Posts Tagged ‘Selenite Crystals’

A Great Weekend Touring Northwest Oklahoma

19 October 2011

We had a great weekend touring around part of NW Oklahoma this past weekend. It was sort of a come-and-go party for our Girl Scout Troop.

We headed out Friday evening, had dinner in Guthrie, and drove to Great Salt Plains State Park. This is a cool little park, and the cabins are perfect! We had five of us: Raegan and I, Erin and her friend Bridget, and Ian. Ian crashed on one of our camp cots, we took the bed, and the girls got the futon. The cabin was really neat, with a full kitchen, satellite TV, a view of the lake to the west, and a porch and back yard.

The next morning, we got up and headed around the north end of the lake for Cherokee. At 0810 on a Saturday morning, there were no restaurants open. Not one. We met up with the other two members of the group at the United Supermarket in town, bought some breakfast stuff (milk, juice, fruit, cereal, donuts, and the like), and had a picnic on the parking lot. Erin came up with a good (NOT!) marketing slogan for the place: “Cherokee: come hungry, leave disappointed”.

From there we went selenite crystal digging at Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) (selenite is a crystal variety of gypsum). I have never done the digging before, and it was fun! You basically pick a spot, and start digging. We did bring shovels and trowels and such, but we *should* have brought a sit-upon (Bree did), a couple gallons of water to rinse the crystals and wash our hands, and to drink. Raegan brought some gallon zip bags for the crystals. Basically, you dig a minute, and if you feel crystals, you keep digging for a while, otherwise, you move somewhere else and dig.

This is Ian and Erin digging away. As you can see, you can get really dirty!

I’ve seen the salt plains from the air numerous times. They are flat and featureless up close.

The crystals are pretty cool. Most are small, 0.5 – 1 in, but they get bigger. The kids found a couple that were 6-7in.

We had one glitch, we were there on the 15th, the last day of the year (or diggers can interfere with migrating birds), and the gate was locked, but I called the State Park, and the very nice lady there called the Feds (who run the Refuge), and one of them came right over and unlocked the gate for us.

From the crystal digging, we headed to Alva and had lunch. We then hightailed it to Alabaster Caverns State Park and took the cave tour. This is the fourth time I’ve been on the tour, and I’ve enjoyed it every time.

One thing I have not been able to do at ACSP is hike the various trails there. There are a number of them that go down into various canyons that look fun.

I noticed off to the NNE of ACSP a mining operation, it looked like it was making gypsum. I asked one of the Rangers, and she had heard that the plant was mining gypsum gravel for roads. See the discussion later about the Chesapeake Energy facilities and the roads.

We drove to Woodward and toured the Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum. This was a neat museum. It had dioramas and maps from the 1800s, and a lot of artifacts from the early days of Woodward. While there, we were able to try using a Atlatl to toss projectiles at a hay bale, it was fun!

We had dinner at a real diner in Woodward, then checked into Hampton Inn (very nice!). The girls had a swim. The next morning, we headed out again.

We went to Little Sahara State Park to check it out. This was kind of a dud. LSSP is basically only for people who have dune buggies or ATVs. We walked up a hill on the north side of the park and could see the immense sand dunes, but could not walk out to them.

From LSSP, we headed east. I am amazed at the terrain out there. Around Enid, and around Woodward, it’s relatively flat. But between there, you get mesas and ridges that are up to a couple hundred feet above terrain. Some of them look right out of New Mexico. Of course, there is a lot of salt, oil, gas, minerals, etc. under the ground.

There are hundreds of new extraction facilities out in the area. A lot of them were Chesapeake Energy facilities. In some cases, there was a pump jack next to the new tanks, and in most cases, it looked like there was a valve tree where the pump jack used to be. We drove over to look at one. The road was finely crushed gypsum. So I speculate that the near-surface gypsum near ACSP was being extracted and crushed into gravel for all the roads being laid out to the next extraction facilities. There were a lot of white roads. The facilities consisted of some equipment, and two tanks, one labeled “PRODUCED WATER” and the other “CRUDE OIL”.

First, this led me to search for the permit that each of these facilities have to have. There was no searchable data at the Oklahoma Department of Mines. There are publishing requirements in newspapers, but these particular facilities weren’t seen via Google. I asked via the ODoM website, and got a nice email back saying that they could point me to data, but not online.

I also looked at the tank labels, and got a bit more education. The labels have four fields, three of which were used. The blue field is for “Health Hazard”, the red is “Fire Hazard”, and the yellow field is “Instability”. So… the two tanks contain slightly hazardous material with a flash point below 73F, that is stable. I think that the tanks are from a fracking operation, since fracking can use water, and the water comes up with the oil.

We were driving along 412, and this set of formations showed up ahead of us.

So as we went up into the cut, there was a sign, for Gloss Mountains State Park! For some reason, I thought that GMSP was out in west central Oklahoma, but no, here it was. So we pulled off, there is a hiking trail there, and we took it! From the parking area (a head, covered picnic table, but no water), there is a steep trail/set of stairs up to the mesa-let that makes up the state park.

We walked up there, it’s about 160ft, and to the back of the mesa-let. There are a couple benches up there, and very little shade. It’s about 0.7 miles out, for almost 1.5 miles total.

There is so much selenite up there, along with other forms of gypsum. We saw the flashes from reflected sunlight constantly. I took this sample. The first is a bright sunlight reflection, and then I shot the same rock looking straight down from the top.

It just doesn’t look like that rock could reflect sunlight so brightly.

We had a late lunch in Fairview, headed south back to OKC via OK 3. This was a nice, relaxed weekend, fairly inexpensive. Things I was surprised by: we had cell coverage over virtually the entire trip! It was mostly GPRS (a couple places I saw only GSM, a couple of places I saw EDGE). I lose coverage over southern or southeastern OK quickly once I get away from I-35 or I-40, so this was a pleasant surprise. I wonder if it was due to the large number of mining and extraction activities? Which was another surprise, the sheer number of extraction facilities. Also, we saw no less than four gypsum mines in various places.

We visited four state parks (another one of the families visited a fifth) and a national wildlife refuge. Ate some decent food. Had very little inter-kid argument. We really enjoyed having our temporary daughter Bridgett along for the weekend.

There is still stuff to do out there, and there are lots of weekends ahead.