A while ago, I watched one of those "Treasures in America" shows on the Travel Channel, and mentioned to P that I'd like to try digging my own. Next thing I knew, she'd planned the entire weekend, right down to pricing hotels on the internet. Clearly this was something she was interested in as well! (This is some interesting stuff on the local North Carolina gems that I found online.)
So, P and I left work early on Friday and were at her house before 4:00 pm. We loaded my stuff into her truck and then she and I and her partner J hit the road! After a brief stop at an Army Navy surplus shop for a camp shovel and a pit stop for dinner, we checked into the Microtel in Stateville, NC. I was quite impressed with the Microtel - it was clean and the rooms were really well designed.
Saturday, we were up WAY too early in the morning. We checked out of the hotel, had breakfast at a convenient IHOP, ran through the drivethrough at Dunkin' Donuts for my coffee fix and were on our way again. By 8:45 AM(!), we had arrived at Emerald Hollow Mine in Hiddenite, NC.
Once you are there, you have three choices. For $5, you can sluice. This comes with one complimentary bucket of dirt. You can buy additional buckets for $2 each. For $8, you can add the creek to your adventure and for $15, you get the "combo pack" which also includes hiking up the hill to "mine" your own dirt. You can bring your own equipment or rent theirs. We chose the combo pack for all three of us, rented equipment and we were off. First we chose our shovel from the barrel, grabbed a bucket and headed up the hill. We found a spot, filled the bucket with dirt and then lugged the MUCH heavier bucket back down the hill to the sluice.
That early, they weren't too busy so all three of us were able to sit together and sift through our bucket and we found... nothing. Discouraged but not ready to give up, we cashed in our tickets and claimed our complimentary buckets. We each found different shiny things and were well satisfied with our "free" buckets. J was content to remain at the sluice, so she bought another bucket and P and I went back up the hill. (In addition to the $2 buckets, there are buckets for sale for $5, $10, $25, $50 and $100. The more expensive the bucket, the better the haul. I'm still not sure if they seeded the buckets or if they just took the dirt from active veins.)
While sluicing, P noticed that the color of the dirt in the complimentary buckets was a different color than the first bucket that we'd hauled down the hill. On our next trip, we scouted around for that color of dirt and found a large bare spot on the top of the hill. Just walking around, we found a number of gems on the ground and snatched them up. This time WE seeded the bucket before heading back down the hill. We sluiced through that, and were glad of the roof over the sluice as it POURED briefly. They made fun of my flashlight, but I was the only one that could see what was in my screen while the thunder was booming! Then we snacked on food we'd brought with us and decided to explore the creek.
To get to the creek, we hiked down the hill through the picnic area. There were LOTS of people and the creek was very stirred up. Basically, we tromped into the water, shoveled a bunch of the bottom into our screens and then tried to find a perch on shore to sift through it. I wasn't as into this - there were too many people and you couldn't see what you were doing under the water at all. I caught more snails than anything else.
It didn't take long before I had abandoned the water and was chasing the local fauna around. The dragonflies were beautiful! They had irridescent green/blue bodies and jet black wings... and they were fairly friendly.
Once P & J had also tired of the creek, we went back up to the sluice. We were all getting pretty tired by that point, but P and I really wanted to go back up the hill and see how "our" bare spot had fared from the hard rain. We went up and found more shiny rocks but the thunder started booming again. We scurried back down the hill, loaded up with truck and were just climbing in when the rain started pouring down again.
The worst part of the whole weekend was the drive from the mine to the hotel. OMG, I CRAVED a shower. I looked like I'd rolled down the hill. It rained harder than I think I've ever had to drive through before and made it even more fun. We finally got to the hotel in Charlotte near the airport and finally, FINALLY, I got to jump into the shower. All of us were starving, so after we were clean, we met my aunt, uncle and cousin at the Hickory Tavern in Concord. The food was pretty awful, but we were starving and the company was good. From the restaurant, we went to my aunt and uncle's house, met their puppy and chatted for a while. It was good to see them but I was exhausted. We headed back to the hotel, and I was asleep before 11:00.
This morning, we checked out of the hotel, ate at Shoney's, stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and then drove down past Gaffney, SC to Chesnee to Strawberry Hill Peach Shed. We loaded the truck down with seven baskets of peaches - four for them and three for me - and headed home.
The weekend's haul:
I'm sleepy, mildly sunburned, full of peaches and quite happy with my weekend. Hope yours was wonderful too!