Collecting by Air – AirMindat takes to the Skies to Collect in Arizona

What do you do when you’re in Tucson at the Gem and Mineral Show on the Friday, when the show is full of school children and you really don’t want to have to be there dealing with them all? Simple. You go collecting. But you need to be back at the show by mid-afternoon? No problem. Let’s hire a helicopter!

The Crew loading into the helicopter in search of Arizona treasures

The Crew loading into the helicopter in search of Arizona treasures

At the TGMS show in 2009, several of the regulars from the online chat room got together to organize just such a trip. The late Roy Lee was the leader of this trip, which we were hoping to make an annual event. Sadly he died just one year later, so this has remained so far the only helicopter collecting trip.

We boarded the helicopter at Tucson Airport, after some concerns that too many of us were carrying extra weight. And I’m not talking about hand tools. But, the helicopter made it into the sky and we started our flight towards the Catalina Mountains – flying directly over the Davis Monthan Air Force Base and the “boneyard” where all the retired US military aircraft are stored. It was quite alarming to be flying over the main runway as a C-130 transport was making it’s final descent, seemingly flying straight at us at one point. Having survived our encounter with the US Air Force, we headed off towards our first destination – the Grand Reef Mine.

Mike Rumsey collecting mineral specimens

Mike Rumsey collecting specimens without the worry of washed out roads, boulders or rock slides!

This mine is notoriously difficult to access, with no nearby access roads. So the luxury of being able to fly right up to it and practically land on it was the stuff that mineral dreams are made of. The Grand Reef Mine is famous for linarite and other rare lead/copper secondary minerals. We spent about 90 minutes exploring the locality, collecting on the extensive dumps and admiring the scenery. Everyone in the party found decent specimens.

But what’s better than flying by helicopter to a great mineral locality before lunchtime? Flying to a second – so after we’d finished at the Grand Reef mine, we headed off again to the Table Mountain Mine – which is well known for dioptase crystals. The helicopter made an impressive landing on an exposed ledge (which happened to be made out of glassy slag from the smelters), and we again disembarked and wandered up to the tips to collect.

We all found nice dioptase specimens, but Jim Beam found a fabulous little ‘christmas tree’ of dioptase crystals, and between us we found specimens of conichalcite with possible austinite and duftite. Some samples appear to have minerals previously unreported from the locality, and once they are confirmed they will be reported on

Dioptase collected at the Table Mountain Mine in Arizona

Jim Bean shows off his little christmas tree shaped dioptase cluster collected at the Table Mountain Mine

Finally, we boarded the helicopter for the flight back to Tucson Airport and a short drive back to the Convention center, and we were back in the show almost as the last of the school buses full of kids was departing.

Editor Note – Yes, you can get to these locations, with a helicopter, or a lot of hiking. This article was originally published in Quarterly Magazine, Vol 4, Number 3. You can get the reprinted book on Amazon, or directly from the publisher on

Related posts:

The Curse of Illegally Collected Arizona Petrified Wood

Illness, Divorce and Attacking Ants – The “Curse” of Stolen Petrified Wood

At the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, stealing used to be a very prominent problem. People would frequently smuggle pieces of petrified wood they called “rocks” on their way out, leaving the park 12-15 tons short of these scientifically valuable fossilized minerals.

The Petrified Forest

Petrified tree branches and roots there had transitioned into a solid and rock-like state in a process called permineralization. It has spanned over the course of millions of years, leaving a terrain with smaller and larger pieces of petrified wood scattered everywhere.
Naturally occurring Arizona petrified wood plays an important role in multiple ongoing scientific studies, and their integrity had been put under risk by the rampant cases of stealing. After all, people who take tiny rocks don’t feel liable for the fact it amounts to more than a ton worth of stolen petrified wood per month.

