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8 Day Rockhounding & Mineral Collecting in the Santa Teresa Mountains, AZ (Nov 2022)

Rockhounding & Mineral Collecting in the Santa Teresa Mountains, AZ – Nov 2022

Trip Overview

This is an 8-day solo rockhounding and mineral collecting trip in the Santa Teresa Mountains, SE Arizona. This trip took place in mid November, 2022. I’ll be using my Chevy Astro Camper Van as my home base, and do a series of 7ish-mile day hikes to various abandoned mines. I’ll also do an overnight hike to one of the mines and sleep in the tunnel. This is a beautiful and remote mountain range with the opportunity to find some interesting, beautiful and rare minerals!

Disclaimer

Rockhounding and mineral collecting requires that you research public/private land access, existing mining claims, etc. Many old mines and claims are abandoned, and you must use your judgement whether or not it’s safe and legal to access. The author shall in no way be liable for any use, misuse or omission of information presented here in this guide.

Santa Teresa Mountains Arizona Rockhounding Map

map showing rockhounding and mineral collecting locations in the santa teresa mountains arizona

About The Area

The Santa Teresa Mountains are located within the Coronado National Forest and partially within the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, in Graham County, Arizona. My trip will take place just a few miles from Klondyke, a small populated place in Aravaipa Canyon. It was founded around 1900 by a group of miners, who recently returned from the Klondike Gold Rush in Alaska. They decided to name the town “Klondyke”, with a Y. Today there are only a few people living in the area. The Klondyke Country Store & Lodge is supposedly open, but in the four times I’ve driven by in multiple visits to the area now, I haven’t seen open. The Grand Enchantment Trail runs right through this area, and hikers DO use the store in Klondyke as a resupply, so you’d probably have better luck catching them open if you make prior arrangements.

Day 1: Arrive At Camp in Santa Teresa Mountains

Getting into the Santa Teresa Mountains takes some time. I approached from Safford. From US-70 near Eden, take Klondyke Rd west for 25 miles. It’s a dirt road that’s in great shape, you can drive 50 if you want to. This dead ends at a T junction in Aravaipa Canyon. Go right (Northwest). Technically this is still called Klondyke Rd here through Aravaipa Canyon. This dirt road is also in great shape. Take this 10 miles. There will be two roads on your right within a few hundred feet of each other, both with closed gates, right before you reach a cattle guard. The first gate says private property (debatable), but the second gate says nothing. The map shows BLM land here on the second gate, so your good to go. The first gate has private property on ONE side of the road, BLM land on the other. I don’t think the property owner has a right to keep people off that road since he only “owns” half.

Now this Forest Service road gets rougher. I drive 1 mile to a spot where I camp, and trust me, it’s nothing special. But it’s a home base and one that’s reachable without a high clearance 4×4. I had to do a little road maintenance on my last visit, using my shovel to bridge the gap in a washed out section of road. You may have to do the same.

Not the prettiest campsite, but it’s as far as I can make it on this road!

I camped at this spot last winter on my first visit to the Santa Teresa Mountains. My van camper requires almost nothing to “make camp”, so right after I parked, I load up my backpack, grabbed my bucket and headed up the canyon to explore with the last remaining hour plus of daylight.

Nice hike this evening up this beautiful canyon

The dirt road turns and heads up over a ridge, and now it’s a walk through the wash up the canyon. I don’t usually have a ton of luck finding good rock and mineral specimens in washes like this one, but if nothing else, it’s a great time of the day to be hiking through an increasingly beautiful canyon. Suddenly, it narrows. I head up a short ways, but turn around as the daylight is fading fast. I see no interesting rocks or minerals along the way tonight, but it was still worth exploring. Tomorrow will be different!

Day 2: Overnight Hike to Laurel Canyon, Grand Reef Mine

Mines Visited: Grand Reef mine

The Grand Reef Mine is a former underground Pb-Cu-Ag-Zn-Au-Mo-V-Baryte-Fluorspar-Silica mine located in Laurel Canyon, 4.6 miles SSE of Aravaipa, and about 4 road miles NE of Klondyke in the Santa Teresa Mountains, Graham County, Arizona.

Ready for an overnight hike/mining trip

New cheapo backpack for rockhounding

It was a cold night, perhaps upper 20s. I warm up, eat breakfast and pack up for an overnight trip to the Grand Reef Mine. I’ve never done an overnight mining trip before, so I bought a new backpack just for this kind of thing. It’s a no-name cheapo backpack, but it was one of the few bags I could find that had everything I was looking for: bottom compartment for sleeping bag (will put rock/mineral finds here), heavy duty material (not thin ultralight materials), and cheap price. It was about about $85 for the 60L. I’ll carry my tools in a separate bag that I strap to the top of the backpack, carry my tent/sleeping bag/food etc in the main compartment, and have some small tubs, boxes and bags in the bottom compartment which I hope to fill with minerals later on.

I follow the canyon uphill…

The canyon narrows…

And now I shimmy my way up this crack to exit the slot

It’s about 4 miles each way to the Grand Reef Mine from my location, and some of this is off-trail. Leaving camp, I set out towards a canyon that quickly narrows into a slot. I shimmy my way up it to keep moving up, and eventually get past it. I find a nice quartz crystal point, about the size of my thumbnail. Weathered, but a good sign. Saw a lot of these last winter on my previous visit, would love to find where they are coming from.

