Springtime is here. It is time to escape the home on the weekends and getting outdoors. We have a lot of choices here in Utah, but we’re starting with a simple rockhounding trip close to home.
Just east of Eureka, UT is a fairly well-known spot to collect agate. IT is listed in the rock hounding books and guides, and there are quite a few posts about it online, so I expected it to be fairly well picked over. But it turned out OK.
The turn off is easy to find – if you drive west of of Santaquin, a few miles before Eureka, there is a sign with a flashing yellow light, warning you to slow to 30 mph for upcoming curves. Turn right onto the dirt road right before that sign. The road will switchback down to the valley below, and just after you reach bottom and the road turns north, you’ll see a road cut off to the left. It will be very clearly a less used road – it was very washed out when we got there, and I would not even attempt it without 4WD. But with 4WD, it was just fine.
Follow that road for a bit (half a mile?) And you’ll see a sharp uphill stretch in front of you, enough to make you think twice if you want to drive up it. There are a few places you can pull off the road on the right here, and that is what we did. You can also cut to the left, and the road will keep taking you up towards the rocks, but we thought we were close enough, so we got out to walk.
Walk up that hill – you’ll see a nice rock formation at the top, but we didn’t find much of interest there. Turn right down the road from that point, following the power lines, and you’ll see another small rock cliff. Walk down to it, and then you’ll see yet another rock cliff farther down. Go to THAT one, and follow it for about 30ish feet, and you’ll see a spot with chipped and broken rock collected at the bottom of the cliff. That is the spot, and those broken rocks are all the leftover bits from prior visitors. There are interesting bits there, or you can go up the hill a bit to break off new pieces. There is still quite a bit of agate left.
Here, K had a good lesson in safety in the mountains – do not climb on loose rocks. He climbed up, then started knocking rocks down on E and I, and I told him to come down. He did… putting his foot on a loose rock, which gave out beneath him and sent him slipping down to us, maybe down 15? vertical feet, sliding past E and I, and coming to stop down by our backpack.
Now, when you see you small child sliding down a small rock face, you want to help. But you only have about a half second to react, and sometimes the desire to help surpasses your logic. At this particular point, K was coming down towards a 3 foot high vertical drop, where E was standing. I thoughtlessly suggested to E, “Quick! Catch him!” Yeah, right… the 35 pound 5 year old should catch the 75 pound 7 year old. Luckily, E did not comply.
So K was bleeding and scraped up, but no real injuries, thankfully. We had some talks about safe climbing techniques.
At the end of this little adventure, we sorted through the rocks we had found, in theory to choose only the best ones. In reality, the kids wanted to keep them all, ans said, “Dad, these are heavy. Can you carry them back to the car?” Just as well that I did – the boys slipped and fell a few times coming back down that steep part of the road. And they now understand why I recommend wearing jeans when exploring rocky terrain, no matter how hot it may be. They both bled their way back to the car. And we decided to pack a first aid kit next time.
We drove around a few of the other dirt roads in the area, but didn’t find anything of much interest. The only other spot we stopped was an old mine just inside the turn off to the main road. It is quite a large mine shaft, and has been covered with a mesh of rebar and some large beams to prevent people getting into it. But you can stand at the edge, look down it, and see some of the old piles of rock nearby from the original mining. We had some brief talks about how they dug the rock out, how they got the valuable metals from the rock, etc. And more talks about safety, of avoiding mine shafts, but also avoiding bright un-natural blue or green rocks or pools near mine shafts, as those are often leftover poisonous materials from the mining.
But as both boys were scraped up at this point, and none of us has built up any hiking strength for the season, we headed home and got some lunch.