to Virgin Valley
first trip to Virgin Valley was just
supposed to be a
side-trip off of an organized field trip to Lassen Creek to gather
obsidian with our local Gem & Mineral Club.
spending several days
collecting rainbow, sheen, and mahogany obsidian available in the
northeast corner of California, we decided to check out the opal fields
of Virgin Valley, Nevada. This
location that none of our group had been to before.
read numerous articles and carefully gathered
information about the pristine, unspoiled beauty and bounty of this
desert oasis. According
to the articles from
a variety of magazines, the opal found
here would rival any other in the world.
of the more precious of the opal was purported to be worth more per
carat than diamonds! We
the map and determined that it shouldn't take long to get from Goose
Lake to Virgin Valley, as it was only about 2 inches away on the map.
that we followed wound up taking us across 7 1/2
hours of grueling dirt and obsidian roads which had no road signs
(especially nerve-wracking at forks in the road), no lights, no people,
and no way of knowing for sure if we were headed the right way, or what
to expect once we got there. Somehow,
made it to the (free) campground, even though some of us had to pitch
our tents at midnight. We
much of our surroundings on the late drive in, except sand and some
signs warning of no hunting.
sung to sleep by the deep refrain of
bullfrogs. We knew
research) that the mine we wanted to check out opened at 8:30AM, so we
set our alarms to wake us early.
forgone our alarms, since it got so cold during the night that we had a
hard time sleeping. The
sun was up, bright
and early, and we woke at the crack of dawn. We were unprepared for the
sight waiting for us when we first crawled out of our tents. The sky was
incredibly blue and seemed
so clear. The
outhouse was near enough to be
convenient, but far away enough to not be a problem.
There were a few trees, enough to provide
an otherwise stark desert. But
favorite unexpected pleasure was an absolutely beautiful (and free)
large hot spring/pool with warm showers, fresh water, and a bath house. Tadpoles in the hot spring
were the size of
small trout! The
campground we were in was
in the middle of an oasis and a wilderness preserve.
Our destination, one of the local mines, was
only a few miles away, but we
were a long way from much
of anything else. Denio
Junction, the nearest
store/gas station is about 30 miles
away, and has been closed down on many trips.
next closest gas/groceries is about 25 miles from Denio Junction.
digging costs vary among individual mines. Usually,
the pay dirt has been turned and spread out by the owners of the mine. They will also show you
where and how to look,
as well as what you're searching for.
A hat to
shade your head, a squirt bottle full of water,
a sack lunch, some sun-screen, plenty
fresh drinking water, a container to hold your "finds", an adventurous
attitude, and a little luck are all you need to find the nicest opals
you've ever seen. Oh,
yeah, and maybe a