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, www.jwjrocks.com 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…..
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…
…and that little bit of red in the middle photo above just blossomed a few minutes later into even more of a red glow….
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…
..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….
….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 http://www.city-data.com/forum/arkansas/878079-exploring-arkansas-60.html….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….
…they generally have an area where you can park, someone nearby to pay a digging fee too….
…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….
…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…..
…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…
…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….
…and pretty soon the rain was coming down in buckets across the lake and it got dark early….
…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…
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….
…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….
…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.
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…..
….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….
…..here it is in the fall last year for a comparison…..
…..there was also a rock wall that crossed the little creek right above the powerhouse with an arch over the water….
…and the lake`s rock dam and waterfall about one hundred yards upstream….
…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….
…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…..
…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….
…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….
…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…..
…that also looks alot better in the fall…
…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….
…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….
…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….
…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….
…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….http://www.arkansas.com/attractions/detail.aspx?id=21561
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….
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….
…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….
…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….
…..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…..
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. 🙂