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2019 Tucson Gem Show Report
Updated March
4, 2019   9:40 A.M. Eastern
Tucson Show Photos.
Digging in Arizona - Holbrook, Payson & The Planet Mine
You are on Page Seven.
I usually stop in at the Tucson Show for 2 days and buy my main core items that I need for my shop.  It's best to visit Tucson at the beginning of the show as
opposed to at the end of the show as sometimes the pickings are pretty thin towards the end.
It's true that at the end of the show you can sometimes get bargains but that can be kind of hit or miss.  Since it is a 1,760 mile drive for me one-way just to
reach the Tucson City Limits, I want to be sure of getting all of the things that I want for my shop
so that's why I'm sure to go at the start instead of towards the
Above is a random typical city street in Tucson. Tucson is in a valley that is ringed by mountain ranges on all sides. It is a very scenic town and the soaring palm
trees with mountains in the background  is a sight that you'll see no matter where you are at in the town.
In the foothills on the outskirts of town the Saguaro
cactus are plentiful.   Some grow as tall as 50 feet
and live for about 150 years on average.  I've read
that they develop their first arm when they are
about 100 years old. Some of the cactus live for
as long as 175 years and a couple have been
found that are as much as 200 years old!    I've
been pronouncing "SAGUARO" wrong as there is
no "G" sound in the name.  The "G" has a "W"
sound: Sa-wah-ro.      And now you know!
After a day or two of checking out the minerals and crystals at
the Tucson Show i usually head North toward Holbrook to dig
for Arizona Rainbow petrified wood.   This means going uphill
all the way, and through an area where the Elk are. These
creatures get really big and highway signs warn you to stay
At left is seen a nice "Full Round"
portion of a petrified log.  This one is
mostly red in color and has a great
round shape.  The 'full rounds' are
highly prized as they  aren't  as
common as the broken pieces.  I saw
just the top corner edge sticking up out
of the ground and I had no idea that it
was this big!
The elevation here is about 7,000 feet and the air is thin. It is also very windy at
times and while it wasn't raining, it
was cold and windy.
I did find some petrified wood with great color.  One of them is shown below.
I also usually go to Payson to dig for crystals that are locally known as  
"Payson Diamonds".  These are quartz crystals that are almost identical to
"Herkimer Diamonds" with the main difference being that some have
amethyst color!  The Payson Diamonds form in cavities in limestone just like
the ones in New York.
Jeff Lennox and I had planned this trip to do some digging and mineral
collecting months in advance.  The original plan was to dig at the Finch Mine
first, but after traveling there  the weather didn't cooperate. It was raining
and the forecast showed that it would continue to rain, and rain all day.
Radar backed this up and it was definitely going to rain so we ended up
driving a couple more hours to Holbrook to dig for petrified wood. That
worked out well since it was dry in Holbrook per usual.    But there was no
getting around that the area South of Holbrook was getting rain.  We headed
toward the next stop in Payson and hoped that the forecast of "rain" didn't
really mean rain.  As it turned out, rain did mean rain.  And how!
The petrified wood in the Holbrook area is in a "High Desert" environment.  Elevation is around 7,000 feet and
it is very dry.  It's so dry that even the cactus can't survive and about the only plant that can survive in this
area is grasses.  Between Tucson and the High Desert town of Holbrook is an area that is dramatically
different between the two enviroments.   There is a geological structure called the Mogollon Rim that divides
the grassy high desert and the Southern part of Arizona with towns like Tucson and the Saguaro.  The area at
and just below the rim is fantastic! It has huge tall pines and is a wonderful place.   It usually snows a couple of
times a year  at the Rim and the town of Payson just below the rim. The photo below shows some of the pines
and the remnants of the last recent snowfall.
Since it wasn't possible to alter the schedule any further, and since I had
come a long distance, I resigned myself to getting wet and digging in the
rain all day.
The collecting area is about 20 miles north of Payson and is very close to
the base of the Mogollon Rim. The elevation here is 5,000 feet. The
roads are dirt and are reasonably maintained most of the time.  In past
years I've seen the roads almost impassable and a challenge for even the
most competent off-road vehicles but despite all of the rain the roads
were in fair condition on this trip.
It was about 50 degrees and a light rain the ENTIRE day. My boots balled
up with mud so walking was difficult and even worse, mud clung to the
tools making them heavy and hard to use.  Slick prybars, slick pick
mattocks, and slick sledge hammers.  It was a tough day!
I DID find one extremely nice clear one. I'll round it up, take a picture
and post it in this spot.  Jeff and I both found a handful of mediocre
crystals but the day for sure was not a success in that regard.
