In mid-March of 2019, I went on a collecting trip with friends Joe and Jinette D'Oliveira from Sudbury, Ontario. They spend a significant amount of time in the Tucson area during winter. They wanted to check out a spot north east of Safford where they heard you can collect agate and, in particular, fire agate. I'm a mineral guy and don't know much about agates but it sounded like a nice day, with nice scenery and nice people! As sometimes is the case, the original reason for going became secondary and the very dramatic, beautiful and unusual scenery that we encountered, ended up being the highlights of the day. In summary, we did successfully visit and collect at the Safford agate locality (fluorescent agates and opal! Not sure about fire agate, yet), saw amazing flowers, visited the Morenci open pit mine and the unusual weathered granite rocks of the Dragoon mountains. Here are photo's of the trip and descriptive captions.
For the first 20 or thirty miles or so, we enjoyed the views of the Sonoran Desert. As we got about half way up Highway 101 from I-10 to Safford, we started seeing vast acreages of mostly yellow flowers -Mexican Poppies, I think they are called.
We were a little mesmerized and headed out to immerse ourselves in the flowery landscape. Joe D'Oliveira shot this picture of Riley and me with the Greasewood mountains in the background.
Riley usually is only interested in food, sleeping, playing and chasing things but even he was impressed! The leaves are not out on the Mesquite trees yet, at that time.
As he often does, Riley looked at me and seemed to ask "Take my picture?", as he often seems to ask and I do! He is a photogenic little guy! I always feel safe with this impressive example of canine watching over me in the desert.
We are used to seeing chollas in the Sonoran desert but not surrounded by flowers!
Similarly, there are countless prickly pear cacti in the Sonoran desert but we don't usually see them like this!
We reached the collecting area which is actually marked by signs. We found little of interest in the designated collecting area except beautiful scenery mostly comprised of the snowy-peaked Greasewood Mountains in the distance with some dormant ocotillos in the foreground.
Here is a clearer view of the Mountains with Jinette D'Olivera in the foreground. Beautiful! (The mountains, too)
We drove further into the area and located a wash and prospected along the wash. Wasn't much in the wash but eventually, we noticed chalcedony in the hill on the north side of the wash. This is part of the hill, with abundant nice prickly pear cacti.
Here is Joe prospecting in the wash. Note the volcanic rocks in the back ground. The area seems to be mostly layered flows of basalt of varying thicknesses.
We usually see these wild gourd plants climbing up trees with the gourds hanging down like Christmas ornaments Here they nestled into the basalt.
After unsuccessfully prospecting up wash, we headed down wash with better luck. It WAS a beautiful day!
We started finding botryoidal and sort of concentric, layered masses of what I would call translucent chalcedony. Some of the chalcedony has a more white phase that looks a lot like common opal. I'm calling it opal. This is a nice "flower" shaped formation of the chalcedony that Jinette found.
This is how the chalcedony/opal seems to occur. In vesicles and open seams in basalt. Odd how some of the chalcedony/opal is fluorescent and other parts not?!
Here is an interesting piece composed of botryoidal chalcedony and what I call opal, plus quartz crystals. The opal and chalcedony is fluorescent and the crystals are not.
Another example of the peculiar, sort of, flowing botryoidal chalcedony. This one doesn't seem to have the often associated opal.
This one has a larger area of the white botryoidal material that appears like common opal and, generally, fluoresces a brighter green than the chalcedony.
Interesting rock formation that sort of looks like a volcanic "neck", the core of an ancient volcano. Could it be?
Other interesting rock formations close by the collecting site.
The Morenci open pit mine was a shrrt drive from the Safford collecting area so over we went to have a look. We could not collect but just wanted to have a look at the huge, world-famous mining operation.
It is one heck of a big hole! You can see how they are dumping waste rock back into the pit at this end.
They move a lot of rock in this operation; 115,000 tons per day of ore plus waste! Here is a line-up of 200 ton trucks dumping waste (I think) rock.There HAS to be some interesting minerals somewhere in all that rock and waste!?
There is an area of the Dragoon Mountains where the granite has weathered in a peculiar way, causing formations of granite boulders that, often, appear to have been piled up on purpose!
I could do a whole photo-essay on these rocks alone! This was the last stop on what was a very full day.