I’ve always loved rocks. My mother tells me I come by this honestly because Nonny (her mother), also loved rocks. So, I guess you could say it’s in my blood. Because I love rocks so much, when my oldest son decided to do a report on geodes in the fifth grade, I got excited. Geodes are hollow, mostly round rocks with an internal cavity filled with crystals or other minerals. The name geode comes from the Greek word Geoides which means “earthlike.” Most geodes are found in areas such as deserts, volcanic ash beds, or areas with a lot of limestone. This makes Dugway, Utah a perfect place to find geodes and other mineral specimens.
After my son finished his report, I decided I would go to Dugway, UT someday to hunt for geodes. Well, years went by, and I completely forgot about hunting for geodes. Then the pandemic hit. With everything shut down, I decided it would be the perfect activity to add to my List of 50 Things.
Making plans to hunt for geodes
Since my youngest son needed the driving time to get his driver’s license, and my oldest son loves rocks (it’s also in his blood), we headed to Dugway on a Saturday morning back in October. Before leaving, I made sure to map out the drive and printed maps, so we could find our way once we lost cell phone service.
Taking off from Provo in my Toyota Camry, everything was going as planned until we hit the Pony Express Trail. If any of you are planning on taking a trip to Dugway, don’t drive anything but a truck or SUV. Your car and nerves will thank you for it. The road to the Dugway Proving Grounds is bumpy and unpaved for most of the way. Part of the reason the road is so bad is because you’re literally taking the Pony Express Trail there. The road is in the middle of nowhere.
Unfortunately for us, we headed to Dugway right after it had rained, and the roads were covered in mud in some places. Where the road wasn’t muddy, there were holes filled with water, and you had to navigate around them going 25-30 mph. Although my youngest had been driving, he and I switched places so he wouldn’t have to deal with the added stress of an unpaved road.
Due to the mud, the car fishtailed its way to the geode beds–not the drive any of us were expecting. When we arrived, we saw others digging around two large mounds of dirt and wondered out loud where we should begin our geode excavation.
Digging in Dugway
In no time, we each had found our spots and began hacking away at the rocks and dirt, hoping to reveal some geodes. At first, I didn’t find anything. However, as I continued to dig deeper into the side of the bed, I began to find success. This is called finding “a nest with dinosaur eggs.” As I continued to dig, I got better at discerning geodes from “duds.” Duds are rocks that look cool on the outside but are solid on the inside.
Basically, geodes look like small, egg-shaped rocks with chalky exteriors. Each time I found one, I’d throw it into one of the orange 5-gallon buckets we had brought. In no time, we had about 30 geodes (or what we hoped were geodes). Since the sky was looking as if it would start raining any minute, we decided to head back out.
Knowing there were two different ways home based on the earlier research I had done, we decided to take the long way home, which was supposed to be a paved road. As luck would have it, the road was smoother, but it also had a lot of muddy spots, and we fishtailed again. With my heart now in my stomach, I prayed we would just get home safely without the car going off the road.
Getting home safely
After nearly 40 minutes of driving north, we finally arrived at a metal gate with a chain blocking the road. On a white metal sign, black letters read “Property of the U.S. Army.” At first, I was tempted to get out of the car and pull on the lock to see if it really was locked. However, I knew better. We were not going to get through. It’s a good thing we didn’t attempt to find a way to cross illegally. Later, I found out that the Dugway firing range for military jets was on the other side of that fence.
Given that my heart hadn’t yet recovered from the recent fish tailing, my oldest son offered to drive us back home. Each time we hit a stretch of muddy road, I gripped the edges of my seat. I could only pray we wouldn’t go off the edge and into the mud.
Fortunately, my son’s expert driving got us past the muddy stretches and, eventually, safely back home. With our shoes caked in mud and dirt, we stepped out of the car and hauled our buckets out of the trunk and into the garage.
Cutting the geodes
Although I’d planned on getting the geodes cut right away, life got busy. After several months, I finally got the geodes cut. Following the suggestion of my friend, Ben Markham (who also loves rocks), I took the geodes to Larry’s Jewelry and Rock Shop in Spanish Fork, UT for Larry to cut them. While you can definitely hammer geodes open, you get better results with a wet saw.
As you can see by the pictures, the work and the wait was worth it. Once it’s warmer, we’ll head to Larry’s Rock Shop. He has a larger outside saw that will be better for cutting the bigger rocks. I have a feeling we’ll have even more amazing rocks to show. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Nonny were there in spirit to celebrate with us. Here’s to 2022…rock on!