The key to finding great mineral specimens is perseverance and so I
continue to search the Payson area.

photo coming soon
Next we headed to the opposite end of the state - Parker, Arizona to dig for chrysocolla at the Planet Mine.  This is not far from a more recognizable name: Quartzite.  
This area is very close to the California state line and was about a 4 hour drive from Payson.
We had the gps coordinates on a google map and headed onto a BLM road.  This road was severely washed out and you will need a high clearance 4X4 to drive on
it. Don't try it without 4X4 or you will be stuck in 3 minutes if not less.  This road from Parker to Planet is brutal!  I took over an hour to go 10 miles and we got within 3
miles of the mine only to see a gate across the road.
What to do??
Offroading from Parker to Planet was fun for the first ten minutes and then after that my kidneys were crying, my liver was
making threats and the rest of my internal organs (and a pair of external ones) was in an uproar!     It was that bad.
I hung a right, and then a couple of lefts, with no clue of where in the Hell I was at. After awhile I could tell that according to Google Maps that we were heading back
toward the Planet mine on a different road.  We got to the Planet mine and just past it was another gate.  It looks like the BLM or similar was having a bit of fun with
those gates.  If you're thinking about visiting the Planet mine yourself then see the route notes in the text box further down.
There is lots of chrysocolla and malachite at the Planet mine.  It is all over the ground and you can get as much as you feel like lugging away. I couldn't park
anywhere close to where the material was at, and after hauling a hundred pounds back to my truck I gave up on getting any more. You don't just have to lug the
buckets of rock back, you also have to dodge and squeeze thru cactus and brush.  All of the brush out West has THORNS, so it wasn't just a simple matter of
carrying the weight, you also had to contend with spiny thorny thorn-thorns!
The material is vivid with bright intense colors but it is probably too soft for lapidary work.  It could be stabilized and I am sure that there are some areas that have
good hard material that would take a polish without being stabilized. But in general terms the material is best for yard rocks and mineral samples as opposed to
lapidary material.
I found some epidote crystals.  Several rocks had a green druse and I noticed that a couple had crystals big enough to make out with the naked eye. I looked at
this with a 10x loupe and it had really nice transparent epidote crystals that closely resembled green tourmaline crystals.  I really like this material despite the
crystals being very small.
There is probably all sorts of good things to find at the Planet Mine given the time to dig and explore.  It is worthwhile to visit if you have a good 4x4.
Note:  The road from Parker to Planet Mine is gated 3 miles from the mine. This road is brutal.
Note: Take "Back planet ranch road" which is just before the locked gate  if coming from Parker. If you get to a locked gate, backtrack and take "Back Planet
Ranch" road. At the next crossroads turn away from Bouse to head toward the Planet mine.
Note:  The road from Bouse to Planet Mine was open at the time that I went.  It is in fair shape but 4x4 is required once you get within 10 miles of the mine.   If
coming from Bouse the road is about 30 miles long and will take about 2 hours to travel.  30 miles of dirt road is not fun. The first 20 miles from Bouse was graded
very well at the time of my visit (Feb 6, 2019). The last 10 miles are rough.
The last photo above right shows glorious pavement in Bouse.
I ended up staying overnight in Quartzsite because I needed to talk to a
fellow about  a horse. While I was there I took this picture (at right) of this
huge saw. The guy that owns it told me that the rock in it in this picture
weighed 387 pounds!     This saw can handle much bigger rocks though.  
The guy commented that the saw is homemade and was "slow".   Looking
at the design of it, that is a fair trade off since you don't have to worry
about expensive diamond saw blades binding and warping! This has a
pretty clever design and I am surprised that one of the big lapidary
equipment manufacturers aren't making it.  I suppose that they make so
much money selling the traditional round replacement saw blades from
where they get damaged that they don't want to je
opardize those profits!
When building the pages for my 2019 Tucson Show Report, things went
fairly smoothly and basically as planned. however, I did forget to post a
few mineral specimen photos.  My goal was to make an orderly structured
accounting of the places that I went and the things that I saw. This was
complicated in that the photos were scattered across several folders.
So, I'll backtrack a bit and share some crystal photos that I took at The
Strip along I-10 (Rapa River, RiverPark, etc).  Shown immediately below
are bins of crystals primarily intended as lapidary rough (cabbing and
faceting). These are sold by the gram and the larger pieces of kunzite at
left would range between $160 to $200 for one crystal.
