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Road Trip Adventures, Roadside Attractions, Crazy DIY Projects, Texas Fishing, Rock Hounding and more......

Past Adventures

Gem Trails of North Texas - 2003

The Site Include :  The hunt for Alvord Iron Pyrite Crystals, Bridgeport Fossils, Rocks and Fossils of the North Sulfur River and a Quick Hike at the Cooper Lake State Park,  Fossil Hunting in the North Cisco area and a quick trip to Cisco Lake.

Forward : 07/15/2005 (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for other photos and surprises.)

          This story is simply a re-write of my original Gem Trails of Texas Parts I, II and II.  I re-wrote them simply to conform to the new format and provide a bit more reading than (3) really short stories.  I'll probably do the same for the hiking trips of 2003.

          Unfortunately, at the time I actually went out and investigated these sites, I did not have my GPS unit to record such data.  Hopefully I may go back in the future and gather that data.  These sites are discussed in Brad Cross' Gem Trail's of Texas book. I hope the maps and information may prove useful for some of you rock hounds so enjoy! 

Whatís New ?

           I finally pulled my Alibates flint out of the rock tumbler.  They came out great!!

            I went ahead and made a new page called Southwest Rock Show Dates for you rock hounds out there.  I few of you have sent me content which are not quite jokes but, something to think about.  I will probably consolidate them in their own section.

Star Date 5/18/03 :

      I had been doing quite a bit of reading in my new book, Gem Trails of Texas, the past week.  It was split up into different geographical sections of Texas.  One section was the North Texas area around the DFW area.  The areas seemed like good day trips to me.  I didnít want to go too far West or too far Northeast.  So, I decided on some areas close to last weeks adventure near the Lake Mineral Wells State Park.  The first spot was Alvord, TX for iron Pyrite Crystal Cubes.  The second spot was for fossils just North of Bridgeport, TX.

      I gathered my gear and took off.  I just hope I didn't forget anything.  Alvord was easy to find.  Its just 9 miles North of Decatur on Hwy 287.  I followed the map in the book to get through the city an onto Pine Street which ran parallel to the rail road tracks leading out of the town.  The book showed pictures of a bridge where one parked and then hiked down the banks to the creek bed.  The book stated the crystals would be easy to find after a good rain and when the sun was out you could just find them by looking for the glimmer in the creek bed.  Believe me, nothing is ever that easy.  First, I found 2 bridges and almost gave up.  I drove back into town and found one of the locals off of Pine St. mowing his lawn.  I showed him the book, the map and the pictures.  He was quite surprised to find his little town in a book but, he was glad to help out.  First, the bridge had been re-built and look like nothing in the book.  However, he did tell me that there was some government land down the road in which I could use to get to the area I wanted to rock hunt on.

      I finally found the bridge.  The book did say the banks were steep, so I grabbed my gear and proceeded.  Of coarse the banks were too steep.  I slipped and grabbed onto some vines.  Unfortunately, the vines I grabbed a hold of were made of barb wire.  Ouch!!!  Although, I scratched and punctured my right hand, it didnít really bleed and hurt too bad.  So I continued my quest!  I finally made it up and tried going down from the other side of the bridge with a rope.  I finally gave up half way down and decided to check out that passage from the government land area.

      I drove down the road a little further, found the turn off and the gate to the Lynden B. Johnson Grassland preserve which was managed by the US Forestry Service.   As I climbed over the fence, I found a primitive road leading to the creek.  It would have made a great nature trail, plenty of wild life such as armadillos, possums, birds, deer, road runners and I did see coyote tracks?  I think.  Though quite a nice little hike, I should have listen to that local the first time.  I found the creek and was able to hunt in several areas.  The book also suggest to dig into the banks, which I did.  All I ever found were some ancient oyster fossils.  After about an hour and disappointment setting in, I decided to move onto the Bridgeport area. 

