Topaz Mountain and Dugway, Utah Trip
May 27 - 29, 2006 (Memorial Day weekend)

by Chris Johnson

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Attendees: Eldon Hunewell, Bob Loeffler, Bob Drisgill, Denny Vittum, Stan Martens, Chris Johnson, Christina Johnson (…and I hear rumors that Terrance Yee was spotted in the area as well)

Highlights: Unseasonably cold weather (including snow), a multitude of geodes (some quite large), lots of topaz crystals

Eldon and Bob D. spent all day Thursday and Friday digging, sweating in the hot sun, and ascertaining the best location at Dugway for geode collecting. Bob D. found many large geodes over the course of these two days, but most of them contained mud. Since the excruciating weather melted the ice in the cooler, they headed into Delta on Friday evening to cool down, clean up, replenish supplies, and get some rest.

Saturday all attendees met at Topaz Mountain. Since the forecast called for possible rain on Sunday, we decided to visit the geode site first as the Dugway roads transform into slippery streams of clay upon contact with water. Once at the site, Eldon (aka the best trip leader on the planet) and Bob D. showed my aunt (Christina) and me how easy it is to find geodes at Dugway. The small ones are laying all over the ground just waiting for someone to pick them up along with discarded pieces of broken geodes that others have left behind. After picking up an entire bucket of small geodes, I wanted to start digging for "the big ones" as Bob L., Denny, and Stan had already started doing. Eldon told me exactly where to dig. I spent quite a while chipping through rock (while protesting vehemently), but Eldon instructed me to keep digging until I hit the clay layer. After slowly cracking through about two feet of rock, I hit the clay…and my first geode of the day! Eldon patiently offered instruction on the proper technique for extracting the geode without breaking it so we could cut it later. The work paid off, because I took home a "classic geode" about the size of a cantaloupe. Thoroughly motivated by this find, I continued to dig down another foot or two, and discovered that Eldon had guided me to a pocket of similarly-sized geodes that were nestled together like dinosaur eggs. This find excited Bob D. and Eldon, and they spent the remainder of the day supervising and watching me dig. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew was over in the big pit chiseling a nice collection of very large geodes out of the rock. Overall, I think everyone went home quite happy with more geodes than any man or beast could ever need.

When the rain started to fall, we drove back to Topaz Mountain with plans to camp there for the night. Unfortunately, when we arrived at our campsite, the drizzling rain had graduated to snow! Eldon, always concerned for our welfare, decided that a more comfortable night awaited us in a hotel room somewhere in Delta instead of perched in the blowing snow on the side of a mountain. Thanks to his decision, the whole group spent the night happy, warm, and well-fed after a tasty dinner in town (including celebratory margaritas!)

Sunday morning brought blue skies and warm weather, so we caravanned back to Topaz Mountain with high expectations. We found a campsite early, and hoped the clear weather would hold. Eldon lead the group up the side of the mountain to an area he felt would yield good topaz. It was not long before Eldon and Bob D. hit a very nice pocket of topaz. While Eldon and Bob L. worked this pocket, most people in the group concluded that topaz crystals (being timid creatures) often cluster in groups for safety. We all started poking and chiseling away in the vicinity of Eldon's find hoping to excavate the rest of the topaz clan. (Stan was the exception to the rule. He screened some very nice pieces of crystal clear topaz as well as some colorful specimens from the loose sand.) After poking and chiseling for a while without any further luck, Bob L. and I decided it was time for a lunch break. When we finished eating, I got up, brushed off, and noticed that a topaz crystal (see picture below) had materialized out of the sand beneath my posterior. This well-formed crystal had great clarity, dark color, and sparkled beautifully in the desert sunshine. I assumed it must have fallen out of Bob's jacket as he and Eldon had been digging in a productive pocket before lunch, so I held it out to him and asked if the crystal was his. Bob's jaw dropped as he informed me it was not one of his, and then he asked where I had found it. I replied that I had been sitting on it! Everyone was very excited about this crystal, so we all searched the immediate area for the source. Unfortunately, we never found any more like it.

Monday morning most of us had to head back home, but I believe Eldon and Bob D. stayed a little longer to hunt some more Topaz. Denny summed up the trip in a few short, but accurate words, "A fun time was had by all."

Postscript: Terrance Yee also pounded the mountain over Memorial Day, but chose a different location. He found several topaz crystals along with some red beryl. One of his coolest topaz crystals actually has red beryl inclusions!

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