, Sami picked me up and we went out on Lake Ouachita to shoot some boats and scenery…here are some friends of hers coming into port as we were going out on to the lake….


56 Boaters Friday



…we first motored over to the marina to get some gas and I met a few of the marina boys there…Connor is one of the marina boys and he showed me the fire boat up close, gave me a tour of it, and let me tell you, the interior storage room on it was like a sauna…it was quite impressive though. After filling the gas tank, we motored out into the middle of the lake and saw boats all over the place….


57 Sailboat On Lake Ouachita


58 Houseboat and Speedboat



We went by the cove where my condo is located…you can see the corner of the roof, right above the lake side condos….


59 Condos Along Lake



..the next photo shows an island where someone requested their ashes buried at because they loved this lake area so well…


60 Memorial Island



…and here is what the north shoreline looks like in many areas….rugged beauty at its best….


65 Rugged North Shore



69 Rugged North Shore


We motored into another cove and found a guy had stretched out a big hammock and was sound asleep in it…


71 Guy Sleeps in Hammock on Island



…and on the other side of the cove was an island that has a memorial bench placed up above the waterline…the son of a family well known in the area, an area the son really liked to visit and enjoyed during his time on earth…friends placed a concrete memorial bench here in his honor….


73 Memorial Bench on Island



…very pretty place for it and well thought out and designed……and here you see the bench above and closeup below…


74 Memorial Bench



…and then we continued motoring across and east on the lake, seeing boats everywhere…


75 Speedboat



76 Sailboat Moored in Cove



Sami then pointed out Brady Mountain Overlook, sits up above Lake Ouachita on the south side of the lake, we were planning to go up there the next day and get some photos of the lake from there…


78 Brady Mtn Overlook From Lake



…and here it is with a nice houseboat in the image….


79 Houseboat and Overlook



…and another speedboat with flags flying as well….


81A Speedboat With Flags



…we then motored over to Micah`s Pointe…here is the pretty wooden bridge where I shot sunsets on Tuesday night….


82 Wood Bridge and Glass House



…you can see the glass house at the top of the hill on the right side above the bridge…this house is owned by friends of Sami, and there is a tremendous view from there as well…I met them the next day at the Parking Lot, too…very nice people. The next photo  shows Micah`s Pointe….


84 Micah`s Point and Bluff



…and here is a close up view of the pretty wooden bridge and the marina behind it…


88 Bridge and Harbor



…we motored around a little more and on this island below, found another houseboat tied off…


90 Houseboat Anchored at Island


…and saw some nice sunbeams as well….


93 Sunbeams



94 Sunbeams



99 Speedboat in Sunbeams



…and then saw some friends of hers coming into port as we were finishing up as well…


97 Nice Guys In Speedboat



 We got back into the marina on the east side and returned the boat to the owner, a super nice guy who is the Subway District Manager for that area and we docked next to his houseboat there at the marina….


122 Houseboat 100 footer



123 Houseboat 100 footer`s one hundred feet long folks…I never knew houseboats were that big, never seen one that long, never have seen any that big out on the water, but there were several tied up in the three marina`s there….and he gave me a grand tour of the inside and it was absolutely beautiful, very nicely furnished and just immaculate interior…six or seven bedrooms…we saw so many I lost count after four, each has its own bath, the master bath has a hot tub, there is another hot tub up on the roof, full size kitchen, dining room,and living room, and a full size deck outside the living room.

Sami dropped me off at the condo and after cleaning up, Missy and I headed to the lodge to get some supper…we then headed over to the east basin boat dock to see how well the sunset would look tonight…we were pleasantly surprised this evening….


