1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Quartz - Clearly To the Point(s)

Quartz is a many-splendored thing. The mineral places second only to feldspar in its occurrence in the earth’s crust. It becomes highly collectable though, when found in its six-sided (hexagonal) crystalline form coming to pyramid-like points. When the pure mineral (SiO2) is colored by trace impurities others varieties result. Clockwise from the bottom left are smokey quartz, amethyst, lace agate (banded chalcedony), and chrysoprase.

Plate tectonics are responsible for building the wonderful mountain belts we all enjoy looking at and some of us enjoy walking through. I’ve got an interesting story to tell later in this post regarding a certain walk in the Ouachita Mountains. Quartz is a primary constituent of the many igneous and metamorphic rocks (such as granite and gneiss) resulting from tectonic activity and is very resistant to erosion. The relative amount of quartz compared to less resistant minerals, such as mica and feldspar, can indicate how far a sediment has travelled from the original source. During eons of exposure to weathering, original source rocks (parent rocks) are broken down into smaller and smaller fragments and carried farther and farther from the original source. Quartz sand comprises many beaches because the softer, more easily eroded minerals have been obliterated by the weathering process before reaching these final resting places. When sands are turned to rock, due to the burial pressure of the overlying sediments and increased temperature, they are said to be lithified and are called sandstones. Many of the world’s great oil deposits are found in sandstones, the oil being held in void spaces between the individual grains of sand.

During my early rockhounding years, from about 5th grade through 9th grade, my parents and I made one or two collecting trips per year to Hot Springs, Arkansas, the world’s premier quartz crystal collecting area. Digging through the hard, red clay with pick-axes and pry bars, we uncovered many beautiful clusters of perfectly formed quartz crystals.

The best crystals are clear, but many have a milky appearance and are not as prized by collectors. We found literally thousands of “single” points by following closely behind the bulldozer, a practice not currently allowed by the mine operators because of insurance and injury concerns. When I speak of a quartz mine, what I really mean is an open pit, scoured out by heavy equipment to reveal veins of quartz. Many times where the veins intersect, open pockets filled with quartz crystals are unearthed.

We always found copious amounts of very nice quartz crystals on our trips to the quartz mines around Hot Springs, Arkansas. We enjoyed the camping, meeting other rockhounds, and my parents even took a couple of the famous hot mineral baths featured in downtown Hot Springs. However, a certain misadventure comes to mind when I think about quartz collecting. On one certain trip, when I was about 12, we staked out our spot at the little campground in nearby Jessieville and folded out our little pop-up camper. This wasn’t our first time staying at the picturesque location, nestled next to a vertical cliff of about 200 feet and featuring a crystal-clear spring-fed stream. I remembered from past stays that the spring was located only about half a mile up a mountain path. I begged my parents to allow me to take the path to visit the little spring, as they unpacked the food boxes and got everything ready for the first night’s stay. They eventually consented, knowing the path was easily discernable and that I should be back well before dusk, and of course knowing my history as a fine, responsible, young lad. I had the best intentions and made it to the spring in about 20 minutes. After a couple of sips of the iron-laden water, I was set to go back to camp, but then my eye caught a sparkle in the ground, just a little up the hill from the spring. I knew it had to be the glimmer of quartz, so I headed that way to investigate with trusty rock hammer in hand. Sure enough, I found a nice little single point just barely exposed under the surface of the ground. I figured the mother lode must be somewhere just a little higher up and proceeded to make my way upward through the forest. For about 30 minutes, I investigated several areas that looked promising but never found another crystal. It was time to head back to camp, so I turned around and started back. After about 20 minutes of walking downhill, the topography reversed, and I started back uphill. Funny, but I didn’t remember another hill. After another 20 minutes of traversing increasingly rough terrain, I started to worry a little. Somehow, I was lost in the middle of the mountain and it was almost dark. A full moon illuminated just enough of the woods to allow me to maneuver about. At times, I panicked and ran wildly tripping over the undergrowth and falling hard to the rocky ground. I yelled out for help often but heard only the screech of the owl and the howl of the coyote. I remember thrashing through briar thickets and tromping across wet areas. I stopped several times and prayed, just as much concerned about my parents as my own current predicament. Just before the dawn, I found what appeared to be an old logging road, overgrown but obviously my way out, if I chose the right direction. I turned toward the east and began walking down the path. Within a few minutes, I heard the distant sound of car horns. I began to run. The sound got louder, and finally I heard shouting voices. Emerging from the woods, I saw an armada of pickup trucks. The locals had been searching for me all night, and their efforts had finally paid off. I was driven to the campground, cut and bruised from head to toe and emotionally exhausted. You can imagine the relief my parents felt when I came back to camp. The rescuers told us that it was a small miracle they found me alive. I had travelled some 20 miles across the most hazardous area of the Ouachita Mountains. Somehow, I had avoided the sheer cliff drop- offs and amazingly had not been snake-bitten when tromping through the water moccasin- infested wetland areas. You can imagine the reprimanding that came later!


