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- with - snake
McRocks West Trip Report
Oct 23rd through Oct 26th, 2003
Posted Nov 1st, 2003
And so the story goes...
Regina and I got an early start on Thursday morning, Oct. 23rd, leaving at 6:15 am from Broken Arrow. By 10:00 am we were crossing the Sulphur River just north of Talco, TX. I had been told that was the prime area to find Mossasaur bones. It wasn't as it had been described to me, being fairly overgrown, and very little in the way of an area to search that I could determine. We decided to pass up the opportunity, not knowing the area, and continued on towards Toledo Bend Reservoir.
We arrived around 2:00 pm at Bass Haven Resort, just north of the dam a couple of miles on the Louisiana side. While having lunch in the restaurant there, we noticed a boat moored just offshore across the cove. After a while we noticed four or five people walking the shoreline several hundred yards from the boat. Speculating it might be the boys from Mississippi, we watched them for a while and finally they made their way back to the boat. We could see they were loading something heavy into the boat as well. We got checked into our cabin, and after a brief rest, I decided to go search the shoreline around the cabins for signs of petrified wood.
At first I searched above the waterline, finding small bits and pieces of pet wood. After a while I decided perhaps since the water was relatively low, perhaps there was some un-searched territory, and possibly some larger pieces of pet wood to be found several feet offshore. Little did I know that the crew from MS had already scoured the beach for anything remotely resembling petrified wood. However, my search was not to be in vain, as the following pictures will attest. I found several nice pieces of agatized palm wood, and at least 25-30 pounds of common pet wood, some with very nice colors and a good majority of it agatized.
[Click images for full size picture]
I spent the better part of two hours wading the shoreline collecting before finally deciding it was time to go into town and get groceries for the weekend. We stopped by cabin 27, where the MS crew was camped out and found Charlie Audirsch, a collecting buddy of Bobby's and retired teacher from Houma, LA, sitting out on the back deck waiting for them. Seems they were still out cruising the shoreline in the boat. We visited with Charlie for a while and headed off for groceries. We ended up going to Leesville about 30 miles away. After returning from the grocery run I walked over to cabin 27 to visit, and found Bobby B. lounging on the deck. I'm sure he must have thought I was some local nut wandering around since I thought he was Charlie still sitting out there, and I walked up in the dark and asked if Bobby had finally returned, whereas he said, "I'm Bobby!" We sat and talked for a length of time, and after finding out what the plan for the following day (Friday) was, I bid him adieu and returned to the cabin for the night.
The following morning we gathered at cabin 27 around 7:00 am, and as a fog had rolled in early that morning, we waited for others to arrive. Those present were Bobby Bentley, Chick King, Chris Addison, Stanley Loman, Charlie Audirsch, and we were waiting for Bob and Sybil Powell of MS to arrive from Leesville where they had spent the night.
Our plan for the days hunt was to go below the dam along the main spillway and search for sizable pieces of pet wood. This paid off for some. Bobby found a sizable stump of common pet wood buried in the riverbank at the waterline, four of us walked right past it, but Bobby's radar homed in on the seeming unobtrusive piece of rock, and after Charlie dug it out for him, it was quite the find, about 75 pounds, and plenty of character. It went in the backpack and Bobby headed off for the truck to unload. Not far downstream, Chris had discovered what at first glance appeared to be a piece of a wooden piling protruding from the river bank. Only one problem, it was petrified...after he and Chick dug it out, it turned out to be a round log of petrified palm wood, nearly 8" in diameter, and over two feet long! Chris slept with the log under his bed the entire weekend, and I heard rumors he even showered with it. I know Bobby is still trying to figure out how to get a piece of it away from him.
By 11:00 we had covered both banks for nearly a mile or more downstream of the hydro plant. We waited for about 30 minutes for Charlie, who was last seen headed downstream. Finally, after much hollering and honking, Charlie showed up from points south-east with a very heavy 5-gal bucket of material. He had made his way downstream to where the overflow spillway feeds into the river, and had collected a few specimens of marcasite from a shale bank. This is the place that was mentioned in an earlier posting with unusual specimens. Some decided to go back to the cabins, while others went to run errands and visit friends. I decided I would hike down to the shale bank and collect some marcasite specimens myself after seeing what Charlie brought back with him. Regina and I headed off downstream with the plan of being back at the cabins by 1:00 pm.
