Saddle Mountain Field Trip by Dan Wood Several members and guest of our club gathered for the always-popular Saddle mountain field trip for petrified wood. If you know where to go, you can find on the top of Saddle Mountain layers of sedimentary rock between layers of basaltic rocks of the Columbia River basalt (CRB) group. The petrified wood we were collecting had been deposited in a lake, which apparently existed during one of many periods of time in which there were no eruptions. Buried in the lake's muddy bottom were trees washed in from the mountains, as well as those which grew locally such as the famous ginkgo. Color was generally white with browns, tans, and yellows and sometimes red streaked through the white matrix. Petrified wood is the official Washington State Gemstone.




September 2006 Rocky Trails I remember as a young boy while on vacation with my family touring ghost towns in Montana that we happened upon large hole in the ground caused by the collapse of a shallow mine tunnel. Of course, I wanted to enter and explore the mine but my mother would have none of that and forbade me to enter. I was never able to let go of the curiosity as to where the tunnel led and spent long hours daydreaming about abandoned mines and what might be found in them. That experience was like a seed, which grew into a hobby of mine exploration, a hobby that enveloped my every free moment during the 1980s and still continues to a lesser extent to this day. It's interesting to note that had I entered that first mine, I would have no doubt been overcome by "swamp gas" as that mine was almost certainly a coal mine, which is something a person should never enter; thanks Mom! On July 22nd, the Club had its field trip to the Damon Mine up Money Creek to collect minerals. The Damon Mine is a favorite of rockhounds due to its easy access, great minerals, and relative safety.

Our group, consisting of some 20 persons with 7 or 8 vehicles, met in Monroe and caravanned to the mine some 10 miles SW of Skykomish. We were in a deep mountain valley whose sides were covered by huge evergreens shooting straight up into the blue sky. I could feel the excitement of the group building as we gathered at the entrance and prepared to enter. We gathered our flashlights and tools, then made our way into the cool, dark tunnel. Right away, the overwhelming sense of darkness became an almost impenetrable medium as we tried to force more power from our feeble lights. The tunnel seemed to shrink as we groped our way deeper into the blackness.

The mine consists of a primary bore some 1,400 feet into the mountain crossing two ore veins along the way. The first vein is called the Damon vein and has some 800 feet of tunneling on the main level. At the end of the primary tunnel is the second or Priestly vein, which consists of another 500 feet of tunnels. We took the first left and entered the tunnel containing the Damon vein which ranges from 1 inch to 5 feet in width. The vein crosses the bore from the upper left to the lower right and glitters with quartz, pyrite and galena. Pure mountain spring water drips from the ceiling creating a slightly muddy walk along old rail tracks so badly rusted as to be almost decomposed.

After about 30 minutes, our eyes had adjusted to the darkness, our ears accustomed to the echo, and we seemed to forget that we were deep underground in an abandoned mine. The big hammers and chisels came out and all through the mine the sound of metal striking metal rang like the days of old, and happy voices were once again shouting of glorious finds. We collected for about an hour and a half at which time the official trip ended. Outside the mine we cleaned specimens we had gathered in the dark and were very often pleasantly surprised to find nice specimens of galena, pyrite, and-was that silver in the quartz!? A couple of us even ended up with some nice little quartz crystals.

HISTORY: In 1889, Alexander McCartney found a rich vein of galena in rocky outcrops on a ridge below Mt. Phelps and claimed it and others nearby as the Apex group. In 1901, a road was built to the mine from the town of Miller River, then called Berlin. With the help of investors, a narrow gauge railroad was built in 1909 connecting the Apex mines with the Great Northern Railroad at Berlin; however, the only locomotive ever to travel its length lost its footing on its maiden trip as it arrived at the mine and went careening back down until a sharp curve sent the engine off the track where it lay for many years before being scrapped. After that, the mine owners used gravity to move the full ore cars from the mines to Berlin and horses to move the ore cars from Berlin back to the mines. In the late 1950s, a Canadian company leased the property and worked the Damon until the mid '60s.

The mine has since been popular with rockhounds.



Dateline: August 4th Destination: Darrington, Washington

Purpose: Hunt Rocks - specifically Travertine and Garnets

Darrington isn't that far but if you got stuck in the construction delays between here and there, you probably were starting to wonder when you would get there - or - if would you arrive in time. Following the protocol set by the fearless Dan Woods (who was interestingly enough absent from this trip), we left promptly at 10:40 (hey Dan, we gave a 10 minutes grace period). Approximately 25 people joined up for a day of locating the infamous wild travertine that hides in the mountain forests near Darrington.

Twelve cars of excited rock hounds wound our way into the mountains and arrived at the claim with no one getting lost along the way (for long). From the air I'm sure it looked like a dust parade. The weather was good and the Sweetwater Claim welcomed the club to its treasures. Members were chipping banded travertine at the creek edge near the road and others were up the bank among the breakdown material with everyone was finding something for their collection. Susan was picking up small pieces for grab bags and Johann was looking for the best and largest specimen - I think he found it too!

The Sweetwater Claim is about 8 miles northeast of Darrington, behind Sauk Prairie Mountain. The collecting area is very near the forest service road you drive up on and parking is simply along the edge of the road. The best landmark for this location is the stand of alder trees on the left side of the road with a limestone outcropping about 200 feet up off the road. Good specimens can be found under the moss close to the road near the spring-fed stream that originates at the outcropping. Other samples can be found by digging into the breakdown material at the base of the outcropping. This location tends to keep producing year after year.

After about 1-1/2 hours, we moved on. The original plan was to continue to Sloan Creek to hunt garnets however the Forest Service had other plans and the bridge over Ruby Creek was closed. As a fall back, friends of Dave and Sue, who live on the South fork of the Sauk River graciously allowed us to visit their beach en-masse to pick through the sands that promised to yield some garnets. Albeit somewhat smaller than Sloan Creek the sands did not disappoint.

Our group proceeded to hike out to Jan's Beach (Jan and Mike own this private property) for some digging and panning. The sun came out, the water was cool, the views were spectacular and those who'd never been garnet hunting before received some tips on using classifiers and gold pans. Others like Christina who'd done this before came prepared with various sieves/classifiers and took home some nice 1/8"-1/4" garnet specimens. There will be some lucky kids benefiting from her efforts for certain! Others were simply happy to find a few specimens for their collections and spend a warm afternoon on the beach with friends.

Our next garnet trip will be on the east side of the Cascades with guaranteed larger specimens - just ask Daryl to see what he found on the Wagonmasters field trip. By the way, since our visit, the Forest Service has reopened the road to the Sloan Creek Campground - just in time for fall collecting!



More Trip Reports to Come ...

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