Brian's Journal - February 2009

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Pat towing the big agate 
02/05/2009  Mostly sunny, 58  Up an agate creek, parts 7 and 8  
Dr Sherfey wanted to see me for a followup visit today to evaluate how the finger was healing, so I drove down yesterday and Pat and I headed into the hills to retrieve his big agate, the same agate that ate my finger last Thursday. Pat purchased a deer carrier at Cabela's on Monday and modified it so he could tow it with his bicycle by welding a
The big agate, cleaned up 
The rock trailer 
sleeve of pipe to a bolt which he then bolted loosely to the frame of the carrier, leaving enough play to allow the carrier to move somewhat independently from his bicycle. To attach the carrier he simply slides the stem of his seatpost through the piece of pipe. It rattled a bit but worked very well and with it he towed out the big agate. By the time I arrived at his house, just a few minutes after he did, Pat already had the agate weighed out at 96 pounds, 12 pounds heavier than the big geode Jake discovered and published on the Treasure Hunting Wiki last summer.
Gus with Jake's seam agate 
Before we hauled out Pat's agate we split up and did some exploring. Pat hiked up Fingertip Creek to the next road crossing at 1250' while I searched up the Landslide creek from the waterfall up to the edge of the clearcut, then up the small feeder creek (Feeder #5) which borders the west edge of the clearcut. I expected to meet Pat in the Landslide creek yesterday but I didn't run into him even though he did hike some distance up through the creek after dropping in from Jake's Landing, which is just up and around the bend from Fingertip Creek. It's a shorter and easier route down to the Landslide creek than my route to the top of the waterfall. Jake had hauled up the big chunk of seam agate Pat had found on the 15th but it had broken in half when he dropped it at the landing and it was still sitting there.

Today I hauled Pat's rock carrier in behind my bike so I could bring out my big seam agate, which as it turned out, weighed 69 pounds. Not a record-breaker but still respectable. The rock carrier didn't slow me down much so I got a ways ahead of Pat. I used the time to explore one of the feeder creeks we hadn't looked at yet. I didn't find anything below the road and was just starting up when Pat arrived. It would have been very tough bushwhacking upstream on that one so I was glad Pat showed up when he did.
We left the bikes at Jake's landing and dropped down to the Landslide Creek then searched up through the clearcut. I fished a nice partial geode out of a pool just below the clearcut - that was a surprise because there isn't much big stuff left lying around. The clearcut itself has produced
Gus showing interest in Pat's lunch 
Seam agate in the stream 
very little agate for us but the areas just below the clearcut and also between the clearcut and the landslide have been quite good. The deposits above and below the clearcut differ somewhat in that most of the agate we've found in and above the clearcut has been gray while the bulk of the material downstream was red. Today we didn't find anything big along the stream above the clearcut but there were still a number of 2-3" pieces of agate along with a nice 6" chunk of seam agate right in the middle of the stream.
After lunch today we continued up the creek above the south side of the landslide as far as a landing at about 1750'. We found quite a few small pieces of gray agate but few larger pieces and those were mostly of poor quality. I kept only one rough reddish nodule about 2 1/2" across. Descending back to the landslide we crossed it and walked north long the road past the borrow pit then dropped down into the upper reaches of Fingertip Creek. Thick Salmonberry kept us from inspecting much of the creek but we didn't find any agate in what little we did look at.
Back at the grassy landing Pat helped me load up the rock carrier. We put my big seam agate on the bottom then lashed my pack with the other agates in it on top. The combined weight was enough to slow me down quite a bit on the uphills, gentle as they were, on the way back to the cars. On the downhill sections my aging brakes fortunately sufficed to keep me at a pace that was pretty sedate compared with my usual rate of descent. I felt like I was driving the bicycle equivalent of a semi truck.