View of the Santa Teresa Mountains from the road, along the Grand Enchantment Trail

Aravaipa Canyon

Nice size quartz points in a vug

My route takes me up and over a series of ridges and drainages before reaching a dirt road. This dirt road is part of the Grand Enchantment Trail, a 770-mile hiking route from Phoenix to Albuquerque. A route that I would love to hike myself someday. But today, I’m here for the minerals. Along this road, and the nearby ridges, I found some more quartz points, more weathered than the last ones. I also found a thumb sized quartz crystal in an exposed vug in a boulder along this road on my hike up. Last winter, I found a quartz point on the ground near here almost the size of my hand! The views are also excellent, looking northeast to the Santa Teresa Mountains ridgeline.

I follow the road up past the point where there’s a faint path that leads downhill to the Grand Reef Mine. I keep going a little farther to another mine shaft and tunnel that’s marked on the map, perhaps 1/3 mile north of the Grand Reef Mine. It’s very steep here, but I follow the slopes downhill to the point where the shaft and tunnel are marked. I see neither a shaft or a tunnel, merely a few small prospecting pits with almost nothing of interest. Ah well, it was worth checking.

Laurel Canyon

Large pools of water throughout the canyon

Very scenic!

After a steep descent, I’m down to the bottom of Laurel Canyon. It was a beautiful hike with many obstacles. I found several large pools of water, some big enough to do a cannon ball into. There were many wasps about, likely commuting from the massive nest at the Grand Reef Mine, just down the canyon. I saw this on my visit last winter.

Worth poking around here for a bit

Next I came across some copper deposit staining of the rock along the creek bed. I stop here for 20 minutes to chip away at the blue/green coloring but find nothing warranting a continued effort.

It’s a 60ft drop down this mostly dry waterfall, but there is a trickle of water complicating the climb

The chute I eventually climb down

Eventually I reach a point in the canyon where I find myself along the upper edges of a bowl with a 60ft drop. The terrain above the bowl is very steep, thick and thorny. On the other side of the bowl, I thought I saw a weakness in the rock that I could climb down. So that’s where I headed. I bushwhacked across the top of the bowl for a solid 20 minutes, and nearly stepped on a rattlesnake. Eventually, I reached my chute, climbed down and reached the bottom. That was a pain, but also pretty fun.

The Grand Reef Mine

Laurel Canyon cuts right through the reef

Finally, I come to the “end” of the narrow canyon section as I reach the reef. Besides the information written about the Grand Reef Mine on Mindat, I couldn’t find any information online about the geology of the area. Presumably, the mine’s name is a reference to an ancient reef here in the area, which has been uplifted. Imagine a flat section of the Earth that is tiled 90 degrees, towards the sky. The site is marked by a vertical outcrop of rock, running perpendicular across Laurel Canyon. Mindat makes a reference to the Grand Reef Fault and block faulting trending NNW.

Mine tunnel

Grand Reef Mine

Camp for the night

On my visit to this mine last winter, the rough 8 mile round trip hike took a decent chunk of the daylight and I wasn’t left with enough time to really hound these tailings. This time, I’ll camp here for the night, and hike back to my van tomorrow. From the bottom of Laurel Canyon, looking up at the “reef”, you’ll notice a tunnel about 25ft up. About 20ft into the tunnel, there’s a locked gate preventing further entry. I dropped my stuff here in the tunnel, where the ground looks clear enough for my tent, and the tunnel appears to be just barely wide enough.

View from the climb up the tailings pile

Next I grab my bucket and head up the VERY steep slope of tailings to get to the main collecting area. I do NOT recommend doing this. There’s a “road” leading up to the mine, or there was. It’s much easier to find coming down. If you want to find it going up, walk down Laurel Canyon a short ways, past the mine tailings, and take one of the ravines on your right uphill. The road is completely gone at the bottom, washed out and overgrown, but it’s better than the tailings pile. Only near the top will the road become more obvious.

The Grand Reef Mine

At the top of the tailings pile, you’ll see a large open shaft that’s fenced off. Around the edges of this shaft is the main collecting area. As of 2022, there is a MASSIVE wasp nest about 75ft above the top of the mine shaft. The size of this nest could be roughly that of a small car. This is the nest I eluded to when I was hiking down Laurel Canyon earlier. The wasps can be heard nonstop buzzing overhead as they travel to the water in the canyon. They have not been a problem for me, but it’s worth the mention.

Linarite on Quartz

Some strange lumps/masses of Linarite

Deep blue Linarite on Quartz

Deep blue Linarite

Linarite

It won’t take long before you find your first pieces of linarite. The deep blue color of this mineral will easily catch your eye, but the challenge is finding worthy specimens to keep. I found most of my specimens by turning over piles of rocks and boulders, and digging small holes. The best material likely came from the various levels of the mine, and with no access to those, all that can be done is pick through the tailings. Hard rock mining can be done on the walls of the reef, I have not gone this route here.

Linarite and Brochantite

Linarite and Brochantite

This specimen does not appear to be Chrysocolla. This color is more common to Caledonite

Along with the blue Linarite, you’ll find lots of green Brochantite. Malachite and Chrysocolla don’t seem very prominent here at all, the typical source of greens and blues at many Arizona copper mines. Caledonite is another blue mineral you may find at the Grand Reef Mine. Some really nice specimens of Caledonite have been found here in the past, but I did not find any nice crystals. Instead, I found a nice drusy piece of Caledonite, or perhaps, Chrysocolla.

Quartz with an interesting golden bronze coating

Quartz with a dusting of… something blue/green

Nice clear quartz found on the hike to the Grand Reef Mine

Found this BIG quartz point on the hike to the Grand Reef Mine. There are some really big crystals here, would love to find them before they get this weathered!

