Local Rockhound Featured in National Magazine

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.

So Just What Exactly is a Rockhunt?

This is the second in a set of press releases I wrote to send to local papers in conjunction with the story on me that was published in the September 2015 Rock & Gem Magazine.

If you go rockhunting with Teri Smith, a rockhunt is a day when you go to a private ranch, accompanied by Teri, to find agate and other collectible rocks to take home with you.

Before you begin your rockhunt, you’ll want to have your vehicle ready for rough roads, dress for a desert adventure, and assemble lunch, drinking water, and simple rockhunting equipment for your group. While you can get to some of the collecting areas in a passenger car, high clearance is needed for most sites, and a 4wd vehicle is ideal.

First thing in the morning, you will meet with Teri and the other rockhunters who are going on the trip with you in the lobby of the Antelope Lodge, 2310 W. Highway 90, Alpine. Teri will have
you fill out some paperwork and collect the landowner’s fee for the rockhunt. She will then tell you the rules for the ranch you’ll be going to, tell you about what types of collectible rocks can be found there, and perhaps take you to her museum to show her examples of what she has found on that ranch on past rockhunts.

You’ll also join the Rollin’ Rock Club, a national group of rockhounds that sponsor Teri’s field trips. The Rollin’ Rock Club is a member of the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies, and participants in Teri’s rockhunts follow the AFMS rockhunting guidelines.

Teri will explain the route you’ll all take to get to the ranch, and you’ll follow Teri in your own vehicle to get there. Driving times vary from 10 minutes to more than two hours.

Once you arrive at the collecting site, Teri will give you some instructions, advise you of hazards in the area, and show you samples of the agate and other collectible rocks found there. You’ll make arrangements to get back together at some time later in the day, and head off in on your own to hunt for the agate.

If you’re new to agate hunting, you can remain with Teri after the others have dispersed, and she’ll give you hints on what to look for in order to find agate among the other rocks on the ground. In almost all cases, agate will be on the ground or partly covered, and digging is generally not required. Teri will make arrangements to meet with you again in a short time to critique what you’ve found. Then you’ll be off collecting on your own, and meet back with the others at the end of the day.

At the end of the collecting day, you’ll all meet back at the vehicles and compare finds for a while, then Teri will lead the group back out to the paved road. From there, you can follow her back to Alpine, stop along the way to photograph the sunset, or head to another one of the nearby towns for dinner.

Fall 2015 Big Bend Agate Roundup

This is the third in a series of press releases I wrote to send to local papers along with the September 2015 Rock & Gem magazine.  This information has been published in other blog posts here, but I’ve included it again because it was part of the press kit.

The Big Bend Agate Roundup is a semi-annual event which brings rockhounds from all over the country for two weeks of rockhunting on local ranches. These rockhunts are led by local rockhunting guide Teri Smith, and allow participants the chance to find many varieties of agate that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.

The October event this year consists of 15 straight days of rockhunts held on five ranches in Brewster and Presidio counties. All of the rockhunts begin in Alpine, in the lobby of the Antelope Lodge, where participants pay their fees and sign liability waivers before they caravan to the selected ranch.

The terrain on the ranches varies from almost flat to quite mountainous, providing locations perfect for people of different fitness levels. The Ritchie Ranch, which is close to Alpine, has rolling hills, and you can drive right to the locations where the agate can be found. The South Larremore Ranch is also quite flat, but more walking is required. For both the Walker and Singleton Ranches, there are locations where you can park right by the agate beds, as well as more remote agate locations that require walking and some hill climbing. At East Needle Peak, you need to be prepared to walk and climb to get to the locations where you can find agate and fossils.

