Rocks in a Hard Place


Last fall, my parents and I drove up to the Thompson region of BC, between Cache Creek and Kamloops, to spend some time rockhounding, a dormant hobby of mine reinvigorated by the need to find a new outdoor pastime during the pandemic. Armed with a copy of Rick Hudson’s A Field Guide to Gold, Gemstone & Mineral Sites of British Columbia, Volume Two: Sites within a Day’s Drive of Vancouver (Harbour Publishing) and flush with success of the day previous, sifting quartz nodules and eye agate from a slide near Kamloops, we turned off the Trans Canada to look for a site containing moss agate. We soon realized the pitfalls of being guided by a book first published before the millennium, as Back Valley Road had been repaved and the number of bridges we were told to anticipate (five; “park at the fifth road bridge”) had since been reduced to just one. We squinted between the map in the book and our GPS, and approximated where to pull off. We forded Cache Creek and clambered up to the service road on the other side, which was scrubby with sagebrush and loud with crickets. As we walked, we tried to match the directions in the book to our surroundings. We turned up the likeliest valley, passing a herd of loose cows, but could not find the “somewhat hidden rock slide” that was supposed to house the agate. Nervous about being up the wrong valley, we turned back, happy with the adventure even if we didn’t have any spoils to show for it. I’ve since used Hudson’s book many times to scope out the types of rocks available in the areas I’m travelling to in southern BC (although now always cross-referenced with more recent sources, including Roadside Geology of Southern British Columbia by Bill Mathews and Jim Monger). Besides detailing hundreds of known mineral locations using maps, directions, GPS coordinates and comments about the volcanic history of the location, Hudson provides essential information on getting started as a rockhound, including what to wear and bring, land access rights, safety tips, how to stake a claim, rockhounding ethics and an identification guide on the rocks you might find. There’s also, charmingly, from my perspective in 222, a step-by-step guide to accessing mineral maps on the internet. Despite being out-of-date on some details—to be expected in a book describing the physical geography of wilderness—I carry Hudson’s book with me on every rock-hunting trip.

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Kelsea O’Connor is contributing editor to Geist. She lives in New Westminster.


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