  1. What an experience! So glad you lived to tell about it and yes, your parents were immensely relieved I know. They are probably glad you finally grew up!:)

  2. 20 miles is quite a distance for a 12-year old. I think someone had their eye on you through that ordeal!

    On another note - I know who I can come to for any rock related gardening question I might have. I'll start by askin where do they all come from? I'm always finding rocks in the garden year after year after year. Even though I always clear them away at the start of the season.

  3. DH's family is in Arkansas. Maybe on our next visit we'll do some quartz hunting. Great post.

  4. And that was quite an adventure for a boy. So glad you made it home safe and sound.

  5. Thanks, Tina. I'm glad that I made it out in one piece and my parents eventually got over the ordeal. However, W2W is not sure if I ever finally grew up!

    TC, sounds like our old friend weathering is at work, washing away topsoil and exposing the underlying stones. I'm not sure what part of Pennsylvania you live in, but you may be in a glaciated region. If so, you could have all kinds of neat igneous and metamorphic rocks left after the retreat of the last continental ice sheet - most likely rocks from Canada. On the other hand, you may be looking at native residum, or weathered bedrock, probably sandstone or shale of the Pennsylvanian System.

    PJ, I highly recommend a visit to the Hot Springs area. It is really beautiful there and the quartz hunting is easy at Colemans crystal mine and other family-friendly collecting areas. Even if you are not into the rock collecting, a visit to Hot Springs and then to Ouachita Lake is definitely worth the trip - a most beautiful and fish-filled, crystal clear lake!

  6. What an adventure! As to the quartz amethyst is definitely my favorite

  7. You have some lovely specimens. Looking back your adventure sounds exciting. I'll bet what you went through was nothing compared to how your Mom and Dad suffered. No doubt they had a few choice words to say when they calmed down;)

  8. Wow, you were lucky to live through that experience. I bet your parents were equal measures of angry and relieved. lol

    Those rocks set among the flowers are just gorgeous. My mom loves quartz, anybody can see why. It's beautiful.

  9. Wow what an adventure you had as a youngster! Glad it turned out okay . You were watched over tha tis for sure.
    I have been to Hot Springs and the mineral baths. I have a large quartz rock that was given to me from Arkansas. It is beautiful and lives in one of the backyard flower beds.

  10. This is really interesting information along with a great story. Now we have these GPS watches and all this stuff. I think todays parents would have wanted to attach a very long leash as the world seems so much more dangerous now..I remember getting on my bike and being gone all day..that would never happen now...Good thing that the 60's weren't so dangerous for me as a kid....Michelle

  11. That must have been scary getting lost like that. I can see how quartz would lure you like the Sirens.

  12. Wow, what an adventure! I'm sure your parents must have been panic-stricken, not to mention how frightened you must have been. Someone was obviously looking out for you.

    Thanks for a very clear explanation of how quartz is formed; usually my eyes glaze over when reading anything scientific--that's why I was an English major:)

  13. Troutbirder, I'm also partial to amethyst, but didn't actually collect the piece in the picture. When the folks had their rock shop, we bought amethyst by the 55-gallon drum from Brazil. Some of the pieces were really neat - parts of petrified logs filled with crystals.

    Marnie, you are so right. I don't recall all that happened on the next day, but needless to say I felt terrible for putting them through the experience. Forunately, they were the forgiving kind and we had a very nice stay a collected lots of quartz.

    Sweet Bay, glad you noticed the flowers. The photo setting was
    W2W's idea.

    Sherry, I remember sitting in the lobby of one of those bath houses in Hot Springs, as a youngster. The old desk manager told me all kinds of stories about how Al Copone and other mobsters used to frequent the place! We didn't see anyone nearly that scary.

    Michelle, those days were certainly different than today. It still amazes me how kids make it to adulthood. The dangers lurk about today, but in ways we could hardly imagine back then.

    Sarah, I guess that I wouldn't have even been attracted to the Sirens at age 12. How things can change in just a couple years!

  14. I'm glad you avoided cliffs and snakes and survived your rock-hunting trips to share your finds with us. I think I could get into hunting for rocks more than I could to, say, bird-watching. Rocks stand still - relatively - where birds and other critters insist on moving. I tend to make a bit too much noise when I tromp through the woods, so only the rocks wouldn't be scared away before I spied them.

  15. WS, I guess that I always related better to rocks than most people. They (rocks) are always friendly, are not easily perturbed, and as you say, stay relatively still.