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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Agate Collecting in Colorado – Wolf Creek Pass Zeolites

Near the border of Archuleta County in Colorado, Wolf Creek Pass and Treasure Mountain contain a deposit of silicates and zeolites that have made their way into mineral collections around the world. The collecting area, spread out over the rocky mountainside, is often referred to as Wolf Creek Pass. However, Wolf Creek Pass is actually a 10,000 foot mountain pass that wraps around Treasure Mountain and follows the Wolf Creek. The mountain does not bear gold or jewels, but the volcanic basalt deposits are near a very photogenic waterfall, Treasure Falls. Surrounded by scenic views, this basalt deposit is one of the most thrilling areas of Colorado. Hotels.com has great deals on hotels around Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado

Quartz specimen with banded agate and a crystal center with a slight purple hue.
Quartz specimen with banded agate and a crystal center with a slight purple hue.
Photo by Mathew Marulla (marulla.com)

Treasure Mountain is named after the legendary stash of gold, left behind by a French expedition in 1790. Several search parties have tried to find the fortune of gold bars acquired from a gold deposit near the Peak of Treasure Mountain, but none have been successful in finding the bars or the deposit.

Much of the collecting area is adjacent to highway route 160 and in the boulders and exposed rock of the mountainside just north of the falls. The mineralized area is fairly large and boulders containing the material have been distributed across the area, both naturally and due to the construction of route 160 and Wolf Creek Pass. In fact, due to the close proximity to Archeuleta county to the south, part of the deposit crosses this manmade border separating the counties which only serves to cause confusion in geographic labeling of specimens from this deposit.

Map of the Treasure Creek Agate and Zeolite location
Map of the Agate and Zeolite locations around Wolf Creek.

Rounded amygdaloids fill the voids in the volcanic deposit of basalt, as with many occurences. These host crystals of quartz and about half a dozen zeolite minerals.

The quartz and agate are similar to that found in many other volcanic silica deposits. The agate is typically clear, white and/or shades of blue, often with alternating layers that make it desirable for lapidary use. Some have crystallized centers. Typically the crystals form on a layer of agate, which varies in thickness from miniscule shells to thick rinds. Sometimes the crystals are amethyst, making attractive specimens on dark colored volcanic matrix. Though the agate and quartz found here do not rival that found at many other locations, it is one of only a few still open for collecting.

Of course, the zeolite species are what makes the location a true Colorado classic. Analcime is typically found as very small crystals usually below 1 cm in size. However, at one location, analcime is found up to 3.5 cm. Chabazite occurs here, but not in crystals larger than a few millimeters in size. Heulandite is sometimes found as crystals up to 5 cm across. However, typically the crystals are only millimeters in size, lining the cavities and serving as matrix to other minerals. One such mineral is mordenite, which is found as well formed clusters of white fibers. These clusters, up to a few centimeters in size, were referred to as being one of the best locations for the species in the United States for many years.

Mordenite crystals in a vug of basalt
Mordenite crystals in a vug of basalt
Photo by Mathew Marulla (marulla.com)
Mordenite Crystals up to 2 cm long can be found at the location
Mordenite Crystals up to 2 cm long can be found at the location
Photo by Mathew Marulla (marulla.com)

Other associated minerals include globular common opal, small rhombs of calcite, and small pyrite crystals. The locality is also a classic locality for the clay minerals celadonite and nontronite, which form in abundance. Laumonite, natrolite and wellsite also occur in the deposit, but they occur rarely and only as small crystals

Isolated Heulandite crystal on matrix.  Specimen size is 6 millimeters
Isolated Heulandite crystal on matrix. Specimen size is 6 millimeters
Photo by Luigi Mattei
Several voids filled with celadonite
Several voids filled with celadonite overall size 10 x 5 x 3 cm.
Photo by Martins da Pedra

Due to the vast deposit and mountain conditions, this source of colorful quartz, agate and zeolites will always exist in the mountains of Colorado. Maybe the lack of gold is a bit disappointing for a mountain with such high aspirations, but to many mineral collectors around the world, the real treaures are the mineral collecting opportunities and the often-visited Treasure Falls.

If you enjoyed this article, it was originally printed in The-Vug.com Magazine, which was released as a hardcover coffee table book, collecting all 16 issues of the original magazine. It is 324 pages, hardcover and full color, available directly from the publisher at FortySevenPress.com For $34.95, it is full of great photos, articles, collecting locations and more! Get your copy to add to your mineral book library!

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Cummingtonite – We know you were looking for iron rich amphiboles…

As mineral collectors on the internet know, the jokes can often lead back to one mineral.
Cummingtonite. Eliciting snickers in a room of freshmen geologists (and honestly, still getting chuckles from aged field geologists under the right conditions). Lately it is the most popular iron rich amphibole mineral to be searched for on Google. We all know when we see that fact it is not because people are looking for their favorite ugly brown rock! Most minerals are searched for their beauty, this mineral can only claim its name as the claim to fame.

Cummingtonite is a rather uncommon mineral, hailing from the riverside on the far western edge of Cummington, Massachusetts. Here is a sample of the mysterious brown crusty amphibole they were mining. Scratching their heads, someone noticed this as an unknown mineral and dubbed it Cummingtonite, in honor of the town it was found. This is often the case, such as Elbaite, Annabergite, and Boleite.
Thick vein of Cummingtonite
Cummingtonite with label from original find
Cummingtonite Specimen
Garnets and Cummingtonite
This specimen pictured is from the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. It shows a chunk of brown radiating crystals with embedded garnets. Donated by a prominent American Mineralogist Charles Upham Shepard, a man who submitted the approvals for Danburite, Microlite and others. He had one of the largest collections of minerals in the United States, donating specimens to various museums in life and death. He was a well respected lecturer on subjects of Natural History. Charles Upham Shepard graduated from Amherst College in 1924, the same year that Cummingtoite was accredited.