02/08/2009  Fog then sun, 46  Up an agate creek, part 9  
David wanted to go hiking somewhere but the snow level is pretty low so I suggested mountain biking instead. I told him I knew just the place with nice logging roads to bike on - Lucas Creek. He decided that would be OK so I picked him and his friend Daniel up around 9AM. We parked at the bend in the county road and bicycled up the first tributary, up the big hill and through the woods to the clearcut. We were in the fog then but after half an hour or so the sun broke through and the rest of the day was beautiful though persistently a little chilly. At the corner of the woods we parked the bikes and David climbed a snag. We all hiked down into the first tributary where I looked for agate but didn't find any.
Gray agate nodule 
Landslide Creek from David's knoll 
We stopped for lunch at David's knoll, elev 1230', overlooking the landslide creek where it runs through the clearcut. I suggested that the creek was just an agate's throw away but none of us were able to reach the creek with either a batted or thrown stone. Daniel came the closest. After lunch I hiked down into the creek. In the 15 minutes or so I spent looking for agate below the clearcut I found one new fist-sized gray nodule but left it, along with several smaller pieces. I was glad to see that it is still possible to find agate up there.
Saint Helens over Frase Creek valley 
We continued up to the next junction where we stopped to admire the view of Mt St Helens. David climbed another snag. The next hill up to the borrow pit road was a steep one but it was brief. We traversed
Crossing the landslide 
north to the landslide, portaged it and continued on to the borrow pit. While the boys played in the pit I bushwhacked a short distance up Fingertip Creek and found one good-sized but very rough, dark geode or nodule, about 5" across and 2" thick. About even with the top of the borrow pit the creek became too small and brushy to proceed so I met up with the boys in the pit. David was up at the top of the cliff throwing big rocks down into a small pool. They were falling so fast you could hear the whoosh just before they hit the water.
Although we crossed several more feeders on the way down I only investigated one, the upper reaches of #3, where I found lots of crystal and some small agates of which I kept only one. David loved the ride down. Fortunately I caught up with him in time to warn him about the gate at the bottom of the last hill. His brakes aren't any better than mine and I didn't want him to round that last corner at 20mph.
By the time we rode back to the car we'd covered about 12 miles on the bikes. I figure I did another couple of miles on foot. I, of course, had a great day but I was glad the boys liked it too.

My last agate 
02/13/2009  High clouds w/ occ sun, 45  Up an agate creek, 10 & 11  
Pat and I had intended to go up to Lucas Creek again but it snowed a couple days ago and hasn't warmed up much. Since the snow would probably have been too deep for bicycling up there, we decided to try Salmon Creek instead. We met at the end of Toledo-Salmon Creek Road around 10AM yesterday, giving us about 3 hours to explore the river before I had to head back to Centralia for my finger checkup. It's been pretty tender since Monday when I dug a big hole in our front walkway to expose the section of the drain where the roots have been clogging it up, most recently on Sunday evening, or so I thought. I called Rescue Rooter and dug out the pipe on Monday, then on Tuesday they came out and replaced the concrete pipe with a section of ABS pipe with a bi-directional cleanout. Unfortunately the drain was still clogged with the new pipe, so for another $500 they jetted out the main line of the drain, blasting out the obstructing sludge. No more bicycling down to the woods first thing in the morning, but the finger remained a little tender. Not too tender for agate hunting though.
We searched gravel bars along the stretch of river above the bridge. Everywhere we went we saw tracks of at least two other agate hunters before us. Despite not being the first ones on the creek, we did pretty well. I was particularly pleased to find a coprolite (pseudo-coprolite actually) in the shape of a robust handlebar moustache but I also managed to pick up a nice pile of very colorful agate. Salmon Creek agate may not be as large as the Lucas Creek material but nowhere I've been has more colorful carnelian than Salmon Creek.
I underestimated to time to get back to the car so arrived at the doctor's office with only a minute to spare. They didn't mind. I didn't see Dr Sherfey this time. Instead a physician's assistant named Cas came in and took out the stitches. He had difficulty seeing what he was doing so I loaned him my glasses. He was initially reluctant to accept them but afterward admitted that he couldn't have done without them. Removing the stitches stung a bit, particularly the first one, but fortunately no anesthetic was required. Cas also told me to begin getting the wound wet, as in when I take a shower or wash my hands. That's a little scary since it appears to be still nearly as open as when it was first stitched up.
Shirley fixed simple but delicious enchiladas for supper with a delectable apple pie for desert. I almost fell asleep during "Survivor" after supper. Pat was tired too so we all went to bed around 9:30. I turned out the light by 10PM. It was the first time this year that I've achieved my 2009 goal of getting into bed before 10PM.
Agate in gravel bar 
The same agate dug out 
Agate by the larger rock 
The same agate up close 
We returned to Salmon Creek today since yesterday the temperature didn't warm up enough to melt much of the snow.
Agate among beach pebbles 
Unlike yesterday, we found a stretch of the river where we were the first rockhounds to
Freshwater clam shell 
show up since the flood. As a result we found more of the larger pieces. Pat also found a nice block of brown petrified wood about 5" on a side. We stayed out longer today too, so by the end of the day we had quite a bit of agate in our packs.
I stayed for supper with Pat and Shirley again and took a little nap afterwards while we watched TV. On the way home I detoured over to UPS and picked up both boys. Daniel had been cheerleading at the last regular game of the season, which UPS won 81 to 71. Apparently the win clinched their position in some playoffs so Daniel will be cheering a little longer than he anticipated. After we got home we took the Christmas tree out and torched it. It burned well but not fiercely; for some reason this year's tree didn't dry out as much as they have in previous years. Maybe our house is colder. The fire kindled a latent firebug spirit in the boys and they stayed out until 1AM setting fires in the grass along the fence behind the driveway. I figured the neighbors would call the police but I guess they'd all gone to bed already.

