Brown Sign: Rock Hounds in NC

Our cousin had selected Franklin, NC as our destination this year because we all enjoy geology.  Rock Hounds is the title for this hobby.   Last year I wrote about our visits to a couple of regional mineral museums, which present the geology of the region and history of mining in the mountains of North Carolina.  This year we set out to get grubby and find our own gems.

Franklin hosts numerous rock and gem shops.  These range from store front jewelry stores to shacks that worry you whether the stones are holding the place up.  We headed north of town by a couple of miles to the Rose Creek Mine.  The local “mines” range from rock shops to various levels of do-it-yourself mining.   At the DIY mines, you can buy buckets of dirt, which you get to clean in the flume.  Some places have the buckets set up for you.  Some will “guarantee”  gems in “salted” buckets.  We chose the dig-it-yourself buckets.  You get to take your buckets to the “tunnel” (i.e. dug out and covered area with a pile of dirt), pick your lucky load, and return to spend the next hour or so sifting.

We each cleaned three buckets of dirt by lunch time.  Arthritis would limit more of this fun for one day.   The sifting process takes the raw dirt from clods to mud to clay to various sized rocks on your screen.  Discerning between rocks and gems is the end decision.   Real rock hounds sort out the discards early, filling their gem bucket with only reasonable candidates for the owners to clarify.  I filled my gem bucket with a few good specimens and some really pretty gravel to put on the driveway.  Between my gem bucket and Linda’s we came home with uncut rubies, emeralds, garnets, amyseth, various colors of quartz, moonstone, and lots of fun memories.  The Builtmore Estates costs $75 to tour for the day.  The Rose Creek Mine cost me $16 for half a day.  That left us half a day for lunch and more rock hounding around Franklin.

After the small catfish lunch at the Fish Fry dinner (with the small platter, Christ could have easily fed the Five-Thousand, and had a hushpuppy left over for the Pharasies), we headed to main street and the Franklin Gem & Mineral Museum.  While the museums we visited last year had more comprehensive narratives in their displays, Franklin’s museum hosts a great variety of specimens from North Carolina, North America, and the geology hot spots around the world, in half a dozen rooms.  One room has phosphorescent minerals under blacklight.  Other rooms have Native American artifacts and fossils.

Being early in the season, in a small town, many of the other destinations were closing up by late afternoon.  The big event in town that evening was the high school prom.  At the crossroads in town were a pair of gorgeously landscaped corner parks with azaelas to iris in bloom.  The prom girls, their dates, mothers and the photographers were out in force for prom photos in the park.   These are the gems of Franklin, polished and dazzling.  Linda’s cousin’s son & I sat on a bench near the park, wondering how many mothers are going to want to know who those two guys are in the background of their daughter’s prom photos. I did not even think of taking in photos of the nature display.   Ah, small town life.

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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4 Responses to Brown Sign: Rock Hounds in NC

  1. mj monaghan says:

    Really interesting. Rocks and stones are very cool. This is something I would love to do. I always wanted to pan for gold in northern Cal, but unfortunately did not ever get to it.

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Growing up in CA, I leanred all about Sutter’s Mill and the gold rush. Some day we will get back to the gold country. Maybe I can add a few gold flakes to our clutch of jewels in the rough… and a few more rocks for the driveway.

  2. The Vicar says:

    Everyone is a treasure hunter at heart. May your driveway be covered by many earthly jewels. I’m sure that God appreciates your enjoyment of creation. 🙂

    • hermitsdoor says:

      Actually, I took most of the larger, colorful rocks to work, mixed them with a dozen or so smooth rocks from the Gem & Mineral Museum, and a couple of pounds of rice, all in a bucket with a small shovel. Now the children whom I work with can “dig for gems”.

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