Benitoite Fee Dig Report,

October 5th Through The 8th, 2007

On the morning of Friday, the 5th of October, I got an exciting call from my good friend Jon Johnson, telling me about the article he had
just read in Rock & Gem Magazine about the Benitoite Gem Mine in California being opened for the very first time to the public for fee digging!  With, but a few hours notice, Jon and I took off on a spontaneous trip to go see if we could find some elusive and prized Benitoite!  That afternoon, we drove from Reno west to the San Francisco Bay and stayed in Jon's timeshare yacht!  Unable to sleep from the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming collecting trip, Jon and
I got up at 4am and headed southeast, towards San Jose, then Hollister, through New Idria and to the Benitoite mine.  With only a few wrong turns, in the maze of dirt roads leading to the mine, we arrived in good shape, paid our very reasonable $100 per day fee and began our hunt!
 I really recommend that anyone who has ever dreamt of visiting this world-class deposit should do so right away, before this unique
collecting chance is gone.

Please visit the California State Gem Mine Web Site
for collecting reservations and important road directions

Sunrise in Hollister, California, on the way up to the mine,
6 Oct 07

Wild Turkeys greeted us this fine morning as we drove through a beautiful San Benito canyon, on our way to the mine

The scenic drive up to the Mine, past New Idria and
onto the maze of dirt roads

The Benitoite Gem Mine, 100 years after it's formal discovery!

Looking uphill at extensive past mining on the Benitoite Gem Mine

Looking down the canyon from the Benitoite Gem Mine

I start my pit in the old dumps, digging hard in hopes of finding buried blue treasure!
The mining continues

My First Benitoite!

My Second Benitoite!

Sunrise, Sunday, October 6th, 2007
We all stayed up pretty late into the night sitting around the pine cone camp fire, spinning yarns.  I decided to sleep out in the open and was rewarded with seeing over 20 spectacular shooting stars with long tails (Draconid Meteor Shower), in the wonderfully dark San Benito skies.  I awoke to a bit of frost on my sleeping hat and had to wait for the sun to hit me before I dared get up!

The Yard Rock!  This is a highly protected boulder strewn with natrolite veins lined with Benitoite and Neptunite!  Terry, the caretaker, is very protective of this boulder and does not allow people to use any hammers on the property.  By preserving this wonderful boulder, he can show all of the visitors what this mine is really all about!
The Yard Rock
The Yard Rock
The Yard Rock

After Slobbering on the Yard Rock for awhile, it was Time to
Get Back to Work in my Own Benitoite Quarry-

As I continued to mine through many cubic meters of boulders and mud, in the old mine dump, I found this rock containing a nice natrolite vein section still in the wall-

My pit became so big in 2 days that it took 2 pictures to fit it all in-

As I filled my 12-cubic-meter hole in, Jon found a beautiful, loose,
3 carat blue Benitoite gemstone laying on the ground!  He says it took him about 8 hours of searching to find it, and was worth the effort.
Talk about an Easter Egg hunt!

Terry the Caretaker (Center)
and Friends!  
Terry is a super-nice guy
and a great host!

Jon and Terry doing the Guy Talk thing

Alas, it was time to go home

Sights on the way home-

My Best 3 Benitoite Specimens
My Etching Pile

Back home, as I was cleaning the mud off of my "potential" specimens, I pulled the very last piece from my scrubbing tub.  It was a specimen that showed a tiny blue Benitoite spot on a small rock.  As I continued to wash off the tenacious green clay, an epiphany swept over me as it became clear that the ENTIRE rock was one GIANT stoney-blue Benitoite triangle measuring 3.0 x 2.5 x 1.5cm, and weighing 79 carats! 
What a surprise!!!

I'll BE BACK!!

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