Some nice quartz crystals can also be found here. Nothing like the large sizes I found in the washes on on the ridges on the hike to the mine, but the quartz here can take on some interesting looks. For example, I found a really nice bed of quartz crystals, with a golden bronze staining. And another plate of quartz crystals that have a coating of black and light blue minerals.

Fluorite

Linarite over some iron-stained quartz druse

Blues n’ greens

There are a lot of interesting minerals to find here, but it is apparent that it’s been pretty picked over throughout the years. After several hours of collecting, I found some nice pieces, but not as nice as I was hoping for when it comes to Linarite. Same as my last trip. Trust me, I am NOT complaining. But it’s clear the highest quality specimens are gone now or are just few and far between.

With sunset approaching, I head down the old road, bushwhack my way down to the bottom of Laurel Canyon, and over to the mine tunnel. I set up my tent with the last remaining bits of daylight and settle in for a long night. A constant breeze through the old tunnel makes my tent flap in the wind all night. But after a hard day, I’m ready to rest.

Minerals I Found at the Grand Reef Mine, Day1

  • Brochantite
  • Linarite
  • Quartz
  • Galena
  • Fluorite
  • Caledonite?

Day 3: Leave Grand Reef Mine, Look For Dog Water Mine, Return to Van Camp

Mines Visited: Grand Reef mine, Dog Water Mine

Morning from camp

It took a long time for the sunlight to reach the canyon this morning, and with nearly freezing temps, I stay in my tent until about 9am. Once that sunlight pours into the tunnel, I’m motivated to eat breakfast and head back over to the tailings.

Purple Fluorite octahedrons on quartz

This morning, I’ll hound the bottom of the tailings pile, instead of climbing up to the top again. Fluorite can also be found at the Grand Reef Mine. There’s some nice green fluorite pieces to be found, as well as some more gemmy purple fluorite. I found a few nice purple fluorite octahedrons on a matrix of quartz crystals, a great find for me. Score! I found the nice purple fluorite pretty close to the entrance of the tunnel. The green fluorite was mostly up top near the mine shaft entrance.

Looking back at the Grand Reef Mine from Laurel Canyon

After a couple hours of leisurely mineral collecting, I pack up and begin the hike down Laurel Canyon. I’ll take a different route back than I took yesterday. There’s a halfway decent 4×4 road running down the canyon, in better shape in some places than others. There’s no public access to this canyon, since private property blocks it a few miles down the canyon. Likely the only use this road, this canyon, ever sees is from the local rancher down the canyon.

About a mile down Laurel Canyon, I reach the junction for Waterfall Canyon to the east. I follow this road a half mile or so in search of the Dog Water Mine. Supposedly there Wulfenite to be found here. However, when I reached the general area of the mine, I could only see some small workings on the hillside above. And from the road, it’d be a bushwhack through a ton of thorn bushes on a steep slope. I’m already pretty cut up from bushwhacking yesterday in Laurel Canyon, so I opted to skip this one. I keep forgetting to bring a pair of hand shears for working through the thorn bushes.

Big burly Barrel Cactus

I headed back down the dirt road, back down Laurel Canyon and reach fence line around the private ranch. I follow the fence line up hill and over the first ridge, cross the road I came in on, and continue hiking west across a series of ridges and washes. Lots of thorn bushes, cow activity and a general pain in the ass.

It was mid afternoon when I made it back to my van. This is always a great feeling, to return to the relative comfort of camp at the end of a long day of mining. Or in this case, two days of mining and hiking. I dropped my pack, cracked a beer and began to wash off the accumulated dirt and filth with my limited water supply.

After cleaning myself up, it’s time to wash my rock and mineral finds. I always like this part of rockhounding, where you can really see what your finds look like cleaned up.  I just use a bucket of water and a toothbrush for most minerals, at least when I’m out in the field. Some are too fragile to risk the toothbrush though, so be wary of that. I try to wash the bulk of the dirt off these pieces before storing them. I’ll let them sit in the sun and dry off, then bust out the loupe and have a closer look. So satisfying.

Duhhhh, I can’t go backwards, but there’s something in front of me. Maybe if I stay still…

While washing my minerals, a group of cows walked through my campsite. They stopped about 20ft away, and stayed there for about 20 minutes trying to figure out what to do. I just carried on scrubbing my rocks and drinking my beer. Cheers!

Minerals I Found at the Grand Reef Mine, Day 2

  • Brochantite
  • Linarite
  • Quartz
  • Galena
  • Fluorite

Day 4: 7-mile Day Hike to Tenstrike Mine

Mines Visited: Tenstrike Mine

The Tenstrike Mine is a small former surface and underground Pb-Zn-Cu-Au-Ag-V mine located 3.9 miles SSE of Aravaipa, 3 km N of NNW of the Grand Reef Mine on the western slope of the Santa Teresa Mts.

Base camp

Today, I’ll do a day hike to the Tenstrike Mine and return back to my camper van this evening. This will be about 7 miles and 1400ft elevation gain, mostly on a dirt road.

At least I have this road to walk most of the way today

After leaving camp, the road climbs out of the wash and up onto a mesa-like ridgeline. Good views of the Santa Teresa Mountains and Aravaipa Canyon. As I neared the Tenstrike Mine, a fighter jet screams over the mountains above me, perhaps 1,000ft above the terrain. He dips down into Aravaipa Canyon, banks hard and cuts back up over the Santa Teresa Mountains, a few hundred feet above the terrain. That was super cool to see. I had been hearing the jets the last few days, and even a couple of sonic booms.

