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October 3
1918 - Box-office superstar William S. Hart promotes 4th series of Liberty Loan (World War I) bonds, which went on sale Sept. 28 [story]
William S. Hart

Take a Hike | Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Feb 22, 2015

DianneErskineHellrigelMy parents were rock hounds and had me out in the desert picking up rocks as a toddler. Over the years, I amassed quite a collection of interesting rocks, including one gold nugget. Most of my collecting was done in California and Nevada. However, on trips abroad, I’ve collected (purchased) fossils, carved jades and interesting agates.

Recently I joined our local rock club. The Sierra Pelona Rock Club was founded in 1958, and since then it has continued to sponsor interesting activities including field trips to spectacular rock hounding sites, wire wrap workshops, slabbing and cabbing opportunities with club equipment, and educational opportunities in geology, mineralogy, paleontology and lapidary. I also knapp rocks and make Native American-style weapons such as rock clubs, arrows, spears and cutting knives. I’ve also enjoyed making some of my own jewelry with the stones I’ve found.

This nonprofit organization is nonpartisan, non-political, non-sectarian and does not endorse any political candidates. Its members just want to have fun and play with rocks. They have cool monthly meetings that are not only interesting, but educational, as well.

rock3At workshops, they are always open to offering help to newbies like me. I’ve never met such a wonderful, giving, happy group of people. They come in all ages, too – families go on field trips, so you’re likely to have kids, adults and even grandparents along. There’s always someone to talk to, to laugh with, and someone willing to help you when you’ve left your bag of goodies somewhere on that big hillside. I love that they encourage and educate the kids, and that they are so social. They always greet you with a smile.

On one field trip, they were handing me the sought-after rock faster than I could find them myself. How cool is that? I love this club. I’m so glad I joined.

rock1This is a membership club. Annual dues are minimal, and you get so much out of your dues.

Heidi Webber, the editor of their newsletter, puts out a fabulous, educational newsletter each month. The most recent one featured this educational and informative piece about crazy lace agate:


Crazy lace agate is called the laughter stone, or “happy lace.” It is associated with sunny Mexican fiestas and dancing, and it brings joy to those who wear it. Crazy lace agate is a variety of banded chalcedony, a mineral of the quartz family. It is predominantly white with layers of creamy browns, blacks and grays. Some may include layers of yellow ochre, gold, scarlet and red. Agate is sometimes called the earth rainbow because, in its various forms, the concentric bands in nature form nearly every color the earth can produce, including a colorless form.

Unprocessed agate from the club's North Edwards claim in the Mojave Desert.

Unprocessed agate from the club’s North Edwards claim in the Mojave Desert.

Historically, agate has been discovered with the artifacts of Neolithic people and was used as healing amulets and ornamentation dating back to Babylon. Its medicinal uses continued through the ancient Greek and Egyptian civilizations and spread throughout Africa and the Middle East into Russia. Agate sparked a world-renowned stone cutting and polishing industry in Germany that flourished from the 15th to the 19th Century and exists today.

Ancient Romans valued the agate for its reputed medicinal and talismanic properties. Powdered and mixed with water, it was said to counteract serpents’ venom. Pliny, a Roman historian, quoted the Magi as teaching in Persia that storms might be averted by burning agates.

rock10Agates were believed to make their wearers agreeable, persuasive, and give them the favor of God, guarding them from all dangers and enabling them to vanquish earthly obstacles such as high winds and lightning. Ancient seafarers used agate in amulets of protection from the fury of the surging ocean. The wearing of agate was believed to be a cure for insomnia and was thought to induce pleasant dreams. Legends claim agate to have the power to secure the wearer from danger and to protect children from falling, and to endow their owners with strength, courage and the ability to heal fears.

Agate has a rich history of divinely revealed images within its natural veining, inclusions and markings. Such images as the Virgin Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist, angels and various other human forms have manifested themselves in these natural works of art and are found in churches and museums around the world.


rock8Other benefits of club membership include:

* Club-led field trips

* Monthly educational and informative meetings

* Availability and use of club equipment

* Tumbling grits free of charge

* Priority for carpooling on field trips

* Limited special instructions by club members

* Free use of the club’s extensive library

* Free club identification badges

* Club’s travertine claim (one of the best in the U.S.)

* Club roster

* Initiation package to all new members

* Annual year-end and white elephant party

* Annual picnic

* Distinctive Sierra Pelona hats and T-shirts at dirt-cheap prices

* Automatic membership in CFMS through the club

* Members can participate on committees and in board meetings

* Rock and mineral displays and identification at every general meeting

* Donation rock table with prizes

* Opportunity to vote in club elections


rock2Heidi Webber, who is also a board member, writes:

As a nonprofit 501c3, we take our designation to heart. Over the last 55 years, we have introduced hundreds of people into the world of rock hounding. Our club owns a claim in North Edwards where we collect travertine of a quality that it actually has a name and is recognizable at rock show tables: North Edwards travertine.

Over the decades, the club has been involved in many pursuits. Being out and exploring the desert (mostly) for new collecting sites is always a fun and challenging way to spend a morning. We collect many forms of agate, onyx, travertine, all kinds of jasper, opalite, petrified palm root, 15-million-year-old sharks’ teeth and much more. Often current collecting places become endangered by legislation that forbid many forms of recreation, among them collecting, so at times we have to re-map our trails and find new sites.

rock6The Sierra Pelona Rock Club has also sponsored and extended scholarships, held rock shows, performed outreaches and of course welcomed new members to the club. You can see us every October at Lombardi Ranch with our club booth. John Lombardi was one of the original members of our club. We can also be found at the annual Placerita Canyon State Park Open House in May.

We love to have someone with the enthusiasm but maybe not the knowledge join us so we can introduce them to the joys of rock hounding. Currently we have monthly field trips for collecting (although not in the heat of summer), workshops with club saws and polishers, and instruction so you can work your collected treasures, and then wire-wrap sessions so you can make your piece into wearable art.

As with any organization, you develop long-lasting friendships with like-minded people, thus enriching your life along with your knowledge. Funny stories become part of the club history, such as the time one dedicated, longtime member had hiked back into a canyon with other members and found a treasure trove of collectables. He filled his backpack to the brim and started hiking out. Needing to rest, he sat down on a log — and immediately tipped over backward, landing like a tortoise, legs up and waving in the air. It took a few minutes for his collecting buddies to stop laughing long enough to help him up.


rock9I’ve been doing a lot of slabbing, cabbing, jewelry making and hunting for gorgeous rocks out in the desert. 2015 looks like it’s going to be a bonus year with lots of great field trips, looking for some beautiful, precious rocks.

If you’re looking for something fun to do with some great people who love to have fun, come visit the Sierra Pelona Rock Club. Hope to see you out there collecting with me.


Club website: SierraPelona.com

Club E-mail: SierraPelona@Yahoo.com

The Sierra Pelona Rock Club, is a member of the California and American Federation of Mineralogical Societies Inc. (CFMS/AFMS).


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. If you’d like to be part of the solution, join the Community Hiking Club’s Stewardship Committee. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.

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  1. I saw rocks & thought this was your post Sara Indiana Jane :)

  2. Great info! Thanks!

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