The last field trip of the summer was held from August 31 until September 3 in the Port McNeill area. Led by Doug Murray there were 10 members and one guest attending when we all convened. We began gathering at Port McNeill on Thursday, August 30 in the Broughton Strait Regional Camp Grounds. Tenting sites were in a flat shaded area on the upper level of the campgrounds. More than a few geese had been tending to the tender grass shoots before our arrival. There were 4 tents and one trailer in our group. The other 4 members were staying at the resort in Telegraph Cove. There was a lot of good camaraderie among the campers and we enjoyed our beverages and games of Mexican Train Dominoes each evening. We shared a pot-luck dinner on Friday; spaghetti and meat sauce, Chilliwack corn, salads, smoked salmon, and finger foods galore! Then the club hosted a B-B-Q on Saturday; burgers, hotdogs, more corn and salads were enjoyed by all in attendance. The trip planned for Friday was to the Merry Widow mine site.

The Merry Widow mine site, for those of you who haven’t been, is a treasure trove of minerals. But first you have to get there! The 45 minute drive to the bottom of the mine road is easy enough but once you begin the actual ascent up the mountain it becomes apparent that 4 wheel drive and good clearance makes this portion much more manageable. There are some breath-taking views along the route looking south and west along the valley. The logging activity is evident but so too are the small pristine lakes along the valley bottom.

The weather on this trip was perfect; dry and warm but not too warm. The Mosquitoes and flies were at a minimum and walking from landing site to landing site would not become overly exerting. Wildlife was evident in the tracks left by the deer and the scats left by the bears. Jays and smaller song birds flitted among the foliage busy collecting seeds and insects.

Our advance scouts, Fay and Richard Thompson, having gone up on a trip a week earlier, advised us that a large quantity of boronite was recently freed at one of the landings and there were some very spectacular pieces lying about. This was our first destination upon reaching the top of the mountain. They had not underestimated the quality or quantity of the rock and we set about picking up pieces. Our main interest was in small bits for the grand kids and we left the larger chunks for another day. The same area is festooned with garnet of crystal and grossularite varieties as well as good samples of calcite, magnetite and copper. We strolled to the upper sites and collected specimens of a variety of minerals. One lucky hound uncovered a nice quartz crystal measuring an inch long under one of the rocks she was examining.  Good find, Linda!

There are several nice spots to explore in the area. The “pit” which is filled with water and must have a bottom although just how far down that is we can only guess at. The roadway to the pit is lined and constructed on some very nice breccia; pale green and off-white coloured patterns. The walls of the pit house crystals that take a bit of work and some long arms to extract. Off to the left of this there are 3 more diggings with their accompanying tailings piles. These are worth exploring. Keep your eyes open for quartz crystals! Another terrific find was made of a quartz crystal that is golf ball sized. This specimen has epidotic crystals and a nice green coloration along the base. We were all envious of this find, Janet!

            After we had spent our energy we stopped for lunch and to share what we had unearthed. The folks enjoyed all of the banter and friendly conversation. We broke up for a few more hours of leisurely exploration before heading down the road towards the limestone eroded rocks that can be found towards the bottom of the mountain in the stream/ditch that runs on the left hand side of the roadway. It is odd to me that the marble of this area is overlooked as it proved to be as good if not better than the offerings along the Bonanza Lake sites. Before we exited the mine road many wonderful “art” rocks had been collected. Doug Murray got the most interesting piece of eroded limestone for his collection.

            We were joined by club member Lorne Anderson from Port Hardy at supper that evening. He had lots of information and general news to share with us. He let us know about the Georgie Lake area and the spot along the Keogh Main where we could go to climb up the rock faces for crystals. As well he advised us on a location along the railway between Woss and Port McNeill that might have flower stone. It was great reconnecting with Lorne. He has promised to bring his highly unique collection of epidote crystals to one of our shows which would be an eye-opener I’m told. One of the DeBeers (of diamond fame) has seen his collection and could not believe his eyes. I can hardly wait! For anyone heading up to Port Hardy, Lorne’s wife Betty runs a B and B and staying there would afford you the opportunity of seeing all of Lorne’s collection and getting some firsthand information on collecting sites. The planned trip for Saturday was up to Georgie Lake for some Gordonite and epidote.