100 Sunset Friday Night



…it was absolutely gorgeous !!! I walked down to the waters edge on the shoreline and started shooting immediately…there was a couple there taking a boat out of the water and a young lady snapping photos of the setting sun with her Canon camera…I gave her some tips on how to get some better sunset photos while her husband was placing their boat on the trailer…


101 Sunset Friday Night



102 East Basin Sunset



104 East Basin Sunset Friday




106 Sunset Friday SE



107 Sunset Friday SE




…after snapping many photos of this beautiful setting sun, another truck showed up wanting to launch their boat and so she jumped in her truck and removed her boat and trailer from the ramp…as the new truck backed into the water on the ramp, a beautiful red Dodge pickup, I moved to the other side of the ramp and shot it as the foreground for the sunset…


108 East Basin Sunset Friday



109 East Basin Ramp Sunset Friday



110 East Basin Ramp Sunset Friday



111 East Basin Sunset Friday Boat



Saturday morning, Sami picked me up and we went for a ride up to the top of Brady Mountain to the Hickory Nut Overlook, where there is a commanding view of the vastness of Lake Ouachita….


113 Lake From Hickory Nut Overlook


I was simply astounded at the view from up there, one could see for many miles and then some…I wished I had taken my haze filter with me as it was fairly thick up there…but here are more of the views…there were a couple of  boats zipping around down there as well…


114 Lake From Hickory Nut Overlook



115 Speedboats on Lake Ouachita




…we then came back down the mountain and as we entered the Harbor area, we came upon a doe feeding in the brush on the side of the road….


119 Doe Roadside in Woods



…and then as we made our way back to the condo, we came upon a doe and fawn on the east side near some homes……they crossed the road in front of us three times as we slowly made our way through the area, and the last time we saw them they were feasting on some azaleas roadside….


121 Doe and Fawn Harbor East



 Sami picked me up Saturday afternoon and we went out with a friend of hers in his speedboat, so she could get some water skiing in and I could photograph her water skiing…he had a beautiful boat and we were soon out in the middle of the lake once again and Sami was in the water getting adjusted to the water temperature….


125 Sami Preparing to Ski



…and soon after that she was up on her waterski on the surface of the water….


128 Sami Skiis on Lake



132 Sami Skiis Lake Ouachita



133 Sami Skiis



…she did a great job considering she hadnt been out on the water for at least two years. We picked her up and headed over to the Parking Lot to meet up with her friends Julie and Joel, her neighbors across the street from her house in Harbor East…I had met them the day before and found them to be very nice. As we motored over to the island, we saw this guy zipping across the water in a pretty speedboat with a flag….


137 Speeding Boat



…we soon arrived at The Parking Lot and found Joel and Julie with Sami`s friends from the Glass House, relaxing in the water at the beach….


124 The Parking Lot




 Joel came over and helped Sami and I make a safe transition from the speedboat to his houseboat, since we both had our hands full of stuff, and then after Sami`s speedboat friend took off to join up with some of his buddies on the other side of the lake, we sat down on the comfy boat seats and relaxed, waiting for Joe to arrive in his bass boat with Sami`s dogs….


139 Joe and the Dogs in Bass Boat



 Then after a grilled dinner on the island, DJ and his family headed back to their house in DJ`s beautiful sleek speedboat….


146 DJ and Family Leave Parking Lot



145 DJ and Family Boating





144 DJ Speeds Across Lake


 After another hour of relaxing on the beach, we finally loaded up Joe`s bass boat and headed back across the lake to Mountain Harbor…I shot this mid day setting sun across the lake….


149 Mid Afternoon Sunset



…and then later that evening, I went down to the main marina at the dining lodge and tried to shoot the super moon, but folks, it looked like a normal moon to me….


151 Super Moon



…maybe just a little brighter, but thats the only difference I saw.

Well that wrapped up a nice six day stay in southern Arkansas in May, Missy and I loaded up the next morning and headed home.


Arkansas in the Fall…

Well I traveled back down to the great state of Arkansas for my fall trip, last week, decided to stay in Hot Springs on Lake Hamilton this year, since Mountain Harbor was completely booked with two events…but after giving it a lot of thought, deciding I was going to do some more photo shoots down closer to Hot Springs and would only have time to work one dig in for quartz crystasl this trip….it must made more sense to stay in Hot Springs this time.

