When I was a kid of about six, my uncle had a rock shop down on the coast. My grandparents lived near him and when we would visit them, we would also visit my uncle at his shop. I remember there were really cool things in the display cases and rocks were spoken of in a very important manner. They had value. You could do things with them.
I was then introduced to collecting by being taken the short distance to the beach. There were people there with buckets looking through the gravel. At first, of course, I didn’t know what agate gemstones were so I just started picking up pebbles. I took my prizes over to be inspected and was told nothing that I had in that first batch was a keeper. Through trial and error I started to get my collecting eye and eventually brought back items that met with approval. I was finding treasure! Subsequently, every time my family would drive to the coast, I’d want to go collecting agates on the beach.
One time my father and I accompanied my uncle to the central part of the state to collect thundereggs. These are little geodes that can have an agate, jasper, or even an opal center surrounded by a rock matrix. I remember turning off the highway onto a very bumpy dirt road and going eight miles to the site. There were a lot of people digging there. My uncle must have been successful because he had some extra thundereggs to give me. I still have the three I acquired that day. One has a nice red agate center, another has green moss agate inside, and the last has a crystal center. We also visited a site where leaf fossils could be obtained. I still have the one I was given. Withing the last couple of years, I was at a thunderegg site that I would swear was the same place we visited on that trip long ago.
Alas, my uncle couldn’t earn enough with his shop to make ends meet. So he moved to the central part of the state and made dentures until he retired. When he died some years ago, I was given what was left of his rock collecting tools.
As I grew into early adulthood, I maintained my interest in rocks but collecting took a back seat. Fast forward about 10 years to when a friend of mine invited me camping. I had done some camping when I was a kid, but had not thought about it for years. While camping, my friend talked about hunting for obsidian, which is volcanic glass. This got me thinking about rock collecting again. Some time later I stumbled across a guidebook to rock collecting locations in the state. I was amazed by all the places there were to collect and all the different kinds of material to be found. Previously I thought the only places to collect was at the beach and at the thunderegg beds. This started the mental ball rolling again. It didn’t take very long before the camping trips stopped being just about camping and became rockhounding expeditions. I’ve never looked back.