Mineshaft marking the northernmost workings of the Tenstrike Mine

Some good signs

Nearby creek bed is lined with this kind of quartz

The Tenstrike Mine is a series of workings along a ravine. At the very top is an old mineshaft, collapsed and filled with dirt. This mine is supposed to yield some nice specimens of purple fluorite or quartz, and I’m not seeing anything like that up here. In the nearby wash, there’s a vein of quartz crystals embedded in the dirt along the banks. I see a few crystals on the ground and spend some time working at the vein. I pull out a few plates of quartz crystals, but nothing really exciting. I’m hoping to find them in either larger size, or with some fluorite, but after tracing the vein I’m not seeing that.

I’ll follow the mine workings down this ravine

Didn’t see much of interest here

Next, I head down the ravine. Lots of evidence of mine workings here, but again, nothing too interesting to be found. There’s some larger boulders here and there with quartz veins though to at least tell me there’s something nearby.

Old rails at the Tenstrike Mine

Let’s see what we got. Oh, flies…

My map marks several prospects and tunnels as I continue downhill. There are three tunnels marked on the USGS maps, and I had the most success at the northernmost one. I wanted to go into the tunnel to explore it, but there were swarms of thousands of flies inside and I turned back.

Above the tunnel entrance, the hillside is covered with this

No matter, there was some great collecting to be had on the tailings pile outside of the mine tunnel. I didn’t have time to climb to the very top of the hill, but on the slopes 50ft above the tunnel, there were many outcrops of rock that were just littered with cavities and vugs, with quartz and fluorite inside. The problem is, this is hard rock mining. A saw would be great, if not, a drill so you can create weaknesses in the rock when chiseling around the piece you’re looking to extract. Without these tools, it’s best to just collect on the ground, in the piles of existing rocks and boulders. It’s worth breaking some open though.

Nice purple Fluorite on Quartz

Some really nice color to the Fluorite

I found many nice pieces of Fluorite octahedrons here, usually on quartz. The Fluorite here may not have the shiny gem luster we’re all after, as they often have a bit of a rough, pitted kind of texture, but they are still nice pieces with some deep purple color that are highly attractive in their own way. As a somewhat new collector, I found my best Fluorite specimen to date here.

Bottom of the canyon, near the southernmost workings of the Tenstrike Mine

The southernmost “tunnel” at the Tenstrike Mine

It was getting late in the afternoon, but I wanted to hit up the other tunnels in the area that make up the Tenstrike Mine. I didn’t see much that interested me at these other locations. I would definitely have a second look at the area though on a subsequent visit, because I kinda rushed through the area.

I followed the unnamed canyon uphill and back to benchmark 4468, where I rejoined the road I hiked in on this morning. This is my favorite time of day to be hiking, late in the day with the sun low in the sky. Today was no exception. I walked back with the sun on my face and a bag full of some great Fluorite specimens. I knew the Grand Reef Mine had some great minerals, but my expectations for the rest of this trip were not as high. So far, so good!

Best Fluorite specimen from the Tenstrike Mine

A dark staining on these Quartz crystals, and some Galena as well

Back at the van, I cracked another celebratory beer and washed up myself and my day’s mineral finds. When the sun goes down, I eat dinner and watch a movie in the van. My body aches from the last few days of hiking and mining, but damn does it feel good to lay my head down at the end of the day. Especially, knowing I get to do it all over again tomorrow.

Minerals I Found at the Tenstrike Mine

  • Quartz
  • Fluorite
  • Galena

Day 5: Move Camp Near Aravaipa Ghost Town. Day Hike to Lead King Mine

Mines Visited: Lead King Mine

The campsite I’ve spent the last 4 nights at gave me great access to the Grand Reef Mine and Tenstrike Mine. Today, I’ll move camp to another location, so I can do some day hikes from there to a few more mines.

The drive up Aravaipa Town Rd. Imperial Mountain is in the Background

I drive back down to Klondyke Rd, then a mile west and take a right (north) on Aravaipa Town Rd. Pass through a gate to enter some newly designated public lands and continue heading uphill. The road was surprisingly good most of the way. In fact, it was only the last mile or so where the road became more challenging. The main issue was some large berms in the road, either built to channel flowing water or in the process of an old flash flood that was never cleared out. Either way, these are large bumps in the road that my van bottomed out on a few times. Thankfully, contact with the ground was made only with the frame and not the oil pan or anything. There was a Cat parked along the road a few mile in, and it looked like some grading had been done and is perhaps currently in progress. So maybe, they will make it up to these large bumps and take care of them. Any high clearance truck with have no issues.

I’ll camp here for the next few days

View from camp

From Klondyke Rd, It was 6.6 miles to a saddle where there’s a road junction and a sign that says Aravaipa Townsite 1 mile. I just parked here at this junction and it made for a great home base. And, I actually had cell service here with 4g signal! A first for this area, I had nothing just a few air miles away.

Nice hike to the Lead King Mine

Fortunately I don’t have to do practically anything to “set up camp” when I arrive in my van, so after parking I grabbed my backpack and bucket, and headed out to do a day hike to the Lead King Mine. It’s located on the north side of Imperial mountain, at the junction of Stowe Canyon and Tule Canyon. It’s about 1800ft away as the crow flies, but to avoid bushwhacking down the steep canyon slopes, I’ll take a 1.75 mile route each way along some dirt rods.

