Alabama & Arkansas Mineral Adventure October, 2005
This year I traveled to Waverly, Alabama, to visit and collect with my longtime friend, Bob Stevens.  Bob is a true southern gentleman, who graciously invited me to go collecting with him at many cool, and well hidden, Alabama mineral localities.  Also planned into the trip was an intense, 3-day tour of the Arkansas Syenite quarries with our good friend Dr. Henry "Bumpy" Barwood.  Dr. Barwood is a Geology professor at Troy University, Alabama, and is an expert in the geology and mineralogy of these deposits.  I felt very honored to be invited on this trip and I made sure to take lots of pictures! 
A nice drive through Alabama's
backwoods in search of minerals
with friend Bob Stevens, 15 Oct
Bob showing me an obscure Alabama Rutile deposit located in a ditch

Augusta Ridge Iron Quarry, Cherokee County, Alabama
On the 17th of October, Bob and I drove a few hours to the old workings of the Augusta Ridge mine, Alabama. This is some the beautiful scenery we encountered while walking up
In this mine dump can be found beautiful examples of Cacoxenite, Rockbridgeite, Wavellite, Beraunite, Dufrenite and Strengite

The main dump is well hidden and overgrown
The old Augusta Ridge iron pits were
worked from the late 1800's-1940's

Golden Cacoxenite sprays to 2mm from Augusta Ridge, Alabama
Another nice Cacoxenite vug
from Augusta Ridge

On the 18th of October, Bob
and I met up with our good friend
Dr. Bob Cook, Geology Professor at Auburn University (Alabama),
and a senior editor for
Rocks & Minerals Magazine.  
I think Dr. Cook is a very cool guy!  
I sure wish he lived in Reno!
Bob and Bob talking rocks

Bob Stevens and I met up with Dr. Barwood in Birmingham
on the 19th of October, loaded up into his HUGE van and headed for Arkansas.  When we drove through Tennessee, we couldn't resist
stopping at a local mart and buying a few "Power Ball" lottery tickets.  
This night's drawing was for 340 million dollars!  I was lucky enough
to get a single number on one ticket...  But it sure was fun trying!  
We finished the 500-mile drive into Little Rock, Arkansas,
late that night, talking rocks the whole way, anxious for the
beginning of our tour early the next morning- 
October 20th

The morning dri
ve into our
first large Syenite quarry on
Granite Mountain, south of
Little Rock, Arkansas
Dr. Barwood telling me about the geology of the Granite Mountain Syenite systems.  It is theorized that the origins of these magmatic plutons are related to the famous New Madrid Fault System.  This fault is the "Failed Rift Arm" of a continent-separating "Triple Junction".  If one of the two other successful faults of this Triple Junction would have been on the New Madrid system, it would have torn the North American continent into two pieces.  Large earthquakes still occur on these faults every few hundred years.  The last big one was in the year 1812...

Our first rock pile of the trip!
That morning we met up with
Jim and Judy Musick who drove in from Georgia.  This very nice couple would be joining us for the tour

My prized find of the morning-
This rare and unusually large, 15cm "gas cavity" pocket was lined with mirror-lustrous, terminated Natrolites to 3cm with equally good blocky
Apophyllites to 3cm!  The Syenite boulder it was in was so hard that a
two-handed sledge hammer would just bounce off of it like it was
made of rubber!  So, I thought about it and decided to take advantage
of the thin alteration rind around the vesicle. With
my chisel and
4-pound crack hammer
, I was able to separate some large, quality
plates of Natrolite and Apophyllite off the Syenite walls.  Ultimately
I was able to recover about 80% of this pocket after
about 2 hours of labor-intensive effort.  These are the best
Natrolites and Apophyllites I've ever collected!

A look across our first quarry
at the active mining
A great view of this Syenite quarry

A graphic Syenite pegmatite boulder stands out from the regular/darker fine-grained Syenite
A 30cm wide view of wonderful Syenite pegmatite full of micro vugs.  Dozens of rare species, many Titanium-bearing, have been
found in these types of cavities!

I am a big fan of Titanium-bearing minerals.  After Dr. Barwood told me that only a single specimen of "Joaquinite" had ever
been identified at any of the Granite Mountain Syenite quarries, I thought to myself that it would be something cool to find (This is a mineral that I also found in my Fresnoite dig in California, back in 1998).  While walking for miles in this quarry, looking over endless piles of barren Syenite rock, I came across a very unusual, 5cm smoky Quartz Xenolith that had a thin, 7cm long, open pocket coming off the side.  Not knowing what I had, I wacked it off into 2 good pieces and took both back to show Dr. Barwood.  He shook his head in amazement, at my beginner's luck, as he told me the news!  I happily offered Dr. Barwood the piece with the quartz Xenolith, containing several Joaquinites, for his studies.  I kept the other piece that also has several fine Joaquinites on it!  All of the light-orange spots in the picture above are 1mm+ crystals of Joaquinite in a vuggy 7cm Xenolith!  These are now just the 2nd and 3rd known examples of Joaquinite from the
Granite Mountain Syenites!

