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Rockhound Memories

"Rockhound Fever"
By Walter Beneze
Posted on 2/7/2020 4:26 PM

Another of my Family members rockhound story, my Daughter.

“Rockhound Fever”

For as long as I can remember, my dad has had “rockhound fever”. Everywhere we go, if there is a rock shop or a known rockhounding spot he wants to go. Heck, even if there isn’t a known spot, he still wants to go. He has been on countless field trips and is even involved in the local Gem and Mineral Society where they have monthly meetings just to talk about rocks! He also inherited his dad’s lapidary equipment and spends countless hours in his shop cutting and polishing his specimens. Needless to say, rockhounding is his hobby.


As a kid, I used to get embarrassed by his hobby. Every time I had a friend come over he would show them a coprolite. He would tell them that the only way to really tell what kind of rocks it is, is to lick it. He would get them to lick it and then shout in excitement that they had just licked dinosaur poop! I’m sure you can imagine the horror I felt having a dad who made my friends lick fossilized poop, ha!


When my siblings and I went on rockhounding trips with him, we always started out interested but as the day wore on our attention would fade. Especially since we rarely found anything of value. We would pick up a rock and ask him what kind it was, and he would always say a leaverite, as in leave it right where it lay! Eventually, as we all grew, we got busy with other things in our lives and we stopped going out with him as frequently. We went to the annual Gem and Mineral show but pretty much left dad to do his hobby on his own.


When I began college, I decided to take Physical Geology as one of my science credits. We learned about the structure and composition of the earth, as well as rocks and minerals. I was amazed at how the earth could create such beautiful things like blue lace agate and fluorite with time and the right elements. And how they are just out there for people to find. It sparked a renewed interest for me so when I was invited to go on a camping/rockhounding trip the next fall, I was excited to say I’d go along.


We went to the Gila National Forest in New Mexico. Our rockhounding destination was Rabb Canyon, a spot known for crystal, amethyst and moonstone collection. According to the guidebook my dad had, it was going to be about a 2-hour easy to moderate hike to get to it. A little way into the trail, we realized that it was going to take much longer than expected.


After almost 3 hours of grueling inclines and turns, we had finally made it to the collection site, or so we thought. We were finally there, but we could not find anything! There was supposed to be a corral marking the area and it was supposed to be to the right of the trail. We searched for a while and then decided to take a break and eat our packed lunch. It was also getting late and we needed to head back. As we began to make our way out, we decided to go to the left of the trail in one last effort to find the site. Low and behold, there it was! We found a dried-up stream to the left of where we thought we were supposed to be looking. As we made our way down into the stream bed, we immediately began to see crystal quartz peeking out of the soil. As I began to dig one of them up, I stared in disbelief. It was huge! I have found tiny quartz before, but nothing like this. It was so big I could barely pick it up, it was a beautiful smoky crystal quartz cluster. As we walked along, we found much more quartz, a lot more than we had time to collect and carry. At that point, we were running out of daylight and really needed to get back. I was still determined to find a moonstone, the one thing I really wanted to find on this trip, so I kept looking. Just about the time my Dad decided that we absolutely had to leave, I spotted it! I found a moonstone! It was a very tiny piece, just smaller than the size of a pea. I called my Dad over to examine it and he confirmed that it was indeed a moonstone. I was ecstatic! It was milky white and when held in the light it cast a blue/gold sheen across the surface. It was lovely and it was something that I found. Even though it is tiny, it is still one of my most treasured specimens to this day. After that trip, I was hooked. I have been on several more camping trips and am always looking for rocks to collect.

As I look back on my rockhounding experiences, I think I finally understand why it draws my Dad. It’s an adventure. It’s about getting outside and exploring. It’s about the hunt; that exciting feeling you get when you know you could just maybe find something really special. But even more, and this is the part I cherish the most, it’s about spending quality time with the ones you love. My family and I have been on many trips and we don’t always find a treasure, but we do always have fun looking for it together. Those are the moments I will remember forever.

I am proud to say I’ve caught the “rockhound fever”.
~Deanna Licon~

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