I started researching places to stay in Hot Springs, dog friendly places no less, and checked with Jessica at the Hot Springs Convention Center, on locations similar to Mountain Harbor since I was kind of spoiled staying there the last five fall seasons…and she was quite helpful in coming up with several locations to check out, most of them located right on Lake Hamilton…and I also checked out a few private residences and condos that were available for rent as vacation homes and time shares. My budget was a little tight this year so I finally opted to stay at the Staybridge Suites on the south shores of Lake Hamilton, off Hwy 7 south of Hwy 270. It was one of the few dog friendly hotels in the entire Hot Springs area, and after staying there three nights, I couldnt have made a better choice, let me tell you !

Mom and I took off about 7 am Thursday morning and had a good drive down, I was actually monitoring my gas mileage on my Colorado pickup and didnt have to stop and fill the tank til I arrived in Fort Smith and dropped mom off at the home of one of her brothers there.  She always spends a few days there shopping with a couple of my aunts and cousins while I vacation down in the Hot Springs area. Then on Sunday we join up with several other relatives and many friends at my grandfathers farm in Scott County near Waldron and have a big dinner there before heading home.

I still had a quarter tank of gas but found a good price in Fort Smith so I stopped to fill up and after doing the math, determined that once again I was still getting 25 miles per gallon. After a 90 min shoot just west of Fort Smith in the Roland area, I then drove on down toward Hot Springs…crossing the Fouche River south of Waldron….

Fouche River Near Waldron Nov 2010

…and then I headed on down to Y City where I picked up Hwy 270 east to Mount Ida and Hot Springs….I decided to text Randy, one of my Hot Springs models, who was planning to go to Coltons Steakhouse as soon as I arrived, and let him know I was going to be running just a little bit behind on my schedule…and luckily he was okay with waiting for me…I was about to starve by the time I got into the hotel in Hot Springs an hour later…there was a nice sunset on the way down but I never could find a good place to shoot it from as I drove down through there…

I got checked in quickly and cleaned up and then Missy and I headed north on Central Avenue to Coltons Steakhouse…Randy was there ahead of us and had a booth and a big glass of sweet tea waiting on me…I found Randy down there a few years ago and he is the guy that took me to the waterfall back in July that I shot at several times while there then. He also told me about Gulpha Gorge last year but I didnt check it out til July this year, and kind of still kick myself for not checking it out last fall, talk about a beautiful place to just drive or hike thru…more on it later….had a great dinner and visit with Randy again and then headed back to the hotel to relax and unwind…talk about a very pretty suite hotel…four stories tall, sitting up on a hill above Lake Hamilton and we had been assigned to the third floor with a nice view of the lake to the north…nicely furnished and a beautiful walkin dark gray marble shower with glass doors  and big king sized bed with a pillowtop mattress…knew I was going to sleep well. I checked out the treadmill in the fitness center and got a good run in before heading to bed the first night.

Missy and I slept in just a little bit and then headed to Miller Mountain the next morning…arriving shortly after 7:30 and finding out we were the first arrivals of the day….after talking to Faith and checking in while Bill was bringing up fresh dirt piles, I drove over to the parking area and let Missy out to stretch her legs as I prepared to find some nice quartz.

On Arrival 8 AM

Well I didnt have to wait long to find something nice and big…soon after lacing up my boots and grabbing my rake and bags, I ambled behind the truck to the first pile and found a very large quartz chunk with crystals all over one end and both sides…so I backed my truck up and loaded it right up…then decided to do some surface collecting while I had the place to myself….I filled half a bag with smaller crystals laying around in sight and soon after, another couple of folks showed up to look for quartz too…they turned out to be a nice couple from Topeka, Kansas, and were like me, just looking for anything pretty to take home…I helped them locate some nice crystals while digging into a few of the piles near the parking lot…I was mainly still surface collecting but if I located something, I would dig down and see what else was nearby and usually there were quite a few small clusters and points nearby. I filled two bags pretty quickly….within the first hour I dug out a couple of smaller clusters of smokey colored crystals…and was quite happy with them…decided even if I found nothing else the rest of the day, my day was complete with them…but as it was, in the five hours I was there, I did find quite a few nice singles and clusters…

Missy Checks Things Out

…here Missy is seen on one of her many jaunts around the tailing piles checking things out…with the beautiful fall foliage in full display near the entrance to Miller Mountain Mine…

Foliage Near Entrance

…and a little closer up here….well I decided to take the rest of the day off and just do a little sightseeing, so we packed up the rocks after wrapping them up and headed to Gulpha Gorge….taking the scenic route…and for those that havent been to this area, GG is the hollow that runs through the middle of the Hot Springs National Park, where the campground is located on the east side of the city….


