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Field Trip - Hints on Planning

Sometimes I see a post asking for information, and as this is a great way to obtain up-to-date information on access to sites, a few hints may be useful.

1. Please be specific in the Subject Line as to Area so that readers can immediately see what Area you are asking about. For example, a query asking about sites in northern New Jersey will catch the reader's attention better than "Know any good sites?" which many may skip reading as being too vague to bother with.

2. Plan ahead and research. If practicable, allow more time than a few days or weeks to inquire for information, as this allows others time to respond (it also allows time for you to communicate further, or do more research). In some cases it is useful to do research even months ahead - to find articles, references, contacts, etc. - also to find out whether the guide book that you bought stands any chance of getting you to the site.

3. Check previous entries on RockNet (admittedly was easier when its Search engine was in commission; hopefully may be fixed and set back in action); even if dated, this may yield possible clues and contacts for more up-to-date information. Check also other message boards if practical.

4. Locality guidebooks can range from good to bad. Suspect are those which purport to cover large regions of the U.S.; such may be vague. Suspect also those with words such as "gem trails" in them (often too vague); although a few can be good, this is only known by those with experience with them. If directions are vague, distances vague or missing, and if they cannot be followed on a topo map (whether in paper or electronic form), then they might not be much good (they may be trials instead of trails). Other people's comments on specific locality guidebooks may be illuminating.

5. Clubs and their contacts may be great, and may not be, depending upon the individuals (and at times possibly on the questioner; does he know what he is looking for?). Locality secrecy is rampant among some, and although some groups may have flashy people, some may be just "leaverites," whereas a few may be real "gems" of a kind, communicative, and generous nature - however, such people usually don't stand out, as they are not usually the type to put themselves forward.

6. Communication: Even as far back as 1942, Donal Hurley in his article "Please Answer?" (Rocks and Minerals, v.17, August, p.277), told of club officers that never answered letters. Some have found similar with e-mail. Conversely, if you receive some offer of information or help or encouragement, don't ignore that, as those who offer only to be rebuffed, will later ignore those who first ignored them. Those who know about localities may also have long memories. They may be able to help.

7. Don't expect to find everything listed. If you expect to pick up valuable gemstones off the surface, you either may have been watching too much television, or may be gullible to believe that there are still easy pickings after decades of similarly minded collectors who have gotten all they could get. Furthermore, in some places one has to learn what types of matrix and what signs to look for, and to be able to recognize promising material. This takes practice.

8. Finding out the permission-status of a locality is usually necessary. Asking permission is usually better than not. Even if the landowner lives a continent away, neighbors still like to know that the car parked nearby belongs to scrupulous people who will respect their neighborhood. Remain polite even if others aren't. Remember that wives, when their husbands aren't around, are not likely to give permission, even when their husbands know you, so in such cases it's best to politely back off and try again when he is home. Sometimes a brief preliminary trip to the area in question can be useful, just to find out where sites are, and to determine permission status. In such cases check out more than one site in case the first is not accessible. It is handy to have Plan B, or even Plan C, just in case Plan A doesn't work out.

9. Follow the rules, respect the owner's property as well as others who may visit after you, and don't do anything to discourage a landowner from keeping the site open to collectors. When parking, don't block any gates or access, and don't block in (or out) others. Blocking access is one of the most irritating things that exasperate landowners. In some places, hunters park and hunt close to residences without any sort of permission, which tempts landowners to post the property (as anyone who does such may be assumed to be the unthinking, unsafe, type that gives all others of the group a bad name). Blocking access may lead to properties being posted. Don't do it unless you have specific permission to do so.

10. Don't tempt fate by trying conditions with which you are unfamiliar (like getting stuck in quicksand or in mud). Don't take your vehicle beyond its capacity (likewise don't take yourself, or others, beyond their capacities). Check conditions ahead before driving somewhere you may not be able to back out of or turn around; and always have a way out, as well as avoiding blocking any access. Check conditions of safety and don't tempt fate with such hazards (such as unstable cliffs). Avoid hazards, and take personal responsibility for your actions.

11. Go prepared, not just in information, but also in tools, equipment, safety, food and water, reliable vehicle, and all the other logistics that are so useful when heeded. Be careful not to overextend yourself, your energies, or those of others. Plan in case, but don't expect to get all done in a day, and leave time to knock off and relax before you get tired. Remember, accidents often happen when people get tired, so it may be of use to avoid trying too hard when tired.

12. Read Steve Decker's article "How to Plan a Field Trip" in the June 2003 Rock & Gem (v.33, #6, p.28-31). This posting was Not drawn and copied from Decker's excellent article, but it was referred to partway through, as well as a point or two included.

From Dana - October 20, 2007 at 12:08:49

Message: 65184

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Bob Keller