      I got back to Decatur and checked the map in the book again.  The book promised me these fossils.  I drove West on Hwy 380.  Once in Bridgeport, I went North on Hwy 1658 and turned on 2952.  I found the subdivision, the Bridgeport Conference Center and the Limestone Quarry as described in the book.  However, all these areas were privately held and were surrounded by barb wire.  With not wanting to fight with barb wire again, I drove around Lake Bridgeport to look for some kind of access, I just knew there were fossils in thar hills.  I found a sign pointing to Wise County Park.  Of coarse, thereís always a park near a big lake.  I drove around the lake and stopped in several areas with no luck.  I could see some cliffs along parts of the lake but, one would have to use a boat.  With no boat, I headed back to Bridgeport and had lunch at the local Diary Queen

      I believe this book may need some serious updating.  However, at least I was able to get out of the house for a while.  Unfortunately, on my way home there was a terrible wreck on I-35 in the Red Oak area.  At least I knew how to use the frontage and back roads to make it back in.  I later learned in the that they still had not opened that part of I-35 back up until around 9:00 AM the next morning.  But that wasnít the last fire I was to see.  That same Sunday evening, I heard a bunch of sirens and ran to the back yard to see what was going on.  My whole neighborhood was engulfed in smoke.   A home 5 houses down from my back yard was on fire.  But that wasnít the last fire I was to see before going to bed.   Just before bed, I went outside.  There above me was a huge shooting star flying from South to North.  It then split into two and then slowly burned itself out.  Three close calls.  Thatís enough for me

 Star Date : 05/26/03

         I had been watching the weather quite closely all last week and finally determined not to make the trip into Arkansas for mining quartz and other gems during the Memorial Day weekend.  Obviously, I was worried about the rain.   Therefore, I decided to catch up on chores and projects around the home front.  Then on Sunday evening, I was beginning to get cabin fever again and got out the latest issue of Rock and Gem Magazine and my Gem Trails of Texas book.

         I had narrowed it down to two trails, either the North Sulfur River site as described in Bradís book, or a site 18 miles east of Gatesville off of FM 107 for some Turritella Limestone as described in the June issue of Rock and Gem magazine.  The Gatesville site would also allow me to visit Mother Neff State Park, which is Texasís first official state park.  I called up Buddy Bill to see what he thought and Bill reminded me that the Northeast Texas area got hit pretty hard with the rain and wind storms within the last couple of days and the river may be too high.  I decided to wait until I heard some weather news the next morning.

         I got up early on Memorial Day and checked out the news.  It seems there were quite a few rains in the areas west of Waco and also heard most of the rains were to stay to the south of I-20.  Well, that made my choice clear.  On to the North Sulfur River site.  The map in the book was very easy to follow.  I just took Hwy 30 East just past Greenville and took Hwy 50 North through Commerce and Ladonia.  The farmers out here sure do grow some strange crops out here.  Just North of Ladonia was the bridge over the North Sulfur River.

         I parked the truck just North of the bridge and looked at both the down-stream side and the up-stream side of the river.  Hum and I thought the creek banks of the Alvord site were bad?  I finally found a spot from with I could repel down.  Yes, I remembered my rope.  Most of the riverbed was gray from the slate material from the banks.  The smaller rocks were found closer to the water while the bigger ones closer to the banks.  I was able to find a few fossils from both the West side of the bridge and from the East side of the bridge.  I found some Brachiopods still embedded in the gray slate below the water.  Unfortunately, they were too brittle to chisel out.  I was able to find plenty of petrified wood.  Unfortunately, they were not silicated very well.  I also found some quartz and some red stones which I could not identify but, I will put them in a tumbler to see how they come out.  I guess the best rule out there is that if it does not seem to belong naturally in the gray slate, then bend down and have a closer look.  After about an hour and a half, I really did not find anything in any abundance and decided to head on back after climbing out.

         Before I left for home, my stomach told me it was time to eat again.  So, I found a Dairy Queen in Commerce and had lunch.  After lunch, I checked out my Texas map and found Cooper Lake State Park nearby the North Sulfur River site.  I got back into my vehicle and decided to check this park out.  I needed to find FM 71 but it was not accessible from Hwy 50 and wound up lost while driving around Commerce.  The Texas Parks & Wildlife Location map was not very clear.  Being an Aggie and all, I did not mind too much due to Texas A&M has a school there which I accidentally explored a little while trying to find FM 71.