I wanted to start my Tucson Show report with minerals so I initially skipped the part showing my
journey from G
eorgia and across a slew of states to get to Tucson. Below: The tray with ribs and
tenderloin was my lunch. I was hungry after swinging a sledge for a couple of hours in Llano!
Below is Cooper's BBQ in Llano, Texas
Immediately below is Tourmaline from
Pakistan that was displayed on rotating
platforms at the 22nd Street Market.
Below: Flats of Indian Zeolite minerals & single specimens at the
22nd street market from two different vendors.
Below is a huge Iron Road Runner in New Mexico. I rode by it for
years without knowing that there was a rest area there because
there's no signs when going Westbound.  I finally stopped about 3
years ago and was very surprised to see that the road runner was
part of the New Mexico rest area (East bound on I-10).
Below Left: Dust storm warning signs
in New Mexico.
Below middle: Arizona State line
Below right:
Trip meter shows that my round-trip
to Tucson & back was 4863 miles!
Any report on the Tucson Show should mention something extremely important: Lodging.
And not just because you have to stay somewhere, but because the hotels don't just double the price:
most increase it by a factor of 3 or 4 or more! Even the fleabag $45 hotels will be priced at $150.  And
the Super 8's?  Oh, those will increase from the usual $60 to $250,
over quadruple the normal price!
It goes without saying that you should make your reservations 6 months in advance.  
A real gem of a
tip is to use your rewards points for free hotel stays if at all possible.
 You'll get the best
use out of them by getting a $250 room for the same amount of points as a $65 room anywhere else.
can't emphasize enough how much you can benefit by using your rewards program points on
the Tucson Show hotels.
I've used Wyndham rewards for super8/ Day's Inn and IHG/interContinental
Hotel Group rewards programs for Holiday Inn free nights.   Some years I have had enough points to
stay 4 nights at the show  absolutely free (but I did have to change hotels).   Some years I have slept in
the Walmart parking lot in my truck or a mix between hotel nights and Hell nights. While the days are
warm and sunny and get up to 78 degrees, the temperatures plummet and sometimes into the 30's so
the Wal-Mart sleep-overs can be a pain.  It's not that I didn't have the money for a hotel - it's just that I
refuse to pay $250 to sleep for 6 hours.  That $250 or $500 will buy a lot of minerals in the light of day.
Some Wal-Marts have "No Trespassing" signs out and if that is the case then they really mean it. Other
Wal-Marts actually encourage it and have signs that say "Customers can stay here overnight for ONE
NIGHT. If you stay more than 24 hours you will be towed".  One Wal-mart in particular has this sign and
an area with about 30 campers, camper-trailers, Trucks, and people very obviously sleeping in their
cars each night.  I would imagine the folks in the "M
otor Home" type campers spend a lot of money for
supplies & groceries at that particular Wal-Mart, and probably most of the other over-night folks do too.  
That Wal-mart's policy is probably a profitable one because of the increase in sales from the lot lizards.
I noticed one Tucson Show Blog mention that Motel 6 and other's can still be found for $60.  While that
particular blog seemed to be updated because it mentioned brand-new first-year shows like Mineral
City, the information about the hotels is woefully outdated and incorrect.   In years past it was the case
that you could find a cheap fleabag, but that is no longer the case in 2018 or 2019.  In fact, now the
hotels even an hour North and South have  went to $150 per night. In 2018 I rode an hour North and
stayed in a Motel 6 for $60.  I called the exact same hotel this year (after not believing my eyes on the
online price) and their new price was $150.  This was true of all hotels in an hour radius - and believe
me - I spent quite some time checking on this during my last "Wal-mart parking lot night".
The highest hotel prices will be the last week of the show. The last week is determined by the timing of
the climactic Main show in the convention center and for 2020 the Main show is Feb 13 - 16, 2020. This
means that in general terms the bulk of the Tucson show is from February 01 - February 16, 2020. The
Marty Zinn shows, the shows on the strip (Rapa River, Riverpark, etc), Kino Sports Complex and the
22cnd street market are all timed to start at approximately 2 weeks from the end of the Main Show in the
Convention Center.  February 1 through February 7 may have slightly cheaper rates than I've
mentioned above but I would bring a blanket and your favorite pillow just in case.
                     LOOKING FORWARD:

Tucson show dates for 2020
Main Show (Convention Center) Feb. 13 -16, 2020  
22nd St Market
JAN 30 - FEB 16, 2020  22ND ST SHOW
The Strip (Rapa River, River Park, Pueblo, Days Inn, etc) TBA
Above: The only hotel option on Feb. 7
was a Super 8 for $250!