Wagon Wheel Gap Fluorspar Mine, Crystal Hill Gold Mine and
Del Norte Agate Locality Field Trip Report

Memorial Day Weekend
May 29-31, 2004

by Eldon Hunewell


We all met at the Hungry Logger restaurant on Saturday the 29th, except one person who somehow couldn't locate the large building. Bob and I arrived there close to 9am so we could grab a leisurely breakfast, but there was a sign on the door saying they were closed down for graduation ceremonies at 9am, so Bob and I searched for another place and apparently all the dining places in town were already closed for those ceremonies, so Bob went to the mine and got the waivers for us to sign while I waited for the group to arrive as well as watching all the prospective diners come and immediately leave.

After the others arrived, we left for the mine and the ranch where the mine was located on was such a beautiful setting for a rock trip. The mine was quite large and the dumps were on one side of the ranch and parts of the prospects and shafts were high above the lower tailings and buildings. We scattered about and some dug and some hiked above. We shared our ideas on where to look and the Mullen's son (Nick) got some started on some upper diggings when he found some Barite xls on rock. Bob found some really nice clusters that seemed to be translucent. Eventually many of us went up higher and found much more Barite as well as some Fluorite xls. The wind was strong and whipping dust around but it was bright and sunny out, and cool. Most seemed pleased with what they found. Denny found a deceased Elk stuck in one crevasse where we found our first better Barite. I took Denny and DJ up to the Last Chance Mine above Creede later that afternoon and early evening. We met for a late dinner at the Logger which had finally reopened for the day with some of the other club members: the Schatzmans, the Mullens, the Harrisons, the Larsens and Bob. Some of us went to motels; the rest of us camped above South Fork. Bob, Denny, DJ and myself spent a few hours viewing a nice, elderly local couple's collection. They were instrumental in giving Bob information on contacts regarding the Wagon Wheel Gap mine.

On Sunday, Bob, Denny, DJ and myself headed to the Crystal Hill mine and Bob found most of the group high above the mine in the restorative site area and brought them down to the main pit. It wasn't too long before some of us found some tiny quartz crystals and possibly amethyst (those are hard to tell until they are cleaned because they are found in deposits of sooty manganese)...gee we really got dirty there!!! Pete Modreski, a PhD at USGS, found a hydro xl there but that wasn't until later when he went to the site alone after the group had left. Some were pleased at this place and others were not. Bill and Cheryl Harrison gave a lot of comments on the geologic history of this site. I took Moyra and Kevin and K.C. Larsen up to Creede again for a side trip to the Last Chance Mine for Amethystine agate. Denny, DJ, Moyra and myself went to the agate place to camp (about dark) and we ran into a large herd of sheep and many very young lambs were in the herd that were probably born a month or so earlier. The lambs stayed in the road for a little bit and frolicked around a lot until I beeped my horn, then they moved but the mothers were watching us closely, haha.

The following morning, Monday (Memorial Day), a part of the original group as well as some CMS club members met at Del Norte Park for the trip to the agate place. Pete Modreski joined the group that morning. We spread out and the agate was everywhere but many left early (probably tired and wanting to go home) but a few of us stayed into the afternoon (Pete, Moyra, Denny, DJ and myself.) We found some small plumes in rock and many large nodules but some of the ones we broke open were either barren or nearly so.

It was an interesting and rewarding trip and there was no consensus on which place people liked best. I believe the Wagon Wheel Gap mine deserves another look and serious work... perhaps we can get permission for another trip there in the future.