Because my husband’s new hobby is lapidary (which is actually not a new hobby, but one resurrected from his youth), we decided to take a day of our holiday vacation to go rock hunting. We consulted the book Gem Trails of Arizona and found what seemed like an abundant site of minerals outside of Wickenburg.
The whole family piled in the car and within the hour we were at the site. We got excited because as soon as we got out of the car we spotted quartz everywhere. The kids and Evan scampered off up a hill while our chihuahua Bonnie and I walked in a different direction (mostly because Bonnie smelled something that was of interest to her).
Now, usually when you are out in the desert you don’t really run into people. Right away I noticed that this area was kind of busy. There were people riding ATVs and two gentleman sitting on a tailgate of a pickup truck not too far from where we had parked. Bonnie was dragging me in their general direction, so I got a better view of what they were doing. They had a large container of water on the ground and about 20 feet from them was a large hole dug in a small hill. The men were hunched over a flat pan, scrutinizing its contents. I was about to yell out a “Howdy!” when I realized that they were panning for gold!
I walked back to where my family was rock hunting and told them what I had discovered. Evan commented that he was not surprised, based on the conditions in the area. He also stated that he wasn’t finding many good rock specimens at this site and that perhaps we should go back to the wash we had passed and look around there.
We turned around and went past the little conglomeration of mobile homes called Stanton. As we drove along I started to notice more and more “Private — No Trespassing” signs and even a “For Sale” sign with large print that read “10 Claims on Property.” Starting to piece everything together we soon realized
that people might not take too kindly to us snooping around for rocks in the area. That, and there was really no place for us to pull over that wasn’t marked with signs or barbed wire. As we decided to make our way back to the main road, we noticed several more people with gold panning equipment.
We decided to continue to another spot not far from our present location that promised geodes. We drove there and found this cool little slot canyon with crystals sparkling in the rock. Evan went up onto a rock outcropping to check that out and Mylan followed. Solvay and I stayed closer to the ground with Bonnie. We turned when we saw a truck pull up. A man got out, walked up to us and asked if we had seen anyone go by recently. I know I had a puzzled look on my face, because he quickly explained that he was with Arizona Game and Fish and was checking mountain lion traps in the area. One of his traps was missing and he was hoping that the thief was still in the area. Because we had no information for him, he hopped back into his truck and was off, hoping to find the culprit so that he didn’t have to pay the $150 for the missing trap.
We picked up some more rocks here and there, but Solvay was ready to go after she learned that there were mountain lions in the area. I kind of had to agree with her when we got to a dead end and I thought that there was really no where for us to go if we happened to have a chance encounter with a feline. Also, I was pretty sure that Bonnie would serve as a tasty snack for a hungry kitty.
On the way home we were discussing that even though it was not a successful rock hunting expedition, it was a gorgeous day to be out in the desert — and no one got shot by a prospector or eaten by a mountain lion!