The Big Bend is a wonderful, wild area. It is in the Chihuahuan Desert, and the climate is warm and dry. We do get freezing temperatures in the winter, occasionally accompanied by snow. I lead field trips only in the cooler months of the year, from approximately October 1 to May 31, with a break from Thanksgiving until about December 10 for deer hunting season. I don’t lead field trips in the summer because the combination of high altitude, high temperature, and low humidity can lead to heat exhaustion and other problems.
What you Need to Have With You:
To hunt rocks, you need only the simplest of tools, and a carload of common sense:
- Remember to wear a hat, and clothes that protect you from the sun and from cactus and other vegetation.
- The terrain is rough, so good boots or shoes are essential.
- Always wear sunscreen, even on cool days.
- Bring lots of water or juice to drink and healthy food for snacking. Drink about twice as much water as you think you need. Avoid alcohol.
- You’ll need a bag or bucket to carry your finds in. I like the canvas bags that we used to get at conventions and conferences. They can be purchased inexpensively at garage sales and thrift stores. When the bag is full, go back to your car and empty it into a bucket or box. Then you can fill it up again, and you’re not carrying lots of extra rocks.
- Protect your hands with work gloves.
- A spray bottle filled with water is nice to have because it allows you to wash the dirt off of your rocks before you carry them all the way back home. A toothbrush, or a denture brush (which is bigger) will also help clean off your finds.
- Although you may not use it, take a digging tool or two, which can be as simple as a screwdriver, a stainless steel dinner knife, or a rock hammer, or as fancy as a specially made rock scoop, which looks like an aluminum golf club with gravy ladle at end of it and also serves as a walking stick.
- You’ll need a well-maintained vehicle. Make sure you have a full tank of gas. Extra keys are a good idea, too.
- Have a first-aid kit. The most likely injuries are scrapes and scratches; cactus thorns or splinters; and insect bites or stings.
- Construction flagging tape in a bright color (preferably NOT green or yellow) can help you find where you left your bag full of rocks, the special rock you need tools to dig out, or your car.
Hints for making your life easy:
- Paint your rockhunting tools with a day-glow orange or pink paint, so you can see them easily if you put them down. Or tie a bright ribbon or a piece of flagging tape to them.
- If it’s windy, and your hat has a chin strap, use a carabineer to attach your hat to your clothing (such as through a buttonhole) so you don’t have to chase it if it comes off.
- If you want some ventilation in your car when you are away from it, leave the back windows open just a bit. We occasionally get surprise thunderstorms here, and if you leave the front windows open you’re liable to have to sit on a wet seat!
- Little ziplock bags are great for keeping special specimens undamaged, or putting all the pieces that go together in one place. You can get them at any hobby store or Wal-Mart.
- On warm days, avoid wearing brightly colored clothing unless you don’t mind the bees checking your out to see if you’re a large flower.
- If you need a knee pad while you’re out in the field, use an empty plastic water bottle partially filled with air and capped off. It works well, and it’s something you probably have with you.
- To avoid snakes, walk slowly and heavily. If you have a stick, bang it on the ground. Never put your hands or feet where you can’t see. Avoid going through brush when you can go around it.
Rockhunting Rules ( The AFMS Code of Ethics)
The following code of ethics is used by the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies to govern conduct on field trips. Everyone on a rockhunting field trip should follow this code, whether you belong to an AFMS-affiliated club or not. Note that this version of the code of ethics has been modified to remove items that do not apply to rockhunting on private landn in the Big Bend of Texas.
I will respect both private and public property and will do no collecting on privately owned land without permission of the owner.
I will keep informed on all laws, regulations, and rules governing collecting on private lands and will observe them.
I will, to the best of my ability, ascertain the boundary lines of property on which I plan to collect.
I will use no firearms or blasting materials in collecting areas.
I will cause no willful damage to property of any kind, such as fences, signs, buildings, etc.
I will leave all gates as found.
I will discard no burning materials – matches, cigarettes, etc.
I will fill all excavation holes which may be dangerous to livestock.
I will not contaminate wells, creeks, or other water supplies.
I will cause no willful damage to collecting material and will take home only what I can reasonably use.
I will practice conservation and undertake to utilize fully and well the materials I have collected and will recycle my surplus for the pleasure and benefit of others.
I will support the Rockhound Project H.E.L.P. (Help Eliminate Litter Please) and will leave all collecting areas devoid of litter, regardless of how found.
I will cooperate with Field Trip Leaders and those in designated authority in all collecting areas.
I will observe the “Golden Rule”, will use good outdoor manners and will at all times conduct myself in a manner which will add to the stature and public image of rockhounds everywhere.