Not that I haven’t thought of finding precious gems in my dreams, but to have the thought put in my mind that I could dig them up with my own two hands, was more then I could imagine.
My husband Scott and I (Abijah) set out for Virgin Valley NV. The one place, besides Australia where you can find the ultra coveted, Black Fire Opal. My eyes gleamed with the thought of unearthing one. My heart raced with opal fever.
We started out going south from my house in Janesville CA to Reno NV and then north-east on I-80. We would later find out this was the long way. With a quick stop at our favorite sporting goods store Scheels, for last minute camp stuff; I found a book on mines and gems in northern NV. It was like holding a treasure map to adventure, and I was ready to cut the trail.
Driving on I-80 for what seemed like forever; thru great open fields and little on stop sign towns, looking for some road the map said was there, hoping we didn’t miss one of our many turns.
Reading my book most of the way up there. I saw the mine we might go to. The book told of areas along the roadside where you could find all kinds of treasure, from moon stone, to apache tears, to jasper and petrified wood. I was amazed at everything I could do the Virgin Valley.
Ones turning onto this spot of a road, I could see wild horses and prong horn, along the noel tops, and the road was strait as an arrow. Scott asked if I would drive for an hour or so, while he slept. I was in the driver’s seat for no more than 10 minutes and he was out.
After driving 364 miles, not just highway miles but, one lane dirt road miles, I was beat from sitting. Only 40 miles to go, and I could not drive fast enough. As I ascend the steep windy hill I can see the jagged rocks suddenly pop up out of the dead flat plains, to make up our breath taking view of the 800ft cliffs, I had read about.
We were in the middle of nowhere. I turn into the Sheldon Wildlife Reserve, and start down a little dirt road; I was amazed at the wonder of this place as I pass a hot spring where people are swimming. I drove passed the sign leading to our mine of chose; Royal Peacock Opal Mine 8 miles. I headed that way. Everywhere we looked there were staked claims and signs (trespassers will be shot). Dodging the wild donkeys down the road I see the (Turn Here) sign for the Peacock mine. Turning down the road I see a small cabin; surrounded by people, and their finds from the days dig.
Walking into the cabin was like being in a cave of wonders. Everything was glistening from floor to ceiling from the light coming thru the sky lights. My heart was pounding; I grabbed a brochure for pricing. As I turn to walk out the door, a man covered from head to toe in dirt, walks to the corner of the room with something in his hand, talking quietly, he lifts his hand to his mouth and licks the stone that was concealed in his fist. He turns it into the light coming from the window of the cabin. Forgetting how grossed out I was that he liked a rock, I could see the fire he held in his hand; it was a black fire opal, that he said he just stumbled over in the tailings pile. We told them see you in the morning and walked out.
The day was still young and even though it looked like thunder was rolling in, I wanted to go where my book said I could collect rocks. We parked near the edge of the road. I jumped out, right when I hit the ground I stated to gather rocks as fast as I could, apache tears, catlinite, and jasper it was everywhere! Scott laughs and says “leave that here; we still have to walk up the hill”. We started walking the hill line. I examined every rock in sight; I was in rock hound heaven. The ground was littered with rocks I had only seen in books. I filled my bag with what I thought were the best. The thunder claps and rain droplets start to fall on my face. We decide to head back to the truck and find camp.
Looking at the map, the camp site was not far. The wind begins to pick up as we drive to the lake campground. Determined to have a fire, after realizing we forgot fire wood, we found dead sage brush to burn. After frying my little can of salmon with lime beer it was eminent that canned salmon was a must for every camping trip from now on. With the thunder creeping closer it made it impossible to sleep. Sleep did come but only minutes before the alarm clock went off.
We arrived at the opal mine at 7am, they gave us instruction on what to do where to dig and what to listen for; keep in mind I have never done this before.
We started up the hill in a precession of about 20 or so cars nearing what looked like the top of the world, they tell us to keep going up and find a place to park. As we unload we ask the safety guide where to dig he smiles, and says “dig where you see ash, ok”! As we scout we feel out of place, everyone had grabbed a side of the mountain and was pounding away.
I slowly walk up to the wall of clay and ash towering over me I look down, and found a piece of petrified wood, I started digging right there. Our first big strike to the clay sounds like shattered glass, the sound we’ve been listening for. We found our first opal, not fire but clear and as big as my fist, I was in aww I put it in water and kept digging.
Branches of petrified wood covered in opal, a nickel size piece of yellow fire opal, a little petrified pine cone, red and green opal, were our finds so far. Hot and dusty we dug all day, and out of nowhere it stated to rain. Everyone rushed to the cars; I pushed my back into the side of the hill, pulled my hat down, and waited it out. In 10 minutes the rain was gone.
We started digging lower in an ash pocket, and the greatest sound of cracking glass echoed in our ears, as we uncover what we hit; the colors of the rainbow shown bright from the opal we struck. We slowly uncovered the opal, and it kept getting bigger and bigger. The guide we had talked to most of the day saw us and knelt down to help dig; he was just as excited as we were when the 9in x 2-1/2in around opal emerged from the ash and clay. In a rush to keep it wet I put the opal in the bucket of water. You have to keep opals in water till there cured in mineral oil or they will crack because there made of 30% water.
4pm came to fast and we were the last ones on the hill soaking up all it had to offer. When we arrived back at the cabin and the whole crowed gathered around us and our finds. We had found the most and biggest finds of the day, the owner came out and told us we did a great job and we had some really nice pieces to take home, another told us we had paid for our trip twice over, and the last person was looking through our opals and said wow look u found a little black fire opal, our eyes lit up in shock; in the rush of finding the big one we had also uncovered a smaller opal right beside it, I didn’t think much of it at the time, and put it in the bucket of water. It goes to show you small dreams can come true.
We were told of some hot-springs down in the valley that u could camp at, and direction went like this; go down the hill past the rock pile, and BLM sign, turn left past the two post wind mill at the base of the third hill. Yeah we were lost; but we eventually found them. The rest of the weekend we just hung out. Socked in the hot-spring and climbed the 800ft cliffs.
Talking with our guide at the mine, we found out there was a quicker way home; we checked it out on the map and yeah 153 miles shorter. Wow!
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