A Trip to Rockhound State Park

Technorati Tags: State Land,Rockhound,Deming,Luna County

Rockhound State Park

I have been hearing about Rockhound State Park near Deming, New Mexico for nearly nine years now, but I never seemed to get the opportunity to go down and see it in person.

My wife Jeri and I both love to look for unusual rocks and stones. We have specimens all over the place, inside and out.

On a warm, sunny day a short while ago, we decided to take the short trip down to the Floridas and explore the park and its surroundings.

As soon as we arrived, we checked out the park exhibit room to see just what the heck we were supposed to be looking for. The raw product looked very different from the finished one, and it helped to see the rocks on display.

Then we inspected a plaque outside which had specimens of semi- precious gem stones. That really got us going. We discovered this area has opals, jasper, geodes, and something called persolite. (I may be wrong about the name of this last one.) It is a “glittery” black gem.

We do not have any real rock gathering equipment, so I made do with what I had. A 20-ounce claw hammer would crack rocks and suffice as a pick. We also carried a one-gallon plastic jug. I cut a four-inch hole on top, opposite the handle, to make it into a container for specimens. We wore fanny packs, and I carried a camera and binoculars; the former to take photos of my attractive wife, and the latter to view the surrounding tall peaks in hopes of seeing Ibex, that illusive goat that has been transplanted hereabouts.

Off we trudged, taking the first small trail to our right. It led us up and over a saddle, out of sight of the park proper. We slowly explored around a myriad of prickly pear cactus searching for the unusual. We immediately found the glittery black stones. Onward and upward we traveled, our destination an outcropping of dark boulders. It was here that we discovered uncountable amounts of jasper, most of which appeared to be orange and orange-brown. We also gathered some pink jasper and some of a gold coloration.

Rocks at Rockhound State Park

There were copious amounts of the black persolite, which I was especially drawn to, much to Jeri’s puzzlement since she did not find them to be especially appealing.

We soon found out that our hammer was inadequate for the task at hand. When we tried to break particularly large rocks, the head would bounce off, sending splinters of steel and rock in every direction. We quickly discovered that the steel hammer head was taking quite a beating. It was tempered for hitting steel nail heads, not striking rocks. Evidently, they are harder than steel. My glasses also fell victim to the rock fragments and became chipped. We decided to turn our heads and swing blindly so as not to incur any more personal damage.

We really did not know what in the heck we were doing, but the object was to have fun, and we had lots of that. So we mostly settled on collecting the odd or the pretty.

In about 90 minutes or so we had a jug full, so we opted to go back down and have a picnic. Instead of utilizing one of the many clean picnic tables, we decided to sit on the tailgate where we could eat, look about, and chat casually. We dined on Jeri’s homemade potato salad, raw veggies, and thick corned beef sandwiches while we planned out next trek.

About 500 feet above us on a steep slope we spied two outcroppings of whitish-brown veins that were quite conspicuous since nothing else was that color. They drew me like a magnet.

We had to do some scramblin’ to reach the veins. It was steep and loose to boot, but accessible as long as we used caution. There were many places where others before us had dug at the bases of boulders and outcroppings. It was in one of these places that we took some greenish-tan specimens using the claws of the hammer as a pick. I have no idea what this stuff is, but it is unique to the country side, so it came along.

We climbed higher, my wife in the lead. She seemed to really be having fun crawling up and down the slopes, using the hammer claws as hand holds and for breaking up the small stones that caught her eye.

At one place we found a small cropping of geodes. We did not find any hollow ones to keep, but we did find a bunch of small, marble-like nodules. Some were striped, but most were all solid slate gray. They seemed unusual to us, so we gathered up a dozen or so of the prettier ones and put them in our jug.

Next we moved into a steep draw which had a vein of tan limestone. Right in the middle of it, on a wall about 12 feet up, was an unusual vein of bright pink limestone, at least that is what my tongue told me it was after I tasted it. Jeri insisted on getting some, so she literally crawled and pulled herself up the nearly vertical slope. I followed quickly after her, barely able to resist the urge to place my hands strategically on her bottom side and “help” her upwards. Instead I just figured that I would do the husbandly thing and break her fall if she slipped and needed a place to softly land. But she got up there, as did I, without mishap. She proceeded to use the hammer claws to break away small chunks of her “treasure”. It was a good spot to sit and admire the great view of the park grounds far below us.

Near this spot I found some more black rocks that were grainy in structure and did not have the glitter of my others. They reminded me of anthracite coal. I eagerly gathered in a fist-sized chunk along with several other small pieces.

In our explorations we did not find any opals. I guess that is because we would not have known a raw opal if it had broken loose and hit us on the head. It was our only minor disappointment since this gem is Jeri’s favorite.

On the way downslope, I stepped on a loose rock about the size of my fist. It let loose, causing me to take a nosedive down hill. Nothing got hurt except my dignity. I imagined that all the visitors were at that very instant looking upward, viewing my fall. Yeah, well.

We left the park with about 15 pounds of specimens and souvenirs, which is the limit that one is allowed to take, and drove east. I had heard that there was a little known road over the saddle which would take us out to the roads east of the mountains. The bladed road soon turned into an ungraded two track which then in turn turned into a wash with a few vehicle tracks in it. Then it turned into a scantly seen two track again which was barely a whisper of a trail, then finally back into a rocky wash. I quit here as a tall cut bank lay before my front wheels. No one had been this way in a heck of a long time, and we were four or five miles from the graded road. Not a good place to get stuck, so I reluctantly turned back, to the relief of my spouse. (She does not like four wheeling!!)

Back in the wash she spied a bright pink rock (more like a boulder) that she insisted on having. So yours truly lugged the 300-pound (actually about 75) rock back to the pickup. I will admit that it does compliment the painted trim on our house.

For myself, I found a brownish rock that had a splash of glittering green on it. A solid hit with the hammer revealed that its core was also green. It is a nifty memento of our little side excursion.

All in all, it was a good trip and a great adventure. We plan to do it again. Who knows, maybe we will even be able to find an opal or two.

Do your self a favor and take someone special down to Rockhound to explore the hills. I think you will have a pleasurable time.