Saturday I went rockhunting on a mountain overlooking the Paint Rock River valley in Jackson County, Alabama. It was hot. It was humid. The mountain was steep. The trail was long. I was drenched with sweat within five minutes humping water and tools and lunch up the mountain. And that was the easy part – humping the trash and tools and rocks down the mountain was exhausting. I was physically enervated. And I loved it.
The rockhunt was arranged by Dixie Euhedrals (follow the link for some outstanding pictures). I found several nice pieces in a streambed plus got a decent nodule in the limestone matrix (think of a golfball-sized chunk in a five pound hunk of rock).
Here’s what to look for (from a TN rockhound):
Most of the Tennessee Paint Rock agate deposits are located at at the 1200′ to 1600′ level on the west side of the Cumberland Plateau. The matrix is generally at the 1600′ level with deposits down the mountain due to surface slides or float.
Alabama was a shallow sea and swamp in the Mississipian Period (~320 million years ago). That was before Obama stopped the seas from rising. The layers of organic marine sediment trapped vegetation and other organisms in what became limestone, good rocks (like coal and agate), and fossils. All those darn plants that thrived during the Mississipian period produced too much oxygen and caused the Karoo Ice Age. Somehow the Earth keeps warming up and cooling down every few thousand or million years. I’m fairly certain people had nothing to do with the Mississipian global warming disaster.
The Archimedes fossil is a Bryozoan from the Mississipian period. It was a colony of thousands of microscopic marine animals (the fossil in the picture above is about an inch long).
Critters! One of the great things about hiking in the North Alabama wilderness is getting to see critters up close. Bear Grylls would’ve eaten well – lots of bugs and lizards and snakes. I saw a black snake sunning itself by the trail (after two people walked past it). I saw red squirrels, a dead racoon, and butterflies everywhere. Sometimes I didn’t see the spider webs - I felt them on my face after I walked into them.
I saw a lot of Shad McGill signs at houses in the valley (GOP candidate for State Senate 8). I saw a few Steve Raby signs at farms (Dem candidate for Congress AL05). Those races plus signs for the Jackson County Sheriff’s race were about it.