The Annual July 4th Big Sandy Rock Swap Report
July 4 - 7, 2002

by Ted & Gigi Gildea


When you dream of collecting a lot of fossilized wood, do you think immediately of Farson, Wyoming? We do.

Last year, 4th of July 2001 fell on a Wednesday. None of our friends could decide whether to take the days off before the fourth or after. Consequently, no one participated in this fun event. Although we heard later that there was quite a turn out and fun was had by all. So we had to wait for two whole years to take this trip again.

So with great anticipation and eagerness, we left Denver at 2PM Wednesday the 3rd of July. We caravanned with Martin Peters and kept in contact on the road with walkie-talkies. The Days Inn in Rock Springs was our resting place that night. Rising bright and early the next morning, we headed straight to the Big Sandy Reservoir. All the while wondering what type of participation there would be from the Denver area rock clubs. We arrived at the Big Sandy Recreation Area Campgrounds, were greeted by Joe Sims, Russ's Dad. The field trip that morning had left earlier at 7:30AM, led by Russ, out to the Big Sandy collecting area.

Joe began to tell us of some tragic event that had occurred in Salt Lake City recently. We wondered if he was going to tell the same joke that he told two years earlier upon our arrival. Sure enough, the exact same joke, and Martin fell for it (at first) as a serious news event.

So the three of us headed out to the collecting area to find the spot we dug last time. Much wood was collected at this spot before, so we were hoping for similar success. We spent two hours searching for that spot, but never came across it that morning. We dug here and there, but didn't find much. That afternoon, during the heat of the day (man, was it hot!), we went back to the campgrounds to set up our tents. Later that afternoon, Martin and Ted, went back out to the collecting area and found the spot we tried so hard to find earlier that morning. Ted successfully found a bit of wood.

Back at camp that evening, we relaxed under our canopy, smoking cigars and sipping Cognac and Merlot wine. Joining us that night were, Terry LeBlanc (from the North JeffCo Club who had arrived on Wed evening) and, of course, Ron and Judy Knoshaug. We had a very nice time fellowshipping and swapping big rock-find stories around the Coleman lantern (no campfires allowed). That day, Terry found some very nice pieces of wood on the field trip with Russ.

Friday morning we woke early, anxious to join Russ' field trip caravan to collect candy wood and emerald green jade. Russ took us to a new area, approximately 25 miles to the east of our location on the Big Sandy. Candy wood is the name given by old rock hounds of that area. This type of wood is reported to be excellent for cabbing due to its colorfulness (brown, black, red, yellow, and even green), only found in chunks with typically no limbs or logs. Terry was lucky enough to find some candy wood that had green in it. No one who attended came away empty handed. There was some jade found, and Russ Sims found a very large piece of blackish jade. Some fellow rock hounds even found small pieces of emerald jade. Later that afternoon, the Denver group went back to the Big Sandy collecting area to look for the big log find. We stopped early that evening because the heat was quite intense that day. We had our usual session of exchanging stories around the lantern into the night.

After we had turned in, the famous Wyoming wind gusts came up and whipped our tent flaps all night, keeping some of us awake (Judy slept like a baby, though). Gigi and Martin were dragging all day from lack of sleep. Our destination that Saturday morning was Wood Top. This is an area for collecting very nice wood and it is called Wood Top because we were collecting on top of a very big hill. Steve and Linda Winner led this field trip caravan (Russ also led a caravan to the Blue Forest). Ted and Martin took over a hole, started by a father and son who were leaving because they were too hot and tired to continue. Ted and Martin did very well (both were ecstatic) and pulled many large pieces of wood out of this hole. Ron and Judy found a piece that Russ later determined was museum quality. Ask them to show it to you sometime. Terry headed back to Denver before noon as he had to go to work on Sunday.

That evening, it rained and the wind blew, but we had our campsite pot-luck anyway. It was very amusing to dine with rock hounds from all over the region. Unlike the previous time, two years ago, the Denver crew actually showed up on time to get a lot of food. You would have thought the rain and wind would have discouraged the pot-luck turn out, but it didn't bother any of us if dirt blew in our food and the rain got us wet. That night, we all managed to get some sleep, in spite of the gusting winds and blowing rain. Our vehicles were used to block the wind from blowing our tents flat to the ground through the night.

Sunday morning, Martin cooked all of us an awesome egg burrito breakfast. Bet you didn't know that Martin is a great chef. Have him cook you something sometime - maybe the next field trip. We all determined that we should give it one more shot before leaving. So Ron, Judy, Martin, Ted and Gigi went back out to a new area of the Big Sandy reported to have both cane and palm wood. Ted found a small bit of cane, Ron and Judy found what looked like palm wood, and Martin dug into a hole with numerous limbs. Gigi, of course, observed all the fun while taking lots of pictures for this report.

Everyone, content with the amount of wood they found, broke camp and headed back to Denver around 1PM that day. All of us looked forward to cleaning our wood and getting it polished to bring to the next "show & tell" at the club meeting (not to mention the shower that we all badly needed).

We can't wait until next year, when we can go back and do it again.