However, before Ms Walker’s (owner of Black Bear Books) recommendation of Doc’s Rocks Gem Mine, we were a little apprehensive of the many mining establishments located in the Boone area. Jaded from growing up in Florida and numerous tourist traps in our area, I assumed a North Carolina mining experience might also fit into that category. My assumption couldn’t have been farther from the reality.
After Doc welcomed us, he offered brief instructions on how to mine. Doc encouraged the girls to select the heaviest bucket as it would increase their chances of finding something worth keeping. He also explained to the girls that since the buckets are full of soil, many guests often find roots and earthworms as well as great rocks. He strongly instructed the girls not to discard any rocks, because “you never know what you are looking at” and to leave the inspecting to the experts. “Sometimes a rock is just a rock, but sometimes a rock can also be a gem.” Doc continued by telling us about all the wonderful treasures they find at the end of the day when they clean the flumes because guests simply toss rough looking rocks and unpolished gems aside.
After carefully assessing the weights of the pails, I purchased each girl a $10 shovel (a small pail full of dirt). Allana, my little geologist, dug right into the fun. She carefully sifted through her dirt by rinsing each portion in the heated flumes. After picking out all the best rocks, she brought her small scraps to one of Doc’s assistants for a final inspection. The gentleman praised Allana on her excellent work because she didn’t leave much behind for him to find.
As Allana sifted and searched through her dirt, Allan and I helped Emmalynn. My sensory needy, tactile child loved playing in the dirt and splashing in the water. She scooped out huge piles of dirt faster than I could sift, but thankfully, we didn’t miss much either. Emmalynn found tons of amethysts in her pail, which amazed us since purple is her favorite color.
Once we finished mining, Doc gave a quick geology lesson. He shared the origins of the gems and which mines they are commonly found. He explained how they are formed, the difference between ingenious, metaphoric and sedimentary and the hardness of each stone. As he sorted our findings, he shared the value of each gem. We could not believe the assortment of gems we found between the two buckets: emeralds, citrine, rose quartz, white quartz, a garnet, a sapphire, a ruby, amethysts, and a number special stones such as ametrine (a bend of amethyst and citrine)! Doc pulled aside a few of the gems which would be stunning once cut: garnet, ruby, sapphire, ametrine, and amethyst.
Since the majority of the findings belonged Allana, we requested her permission to cut a few of the gems and she permitted us to cut an emerald, the garnet, and an amethyst for Emmalynn. Allana also wanted to cut one of the citrine stones for herself, since citrine is her birthstone. At the end, we explained to Allana that she could keep some of the fun rocks, but the remaining valuable stones (the sapphire and ruby) would be kept in a safe once we returned home. After all, we’ll need those to pay for books for college someday!
At the end of the day, my suspicions of a mining field trip were proven inaccurate. Doc’s knowledge and expertise combined with his passion for rocks made for a gem of an experience. We will definitely return for another mining excursion during our next visit to Boone.
A week later, stones arrive at our house and we were thrilled with the outcome.