Watson Adventures: Rockhounding; New gear and Scouting the Greenwater

A few weeks back Jasmine and I went to an estate sale specifically for some aluminum scrap for my foundry project. While there I spied a machine that I thought was a large rock tumbler. The tumbler didn’t look very pretty but I figured if nothing else the motor on it was worth the 15$ they quoted me. Here is what it looked like after it followed me home:


So far it appears to be fully operational. I want to clean this up and add an on/off switch I am hoping that with a bit of elbow grease we can get this cleaned up and put to good use.

Yesterday I went to a local Rock shop and they sold me this Barrel of monkeys for the tumbler, sans monkeys! Evidently there is some sort of shortage on monkeys in just the specific size to fit my barrel. They told me they are on back-order. Not deterred I  purchased just enough grit and polish enough for one single run. I believe this is the twelve pound barrel so despite having no monkeys, when it is loaded three quarters full of rocks it should be about 12 pounds of rocks getting tumbled.

An empty barrel! Just add monkeys!

Today I took the day off from work and headed out to scout the Greenwater area. It is one of the closest areas to us where interesting rock and minerals specimens can be gathered.
I was hoping to locate areas that I had recently read about in a report by some local rockhounds.

These local rockhounds happened to go on a field trip the very same day we went to Hansen creek that second time! If we had known about it, we would have went with them and I wouldn’t need to scout it.
Armed with the coordinates of some sites from the Gem Trails of Washington laboriously poked into google maps… I managed to get on the road sometime around the crack of  dawn er I mean around eleven am. 😉

I had several mini adventures and was able to enjoy some very beautiful nature, I would like to share a couple of those along with some pictures I took.

The first stop on the trip from the book was at or too near a quarry that people use to target shoot now. I had actually been to this place once before with my friend Andy. I parked here for a minute and punched in the coordinates to the next site.

Next up I had a pretty Legendary sinkhole that tried to swallow the rear end of the truck as we headed back down the trail from the trial of wood, where I used the Pocket Chainsaw to cut a fallen tree in half.  I did that partly to see how well it worked and partly because I thought it was the only way up to the spot I wanted to go. It took quite a little bit of work but it would certainly do in a pinch to get you out of the bush. (click pictures to enlarge)

The trial of wood.
trial passed.
Legendary Sinkhole





I ended up heading back down after I found a good half dozen or more logs across the trail just a bit farther than this point. Once I arrived at the first spot I hopped out and was getting swarmed by insects. The snow has recently melted up there and a ton of mosquitoes were chasing me everywhere, I dont think I actually made it to the spot before I ran back to the truck tail between my legs, beaten by the trial of insects.

Still some tiny patches of snow off to the sides of the road int he shade.

The next stop was the site labelled D in the book and I headed out there, using an offline google maps save it let me know it was going to take me 37 minutes to go the 6 miles and It was not joking. Finally arriving at the cliffs after seeing some pretty beautiful views.



What a site, boulders and cliffs everywhere. It must have recently burned, there wasn’t the pervasive smoky smell that comes from a recently burned area, but every piece of vegetation was gone. Burned to a crisp probably in the last few months.

The Cliffs of insanity!









These boulders were truly rough going, I have never attempted to navigate something this rough. I had my backpack on thinking I was just going to try to make it to the cliffs to scout before I had to turn around and come back to the truck. This made the scramble even more difficult, However beauty was around me even in this desolate and recently burned area.








Some more pictures I took along the way:


















EDIT: I was even able to get a stair climbing badge for my scrambling!




Watson Adventures: Crystal Hunting at Hansen creek #2

We wanted another try at the Hansen creek crystals, Saturday forecast was  thunderstorms so we delayed until Sunday.  Armed with our new equipment we headed back out we made it out of the house at the crack of….probably about 11am 😉





I took the gopro type camera out and made a video of the hike in, but after we got to the digging area I was too excited to document. Turns out the camera in its waterproof housing made the sound really really low. I may see if I can add subtitles or something, If I do Ill post the video later. For now you will have to do with a couple of screenshots I took and some after shots of our crystals.

At the dig area we tried one spot with limited success, but changed spots after a bit. I ended up donning my headlamp, using the new rock hammer and digging away at an existing hole under an old growth stump. I was digging the dirt and Jasmine and Jennifer and Kyle were all using the two screens we brought to sift the soil. I had a couple of minor cave-ins while I was digging and now I know why some people recommend hardhats. We found a bunch of small crystals a couple of them really clear and one Amethyst!

Our booty!
Amethyst pic#2





It turned out that the rock club had an outing that same day out to several areas we have been looking at but we did not know! We would have been able to use some of our new gear, looking forward to next time and finding something different!





Watson Adventures: Crystal Hunting at Hansen creek.

For a Mothers day outing, we took a drive up to hansen creek right off I-90 and walked the trail, which I believe is actually called Humpback Mountain trail. We went on Saturday a day early as the weather was to be milder.





With backpacks mostly empty just water snacks and PBJ each we set out unsure of what we were going to find. Everyone we met on the trail seemed super friendly. We saw waterfalls and rock outcroppings and many many trees across the trail. Here are few of the photos I took.











The trail sorta ended as far as I could tell in just a mish match of holes and undercut trees and tailings of previous people on a steep hillside which was most assuredly the most dangerous part of the hike. We circled a bit and I tried to find a spot where we could all sit or dig or just not fall down the mountain and ended up at a larger hole, a fella was just packing up and generously gave us a few tips and let us have his dig.

He mentioned that him and some buddies started this dig about three years ago in this spot so that they would not undercut any live trees, and as I looked it was starting to encroach on a couple. He advised us to hop in and knock some of the sandy soil from the walls and re sift through the loose soil at the bottom looking for shiny bits. As noone gets all of these no matter how much they look.

