HOW IT ALL STARTED
The adventure started as a result of COVID and my need to be productive and isolated at the same time. Rockhounding seemed like the perfect answer. I live in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado. This puts me in good proximity to some of the best rockhounding in the United States. New Mexico, Arizona, and California are just a stone’s throw away. These areas are great places to find some of the most beautiful stones in the US. Millions of years ago, the tectonic plates shifted and what was once tropical shoreline became our deserts. This shift left behind everything from Jasper to turquoise.
I frequently take my jeep deep into the mountains and deserts. It’s there that we explore arroyos and washes for what nature has left exposed. Many hours are spent wandering and sleeping out under the stars. Every now and then we are lucky enough to find stones that are as beautiful as an Arizona sunset or Big Sur seascape.
As I make my treks, I’m literally walking through history. I find fossils, petrified wood, and layers of earth that go back millions of years. I’ve seen petroglyphs left by our native ancestors and little pieces of our ancient past.
One of my most exciting adventures happened when I was rockhounding in New Mexico. I found a trail to drive my Jeep a bit farther into the desert. I was alone as you can be. The trail quickly decayed as I was driving down an arroyo. Getting down was easy. Getting back up, not so much. I found myself trapped in the desert with no way back to the road and no one to ask for help. I had not seen another vehicle since I left the main road 6 hours before. I tried every possible trail and path, but they all ended in an impassable stream bed or unclimbable ridge. I decided my only option was to hike up to a mountain top and hope for cell service. I made it to the top of a hill and fate smiled on me - one bar of service. Whew! By 5 o’clock that evening, a 4-wheel drive tow truck arrived. Even he was not able to get to me. So, I had to make a run up the side of a mountain and get as close as I could to the trail. I made it 75 feet from the ridge top. We then pulled a long cable down to my jeep and pulled it up a steep grade and back onto the road. $450 later, I was I on my way home with my cache of rocks.
I’ve learned some great lessons about adventuring. Don’t drive down arroyos and never turn your back on the waves of the ocean. I was once taken out by a rogue wave. I had a 30-pound pack on my back and was taken out by a larger than normal wave. It tumbled me around like one of my stones in a rock tumbler. However, unlike one of my stones, I did not come out shining.