Monday, June 25, 2012

Hunting for Gems

My youngest has a thing for pretty rocks. Not that I can blame her. She loves all things sparkly or pretty when it comes to rocks, gems, crystals, agates, etc, so when Erik suggested we gift her a trip to Phillipsburg for her birthday, I knew he had a great idea. Phillipsburg is a little town about an hour away from Missoula and has a history rich in mining. You can go visit old mine sites, which is cool, but you can also try your hand at mining. I knew Kera would love a chance to find her own "jewels" and I figured it would be a fun family day.
When we got to Phillipsburg the first thing we did was drive about four miles up into the mountain to see Granite Ghost Town. We walked around up there and looked at the deserted buildings and mine facilities.

It's pretty impressive to think there were thousands of folks living and working up here almost 150 years ago. The fact that parts of the buildings are still standing is pretty cool.

I love Erik's shirt. 

We had some great views of the mountains that Erik plays on and even the Discovery Ski area there to the left.

Enjoying the view, emptying shoes of rocks.

Erik and Kera were looking for cool rocks.

Family picture thanks to the timer mode and our trunk!

So, after we explored up there for a bit, we headed into the town of Phillipsburg for some lunch. We stopped at a pretty cool little place called Doe's Soda Fountain and Restaurant. They made a pretty mean burger and fries. Kera got a small ice cream cone with her lunch which she loved, she shared bites w/ Erik and Lindsay who loved it as well. I thought it was kinda cool that they had a little Nebraska Husker sign in the corner, obviously someone there is a fan!

After lunch we went off in search of a place to hunt for gems. There are basically three places you can buy a bag of dirt and "mine" it for gems, two in town and one up in the mine. We decided to see what the one in town offered by Opal Mountain Gems. We bought two bags of dirt, one geared more towards the kids and one that boasted blue gems. 

What you did was wash some of your rocks, then sort through it on a table. We probably worked on washing and sorting for a good hour, maybe two. 

The girls really enjoyed it and they would get so excited when they found something cool. It was pretty fun to watch them getting into it.

After we were done sorting through all of our dirt/rocks, we took our finds up to the jewelry shop and they sorted them for us into rocks, faceted gems and flawed gems. We found quite a variety of gems and stones, and also quite a few plain ol' rocks. It was pretty cool.

After we were done mining, we were pretty hot and sweaty so we mosied up to the Sweet Palace , which is kind of like a huge, overgrown candy store. They had the largest selection of taffy that I've ever seen. We all picked a few things to nibble during the drive home. 

It was a really fun family day and I think Kera did love finding gems for her birthday. If you're in the area it's definitely worth an afternoon of your time to check it out and do some mining of your own.

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