We all pulled out our tiny flashlights that live in our backpacks and began. It was no time until we all wished we had brought our couple of headlamps, which would have allowed us to work more or less hands free.

There was really no place you could sit down, and it was not until today I realized that Kyle had his hammock in his backpack, we could have strung that up and had a nice way to get off our feet.

One of the first things I pulled out was this:





I wasn’t even sure it was a crystal it was so covered with junk but it was the right shape so we just kept going….





We ended up with quite a few pieces of “LEVERITE” that stuff you  shoulda just “leave-er-right”where ya found it. 🙂 But the ladies found two or three clusters some quartz, and several small quarts crystals!

After we got back home and washed off our treasures I ordered some OXALIC ACID  So we can clean up the rust or whatever is on that first one I have, and several others as well.

I also ordered us each a 16$ Headlamp that uses those 18650 batteries that I have so many of. I think those will replace the small flashlights we have in our packs.


I also splurged and got us a 5 pack of classifier screens that fit on a 5 gallon bucket we could use when we go back.




I cant wait for another go, but not today.. It is 85F outside and we are just hanging out at home trying to stay cool.



Foundry Part 7: Finally the HOT stuff.

Last night I had my first melt. I still haven’t finished the foundry burner, so I just used the weed burner. It did alright, but was probably wasteful. I ended up having to shim the lid up so I could get enough air forced in from the weed burner and the propane bottle started getting pretty cold which is an indication of using quite a bit of propane.

I started pretty slowly bringing the small crucible up to heat, my goal to try to draw out and dry out any water it might have absorbed. Hopefully by going slow we wouldn’t crack the crucible on the first melt. I have two crucibles, this one is the small one that I think I can manhandle with a pair of channel locks, until I build the pouring tongs I need.

I am not sure I can describe the feeling of excitement and nervousness that I had while the foundry was coming up to temp, was I ready for this? Was it going to work with just the weed burner? Did I have enough safety equipment? Was this a dumb idea to pour the small crucible with some channel locks?  I took off the lid and things were glowing nicely. I understand why people use sunglasses at this stage now.

I added some small aluminum scrap I have been collecting from computers and misc things to start off, and put the lid back on. Then I added some aluminum extrusions I had picked up at a garage sale a couple of weeks back, it was surprising to watch the extrusions melt through the top and just slowly slide down into the puddle of molten aluminum. Each one might have taken four minutes, I called Jennifer and Jasmine out to watch.

Top shimmed up and a piece of aluminum extrusion melting down into the crucible.

I want to make ingot molds, I have a design picked out I would like to make, but for this first test melt…. I just went to Fred Meyer and picked out some mini-loaf pans and a muffin tray. I had just arrived and was having a look at one, when an older lady came by and espoused her undying love for those mini loaf pans, evidently they are just the right size and she could get 5-6 loafs out of a normal recipe, and  especially now that she only had her and her husband left in the house… they were just the right size… I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was not going to use them for the intended purpose, that I was going to pour molten metal in them!

The first pour went well but I had forgot the teflon coating was going to burn off the pans and the bit of fire and smoke made it difficult to see for about five seconds. Once both were poured, I put the crucible back in the foundry,  added some bell housing scrap I had cut from a transmission put the lid back on and then some more of that extrusion. It all melted super quickly and was really clean, I did not have to skim dross. I did one more pour. Two ingots and two muffins.

2nd pour. two more ingots.
Silver mini loafs of aluminum.





I ended up with almost ~#10.75 of aluminum, 4.881 Kilos,  4 in ingots and 2 in muffins.




I may take the wire wheel to one of these and sand it up, and polish it, just to see how it works up since these were my first ingots!



Florida Team Goat-Rope.

I just got back from a whirlwind work meeting in Tampa Florida. What a long flight for me! I dont travel much for work, but when I do generally I get to book my own travel, hotel and rental car.

This time the Hotel and transportation was booked for us. So I ended up waiting about 30 mins in the Tampa heat for the Hotel shuttle, Had to call em twice. There were other small things like that that could have went smoother but didn’t due to luck or lack of planning. Overall however I had a blast.

Day 1 was just sitting in a conference room at the hotel doing work with my team. But day two had us out at bush gardens for roller coasters, safari, and some more of that Tampa heat.

Step 1 find your sunblock and buy a hat.

Elmo hat for the Win! This made me very easy to spot for all of my coworkers! I totally did ok in the shade, but once we were in any sun I was overheating. We bought water bottles and I was sucking down water all day.

Step two, check out some local fauna.





We hit lunch and a Doo Wop show started while we were eating. I think all of my coworkers were really surprised I knew all the lyrics to the old songs.





Next up a Safari, riding in the back of a truck bed we went and saw quite a bit. Rhinos several deer/antelope types and some giraffes. They were totally mooches and three of them tried to mug us for lettuce.








We went to an trained animal show which was cute and I think my kids would have loved it. Somewhere along the line I picked up a work Henna tattoo!




After that it was back to the hotel, I think I had about 19,000 steps that day on my fitbit!


Wednesday and Thursday were back to work and I think the guys got quite a bit accomplished.


I flew out on Thursday, sat in the middle seat crammed in between too other large fellas for six hours. Overall I had a blast but I was fighting off a head cold or a nasal infection the whole time. Right now that has me right in its clutches. I hope I am on the mend, since all I want to do right now is go find the shop vacuum and suck all of the mucous out of my head. I dont know how you people with allergies deal with this! Overall? 8/10 and definitely the best work trip I have had.