A closeup of a
lustrous 1mm orange Joaquinite in a vug next to a terminated, 2mm Quartz crystal.  There is even a perfect 0.5mm Joaquinite growing on the front of the Quartz crystal!  At the left is a bit of lighter-orange Narsarsukite!
Hoo-Ya!!


At about 2pm, we went to another nearby Granite Mountain syenite quarry, looking for new exposures of Syenite pegmatite for Dr. Barwood to study.  We drove up to a spot and discovered a wonderful source of pumpkin-orange Stilbite rosettes to 6mm and 7mm Chabazite rhombs growing in pegmatite pockets, with white resorbed Calcite shells and
black (sometimes terminated) Aegirines,
all on blocky Orthoclase crystals-
We have arrived!
The boulder pile that we
found the orange Stilbites in

These boulders had been out for years and were weathering.  As these Syenite pegmatite boulders
break down, they form "Gruss", or gravel-like bits of rock.  Because of this, the first orange Stilbite specimens we recovered were picked up
right out of the gruss with our fingers.
A 30cm close-up of an
orange Stilbite, Chabazite and
Calcite-bearing Syenite pegmatite.  
Dr. Barwood found a 1cm piece of a purple octahedral Fluorite with
orange Stilbite growing on it!

Bob collecting in the boulder pile
where we originally discovered
the orange Stilbites
A nice orange Stilbite and Calcite collection recovered from decomposed Syenite pegmatite gruss

A 3.5cm wide view of pumpkin-orange Stilbite sprays to 5mm, rhombic Chabazites to 5mm, with white Calcite plates to 2cm
An excellent, 7mm orange Chabazite with deeper-orange Stilbite sprays to 4mm all around
A great association of 4mm deep-orange Stilbite sprays with terminated black Aegirines to 1.3cm, all on a single, 3cm Orthoclase crystal!

After we thoroughly collected the stilbite occurrence, I walked again in our second Granite Mountain quarry, looking over endless piles of barren rock debris... I then came across an amazing pegmatite pocket-
This Syenite pegmatite vug was lined with fine orange and white Analcimes
growing on Orthoclase and Aegirine crystals, all imbedded in Calcite!  
Yep, that rock was as hard as it gets!

After peeling off the core of the
pegmatite pocket, a jewel appeared!
A closeup of this
gemmy Analcime

To my great joy, the amazing deep orange, 1.8cm Analcime
crystal came out of the very hard pegmatite intact and on matrix!  

A beautiful 1.6cm orange Analcime, imbedded in Calcite, with a 2cm white Analcime at the left, all growing on Orthoclase and Aegirine crystals!
On the other side of the same
piece is a
1.7cm orange Analcime,
imbedded in weathered Calcite,
with other colorless Analcimes, all
on Orthoclase and Aegirine crystals!

Crystal Hill Quarry, Granite Mountain, Arkansas
The morning drive into the
Crystal Hill quarry, 21 Oct
Entering the Crystal Hill quarry

Our first stop at Crystal Hill
It had a number of large Quartz plates attached to boulders of hard metamorphozed rock

A group pic: (Right to Left) Dr. Barwood,
Bob Stevens, Jim Musick, Crazy-Man Me...
And Judy Musick

At another stop, the mine generously used a front-bucket loader to excavate down into a known Quartz and Rectorite clay deposit, so Dr. Barwood could get samples of the rare hydrated Rectorite clay.  After Dr. Barwood had his fill, We all dove in to collect some Quartz crystals and had a great time!  I personally dug 2 buckets of clay that is full of Quartz crystals and plates!
(the heavy clay protects the crystals until washed)
Another view of the excavation efforts.  
Heavy Equipment is COOL!

