This is the first of five press releases I wrote to send to local newspapers about the article that was printed in Rock & Gem’s September 2015 issue about me and my rockhunts. It’s amazing to me that most locals haven’t even heard of rockhunting at all, let alone know what we rockhunters do. So I decided to try to get the word out…
Local rockhound Teri Smith leads agate hunting field trips on ranches in Brewster and Presidio counties. This activity has brought her some measure of renown in rockhunting circles, and led to a feature article on her and her rockhunts in the September 2015 issue of the national magazine Rock & Gem.
Teri, who with her husband John owns the Antelope Lodge in Alpine, has been leading field trips for over 15 years. Her trips are for children as young as 3 or 4 years old up through mature adults who rockhunt from lawn chairs while seated in the shade.
Texas is a wonderful state for rockhunts, says Teri, because it’s all private land. “In the states west of us, where much of the land is Federal property, there are few collectible rocks left on the surface in many areas. In Texas, however, you can only go rockhunting with the permission of the landowner, and there’s often agate all over the ground at rockhunting sites.”
Texas’ Big Bend is known around the world as an agate collecting location. Some local agate can produce cabochons (domed, polished stones used in jewelry) that are incredibly beautiful. Other pieces make great display specimens just as they are.
Teri’s field trips bring in people from all over Texas and the rest of the United States. People regularly drive or fly in from both coasts to go on her trips. Rockhunts cost between about $20 and $75 per person per day, depending upon the site selected. The fee includes both the entrance to the area and the agate hunters choose to take home. All the fees go directly to the landowner. Teri’s compensation for leading the field trips is to be out on the ranch and collect agate without a charge.
Rockhunting season begins in October and continues through the cooler months until May. Teri runs special rockhunts for kids during school holidays. Twice a year, in October and April, she hosts large groups of rockhunters for what she calls “Big Bend Agate Roundups”. These roundups feature trips to five different ranches, including one that is only open during those times.
If you haven’t been on a rockhunt before, Teri will help you understand what the collectible rocks look like and where to find them. She’ll direct you to areas where the agate is known to be, and help you sort through what you’ve found so you can learn which agate pieces will work for your desired purpose, whether it’s to make jewelry, or to collect specimens or “garden rocks”.
If you’re interested in attending a rockhunt, in hosting rockhunts on your ranch, or just want to see what agate from the Big Bend looks like, you can look at Teri’s website at www.terismithrockhunts.com for more information, or visit her museum in the lobby of the Antelope Lodge, 2310 W. Highway 90, Alpine.