A Bucket Full of Memories
Funny thing about rocks, you can find them
just about anywhere. From mountain streams
to the seashore, rocks have been
revealed and eroded by wind and water, blasted out of the Earth by
volcanoes, pushed from the ground by unseen forces, and exposed
by construction and mining. You might assume that since rocks are so common, they must not be very interesting, right?
Well, that depends on your perspective.
initially began collecting rocks because one of the kids
received a rock polisher for
Christmas a few years back. It was cheap and didn't last long
(Santa didn't know how to shop for a good quality rock tumbler,
but that's another story).
Coincidentally, it was around the same
time that we visited
James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park, a place with an abundance
of collectible rocks and fossils. Quite by accident, while hiking
to the park's abandoned marble mine, we found some very unusual rocks.
After some research, we discovered
agate, and they polished beautifully. On that same trip, we
also found rose quartz, pink marble,
and a few fossils. It was this trip to Sloppy Floyd State Park
that inspired the purchase of a camper, and the rest is history.
What do we love about rockhounding?
Our list is
pretty long, so I'll try to be brief.
1- Rocks are everywhere, so no matter where you go or what you
do, rocks can't be too far away. It's a relatively easy and
inexpensive activity, at least until you start polishing the
2- Searching for rocks, minerals, fossils, and artifacts keeps kids entertained (distracted) on
those long hikes resulting
in fewer complaints about boredom or sore legs and feet. The twins were
just three when we went on that
hike to the marble mine at Sloppy Floyd, about a 2 mile
Searching for rocks (colors, shapes) encourages kids to keep
their eyes on the ground so they can watch their their step (and
watch for snakes).
4- It's educational. Every rock, fossil, is a lesson in
history, science, and mathematics. Learning how the various
types of rocks and minerals are formed and why they are shaped
or patterned the way they are is very interesting when you can
hold the evidence in your hand. We let the kids take some of the
rocks to school when they are covering Earth and geology. They
are always a big hit.
Rockhounding can take you places you wouldn't have otherwise discovered. We have visited several really neat towns and
remote areas based on research for rockhounding. Geocaching is
also a great activity for finding new places.
6- Rocks you find at various
locations will always remind you of that place and the things
you did while there. It's kind of like getting a souvenir without
the gift shop. I call our rocks a "bucket full of memories".
7- Rocks are beautiful. We have
found some of the most astonishingly beautiful rocks in some of
the most unlikely places. Semi precious gemstones are great, but
some of the prettiest rocks in our collection are more or less
worthless. That's ok, their value is much greater than any
amount of money.
8- Commercial gem grubbing
typically provide some pretty good inexpensive and not so clean fun. Give the kid a
bucket of dirt and tell them to go play in the water. You won't
get much argument. We spent two full days at Gold n Gem Grubbin
in Cleveland, Georgia, Panning for gold in the creek and
grubbing for Gems at the (nice place to camp too!).
Using the rocks and special wrapping wire, you can also learn to
make jewelry. The pendant shown here, I made with square silver
wire and a shaped and polished agate I found in Summerville,
Sloppy Floyd State Park.
10- The act of looking for and
collecting minerals, rocks, and fossils, and gem grubbing and
gold panning gives each and every family member something in common with
their siblings and parents. The kids have learned about different types of
crystals and rocks, and it gives them something to talk about. I
can't tell you how many times I have had one of the kids come
running up shouting Daddy, look at this rock I found. The kids
will compare their rocks and brag about who found the best one.
Perhaps my favorite benefits of
collecting and polishing rocks is the uncanny way they can bring
back memories. Sometimes we pull the bucket out and spread the
finely polished agate, quartz crystals, amethyst, chert nodules,
garnet, and various other rocks and minerals out on a towel
covered table. We'll turn the lights up and go through them one
by one talking about where we found them and what we did while
we were there.
So there you have it, 10, no 11
reasons we rock hound. We're making memories, and I'd be willing
to bet the kids will fight over the collection when Mommy and
Daddy are gone.
Proofed and Edited by Lee Thomas Richardson
Here are some examples of rockhounding (rock Collecting)
sites we have visited
Fossils of Taylor's
Ridge - Gore, Georgia
I learned of some fossils and small geodes that could be found near
Summerville, Georgia and
James (Sloppy) Floyd
State Park, a place where the Tribe
has previously camped and collected agate. The source
for the information was the
Sherpa Guides website, and it told of a couple of old
Forestry Department roads where you can just pull over and
look along the road, and that's exactly what we did late one
hot Sunday afternoon.
