Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Road To Oblivion

It's been a mission of mine for the past couple of summers to crack open a rock and find a geode inside. I even have a proper rock hammer. What I don't have, apparently, are the necessary rock hounding skills to complete the task. It's not for lack of trying. I've hunted high and low without much success. Obviously I've been hunting in the wrong places. Well, not really, because I've discovered some places I've never been before in these Black Hills of Dakota, and discovered new things in familiar places. So they're not really "wrong" places. No matter how many times I head for the hills, there's always something new to discover. My National Forest Service map has been a handy guide. Every time I look it seems I notice something new. I've noticed an area on the map many times before marked Oblivion. Great name. My curiosity about it has always been overridden by the fact that I've had some other place else to go. Probably. But this time I decided that a place called Oblivion might be a likely spot to look for geodes. Plus, I would be able to tell everyone that I've been to Oblivion. Not a lot of people get to say that in the context of talking about an actual real location.

Just a brief note on the history of Oblivion - It was simply a place on the railroad line between Keystone and Hill City that was shared by newly invented diesel locomotives and the old steam engines. Oblivion was a point half-way between the towns and was constructed with the sole purpose of turning the trains around. Nobody actually lived there and no mention is made of why it was named Oblivion. 

After driving past the turn-off on my first attempt to find this place I came back around and headed down a trail. After driving a few hundred yards the trail became nearly impassable, even for my 4-wheel drive, so I parked and took off on foot. Almost immediately I stumbled upon a shallow pit containing some old rusty metal. Nearby were some other deeper pits, some with what looked like sealed off cave or shaft openings.


Then I began to notice pieces of quartz all around. There were some nice specimens. Nothing that looked like it had geode potential, but if I was looking for quartz I had hit the mother lode.

This had to be an old quartz mine, one of hundreds scattered throughout the Black Hills. There were also signs of recent activity so it's probably still where rock shop owners or collectors come to restock when supplies get low. And there's plenty more to go around.

After wandering around the area I realized this was probably not Oblivion. It was too steep and uneven. Oblivion was most likely across the highway in the open field and grassy area, so before leaving I did check it out. Whatever may have been left of a roundhouse or tracks had long been swallowed up by time and weather and the natural landscape. But I feel confident in saying that I have been to Oblivion.

There was time for one final stop in a last ditch effort to find some rocks to crack in search of the elusive geode. It was in an area popular for 4-wheeler fanatics and dirt bikers. There were none around at the time, and the area was fairly flat with some promising looking rock outcroppings along the small creek nearby. I walked down to the creek, saw something, moved in closer to take a look...then turned around and walked back to my truck, got in and left. Sometimes I come across things in my travels that just don't belong. Maybe even defy explanation. This was one of those things.
That's right. It is what you think it is...a half full bottle of Palmolive dish washing soap. Just sitting there on a rock in the middle of the creek. Now, it may not have seemed so strange if there had been signs of an actual camp in the area, or dishes or utensils nearby drying in the sun. But there was none of that. It made me feel uncomfortable. You know that feeling you have when you suspect someone is watching you? It was like that. I began to wonder if I had surprised someone who was doing something with that dish soap and had scurried off to hide when they saw me coming, leaving the evidence behind. Evidence of what? I decided not to stick around to find out. So I left. Never even cracked a rock. 
I'm thinking for my next rock hounding adventure I'll go further south and east.  'I heered there's geodes in them thar hills'.

Roger O'Dea        7/13/2016