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St. Patty’s Day Field Trip to Dobell Ranch

We had thirteen club members drive out to Dobell Ranch to collect petrified wood.  Everyone was in high spirits, and the weather was cooperative, providing us with a gorgeous day.  We had so much fun both Linda & I forgot to take photos. Here’s a link to the Dobell Ranch website’s photo gallery:  https://azpetrifiedwood.com/gallery

Noah Dobell was incredibly helpful and generously donated a bucket of petrified wood and a bunch of dinosaur bones for us to use in our Kids Zone at our show in June.

Who Is That Masked Mineral Man?

Coconino Lapidary Club | manganese carbonate

I’ve been an avid collector of mineral specimens from around the world since my experience, at the age of 13, of finding a beautiful black tourmaline crystal while on a Boy Scout hiking adventure. We were in the upper limits of the gem mining Pala District in San Diego County, California. I’m now 84 and still greatly enjoying my collection and sharing it with friends. In my blog posts, I want to share with you my joy in collecting these beautiful works of the Earth and hope to interest you in collecting them as well. My great pleasure has evolved from their aesthetics – enjoying the beautiful color and crystal forms of minerals, to learning about their geological histories — where and how they formed, their chemistries and crystal forms in relationship to minerals of similar composition, their mining history, and their frequent influence in geopolitics.

In sharing ideas about these subjects I will, because of space limitations, provide short but meaty encapsulations. I will draw abundantly from resources on the web. To complement my input, I will usually provide links to the subject for your further exploration. In a lighter vein, I plan to frequently include the rich lore of mining and of mining men, of prospectors, and of Lost Gold and Silver Mines and of the historic mines, particularly in the Southwest and Mexico.

To begin, what is a mineral? Drawing from the site, Webmineral, I find a number of definitions cited from scientific literature.  To synthesize: “a mineral is a naturally occurring homogeneous solid with regularly ordered crystalline structure and a definite chemical composition. They can be distinguished from one another because of these definite characteristics”. Knowledge of these ideas are powerful tools in identifying a mineral specimen. The mineral’s chemical composition leads directly to its color, internal atomic arrangement, and crystal form. For example, the beautiful Rhocochrosite crystal from the Sweet Home Mine in Colorado, shown above, is manganese carbonate, having the chemical formula MnCaCO3. Its deep red color is due to its manganese content and its rhombohedral form comes from the internal arrangement of atoms.

Because of the importance of chemical and crystallographic relationships in defining a mineral, I’m providing a link to an introductory course to minerology and crystallography offered by the Open University, a long known and excellent United Kingdom source of quality courses offered, at no cost, to world-wide users. I encourage you to open the link and scan the topics offered, as well as the internal links to tools for accessing a comprehensive body of reference material.

I hope you will share your questions and comments with me, submitting them to our “Ask An Expert” feature.

In my next post, I’ll share with you ideas offered by the most senior of collectors on how to build your own collection. Those ideas will include: collecting one mineral species; collecting many; collecting from one locality; collecting worldwide; where to find bargains and much more.

Until then, have fun learning about minerals and collecting.

You Might Be a Rockhound


  • you think road cuts are built as tourist attractions.
  • you describe your vacations by the rocks you brought home.
  • the rockpile in your garage is over your head.
  • your PC screen saver features pictures of rocks.
  • you find rocks when you empty your pockets at night.
  • you went to a rock festival and you hate music.
  • you gave rocks, tumblers, or rock tools as gifts.
  • friends say they’re going to Tucson, you assume it’ll be in February.
  • you can find Quartzsite on a map in less than 5 seconds.
  • someone mentions “Franklin” you think of New Jersey rather than Ben.
  • you can pronounce “molybdenite” correctly on the first try.
  • the polished slab on your bolo tie is six inches in diameter.
  • the bookshelves in your home hold more rocks than books; and the books that are there are about rocks.
  • on a trip to Europe, you’re the only member of the group who spends their time looking at cathedral walls through a pocket magnifier.
  • you think you KNOW how to pronounce “chalcedony.”
  • you are thinking about giving out rocks for Halloween.
  • you planted flowers in your rock garden.
  • you purchase things like drywall compound just to have another nice bucket to carry rocks in.
  • the club you belong to uses rocks for center-pieces for the annual Christmas dinner.
  • the first thing you pack for your vacation is a chisel and a hammer.
  • you know what findings are for.
  • you watch the scenery in movies instead of the actors.
  • your company asks you not to bring any more rocks to the office until they have time to reinforce the floor.
  • the local jewelry stores & libraries give out your name for information on rock clubs.
  • you examine individual rocks in driveway gravel.
  • your local rock shops send you get well cards when you don’t stop by in more than a week.

Field Trip Report – Gray Mountain

December 9, 2017 – We had seven club members head out to Gray Mountain to collect Petrified Wood and Jasper.  The morning started out a bit cooler than most of us found comfortable, but by the time we got to our second stop the wind had died down and the temperature was as nearly perfect as I’ve ever felt it out there.

We followed several dirt tracks just to see where they went and found plenty of the rocks we were looking for – including a few specimens of Petrified Wood sporting delightful druzy crystals.  The Jasper was plentiful in a couple of spots just off the main road into the BLM area we were collecting in.

As several of us hadn’t followed the main road all the way out to the Little Colorado river before, we took that drive, which is well worth it if you enjoy amazing sandstone sculptures.