Gulpa Gorge Creek Nov 2010


Gulpha Gorge Creek Nov 2010


Gulpha Gorge Creek 2

I was scheduled to shoot Randy later Friday afternoon, but he got called into work so I opted to take a nap instead and then shot the pretty sunset from the dock for the Belle Cruise Ship nearby…

Lake Hamilton Fishermen Near The Belle

When I pulled into the parking lot, they had just closed the doors and the lot was empty save for a firefighter from Malvern…while chitchatting with him, he told me that he came up there to watch the sunsets and he photographs them with his phone camera…I was able to ask him about fall foliage in the area and he told me it was pretty everywhere and he had the phone camera pics to prove it, too. While I shot with my digital Nikon 35mm camera, he chose to shoot some video using his laptop…I walked down to the dock where these fishermen were trying their hand, then I saw a speedboat approaching and was able to shoot it as it crossed the lake…

Lake Hamilton Speed Boat Nov 10

..and then the sun started sinking lower and here are the last few photos I took before heading to McDonalds for a McRib and some fries…

South Lake Hamilton Sunset 2


Sunset Lake Hamilton Southside


Condos Along Lake Hamilton Sunset

Saturday morning, Missy and I got up early and headed west to Little Missouri River Falls…a waterfall in the US Forest and a very pretty place I had been to several fall seasons to photograph…I figured it wouldnt be as colorful as it was around the Hot Springs area, mainly because it sits in a deeper valley than the lakes area…I decided to take a different route this time, Hwy 70 which runs southwest to Glenwood, then I would drive north on Hwy 27 and up to Norman, where I would take Hwy 8 west to the Crooked Creek Road turnoff…I had never driven out Hwy 70 but could see from researching mapquest that it was a straighter road and traversed alot of valleys instead of mountain ranges…it was a much better drive than Hwy 270 just for those reasons.

I drove thru Glenwood, nice little town…I have a photographer friend that lives there, but I hadnt heard back from him lately so didnt try to call him…then we drove through Caddo Gap, a name I had heard of several times but had no idea what was there…found out shortly that there wasnt much there, wide spot in the road and almost non existent except for a large school on the north side of town and the river that runs thru there named after it….and on over to Norman and then west on Hwy 8…we found some decent color not too far from the turn off to the falls…a country road off Hwy 8 had a nice canopy of color…....and looking at that rugged area and thinking of the climb up and the care one would have to exercise going up or coming down, maybe even dragging a deer out of there…I thought…better you guys and not me….wow….and last year they were running all over the place down there on all terrain vehicles and four wheelers…this year we saw very few hunters down there…

Well we drove on down to the parking lot at Little Missouri Falls and walked down the trail, and then down the staircase to the first set of falls……nice set of wood steps all the way down to the foot of the hill, then they poured concrete steps and ramps down to the rocks…so one could easily step out to the shelf that the water actually runs down on…

Little MO Falls upper falls

..this is the first set of falls…and there are a few cascades below these and then the last fall is nicely framed from up on the trail….

Little MO Falls looking downstream

…and then we walked on down the trail to see if there were any other cascades or falls below…

..but we didnt find anything half a mile down, and since it was gun deer season down there, I decided we shouldnt venture much further down…we were hearing gunshots all around us afterall…and it was quite cool down there too…so we headed back to the truck and back to Hot Springs…

I decided to stop at a little waterfall next to a campsite on the way out…it stairsteps down twice off this little bluff….

