Lugging Rocks at Rockhound State Park

Somehow my friend and I got away without certain tools necessary to the rockhounder. She forgot to wear pants with pockets, and I completely forgot my geologist’s rock hammer. Nor did we wear adequate clothing - we thought it would be warm in Deming in January, and in fact a very cold wind blew out of the west all day. We layered on everything we had with us, and struck out for the “Thunder Egg Trail.” (Thunder egg is another name for geode.)

Rockhound State Park entrance Photo by Carla DeMarco.
Rockhound State Park entrance

Near the trailhead are labelled samples of the kinds of rocks you will see. We looked these over first and then headed up the trail. The more I watched the ground, the more color jumped out at me:  bright yellow and warm red turned out to be varieties of jasper. We saw some rocks with layers of velvety crystals, some that looked squeezed into layers - heat and pressure beneath the surface do this.

We began picking up rocks. It was my friend’s oohing and aahing that did it, not me. The more excited she became, the more I noticed the fantastic colors and shapes of the rocks around us. Into my pockets went choice pieces.

My friend’s dream is to take a pack animal out rockhounding; as we walked, we debated the relative merits of goats or llamas for the job. Inspecting a rock too big to hand-carry, she said, “The goat could handle that!”

“This one could go in the llamas’ packs,” I said, toeing a red and purple rock bigger than a loaf of bread.

“The llamas could pull this one in a cart!” my friend said, pointing to a rock that would make a small piece of furniture.

And so it went, while we picked up pieces to take home with us. Chocolate jasper, purple and red rocks - rocks that seemed to contain some map or message from another world, if we could only decipher it. We admired the flora, too:  Large prickly pear and barrel cacti grow at Rockhound, as well as the ocotillo and chaparral of the Upper Sonoran Zone.

When the trail crossed a hillside exposed to the cold wind, we turned back. Depositing our treasures in the back of the car, we turned on the heater and drove two more miles down the road to an extension of Rockhound State Park, Spring Canyon. From this road, I was astonished to see the Organ Mountains at Las Cruces in the distance, and fascinated to see the rock eminences of the Florida Mountains at close range. The gate was locked at Spring Canyon, but we could see the road went up into a park below the rugged peaks of the Floridas. We saw green and lavendar rock, completely different from what we had seen at Rockhound, by the road in Spring Canyon.

We vowed to come back sometime in the spring, when the weather is warmer but not too hot. The campsites at Rockhound have the requisite picnic tables, trash receptacles, and bathroom facilities. Their position on the hillside, overlooking the entire area from the Burro Mountains to the Cobre Mountains of Santa Rita and Cooke’s Peak, even giving views of the Cedar Mountains on the Mexican border, is inviting.

When we go back there to camp, I will take the Thunder Egg trail all the way to the top of the ridge above Rockhound, watching for the wondrous colors and patterns of nature’s making. I will also go to Spring Canyon and pick up rocks there. (Oh, alright, I never did get over lugging rocks home!) One could even go into Deming for Chinese food. I recommend Fat Eddy’s at the Holiday Inn, just outside of town, as a good place to eat also.

Information about Rockhound State Park is available at the Chamber of Commerce in Deming - look for the old train station with the locomotive sitting next to the road. And if you can’t hire a pack animal or a llama pulling a cart, at least wear pants with pockets. You’ll want them.