May 8-9, 2004: Northwest Nebraska Rockhounding

One of many trip reports by Alan Silverstein.
Last update: March 11, 2008

From:  Alan Silverstein <ajs@frii.com>
Date:  10 May 2004 22:39:57 -0600
Subject:  (FC Rockhounds) re:  Fairburn coming up
To:  fcrhc@yahoogroups.com

Hey gang, I'm back (early) and thought I would report a bit of followup to my own email...

> From:  Alan Silverstein <ajs@frii.com>
> Date:  4 May 2004 23:51:52 -0600
> Subject:  (FC Rockhounds) Fairburn coming up
>
> ...I'm tentatively hoping I can get away for the following, starting
> May 8:
>
> Saturday, leave mid-day, drive to northwest Nebraska, camp on BLM
> pasture in Ogalalla National Grassland (wide-open, peaceful, legal).
> About 4-5 hours driving?

Yup. Via Scottsbluff the actual drive time was about 4:20, plus stops. I didn't get out of Fort Collins until 2:30 pm Saturday, and arrived at my intended camp spot about 25 minutes after sunset. I went a bit more than half a mile north into one of the numbered pastures. It was really beautiful out there, especially after I found one cactus by accident and then located all the others in the area by headlamp and noted their locations (grin).

> Sunday, spend the day rockhunting for Fairburn-like alluvials on the
> prairie, then head north to Fairburn, 1-2 more hours.  Camp at the
> usual site.

Well I rock-hunted on Sunday from before 7 am until about 5:30 pm, within a 1+ mile area on both sides of highway 2/71. It was very quiet and lovely; cold in the morning, hot mid-day (mid-80s), cool again with welcome clouds later. Cars going by on the main road were very rare, and no one else was in the pastures.

The material there, and even the terrain in spots, is very similar to Fairburn. In fact I found about 10 small Fairburns, most just "spots", but a few larger. This would be a good day's take 55 miles further north at the "real" location. There was no rose quartz to be seen there, but relatively more petrified wood, and a whole lot more spotted agate, banded jasper, etc.

Also, large parts of the surface are literally coated with clear to white banded/blobby chalcedony, some with black or even red centers. However, this material is irregular enough that I've discovered it doesn't tumble-polish well, so I was picky about taking home any of it. I found a few bits of Fairburn "orange crud" alluvials attached to the chalcedony, meaning the agate must have formed later, probably in a silica-rich volcanic ash mudstone embedding the alluvials.

I pulled out onto the highway at about 6 pm to continue north to Hot Springs for dinner and then to the Fairburn campground. Immediately I discovered that nearly 130K miles on the replacement clutch on my 1991 Subaru was about as much as I could ask of it... And it was starting to slip. So I did a U-turn and babied it all the back home! I spent the night camped at the city park in Crawford, Nebraska. It was free camping, and private enough, but surprisingly lit up, and very noisy from trains and other industrial sounds. When the sprinklers turned on, I was glad I'd put up the tent (grin).

I'll bring in some show'n'tell samples at the next meeting, but might miss the one next week. If so I'll see you all in June.