We went to the first site and found several small
geodes, and dozens of
crinoid stem fossils. There are apparently other
types of fossils there as well, but we could only stay for a
little while. We collected over 100 specimens in about
a half hour. We might have stayed longer, but ripe muskadines had fallen on the road attracting lots of yellow
jackets. From there, we rode to
the top of the ridge
and turned onto another old road. This road is called
a "Jeep Trail" on Daddy's GPS unit, but other than
rather narrow, the road was in quite good condition. There was gravel in the tracks and lots of shade and
vegetation, so it wasn't dusty at
all. We could tell that
the view would be great when the leaves fall. We drove
several miles until our progress was stopped by a fallen
he road appears to be maintained fairly well, so I imagine
someone moved the tree soon afterward. We didn't really
have the time to do any further fossil hunting on this trail, but
did find some of the iron ore deposits described in the
Sherpa Guide article.
Gold N Gem Grubbin'
- Cleveland, GA
We spent two days
grubbin for gems and panning for gold at
Gold n Gem Grubbin' near Cleveland, Georgia. We learned
about this place by watching "Best
Places to find Cash and Treasure" on the Travel Channel
(canceled darn it). The host found a large gold nugget and a
big chunk of amethyst (as did we).
The first day was spent panning for gold in the creek. This
proved to be a lot of fun, but we found very little gold.
Lee Thomas found a large amethyst, and Mommy found a couple
of really nice quartz crystals. Panning in the creek is a
good value for a family of six. We spent four hours playing
in the creek and looking for treasure for about $37 total.
the second day at the mine, we bought some of the enriched
buckets for gem grubbing. The picture at the bottom
shows our finds for the second day. The bag (corner at
top of of picture) contains rubies. We also found sapphire,
amethyst, nicely formed quartz crystals, rose quartz,
pyrite, blue topaz, fluorite, calcite, emerald, tiger eye,
etc. The facility at Gold N gem Grubbin' is the nicest
we've been to, and the people there load you up with all the
equipment you need for some good n dirty fun.
A major bonus is
the campground at Gold N Gem Grubbin'. It's near Cleveland,
a short drive from many beautiful mountain views. We were
here for a total of three days. We panned the first day. On
day two, we took a drive to Tallulah Gorge, Helen,
Hiawassee, Dillard, Black Mountain State Park. The final day
was spent Gem Grubbin'. Point is, there is plenty to do in
the area, and the campground makes the whole experience that
James H (Sloppy) Floyd State
Park and surrounding area, Summerville, GA
Taylor's Ridge and James H (Sloppy) Floyd State Park are
covered with rocks. They're all over the ground. It's
like a bomb went off, scattering a finely banded agate
all over the place. I've heard it called "crazy lace"
agate, "angel lace" agate, and even "Summerville
Agate". The rock polishes very nicely and is considered
a gemstone. You will also find some quartz and marble
around the area. There is an old marble mine in the
park. The trail leading to the mine from the south
entrance parking area is scattered with lots of nice
agate. Many of the rocks have cavities with druzy
quartz crystal growing inside. I have lots of this
stuff rough and polished.
The best site to collect agate is in the rock quarry on
highway 27 just north of the entrance to Sloppy Floyd
State park. You could literally haul tons of the stuff
out of there. There are boulders of agate. This site
is privately owned, but the owner is very nice and
allows rock collection at the site. I would strongly
recommend getting his permission first though. His
office is located on the property, but you probably
won't find him around on the weekend.
Old Pressley Sapphire Mine -
Canton NC (between Asheville and Maggie Valley, NC)
We visited the
Old Pressley mine (a REAL old working mine) while
camping in Maggie Valley. It is way back on a small
country road, so I'd recommend NOT taking a large RV or
trailer when you go. There is very little parking.
However, it was not crowded in the least, and the
screening flume is much better than the
Sheffield Ruby mine we had
visited on another trip. What's most important is WE
ACTUALLY FOUND SOME SAPPHIRES! One of the largest star
sapphires (1,445 carats) ever discovered was found at
this location. The lady tending the shop was very nice
and helpful. We were allowed to dig our own rocks from
tailings brought directly from the mine on the
property. Also, we didn't have to pay full price for
all the kids. Everyone got to have a lot of fun, and
our cost was under $8.00 each for the entire afternoon. My only regret was that we ran out of time. Now that I
know what to look for, I'm going back (someday).
Ruby and Sapphire Mine- Franklin, NC
In June, 2007,
we went gem grubbing at the
Sheffield Mine in
Franklin North Carolina. Although we had very
little luck (finding rubies), we really enjoyed
ourselves. We found a tiny ruby, but the kids found
lots of other semi-precious stones in the enriched
buckets. One thing that makes the Sheffield Mine
unique is the rubies and sapphires found there are
actually from that location. The dirt you screen is
dug from that site, and it is possible to find a
real valuable stone, what they call "honkers". Although the visit was a little pricy with the
number of kids we have ($10 for adults, $8 for the
kids), I'd recommend this activity to others because
the kids enjoyed playing in the mud very much. Take
a change of clothes!
This image is from