Sunstone Mining Adventure
Exploring Central Oregon Searching for the Elusive Sunstone Gem.
Editor: Eric Bewley Photo:G. Fuller, V. Mueller.
Paisley, OR – After fueling up the tanks and getting last minute supplies, the group headed out towards the unknown. The adventure, however, started many miles before we left the pavement with the insidiously injected idea of obtaining a rare gem stone that people travel for thousands of miles and work for hours upon hours to find. We here at ZUKIWORLD HQ. are always looking for fun and adventurous things to do with our Suzuki vehicles and enthusiast friends. The idea of mining had come up before in the respect of exploring old mining ruins but not in the way of doing some actual mining. I was surprised that a casual mention of sunstone mining to a few friends yielded such enthusiasm. Later I learned, that a popular television show had just covered what we were about to do and our friends that had seen this were really excited to go. So, with shovels and buckets strapped in with the regular gear, off we went to find gem stone glory.
There is a public area in a very, very remote section of Oregon where these particular gem stones can be mined, for no fee, by the public on BLM land. This area is surrounded by private claims for which many people go to and pay a few dollars to try there luck on but this is not necessary. If you have the back for it, you can find just as many treasures on the public “claim”.
Where was I? Yes, on our way out of Paisley Oregon, home of the Mosquito Festival. On this beautiful Saturday early afternoon, we hit the gravel road which was to be our friend for the rest of the weekend. In this area of Oregon, it is extremely sparsely populated and when you get to the top or a ridge you can see for hundreds of miles in every direction and not see one light, one building, or hardly even one fence. This makes for a wonderful liberating feeling of freedom but can also be a bit nerve racking when something goes wrong. Thank goodness we had all of our out back Suzuki enthusiasts together, not only for camaraderie but for spare parts and help on the trail.
There were quite a few opportunities for vehicle repair on this trip. One of which was when Greg’s hit a ‘pot hole’ in the gravel road going well over 60 mph. The compression of the suspension was so great that the external mounted fuel pump got crushed by the driveline and third member. No worries though because Val had a spare fuel pump that he had purchased when I lost my fuel pump several trips back last year. A few moments of mechanical merriment and we were on our way.
The original plan was to go to the Heart Mountain antelope refuge and camp at the Hot Springs campground there. I had received good word from a ‘adventure buddy’ that this was a great spot and that it wouldn’t be too crowded this time of year. Well, as we rolled in about four hours before sunset we were very disappointed to see that the place was invested with mosquitoes and hippies. To our amazement, there was absolutely no place to camp in this extremely remote and fairly hard to get to place.
Since Heart Mountain has been taken as a preserve, most all of the wonderful areas, “jeep” trails, and traditional hunting routes have been closed off to motorized wheeled travel. Making this one camp ground a miniature city by concentrating all human activity in one spot ensuring that this campground will be hammered with use.
We were unable to find a place to camp and were forced to backtrack nearly sixty miles to camp at the Sunstone gem mining area. We arrived there in the dark to set up camp. Day one complete; time for rest.
The Sun was high in the sky by the time most of us rose from our slumber. After such a long first day, it was decided that we’d stay here for the next two to maximize our enjoyment. Ok, time to get some gem stones, what do we do? Well, it’s just this easy, you walk around looking at the ground and you pick up rocks that look like boogers. The lesser valued stones are everywhere. They have a yellowish tint to them and can make fine jewelry. With little trouble at all most of us gathered several pounds of this material On the other hand, the prized stones are ones that have some mineralization in them, usually a red color that makes them very pretty and expensive. We were skunked on this quest.
We spent most of Sunday and Monday morning lounging around and hunting for stones. Some passed the time by emailing their friends on the sage-net service that was available as well as a bit of RC rock crawling.
We packed up our camp and headed out about Monday mid-afternoon with the plan to take a bit of gravel and mostly pavement to get back home at a reasonable time. As luck would have it, I had a flat. This was the first flat I had since putting these Good Year MT/R’s on the Sidekick. They have been amazing for durability but all good things must come to and end. After a ton of help from the crew, we were on our way.
Surprise, I ran out of gas. This seems to be a regular occurrence for me in the ‘Kick. Partly because of the V6 but more because my gas tank is just hammered up to where I only have about eight gallons of gas and I’ve just never got around to fixing it. Soon, real soon… Anyway, filling ‘er up off a jerry can got us back to civilization known as, Christmas Valley. There we filled up the tanks, aired up the tires, and headed back home after a wonder weekend of relaxation and gem stone mining.
If your into gem mining and don’t mind the current popularity of this particular gem and the pressure that places on a mining area, I’d highly recommend going out there with family and friends and trying your luck. You may pick up a gem worth thousands of dollars right off the ground…