Winter is a great time to explore the western deserts for cool rocks. Going on right now is the amazing rock, gem and mineral show/sale in Quartzite, Az. Accommodations are few in the little town, little only with respect to the snowbird. Now shooting birds is a wonderful sport but I think shooting snowbirds might cause some grief. Snowbirds usually fly in pairs and often drive an enormous RV. It might also be a challenge, once hit, to pry them from their Gel Coat shell. All in jest.
Snowbirds are mostly retired folk who live in snow-bearing states. They flock to the desert around Quartzite to escape the freezing temperatures back in their home state. At the same time RVs and dirt bike folks like Quartzite for the open desert to camp and buzz around. The little town is like a carnival during the winter months. One of the options is to sell your rock, gem and mineral stuff there. Rock hounds are drawn to Quartzite to buy rocks and rock related goods. It is truly one of the biggest open-air venues in the business. Or so it seems until you discover the Tucson show. The Tucson show is, to paraphrase the evil dictator Saddam Hussein, ‘The Mother of all’...Rock Shows. The entire city fills with purveyors of rocks, minerals, gems, related equipment and unrelated equipment. Some of the jewelry and precious stones are staggering for their beauty and price. There are forty-three venues this year. For perspective consider the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa; the big Grace Pavilion, the carnival area, the covered areas, the smaller buildings, etc., all stuffed with booths, tents, open air flea markets and tailgate sellers would constitute one venue. Now you begin to understand the scope of the show.
Local jeweler Aaron Poovey and I will depart on Jan. 28, first in Barstow and a visit to the famous Diamond Pacific lapidary factory. Day two will be a four-hour drive to the Highway 95 rock shop in Quartzite. From there to the scruffy vintage, collectibles and whatever you need shop behind the post office. Last time it was a real find for us, great prices on some excellent rough stone. I bought nearly ten pounds of sliced petrified dinosaur bone slabs. Next will be the open air venue, Desert Gardens, more like a flea market with many, many dealer/importer tents and a backside collection of desert rats who offer their own finds to the public. From there to a motel in Blyth, Ca., some mere eighteens miles away. Day three will be spending a bit more time in Quartzite or a non-stop six hours to Tucson. I hope to send updates to you during the two weeks away, if I am too lazy then a few summaries when I am back to reality here in Sonoma County. Rock on!
Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.