if like me you always thought that a “rockhound” was just a crackhead on the prowl then you’re only PARTIALLY right. as it turns out a “rockhound” is also someone collects actual ROCKS, like the kind you don’t put in a pipe and smoke. as our friends at wikipedia tell us(what’s a wiki anyways?) “Amateur geology (known as rockhounding in the United States) is the recreational study and hobby of collecting rocks and mineral specimens from their natural environment”. i relay this info to establish the rockhound’s credentials as a legit hobbyist because apparently at this point i am one. wookie’s mom decided that we all needed a new “family hobby”, something we could all do together that wouldn’t bore the shit out of at least one of us, and rockhounding is what she settled on. they’d been a couple of times already but now that i’m in the mix the hounding party had grown and yesterday was our 1st excursion as a 5-person unit.
that’d be me, wookie, lenner, wookie’s mom, and wookie’s bro E. now the 1st thing you need to know about this particular hobby is that apparently the directions to known rockhounding “sites” are super vague. i mean like “follow such-and-such road(now i’m even being vague) until the bend and park on the side of the road near the bridge that isn’t on private property and find access to river somewhere and voila”. like vague enough that if wookie’s mom and E hadn’t passed us on the highway before the turn off so we could follow them(we needed 2 cars) there’s no way we would’ve found them or the spot or any rocks at all. as it turns out rocks were in short supply anyways but i’m getting ahead of myself. the point is that the sites are pretty random because you can’t do it on private property and most land in this fucking country is private(don’t get me started) so not only are the spots in weird places and lacking the proper signage but they are also quite small and our theory is that on top of everything else the rockhounds who write the guidebooks and whatnot don’t want to make it too easy for JUST ANYONE to stumble across these sites to pilfer the limited offerings at will so they write the stuff in such a way as to keep it vague enough to ensure that only those willing to put in the legwork are gonna be competing for the rocks on hand.
anyways it didn’t take us too long to find it but it took us about 45 minutes and several passes to convince ourselves that this WAS indeed the spot. wookie had done some research and was concerned about high water(do rivers have tides?) because the guidebook mentioned “waders”(as in “wader, there’s a fly in my soup”) but wookie’s mom assured us it was gonna be low tide and anyways i didn’t have waders OR a disposable pair of shoes so i showed up unprepared and had to take off my boots and roll up my jeans and wade around in my barefeet and the rocky bottom chewed up my soles pretty bad. but not my soul. that was chewed up pretty bad by the fact that i didn’t find any agates or carnelians or any of the other fancy rocks, i just found rocks. some were cool, mind you, but even after splitting open to double-check they all proved to be rocks and rocks only. wookie found 3 pieces of carnelian and wookie’s mom found 2 or 3 agates but i found a ginormous crawfish that i at first mistook for a small lobster. what a lobster would be doing in a podunk stretch of the nehalem river is anyone’s guess but apart from being an inexperienced rockhound i have also never gone crawfish hunting. regardless the little fucker was huge and had these nasty looking pincers and he was my only find all day.
after an hour or 2 wading around we had a picnic on the bridge, which was about 30 yards long and stretched from the road to a gate that said “NO TRESPASSING”. “back to nature” this was not, not exactly anyways. while we were finishing up some old guy pulls up in a truck and sits down and starts rapping with us, his name is richard and he lives right across the road and has horses and a little rock quarry on his land and do we want to see? i have minor visions of being lured into an ambush but he seems harmless enough and everyone else seems game so off we go. there’s 3 dogs on the property and they’re semi-feral but pretty nice and cute and the horses seem ok but only semi-tame and a couple of them seem like mules. or burros. richard points to a few apple trees and says we can pick some so wookie busts out her step ladder and starts picking but after she discovers they all have wormholes she desists.
richard says he needs to go into town but first he hops on a 4-wheeler and leads us to the quarry, which ends up being the rocky side of a big hill at the end of an old trailer-park dumping ground. it’s real mad max type stuff with old bombed out camper shells rotting away and i’m having visions of spawn ranch and the hills have eyes and also becoming acutely aware that our only exit is back the way we came, back through the gauntlet of garbage and rusty machinery and old trailers from which i’m at least half-expecting zombies or the manson family to begin emerging (or perhaps just a few “deliverance”-type rural-oregon rednecks with rifles and a bottle of mezcal). there’s trash and for some reason lots of moldy garlic bread everywhere and i try to take pics of the madness but the best i could do was this:
wookie actually climbs up past the green haz-waste pond and the oil pit to dig around on the side of the hill but the rest of us are feeling somewhat disturbed so i decide to play fetch with one of the feral dogs named sara and she’s too afraid to come close enough to give you the stick but super insistent that when she lays it down several feet from you it’s very important that you pick it up and THROW. she looks like this:
anyways we made it out unscathed except for wookie who may have contracted poison oak. and escaping with your life is rule #1 for every budding rockhound, so i guess we did ok. and the next time a crackhead says “i’m going to go find me some ROCK” don’t go jumping to any conclusions.