The last Agate Roundup, held in April, 2015, brought over 60 rockhounds to the Big Bend from all parts of Texas and other states as far away as Oregon, Virginia, and Indiana. The schedule for this fall’s event is posted on the website www.terismithrockhunts.com and listed here:

Monday, October 19: Ritchie Ranch. Start time 11:00 a.m.
Tuesday October 20: South Larremore Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Wednesday, October 21: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Thursday, October 22: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Friday, October 23: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Saturday, October 24: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Sunday, October 25: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Monday, October 26: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Tuesday October 27: South Larremore Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Wednesday, October 28: East Needle Peak. Start time 6:00 a.m.
Thursday, October 29: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Friday, October 30: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Saturday, October 31: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Sunday, November 1: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Monday, November 2: South Larremore Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.

 

Rockhunts are Fun for Visitors, Profitable for Locals

This is the fourth in a series of press releases I wrote to send to local papers along with the September 2015 Rock & Gem magazine.

Rockhunts are a tourist attraction in the Big Bend that have not been well publicized in the past, says Teri Smith, local rockhunting guide. “In the past there were a couple of ranches that were open all the time for rockhunters, but not much beyond that. Now only the Stillwell Ranch open all the time, but I lead periodic field trips that allow rockhunters access to ranches that they would not be able to go to otherwise.”

Although the rockhunts occur in ranches in both Brewster and Presidio counties, all of them begin at the Antelope Lodge in Alpine. This makes it convenient for rockhounds to stay at motels and RV parks in Alpine.

The economic impact of rock hunting can be extrapolated from the number of rockhounds that go on Teri’s field trips each year. In 2014, 175 people came to Alpine to go rockhunting with Teri on local ranches. In addition to representing all parts of Texas, these rockhunters came from 15 states from coast to coast, and from Canada.

The average rockhunter went on 4 field trips, meaning they stayed at least 4 days in the Big Bend.

While most of these visitors came to the Big Bend specifically to go rockhunting, they also visited other tourist destinations, such as Big Bend National Park and Fort Davis National Monument, stayed in local motels, RV parks, and campgrounds, ate in local restaurants, and shopped at local stores.

Others came to the Big Bend for a vacation and decided to try rockhunting while they are here. One day of rockhunting can lead to a lifelong hobby, and many people who go on one of Teri’s trips make their next trip to the Big Bend just for rockhunting.

Rockhunts are scheduled regularly during the cooler months from October until May. Twice a year, Teri hosts the “Big Bend Agate Roundup”, which is two weeks of daily rockhunts. These concentrated rockhunting events are popular enough that more than 30 people have signed up for a specific field trip.

Big Bend Agate Roundup Scheduled for October 19 – November 2, 2015

Hi Y’all! I’ve finally gotten a calendar together for all the Walker Ranch hunts in October, and the hunts to the Ritchie Ranch, South Larremore Ranch, the Singleton Ranch and East Needle Peak that go on around them. The schedule is below. Note that all of the field trips begin at the Antelope Lodge, 2310 W. Highway 90, Alpine.
I’ve decided that these events need a name, so I’m going to start calling them Big Bend Agate Roundups. These will be the two-week-long events that go on in April and October each year.
This Fall’s Agate Roundup begins on Monday, October 19, and runs for a total of 15 days straight. I will probably have some help this year in the form of Jean and Brian Larremore, who may do the South Larremore Ranch hunts without me if I get too tired.
There are no changes from last spring as far as cost goes. The price for the Walker Ranch is still the same: $75 per person per day, or $150 per person for 3 days. The fourth and fifth days are $37.50 each. The Singleton Ranch is $50 per person per day, East Needle Peak is $40 per person per day, and the Ritchie Ranch is $10 per person per day plus $1 per lb. of agate you take. The cost of the South Larremore Ranch varies depending upon who is leading the trip: If I am, it’s $40 per person per day, and if one of the Larremores leads the trip, it’s $50 per person per day.
Also, remember that Rollin’ Rock Club membership is required for all of my rockhunts, and it costs $10 single/$16 dual. If you haven’t joined yet this year, your dues will pay for the rest of 2015 and for the 2016 calendar year.
I believe that Bryan Crumpton will offer the usual “pay in full and get an extra day free” deal for the Walker Ranch hunt, but I haven’t gotten the details for that yet. I will verify that before I ask you to send me any money for the Walker Ranch hunt.
Monday, October 19: Ritchie Ranch. Start time 11:00 a.m.
Tuesday October 20: South Larremore Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Wednesday, October 21: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Thursday, October 22: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Friday, October 23: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Saturday, October 24: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Sunday, October 25: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Monday, October 26: Walker Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Tuesday October 27: South Larremore Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Wednesday, October 28: East Needle Peak. Start time 6:00 a.m.
Thursday, October 29: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Friday, October 30: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Saturday, October 31: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Sunday, November 1: Singleton Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
Monday, November 2: South Larremore Ranch. Start time 8:00 a.m.
I’ll send another email today concerning the schedule of Singleton Ranch, East Needle Peak and South Larremore Ranch hunts this Fall.
Please let me know by return email which rockhunts you’d like to attend, so I can start putting together a sign-up list.
Regards,
Teri

