June President’s Message – NFMS – Bitterroot Rock and Gem Show

I was very excited as Mike and I left for the NFMS – Bitterroot Rock and Gem Show in Hamilton, Montana. I was so looking forward to seeing Montana again as the last time I visited the state was in 1985.

The drive was easy, weather a little misty at times and the scenery beautiful! Having been raised in southern California I find the northwest scenery beyond compare. Google said 8.5 hours but it took us 10.5 hours as we made several stops to stretch our legs.

In Mullan, Idaho we stopped at a roadside pullout to see Elmer’s Fountains. They were hand-built by local silver miner and welder Elmer Almquist. These beautiful, folk art-style water features were erected in remembrance of one of Almquist’s closest friends, Arnold, that died tragically in a mining accident. He used piping and metal from the old mine on the mountain just behind the fountains. The land and fountains are still held by Elmer’s descendants. It just so happened as we pulled up a family member was waiting for his brother as they were going to work on the old family homestead area up the mountain. Mike chatted with him regarding his ancestor, the fountains and the reclamation work going on on their property.

We arrived in Hamilton just at sunset. The Bitterroot Valley is a beautiful valley with the Bitterroot Range on one side and the Sapphire Mountains on the other side. The Bitterroot River meanders through town. When we arrived on Thursday the mountains on both sides were snow-covered almost to ground level. The temperature around high 40’s F. On Sunday only the very highest peaks had snow and the temperature was 72 F degrees.

The sunset picture was taken near our hotel. The Bitterroot Mountains looking west.

Again the Bitterroot Mountains looking south west from our hotel.

The NFMS-Bitterroot Rock and Gem Show was held at the Ravalli Fairgrounds. The Show used 3 buildings plus an outdoor eating area. A smoked barbecue vendor plus plus a catering truck provided a good variety of food.

The Show had a nice selection of vendors and demonstrators.

There was some outstanding Montana Agate (rough or polished) for sale throughout the Show. I bought a small agate to cut. I also saw some very nice Dryhead Agate from southern Montana, found just south of Billings. These are two rocks we generally don’t find a lot of at shows in western Washington.

There was a nice assortment of display cases: polished rocks and minerals of the northwest, petrified wood of the northwest, Biggs Jasper, rocks and minerals from around the world, outstanding cut and polished Montana Agates, a couple of jewelry cases, meta physical case, doll house made from rocks, clothes pins from rocks and nice sampling of cabochons.

I attended a lecture on finding sapphires in Montana. The colors to be found and how they are heat treated for color enhancement. Almost all the collecting sites are now under claim or closed to collecting. It’s a hit or miss effort to collect from the few tailing piles that allow access.

There was also a lecture on the dinosaurs found in Montana and adjacent areas. They had several dinosaur skeleton replicas around the Show and someone cleaning away the dirt from an encased dinosaur bone. Very interesting to sit and watch how they recover bones from the soil/rock.

The silent auction had some quality material.

I picked up a nice piece of Mushroom Rhyolite and a cut pure white quartz crystal geode pair. Mike bought a bucket of petrified wood nodules from the Yellowstone River plus loads of other rocks and a couple of pieces of unusual petrified wood.

The turnout for the Show seemed very good. Friday was a little light in attendance but Saturday and Sunday the fairgrounds parking lot was full and people were parking on the both sides of the adjacent streets. At times there was hardly walking room in the aisles.

At the Editor’s Breakfast on Sunday morning I was so proud to accept the 1st Place Award – Website on behalf of Mark Hohn, Cascade Mineralogical Society. I have an engraved wooden plaque to present to Mark at our next General Meeting.

This was an excellent show put on by a small club. There was a lot of pressure on them with this event as it was also an NFMS Show in addition to their local show. It was obvious that everyone worked extremely hard to pull this event off. Congratulations to the Bitterroot Club for a great show!!

As we headed home we decided to stop at the Cataldo Mission, Mission State Park, Couer d’Alene, Idaho. We had spotted it from the highway when driving to Montana. It’s located 24 miles east of Couer d’Alene off Interstate 90.

The Cataldo Mission the oldest standing building in Idaho and the oldest Mission in the northwest. The Mission and Parish House were constructed between 1850 to 1853 by the Jesuit Missions and the Couer d’Alene and Salish tribes.

The Park Visitors Center has a 20 minute video on the history of the Mission. Then you walk up to the Mission itself. We happened upon a group of school children and was able to hear a narrator point out all the features of the building. Among many interesting points, they had very few items to decorate the Mission’s interiors. They used flatten tin cans, then shaped them to hold candles and decorate the alter. Purchased fabric from the Hudson Bay Company and hand painted newspaper were used to decorate the walls. A stain made from blueberries to stain the alter bench.

It was a very peaceful place to just sit on the bench and enjoy a lovely sunny day.

Enjoyed the show and seeing all the Montana rock and minerals that aren’t seen very often in western Washington. Met a lot of great people. I sure liked the peace and quiet, lack of background noise and beauty of the area. Over all it was a great mini-vacation!

Updated: June 7, 2017 — 12:18 pm

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