Dropping down into the canyon

Little bit of bushwhackin’ at the end

The last half mile or so, the road fades away and becomes extremely overgrown with thorn bushes. I lose the road and drop down into a wash, where some light scrambling is needed to get down. But soon, I’m there, at the base of the mine.

Entrance to the Lead King Mine tunnel

Now, I mistakenly set out to this mine thinking it was the nearby Tule Mine, which was supposed to have some really nice Fluorite. realized something was maybe not right when I saw no evidence of Fluorite here. In fact, I didn’t see too much of interest laying around in the tailings piles. So, I had a look inside the tunnel next.

I wonder how old this is?

Upon entering the mine tunnel, I was once again greeted by a swarm of thousands of flies. I was bummed to turn back last time, only for flies. After all, the are completely harmless, just annoying. So, I pushed in anyways, displacing the flies as I entered. And luckily, they wanted little to do with me, and pretty much just left me alone, vacating the area. I’ll take it.

Nice green veins of Fluorite

The mine tunnel are in good condition and stable. Inside, I find some interesting minerals and veins. Firstly, I notice the bright green fluorite veins in a few areas. Not the gemmy stuff I’m after, but a really nice color nonetheless.

I believe this is Laurelite

I do see some lead deposits amongst the walls, along with specular Hematite, and Pyrite. Then, I notice a white mineral coating on one section of hematite. Upon closer inspection, the mineral is a series of very fine, thin bladed crystals, in a puffy fan-like configuration. I don’t have much info on this mine saved on my phone, so I’ll bag a sample and take it with me. I’m pretty sure it’s rare, that’s all I know at the moment.

I spend some time removing a chunk of hematite with the previously mentioned white mineral, and realize this section of the mine has less oxygen than I’d like. Work is much harder here, despite not being all that far from the mine entrance. I bag my sample and move back to the main shaft, and enjoy the invigorating feeling of oxygen once again.

Love this view from my campsite

It’s late in the day now and it’s time to walk back uphill and try to find the old road again. I fight the thorn bushes and get back to the better dirt road, and life gets a little easier again. Excellent views of Imperial Mountain at sunset, perhaps best viewed from my campsite.

Another shot of the Laurelite specimen

Back at the van, I don’t really have any minerals that require cleaning today. But with some phone service and a little research, I surmise that my mystery white mineral is Laurelite. The nearby Grand Reef Mine is the Type Locality for Laurelite, having being first identified there. And there are other recorded Laurelite occurrences in the Aravaipa Mining District. This is a pretty rare mineral, perhaps more rare than I first suspected. I carefully transported this piece on the way back, protecting the delicate crystals as best I could, and I believe I have a pretty nice specimen to show for it. It may not have the instant wow-factor of those beautiful Fluorite octahedrons I found the other day, but finding a mineral as rare as Laurelite has it’s own rewards. I never even found the Tule mine, which was my original intention when I set out this afternoon, but I’m sure glad I stumbled upon this mine.

Quartz/Hematite

Another noteworthy find from the Lead King Mine was this quartz/hematite combo. Not a spectacular piece, but an interesting one. Another good day.

Minerals I Found at the Lead King Mine

  • Fluorite
  • Pyrite
  • Hematite
  • Quartz
  • Laurelite (my best guess)

Day 6: Ben Hur Mine, Small Prospecting Pits

Mines Visited: Unnamed Cu Prospects, Ben Hur Mine

Today was my lazy day. It was cold and windy, and I decided to stay closer to the van today.

The unnamed Cu prospect near camp

You can see my van/campsite from this prospecting pit

Across the dirt road I’m parked along, about 40ft off, were a couple of prospect pits. This unnamed Cu Prospect is shown a few hundred feet down below in the canyon, and perhaps, part of the same workings. I didn’t follow the tailings too far downhill. In either case, these turned out to have some moderately interesting material.

Inside the pits, I didn’t see anything in the remaining host rock that looked like it was worth digging into, so I spent my time picking through the tailings. The rocks had some really nice greens and blues that drew me in. There was some Chrysocolla and Malachite, and perhaps some sort of mix of the two. This was more of the tumble or slice kind of material though, nothing really of the cabinet specimen quality. However, there were some pieces of Smithsonite that would have been decent if not damaged.

Ben Hur Mine

Next, I wandered down the road towards Aravaipa ghost town. It’s only a mile, but I never made it to the townsite on this trip. I spent some time poking around at a few prospecting pits alongside the road and over to the Ben Hur Mine. This one was pretty devoid of anything interesting, but that’s to be expected being so close to a “main road” like this.

On my very short walk back to the van, I did manage to find a couple of chunks of a lead/zinc ore with some nice green color to it. Nothing crystalized, but it was a dense chunk of more mineralized ore that was left behind. Perhaps a window into the kind of stuff once found here. But today, slim pickings.

Minerals I Found At the Ben Hur Mine & Unnamed Prospects

  • Smithsonite
  • Chrysocolla
  • Malachite
  • Quartz
  • Hematite

Day 7: 7-mile Day Hike to Iron Cap Mine

Mines Visited: Iron Cap Mine

The Iron Cap Mine is a former surface and underground Pb-Zn-Ag-Cu-Au-Fluorspar mine located 2 miles NE of Aravaipa Ghost Town, ½ mile N of Landsman Camp, and near the head of Arizona Gulch, in the foothills of the Santa Teresa Mountains, at an altitude of approximately 5,000 feet.

Today was a great day of mineral collecting. One of my all time favorites, in fact. But it does take a 7 mile round trip hike to reach from my camp. No matter, this is an easy hike up a relatively good dirt road, so this hike takes just over an hour each way.

