Zeolite field trip of 2013


Last Saturday a fellow rocker and I decided to join a group digging for one inch zeolites and agates in Beaver Valley. Timing and communications became an issue. I had arranged to meet him at the church next to the library at 9:00. My elderly car decided the day before that it would not go that distance so I called Foster and asked if I could ride with him instead. He said sure.

Imagine my surprise when he phoned much earlier than I had planned. Whew! He was going to pick me up at my house instead. Then he told me that his truck was outside the house and to get hopping. By the time I found my glasses I was already behind schedule. Worse yet I had not finished counting my penny jar remains to chip in for gas. He graciously gave me leeway for its half empty condition.

The weather was not optimal but we were hopeful that it would not get worse. No-one else was at the library so we felt that it would be a very peaceful outing. We arrived early at the Jefferson county meeting place and had to wait until the outing master showed up at 10:00. He was very punctual, but had informed all the other rock clubs that the trip would begin at 10:30. Having missed breakfast because of Fosters early arrival I began to think about the lunch I had not packed. Nor had he, so mooching was out of the question.

There was limited parking room at the site, so it was requested that we carpool all the bodies into the fewest vehicles. Feeling like taking a nap at that point I opted to ride in the back to wake me up. Foster jammed three other souls into the cab and off we went. The 30 ish some F. temperature at 50 miles an hour did wake me up. I was also a bit ticked off by the block who had a similar vehicle but would not let anyone ride with him. As fortune or torture would have it, I would be paired with this lunatic later on.

The quarry was as I remembered, but more treed than before. Still familiar although the slope to the top had grown considerably. Knowing that I would need to have a breather I took off and rested while the rest continued to nest near the parking lot. In that short walk I had already found two brass rifle cartridges and many shotgun shells. Considering the animal bones I was finding I was a bit nervous and thankful that of all the group I had the foresight to wear an orange vest. Getting blown away for a piece of Zeolite was not in my plans.


Rather than carry heavy buckets Foster brought a heavy wheeled cart that turned out to be a life-saver and had an injury or death occurred he could cart them back out. I was impressed!

The organizer of this expedition explained the advantages of the two uphill locations and most people bought it. Six inch Geodes, crystals and golden Calcite. All this was Schist of course. I opted for the middle course and ended up loosing the rest of the nineteen. I was left alone with a potbellied guy with a sledgehammer, bad attitude and didn’t know a vug from a mug. After getting dinged with a fragment I decided that working well upwind was a good idea.

It also encouraged me to climb even higher to get away from him and find those elusive rocks. Pick in hand I chiseled and chiseled while listening to the thump of his sledgehammer. Always thinking that perhaps those loose boulders 100 ft. above would put an end to this rude and stupid person. Genetic Darwinism. Then I realized that I would be obligated to carry him out.

By this time the drizzle had become ear numbing hail and since the holes I had dug only measured in the inches I decided it was time to return to the truck. Other wiser folks had already pulled out their wagons but Foster was still in the upper quarry, realizing the same empty feeling one gets when they are rock less and clueless.. He finally showed up towing a damn landscape boulder for one of the Sequim people.

Rock hammering!

Rock hammering!

At that point we were ready to go but the organizer had left his briefcase in Fosters unlocked truck. His own was locked so we had to hike back up to find him. By then the hail had diminished and there were five people left banging away at the cliff. One guy was sledging away vertically and the demented guy was sledging away directly level to his head. neither were wearing safety glasses! As the group leader had no problem with this I took it upon myself to suggest that this might be dangerous and that with all the sledging noise they wouldn’t even be able to hear the boulders come tumbling down on them. Mind you jumping away from a descending and accelerating rock fall is not physically possible.


I just wanted to escape at this point, but Foster got to talking to this gal who one of the two good finds of the day. He botched it by giving her an “Oh” (is that it?) response but I saved the Sequim clubs reputation by interceding with a generous WOW!!! That has to be the biggest Stilbite I have ever seen. It must be over a half inch tall. Spurred on by this gushing of praise she began to talk about Boston with Foster and I knew I would be a Popsicle before I got away. “Foster, You left your LIGHTS on!, we gotta go.” I guess that sums up the trip.

Calcite crystal

Calcite crystal

Two days later I am still waiting for Foster to call again for another trip. After the OH! commentary about the best zeolite collected I do not think he is too enthused about going back to the place. Just as well… every muscle continues to hurt and the aspirin bottle is near empty. I whined about this sad state to a friend but she called me an old goat and one that needs to stay on flat ground or get a new hobby.


I must add that the two best specimens were found by the gals in the no sledgehammer zone. The Beaver Valley quarry has two basalt flows separated by rotten red soil layer. While the upper flow is impressive the zeolites and copper bearing layers are to be found in the lower flow. Geodes can be found or dug out of the more soil like area. Unexplored was the far northern quarry that is reached by the first path to the right which I had originally gravitated to. I will talk to Foster as soon as I can. Hopefully he won’t make me ride in the back of the truck this time. Or perhaps I’ll ask David as he outlasted both of us. BTW “vug” is defined in the urban dictionary as “To take something entirely promising and make a mess out of it.” The link above describes its  real meaning.

A late edit, before venturing out:
First and Foremost: Before you leave home find out something about the environment into which you are heading. This could involve researching what you are likely to find, maps, weather, tidal conditions and potential dangers such  as snakes, scorpions, bear or cougar.

If you are going with a group, be sure that you will be comfortable with them and try to go with persons who have been there before.
When you get there, listen to what those people have to say. Always travel with at least one buddy and try to have two cars. Tell  your friends where you are going  and carry  a GPS device, flares food, water, first aid, jumper cables etc. This is simply a matter of using your Noggin.

As suggested above. Take every precaution, if not for your own sake, then for the sake of the poor saps who will have to haul your injured or dead ass back in a body bag. Near a true story, camping with a fool who did not know how to deal with lightning.  Another bad trip experience in Colorado.

(C) Herb Senft 2013    

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