02/14/2009  Increasing clouds, 48
Happy Valentine's Day, and Happy Sabbath. I remembered that it was Sabbath and felt grateful to God for the sunshine and having the boys home and having the time free to putter in the garden and saw a few rocks, but we didn't do anything openly to acknowledge the day. Valentine's Day, on the other
hand, we did acknowledge. I bought Swee a dozen red roses at Safeway. Susan made Valentine's day care packages for all of Daniel's floor, with cupcakes, brownies and shortbread and pink and gold labels with captions such as "Smooches" and "Wild Thing". Daniel took Hannah out on a date; she was going to take him ice skating, then they were planning to see a movie after dinner at Rosemary's. David went back to campus with Daniel in order to see "The Vagina Monologues"; I don't know what else he was planning for the evening. They had a pleasant afternoon though. While I was mining old compost from the compost pile in preparation for starting a new one, they were burning the field and garden just for the fun of it.

02/17/2009  Increasing clouds, 48
I've been digging in the garden the past few days, trying to eradicate the bindweed by removing all of its fat white roots from the soil, and planting some of the bulbs I salvaged from bags of bulbs Susan bought last year or the year before and never planted. The bindweed has even managed to infiltrate the greenhouse bed - pernicious stuff. Today I filled in the hole in the front walkway where we had the concrete pipe replaced with ABS a cleanout added. I didn't lay the bricks yet though; I quit around 3PM to eat some lunch and go for a run, although I haven't made it out for the run yet. That's been happening now for several days - I plan to run in the afternoon, then I don't get around to it.
I've also been sawing some of the Lucas Creek and Salmon Creek agate. Today I finished cutting bookends out of the big agate half-pipe I found on our first trip up the creek. The cutting wasn't quite square so I'm going to try trueing them up with the trim saw, but the color, pattern and shape are pretty cool. I've finished polishing my first set of Lucas Creek bookends - again not very square, but nice color. I've been using the Genie to sand off the nubs, then using the high speed sander with 100 grit and 220 grit silicon carbide, then back on the Genie with a pair of 1200 diamond wheels, then to the buffer. Buffing is pretty quick after the 1200 diamond grit, which in turn is faster than the 400 or 600 silicon carbide, so the overall process is takes significantly less time than it used to. Now if I could just cut them squarely.