October Rockhunting Field Trip Report/Singleton Ranch Schedule

The field trips of October 2014 are over, and I’m enjoying sleeping in for a few days. The fieldtrips were extremely successful, with a total of 82 rockhounds going on 19 field trips at the Singleton Ranch, the Walker Ranch, and East Needle Peak. The weather varied from hot to cool to rainy, and all the rain we’d had in the summer moved the soil around enough that lots of agate nodules were poking up from the ground, waiting to be found. There were lots of wonderful agates found at each ranch. Labradorite was plentiful at the Walker Ranch, especially around a little spot that Ed Tindell has named “Labradorite Hill”. Animals spotted included mule deer, pronghorn antelope, javalina, jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, foxes, lots of horned lizards in a variety of colors, a Western box turtle and a Texas Banded Gecko. The wildflowers were blooming out of season, and there were butterflies everywhere, along with lots of grasshoppers. There were a couple of rattlesnake sightings, but one of those really doesn’t count, because Robert Redmond photographs snakes and went looking for them. Lisa Tirey Butler photographed the Milky Way from the Walker Ranch, and the photos are spectacular. If any of y’all have photos you wish to share, email them to me at agatehunter@sbcglobal.net. I’ll put as many up on my website as I can! Some of y’all had been here many times. Others were new to these field trips. We had kids as young as 12 and as old as – me. Besides coming from all parts of Texas, rockhounds came from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Oklahoma. And remember that the season’s just starting! There are hunts at the Singleton Ranch scheduled on the second and fourth weekends of each month from now until next May. Here’s a schedule for those hunts: November 6 – 9 (yes, this week!) November 20 – 23 December 11 – 14 (tentative, because it’s deer season, and hunters with guns have priority) December 25 – 28 (‘ll hunt on Christmas Day if anyone wants to go!) January 8 – 11 January 22 – 25 February 12 – 15 February 26 – March 1 March 12 – 15 March 26 – 29 April 9 – 12 (before the Gem Show and the Walker Ranch hunts) April 23 – 25 (after the Gem Show and the Walker Ranch hunts) May 7 – 10 May 21 – 24 Just let me know when you want to go! For those who have kids who would like a rockhunt that doesn’t last a full day, the Ritchie Ranch will be available for hunts during Thanksgiving week, Christmas Vacation and Spring break. The ranch is ideal for kids and beginners. Contact me for details. The Spring Walker Ranch hunt is tentatively scheduled for April 19 – 23, which should be concurrent with the Alpine Agate Festival, which hasn’t posted its dates yet. I’ll let you know when the dates are finalized for that hunt. And East Needle Peak, the Singleton Ranch, and the Ritchie Ranch are also available on a “need to go” basis. Let me know the dates when you’ll be out here, and I’ll set the field trips up just for you! See you soon! Teri