Update 9/26: The fieldtrip will go ahead as scheduled. The forecast shows possible showers Saturday afternoon — we have an option to cut the second mine visit shorter if needed.
Update 9/22: The fieldtrip is still on. However, the forecast for Saturday shows significant cooldown to around 60F thanks to the cold front expected on Friday, so dress warmly.
As the lows might be in the 30-40F range keep warm overnight if you’re planning to camp out!
Update 9/14: Two weeks warning! The fieldtrip is still on.
The forecast shows 84F and low wind for Saturday, so we should have great weather.
Some people asked about the camping situation. Google search suggested a free campsite at the Wilson Canyon Recreation Area with 18 hours stay restriction. I haven’t camped there, so cannot say what is the mosquito situation, but there are more spots farther away from Walker River. More info here: Wilson Canyon Recreation Area
The September 2019 fieldtrip is focusing on two locations in the western high desert in Nevada. The area is located about 60 miles south-east from Reno and hos some interesting minerals to collect. The best way to get there is to follow U.S. Route 395 north toward Reno to the Topaz Lake area near the California-Nevada border, then get on Nevada SR 208/339 all the way to Yerington. Alternatively, you can turn north on SR 339 in Bridgeport. The trip is approx. 432 miles, over-6-hours drive from Pasadena, so it is the best to drive on Friday and sleep at Topaz Lake Lodge, any motel in Yerington, or one of the Reno’s casino hotels.
A correction: the entry in the MSSC Bulletin erroneously stated that the target is the Goodsprings area, also in Nevada, but 400 miles away from the actual trip.
Here is the map with the proposed driving route:
We will meet at 9:00 AM on Saturday, September 28th, 2019 at McDonald’s parking lot, at the intersection of Goldfield Ave and Main St in Yerington, NV. The Google Maps of the meeting place:
38°59’39.7″N 119°09’48.8″W ( 38.994362, -119.163554 )
The area has a Nevada high-desert type climate. The forecast shows highs around 80F for the end of September, much cooler than the Mojave desert at the same time. It is very dry though, so bring a lot of water.
We will leave promptly for the first stop of the day, the Blue Jay Mine, located 4 miles away at the top of the tall hill. The turnoff is Fox Ln, we will then head south on the dirt road toward the mine and continue uphill to the mine on the top. The road is rough, but not too much, so smaller SUVs will easily make it. There is ample flat parking space next to boulders with thick green layers of copper minerals.
GPS coordinates of the Blue Jay Mine (in case somebody is late):
38°58’57.9″N 119°05’21.5″W ( 38.982749, -119.089307 )
The mineralization is mostly copper phosphate minerals. In California, we can only find microscopic copper phosphates, here we will see boulders covered with think green layers. Here is the Mindat page of the mine:
The most interesting minerals are dark green pseudomalachite, olive green libethenite, and dark blue cornetite. They are found in layers on the matrix or in separate crystal bunches up to a couple of centimeters.
Some of the cornetite shows sharp gemmy dark blue crystals up to 1-2mm, in my opinion matching the quality of crystals from the famous Star of the Congo Mine in Khatanga region of Africa.
There is abundant material for the micromineral collectors as well. The libethenite crystals are small but gemmy and sharp, there is malachite and brochantite too. During the scouting trip, I’ve seen some other rare minerals as well like copper-iron phosphate, so there is a potential for finding other rarities as well.
We will start heading down the mountain around noon for lunch in Yerington. There are many choices, Subway, McDonald’s, pizza place, Chinese food, Mexican food, and other places.
At 1:30 PM we will gather at the McDonald’s parking lot and head out towards Smith Valley for a half-hour drive south to our second location of the day, the Boulder Hill Mine near Wellington.
On the way, we will pass through very scenic Wilson Canyon, which is also famous for the petrified wood specimens.
You will see the switchbacks leading to the mine from miles away once we get to Smith Valley. The switchbacks were blocked by falling trees a few years ago, but there is an around-back 4WD trail to the top. It requires high clearance 4-wheel drive and not looking down the high drops in a few places though. The alternative is to park at the bottom of the switchbacks and walk up a few hundred feet.
The Google Maps location of the mine top:
38°41’49.8″N 119°20’41.7″W (38.697177, -119.344911)
The Google Maps location of the switchback bottom:
38°41’38.8″N 119°20’26.4″W (38.694122, -119.340655)
This mine is famous for the huge fluorite and barite crystals. The fluorite is mostly clear, milky, or lilac color. The cubes reach several centimeters in size. The luster ranges from really great to dull. Some crystals are partially included with dark grey stibnite needles and blobs, resulting in phantom-like darker layers. Here is the Mindat page of the mine: https://www.mindat.org/loc-61095.html
For the micro people, some vugs in fluorite are covered with small but very sparkly blobs of yellow corkite and pink strengite mixed with phosphosiderite.
The barite crystals are big as well and show color zoning from clear to milky. Occasionally they are sparkled with bright red spots of realgar on the surface.
There is a short tunnel if somebody prefers to perform true mining rituals, but there is enough great material to break up on the extensive dumps. And you will have to break up big and heavy boulders, so definitely bring bigger tools.
Also for the micromineral collectors, there is yellow micro wulfenite and mimetite near the barred tunnels at the bottom of the hill.
The fieldtrip will be concluded in the afternoon, but there is a lot of potential for self-guided post-trips on Sunday. Just across the valley, there is the Smith Valley Mine famous for gemmy fluorite. Unfortunately, there is not much of interest left on the dumps. Next canyon over is the Jackpot Mine, famous for caledonite specimens. However, it is gated and the dump has more rattlers than nice specimens. The access roads to those two mines have deep ruts and will require high clearance and being careful.
To the north, there is an area with many copper mines and garnet near Ludwig ghost town. The Wilson Canyon area is reputed for its petrified wood, likely a larger group of people will want to try it out on Sunday. There is the Mason Pass area to the north, also with copper phosphate minerals. Plenty of choices to make the long drive worth it.
Hope to see you all there!