Archive for the ‘Family Stuff’ Category

Rockhound don’t despair, Ontario is a treasure trove of gem deposits – especially near Bancroft 


Above: Diopside or tremolite, I cant remember which, but I found it at this amazing road cutting near Wilberforce.

As I have mentioned in prevoius posts, I have a book that is in with a publisher right now – its huge and will have to be trimmed down if they want to publish it. The following is an extract from my chapter on finding gem diopside crystals in Ontario …

“According to Chris Fouts, the main face of the cutting is a pyroxenite skarn cut by coarse-grained calcite veins. The really impressive crystals occur right along the contact between the country rock and the intruding calcite veins.

No doubt, this advice is true, but as my friend, the proprietor of Starlite Gems in Wilberforce told me, the best place to dig is in the dirt right below the tree roots. Apparently last year ambitious collectors knocked over four big trees around the lip of the exposure. Chief amongst those trees was a birch whose roots had clutched several translucent tremolite crystals, some of the blocks as big as a quart of milk and “as green as grass”, he told us. He rummaged in a grubby box that he kept beneath the counter, tossing aside lesser specimens and finally, with a triumphant grin producing a sizeable spike of deep green tremolite. “I was up there a couple of weeks ago and I found this in the dirt beside the road.”

I was amazed by the discovery and even more surprised when he agreed to sell it for $5. Apparently the best diopside and tremolite crystals are buried beneath the road. It supposedly shears off the top of several calcite veins.

This exciting find, tossed aside with so little regard, suggested the existence of far more spectacular treasures somewhere under the forest floor. It set me off in a fever of poking and scavenging. I had been unable to find the toppled birch of which I had heard but I burrowed deep into the sand, further undermining the already tenuous placement of the trees on the forest side of the ridge”.

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Cubans are wonderful people

P1000301, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

What can I say – Cubans are wonderful people. I was wandering along the beach somewhere near Jibacoa and these two young fellows approached me. “Ola Senor”. They just wanted to have their picture taken and to look at my camera. Cubans will drive you anywhere, take you anywhere and help you in any way they can. We stopped a car and asked the guy if he could drive us to Havana for 20 pesos, this he agreed to do but when I tried to give him 30 pesos he refused and insisted that it was only 20 pesos that we had agreed to. Fantastic people!

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Real cute little guy – Costa Rica

Costa Rica 3 185, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

A mother and baby howler monkey in what we came to refer to as “the monkey tree”.

One really hot day when Maggie only wanted to relax on the beach I ventured further inland up a dusty road. I reached this tree that must have had about 30 howlers in it. I think it may have been a guanacaste tree that has been enveloped by a strangler fig.

The monkeys just watched me until I got really close and then the males started barking. It was insane. Every monkey within several kilometers took up the cry, you could hear them everywhere. Its quite intimidating.

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Caving in Ontario – Ontario cave

old pics 165, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Another picture of Dewdneys cave taken some time ago – as in at least 15 years ago when my son was young – he is holding a portable fluorescent light in front of him and I had taken the picture with slow exposure using an old SLR.

In following upstream from the triangular entry shaft there is this section off to the right where these pheratic – bedding plane oriented tunnels lead off into a maze. Nobody seems to really know the full extent of the system but Marcus B. has the best idea as I am told he has a pretty extensive map. I recall a trip that I had taken some years ago with Lori Nichols and Rob Laidlaw, Lori described some long straight, extremely tubular white tunnels that her group found off in this direction.

Anyway my good caving partner seems to be making a slow recovery and we will probably be heading out tomorrow for a little exploration in this area that we feel is quite promising.

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His blue eye and white claw lead me to that conclusion.

IMG_6301, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

There we go – “Bad Old Chester”. Chester – the new “Rockhound”.

Sadly Shaka passed away in October. He had a tumor on his spleen – virtually unsaveable as the ensuing operation revealed. You may remember him from the post “Cave Police” (July 2006) and also “Bubbles at the Bear Lake Apatite Mine”(July 2006). Of course you can never replace so loved a member of your family but you can move on. I went through a slump that lasted several months during which time I found it hard to write or enjoy anything for that matter, but Maggie and I finally decided to get another golden. Chester came from a Mennonite farm up near Palmerston – his father an absolutely beautiful creature – pure white and of amazing temperament.

Chester has one white claw and it is this – according to Maggie – that makes him evil. I say it is his blue eye – the evil eye – try sleeping when he wants to play – you will understand the true meaning of evil. Joshua, my son also appears with Chester. Some suggest that it was from Joshua that the dog got his wicked nature.

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gemboree1 025, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

A few days ago Greg Warchol posted a comment that led me to believe that he might be a rockhound in the rough. His comments about visiting Bancroft and previous questions about the gemboree and where to find interesting rocks have prompted me to say something about Bancroft’s annual rockhound Gemboree.

A crowd sidles into the auditorium through a rather inconspicuous door at the end of the building. $12 gets you an adult pass that will last the event, four days of gem-encrusted heaven. I am soon convinced that the success of the show is not linked to its magnitude. The show at Tucson is far larger. It is the spirit and energy of this place. Its long-standing reputation as the largest and most important gem and mineral event in Canada draws rock hounds and dealers from everywhere. In a sense it is a right of passage, a pilgrimage that every rockhound worthy of the name needs to make. A strange conglomeration of people and products in a buggy forested wilderness of rock. A good many of those glittering jewels in museums and high-class jewellery emporiums had come from somewhere near here. Bancroft’s landscape encompasses some of the most diverse concentrations of minerals in the world. At a conservative estimate over 1600 species are found in the region.

Some might argue that it is the people that make the gemboree, not its location. It has become a cultural event, a Woodstock of sorts for mineral collectors. The crowd here is an unusual one: university professors, millionaires, kids, fashion models and eccentrics; a varied assemblage of humanity.

In the accompanying photo, gem and mineral enthusiasts pour over a table of semi precious beads. It is an opulent display of colour that is mirrored in any one of a great multitude of booths.

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IMG_2646, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Cave Dog and I collectively form the Ontario chapter of the “Cave Police K-9 unit”.


1) Dont litter.
2) Dont bother the wildlife.
3) Dont touch the formations.
4) Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
5) Have a minimum of three light sources per person.

We are watching you – Be safe!

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