Searching for Limb Casts

“What’s a Limb Cast?”

Any geologist or rockhound can tell you. If you bury any or all of a tree in hot volcanic ash the wood will burn away but leave a cast, or impression, that then fills in over the ages with agate. The agate can come in a variety of colors and the tree casts eventually break up and fall apart after a millennium. 

Central Oregon has places where rockhounds can find Limb Casts with pink, yellow, green and blue interiors. Hubby and I were out looking for the blue and green variety in the true middle-of-no place in Crook County. Between Post and Paulina is the geographic center of Oregon and an area known as Congleton Hollow.

It had been a decade since we last visited, and it is and has been thoroughly picked over, but there are acres of BLM land to wander over and a nice primitive campground along the river. GPS coordinates can direct you to where an earlier rockhound found colored Limb Casts and we did indeed find green materials…but not blue.

To get to the blue limb cast area we were following our GPS unit driving our aged Subaru. There are limits to where a Subaru can go and we looked down one declivity where blue materials were supposed to be and said, “I don’t think so…” and turned around. When you’re miles off the pavement you don’t want to get yourself stuck.

Like California, Central Oregon got tons of rain last winter and wildflowers were lush and streams surging. Snow still covered mountain peaks and butterflies filled the air. Camping was fun, but staying in small towns was too.

Being a journalist, I love small town newspapers. What’s “news” in them covers many things. The Lake County Examiner was founded in 1880 devoted to the agricultural, industrial and civic progress of Lake County, Oregon. Stories about the Honkers and the Cowboys, the local high school teams were featured. Archery shoots offered prizes for the longest distance an arrow was shot and a peewee contest for archers under age eight. 

Obsidian collecting was opening for the season in the Warner Mountains of the Modoc National Forest. Yes, there is a season, even for rock collecting. Feed stores were offering bargains if you bought your supplies by the ton. A classified ad offered summer ranch work fencing and haying and “will train an ambitious youth…” And, in wonderment, a three bedroom one bath house was for sale for $119,000. A dinner of good burgers and a coke cost $15.49 for two diners.

Another night we stayed in Burns, home of the Burns Times-Herald founded in 1867. Rural Broadband issues filled the front page along with new fish and game rules on hunting elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats. An archaeology road show at the city park promised to showcase traditional skill keepers. Artisans, silver workers, leather tooling and saddle making, rawhide braiders, basket makers, obsidian knappers and beading on deerskins would also be sharing their skills.

What amazed me was a solid page top to bottom of fishing news. Listed were 33 reservoirs, lakes and rivers, what fish were being caught or stocked at each location, access, and what bait and lures to use. “People were hauling in fish hand over fist…at Lefton Reservoir and large olive wool buggers (lures?) were working well."

Rural Oregon is a sign by the road saying “Next Services 90 Miles.” It’s seeing real honest to goodness cowboys riding horses and fence posts made of cylindrical baskets of wire fencing filled with rocks because there’s no wood for fence posts in the high desert. Open Range means livestock has right-of-way and cattle guards are painted on the highway. (Cows are not real bright and can’t tell the difference between real metal and empty space in a real cattle guard and the painted image on asphalt.

I doubt in California you could post a sign offering squirrel poisoning and your phone number along the side of the highway. On rural Highway 395 a tractor truck unit can pull three cargo trailers. Most smaller trucks were hauling hay, cattle or powerboats. Both Abert Lake and Goose Lake have no visible roads along their west shores, because nobody lives there…and these are BIG lakes that stretch for miles.

Empty central Oregon I highly recommend for unwinding and appreciating Mother Nature…and did I mention gas was $3.07 a gallon and they pump it for you. If you ever want instructions to find Limb Casts let me know.

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