Like any other hobby or sport, there are some precautions to be kept in mind and this holds true for rock hounding as well. It sounds like an easy enough hobby – wear a hat, take a hammer and start looking; but it is not that simple and you would be really foolish if you went rock hounding minus preparation and precautions.
Rockhounding is a term used to describe people who like to collect rocks and mineral samples directly from their natural environment as a hobby. There is enormous satisfaction in digging through miniature tracts of mountain land and sift through all the rocks and stones and mud to come up with something of value. People have found gemstones and beautiful specimens which have led them to pick up lapidary as a hobby along with rock hounding.
But as with any other hobby or sport, there are some precautions to be kept in mind and this holds true for rock hounding as well. It sounds like an easy enough hobby – wear a hat, take a hammer and start looking; but it is not that simple and you would be really foolish if you went rock hounding minus preparation and precautions.
Well, the first thing you need is a hammer. No! Not your regular nail hammer, but a heavy duty rock hammer. This is slightly different in construction from a regular hammer as in it has a flat head on one end and a pick like point on the other. The pick end is to pry stuck bits and pieces of rock but don’t use it to break big rocks or it will go blunt, the flat head is what you use to hammer the rocks in to more manageable sizes.
Your collection will start with that first pretty rock you accidentally stumbled upon and from then on you’re on a roll. Find local clubs and groups that go rock hounding and join up with them for fun friends and information. Look up the internet, visit libraries, read all you can get on rock hounding. Learn all there is about petrology i.e. study of rocks and their formation, mineralogy and even geology. Learn about recognition and identification of rocks and minerals – there is really no point in being able to spout geological facts and figures if you cannot identify the rock you see.
Things to know
Once you decide on the area you are going to dig at, do some research about it, the climate, the wildlife and what you can expect. You don’t want to be caught on the wrong foot.
Read up on properties of minerals like its crystal shape, hardness factor, color etc and other rock related information, you never know when you may be holding what looks like just another ordinary rock but is actually a ruby.
It’s very important to know your colors because there are minerals like quartz which come in a variety of colors and you don’t want to throw away that purple colored rock thinking its just plain old rock now, do you?
There are some basic safety precautions that you need to keep in mind too. The first is to remember not to undercut any kind of embankment. There is danger of it collapsing and you may get hurt. Don’t carry any more than is really necessary or better still use a leverage bar. Remember to wear safety goggles while hammering rocks. There are little pieces flying everywhere and you don’t want your eyes to catch one of them. Gloves are very important. Your hands will not thank you for the cuts, bruises, blisters and calluses you pick up while rock hounding. Find some which fit well and give you a firm grip. Then find yourself a nice good hard hat. Rocks have this nasty habit of falling off when you least expect it.
Even if you are out for just a day carry loads of drinking water. You can never get enough of water and any going spare will help you clean up a bit once you’re done for the day. Bug sprays, anti insect creams – keep the whole lot with you. Out there it is the wild and there are sure to be insects you have never even heard of. Take the right precautions and you can come back rock hounding the next day. Another very important item is sunscreen. The sun out in the open is strong beating down relentlessly. Make sure you get the highest SPF factor suited to your skin type.
While you are digging around, keep a sharp eye for scorpions and spiders and other insects that hide in rocks and mud. An inadvertent bite could make you very sick or even prove fatal. This is particularly true if you are out digging in far-flung remote areas where medical aid is not easily accessed. Look out for yellow jackets and wasps. If you see a bee hive or hornet’s nest keep clear, but don’t throw rocks at it. You don’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest. Yellow jackets can be observed to see where they go so you can avoid that area. Imagine picking up a rock and finding a few thousand really angry yellow jackets in your face. Ouch!
Rattlesnakes love their rocks and nooks and crannies so if you hear rattlers, respect it and steer clear of its territory. You can always come back later if possible. They are night creatures so wearing proper laced up boots and jeans is a must and keep your tent zipped close. Catching a rattle snake is not a good idea, you will definitely get bitten.
Rattlesnakes can rise almost 4 to 5 feet up to hunt birds especially in tall growth of brush or sage bushes, so be very very alert. Yet another handy hint about the rattlers is that they swim, so watch out especially if you have a passenger on board your boat.
With all this information on insects and snakes and what-have-you, it’s easy to understand that a well stocked first-aid kit is very essential too. Especially important is to keep medication for allergies like bee stings, bug bites etc. read up about the plant growth so you can tell if there are potentially poisonous plants around especially if you want to squat. Get some first hand information on how to treat plant stings etc.