ROCK HUNTING IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS OF OREGON

October 30, 2016

It was a dreary day. The weatherman said it would rain. But luckily it was only a steady drizzle when we set out on our rock hunting adventure. Snug in heavy rain gear and hiking boots we were ready for our rockhound excursion into the Blue Mountains, an area that is part of the high desert country in eastern Oregon.doun-in-the-valleyI have three sisters. Our lives have scattered us hither and yon. It had been six years since the last time we’d all been together. This fall we decided to meet up in eastern Oregon where one sister lives. Initially we’d planned to do some jewelry making. One sister paints and she said she’d teach us some of the techniques she’s learned. We were all going to bring some kind of project to share. Though there is so much to see in this part of Oregon, we knew there would also be a few excursions. Our parents were amateur rockhounds and two of my sisters continue to consistently scan the earth for pretty rocks. So, off we went up into the mountains to scour the forest floor for special rocks.muddy-roadWe all climbed into my brother-in-law’s heavy duty vehicle and headed out of town. We talked and reacquainted our selves with each other as we traveled along the country roads. We are all retired, though one sister has a part time job. There were grandkids to talk about, aches, pains and other changes that we were all experiencing. We continued to talk and giggle as we drove along a twisting tangle of turnoffs. Then after half an hour we headed up a steep incline and drove onto a deeply rutted country dirt road. A heavy rain began to fall. The road turned muddy and slippery. From time to time the vehicle skirted close to the edge of a very steep canyon. No one was chatting any longer, but we giggled and called out as though we were on a carnival ride while the vehicle jostled from side to side on the rutted road. The trees became more sparse the higher we went and an expanse of openness spread in front of us. At times it felt as though we had reached the top of the world because all we could see were the tops of other mountains in the distance.hillFinally we reached what my brother-in-law called ‘the spot’.  He and my sister have been here many times before and they knew the area well. We got out of the truck. I have to admit that I was relieved when I felt solid ground beneath my feet. And though we were most likely not at the highest peak, we were still a good 4,000 feet, or more, above sea level. I took a deep breath. The air was rich with damp earthy smells. A slight wind blew across the brittle, dead grassy field. It wasn’t really raining but there was a dense chilly spray descending on us and I imagined that this was how it felt to be standing in the middle of a cloud. The only sound we heard was the shushing of the breeze gently rustling through the millions of trees that surrounded us. It was so quiet that I could have believed that my sisters and I were now totally alone on this planet.rock-huntersWe were each handed a bucked and then we climbed even higher. There were rocks everywhere. Though it was hard to tell what they were because everything was coated in a thick gooey clay like mud. For more than sixty million years, eastern Oregon has been a land of volcanism, mountain building and erosion. Lava flows of fluid basalt formed this area spewing deposits of obsidian, agates of all sorts, and hundreds of other semiprecious stones, scattering them for miles and miles across the landscape.

It was fun to be with my sisters again. We talked for a while, then we each settled into a quiet, perhaps meditative ramble along the rocky earth. Having lived in the city for so many years, I’m not used to walking in this kind of wilderness any more. One sister an avid rockhound still moved about this landscape like a small mountain goat. We helped each other over rocky outcrops and called out when we found a ‘good spot’. It was a little bit like sliding back into a time when we were kids, playing, or searching for pretty rocks. Nothing had changed at that moment, yet everything was different.

We gathered rocks, digging through the mud to extract them from the sticky earth. Walking along the hilly terrain we knew we were not alone. There were foot prints of what could have been cougar. There were elk, deer tracks and what looked like the imprint of a bear paw in one muddy spot. There was plenty of wildlife in the area and I suppose that next week when deer hunting season opened, this would not be a good place to be strolling along the hills looking for agates.tamarackSeveral hours later, damp as damp can get, clomping along the hillsides with thick treads of mud on our boots, we decided to call it quits and head home. A heavy rain had begun to fall and with the temperature dropping, it felt like it might begin to snow at any moment. The drive back down the hillside was easier. Perhaps I’d become used to the deep, slushy gullies we had to drive through on the way up the mountain. And now traveling so close to the edge of canyons seemed more beautiful than dangerous.

The Tamarack trees, changing color in the fall season, dotted the evergreen forest, glowing like rays of sunshine in the mist. These trees are a type of pine that losses it’s needles when the weather turns cold. In another week they will stand bare, appearing to be dead as they go dormant through the freezing winter.evening-mistOn the ride home we watched as a shroud of clouds, rain and snow began covering the surrounding mountains. A chilly view. A beautiful view.rocksArriving home, the task now was to wash and scrub the mud from our gatherings. I am not knowledgable about the names of rocks. Though from a book on local rocks one of my sisters brought with her, it looked like I had gathered angel wing agate, botryoidal agate, white plume and a collection of small plain white nodules. There was also some fresh bright green moss and a fat pinecone. Not a bad haul. My sisters and I compared our rocks, humming with delight as the washed treasures, still wet from the scrubbing, glistened in the overhead light in the kitchen. We shared, as we always had in the pleasure of looking at each other’s bounty.

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24 Responses to ROCK HUNTING IN THE BLUE MOUNTAINS OF OREGON

  1. Susan Bernhardt on October 30, 2016 at 10:24 am

    We’ve been to the Blue Mountains in Oregon. The area is beautiful and so are your photos, Margaret. It’s a great place to spend time with your sisters.

    • Pushing Time on October 30, 2016 at 10:49 am

      Yes, Susan it is a beautiful area! Such grand land structure and open space all at the same time. Thanks you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. I’m glad that you enjoyed the Blue Mountains, too!! Thank you for your kind words about my photos!!

