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This is the "Ugly's First Rock Hunting Trip" Page

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Ugly Otter's First Rock Hunting Trip

 Once upon a time, long, long, ago (that's how the stories usually start out) the Ugly Otter first became interested in jewelry and the stones from which jewels are made. It all started when the Otter was about 23 years old, and took his family on their first real vacation.  We were living at the time in Tulsa, OK, and we went to California to see the sights.  While there, I gathered some beach pebbles, and was immediately hooked on being a rockhound.  After our return to Tulsa, I joined a rockhound club, and that led to a lifelong interest in rocks, gems, and minerals.

A year or so later,  we had a long weekend coming up during Memorial Day.   I talked my brother-in-law into going with me to New Mexico on a quick rock hunting trip.  We bought books, studied maps, and really tried to do our homework on where to go to find some nice polishable stones once we drove to New Mexico.  We finally narrowed our destination down to a place in the Jemez Mountains where high grade obsidian was reported to be, and it was in small roundish shapes called "Apache Tears".  Some of the rockhound club members there in Tulsa had heard of this location, but had never been able to find it.  We decided we would try.

The directions in one of the books we had bought said that these Apache Tears were located on National Forest Land, but you had to go through the Cochiti Indian Pueblo and Reservation to get to the place.  So off we went.  We had a big, old, straight-eight Buick, not well suited for off road travel, but we were headed for the Jemez Mountains full of hope and high expectations anyway.  After all, we were young and knew everything.

The instructions told us to go through the Cochiti Indian Pueblo, take a dirt road past some "tent rocks", continue on this dirt road to a place called "Bear Springs".  The Apache Tears were supposed to be near this place, which was described as an abandoned Ranger Station.  Well, we did.  We went through the Cochiti Indian Pueblo.  We found, and followed, the dirt road going to the tent rocks.  We stopped at the tent rocks and looked for Apache Tears (which was another place where our book has said they could be found).  After two or three hours of hunting, we found three or four about the size of a pea.  We decided to move on up the road.  In about a mile or so, we came to a cattleguard and gate with a sign saying "No Trespassing".  We looked at each other and wondered if we would be in trouble to continue along the "road" or not.  We did not know if we were on Indian land,  private land, or National Forest land.  We had come so far to turn back now, so we decided to proceed anyway - - - - - take our chances. 

We drove another hour on this dirt (rough rock) road getting higher and higher into the mountains, wondering all the while if that old straight-eight Buick would ever get us back to civilization or not.  We were getting worried, I can tell you this.  Anyway, as a break from that rough road, and to calm our nerves and fears, we decided to just park and look right there, since our book directions were pretty vague anyway.

We parked.  We both wandered down the side of a bare mountain maybe 200 or 300 yards down from where the car was parked and started to scour the ground for Apache Tears.  We staggered around there for maybe 30 minutes or so (not finding anything) when we heard a terrible noise coming toward us!  Over the rise came about 15 or 20 Indians, on horses, at full gallop right toward us!  They rode right up to us, stopped in a cloud of dust, the horses rearing up and the Indians not looking happy at all.  They glared at us - we grinned back.

One of them came forward and asked, "White man, what are you doing here?"  I told him we were looking for Apache Tears.  He looked at us like we were nuts, and shaking his head, said, "What are Apache Tears?"  I thought we were really in trouble, especially remembering that "No Trespassing" sign we had driven past.  I pulled out the two or three small ones we had found at the Tent Rocks from my pocket and showed him.  He said "Ah, black rocks?"  We shook our heads "Yes".  He pointed in a northwesterly direction and said "Black rocks that way".   The Indians rode off.   We found out later they were Cochiti Indians.  We assumed we had his permission so we breathed a sigh of relief, went back to the car and took off in the direction he had pointed - which was further up in the mountains.  We did not know if he meant 500 feet or 10 miles!  

We drove and parked and hunted many times that day, never finding any more Apache Tears.  We did, however, cross the Jemez Mountains in that old Buick, owing much to good luck as anything.  That road would test a good Jeep.  That night we ended up in a National Forest campground (named Ponderosa) on the far side of the mountain.  In that campground we met a young Jemez Indian who had good English and we told him our story of the day.  He laughed and laughed at us.  He told us that "No Trespassing" sign we were so worried about meant "Do not graze your cattle on this Indian land".

It just goes to show that our conscience about got us.  We never went through a "No Trespassing" sign again without permission.  We did, on later trips, finally locate the Apache Tear deposit.  We visited it many times after that, and collected excellent specimens, some of which the Otter still has.  About 20 years after our last visit there, a new survey of the area proved that the deposit was in reality on the Jemez Indian Reservation, not National Forest land, and we have never gone back to it.

The Jemez Indians have since put up a sign near the deposit saying "No Trespassing".  We don't know if this means "Don't Graze Your Cattle Here" or "Don't Dig the Tears".  We never found out.    

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Want to read a true "Wolf" story?
Want to read a true "Thief" story?
No One's Here, We're Gone
Ugly's First Rock Hunting Trip
Trip to a Reservation
"The Great California Show"
A Rough Trip Home!
Bear? What Bear?
A True Story of Lies
Where in the World Are
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Our "NO QUIBBLE GUARANTEE" protects you.  No hassles, guilt trips, silly questionnaires, and absolutely no BS! If you do not like any merchandise purchased from us, for any reason,  return it, undamaged,  within 20 days, for a full refund  (this is a refund, not a "Store Credit") of your purchase price  NO QUESTIONS ASKED - YOU ARE THE FINAL JUDGE.  No, you don't need to call us and ask for permission.  Just send it back.  No hassle!