Rock Hunting Highway 17 West – Ontario (revisit)

Here’s a little blast from our past – on the elusive Superior Agate Hunt!

This is a posting from one of my older blogs that I’ll tweak a bit to make some changes..  I noticed it wasn’t here on my new blog so I decided to add some important information to this posting and re blog.

We’re back!! We had the most wonderful weekend trekking about the forest north of Sault St. Marie and I’ve decided to post some of our adventure photos here.  (This rock hunting adventure was in 2007 and it covers areas along highway 17 from Sudbury to north of Lake Superior)

Searching for Lake Superior Agates

(That’s me, sitting on the rocks out front of our cabin in Montreal River that we stayed in for our weekend adventure).

We decided (after talking to an old friend prior to this trip) that staying in a cabin on the mouth of a river that ends in Lake Superior would be a great place to begin our adventures of the weekend.  This was a gorgeous location and we love staying here.

Our cabin was located on the right hand side (if you are looking out on the water).  I had decided this would be an interesting place to stay as I’d been told that you might find an Agate here while walking along the shore.  Due to the water colour staining the rocks, I really couldn’t see much – you can see from the background that there is still ice and snow on parts of the shoreline so it was quite early in the year.)

Our adventure beings on Friday – I managed to get “just about everything” we could possibly need packed on Thursday (with a lot of effort) and into the back of the truck. It was a bit crazy as Rob had just gotten back from out of town and we had about a zillion things to do before we left.

Lake Superior Agate Search AdventureThe book you see in the picture is one of the publications we decided to use on this trip. It’s called Geology and Scenery of the North Shore of Lake Huron Region. This book is like a travel guide that talks about some fabulous side trips you can take as well as the local mineralogy and old mines that are in the area. It’s in a series of books – and not easily found… I spent a LOT of time with my nose in the pages reading off information to Rob as we drove west from Sudbury towards Sault St. Marie (there are a LOT of cool things to learn that I didn’t know about!)

I found this book at the Sudbury Gem and Mineral show quite a few years back and it’s become one of a set we never travel without now when rock hounding.  There are quite a few that were made that cover a lot of Ontario old highway locations.  If you are interested in the titles of the other books, please comment below and I’ll post a listing of what we have.

Once leaving Sudbury, one of our first stops was at Rydal Bank – this is a small town that is about 8 miles north of Bruce Mines.  It’s very quaint and worth checking out.  We were on the hunt for Pudding Stone! If you look around the area you will see many homes that show off larger boulder with the beautiful red pock marks easily visible even from the road.  A bit of info on the area:  In this area there is a prominent ridge that marks an outcropping of the Lorrain Formation and you can find what is called “Pudding Stone” – this is a quartz jasper pebble conglomerate (or mixture).

This is a really pretty rock that is an off-white cream colour with beautiful dashes of red. Here’s a picture of a boulder I found (and left) so you could see how interesting it is.   The red marks are the Jasper.

Rydal Bank

We traveled North of highway 17 West towards the dam area.  Rydal Bank is located 10 km north of Bruce Mines. . The village of Rydal Bank is located at the junction of Ottertail Lake and the Thessalon River. We didn’t find a lot of stone near here but it’s worth a visit.  There were only a few small pieces that looked like they had gone through a gravel machine to help maintain the area.  It was really neat to look down and find these little goodies!

After exploring this part of the area we decided to take a side trip towards a high rock formation we could see from the truck.  As we traveled, you could see a high ridge that we figured “might” have been the ridge the book was talking about where more Pudding stone could have been found.

Humphries Cemetery

You can see what we were looking at it in the picture – there is a white coloured ridge that is pretty high up on the hills.  At this time we didn’t have a car with GPS maps so we were working with a lot of paper and cups of coffee.    Along the way, we discovered a pretty good side road that goes to the left up towards the hill. Of course, we took it (checking first to make sure that there were no private signs posted – there were not).  It was a good thing we were traveling with a large 3/4 ton pick up truck as many of the places we went would not stand up to a regular car. Our discoveries up quite a few roads and trails led us to a very hold Cemetery called “Humphries Cemetery”.  This is a very old site crested high up on the hills looking over the scenery. This cemetery is located about 10 1/2 KM from highway 17 at Bruce Mines and up 2 km east of Rydal Bank on highway 638 off Nethery Road.  This is a dead end road and you can see the gravel pit we also visited from there.

I took some very pretty pictures of some of the old headstones but I’m not going to post them here – these are very old families located up on the hill that date back to 1900 and earlier.  For the sake of family privacy, I wont be posting photos. 

The Gravel Pit – Rydal Bank Area

It was pretty quiet in the area and no rock trucks or equipment could be found, so we felt okay about continuing the exploration of the area.  We did a good check to ensure that there were no trespassing signs as well.  As you can see by the picture of Rob standing near the white rocks (in the picture above) there was some blasting and removal of rock going on in this area. At the bottom of this hill was a large gravel pit – we didn’t find a lot of pudding stone here, just the odd piece here and there.  We poked around here for a while to see what we could find but for the most part it was all white stones.  Please note, you do need good shoes if you are going to walk around this area.