Landsman Camp

About 2/3 the way to the Iron Cap Mine, I pass through Landsman Camp. Nothing remains of the camp today, but a hundred years ago, an eccentric prospector named Frank Landsman called this area home.

Old rails at the Iron Cap Mine

Ore chutes

Old machinery and equipment

Not far up the road from Landsman Camp is the Iron Cap Mine. This mine has many rare and interesting minerals that can be found here among the lead/zinc ores. There’s some old structures and equipment left here, which I spend a moment exploring first. There’s some ore chutes, rails, pumps and motors along the side of the road.

Iron Cap Mine

Iron Cap Mine

The mine itself is farther uphill. A weathered road leads up to the top, before fading into nothing at the base of the tailings pile. Here is a U shaped valley, and the mine is located inside the “U”.

Nice gemmy green Sphalerite

Sphalerite

Sphalerite, Galena

Pieces of Sphalerite

Sphalerite

As I make my way into the main collecting area, I see a mine shaft and small adit tunnel along the wall. I stop here and drop my gear, making this my little home base for the day. There’s lots to grab my interest already, and I quickly become excited about the possibilities. In fact, I already had a handful of rocks as I walked up to this spot. Sphalerite immediately stands out, something I really haven’t seen much of, at least not this green gemmy stuff.

I had all sorts of temporary piles going as I tried to figure out what all of these new-to-me minerals are and which ones are actually worth keeping. I typically take a sample of any new mineral I find with me, even if I know it’s a crappy specimen. Until I find something better, this is what I have! And that’s the fun of mineral collecting. No matter what you have found, there is always a better, or at least equally stunning but different and unique, specimen out there to find.

Really nice Galena. Some pyrite mixed in some of these pieces as well

Galena

Cubes of Galena on a bed of Johannsenite

While most of these Galena cubes are oxidized and have lost their luster, these cubes still make for an attractive mineral arrangement

So, we have lead/zinc ore here in abundance. Veins of it coat the walls of rock here. I pulled off some really nice solid chunks of blocky Galena the size of my head, and broke them down to some smaller pieces to to take with me. Really excellent, blcoky Galena. Also, some cubes of Galena on a matrix of various other rare and interesting minerals. It was truly a wonder to see, for this rather amateur collector.

Large chunks of Calcite to be found

There are also large blocky chunks of Calcite strewn about in the tailings. I’ve always liked these kind of Calcite pieces on their own, but it’s also a good indicator that other minerals nearby may be “growing big”, too. There are large deposits of Calcite visible in the walls and some other minerals growing along with them. However, much of the surface area of these walls was also covered with a thick white substance. I didn’t mess with it too much, but it appears to be, perhaps, an oxidation effect, a reaction of air with the “newly” exposed, highly mineral rich Lead/Zinc walls.

This is Johannsenite

Johannsenite makes an interesting matrix for other minerals to sit upon

Many pieces like this to be found here

One of the minerals commonly found here at the Iron Cap Mine, and a new one for me, is Johannsenite. Johannsenite isn’t really a spectacular mineral on it’s own. But, a bed of these green/brown Johannsenite crystals make a cool matrix for other minerals to sit upon. It reminds me of the old retro “puke green” carpets of the 70s, for some reason.

What I think is Manganbabingtonite

Suspected Manganbabingtonite

Another close up of the Manganbabingtonite

Blades of Manganbabingtonite

The Iron Cap Mine is also known for a rare mineral called Manganbabintonite. This mineral is very similar to Babingtonite, but has a little more Manganese in the mix. I believe I found one piece with Manganbabingtonite.

Andradite

Pyrite cube among Andradite

I also found Andradite, and a few small pieces of cubic pyrite. This wasn’t as abundant as the other minerals, but there were a few pieces to be found.

Axinite

Another new mineral find for me is Axinite. I didn’t find any spectacular pieces of it, but I get the impression this is not a very attractive mineral in it’s best form anyways. Still cool to find something new.

I believe this is Hedengergite, with some Sphalerite

This one I am not sure of. It could be Hedenbergite

Another mineral I found at the Iron Cap Mine is Hedenbergite. At least, that’s what I think it is.

Combo piece containing Calcite, Quartz, and two distinct colors of Johannsenite

A closer view of the bed of Johannsenite

And finally, here’s one of my favorite pieces of the day. It’s combo of Quartz, Calcite, Johannsenite and, well, something else. I originally thought it was Manganbabingtonite, after I got it home I had a closer look under the loupe and discovered the darker mineralis Johannsenite as well. I suspect the original bed of the typical greenish-brown Johannsenite formed, and then later another round of mineralized fluids seeped in that contained a higher concentration of a darker mineral (Iron, Manganese, etc). But being the amateur I am, this is just a guess. Still, a really cool piece.

I stayed at the mine as late as I could, since the collecting was so good. When it was time to leave, I had filled up most of my containers that I use to put my finds in. My bucket was full, I had a full tupperware container, and for the first time in recent memory, I completely filled my padded fishing tackle divider box thing. That’s how you know you had a good day.

Cows…

About a mile before camp, I ran into some lazy cows on the road. It’s a steep drop on one side, and a steep hillside to climb on the other, so I pretty much herded the cows down the road all the way back to my van.

