Thursday, November 05, 2015

Michigan: Rocks

On our road trip to the Upper Peninsula one of our main goals was to find some great Lake Superior rocks. Lake Superior beaches are famous for their awesome rocks, the ultimate prize being a Lake Superior agate. Before we traveled to Michigan I purchased a couple of rock guides and a CD (!) on how to find agates on Lake Superior. The trick is to train your eye to overlook all the distracting, pretty rocks and focus on finding an agate in the rough. In the rough an agate can be quite ugly, but when cut open it can be incredibly beautiful.

Bentley was very focused on finding agates and he did find a few. He did not allow himself to be distracted by many other rocks. Although he is the most avid rock hound in the family, he collected the smallest number of rocks on our trip. Viva if left unsupervised will bring home the entire beach to examine at a later time. Jake sometimes collects, sometimes not. Mark collected a surprising number of rocks. I was very distracted by pretty rocks and at the Gratiot River mouth I picked up two gallon sized bags of gorgeous rocks. Fortunately I was more discerning at the other beaches we visited.

While Lake Superior is famous for its rocks, the Keweenaw Peninsula is famous for its minerals. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan contains more than 150 collectible rocks and minerals. The Keweenaw Peninsula is the richest area being the site of the first copper boom in the United States. There are dozens of mine tailing piles left from the days when the mines were active. We only explored one such site. We looked for a second site, but we didn’t find it. If we stayed on the peninsula for two weeks, we would not run out of great places to hunt rocks. (We want to go back!)

In the late afternoon of our second (and last) day on the Keweenaw Peninsula we stopped in at the A. E. Seaman Museum on Michigan Tech's campus to check out their world class collection of minerals. We arrived an hour and half before it closed, so we had limited time to examine the museum's incredible collection and only a few minutes to visit the gift store. Bentley wants to go back and spend a full day there. He was fascinated by the displays and wanted to read the tag on every mineral. 

In addition to hunting for rocks on beaches and in mine tailing piles, you can purchase treasures found by others at local rock stores. We visited three rocks stores and the museum gift store and made purchases at all of them. We kept our visits short and we asked for advice on where to hunt for rocks in the area. 

By the time we arrived back at East Tawas we had 75+ pounds of rocks. (That might sound like a lot to someone who doesn't collect rocks, but a true rock hound would find that amount ludicrously low.) We spent a pleasant Saturday afternoon culling through the rocks and donating some to Uroma's rock pile. Glen stopped by and helped us hammer open some of our finds to see if they were worth hauling home. None of my bag of maybe agates turned out to be agates.

In addition to finding room in our suitcases for the rocks we'd collected while in Michigan, I had to find room for the rocks I'd purchased online and had shipped to Michigan. We have been wanting a rock tumbler for months, but I couldn't find the model I wanted for sale on The best rock sites online did not offer great shipping deals to Alaska. The rock tumbler itself wasn't that heavy, but if you purchase some rough cut stones from around the world the weight of the package goes up (55 pound) along with the price. I saved $80 by shipping the box to Michigan and hauling it home to Alaska in our suitcases.

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