Charlie told me the spot wasn't far, and I couldn't miss it since it was almost directly under the power lines that cross the river in the area. That part he got right...The collecting spot turned out to be at least a mile downstream, and he forgot to mention that the further you go, the worse the terrain gets! About a half mile short of the spot, the berm above the river is pockmarked with sinkholes that could swallow a bear. To compound the problem, there are so many that you risk falling in one with every step. We decided to make our way downhill to another terrace about twenty feet lower around a 1/4 mile from the collecting spot, this held out for another 300 yds or so before we were again cut off by sinkholes and washes. This was as far as Regina could make it with her knees in the condition that they are, in fact, I was mildly surprised she hadn't turned back already. I refused to let her attempt to follow me the remaining 40 feet down the water's edge to navigate the remaining 400 yds to the marcasite deposit. I had her wait there while I went on. I was surprised at the quantity of the marcasite, and the unusual formations. I only brought two small collecting bags with me, and thank goodness! I collected perhaps 20 specimens, the largest weighing in at nearly ten pounds by itself. I divided the specimens between two bags to balance the weight, which was at least fifty pounds, if not sixty, and kind of worried about Regina sitting up there in the woods by herself, headed back the way I came. Let's just say it was much easier sliding down the berm than trying to climb back up with those marcasite specimens!
Below are some pictures of some of the specimens I collected. Note that the majority of the specimens, if not all, began as wood that became buried in the shale and clay of the bank, and the marcasite formed around the wood, in some cases completely replacing the wood. Some specimens still have carbonized wood in them. Another unusual feature is the cubic pyrite that has formed on many specimens as well, along with boytroidal formations.
These are an example of how wood was totally replaced by marcasite, retaining the detail of the wood grain. Some unusual examples of "Petrified Wood"
I found Regina right where I had left her, and we headed back to higher ground and the truck, which was still nearly a mile away. She told me she was getting worried after a few minutes because she kept hearing snorting and grunting in the woods behind her while she was waiting. I told her it might have been a feral hog or possibly a deer, or it could have been me she was hearing trying to get back up the hill! We finally made it back out to the truck, and after a couple of bottles of water we actually got back to the cabins around 1:05. As no-one else had returned yet, we decided a shower and a nap would be a good thing.
Denise showed up at the door around 2:00, having just gotten in. We talked for a bit and then she headed off to Pleasure Point to secure a camping spot for Freddy and her RV. Around 2:30 I decided to do some more wading and search the shoreline to the north of the cabins. I only found a few small pieces, and one larger one this time, along with someone's stainless steel prop...I can imagine their chagrin when that $300 prop spun off and sank to the bottom after hitting one of the thousands of submerged stumps in the lake! Anyone need a prop?
Around 5:30 pm we were getting ready to head over to Pleasure Point where the main get-together was to be for hot dogs and friendly banter. Bobby and the others had gone over around 4:30 themselves. As we were pulling out I noticed an individual walking up between the cabins. I thought he looked somewhat familiar, but wasn't sure so I kept going. After passing him, I heard him call my name, then I knew it had to be Larry! You guys need to update your pictures...Everybody looks a lot different in person...We talked for a while and then Regina and I headed out for Pleasure Point a few miles down the road. We didn't get introduced to very many of the other rock-hounds that attended, but we did enjoy the get-together and the wonderful sunset across the lake.
After finding out that the sponsoring club did not have a plan for the hunt on Saturday, our attention turned to planning our own hunt for Saturday. As Bobby, Chick, Chris, Stanley, Bob and Sybil, and Charlie had been there previously, Bobby made a couple of phone calls, and got us permission to collect at Sam Rayburn, about forty miles west, at an area they had collected before. We made plans that evening for the following days hunt and decided we would organize at Bass Haven, rather than with the main group, whose plan was to meet for coffee and donuts, then everyone was on their own after that. We returned to Bass Haven and ended up sitting around cabin 27 visiting until at least 10:00 pm. Somehow Stanley had come up with a slab of Louisiana opal. It became somewhat of a focus, as it not only is it an unusual form of opal, with tons of green fire, purple, blue, and even some red, the only source of it near Monks Hammock, not far from where we were, is completely off limits now, with no hope of ever being re-opened. Even blackmail attempts were made to try and get Stanley to part with it, to no avail. Between that and some of the stories, we stayed in stitches most of the evening.
The following morning we got up bright and early and were congregating at cabin 27 by 7:00 am. A couple of friends from the main group had been invited to go along with us, I think the lady's name was Joy, and I'm not sure I got the younger fellow's name, it was his first time there as well.
We hit the road by 7:30 headed for Sam Rayburn in Texas. After arriving at the intended dig site, we unloaded and followed Bobby's lead as to the method of determining where the petrified wood might be located.
This involved sticking a two-foot metal probe into the ground until it hits something, which in this instance is usually petrified. Their experience was invaluable here. It wasn't long before everybody was digging holes and finding petrified wood. After about an hour, Joy and Sybil came through and told us they had found a veritable gold mine of pet wood not far away where scavengers had dug out all the palm wood and left the more common pet wood piled up. We all headed to this new spot and for some of us it was quite extraordinary to see nearly a thousand pounds of pet wood just lying in piles around trees waiting to be claimed.
