We did something really exciting while staying in the wilds of Idaho. We went on a treasure hunt. The hunt was for Star Garnets at the Emerald Creek Garnet Area (go figure.) These particular garnets are only found in Northern Idaho and India.
The US Forest Service has developed the site and for a fee of $10, you buy a permit which entitles you to take a total of five pounds of garnets. I think it's safe to say nobody will ever get close to that amount. Also for your fee, they provide shovels, buckets, screen boxes, and sluice boxes.
First, you fill your buckets from the piles of gravel and dirt that have been brought in from a nearby garnet-rich location.
Then using the provided screen boxes, you get rid of the dirt and keep the gravel.
Next you took the gravel over to the sluice, washed off the dirt and looked for garnets.
To be honest, I was flabbergasted to spot a garnet in my basket! It looked just like the samples they had showed us and it was even a pretty good-sized one.
I was sooo happy. I had been pretty pessimistic about the whole thing, comparing it to the time we hunted diamonds in a field in Arkansas (yeah, right.) I found another one before calling it a day and was very satisfied with my treasure. Ron found a lot more, but most of them were chips. I think that was because I used a screen box with bigger holes, but it could be that I just have poor eyesight.
If you're interested in how the garnets are formed, I took a picture of the sign.
The mica schist mentioned in the sign is very pretty so I took a piece off the discard pile. (Hey, they said I could.)
This was our haul - my two are on the left and the rest are all Ron's.
If you hold a light behind the thinner ones, you can see the pretty garnet color.
A little more background. Ron was at the Emerald Creek Garnet Area about 10 years ago when they used to let you dig in the creek for garnets. He found six good-sized stones and had them made into necklaces for his five female descendants and, although he didn't know it then, for me. It's really pretty and I'm thinking I can have my two stones made into earrings to match.
If you'd like more information, click here. We stayed in the Emerald Creek FS campground which is two miles away. A lovely campground and a bargain at $3 a night with our Golden Age pass. Of course we had no phone, internet, satellite TV, or sun for the solar panels. Also we were glad we weren't in a tent, because at one point we heard what could have been a mountain lion scream.