Book Cliffs Trip Report
May 2002

by Ron Knoshaug

Having arrived at Grand Junction during a dust storm on May 10th, Judy and I were concerned about digging for barite in 40+ mph winds. The lure of beautiful water-clear barite was overwhelming, so we headed to the dig site and arrived about 2:00 PM. Amid the dust and wind, we dug until about 7:00 PM and found only one small, but cloudy, crystal. By now the wind had subsided, so we decided to camp at the dig site. About 7:30 PM, Bill Chirnside, Donna Hughston, and Prospector arrived, set up camp, and prepared for mineral exploration the next day.

Early Saturday, Tim Hillsten arrived after leaving Denver at 4:00 AM. Arriving at the Super 8 Motel in Grand Junction, I picked up the rest of the mineral collectors for the barite-collecting field trip. North Jeffco Gem and Mineral Club, the RAMS, and the Colorado Springs clubs were represented. People looking forward to a day of digging were Marge Regel, Moyra Lyne, Brian and Wendy Mitcheltree, Rose and Jim Reynolds, Rich and Angie Fancher, Bob Landgraf, Don Bray, with leader Bill Hawes. Bill Hawes gave us some pointers as to what to look for in selecting the correct (hopefully, barite-loaded) concretionary nodules (sometimes called septarian nodules) and we were off looking for barite. Tim located a nodule which looked as if it should produce many nice specimens, but after much digging, produced only one barite crystal. Judy and I dug in a two-chamber nodule which produced much calcite, but was barren of barite. Marge climbed down a steep slope to an interesting looking nodule and was finding small, but very clear, barite crystals. Bill C. and Donna completely dismantled a nodule finding a few barite crystals. The weather was cooperating with relatively cool temperatures and little wind (at least for the Book Cliffs).

That evening, a few of us (Marge, Moyra, Bob, Bill C., Donna, Tim, Wendy & Brian, Judy, and myself) camped out at the dig site. The wind started to howl about 8:00 PM and I began to wonder if my tent was going to blow away. Tim moved his vehicle to block the wind to keep his tent from collapsing and Moyra slept in the car part of the night since her tent could not stand-up properly against the wind. Judy and I retired into the tent early to get out of the wind, played a hand of gin rummy, and called it a day. Early Sunday morning we were awakened to the dreaded sound of rain, with lightening flashes and thunder rumbling off in the distance. At 5:00 AM it was raining hard and the group decided to evacuate the campsite. By now the bentonite dust had turned to bentonite mud and tearing down camp in the rain, dark, and mud was a real adventure. But the real adventure was yet to come. Bob left first and got out on the now grease-like roads without much trouble. By the time Judy and I left, the roads were in a very slippery state but we managed to get out after putting it in 4-wheel drive. Moyra had to abandon her 2-wheel drive car on the slick road.

The plan for Sunday was to look for fossils at either Douglas Pass or in the Meeker area. But due to the rain over a large area, the fossil trip was cancelled. Some of the group went to the Grand Junction Show and the rest of us headed for home. It rained until about Vail, then we hit snow until Floyd Hill. It stopped raining about 10:00 AM in Grand Junction, the bentonite roads dried out by noon, and Moyra was able to retrieve her car. It was an adventurous trip without much barite collected. Maybe next time will be different. As a great philosopher (or was it a rockhound) once said, "Hope springs eternal".