  2. judy stephens souther on October 30, 2016 at 10:25 am

    I can just imagine you up there. Sisters, giggles and rocks… My dad was a rock hound..my parents went rock hunting on their honeymoon…Dad had boxes of “pretty rocks” in the garage…I can picture their shadows watching you..Enjoyed your story very much..

    • Pushing Time on October 30, 2016 at 10:53 am

      Hi Judy. It sounds like there are a lot of rock hounds out there. Thank you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment and for enjoying the virtual tour of the Blue Mountains. I took only a small portion of all the rocks that I gathered on that trip. We have no garage and a small apartment is no place to start collection ‘pretty rocks’.

  3. Joyce Willis on October 30, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Giggling!! ?It sounds like you had a wonderful time with your sisters and their families. Rocks too. Welcome homes for happy Halloween.?

    • Pushing Time on October 30, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Hi Joyce, Yes, it was a wonderful visit with my sisters. In time for Halloween, what a great city for celebrating. I saw a family yesterday with mom, dad and their toddler all dressed up as super man! The rocks are out of my pockets and I’m walking around with my camera. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a delightful comment.

  4. Sharon on October 30, 2016 at 10:49 am

    What a wonderful time to reconnect with your childhood and enjoy your sisters!

    • Pushing Time on October 30, 2016 at 11:16 am

      Hi Sharon, I did have a lovely time with my sisters. My time with them is so infrequently that I enjoy every minute we are together. I love seeing old friends, too, during these brief visits. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a lovely thought!

  5. Susan on October 30, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    That was a great day. We still have piles of rocks to look over. They will bring back good memories as we examine them by the wood fire this winter. Let’s do it again.

    • Pushing Time on October 30, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      Hi Susan, Yes, let’s do it again, sooner than in another 6 years. What a really great time it was. Have fun looking over the rocks. Mmmm, a nice warm fire in the winter!! Chocolate wine and sorting rocks. What fun!!

  6. James McKee on October 30, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    good read Marge, admire yr energy….
    f

    • Pushing Time on October 30, 2016 at 2:37 pm

      Hi James, Good to hear from you. Yeah, well, got to keep going while the energy lasts!! You seem to have a bundle of the precious stuff, too. Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Keep up the art work!

  7. Jeri Fink on October 30, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Although the air was wet and chilly the story and photos were filled with warmth. How wonderful to share the excursion with your sisters – the excitement, connection, and love came through loud and clear. Thanks for sharing such a special moment . . .

    • Pushing Time on November 2, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Hi Jeri, I see that you were not deterred from trying to comment on this blog post. Sorry, it seems that the spam file gobbled up your comment. Yes, it was a lovely time with my sisters. Take care and thanks for your comment.

  8. Jeri Fink on October 30, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    Although cold and damp in the mountains, your story and photos are heartwarming. What a wonderful moment to share with your sisters – and us – in such a beautiful part of the country. Thank you for taking us with you!

    • Pushing Time on November 2, 2016 at 11:25 am

      Hi Jeri, I don’t know what happened but your comment ended up in the spam file. I am so glad that you enjoyed this virtual trip to the Northwest. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to leave a comment.

  9. Anne McCormick on October 31, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Marge, it is, as always, wonderful to read your Pushing Time – and I love this one. So great that four Little Women could be together after six years, and then to set forth on such a special adventure in the high hills of Eastern Oregon.
    You must have felt a million miles away from NYC! The photographs are just wonderful. Thanks so much for this treat.
    Welcome back, and of course Happy Halloween.

    • Pushing Time on October 31, 2016 at 9:24 am

      Hi Anne, And as always, so great to hear from you. Yes, it was a lovely time with my sisters. Eastern Oregon is an amazing place to visit. I hope to post a couple more blogs about that area in the weeks to come. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a delightful comment. And a spooky greeting to you on this bright and sunny Halloween morning. I can’t wait to go out later with my camera this afternoon to capture some delightfully goulash photographs.

  10. Toddi on November 1, 2016 at 11:26 am

    I found your blog notice…need to get rid of some “junk” notices so I am able to read the important e mails.
    This visit was the best ever. We connected as if it was only yesterday that we last saw each other. Your blog, again, is amazing! You forgot to say that we had to walk up hill all the time we were hunting rocks. That was a sliding experience. LOL, CAR AND US. Your photos and story made me relive this wonderful time together. I love you. Toddi

    • Pushing Time on November 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm

      Hi Toddi, Yes, the computer can produce quite a bit of junk in our lives. Clearing clutter, even the internet stuff, makes me feel lighter even though it still keeps coming in. So glad you found the post for this blog. It was a lovely time. Such a rare and sweet time. Ah, and folks we were walking up hill all the while once we got out of the vehicle. Love and miss you, too. Thank you for your lovely comment.

  11. Pam Williams on November 1, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Ever since I’ve been in the US people have told me if I ever went to Oregon I would not want to come back. After reading this story and the enjoying the photos, I believe it! Thanks for always bringing your adventures to life for us. My latest trip to New Mexico also took me up a mountain – very different terrain but just as spectacular.

    • Pushing Time on November 1, 2016 at 1:07 pm

      HI Pam, Indeed, Oregon is a wonderfully beautiful place. There is really a great deal to see and do, much of it outdoors. I am so glad that you got a little farther west than you usual stomping grounds in the east. Thank you so much for the lovely comment.

  12. Nalo on November 3, 2016 at 5:38 am

    Thank you for sharing this great moment !!

    • Pushing Time on November 3, 2016 at 6:54 am

      Hi Nalo! It’s always so great to hear from someone who lives so far away. I am glad that you enjoyed the virtual trip to Oregon. Thanks you so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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