Friday, August 19, 2011

Crystal digging in Mt. Ida, Arkansas

            I was on my way to Eureka Springs, leaving out of Lafayette, Louisiana, a long drive that’s hard to make in one day. I looked on the map hoping to find a nice halfway spot to rest my head — maybe Little Rock — when Mt. Ida caught my eye.
            On a previous trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas, I had stopped at Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only place in America where diamonds have been found. The state park lets visitors dig through the dirt in the hopes of finding diamonds — and some have. The time I visited I didn’t find anything resembling a diamond. However, I did notice that some local merchants had gorgeous quartz crystals on display. I was told that nearby Mt. Ida offered several quartz crystal mines where visitors could try their luck.
             So this time traveling through the great state of Arkansas, I stopped at the “Quartz Crystal Capital of the World.” There are several places in and around Mt. Ida that allow visitors inside private “mines” to search for quartz crystals. There are even more places where crystals and other rocks and minerals can be bought. For a complete list of both, visit the Mt. Ida Chamber of Commerce Web site. I arrived late in the afternoon and during an intense dry spell with temperatures hovering around 110, so chose the latter, purchasing six beautiful specimens for $20 from a roadside vendor named John Hashim.
            Feeling pleased with myself I took my lovely crystals and spent the night at the Royal Oak Inn, a comfortable and clean motel in Mt. Ida with a refreshing pool, lots of ice and great customer service for only $39.95 a night.
            Mt. Ida is also known for its live music Friday and Saturday nights on the steps of its historic courthouse.  Known as The Front Porch Stage, the event hosts bands such as the Arkansas Trainwreck and Happenstance, with a web page honoring a possum queen and declaring itself “mercifully free of the ravages of intelligence.”
             If you’re really into digging for crystals, you might want to try your hand at Mt. Ida’s 25th Annual World’s Championship Quartz Crystal Dig Oct. 13-15, 2011. Diggers choose from four working mines, keep what they dig and compete in cash prizes for the biggest crystals. In addition, there will be a gem and mineral show, quilt show and craft show.
            Note: If you want to dig for crystals, wear clothes you don’t mind getting stained or that can be thrown away. Same goes for shoes; the sturdier the better. Some mines are kid friendly, some aren’t, so it’s best to visit the individual web sites.

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