This sign marks the entrance to the world famous Bear Lake Diggings locality near Bancroft, Ontario

It was 3 p.m. Saturday before my collecting buddy Dave Redfield and I met up to start the long ten hour drive to Bancroft, Ontario (the so-called "Mineral Capital of Canada") for a week of collecting. Dave is a wonderful traveling companion on a collecting trip for several reasons: First, he volunteered the use of his truck, which could carry back a ton of rocks (assuming we found any good enough to keep). Second, he insisted on doing all the driving, so my share of the work was to navigate and keep talking so Dave didn't fall asleep. Third, Dave is a superb raconteur, and supplied a never-ending stream of stories and witty remarks that helped make the trip fly past. We stopped for dinner en route, then pushed on to Bancroft, arriving after 1:00 AM at our campground. Although our reservation didn't start until the next night, we were in luck and found a spot to pitch our tent and crawl into our sleeping bags for some much-needed sleep.

For decades, New England mineral collectors have been drawn to Diamond Ledge in north central Connecticut in search of the excellent quality milky quartz crystal plates and clusters for which it is famous. Those who have worked the site with grit, determination, and back-breaking labor have regularly been rewarded with significant specimens. And, those lucky enough to find pockets have sometimes brought home several 5-gallon buckets filled with these highly aesthetic and desirable plates of large-size milky quartz crystals. This well-known, prolific locality is in Shenipsit State Forest, in West Stafford, Tolland Co., Connecticut. It is a wooded area, giving plenty of shade even on a hot summer day, and at the bottom of the steep slope where collectors dig for crystals is a stream with a waterfall and ample pools of water for rinsing mud off of specimens or taking a quick bath.

Ossipee Mountains, Ossipee, New Hampshire, October, 2011

A pristine 3" smoky quartz crystal is removed from the pocket

Fortunately, it cleaned up pretty good!

What a perfect day for collecting! It was early October - the sun was shining, the temperature was in the low 70's, and the bugs had packed up and headed south for the season. Our day started with the long drive up from Western Massachusetts to Ossipee, NH, which is about halfway up the eastern side of the state. The fall foliage was at its peak, which unfortunately was none too glorious due to 6 weeks of heavy rain and the lack of a killing frost. We arrived in Ossipee at about 10:30 AM.

The Diver

Out in the field, rock collectors will assume almost any position in hopes of finding a good specimen. That makes for a good show, but only if you're not too engrossed in the hunt yourself! Here are some of my collecting friends who I "caught in the act". I have taken the liberty of naming what kind of collector they are; so, just what kind of collector are you?

The Surprise Pocket
in Gilman Notch, Center Ossipee, Carroll County, New Hampshire

by Jonathon Herndon and Eric S. Greene

All photos by Eric Greene. Click on photos to see enlarged versions.

View of Bayle Mountain reflected in Connor Pond, Ossipee, New Hampshire

This is article was first published in the March-April, 2011 edition of Rocks & Minerals magazine. The only changes that have been made are to add extra photos. This article is reproduced with permission of the publisher. Rocks & Minerals is available online at:

Arguably the greatest thrill for any serious field collector is discovering, opening and collecting an over-sized, jam-packed crystal pocket. Unfortunately, it's an event that most field collectors never experience. When such an exciting find does occur, it's a thrill that we believe should be shared with the mineral collecting community. The tale of the Surprise Pocket is such a story - with an appalling twist - as told through the eyes of coauthor Jon Herndon.