List of Minerals I Found at the Iron Cap Mine

  • Axinite
  • Sphalerite
  • Johannsenite
  • Calcite
  • Quartz
  • Galena
  • Zinc
  • Hedenbergite
  • Pyrite
  • Manganbabingtonite
  • Andradite

Day 8: On to the Next Adventure

The drive out of the Santa Teresa Mountains

Driving down Aravaipa Town Rd

After spending my final night in the Santa Teresa Mountains, I headed down Aravaipa Town Rd towards Klondyke Rd. This has been one of my favorite mining trips of all time! Not only some rare, beautiful and interesting minerals to add to my collection, but some beautiful mountain and canyon scenery, some good hikes and lots of adventure. I couldn’t ask for more and I can’t wait to get back to the Santa Teresa Mountains again in the future!

For now, I’m headed into Phoenix to stay with a friend for a few days, plan my next move, and head out into the desert again. Stay tuned for the next adventure!

Interested in purchasing any of these mineral specimens?

Many of my rock and mineral finds are available for purchase. Contact me at if you’re interested in buying any of the minerals you see in this post.

 

How Much Did It Cost?? Complete Camper Van Build Parts & Materials Spreadsheet

a camper van conversion build from a chevy astro safari van
inside astro safari camper van conversion with cedar planks and media center

One of the first questions people ask me about my Chevy Astro camper van build is, “How much did your build cost”? This really depends on a few things… will you be doing all of the work yourself? Do you have all of the necessary tools already, or will you be buying some/all as you go? The easiest way to discuss the total cost of my build is probably to just list the parts & materials, and take tools out of the equation. So without further ado, here’s my complete parts & materials spreadsheet for my Chevy Astro camper van build:

complete camper van conversion cost breakdown spreadsheet by seekinglost

All of the parts and materials used in my stealth camper van build are listed in this spreadsheet

As you can see, my total cost for all parts and materials in my Chevy Astro camper van conversion was around $7500.

You’ll notice I didn’t list a cost for a lot of the wood I used, and that’s because I had a lot of it on hand already. Figure around $300 for the high end of what the wood and lumber should cost in this build. Lumber prices were quite high in early 2021 when I built my van, and should be lower now. Besides the lumber, the list is pretty complete and should give you a good idea of what kind of cost is involved to build out a camper van like mine.

view inside chevy astro camper van conversion

Other costs not calculated in this van build spreadsheet are maintenance costs. If you’re building out an Astro or Safari van, chances are, it will need some sort of mechanical work done before you hit the road… tires, tune up, suspension work… something. Or maybe your van needs a LOT of work. But that’s a cost that varies from van to van, each one will be different. If you aren’t taking care of the mechanical work upfront, before starting your build, it would be wise to set aside a generous budget for maintenance work after the conversion is complete.

Another cost to factor in is paying others to do parts of the build you can’t. Most DIY van builders try to do as much of the work as they can themselves, but you may run into projects that you need to sub out. For example, welding is something most DIY’ers aren’t going to be able to do themselves, unless you just happen to be a welder by trade. Or perhaps you aren’t comfortable with the electrical wiring aspect of your van build, and decide to pay an electrician. These jobs can quickly become expensive when you rely on others, so make sure to set realistic expectations for your van build based on your abilities, and your budget.

Building your own camper van is a huge project, but you can do it. Do your research, ask questions, watch youtube videos (like mine!) and learn all you can about what you want out of your van and what your options are for achieving that vision. Good luck with your build, get out there and make it happen!

Zion National Park – Hiking Angel’s Landing & The Narrows

Hiking Zion National Park: Angel’s Landing Trail & The Narrows

hiking angels landing trail in zion national park, utah

  • Hike Location – Zion National Park
  • Land Administration – National Park
  • Hike Type – Point to Point
  • Fees & Permits – $20/person per 7 days, $35/vehicle 7 days, or $80/year annual pass to ALL national parks
  • Length Of Time Hiked – 5-6 hours total
  • Miles Hiked – 6.78 miles @ Angels Landing, 5.6+ miles @ The Narrows = 12.38 total
  • Route Difficulty – 5
  • Scenic Beauty – 9.5
  • Solitude – 0

Video: Hiking Zion National Park: Angel’s Landing Trail & The Narrows

Map For Hiking Angel’s Landing & The Narrows

Here’s the caltopo map of the Angela Landing Trail and The Narrows hike:

Download GPX file for the Angel’s Landing Trail & The Narrows Hike

Pre-Hike Planning Notes

Zion is a madhouse. If you are used to visiting National Parks, the sheer amount of people here and the quasi-Disney World vibe may be normal to you. It can be a bit overwhelming if you are used to avoiding the crowds, visiting places like BLM land and Wilderness areas. But this is Zion, remember? Zion!

Here’s the deal: you can’t drive in Zion. Huh? Yeah, crazy, I know. The visitation to this park is so high now that they have visitors park their cars outside of the park itself, and take shuttle buses into the park. Well, you CAN drive through part of the park, but public access ends at the Canyon Junction. Visitors must either take the shuttle up the canyon or go on foot, bike, or horseback. This is supposed to help reduce traffic congestion. So, you have to find a place to park outside of Zion. Fine. Where? There are a few stores that allow you to park on their property if you buy $20 worth of items from the shop. For many, you were likely going to spend $20 somewhere, so might as well get a parking space out of the deal. There are other paid parking lots and spaces throughout the town of Springdale.

Now you walk or take a shuttle bus to get to the entrance of Zion National Park. This is a free shuttle. Here, you will need to purchase your entrance pass, if you don’t already have an annual interagency pass. Then, you wait in line to get another shuttle bus that takes you into the park. This shuttle is also free. Buses come every 10-15 minutes.

