Star Garnet Hunting in Idaho
My brother-in-law planned the whole thing. A family reunion at an out-of-the-way resort in the wilds of Idaho for fishing, amusement parking, parasailing (for my Mother-in-law), cruising on Lake Coeur d'Alene, and rock hounding. Though I was most interested in the rock hounding I must say my heart rate must have hit its peak on the "Timber Terror" and "Tremors". Both of these wooden rollercoasters are able to make a man stagger with fear. Actually I've developed a way that, for me, has rendered these Amusement Park rides rather humdrum. See, what I do is, when I sit down in the car, I pretend that I am, in fact, driving and therefore I am fully intending to tear at break-neck speed down these gut-wrenching drops. Without regard for my life or the lives of my passengers I mean to careen wildly through those hairpin turns even if it means running that car right off the track. As an added bonus, I've found that it even relieves the boredom of screaming myself inside out. As we were leaving the ride I could tell my niece, whom I rode with, was impressed with my control. She looked down at the seat and said, "Nice control, Uncle!" and then she couldn't help adding, "Do you think it might be a thyroid problem that makes your eyes bulge like that?" Well, enough about that, I've got an article to write...
My brother -in-law and I felt that a reality check would be needed for all those intending to go garnet hunting. I let them know that it would involve standing, at least, knee deep in cold muddy water for hours while shoveling mud and gravel. As well it would entail shaking a heavy screen and maybe getting nothing for all that labor and discomfort. Possibly it might rain, the car might break down, we might get lost or maybe there is a volcano there that everyone thought was inactive and what if it chose the day we went garnet hunting to blow it's stack and we were all engulfed in a pyroclastic cloud and what if we were all killed and then buried alive! At that point my brother-in-law stepped up and slapped my face and said if the screaming didn't stop the manager would be down and we would have to leave the condo! Honestly, some people get excited about the silliest things. So, having separated the diehards from the weak and infirm we got into the car. Myself, my son, Ben and my niece Angelia were buckling up when I heard my Mother-in-law pleading with her son, "Please, Lynn, go with them! Someone's got to be in charge!" So the four of us set out for Emerald Creek. That left only twelve to shop in Sandpoint. I agreed to let Lynn navigate but only if he would take off that stupid coon skin cap.
Actually the road was a lot like "Timber Terror" so I pretended I was driving and tried not to get sick. The speed limits around those corners with the logging trucks flying past absolutely ruffled my Canadian sensibilities. I generally took them at about forty percent less than recommended. We arrived at the creek in beautiful clear weather about noon and just before swinging off the highway onto a narrow gravel road one of those nice trucks overhanded a rock into my windshield leaving a blossom about the size of a pansy. It was aimed right for the top of my head.
We had lunch at a table by a huge cedar and just below us a trout stream splashed. In that stream you could pick up handfuls of coarse purple garnet sand. Throwing on our packs we hiked a quarter mile up the trail to the little ranger shack where we paid our fee (not very expensive) and were given two spades and two screens which would eliminate anything under a quarter of an inch. They had a polished garnet about the size and shape of the pointy end of a small hardboiled egg on display there. They had placed a flashlight on the glass over the stone, bulb down, to show the intense star gleaming out of the purple-red depths. On our walk down into the pit area, which was about half the size of a gymnasium, the ground sparkled densely with mica in the sun. The dark-eyed little ranger girl from Missoula said we were not to undermine the surrounding banks because dead rockhounds were nothing but trouble as they really gum up the screens. She said to dig in the levels of gravel that had a reddish look and the black stones were generally the garnets. In the pit were a lot of small holes about four to twelve feet across averaging a foot to three feet of water in them. So we just stepped down into the cold yellow water wearing our old clothes and worked as two teams. While one shoveled the other screened. After a while we would swap jobs.
It was really exciting when we found a real productive vein. Once I counted ten garnets in a screen. The garnets can be tumbling, star, or facet quality. It's a lovely experience to hold one up to the sun and catch those beautiful purple or red rays coming through. We screened for about four hours and got about a half a pound of garnets. The limit is five pounds. After that you pay a little extra. We walked back down to the little trout stream and sat down in it to bathe and laugh with complete strangers. We washed our clothes and ourselves and cleaned the clay out of our shoes. Had a great time!