Can anyone recommend the little pine garnet mine or chunky gal mountain for day trips (one day at each place)? Are they still producing? What materials do I need to bring with me?
Little Pine Garnet Mine in Madison County
You may be able to recover garnets on the ground by simply walking around after a good hard rain. Of course, digging is always productive there. Since my book was published, the property owner has increased up the price of collecting to $25 per person and has limited the volume of material that you can collect. The details of the changes there may be found on my website at: http://www.mcrocks.com/page8.html
Chunky Gal/Buck Creek/Corundum Knob - Clay County
For your first trip, I suggest that you dig on the eastern flanks of Corundum Knob. Drive up the forest service road off Hwy 64 just east of Glade Gap to the parking area near the knob. Walk in on the main trail for about 100 yards and turn right on a side trail just before the main trail starts to go up hill. Hike about 100 yards until you see a slope on your right with a whole bunch of dirt, loose rocks and holes where rockhounds have dug extensively. You can dig or surface collect for pink and red corundum in smaragdite. Look especially for rocks that show corundum inside and are "bumpy" on the outside, as the "bumps" are likely corundum. You may have to take these home and wash them to find out if they are actually corundum-bearing since most you dig up will be completely covered in dirt that does not easily wipe off. But, these make the best specimens and you can see examples in my report at http://mcrocks.com/ftr06-2/Streeter7-22-06.html Large boulders that contain corundum tend to be incredibly hard and difficult to bust. You'd need a big sledge hammer for this, but I absolutely do not recommend swinging a sledge with anyone standing nearby. Rock fragments will fly like bullets in every direction. Stick to the smaller manageable rocks and you should be alright.
I could provide more explicit directions to and for the above locations, but I am afraid that you might end up not knowing what or how to find anything worthwhile - or worse, you could get lost or hurt. As you may know if you have visited my website (www.McRocks.com), I wrote a book, " A Rockhounding Guide to North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. I would urge anyone new to rockhounding in this area to purchase it if interested in collecting in this part of the State or rockhounding in general. Not only does the book tell one where to collect, it tells how and what to look for and contains other useful information. I'm not suggesting you purchase my book to make money, because, believe me, I make peanuts on the sale of each. But, I have purchased many guidebooks for different areas of the country and they have proven to be invaluable to our success. You can order the book at http://www.Amazon.com or directly from the publisher at http://www.milestonepress.com
I visited the little pine garnet mine and found some pretty nice garnets in and outside the cave. Also on the hill itself was where I found my first huge garnet that was about the size of a plum. I found it on accident just punching my pick into the trail part of the hill for support and heard that magical clank sound that we all like to hear. My best find of the day was a tripple garnet cluster fused in mica schist. A 5 lb pick is all you need for working the outside of the mine. I mean you can bring a shovel and a screen for dry sifting the tailings. I might bring my 16 ft ladder the next time I visit little pine since I saw some YouTube footage of a guy who said some of the best spots to knock out good quality garnets on the upper parts of the cave walls (leaving the weight bearing structures alone of course). Tools for this kind of work would be a pick hammer and a chisel. People may not like only being able to fill 2.5 gallons of material but it's a lot and you are left to work on your own. No one follows you to the mine. No one bothered me except the 2000 lb bull that occupies the pasture next to the mine. No matter the skill level you will find some pretty cool stuff at this odd little place. You have to hike in to the mine, but it's only an 1/8th of a mile from the parking area. It took me over an hour to start finding what I consider worthy material. Don't get discouraged. Keep at it and good luck. It is worth the $25 and the experience of this beautiful place set in the middle of nowhere.