Shortly they were pulling out sizable pieces of pet wood up to fifteen pounds, along with a few pieces of palm wood. I joined them after a while and helped dig. Chick dug out a nice chunk and proclaimed it had my name on it, so I didn't argue. Later on, Bobby was uncovering a piece, and proclaimed it had my name on it as well, however a short minute after he picked it up my name faded rapidly and it disappeared into his bucket, I'm pretty sure its the nine inch piece of palm in one of his photos....
As it was clouding up and threatening rain around noon, we broke for a lunch break and cleaned a few of the better specimens looking for palm wood specimens. Somehow, someone forgot to pack the tuna fish Bobby and the boys were supposed to have for lunch, so I think they ended up with crackers and a few other tidbits. I offered a couple of ham and cheese sandwiches to the pool.
After a break we went back to digging and within a half hour, there were rumbles of thunder and a light rain began to fall. This became a deterrent for most and everybody was loading up to leave or wait for the rain to stop. Our group decided to wait and go to a different spot that they knew of where much larger pieces and logs of petrified wood could be recovered. Bobby had assured me that I would come home with a couple of yard rocks prior to the trip. We headed out and after a short drive, pulled off of the road and waited for those from the main group to pass us by, as the terrain where we were going collecting next is very diverse, and not a place for those of lesser physical stamina and strength as I soon discovered. Let it suffice to say that the 200# (more or less) "log" which now resides on my front porch was hard earned.
I passed my initiation...Don't let these guys fool you, I brought this out all by myself, although Bobby and Stanley did help dig it out, along with the 80# piece I carried out in my backpack once I recovered. there were several pieces this big and bigger brought out, Charlie found a couple of really nice pieces, and Chris, with Bobby and Chick's help wheeled out a 250# log, along with several pieces in excess of 100# as these pictures will attest to:
By the time everyone got so worn out they could hardly walk, it was after 4:00, and we had missed the silent auction already. After a vote, we all decided instead of trying to make it back in time for the pot luck dinner at Pleasure Point, we would have our own pot-luck dinner at Bass Haven later that evening. We loaded up in the trucks and headed out around 5:00 pm, a group of contented, and very tired rock-hounds. We were back at Bass Haven before six o'clock. After showers and a few minutes to recuperate, Regina and I fixed a big pan of barbecue smoked sausage, loaded up the tater-salad and cole-slaw and headed back over to cabin 27 around 7:30 or so. I also took some specimens for give-away and trades. Among these were amethyst from Thunder Bay, ON, Kentucky geodes, Barite Roses from Oklahoma, Heliospongia (Permian age fossil sponge) specimens from Crosby County, TX. and limb casts. I gave Bobby a huge KY geode, close to a foot in diameter on the long axis, full of quartz crystals, a well deserved gift in my book. Without his generous guidance and knowledge, it might have been a less than fruitful weekend. Denise brought some calcite/quartz and specimens from a uranium mine, some septarian pieces, and petrified wood from Karnes County, TX. Freddy brought out some Arkansas Quartz specimens. We all sat around telling stories for a couple of more hours after that. I'll leave the rest to the imagination, if you haven't been rockin' with these guys, you're in for a great time when you do.
The following morning we managed to catch everyone before they got on the road and spent a few more minutes swapping stories, that's when we heard the one about the metal piece of pet wood Bobby found once. That's a story he'll have to tell for himself! It's a good one! Stanley had his slab of Louisiana Opal out, and anyone that wanted to look at or hold it had to give him a hug first... long story, you would have had to of been there... We finally bid everyone farewell except for Larry and Elisa, and we pulled around to their cabin to visit and do some swapping. Larry had brought some sunset jasper, pretty stuff, and some flint. He gave Regina a small piece of fluorescent material from Franklin, NJ, and a nodule form somewhere down in TX that has dendrites in it, and a small vug of crystals in the center that he had polished the end on. The crystal vug fluoresces bright green under SWUV. Elisa fell in love with the Barite Roses, I gave her a bag full to take home with her for jewelry and fountain projects. Larry also gave me a belt buckle with a cab that he made, very pretty material, and nice workmanship, thanks again Larry!
We finally decided it was time to go, even with the time change it was past ten o'clock, and I had an eight hour drive ahead of me. We bid farewell and hit the road, stopping for lunch in Center, TX, then drove pretty much straight through from there, arriving safely home around 7:00 pm.
I can't reiterate enough what a great group of people we have assembled at McRocks. Having been on two trips now with various members, I don't know of any other group of friends I would rather spend time with than these. The quality of the individuals we have here are beyond reproach. I'm looking forward to the next time I can get together with best of the best when it comes to rock-hounds!
Keep On Rockin'!
Copyright 2003 Virgil G. Richards
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VIRGIL G. RICHARDS