Tuesday, July 01, 2008

In search of the Adirondack ruby


Letters From the Lake, Day Three: The Old Hooper Mine

The guys went on a fairly arduous hike yesterday, which did not sound like a joy to me and my newly arthritic knees. On the trail, they said, they met a nice couple from Massachusetts, Connie and Ken. Connie and Ken told them about a trail up to an abandoned garnet mine, a short and easy climb that they thought maybe I could manage. And anything you found in there you could keep.

Garnets, eh? They had me at hello.

The trailhead to the mine is off the ski lodge parking lot at Garnet Hill Lodge. We pulled in to park, and who should be there but Connie and Ken, just shouldering their backpacks. What are the odds, with thousands of miles of trail, that we'd meet them again? So off we went, with pleasant company to share the day.

Knowing nothing about garnet mining, I was expecting a cave and tunnels. Instead, the path opens at the top of the mountain into the flat bottom of a vast stone bowl, a meadow filled with birch trees and long, whispering grasses. Towering over the meadow are the rockfaces of the mine, enormous slabs of stone in the process of crumbling down. The best hunting grounds are at the bases of the walls, where new stone is constantly falling.

The garnet is everywhere, but it is of poor quality, better for making abrasives than jewelry. Most of what you can pick up is very small. Even larger pieces are made up of clusters of crystals, and they break apart easily. Still, they say there is some gem-quality stuff among the rubble, if you can find it.

We spent hours picking up pretty rocks, competing for the best chunks, and climbing up to the rim of the mine walls. The view from there is spectacular, but hubby is more interested in garnets:

Hooper Mine Outer Cliff

Ken knew a trail that led up to the other side of the mine, and shouted out a Hello from the tallest peak. Not to be outdone, the guys went up right behind him. Look closely under the birches at the peak to see hubby and son playing king-of-the-world:

Summit Guys

This was such an amazing day, one I think we'll all remember as long as we live. Ken and Connie, wherever you are, Thanks!

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