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Obsidian Weekend

by dave

On my quest to start trying to figure out how to make good chess sets from rock, I want to try to make a black set from obsidian. I know of a few places to get obsidian, so T and I went out Friday evening to see if we could find pieces large enough to carve chess pieces. When we left, it was cold and windy. We drove through rain, hail, and snow. We got off the highway, and the skies were clear. Springtime is wonderful.

I had never driven to the obsidian pits from I-15 before… I had always come across from the west. But I had my paper maps, and a printout of what Google Maps thought the directions would be, and my maps on my phone. Only the paper maps were accurate. I looked at all 3 at every turn, and it got me close enough that when I was a couple miles away I was able to recognize the hills and just drive us up to the pit. T slept through all the stopping and gazing at maps.

Once we got there, T was pleased to see that I wasn’t kidding. It really was a pit of obsidian. Multiple pits, actually. But very few pieces were big enough to carve. We did find a few. But not enough for a chess set. We grabbed enough to make the pawns, and then drove a few more dirt roads in the area, looking for new places. We got out and explored, and did find more sites with obsidian. But nothing exciting. Places that might be of interest to people who haven’t collected obsidian before, or newer rock-hounders… but not really anything that I’d take the time to go back to.

There were also storms still moving about. We could see them moving around the valley, getting blown mostly south of us, but we did not want to get caught in one, so we decided just to keep driving, and head south to visit family.

Saturday, we decided to try a different site for obsidian. Much nicer day. No storms, not much wind. We drove  back up from the cousins’ house to our collecting area and tried a place I had not been before, which looked to be less picked over. At this site, the rocks were more scattered. It took some wandering and exploring, and the obsidian itself was less interesting. More plain black, very little with any coloration, and much of it didn’t even have much sheen to it. But despite those downsides, there were larger pieces. At first, we just found some fist-sized pieces, which we were happy with, because that was at least big enough to let us make the rest of the chess set. But then we found the piece that made the whole trip worth it…

Geode Collecting

by dave

A warm Saturday in March without major plans. That is unusual on many levels, but we embraced it, and went down to the San Rafael Swell to see if we could find any Geodes. We hiked around just off I-70, about a half mile north of the Interstate, at this one spot.. fairly well known, where there is a gate directly off I-70 you can pull straight off the interstate, through the gate, and onto dirt roads. It took us a bit to find a good parking place because I didn’t want to break down the edges of the road bed or the vegetation, but once we found one, the kids were off exploring before we even had our backpacks on.

We did find a few rocks that looked and felt promising for geodes, and I need to open them up today to see what is inside them. We also found a nice piece of jasper, maybe a foot square and about 3 inches thick,  which got picked up to add to my collection for chess pieces. And then we made a small campfire in an existing firepit, and had some lunch. We drove back through the San Rafael Swell stopping to look at petroglyphs,but mostly just enjoying the views. The road winds through canyons and cliffs that are fairly impressive… as nice as the national parks, in my opinion.

Of course, because it is March, after a lovely day of outdoor activity in the desert, we drove home through a blizzard in the mountains.

First Outing of the Season

by dave

Tuesday afternoons, my boys both have music lessons, which leaves my daughter and I home alone for the afternoon. We took advantage of it to go down and try to pick up some rocks to work on the chess set that I’ve been wanting to carve all winter. So we drove down to Nephi and heading up the Nebo loop. The gate was still closed for winter, but it closes about a quarter mile shy of where I wanted to park anyway, so no biggie. We walked the rest of the way up the road, and headed up to where a rock quarry used to be, ages ago. It is a short walk, and an easy one if you are young and in shape. Not as easy if you are old and/or broken, but still not too bad.

We first started try to work some rock out of a wall that has clearly seen its share of rockhounders over the years. It had 2 types of rock — way too hard to break, and way too soft as it crumbled into tiny pieces. So we quickly gave up on that spot. But the trail had flattened out and went around what clearly used to be the quarry, so we walked its edge and found some nice collections of rocks big enough for our purposes, loaded up the backpack with 50 pounds of them (the daily limit for non-commercial collecting by 2 people on federal land), and started walking back downhill.

I’ll just say that walking a mile or so downhill with 50 pounds of rocks on your back is easier than trying to do it uphill. But I was still glad when we got to the car, and now that it is 2 days later, I still can feel the effort in my legs. Hopefully by later this spring, it won’t seem like such a big deal to do a hike like that.

Yesterday, I started cutting the rocks down to size. I cut the rough pieces for the first half of the white pieces of the set. And that was enough for one day of work. My hope is to have the rough pieces cut out over the weekend, so next week, assuming my wrist injury doesn’t get sent off for surgery, I can start refining them down into actual chess pieces.

Lava Tubes

by dave

We are still here but I have been trying to avoid typing for the last few months so I have not been posting anything. Today I am experimenting with a new WordPress plugin that lets me speak a blog post so I can still put things here without having to actually type.

Two weekends ago we went down to the lava tubes near Fillmore and ran around there for an afternoon. The kids were enjoying the time that we had to explore. They went up and down the cliff to get into the lava tubes many times, and they did it safely. The only person who got hurt was me. I was not hurt badly — I just slipped on a rock as we were going into one of the tubes that go off to the side of the main lava tube and we decided it would be better to come back another day would we have life with us and maybe explore the darker parts of the tubes when we were little better prepared. But we did run around for a couple hours and I think all the kids had fun. Loretta was able to come with us and hang out while we explored.

We made up a small fire and a hung around the fire as the sun went down. As it started to get dark we let the fire burn down, laid out some blankets on the ground, and watched the stars come out. We have not seen the Milky Way in a few years because we are getting more light pollution near our house. But we were able to see the stars come out the, and Milky Way was visible early in the night. So we sat there talking and looking at the Milky Way for about an hour until we decided to go back home. The kids had such a good time we are going to go back in a couple weeks and give them an entire day to explore the lava tubes maybe even more than one day.

And on a tech note, the text-to-speech plugin I just tested to write this is OK, not awesome. I may keep looking for one that handles capitalization and punctuation better.

Spring Adventures

by dave

The lack of posting here should not imply a lack of adventures this spring…

I have been out exploring the areas around Milford, UT, bringing home some obsidian, and a few other shiny things. The entire family spent a day collecting crystals out near Marysvale… the kids mostly found chunks of Selenite, but they were big and shiny so it made everyone happy. I found some rocks that had obsidian mixed up with sandstone, something blue/grey, and flecks of gold. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and there was not much of it, but in my non-expert opinion, it is pretty cool.

The kids and I also explored old back roads between Eureka and Delta, and found some promising areas to come back to in the future, when we want to spend a longer time at a single site, really digging for treasures.