1824. Cummingtonite. (Dewey.)
“I have here given this name to a mineral found by ‘Dr. J. Porter in
Cummington. It appears to bo a variety of epidote. Its color is gray,
sometimes with a faint reddish tinge, unless when acted on by the
weather, when its color is yellowish. It is in distinct prisms, with oblique
seams like’ zoisite, and in radiated or fascicled masses, which are com-
posed of slender prisms. Luster somewhat shining or pearly. It is nearly
as hard as quartz, and sometimes makes a slight impression upon rock
crystal. Before the blowpipe it blackens, and a small portion melts, when
the heat is very great, into a black slag, which ik attracted by the mag-
net. With quartz and garnet .it forms a largo mass in Cummington.”
C. Dewey : Geol. Min. Mass.; Am. Jour. Sci., 1st series, Vol. VIII, p, 59.
1824. Cummingtonite. Lies by the roadside in the east part of
Cumnimgton.
Known to the common people for several years under the name.of copperas
rock; occasionally used in dyeing as a substitute for sulphate of
iron.
J. Porter: Min. Loc.; Am. Jonr. Sci., 1st series, Vol. VIII, p. 233.

Cummingtonite, the inspiration for snickers, memes and lame t-shirts, has a much more benign beginning!

With your knowledge of what Cummingtonite is, beyond a cleaver play on words, now I will tell you how you can go collect your very own specimen, along with brightly colored Lepidolite mica, UV reactive opal hyalite and shiny Hematite crystals. Far off in the desert of Arizona, nobody will hear your terrible off color humor besides your collecting partners. If you’ve ever been collecting petrified wood with a group of geologists who loudly exclaim “I’VE GOT WOOD!”, you have an idea of what to expect.

The location to collect Cummingtonite is just off to the north of the BBC Mine, a half hour away from Parker, Arizona.
The area is a wonderland of mineral collecting, with the BBC mine area boasting FINE crystals of Hematite, sometimes assosicated with Chrysocolla. Further to the North is the Planet area, filled with Barite, Malachite, Chrysocolla and all sorts of beautiful minerals. Fluorite, Gold and more copper minerals are found within 20 miles of this location, so beyond the oddball amphibole Cummingtonite, there are plenty of reasons to visit this area!

Map to Cummingtonite deposit
Map to Cummingtonite deposit
Open trench at cummingtonite deposit - Watch Your Step!
The location is a simple series of trenches, where you can find a very odd form of Lepidolite, normally known as being bright purple, here it is yellow. The hematite at the cummingtonite location is not nearly as nice as the hematite at the BBC mine. <---click to view photos on MinDat.org Cummingtonite on matrix from Arizona

The material from here is not even a tenth as nice as the crunchy material from Massachusetts, however, being able to collect your own specimen of this odd, uncommon material, is something to get excited about! 😉

If you would like a more “in-depth” view into this collecting location, let me advise you to check out the excellent Android App that will guide you to several locations around the Quartzsite/Parker area. Download this Android App for $4.99

We love you readers so much that we provided a google map pointing you to the locations.


View Cummingtonite and BBC Mine in a larger map

And I’m not completely innocent on the juvenile jokes…I am the proud owner of a Dickite specimen from Beaver Creek. 😉

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Sideling Hill – A Cross Cut View of the Fossil Rich Shale in Maryland and Pennsylvania

Fossils are plentiful in the shale deposits all around the mid-Atlantic states. Without getting technical, shells of a variety of marine animals are found in the shale, readily accessible via road cuts and rock quarries around Western Maryland, central Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Sideling Hill is a wonderful example of the typical construct of the rolling hills of the area.

Sideling Hill Roadcut

The tight bands of rock layers, along with the HUGENESS of the roadcut are fascinating. The layers of the mountain are very interesting, consisting of alternating bands of shale and big bands of alluvial conglomerate. The top layer of shale is also coal rich, which is thickest on the north side of the road cut. You can see the dark layer towards the very top of the hill.

Sideling Hill Roadcut front view

The rest area used to host a Geological Center, a fun place to check out, a place to stop and view this geological wonder and find out a little more about the earth around us.

Sideling Hill Rest Area

The Geological Center is closed now, but the exhibits have been moved to Hancock Maryland.

Sideling Hill Geological Center

A short distance away in Pennsylvania, we found several shale deposits on the side of back country roads.

Typical Shale Road Cut in Pennsylvania

Any place you can find loose shale, if you flip over a few pieces, often, fossils will be found.

Shale Debris With Fossils

The shale from this area breaks up into small bits. That makes big matrix specimens very uncommon!

Rockhammer and Shale Chips

Brachiopod specimens are very common through out the area, along with tightly wound trilobite specimens.

Fossils shells found in shale deposit

Packing the specimens is a delicate job, so a roll of toilet paper for wrapping is always handy!

packing up fossils found in pennsylvania

Bi-valve fossils, Gastropods and many others, all found swimming around in the soup of the Devonian era!

fossil shell found in shale

At this road cut, randomly, a vug of quartz was found, breaking up into oddly shaped crystals.

quartz crystals found in shale deposit

So, do not be afraid to stop and check out any exposed shale in the mid-Atlantic states! Often times, simply flipping over some loose shale chunks will reveal a trilobite, a gastropod or a cluch of Brachiopods!

shale deposit with fossils

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