Armed with a Falcon’s Rockhounding Oregon guide, I set out with my Toyota Camry rental to Oregon’s SE desert in search of nature’s hidden treasures. With only 6 days to explore I mapped out nine varying locations and went searching for a mix of obsidian, various agate, petrified wood, picture stone, miscellaneous jasper, and thunder eggs.
Aspiring to traverse 600 miles in Oregon, I generally spent a few hours in each location. Until I came to Glass Butte. I’d been there once before in passing, but this time I was determined to find some nice flashy pieces. Glass Butte is a 36 square mile area that’s open to the public and full of all types of obsidian (gold sheen, silver sheen, purple, rainbow, Mahogany, leopard, etc.). Some kind people have mapped out parts of the area and detailed instructions can be found on where to locate specific types of the volcanic glass. The more prestigious pieces are found the furthest away and on the roughest roads. Having only a dinky low sitting sedan I was unable to travel any of the side roads by car. I chose not to make the massive hike out to the rainbow obsidian and instead took a 2-3 mile round trip journey to a few different locations. Finding a plethora of gold and silver sheen, mahogany, and aurora borealis. Each time hefting a mighty heavy pack back to my car, but it was well worth it! Free camping is allowed all over the glass butte area and while I only actually ran into one couple, I saw about eight others camping throughout. It’s a very popular spot and won’t be running out of obsidian anytime soon!
My favorite part of rockhounding and the biggest highlight of this trip, was being out, lost, in the middle of the desert. Ten to twenty miles down a dirt road. Off to a land full of sage brush, rocks, and not much else. Away from people, highway noises, trains, barking dogs, and even airplanes. Where very little life moves about. Perhaps you’ll hear a light breeze tickle your ear or a fly buzz overhead. On rare occasion there may be a bird or in some instances a body of water. Slight ripples, lapping up over river stones. Mostly, there is stillness. The sun beats down, the sweat drips, the rocks sit and wait. The silence is a presence all its own. A peaceful calm so powerful it demands the same stillness in me.
Another great discovery I came upon, was the wonderful community of rockhounding. In my six years of collecting out west, I’ve only twice ever run into fellow rockhounders. In the six days exploring Oregon, I came across 4 couples out collecting like myself. Other people taking a few days or a few weeks to travel the state and seek out hidden treasures. We shared stories of locations, where to go or not go, road conditions, lapidary tips, and traded, or simply shared, our finds. I hadn’t been around other rockhounders before and it was wonderful to share the passion.
I don’t know much about rockhounding in the eastern US, but out west the rocks are plentiful and with minimal work you can find decent specimens so long as your willing to drive well off the beaten path. There’s free camping in numerous locations, and cheap camping elsewhere. As long as you don’t mind skipping a bath it’s pretty ideal. And from the aroma of my fellow rockhounders, it didn’t seem to bother most people!
I made one final stop in Utah to pick up some wonderstone at a well known location and ended my adventures with an estimated 160 pounds of rock. I took full advantage of Southwest Airline’s 2 free checked bags and supplemented with USPS flat rate shipping.
They say Oregon is where rockhounders go to die. I can see why.