02/19/2009  Sunny, 55
One of those days when things don't work out as planned, but they still work out. Intended to go agate hunting with Pat on Salmon Creek but the shower drain was backing up a bit yesterday evening so I figured I'd snake it out before heading south. After searching the workshop I found the snake(s) in the furnace room and I took what I thought was the longer one and snaked the line from the cleanout in the laundry room but couldn't reach the blockage, which was downstream of everything upstairs and downstairs, but upstream of the bedroom bathrooms. Then I tried the other snake and discovered it was 6' longer at 24', but harder to use, so I swapped cables and tried again. Still no luck. I tried going in from the outside cleanout but couldn't get past about 20', which may have been where the problem was, or maybe not. By then I'd been at it for 3 hours so I called Rescue Rooter. They'd cleaned out the line just a week ago and they promised they'd send someone today, so I called Pat and told him I was staying home.
Then the van rolled out of the garage and across the driveway, headed for the garden. It took out the first fence, the old one, but the garden fence stopped it. Susan was already late heading over to UPS to pick up the boys to take them to the opening day of the Flower and Garden show, so I unloaded my car and had her take that while I figured out how to untangle her car from the fence and drive it back up the grassy bank onto the driveway. While I was playing with that Rescue Rooter showed up, 2 hours early. Kyle was great. He pulled the toilet in the downstairs bathroom and rolled his industrial strength snake in and went to work on the 12-15' of line between the toilet and the junction with the drain from the bedroom wing. Before long he had the water flowing again at the outside cleanout. His supervisor ran a camera down the line and told me that the pipe was broken but it looked to me like it just had a lot of sludge on either side of a narrow channel down the center of the pipe. All clear below the bedroom wing junction though. Before he left Kyle demonstrated how to reinstall the toilet so I can remove it some day and try my own hand at clearing the line, which will clog up again soon, according to Kyle's supervisor.
Meanwhile I cut the fence out from under the van, dug trenches in front of the front wheels and filled them with gravel to provide enough traction to get the van up the hill. When the van backed into the fence the tailpipe got hung up and bent the muffler pipe in two places so I pried it back straight enough so I could wire the tailpipe up off the ground, then I called Herb's Muffler in Auburn. They were close and had positive reviews on google. They said "Come on down" so I did, and read a book in the library while they cut out the bent pipes and custom-fitted replacements for alot less than the cost of a whole new muffler.
Susan and the boys enjoyed the Flower and Garden show but the boys both have colds, along with most of the other students in their dorms.

First gravel bar 
02/20/2009  Sunny, 57  Up an agate creek 12  
Pat and I explored Salmon Creek again today, dropping down a narrow ridge into the river where a stream comes in from the south. We found lots of tracks but not lots of agate on the first several gravel bars as we headed downstream. One or two sets of tracks looked very fresh and sure enough, around the next bend we spotted a couple of men ahead of us, scrutinizing the gravel bars.
We decided to climb out of the river and cut the next bend, then drop back in ahead of them. Perhaps it was our imagination, but it did seem as though the next few gravel bars had more material, and we didn't see any more tracks for a while. We didn't see the other men again either. We did find quite a bit of fresh coprolite though it tended to be more of the lumpy rather than ropy kind. I find the ropy kind more convincing. According to an article I read the clay is Miocene age, and the coprolites may technically be cololites - casts of animal intestines. That theory explains the ropy ones reasonably well but not the knobby ones.
We explored several more gravel bars and I found a good-sized orange agate in the water, not easy to spot. There are some big logs along the river in that area - Salmon Creek must have been really impressive
before it was logged, huge old trees framing the languid stream with its grassy shoulders. I imagine the water was clearer then and probably full of salmon in season. May have been more agate on the gravel bars too, though we didn't do too badly today, especially considering that for most of the day we were not the first ones on the river. As is evident in the pile I brought home, I didn't pick up many small ones.