         I finally found  Hwy 71 inside the city and headed East.  Well, Buddy Bill was right, the earlier heavy rains flooded the highway.  However, if this truck could drive through the Llano River in Mason County, it could certainly make this.  And it did.  I then took FM 3055 North one mile to the park.  I got to the park station and grabbed a map of the South Sulphur Unit.  On the North side of the lake is the Doctors Creek Unit.  It is a new park, which opened, in the late 1990ís.  I checked out the lake area, picnic areas and it was your basic North Texas State park.  I decided to hik the Ava TrailThe trail was not as muddy as one might think it would be after the heavy rains experienced in the area.  The trail hugged and went around the lake.  Though you could never see the lake, I only knew this from the sound of all the jet skiís.  I did find a hiking buddy.   Supposedly, the trail was 5 miles long, but after about an hour and a half, I found myself walking in circles.  I found a landmark and made it back to civilization.  I finally returned home just before it rained again.  Though we are still 5 inches short for this month, I am already sick of the rain. 

         Maybe next week I will check out either the Gatesville site or the Cisco site, which is also discussed in the Gem Trails of Texas.

Star Date : 06/01/2003

         It was another early rise on this Sunday morning and I got my gear ready and headed out of the house.  Onward to the north side of Cisco, TX.  In my book ďGem Trails of TexasĒ, Brad Cross discusses that an abundant of fossils can be found along the road cuts on Hwy 6 just north of Cisco. From yesterdayís trip, I knew it would get hot soon.  So  I checked out Bradís map and it looked like an easy area to get to.  The main goal was the crinoids fossil stems of ancient sea lilies.   Dee Cable of SphereRUs also confirmed for me that crinoids could be found there.

         I headed west on I-20 towards Abilene and took Hwy 6 north.  Unfortunately, this exit took me to the old down town square of Eastland.  Of coarse Eastland is the county seat of Eastland county which made for another photo opportunity for collecting Texas court house pictures.  After the photo op, I got back into my truck and then followed Hwy 6 through Eastland and onto Cisco.  From Cisco, Hwy 6 then turned north.  I followed Bradís map from there and quickly passed several of the landmarks such as Lake Cisco and the Lake Cisco dam to my left.

         I finally passed several road cuts and decided to pull over.  The first road cut I inspected only provided some interesting conglomerates and some rose, yellow and milky quartz.  So, I headed further up north passing through a construction area until I was almost to Moran, TX.  I stopped at another road cut which provided only a little more quartz and more conglomerates.  However,  I did finally find a few fossils still in the rock matrix.  I then thought I would head back south to the two road cuts around the construction area.

         I stop at the road cut just north of constructionEureka!!!  I finally found the crinoids stems that Brad discussed.  I also found a few pieces of what I thought were sharkís teeth.  However, after further investigation, they were spines of echinoids or ancient sea urchins.  Additionally, I found pieces of some brachiopods.  The slope was rather rough, so I collected what I could and decided to hit the road cut just south of the road construction.  This was another lucky strike.  This time I could hike to the top of the road cut and the stems were all around along with more quartz and interesting conglomerates.  This was typical of the ground there.

         Well, with a couple of zip lock baggies full of goodies and the sun beating down on me, I decided to head back into Cisco for lunch at the local Dairy Queen. But before that, what would a road trip be without a visit to the nearby Lake Cisco.  Although it was a nice lake, there were no fossils or interesting gems to be found along the banks or cliffs.  Just red sandy dirt.   I finally arrived home a couple of hours later to catch my favorite show and cleaned my new treasures.  I will probably turn these into fossil preserves.

         Itís kind of funny,  I could always find sea urchins in the Texas Hill Country, but never their spines.  That sucks.  This time, up in the northeast side of Texas, I could find the spines of the sea urchins, but no bodies.  This is a good spot.  I do plan to go back, but only when it get cooler again next Fall.  When I get back from my next Texas panhandle trip, I may  check out the Lone Star Turritella fossiliferous limestone between the Gatesville and the Waco area. (As discussed in the June '03 edition of Rock & Gem Magazine) 

       So, until next time, take care and I'll  See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!

                                                     Francis                        

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