|Today we visited Garnet Hill in the Eagan mountain range just a few miles outside of Ely. Garnet Hill, a locally known rock hounding area, is famous for its very dark colored garnets found in a flow banded rhyolitic volcanic rock. Two square miles of public land were designated as a public recreation area in 1970 to ensure continued public access to the site because of its recreational and scientific study values. There is some limited camping space for tents and small RVs at the site, although I wouldn't recommend any 5'ers or large motorhomes. There are also three tables located around the road loop near the top of Garnet Hill for picnics. The road here is a graded, winding and somewhat steep one for most of the way. It then becomes a wide dirt road until it dead ends. When we arrived there was only one other truck parked in the dirt lot. The weather was beautiful, in the low 40's, but no wind. So it actually felt much warmer in the bright sunshine.
We had no idea what we were actually doing once we arrived, so we just started exploring the area. We did read the informational sign before wandering through the junipers and rock piles. Our goal today was really just to check things out. It was so peaceful and the smell! My 'smeller' doesn't normally work well, but the scent was permeating today. I loved it! We saw signs of past visitors breaking rocks in search of their gems and wondered if they were successful. Fortunately, not long after arriving we ran into the other truck owner, Bob, and he was very helpful and informative.
We learned that most rock hounds search for garnets at this location in one of two different ways. The first method involves visually searching the surface and nearby drainage's for the dark colored stones that have weathered from the pink to gray colored rhyolitic rock. Small garnets which have come loose from the host rock are spread here and there around the area and their very dark color contrasts strongly with the local rock and soil. Using this visual hunting method does find some stones, and the finds come with the least amount of work involved. The garnets collect in small gullies and drainage areas because they are heavier than the surrounding rock in a manner much like a placer gold deposit. The second method is used by more energetic rock hounds, who will work to break open the Garnet bearing rock with hammers and chisels. This is a popular method and the best one for locating the finest specimens of Garnet, where the stones are still attached to the mother rock. If one seeks to use this method, it is necessary to bring sharp chisels and heavy crack hammers to break open the hard unweathered rhyolite stone. It is also very hard work. Bet you can guess which one we used, LOL!
Bob had a rock hammer and a bag for his stones. He showed us how to spot them and then moved on his way. Larry and I split up and Onyx had a grand time running between the two of us, nose to the ground. It didn't take long before we were getting pretty good at 'spotting' the pretty dark specks. I have to brag, I found the largest stone today! We understand that the best time to come is 2 days after a good rain, when the stones are more visible on the surface. So if it rains next week, we'll come back. Mom would love to have a pair of earrings and a matching pendant made. We'd need a few more specimens for her to accomplish that! All in all, it was a successful trip and other than a stiff neck and a breaking back, we had a ball!