Collecting Howlite an hour North of Los Angeles

Mineral Club collecting at Tick Canyon in 1957
VGMS collecting at Tick Canyon back in 1957
For decades rockhounds have collected tons of howlite from the dumps of Tick Canyon.

To this day, tons of howlite still overflow at the mine dumps, dormant for over 100 years.


View Tick Canyon Howlite Collecting in a larger map

This location, clearly seen on the map above, is amazingly easy to find, park, and collect. The borate mine in Tick Canyon is called the Stearling Borax mine, which had its own mini railroad, a “dinky” sized rail, hauling borates out of the canyon to the station in Lang. The by product of colemanite mining at this location was an odd soft white material, with thin black spiderweb like inclusions running throughout. This material, Howlite, has no economic worth, as it is not an ore of borax, it is found littering the mine dumps.

Brandy Zzyzx collecting Howlite in Tick Canyon
The old mining area is now fenced off with no trespassing signs. Years ago, this main area was a common field trip location for clubs from all over Southern California. Uncommon minerals like Priceite and Veatchite could be found on the dumps, along with softball sized cauliflower shaped howlite nodules. You would think that with the original mine dump off limits, collecting would be impossible.
Howlite cut in half
This howlite nodule was cut in half, then mounted in a block of plaster. Photo by MiddleEarthMinerals.com
Something wonderful for mineral collectors, a large amount of the dump was pushed to the other side of Davenport Road, into the canyon below. This huge dump pile is full of howlite, as we found out visiting this location on December 23rd, 2012.
Howlite found in the dump material of the Stearling Borax Mine
Chunks of white Howlite can be seen in the dark gray dump
Forty pounds of howlite was gathered in what seemed like no time, with no digging required. The howlite was everywhere, even down the wash dozens of feet from the main dump pile.

Howlite is soft enough to carve easily, yet hard enough to be a popular lapidary item for cabbing, tumbling, and polishing.
Howlite chunk in Concrete block
You can see that the material was so unwanted, they would use it as a filler rock in concrete.

This location is a perfect place for anyone, it is easy, interesting and filled with desirable minerals!
Article from The-Vug.com Fakes Issue about Howlite
The article above is an excerpt from The-Vug.com Quarterly Magazine Fakes Issue, which was reprinted in the compilation book, available for sale directly from the publisher!

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Garnets in the Fairmount Park area of Philadelphia Pennsylvania

We just love the city of brotherly love and you can discover a beautiful feature of this area, the mica schist deposits running through this area, outcropping all over the Fairmount Park area and beyond. There is Wissahickon formation schist all over the place, not all of it has garnets and they never get big, but having one as a reference sample and visiting this area are well worth the time spent.

ducks in fairmount park
Ducks lined up by the Wissahickon Creek

While we have visited many outcrops of rocks around the area, the one where we took these photos is by the wissahickon creek, just north of the free public parking area by the Vallery Green Inn.

View Fairmount Park Garnet Deposit in a larger map

This area is beautiful and you can see blocks of Wissahickon schist used for building stone, with garnets poking out of some of the blocks. There is a beautiful stone bridge there, along with all sorts of birds, small animals, providing a beautiful setting just outside the city. We went down to the wissahickon creek, descending on the west side of the bank. Trails form around the creek, revealing water worn mica chunks with garnets sticking out. The red color is interesting, but few if any are of any gem quality, they are simply a mineralogical interest item and a beautiful example of a mica schist. Philadelphia is a beautiful city and this deposit of Kyanite is just one more great reason to visit! Check out Hotels.com for great deals on hotel rooms in Philadephia!

down by the wissahickon creek
A view from the trails by the Wissahickon Creek
Friends of Wheretofindrocks.com collecting garnets
Looking through the rocks down by the creekside
a tiny gemmy red garnet in matrix
A tiny gem red garnet in matrix
typical size of mica and garnet specimen
A rockhammer to show you the typical size and color of the garnet baring mica schist
flipping over rocks at the wissahickon creek
Finding a good specimen takes luck
Having fun looking at rocks in philadelphia
A beautiful setting for a nature outing, the mica schist of the Wissahickon Creek is a great way to spend an afternoon!