Back on the highway we went – and pushed our way through Sault St. Marie and beyond. We took a short side trip down Wolf Lake Road (around Batchwana Bay area) and did some exploring. It was more of a look around and not any serious rock hunting happening. Both of us found it FAR too busy with a lot of dirt bikes and fishermen everywhere – so we turned back on the highway to go further on.

We soon arrived at our cabin.  This is the mouth of the Montreal River – usually this is underwater, but don’t be fooled if you are going to visit this place and walk around – this IS a mouth of a river and the water flow is controlled by several upstream dams – so if you are going to walk around, make sure to keep your ears open for the sound of the water flow changing.  As the trip was in early spring, it was very quiet and peaceful.

We had a super relaxing night off – sitting by our campfire and eating pasta… watching the stars come out and playing with the dogs that lived just down the street from our cabin.

The Next Day – Mica Bay

On Saturday we got up early to head to Mica Bay – this area has what is called the Keweenawan volcanic rock formations in it. Here’s a bit of info:  The Keweenawan are principally made up of lava flows of basic or basaltic composition with vesicles (gas cavities) that have been filled with minerals such as agate, amethystine quartz, calcite, chlorite, dataloite, epidote, prehnite, thomsite and zeolites. These are really pretty when you see them up close – as you drive past them on the highway they look kind of reddish and you don’t see the inclusions.  As you pick up the stones in this area they are very interesting as you’ll discover treasures that are dotted inside of what look like tiny cavities. Just that alone is a lot of fun to check out.

You can see some of the calcite and quartz veins in the rock that I’m standing on in this picture.

Just a bit further down this beach we stumbled upon a fabulous find. I was walking towards the shoreline (thinking that I had spotted a REALLY big Lake Superior Agate winking at me near the edge of the rocks) I reached down, only to have the rock I was looking at roll and crush my thumb between it and another rock…(yeah sometimes the universe has a bad sense of humor).  Okay this is a bad photo of me (Laughing here) but keep in mind I had been tromping around in the forest for hours and hours at this point so I wasn’t too concerned with my hair and outfit.)

I stood up quickly to nurse a bruised thumb only to trip and crash onto another pile of rocks right behind me.  After I made a few nasty comments, I turned around to look at what had tripped me and found myself smack dab in the middle of a pile of Hematite and Jasper most recently had been underwater and not visible due to higher lake levels the fall before. (I will have to go out and snap a few pictures so you can see what they look like).

As I sat there in awe, watching the waves roll in near me (knowing that these stones were only recently hid by layers of ice and before that, many feet of water.. I got to thinking of Mishi Peshu – the great underwater lynx like creature who lives in the depths of Gitchigumi (Lake Superior).  Re the photo below: This will give you an idea of how early in the year we were out hunting – that is right on the side of the Lake.

A bit of history on this:  Mishi Peshu is the ultimate metaphor that represents the power, mystery and innate danger that comes from these sacred waters. With razor like spikes on his back, the face of a lynx or panther, and the body of a sea serpent, this creature demanded respect. The Anishinabe offered tobacco and prayer to the creature spirit before they embarked out onto the waters in their canoes. The calm waters of Lake Superior can be quickly transformed into raging squalls and huge waves from the northern, north-eastern, and north-western gales that often suddenly crop up. These gales sweep over the open water, quickly picking up momentum and causing huge waves, some up to 40 feet high.

A picture of Mishi Peshu is found at Agawa Bay, Lake Superior National Park, in northern Ontario, north of Sault Ste. Marie.   If you are looking for more information on how to visit the park to see this in person? Check out this link that will take you to the Lake Superior Provincial Park site.

The Midewiwin Society claimed in 1850 that this pictograph was painted by an Anishinabe shaman, and represents a heroic 4 day crossing of Lake Superior by a war party of five canoes. The author is believed to be a tribal shaman named Myeengun which means “Wolf.” The images are painted using red ochre, a pigment made from the iron ore called hematite, mixed with clay minerals. This is the most famous rock art painting in Canada, according to National Collection Archive sources.

As I sat there nursing my sore thumb, I started to wonder about the Great Spirit in the lake and the wonderful treasures that had shown up where I least expected them to. Even Rob was in awe over this find. The stones I “stumbled upon” were the stones that were used (all those years ago) to paint these ancient cave paintings – it was crushed and the residue inside was used on the rocks). I spent hours with the red ocher colours on my fingers after picking some of these stones.

Gargantua Provincial park.

