SCHIESS: Searching for semiprecious stones in the Challis hills
The natural alarm clock rudely awakened me at 4:45 a.m. before the sun decided to rise out of her darkened blanket. Unlike a human created alarm, the coyotes had also awakened me at 2:18 a.m. and had serenaded me to sleep at 10:42 a.m., but this time they were close and serious about waking me.
With an hour before I would start another “hike” to look for semiprecious rocks like agate and jasper, I had enough time to get breakfast and review the previous day’s activities.
I had left home at 5 a.m. and two hours later I was on my first planned hike at Methodist Creek in the beautiful Pass Creek Canyon, north of Arco. The morning air was a bit chilly but refreshing from the 90 degree weather that has plagued me for the last month. I hiked to the top of a ridge, found a few agate nodules and other interesting rocks but was disappointed with the amount of smoke that minimized the natural beauty of the canyons and peaks.
By noon I had arrived at the Lime Creek area just 12 miles south of Challis where I spent two hours hiking the lower foothills. The temperature had climbed into the upper 80s, but a slight breeze made the hiking enjoyable as I found and collected a backpack of petrified wood, jasper but mostly small agate nodules. I was prepared to meet a rattlesnake that I had been warned about, but found none. They were probably hiding from the heat.
The Idaho Falls Gem and Mineral Club has a claim at the upper Lime Creek area and it was my intent to find it before the day was over. The climb up the mountain to the claim was steep and very primitive, strewn with loose rocks, but was easily navigated with four wheel drive.
After locating Rattlesnake Claim it was time for a major hike along a tree barren ridge before the afternoon got too hot.
Using my GPS to guide me I hiked along the ridge at about 8,200 feet for a mile then climbed to another ridge that ran parallel to it but was 300 feet higher. Each time I would find a field of agate or other interesting rocks I would pick up a few, mark it on my GPS and move on.
Half frozen bottles of water were truly lifesavers to me as the temperatures climbed into the mid 90s. By late afternoon it was time to find shade and while relaxing on the bank of Lime Creek I was visited by a large male pronghorn who was also in search for water and shade.
I wanted to view the sunset from high on the mountain so I headed back up the mountain after the temperatures began dropping. The lower hills I had hiked that morning almost looked like the top of rolling clouds and the Twin Peaks above Challis outlined by the bright orange sunset.
As the cool evening air made the world comfortable for the animal world came alive as I set up camp. Gray jays, Steller’s jays, several species of sparrows and nighthawks began singing and four female pronghorns and two mule deer headed down the mountain to the creek as I took a primitive refreshing cleansing.
The next morning after the coyotes convinced me to quit wasting time, the chilled air encouraged me to adorn a jacket for a trek of an unexplored ridge before I was to meet club members. Several four to six inch nodules rewarded my efforts and three more waypoints were added for future exploration.
About 15 club members showed up at the claim with several small children collecting jasper, agate and petrified wood pieces. By noon the heat was getting the best of most of the rock hounds and while most headed to the Challis Hot Springs for a dip in their pools, I headed for home. I was totally satisfied with the two day hiking and rock hunting experience. But I had to stay alert.
As I neared Mackay Reservoir a female coyote with her four young sprinted across the road in front of me. I slowed up and gave them the right of way, hoping that next month on my next outing to that area they will serenade me and act as my alarm clock.