Crooked Creek Waterfall


…we headed back to the hotel and waited for Randy to get back into town from work, and then met him over at Gulpha Gorge to shoot the pretty fall foliage and creek over in the campground area….he was in need of some new photos for his portfolio.

It warmed up a lot from that morning so Randy opted for just a little hoodie jacket and holie jeans…we started up by the highway bridge over the creek, which has a concrete arch underneath that makes for neat framing and reflections….and I`ll just post the highlights of the shoot below…

Bridge Dreamy GG 5


…and then we moved down the creek and shot some sections where the foliage was stunning….

GG Creek Reflections 1

…this section of the creek along the campsites is a series of cascades and pretty fall maples on the opposite bank….we moved on down to the section of the creek on the other side of the road and found some big rocks to work with and a long pool below the rocks….

GG Waterfall Boi

…this was shot back in the direction of the campground…I then got on the other side of Randy and shot him toward the pool below and liked what I saw backlit by the afternoon sun better….

GG Innocent Boi on Rocks

…I saw a set of rocks down in the middle of the pool and had him move down there instead and shot him in a few poses that came out looking like an oil painting….

GG Hoodie Boi On Rocks 4


…and then he got creative with his posing…

GG Hoodie Rocks Art 2


GG Hoodie Rocks Art 5

and then he smiled for me…

GG Hoodie Rocks Smile 2

After finishing the shoot, Randy and I headed for New China and had a great supper there…talk about a great buffet lineup of tasty food…wow there were five buffet tables of food there and two more loaded with desserts alone…

The next morning, bright and early, Missy and I got up about 7 am and found a dense fog covering the lake…we were waiting for a model on his way down from Little Rock…Pierre was referred to me by photographer friend DJ and I figured I was going to have to shoot his portfolio photos inside the suite, which wouldnt be a problem as pretty as it was, but I was hoping to get some outside shots of him as well…Pierre is a bodybuilder….well by the time he arrived at 8 am to shoot with me, alot of the fog had burned off and so we shot inside for about 45 minutes and then headed south to the Cool Blue Pool Falls for a few pics…disovered someone had trimmed back the brush quite a bit at the entrance to the Hole, probably a right of way issue…but it just allowed more sunlight to hit the rocks which was just fine by me…but I can tell you, the angle in the fall is much different than the angle of light in the summer…took a little bit to adjust to.

I decided to start Pierre in the bunker pants that a friend had given me, and see how they would look on his muscular torso…

FF Bunker Boi Art


FF Bunker Boi at The Falls


and as you can see, he actually looked pretty good in bunker pants at this location…and after this next arty shot….

FF Bunker Boi Waterfall Art


…this one was fun…he had never done anything like this so it was a new experience for Pierre…one he prob wont soon forget, lol…we headed for Gulpha Gorge after this. We walked over to the bridge and found the angle of light wrong, turned around and saw this great reflection, so decided to try a few artsy type shots here… was stunning and so we shot a few here first….Pierre shed his shirt and walked out on the bridge and struck some art poses for me….


GG Fall Creek


GG Fall Creek Art


GG Fall Creek Art 3


…as you can see, Pierre is quite an art hottie and the scenery around him was highly saturated with beautiful colors….cant go wrong with a location and model like this……well we decided to go downstream to the location I shot Randy at the evening before and see what color we could find there in the morning light…and found some nice color and light there too…

GG Hottie on The Rocks 1


GG Hottie on The Rocks Art 1


GG Hottie On The Rocks Art 2

..and I`ll leave you one with just a bit more color than these…

Art Jeans Creekside 1

..yet another painting of art….after working with Pierre, I headed up to Scott County to meet up with Mom and several relatives at my Grandpa`s  farmplace now being cared for by my Uncle Joe and Uncle Harley,  for a great reunion and dinner before Mom and I headed for home….



Grandpa`s Old Barn

…Uncle Joe always caters a great dinner with everyone cooking and bringing a side dish of their own choosing, and if you go away hungry there is def something wrong with ya..great food and great fellowship, finishing off yet another great mini fall vacation in Arkansas.