While on a short vacation/scouting trip to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, we stopped to look at some property in Burns Lake. It looked really good on paper, and when we went into where we thought the driveway was, we were quite hopeful.
Then we saw it was about ten kilometres down a mountainous logging road.
That would not be good in the winter; not by a long shot.
While we were camped out near the property, Gerri looked up other things to do in the area and it turned out that there was an opal/agate bed only a few kilometres from where we were camping that night.
We decided that we didn’t have time right then but would stop and camp at the site on the way home. We both love looking for fancy rocks, so how could we pass up a chance to go mining for free?
We did a quick search and found out that John Shelford staked the claim in the 1980s after finding two pieces of precious opal but left the claim for the district to turn into a public reserve staking. This means that anyone can go up there and dig up some stones. There was a 1.9 km hike that was easy, with some steep sections but there are opals at the end of it.
Pretty cool, right?
I think that I like rockhounding because Gerri loves rocks so much and I love the outdoors. I also love searching for things as well as the thrill of finding them.
When I can do something I really enjoy and possibly give the love of my life something that she really enjoys, I think that’s probably the best hobby you could have. It also gives us both a few things we crave more than anything.
Quality time together, relaxation, and adventure.
There are lots of other fantastic points, like mental and physical exercise, fresh air, the outdoors, and wildlife. We also like cooking outdoors and making coffee in odd locations.
Okay, back to the quest
A few days later we came back and drove into the campsite part of the John Shelford Opal Bed. There were some signs.
The campsite was pretty good, especially for free. There were a few spots, a couple of picnic tables with fire pits…
…and a really cool outhouse.
That sign is not the cool part, especially because we now had to fry the steaks. No, this is the cool part.
I could watch the stars from my throne. If only I could stay up that late.
We had some supper and then tucked into the old fartsack for the night.
(Seriously. After those beet tops and the tri-tips, it got a little gaseous in there.)
As you can see, we are very eager beavers. I couldn’t even wait to put shoes on… or pants.
After a breakfast of leftover steak and potatoes, we were off and running.
This is the start of the trail the next morning.
The first half a kilometre was really nice. We scared up a cow moose with calf near the start, but I couldn’t get my phone out quick enough.
I kept the phone out after that. This was the pleasant part. We’re thinking the only reason it was good, was because it had been recently logged off.
There were nice, flat trails for a bit. Like this.
It didn’t take long for them to get like this though.
You can see the trail in the centre of the last photo. We quickly learned that things have changed since the 2011 article that we were going by. It said the trail was easy. We have since notified them and it is now changed to difficult or challenging.
We made it to a few different sites, where we found stones, but we were pretty beat. We decided to hike back out before we lost the strength and the will to survive. We also didn’t want to forget the way. (We’re getting older, you see.)
There was more of this…
…but in the end, we made it back. Partly because we found a plethora of huckleberries to munch on along the trail.
There were literally thousands of bushes like this along the higher parts of the trail, which was good news, I think.
I figure that if there were bears (or people) in the area, these patches would have been robbed already. Most of the raspberries were drying on the plants and the huckleberries were at the peak of ripeness. If there was a bear around, I imagine we would have seen sign of it.
They just fill up on hikers that stop to pick the berries amongst a trap of deadfall trees.
A little worse for wear, but after some big gulps of green juice, we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. Well, I was not feeling good about choosing shorts for the hike. These are some of the reasons.
When we were all packed up we thought we would boogie into Burns Lake for a swim as we had seen a nice little beach area when we passed through. As we came down off the mountain, we saw this.
That was the start of the Shovel Lake fire which has been burning out of control for over a week. As of posting, it is the largest wildfire in British Columbia.
Well, enough sadness. On to the gratuitous partial nudity!
The water was pretty cold, but it was just what we needed to rinse off the blood, sweat, and tears of a day of prospecting.
Speaking of prospecting, this is some of what we found.
And our favourite…
This is the one that made Gerri cry when we got it out without breaking it. We don’t know if it’s an opal or an agate but it will always be the reason we went on that trip.
We have no idea if anything we found is worth money, and we don’t care. We don’t even know what to do with them but we are going to start looking into lapidary tools and see if we can turn any of it into something beautiful. We have always loved looking for cool rocks but had never really known how rewarding it could be to go through such a struggle for the unknown and finding so much more than you were expecting.
I guess this is why there are prospectors.
When we got home to the computer, we figured out how to track ourselves, somewhat, with the location thingy on the phone. I traced it out for you. It’s supposed to be 1.9 kms in, but we think it is a bit longer now to get around everything.
When we go back, we will be taking better tools and will be cleaning up a lot of that trail. We would like to spend a few days camping and really learn about how to extract these gems without smashing them into shards. We’d also love to pick a bunch of those huckleberries. I bet they make a delicious jam and maybe even a pie.
If anyone is interested in meeting up on a long weekend and having a rockhounding adventure, the site is about fifteen minutes from Burns Lake, BC and we would love to plan a trip for possibly the Labour Day weekend, but definitely for next summer.
You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telepath crystals. We’re hoping that a few of these hold those qualities.