02/21/2009  Sunny, 50  Up an agate creek 13  
Pat and I hiked up Lucas Creek on a field trip with the Longview rock club today. I bicycled but most people hiked Dan's road, then up the landslide tributary. Everyone found something but the best piece was a nice half geode that Tom found.
Pat and I ate lunch together where feeder #5 meets the landslide tributary at the bottom edge of the clearcut. I sat on a muddy boulder in the sunshine and tossed bits of bread for Gus. It was worth sacrificing a little of my bread to get Gus's nose off my shoulder. Pat poked around looking for agate and found a thin botroidal piece which he traded to me for two pieces of red agate. Emmett and his brother-in-law Phil returned from the hiking up through the clearcut as we finished lunch. I wanted to hike over to the upper part of the first tributary but didn't want to go alone due to recent reports of mountain lion activity in the area. Phil was willing to join me so we headed up to David's lookout while Pat and Emmett started downstream.
Phil protested that he was overweight and out of shape but I didn't have to wait much for him, and he tackled some pretty tough bushwhacking with no complaints. We didn't find anything in the first tributary though so I suggested that we continue on over to Frase Creek. We'd stashed our packs, along with my map, but I managed to find our way over there and we did fairly well going over the same ground that David and I did back on the 8th. We explored down as far as the pond; unfortunately below that the geology doesn't look as promising. I gave Phil all the agate I found, including the fairly nice partial nodule pictured above.
We hiked back from Frase Creek on logging roads and dropped into the landslide creek just below the waterfall. Searching on the way out I was surprised to find the big rough-looking blackish chunk that I'd left on the dirt bank at about eye level in a narrow part of the canyon a month ago. I'd looked for it but couldn't find it last time so was amazed to find it today, in full view where everyone has been climbing right past it.
Pat, Emmett and a few others were waiting for us when we came out. Dan and Skeeter had come out not long before I did. Skeeter had been hauling about a hundred pounds, most of it quartz according to Pat. They were the two men we'd seen up in the clearcut during lunch, whom we'd assumed to be Emmett and Phil.

02/22/2009  Damp, then sunny, 54   Yours Truly 50K  
About a dozen runners were waiting for me in the rain at Landsberg. Monte called me on his cell phone as I was driving through Ravensdale and said the runners were ready to go but when they heard that I was almost there, they waited. I got them on their way then returned home for the chili I'd forgotten. I made it back to Landsberg with just enough time left over to squeeze in a 12 mile run before fixing lunch for everyone. I ran with Jess and plied her with questions about her job and her running. We ran at a leisurely pace but the time passed quickly thanks to the conversation.
The sun came out before lunch so runners lingered after finishing. Mel was still out on the course after everyone else left. I snuck away to pick up the aid station at the 3.8 mile turnaround and found Mel about to help himself to the chili when I returned. I was glad he stayed, and glad also that he didn't stay very long, just long enough for some hot chocolate and the last of the chili.

02/27/2009  Sunny, 55  Up an agate creek 14   I didn't have much time today due to a late start and an early appointment with the finger doctor so Pat and I just hunted the creek by his property. It was my first time up there in quite
a few years. The woods have been clearcut on both sides of the creek now, leaving just a ribbon of alder along the stream. A fair number of the alder have blown down across the creek but didn't impede our progress much. I recognized the topography of the stream - gravel bars above the access road, then a little gully where the stream cuts into the agate-bearing layer of clay and cobbles, then a section of basalt ledges and above that more gravel bars but not much agate. Below the road, beavers have ponded most of the stream down to Pat's property line.
We searched that creek so extensively
in the past that agate has become somewhat scarce despite floods during the intervening years. But perhaps not that scarce, particularly considering that Pat has already been up there once or twice high-grading the gravel bars. Although we were only up there a couple of hours, I carried out about 20 pounds and Pat nearly twice that amount. Better quality than I remembered too, similar to Salmon Creek but a little more varied.
At the doctor's office Cas removed a scab consisting mostly of Xeriform bandage from my nailbed. Good thing, because the skin was beginning to grow around it. Dr. Sherfey came in to check things out and was pleased with how it's healing up, said I don't need to see him again unless something goes wrong - pain, swelling or infection - and I no longer need to bandage it either, though it will remain sensitive for some time. It has been four weeks and a day since I inadvertently amputated it.
I was rewarded for my late start this morning by the sight of a peregrine sitting in the snag by the Wabash church. Not a great photo, but identifiable at least.

Though it was Sabbath, we didn't make it to church. I puttered most of the day, sawing rocks and cleaning up the workshop some. We considered attending the evangelistic series at church in the evening but then Daniel called to invite us to the UPS basketball game at which he would be cheerleading. It sounded like he wanted us to come so we drove over. I took a few dozen mediocre photos of the cheer squad in action; the 70-300 lens did a decent job but even at ISO 1600 it wasn't really fast enough, particularly on the shots of girls in flight. Afterwards we had a pizza at Farellis with Daniel and his girlfriend Hannah. I enjoyed meeting and talking with her.

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