Category Archives: Lapidary

Canadian Rockies on a Road King

We were greated at the airport of Missoula, MT, by a 10 foot taxidermed Grizzly bear.   “That can’t be real” exclaimed Maria, but a local resident corrected her “Oh yes, that is real”!  Thus started a 10 day trip on a Harley Davidson Road King motorcycle from Missoula to Jasper (Alberta) and back.

Grizzly Bear in Hidden Lake

Grizzly Bear in Hidden Lake

G Bear close up_5615

At higher magnification you can see the Grizzly on this picture (from 1/2 mile away)

West Glacier was our first destination, located at the entrance of Glacier National Park and at the west end of Going-to-the-Sun-Road.  The next day we slowly ascended this windy road to the high point: Logan Pass.  From there we hiked up the mountain towards Hidden Lake, only to be stopped 1/2 a mile from our destination by park rangers.  The lake was off limits to visitors because of a family of Grizzly bears that were fishing in the lake.  Even from 1/2 mile away we could see them without binoculars!  En route we were greeted by several mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), the symbol of Glacier National Park.

Mountain goat

Mountain goat

On our way to Waterton Lake (Alberta) we passed a striking block of rock: Chief’s Mountain. It is a sacred mountain to the Blackfeet Indian tribe.  We had stopped in awe to take pictures when  a thunderstorm chased us away and we sped towards Canada! Route 22 in Alberta hugs the eastern limits of the

Chief Mountain with threatening thunderstorm

Chief Mountain with threatening thunderstorm

Canadian Rockies, mostly huge tracts of farmland. In Longview we stopped at the Rustic Artisan – Longview’s Coffee House.  Superb snacks and coffee seemed a little out of place in this farming village with only 90 inhabitants. The coffee house was owned and run by a young Moroccan who had recently emigrated with his family to Alberta!

Kevin Kennedy never returned...

Kevin Kennedy never returned…

Soon we were surrounded by mountains in the Kananaskis Range on our way to Banff.  We stopped for a short hike in to the mountains along a well traveled trail and in spite of ubiquitous warning signs, like the one shown here about a hiker called Kevin Kennedy “who departed the trail head for a day hike on the Highwood Pass route…and never returned that evening”.  That was in 2011! The highlight in Banff was definitely dinner at The Bison which serves local meats, cheeses and fish.

Plain of 6 Glaciers

Plain of 6 Glaciers

The next day we hiked the “Plain of the 6 Glaciers” from Lake Louise.  This famous trail lived up to our expectations, and more.  Several hours from the base of the trail there is a “Teahouse” nestled in the trees.  They serve local food and drinks on site and the staff live there through the entire summer as there is no access other than a 2-3 h hike up the hill!    A day later, we hiked up Johnston Canyon past the falls to the “Tea Pots”.  These are sandy ponds bubbling with volcanic gases, sulfuric gases I guess, because of the yellow residues.

Crowfoot glacier

Crowfoot glacier

Wapta icefield (Bow glacier), Num-Ti-Jah Lodge

Wapta icefield (Bow glacier), Bow Falls and  Num-Ti-Jah Lodge in the woods

Japanese tourist taking in the view.  Mt. Athabasca in the background.

Japanese tourist taking in the view. Mt. Athabasca in the background.

Columbia icefield.

Columbia icefield.

There followed a sensational ride, some 200 miles from Banff to Jasper, with views of massive mountains and glaciers.  It starts north of Lake Louise with Mount Hector and Hector Glacier, Crowfoot glacier, Bow Lake, Simpsons Num-Ti-Jah Lodge, and Mount Thompson and Bow glacier (Wapta Icefield).  The picture shows Bow glacier and Bow falls.  Check out the story of Jimmy Simpson and the history of the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge! The road descends to the crossing of the river Sakatchewan and then climbs again to  Sunwapta Pass.  Along the way: the Athabasca Glacier, Mount Columbia (the highest peak in Canada), Columbia icefield, Dome glacier, Stuttfield glacier, etc.  While Banff had reminded me of a fashionable Swiss winter resort, rolling into Jasper is more like riding in to a western frontier town.  I stayed in a cabin along the Athabasca river.  It was cold.  There was even an icy hailstorm.  The next day I encountered Woodland Caribou (only a few hundred of this species in the vicinity of Jasper).  I also took a worthwhile hike up Parker Ridge from where you have a great view of the Saskatchewan Glacier.  There followed a long ride south to Radium Springs in British Columbia.

saskatchewan glacier_5740

Saskatchewan Glacier viewed from the top of Parker Ridge (a 1-2 hour hike from the highway).

The next morning I encountered 6 Big Horn Sheep resting on the road side just by the motel, apparently not fazed in the least by traffic or humans taking photographs.

Big Horn sheep in Radium Springs

Big Horn sheep in Radium Springs

There were more interesting stops along the way.  Canal Flats, is the site of an abandoned  canal that linked Columbia Lake to the Kootenay river, and is now a bird wildlife haven. My last day was spent exploring the rock shops in the Flathead Lake region of Montana.   Montana Agate is their specialty. I’ll create a separate blog post for this topic!

Our ride!

Our ride!

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Rock Hound on a Motorcycle

On July 27th I flew to San Diego and rented a 1200 RT BMW motorcycle with 4 in line cylinders, a powerful bike with which I was going to cruise 2600 miles across California.  My friend Manu lives in San Diego with his Kawasaki Versys 650.  He picked me up at the airport and we went right to the beamer rental shop.   The next day we set out early, the first leg of a 12 day journey, all the way up to Arcata, CA, on as many scenic routes as possible and then back down along the coast.   We crashed overnight at the cheapest motels in town or at a friend’s house, but we had dinners every night at the best restaurant we could find on Yelp!

Snowflake Obsidian

Snowflake Obsidian

On our way south, in Carlotta, CA, we stopped at Chapman’s Gem and Mineral shop on route 101, also called the Redwood Highway.  This is paradise for rock hounds.  For a couple of dollars I bought snowflake obsidian, jasper, rhodonite and much more. Here are some samples.

Rhodonite

Rhodonite

We stopped in Fort Bragg, CA, and we took the trail to “Glass Beach”.  This was a dump site for local residents, until 1967.  Now, in stead of sand, the ground is composed of small shards of smooth glass, ground extensively by the sea waves.  I had read about the place.  But we found the pieces of glass to be too small to use for jewelry.

Glass Beach

Glass Beach

Rarely, one finds a piece that is larger than 2 cm.

We had passed places called ‘Topaz’, ‘Diamond Valley’ and ‘Emerald Bay’.  Each time I took note and looked for some explanation for the bejeweled name.  No success.  Not until we discovered ‘Jade Cove’ in Big Sur!  It lies protected

nephrite

Nephrite

Cliffs of Jade Cove

Cliffs of Jade Cove

within a National Forest. It is easy to get to from Highway 1.  The green cliffs are composed of nephrite (a type of jade) and also serpentine.   Nephrite is a soft stone (Mohs 6) which is easy to carve and when polished it is vitreous and has an oily luster.  It can be very elegant with white to green to grey hues.  It was  considered an imperial stone in chinese dynasties.  Here are some of my samples.  And a finished piece with banded agate, from Chapman’s Gem shop, see above.

Nephrite

Nephrite

There is more to come about other adventures on this trip, although they have little to do with lapidary or jewelry.  Stay tuned!

Before I set out on this trip, my 17 year old gave me a penguin stuffed animal – a talisman to keep me safe.  Penguino, as we called him, became a pro at riding the motorcycle…

 

Banded Agate in Silver

Banded Agate in Silver

Penguino

Penguino