2008-10-02 / Front Page

Rock swap brings prospectors from all over U.S. to mountain

Graves Mountain will be open to prospectors and interested onlookers during the biannual "Rock Swap & Dig" set for October 3-5. Here, prospectors are pictured at the mountain collecting rutile, kyanite, pyrite, lazulite, blue quartz, quartz crystals, pyrophyllite, and much more. It was reported that an estimated 1,500 people from all over the United States took part in the event last spring. Graves Mountain will be open to prospectors and interested onlookers during the biannual "Rock Swap & Dig" set for October 3-5. Here, prospectors are pictured at the mountain collecting rutile, kyanite, pyrite, lazulite, blue quartz, quartz crystals, pyrophyllite, and much more. It was reported that an estimated 1,500 people from all over the United States took part in the event last spring. The Graves Mountain Rock Swap & Dig is set to begin Friday, October 3, and continue through Sunday, October 5.

The mountain, which is considered "a scientific and geological wonder," will be open to prospectors and interested onlookers from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily.

Activities include mineral collecting, digging, swapping rocks and tall tales, hiking, visiting with old friends, and making new ones.

Prospectors are asked to bring their own picks, hammers and chisels, buckets, gloves, sifters, shovels, pry bars, and safety glasses. It is likewise a good idea to pack proper footwear, with plenty of ankle support, for climbing around the rock piles.

A shuttle and a concession stand, featuring grilled hamburgers and hotdogs, chips, and soft drinks, will be provided. Also, special Graves Mountain Rock Swap & Dig T-shirts will be available for purchase.

There is no admission charge, but a small contribution is requested to defray the cost of opening the mountain to the public.

The Rock Swap & Dig is hosted twice yearly by Junior Norman, caretaker of the mountain and a former miner.

According to Norman, "Approximately 1,500 people attended our last rock swap - - some from as far away as California, New Mexico, Arizona, Kentucky, Indiana, and Florida. Although we hope this upcoming weekend will be even bigger and better, we have some concerns because of the gasoline shortage."

The rules and regulations for Rock Swap & Dig participants are as follows:

.. Visitors must first stop at the Hospitality Tent to sign a liability release.

.. Visitors must park their vehicles in the designated area at the end of the paved access road but not much beyond the woods to the right of the road.

.. No one is allowed to drive a vehicle beyond the designated parking area. To do so, he must be accompanied by the caretaker.

.. Children under the age of 12 must be supervised by an adult.

.. All pets must be kept on a leash and under control.

.. Ladders or power tools of any kind will not be allowed -- hand tools only.

.. Stay away from all high walls.

.. No repelling.

.. Absolutely no one is allowed on the mountain after dark.

.. The caretaker has the final word concerning matters of safety.

According to "Matrix: A Journal of the History of Minerals," the rutile crystals at Graves mountain are considered the finest in the world. Rutile is a lustrous, dark red mineral commonly found in prismatic crystals.

Prospectors may also discover kyanite, hematite, pyrite, lazulite, pyrophyllite, ilmenite, muscovite, fushsite, barite, sulfur, blue quartz, quartz crystals, and microcrystals such as woodhouseite, variscite, strengite, phophosiderite, cacoxenite, and cradallite.

During the years, specimens of minerals found on Graves Mountain have made their way into private collections and museums throughout the world.

In describing the mountain, Jose Santamaria, author of the "Matrix" article, wrote, "The mountain is a long, ridge-like hill nearly a mile and a half long but less than half a mile wide…It once had two prominent summits, East and West Mountain, and a third smaller mountain. The highest peak rose 400 feet above the gently rolling hills of the surrounding area. Between the two taller peaks was a connecting ridge referred to as the saddle.

"Mining has reduced these peaks to 200 feet below their former heights. Ironically, the area around this saddle now provides one of the highest vantage points on the site."

Santamaria went on to write that throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s, the numerous springs located near the base of the mountain made it an ideal place for outings and picnics. Also, local politicians would campaign there.

Mining operations began on the mountain in 1963.

The natural landmark was named for John Temple Graves, who bought the mountain from the government in the early 1800s.

For more information about the Rock Swap & Dig, contact Junior Norman at 706-401-3173 or 706- 359-3862.

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