            Another lovely day greeted us for the trip over to Georgie Lake and we awoke to find Shane Mawhinney and his daughter, Zia had arrived sometime after dark. A very nice surprise! That made the number of attendants a baker’s dozen (13). Nothing special to note about the trip in as the roads were all in good condition and logging had ceased for the long week end. The actual quarry at the end of Georgie Lake is quite depleted and we were able to get only a few small samples from along the roadside. The lakeside section of the road is loaded with Gordonite but the underbrush has overtaken the area and travelling down the steep hillside is very difficult. Shane Mawhinney did manage to get down to the lakeshore and found a very nice “chicken” mushroom that he fried up and had with our BBQ supper. Several members took the opportunity to walk up the logging road just past the quarry to explore. We found loads of epidote and some that might make very good cabs. A few pieces of rock had trace amounts of Gordonite but nothing of any substance was collected. I gathered up a few rocks that looked to have a layer of copper over them. It will be interesting to see what the interior is like. I hope to bring samples of these rocks to the first meeting in September. We all returned home early that day to rest and relax in the campsite.  The BBQ dinner went well and everyone enjoyed the offerings and the friendly environment around Linda’s campfire. Sunday’s trip was to the Bonanza marble, Atluck Lake epidote and flower stone sites.


            Sunday’s weather wasn’t as spectacular as the previous 2 day’s but our spirits were upbeat as we headed over to Telegraph Cove area destined for the marble site along Bonanza Lake. I was mainly interested in seeing this site as I’d heard many people talk about it and was curious. I’m not big on marble as carving is a skill I’m not yet attempting. After a few false starts and a lot of consulting with the road maps we headed out from Telegraph Cove via the Kokish Main. Not far up the road we encountered the construction of a hydroelectric project. We gingerly traversed the site for many kilometers. When we arrived at the actual dam site, located within a kilometer of Ida Lake I spotted some very lovely Gordonite. There was so much here that I radioed to Doug my intention to stop and collect some samples. I was soon joined by several other vehicles as club members heard of the find. We collected as much as we could use before heading off. As this location will soon be covered by the construction it might be worthwhile to take a trip back for those who’d care to. We then got a good look at the wilderness campsite at the north end of Ida Lake before heading up the road to the Bonanza site.

            Our members from Port Alberni had preceded us to the site and were busy exploring the area. I found it quite interesting looking at the signs of rock harvesting that scarred the marble outcropping. I even picked up a large wooden wedge as a memento. The marble was easier to collect along the roadside so we headed in that direction. Several members explored the water eroded cave formation just a few hundred metres north of the marble quarry. It is quite a marvel.

After lunch by the roadside we headed out to Atluck Lake via the Steele Creek main. The road is in fairly good condition but trees are beginning to grow in from the sides. The end of this road actually uses a section of the railroad track to finish off at highway 19 right across from the Zeballos turn off north of Woss. It’s a good road over to Atluck Lake and the collecting site is just a short ways past the main camping area. We poked about for a while before gathering at the lake. This is a lovely spot for a camp as there are good open spaces and the lake itself is very pretty. Worth a trip back for sure. The collecting materials are pretty scarce at this spot but some crystals were found. Our final stop before getting back to camp was along the railroad track a few kilometers back towards Port McNeill. The spot was reported to have flower stone but it turned out that rice rock was the only thing we could locate.

  Atluck Lake

Monday would be the last outing for our group as several members were heading home either today or early the next. We decided to make another trip to the Merry Widow to show Shane its location and to collect some of the chalcopyrite that had been uncovered. It was a great way to end the long week end. There wasn’t as much as we’d remembered but we were all able to collect enough to satisfy our needs.

All in all it was a very worthwhile outing and we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Thanks for organizing and leading us on these adventures Doug. Super job!

More pictures

  Merry Widow

  Merry Widow

  On the way to Merry Widow

  Merry Widow

  Merry Widow

  Cave at Merry Widow

  Merry Widow

  Merry Widow

  Merry Widow

  Merry Widow

  Merry Widow looking east

  Georgie Lake treasure

  Young Rockhounders at Georgie Lake

  Beaver Cove

  Marble Quarry at Bonanza Lake

  Bonanza Lake

  Bonanza Lake Marble Quarry

  Rocks from Merry Widow

Written by Gord Burkholder

Pictures by Jan Burkholder