Afterwards, clay and
crystals were abound!
Bob fills his bucket up
with good crystal clay

A beautiful cabinet specimen with clear Quartz crystals to 5cm buried in white hydrated Rectorite clay
A 40-ton haul truck
at Crystal Hill, Arkansas

Another Granite Mountain Quarry, Arkansas
This quarry tour would be our last at Granite Mountain.  We searched
long and hard for Syenite pegmatites here, but found little of what
Dr. Barwood wanted to see
A 40-ton haul truck heading back
into the quarry for another load

In my searching, I did
discover a
Rhodochrosite vug!
A 1.5cm Rhodochrosite
with Natrolite
vug

That evening, we drove south to Magnet Cove, Arkansas, got a hotel room and headed for the "All you can eat" Catfish restaurant.  It was yummy!  The next morning we headed out to the Jones Mills Quarry-
Sunrise at the Jones Mills Quarry, Magnet Cove, Arkansas, 22 Oct
Noon-time at the quarry

An 80-foot-tall wall showing 2 big faults and beautiful folding to the shale and phyllite rock bands.
A 60-foot-tall Syenite highwall showing an excellent pegmatite swarm.  Unfortunately, it was too dangerous to get near to recover samples for Dr. Barwood's studies

A good exposure of the "Roof Pendant", just above the syenite intrusive.  "Xenoliths" of Roof Pendant rock (shale mostly) got absorbed into the molten Syenite during cooling and many were cooked and recrystallized by the heat.  The best Xenoliths are very rare and measure up to 10cm+ wide, showing vuggy Orthoclase and Aegirine-lined voids to over 1cm, containing exotic micro species, many titanium-bearing.
A classic picture of Henry Delinde (left)
and Dr. Henry "Bumpy" Barwood (right).  
Henry Delinde is the owner of the nearby Diamond Joe quarry and has the Titanium-bearing species "Delindeite" named after him from the Diamond Joe.  Dr. Henry Barwood is a super-nice guy and is one of the most active research mineralogists I know.  He is an expert on Magnet Cove geology and mineralogy and will be an author in the upcoming Mineralogical Record issue dedicated to Magnet Cove!

Gem Narsarsukites to 2mm!
What could be cooler than this???
Towards the end of the tour, Dr. Barwood found half of a killer 10cm Xenolith with bright yellow Narsarsukites to 2mm!  The other half of the Xenolith was deeply buried in the rock pile.  When he said he didn't want to dig it out, I asked and he let me tear into the rock pile to release the other half.  When I finally got it out Dr. Barwood generously gave it to me!  So, I ended up with 4 good specimens.  The piece pictured here has a 9cm matrix of typical Syenite with a 3.5cm piece of the rare Narsarsukite-bearing Xenolith

How about a 6mm Narsarsukite-included
Quartz crystal!  

Narsarsukite is a Sodium-Titanium-Iron-Fluoro-Silicate, originally found in Syenites in Narsarsuk, Greenland


Our "Fort-on-Wheels"
Final views along the
Jones Mills Quarry,
Magnet Cove, Arkansas

Geological Road Trip, Magnet Cove, Arkansas, 22 Oct

After the Jones Mills tour, Bob and Dr. Barwood gave me
a great geological tour of the Magnet Cove volcanic complex-
 

A Magnet Cove classic- A superb
exposure of graphic Carbonatite! 
This is the first time I had ever seen
one up close and personal!
A "Carbonatite" is basically magmatic calcite

Dr. Barwood tells me all about the interesting history of the Baroid Pit
at Magnet Cove

A classic Magnet Cove
locality for Brookite
While walking on a dirt road,
I found this 4cm specimen of
Brookite on Quartz crystals!

Time to drive back to Alabama-
Crossing the Mississippi River
while driving back to Alabama,
October 23rd
Bob and I stayed the night at his son's house in Birmingham.  This gave Bob the chance to enjoy time with one of his energetic grand-daughters, Sarah

Chert Pit, Near Alabaster, Shelby County, Alabama
The next morning, 24 Oct, on our way to the airport, Bob had one last place for us to collect at.  This chert pit, near Alabaster, Alabama, has beautiful specimens of many rare phosphate species
In my wanderings, I discovered a
100-pound boulder full of beautiful Cacoxenite vugs.  This flat housed my best pieces, with complete golden, lustrous sprays to 5mm 

A bucket-load of Cacoxenite
boulders full of
beautiful vugs
waiting to be split open
My last find for the trip was an excellent 8mm, lustrous ball of Rockbridgeite!

    A half an hour later, Bob was dropping me off at the airport and we were saying our heartfelt good-byes.  I was hand carrying the Natrolites and the best Cacoxenites, and had another rock box stuffed into my sleeping bag.  I was worried about the Natrolites going through the security point (because of their fragile nature).  But everything went great and they all made it home fine.  Looking back on this trip, I can say it was quite a whirlwind!  We were out collecting every day and we found interesting specimens at every place we went!  I give this trip an A+!!
   
My body toll was high in the Syenite quarries, and I bled on
every rock I seriously pounded on.  I cut one finger to the bone
and got a memorable welt on another knuckle.  As I like to say;
"You have to give, in order to receive".   My body will heal...
But, memories like these will last forever. 

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