If you are able to visit this part, it is well worth the time it takes to go here.  When you pull into the road, you’ll see a warning sign that lets you know that there are 14km of rough winding single lane roads ahead. Don’t take that lightly as the roads can be a challenge.  Gargantua is one of the main access points for the Coastal Trail system.  You will need to travel along this gravel road from Highway 17 leads to the access point (there’s a picture of the road below).  If you are hiking this area, it is one of the most challenging and demanding trails in this park’s system.  It will take you along high cliffs and rocky beaches of Lake Superior and extends from Agawa Bay, north to Chalfant Cove.  A bit of history is that this area is a natural harbor and was a fishing and logging center in the early 1900s.  It was its busiest time in the 30s and 40s and the only access was by boat.

Gargantua is AMAZING!!  There are miles and miles and miles of the most beautiful and well hidden scenery on this part of the shore. It is a rough stop to get into so there were only a few folks there when we arrived (some were set up for camping on the shore). That’s Rob in the picture looking at the map of this area – you can walk for quite a long time from one end of the park to the other – he’s just looking at the Gargantua area.

The beach is beautiful with a mixture of sand and stones.  Yes, that’s a picnic table buried under sand up there.

The rocks range from pebbles to large boulders in incredible colours, shapes and sizes.  As this is an Ontario Provincial Park area, we did not collect any stones from this area.  But we did spend hours and hours poking around here discovering things and enjoying the beautiful spring afternoon.

By the time we got back to Montreal River, we were both tired and ready for a good meal and a sleep.  The very next morning, we packed the truck and took off back to Sudbury.  Of course, we stopped along the way and spent time looking for more Pudding Stone near the shores of Bruce Mines and Georgian Bay.  We did come home with a pocket full of samples that now live in our gardens.

Well… did Rob and I find any Agates this trip? I’m sorry to say… no, we didn’t.

This trip was all about the Hematite and the Jasper that kept being found under our shoes.

Now for a little business to go along with all this fun – I do have a section on Wicked Stones (that’s where I post some of the gems we actually find in person) on my site.  There is a new section going up that’s dedicated to Canadian Gems and Minerals.  You can visit by clicking here .  I actually do have some Ontario found Lakers (Superior Agates) that I will be posting up for sale at the end of the year (2016).  They are tucked behind me waiting to be photographed and are from a collection that belonged to a friend that actually picked them a few decades ago during a family trip to this area.

So stay tuned! They will be up soon.

Cheers and thanks for reading! Be safe in your rock hound travels!



Falling in love with jade, Info and a bit of Rock hunting in Ontario

Okay I have to say.. I have fallen deeply in love with Jade

I’ve been kicking around pieces of it in the workshop and getting Rob to polish up a few accent pieces once and a while, but not until recently did I start working with larger Jade gemstone beads.

A few years back, I picked up a few strands of the most amazing African Jade beads.. the following bracelet you see in the photo is of one of the bracelets I made just recently.  It’s… soooo…. amazing!!

African Jade Bracelet by Wicked Stones
African Jade Bracelet by Wicked Stones

This type of Jade has an incredible weight to it..  the beads are heavy and mixed with the sterling silver accent pieces, this is truly a gem to have around your wrist.  I think I’ll be making more of these!!  Okay enough babble about things I’m working on.. here’s a bit of helpful info on Jade for you.

Jade is great for the following healing properties:

  • Luck
  • Tranquility
  • Widsom
  • Releasing bad thoughts and negative energy (now who can’t use that?)
  • Dream stone.. (add a piece into a dream pillow if you make or use them)
  • Helps you to self heal
  • Resolving emotional issues
  • Good fortune (come on lottery ticket!)
  • Working with nature

Working with Jade
Hand polishing Jade

Rob’s worked with Jade now and then in the lab and usually the pieces he comes out with are quite beautiful.  The hardness on the MOH scale is around 6.5 so it’s hard but not so hard that you can’t work with it.  To give you an idea, if you are not sure what is what on the MOH scale system, Talc is a 1 on the scale where Diamond is a 10.  So when you are in the middle range, it gives you some wiggle room for working.  I’ll have to ask him later what polishing compound he worked with that seemed the best.. if you do know, please feel free to add to the comments below.

Jade is certainly one of those stones that you have to be aware of as there are many “wanna-bes” out there.  Just a few (and not all) you should look for are items labeled things such as New Jade, Aventurine Quartz (which is green and we’ve collected it locally up here in Canada), Serpentine and Prehnite.  You should also do your research before you make any serious Jade purchases to get to know your supplier.

Have a peek.. here’s a few pictures from our trip to collect Aventurine Quartz (or Apple Jade).

Collecting Aventurine Quartz in Ontario

There’s Rob, way down in the rock cut bringing up some larger pieces.  He made me stay up at the top for safety reasons as this bank was pretty steep.

Rock Hunting Ontario for Apple Jade

You can see from the photos that the green is quite beautiful..

I’ll go hunting later to see if I can find a picture of what they look like tumbled…

Thanks for reading!