Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gem-O-Rama 2011

Hanksite from Trona, CA

Last October was the first time I'd ever heard of Gem-O-Rama. On a Monday morning before school while our kids played in the playground, Ilse Ackermann told me about a great adventure she and her family enjoyed over the weekend digging through mud to unearth crystals from the Searles Valley. It sounded like a true treasure hunt. Then she went to a picnic table and picked up two minerals each bigger than her hand.

I went home and marked my calendar a year in advance for Gem-O-Rama 2011, which happens the second weekend in October if you want to mark your calendars for 2012. Each year, the Searles Gem and Mineral Society opens the salt flat in Trona for gem collecting.

The harvesting is through three curated field trips, the Mud Field (pictured above) where Hanksite is plentiful. Boots, gloves, three pronged cultivators, trowels and shovels come in handy.

In the afternoon, there is another dig called Blow Hole, where many search for the rare Sulfohalite, a gem that looks like a pyramid on top of a pyramid. We were lucky to find some beautiful specimens.

The following day, a field trip for Pink Halite happens. Bring your waiters, a crow bar and long water proof gloves as wading into the lake is necessary to acquire a good specimen.

Treasures can be taken to the brine trough to clean. As the crystals are salt, they will dissolve in fresh water but not in brine.

Bodies and tools are cleaned up in a rigged up faucet system fed by brackish water. Don't take a swig.

The overall verdict on Gem-O-Rama as reported by my oldest son. Gem-O-Rama brings together a great selection of people: gem enthusiasts, gem obsessionists, amateurs. I watched a sixty year old man present a ball of mud to a woman. He said, look what I found. She leaned in and watched as he pulled away the mud to reveal a brass container, inside the container was some fabric which he unrolled to reveal a plastic green ring with a harvested Hanksite pushed on the end. He presented it to her and asked her to marry him.

She said yes.

Thanks again to Ilse for the great tip. Hope to see you there next year.


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