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Collecting minerals from “Cross Hill”, Nuevo California

A friend of mine asked to go visit the feldspar mine on the mountain in Nuevo California, about an hour and a half outside of Los Angeles, toward Riverside and on the way to San Diego. I had not been to the location in five years and I had heard that there was a lot of activity in the area with houses being built. As this has been a classic collecting location, along with the possibility of general prospecting around the area, I wanted to see what was going on.

View Nuevo Quarry pinpointed in a larger map
First I heard there was a gate up. That did not seem to bode well, but it looks like the Korean Church at the bottom of the hill put a gate up at the beginning of the road. It was open (and public land!) so we drove through. Going up the hill was no problem, just like in the past. The odd thing was, going up the hill, the graffiti was out of control on those rocks, empty ammo cases littered the ground alongside empty beer bottles. In addition, these signs saying that the road was PRIVATE were sprayed on the boulders, which is just plain nonsense! This is a road. You can not simply buy the rights to some land and close off a public road. There were work crews, lots of construction going on and shockingly, houses were springing up in this area. The turn off to the quarry was way worse than I remember, as they graded the dirt road down, down, down, so that the turnoff was a six foot climb in the Jeep, which was a little shocking. But, then the road seemed fine, as I remember, and we pulled into the parking area to start our walk to the quarry and dump pile. Seriously, nobody is going to tell me that, as a citizen of California and America, that I am not allowed to go on a public road, to an abandoned quarry to collect some worthless rocks that nobody will miss. Just because some chumps want to spend millions of dollars to build their secluded homesites doesn’t mean they can keep me from the public road outside their house. Keep those ATVs, the gun nuts and the teenage drinkers away, I’m here for some science and some nature.
Smithsonian Nuevo California Garnet
Here is the photo that got me interested again, a photo from the Smithsonian of a nice garnet from this location.

The quarry is very interesting, mainly feldspar and massive quartz, with huge crystals of schorl tourmaline embedded inside the feldspar. Along with this are garnets, most always forming in one thin layer on the outside of the feldspar blocks, the rare find of a scrap of aquamarine is possible and uncommon radioactive crystals of monazite and thorianite. I wanted to try and find some of the radioactives and nice garnet plate, my friend was looking for schorl chunks to put into reference kits for the kids. We found everything that you could expect to find from the quarry and spent about 2 hours collecting before hitting the road back to Los Angeles, with a wide open freeway, pre-rush hour, it was a great trip. If you are in the Southern California area, this is an interesting place to check out and I hope you make it without any problems and who knows, maybe in a few years the road will be paved! (and gated, to keep you ruffians out) This is BLM land, no person should DARE to stop entry to that land. Access to this area has been served by that road which far predates the church or the houses being built up there. It is absolutely shameful if anyone tries to stop you.

Overlooking the felspar quarry in Nuevo California
Overlooking the quarry from the parking area.
Huge Crystals of Schorl in feldspar
For size reference, here is my hand.
Nuevo Quarry with John
A human for size reference.
Another view of the schorl wall at Nuevo
More mouth-watering schorl!
Schorl Crystal in Matrix
This schorl crystal would fall to bits if we tried to remove it from matrix.
loose schorl crystal
A typical scrap of Schorl Tourmaline found on the dumps.
Garnet crystals on feldspar matrix
Commonly seen are the blocks of feldspar, more uncommon is a coverage as rich as this with well formed crystals.
Unidentified radioactive minerals
You can tell these are radioactive due to the radiation rings discoloring the quartz/feldspar matrix.
leaving the quarry with some kid rocks
Leaving the quarry with some rocks to share with the kids.

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