MAY 26, 2001 (DAY 1)
On Memorial day weekend I had the opportunity to return to Treasure Mountain Diamond Mine to dig for diamonds. It may sound odd, but I've been so busy with the business end of things at the mine that I haven't had the chance to do any collecting since 1999! Leaving home at 5:30 AM, I arrived at the mine at 8:15 and was glad to see my collecting partner Dick Holmes had already selected a spot to dig (that way if we didn't find anything I could tease him that it was his fault for picking a crummy spot). We started out in the usual fashion - clear all the dirt off the ledge, clean away the rubble left behind by previous diggers, and inspect the wall for pockets missed by previous diggers.
The mining area at Treasure Mountain Diamond Mine, looking west
Clearing the dirt and rocks off of a section of ledge
By 11:00 AM I hit our first pocket - right at the base of the wall, a cantaloupe-sized vug filled with calcite, dirt & sand, and some sparkling Herkimer diamonds. This inspired us to a frenzy of rock moving, and we soon had collected several more similar pockets in the immediate area of the first one. Although we found no scepters in these pockets we were finding nice diamonds up to 2½" of unusual clarity and with remarkably high luster.
These finds carried us through an afternoon short on pockets and long on sweat. The weather was cool and rainy, but our large tarp kept us relatively dry. At 6:00 PM Dick packed up and left for home (with all the crystals we had found) to celebrate his mother's 80th birthday on Sunday. I kept digging. No more than 5 minutes after Dick left I broke into a large pocket: 3 interconnected chambers on 3 levels. Each chamber was the size of a football. Once opened up enough to explore, this pocket filled a gallon zip-lock bag with crystals (I'll clean and sort them later to see if any go together into clusters). This was the last find of the day, and left me full of excitement for one more day of digging.
MAY 27, 2001 (DAY 2)
The second day (Sunday) of Memorial Day weekend dawned wet and rainy and I worked alone. Though I was stiff and sore from the previous day's efforts, I soon was warmed up as I commenced pounding away with the 12 pound and 20 pound sledges, driving in the wedges and chisels to move as much rock as possible. The tarp stretched overhead kept the rain at bay, and allowed me to keep working through the unpleasant stretches of weather. My initial plan of attack was to lift as large a section as possible off the top of the 3-foot high ledge. To accomplish this I drove in a series of thin steel wedges made of leaf springs. These created a hairline crack, then sent it shooting sideways and back. In an hour I had succeeded in separating a 4 foot long, 30" deep, 8" thick slab. I expected this would simply allow me to attack the rock directly underneath, where I hoped to hit some pockets.
Using leaf spring wedges to split ledge
A just-opened pocket full of crystals
Once I flipped the large slab off the top, I began to break it up simply to get it out of the way. To my amazement, every whack with a hammer sent crystals spilling out everywhere - the thing was loaded with tiny pockets, over 30 of them in all! Though there were no scepters in these upper level pockets, the joy of finding so many crystals kept my spirits high in the cool drizzle. I hit several more pockets in the afternoon at the lower level, but still no scepters to reward my efforts. At quitting time (8 PM) I resolved to return the following week to continue the dig. So, after covering my designated area with my tarp and securing all my tools, I loaded up my finds and prepared to make the 3-hour drive home. On the way out I made arrangements with the mine manager to maintain my claim then headed for home with my accumulation of crystals.
JUNE 1, 2001 (DAY 3)
<It was the Friday following Memorial Day before I was able to return to Treasure Mountain Diamond Mine to continue my dig. The 4-day layoff was just about perfect, as my body had recovered (well, almost) from the punishment of spending 10 hours a day swinging a sledgehammer and pounding steel wedges into hard rock. I arrived in Little Falls about 8:30 AM and by 9 was ready to start work. The day was sunny and clear, so I had no need of the tarp I had used to fend off the rain the previous weekend. My first project was to remove a large chunk of rock off the front of my area. There was a hairline crack running from the top (almost 4' high) to the base, so I had high hopes for hitting a pocket if I could move it. In the end it took almost 3 hours to split the rock off and work it down to the base. And this time the work was fruitless – there were only small pockets in the lowest section, and very little quartz.
A collection of the tools used to find Herkimer Diamonds
After lunch I attacked the upper section of the remaining knob, clearing off all the dirt and working away all the "easy" rock near the top. I had hoped to find another crack that would allow me to remove a large section, but this hope was in vain. About this time my 12 pound sledge hammer broke off, leaving a 6" stub of handle. That meant I was now down to my 8 pound short-handled sledge and "Big Bertha" (my 20 pounder). When I’m tired, that 20-pound sledge feels like it weighs 20 tons! Still, it did drive the wedges a lot faster, even if I can only swing it 8 or 10 times before I have to stop to catch my breath! Using Big Bertha I managed to lift another section of the upper layer, and discovered 2 very nice pockets, small but loaded with nice crystals. This buoyed my spirits and kept me going until the light began to fade around 8 PM. So, after covering my claim for the night, I washed up and headed to town for dinner.
JUNE 2, 2001 (DAY 4)
It was the last day of my 4-day dig at Treasure Mountain, and in fact I only had a half day since I had promised to return home by mid-afternoon, and faced a 3-hour drive. So when the sun shone through the window of my Blazer at 6:00 AM, I awoke with a bound, wanting to make every minute count. The weather was perfect, and after breakfast I drove down the short hill to the mine. I was the first person on the scene, and the morning air soon rang with the sound of my sledge hammer and the singing of the steel as I drove wedges home.
Museum Quality 6" HERKIMER DIAMOND 6-Crystal Cluster
I hit an upper layer pocket almost immediately, and in enlarging the opening to access that pocket discovered a second one immediately adjacent to the first! Both were about 5" in diameter. The first pocket held a dozen clear diamonds, the largest about 1". The second was crammed full of ½" to 1" crystals, so many that after I removed them all I wondered how they had all fit in such a tiny space. After stowing these finds in zip-top plastic baggies, I cleaned up the area around the pockets, looking for any interesting signs. With hammer and chisel I removed a small chunk of rock from the back of the first pocket, and spotted a little black hole. Probing the hole with my screw driver, I slid the 8" tool downward to the hilt! Almost an hour later, after considerable hard work, I was able to slide out a large chunk of rock and expose enough of the opening to the pocket to begin removing its contents. The opening in the rock was now 4" high and 6" wide so I had relatively easy access.
4½" Herkimer Diamond-Rainbow "Golden Healer" Crystals
First I probed the debris on the surface with my fingers, gently lifting out chunks of calcite and loose diamonds. These went into baggies for safe-keeping. Next I used a trowel to dig out the loose dirt and sand which had sifted down through the rock over the years, filling the empty space at the bottom of the pocket. I sifted all the debris with a ¼" mesh screen, picking out handfuls of sparkling crystals from each load. I had to remove a lot more rock to continue working the pocket, but by the time I finished, I had filled my sifter over a dozen times. The pocket widened out to form a "well" over a foot and a half in diameter. When I finally reached the bottom, there was a large, beautiful cluster of diamonds along with several good-sized chunks of calcite. From top to bottom, the opening was almost 3' deep! I filled 2 quart baggies with the diamonds from this one pocket. By now it was 11:30, and I decided that this was the perfect time to stop. What a wonderful wrap-up to a 4-day mining expedition!