Brian's Journal - January 2009 Big Seam Agate

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In the past dozen or so years that I've been looking for agate in Lucas Creek, I never until this winter explored the small feeder streams that make up the headwaters of the creek. Back in 1996 I bushwhacked up the main stem to where the slope gets steep and didn’t find any agate there so I assumed that there wouldn't be any higher up either. Then Dan and Jake found their big 84 pound geode in one of the feeder creeks, and I realized there was agate up there after all. It turns out that the point where I turned around in 1996 was only about a quarter mile downstream from the 96 pound chunk of massive orange agate which Pat Swinth and I hauled out from a Lucas Creek feeder stream a couple of weeks ago.

96 pound agate in the stream 
The big agate had apparently not moved for a number of years. Other than a small patch on top where recent flooding had scraped it clean, the orange stone was almost completely covered with moss above the waterline and black iron stain below. I found it sitting just above the road at about 1050' elevation in what I now call "Fingertip Creek", the small tributary of the south branch of Lucas Creek just north of the "Jake's Landing" access point to the landslide tributary. It is the kind of Lucas Creek agate we call seam agate. Seam agate generally occurs in massive colorful blocks, typically orange with areas of gray, yellow or red, but it tends to fracture easily and lacks any interesting pattern or form so we don't usually haul it home, even for yard rock.
The dark red agate 
I like to photograph agates in their natural habitat so I stepped down into the creek to photograph the big orange rock and when I did, I noticed another somewhat pitted, reddish stone embedded in the creek bank. “Could be an agate”, I thought, and sure enough, when I turned it over it was round and shiny and dark red. I took that one home (where it tipped the scales at 15 pounds) and kept just a photograph of the big seam agate. Then a couple days later when I told Pat about the big one he thought he'd like it for a yard rock so we bicycled in a week later to retrieve it. We ended up having a little trouble getting it out.
Pat had tweaked his knee bushwhacking up another feeder creek so when we got to the big one I started carrying it out to the road for him. Unfortunately as I was lugging it across the very steep hillside, my feet slipped in the soft soil and I fell. Fearing that the agate might roll over me if I let go of it, I held on. It landed hard on my left hand and my third and little fingers went numb. I was wearing opaque nitrile gloves so I figured I'd better feel to see if the fingers were OK. The third finger was fine through the glove but the little finger had a separate bump like a little soft gumdrop in the tip of the glove. Thinking "This can't be good", I peeled off the glove to take a look. Sure enough, the edge of the big agate had chopped the tip of my left pinky off right at the base of the nail. I tried sticking the tip back on but it kept falling off again so we wrapped it in gauze and I stuck my hand back in the glove to hold it in place. Later I wished I'd taken a picture.
Hauling the big agate out 
Pat wrestled the agate the rest of the way out to the roadcut and let it roll down. The big rock almost took out his white lab Gus before it crashed to a stop at the edge of the road. Pat wheeled his bike over and hefted it into the milk crate on his bike rack. He didn't make it 10 feet before the agate rolled off the rack taking the crate with it. Clearly the agate didn't intend to come home with us that day. We hid it under some ferns and bicycled back out to the vehicles. We'd been planning to continue over to the landslide creek for a little more agate hunting but I thought I'd better get back to town before the medical clinic closed. The doctor agreed that was a good idea and he fixed it up for me. I asked if I could take the tip home for a souvenir but the he didn't think it would keep.
A few days later Pat drove up to Cabela's and bought a folding deer cart. He welded a piece of pipe and a bolt to the handle of the carrier so he could attach it to his bike by sliding the seat post through the piece of pipe, and we bicycled back up to get the big agate. My finger didn’t hurt too much as long as I rode one-handed over the bumpy sections. The big rock realized we meant business
96 pound Lucas Creek agate cleaned up 
this time and it came meekly home with us. It sure slowed Pat down on the uphill sections of the road though. The next day we rode back in and explored the rest of Fingertip Creek without much luck although we did find a couple decent geodes in the upper part of the landslide creek.
I read on the Internet that something called Barkeeper's Friend would take the black stain off stream agates. It turned out that Pat's wife had a can of the stuff under her sink so after pressure-washing the moss off, Pat hit the big agate with Barkeeper's Friend and a brush and a few days later, had the big Lucas Creek agate all cleaned up and ready for its new career as a yard rock.


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