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A New Discovery In Idaho

Scott Schlagel is riding his motorcycle with friends, in the early spring of 2000, down the dirt roads of the Owyhee desert, in Idaho. While riding down one of those, “Least traveled roads”, he is intrigued by some strange cliffs that parallel one of the passing dry, sandy creek beds. He turns and rides into the winding creek. After a few minutes, he stops and decides to have a little lunch, enjoying the fascinating geologic landscapes. Getting a little more comfortable, he sits down onto one of the sand banks, pulls out his sandwich and enjoys the view. Looking down at the ground, as most rock hounds do, he checks out the various washouts around him for anything interesting. Soon, he spots a waxy looking, black rock on the other side of the stream bed. He decides to walk over and give it a look. He picks up the rock and to his amazement, the stream polished, black rock is orbed jasper.  Nearly choking on his sandwich from excitement, he brushes off the sand to reveal that it’s part of a thunder egg. Just like a shark that smells blood in the water, Scott walks side to side in the creek bed, looking for the source. Scott is very familiar with the well-known Bruneau, Morrisonite and Willow Creek jaspers, having known and dug with the claim owners for decades.  Finding nothing, after a long time of searching up and down the sandy bed, he returns to the place where he had initially  found the jasper. Looking up, he sees impassable, steep, cliffs of rhyolite, which merge all the way down into the creek. He spots a narrow, small branch of the creek leading into a larger branch. He begins to walk up the dry small creek and immediately begins to see signs of agate, jasper and thunder egg pieces. Placing the pieces in his backpack, Scott continues up the creek. After about a quarter mile, the small creek converges in to an open area at the base of some foothills.  The area is littered with thunder eggs. Scott’s backpack is filled to the brim in no time. He then begins to walk back to his motorcycle. He makes the decision to travel back home and revisit the area at a later date, more prepared with water, food and, the most important thing, a hammer. Since then, Scott has spent many years, off and on, collecting the float and digging a few small holes. All the while, he keeps his secret spot under wraps, thinking that someday he might make a claim. Scott's First Discovery in the creek bed.

 Fall 2016,
    I’m on my way over to my good friend, Brian Hendrickson’s, house to look at some rock that he had picked up at an estate sale. He wanted some help identifying it. Brian sells a lot of rock on EBay and was getting ready to upload the pictures for his next sale. I drive up and see he has two buckets of rough. I look it over and see Haystack Butte jasper, which comes from Oregon. He said that he thought so and thanks me. Then he says, “Hey, Scott is home. Let’s go over and see what he’s doing.” “Scott?” I say. “I don’t know him.”  Brian says, “Yeah, he lives three doors down and has been a family friend for decades. He used to go out to my Dad’s Big Horn picture jasper  claim years ago. He would help my dad dig”. We walk down the street and into Scott’s backyard. I see a good deal of rough rock, in neat piles, in his yard. Brian introduces Scott to me. “You got some neat rock out there”, I say. Scott looks out and says, “Lots of years out there digging.” After a while, Brian looks at me and gives me a sly smile. I know him…something is up. Brian says, “Scott, show Philip that jasper you showed me”.  Scott looks puzzled, “The black one?” Brian says, “Yeah, the one you showed me the other day”.  Scott walks back into his shop and brings out a softball sized rock. Amazed, I say, “Wow! Now that’s a great, orbed, Black Bruneau!” Brian chuckling states, “That’s not Bruneau”. Confused, I questioned, “Wait…what?”

    Brian then tells me, “Scott found it in a spot out in the Owyhee’s.” I look at Scott. He’s not smiling, so I know this is not a joke.  Finally, Scott says, “It’s not even close to where the Bruneau claims are.” Scott doesn’t know me yet, and rightly so, doesn’t tell me exactly where this area is. After he tells me how he discovered it, he shows me other examples of what he had picked up off the ground. I’m very intrigued at this point. Brian says, “Scott is thinking about claiming it and has questions about how to go about it.” I discussed some of the ins and outs about making claims and left it up to that.

A Crisp Spring Day,

    I get a call from Brian. “Scott is thinking of letting you claim that jasper that he found out in the Owyhee’s and he wants to meet with us again.” It’s been a few years since I initially saw Scott’s jasper. It’s something you try not to think about too much, if you value getting any sleep at night. We meet at Scott’s shop the next day. He asks me if I would like to make a claim on his jasper and all he wants, in return, is a little rock to cut up every so often. Puzzled, I say, “I thought you wanted to mine it?” Scott then relates his rational for asking me to mine it.  “After years of keeping the jasper location a secret,” he states, “Maybe it’s time to see what’s in the ground.”  Like the rest of us, he’s not getting any younger. Also, he recently came into the possession of a claim of facet, high grade, opal in Idaho that he would like to spend more time with than the jasper. I’m trying not to show too much emotion. Inside, I’m like a little kid at Christmas getting a toy that I always wanted and no one else has.  A few weeks later, Scott, Brian and I head out to the area that Scott had discovered. This area of the Owyhee’s is very dry, with big, old sagebrush. Driving over the land with the ATV is going to be hard. I find it amazing, that in order for this sagebrush to grow this big, there must not have been any fires here for a great many years.  For this trip, we are going to walk to the area, instead of taking the ATVs. Starting from the dry creek bed, where Scott first saw the initial piece of jasper, we head up the little creek to the flat area where he had found the source. When we arrived at the spot, I look down on the ground. There was very little rock that Scott had left behind. He, basically, vacuumed up the ground through the years of collecting. There are a few proving flakes and tailings in areas, where he had dug small holes. Not much else, in terms of rocks, for us to take home.  I could see the host rock was hard Rhyolite similar to Bruneau’s host rock. There were large boulders of it lying on the ground, with pockets of small nodules cemented in to it.  This will be quite different from the way I normally dig rough. I may need some advice from miners who have experience in this type of environment.  Judging from what I saw on the ground, I may need the advice of Gene Mueller, of The Gem Shop. He lives in Cedarburg, Wisconsin and owns the Regency Rose Plume claim. He also actively digs the Agua Nueva Agate in Mexico, and previously owned the Christine Marie Morrisonite claim.  There is also Larry Ridley, who owns the Willow Creek mine, with its large thunder eggs of jasper.  As the day progressed, Scott showed us all the places that he thought would be good for prospecting, and for our first dig. I walked around a little more to get a feel for the lay of the land and where I’d be putting up my claim stakes.

Below is the float we found on the first day out with Scott.

Nodule stuck on Rhyolite
Agate Inclusions in Jasper. The Agate Fluoresces!
Orbed Nodule
Nice Brecciate
Orbed Chunk

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