Shuttle stop map of Zion National Park

Once in the park, the shuttle bus drives around and makes stops at 9 preset locations. Get off at the stop you wish to explore. When you are done at that location, you can hop back on the shuttle which will take you to any of the other stops along the shuttle route.

There are not many dispersed camping opportunities outside of Zion National Park and the surrounding communities of Springdale, Rockville, Grafton and Virgin. However, we did find a suitable spot for my camper van along Kolob Terrace Rd a few miles before the Zion park entrance.

When I hiked Angel’s Landing in 2021, there was no permit needed. Now, new for 2022, a permit is needed to hike Angel’s Landing. It’s a lottery system, with a seasonal and “day before” lottery. It costs $6 to enter the lottery. Read more on this here: https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/angels-landing-hiking-permits.htm

 

Hiking The Angel’s Landing Trail

We rode the Zion shuttle bus into the park and stopped at The Grotto, stop #6. Angel’s Landing Trailhead is across the street from the shuttle parking lot.

hiler's view of angels landing from below

First view of Angel’s Landing

Zion Canyon

We walk across a bridge that spans the Virgin River. It’s late August, and the flow is quite low. On the other side of the bridge is a paved pathway. Paved! Only the finest for the Angel’s Landing Trail. There are many other people hiking in both directions. The view quickly opens up to a view of Angel’s Landing’s sheer south side. Impressive.

hiking the switchbacks on the angel's landing trail

Switchbacks begin here

hiking to angels landing zion national park

Easy hiking on the paved path and gentle grade

The pathway leads us to the base of a sheer rock wall, which would be pretty much impossible if it weren’t for the switchbacks cut through it. The mad-made path snakes it’s way up the rock wall at a very easy-to-hike grade.

hiking refrigerator canyon zion national park

Refrigerator Canyon

At the top of the climb, we enter Refrigerator Canyon. Here, the trail runs through a deep and very straight canyon for a half mile. Then, another set of switchbacks begin.

view of zion canyon from angels landing trail

hiking angels landing trail in zion national park, utah

hiking the angels landing trail

The route up Angel’s Landing

After climbing the switchbacks, we reach Scout Lookout. A ton of people are gathered here; resting, or perhaps, not going any farther. The views are excellent, overlooking Zion Canyon, the Virgin River and a 360 degree view of incredibly beautiful mountains. Along with the deeply carved canyons, the color of the mountains in Zion is what makes them unique. They seem to display a rainbow of colors, from red, orange and pink to white and green.

hiking angels landing trail on the knife edge

The “knife edge” section of the Angel’s Landing Trail

zion canyon view from angels landing

View over Zion Canyon

Scout Lookout is basically the saddle along the ridgeline before the big ascent to the top. The perspective here, the angle at which you see Angel’s Landing from, is truly incredible. Everything about it is attractive; the sheer rockface, the knife edge, the backdrop, everything.

hiking the kife edge narrow section of angels landing

The knife edge section

angels landing knife edge

view of the final ascent to angel's landing

Final push to the summit of Angel’s Landing

Now the trail gets funneled down to an occasional knife edge. There’s a chain to hold onto along the way, if needed. Even on this thin knife edge, there are still trees growing from the rocks, eeking out an existence here. Remarkable.

on the summit of angel's landing, zion national park

Angel’s Landing Summit

Angel’s landing summit view

The summit of Angel’s Landing is a broad, flat top. Many people are congregated here. The views are excellent, and this is the obvious spot for a lunch break. Great views of Zion Canyon. It’s a bit of a shame to have such a beautiful place marred by the existence of the road through Zion Canyon though. The buses can be see and heard pretty much non-stop from Angel’s Landing.

After 20 minutes at the top of Angel’s Landing, we start the descent down. We make good time going down, following the same trail back to the trailhead at The Grotto.

 

Hiking The Narrows

Leaving The Grotto at shuttle stop #6, we ride the shuttle to stop #9, The Temple of Sinawava. It’s early afternoon now, and it’s a Saturday… there are a lot of people here, seemingly even more than Angel’s Landing. Many people have these special water shoes on, the kind the tourist companies rent. Save your money, these are not needed here. Just wear your normal hiking shoes in the water (you wear trail runners, right??), and a pair of gaiters helps keep the debris out of your shoes.

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

Hiking The Narrows

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

The canyon, well, narrows…

It’s a short walk from the shuttle stop down to the Virgin River. Zion Canyon begins to narrow here, and the name “The Narrows” suddenly comes to life. We take our first steps in the water, which is surprisingly a pretty comfortable temperature. There is no “trail” to follow, you simply hike upstream. Walk through water, rocks, sandbars and outcrops of dry land.

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

Waterfall down the cliff walls

Not far upstream, the canyon walls narrow considerably and the walls become “slabby”. Waterfalls pour down these slabs right into the Virgin River. That’s pretty cool.

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

Around each bend in the river, the lighting changes. Sometimes we’re in the sun, sometimes the shade. The top of the cliffs are 1,000ft above the river, more if you include the summits behind them, out of sight. It’s a stunning place to be.

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

We pass Mystery Canyon, Mountain of Mystery, and reach the junction with Orderville Canyon. It’s getting late in the afternoon, and this is where we decide to turn around and head back. We’ve hiked 2.8 miles to this point, so it should be 5.6 total round trip.

hiking the narrows at zion national park through the virgin river

Hiking The Narrows was cool, but crowded. Too crowded. It makes me want to explore some of the lesser visited parts of the park if and when I make it back to Zion.

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