Red Colored Agate Quartz replaced Petrified Wood
Iron inclusions in the stone cause the red color commonly found in petrified wood from Arizona

Trying to Combat Theft

Rangers would set up inspection stations on the road out of the park, run regular roadside sweeps and put up signs telling people to be more conscious of the regulations at Petrified Forest National Park, with mixed results.
In an unusual twist of events, however, the cases of stealing start to decrease as people become caught up with a certain mysterious “curse” that hits all thieves of petrified tree branches and roots. One of the odd psychological effects seen comes from the signage at the park. During years of having signs indicating that collecting was forbidden, theft was at an all time high. Without the signage, reported volumes of stone removed from the park plummeted. Possibly, the signs indicated that the wood is something WORTH stealing.

People Cursed by Arizona Petrified Wood

It appears that in the years of its existence since 1906, the Petrified Forest National Park of Arizona has been swept by people who return pieces of petrified wood and share stories of their misfortunes on small, sincere paper notes. The park now has them displayed in the aptly named Guilt Room. A single tour of the place persuades many people not to challenge the terrible “curse”.
The touching stories told by cursed individuals are nothing short of heartbreaking, and sometimes quite funny.

• A woman had stolen the unlucky rock on her honeymoon trip, which lead to a bitter divorce and a 20-year relationship with an abusive man.
• A man was dumped by his girlfriend of 3 years on his drive out of the park.
• One woman wonders if her husband’s early death and grandchildren’s pneumonia could be induced by the curse.
• Right nearby, someone writes about stomach cramps and diarrhea that followed the act of stealing.
• A different note tells a story of a group of five girls, each of them suffering the consequences of defying the curse that involved illness, vomiting, an attack of flying ants and many spilled drinks.

Legitimate or not, the countless notes found in the Guilt Room contain reports of seizures, hernias, giant blisters, plane crashes, drinking problems, divorces and other misfortunes that all link back to that time when their authors picked up the cursed rocks at the park.
At least their sacrifice has not been for naught, as it shames some of the visitors into keeping to the park’s rules to avoid a similar fate.

Red Colored Agate Quartz replaced Petrified Wood
Petrified wood is better when it is free of guilt, such as buying a slab from a dealer who specializes in wood, like Tom and Steven Wolfe of

No Happy Ending?

The stories keep coming and the rocks are returned. Sadly, the recovered pieces of petrified tree branches and roots can no longer be returned to their rightful place. With no way of knowing where each piece originated, important patterns of scientific research would surely be tainted.
Fortunately, both these “cursed” rocks and the sad notes that tell their story find a new home in the Guilt Room at Petrified Forest National Park, so the would-be thieves can be warned by others not to repeat their foolish mistakes.

Do not trifle with the curse of Petrified Forest!

Instead of risking for your note to be in the spotlight at Guilt Room a few years down the lane, why not buy Arizona petrified wood from There are legal collecting spots outside the park as well as plenty of park adjacent places to buy wood, but for those who are just in love with petrified wood, Tom and Steven Wolfe of are passionate about petrified wood and not only do they have great petrified wood material from Arizona, but also from around the world.

Rarely, specimens of chromium rich wood are found, such as this green wood
While not from the petrified forest, this is found nearby, near Winslow Arizona. The green color is from inclusions of chromium, which is very uncommon.

Related posts:

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
Known to the common people for several years under the name.of copperas
rock; occasionally used in dyeing as a substitute for sulphate of
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 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. 😉

Related posts:

Collecting Chrysotile at the Phillips Asbestos Mine in Arizona

Near the city of Globe Arizona, the Salt River flows. In the canyons around this important waterway, there are several outcrops of serpentine with various stringers of fibrous Chrysotile, the safest variety of the fiber form minerals processed into asbestos materials. Alternating veins of calcite/aragonite, serpentine and chrysotile created a valuable ore to be mined for a period of time. The mines were so profitable that various buildings were erected to serve the miners of the salt river valley.

Following the directions in the excellent field guide, Minerals, Fossils and Florescents of Arizona, which we highly recommend owning, we had no problem finding the location.
Minerals, Fossils and Fluorescents of Arizona

It was easy to spot this location on the satellite map.

Map of the Phillips Mine Location

Arriving at the location, you find the entrance to the road starts at an abandoned campground. It must have been really nice back when it was in business, now it looks like it could be the setting for a freaky horror movie.
seneca lake permit sign
abandoned seneca lake campground

After driving through the campground, you cross a little stream and proceed down an easy to maneuver dirt/rock road toward the mine. On the South side of the road you’ll pass the old lake that must have been the jewel of the campground.
stream you cross at the start of phillips chrysotile mine road
seneca lake
gravel road leading to the chrysotile mine location

The drive is beautiful, with great vistas, steep canyons and amazing colors that the canyons of Arizona are famous for! Off in the distance, bright white mine dumps could be seen, making the prospect of finding mineral specimens imminent.
canyon walls while driving to rockhound
thin cliff road in arizona
Beautiful Scene from the drive in the canyons of arizona
Dumps of the Asbestos Mines from the Canyon Walls

Arriving at the mining area you are greeted by some very creepy abandoned buildings that make the campground take a second seat to a horror movie film set!
Abandoned Mining Town in Central Arizona
Abandoned Buildings at the Phillips Mine

Off in the distance the mine dumps could be seen. Getting to the dumps is a simple uphill walk up a dirt road.

Phillips Chrysotile Mine in the Distance

At the top of the road you find yourself at the foot of a massive pile of mine debris which is rich in Aragonite, serpentine and chrysotile.
Mine Dump at the top of Phillips Chrysotile Mine Road
Mine Dump at Phillips Chrysotile Mine

Great specimens could be found all over the dump, with banded Aragonite that glows bright green in UltraViolet Light and veins of Chrysotile, which makes for very beautiful display specimens.
Specimen of Serpentine, Chrysotile and Aragonite
Specimen of Chrysotile from Arizona

Going to the Phillips Chrysotile Mine in Central Arizona is a great trip for a beautiful view into a seldom seen part of Arizona mining history! Specimens are abundant and there is something for everyone!

Related posts:

Field Guide Review: Minerals, Fossils and Fluorescents of Arizona

Minerals, Fossils and Fluorescents of Arizona is a thick field guide to 90 locations across the state of Arizona, most still available for collecting in 2012!

Originally published in 2006, this book contains complete, easy to follow maps and directions to each location, along with colorful photos by Jeff Scovil.
For the absolute beginner, there is a nice chunk of informative reading in the front of the book, giving the basic information for several minerals, along with global mineral information like cleavage, hardness and luster. A bit of time is spent on rock formations and geologic conditions, which will help understand the basics behind why minerals are found where they are.

The copy we have has been used to travel to nearly half of the locations in the book. The book gives clear instructions for reaching a location, along with GPS directions, which are easy to punch into google maps while en-route to a location. In addition, each location pinpointed in the book has produced the material described and only once has there been claim markers up on a location showcased. We have collected Hematite crystals, UV minerals, Dendrites, Calcite, Selenite, and Serpentine. Several trips inspired by this book have resulted in fine specimens that are in our permanent collections.
Clicking the book cover will show you available copies for purchase on Amazon.
Book Cover of Minerals, Fossils and Fluorescents of Arizona by Neil R. Bearce
Check out eBay for copies of this book for sale and other minerals of Arizona

There are a lot of field guides to choose from, each with their own unique features. In addition to the easy to follow directions, colorful photos and the accuracy of the information presented, the book also does a great job covering the state, listing collecting spots all over the state, with close proximity to other states. For instance, the residents and visitors to Saint George Utah might be surprised to find that a deposit of Gypsum/Selenite is available in the hills stretching out into Arizona, available from the back roads connecting through Utah. More locations spill across into New Mexico and several of them are a perfect distance between Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Many field collecting guides are simply shelf filler, this book has a wide variety of information, collecting options and we can not recommend another mineral field collecting guide more.

Related posts: