Crystal Mountains
January 1 & February 20, 2005

New Year's was done right, with an afternoon trip with the boys down to the Crystal Mountains just outside Mount Ida. The weather was awful - overcast with a constant light mist - but we had fun and the boys were on their best behavior.
We took Hwy 27 South of Mount Ida then turned East onto Forest Service road 177 to the Crystal Recreation Area campsite. I was hoping to stop there and make a short hike on a loop trail, but the mist was a little too heavy so we continued down the road. Cliff started seeing white quartz rock on the side of the road and we stopped several times so he could pick up some pieces. We stopped to check out a neat picnic shelter, Collier Spring, but the heavy mist forced us back in the truck.
We continued along the road as it wound up the Crystal Mountains and intersected with Owley Road. Another short loop trail, at the Crystal Mountain Scenic Area, was supposed to be near the intersection but we never found any signs, so we headed back west toward the highway.
By this time the mist finally subsided and we stopped at our main destination of the day, the Crystal Vista quartz collecting area provided by the Forest Service. We had to hike a good mile up the mountain to the crystal collecting area, which is the site of an old commercial crystal dig. On the way the boys stopped several times to pick up small crystals on the surface along the trail, and Grant used a hammer and Cliff a garden fork to scratch for stuff below the surface.
The actual collecting area at the top of the mountain wasn't much to look at but the boys found lots of small quartz crystal points. We stayed there for about an hour until it started to get dark. On the way home we grabbed some mini pizzas from one of the convenience stores in Mount Ida.
It would be seven weeks before we had the opportunity to return to the Crystal Mountains in favorable weather. While I shot pictures at Collier Spring with the good camera, the boys did what boys do - get dirty and wet looking for crystals and throwing rocks in the stream. The picnic shelter, which is located at a surprisingly lush area along Collier Creek, is built right on top of a spring. A hole in the side of the structure allows the spring water to gush out.
We headed up the mountain and managed to locate the Crystal Mountain Scenic Area, although there was no sign there. The short loop trail took us down below a sandstone outcrop, and the boys found nice crystal points everywhere. I’d read that there was some 300-year old pine trees along the trail, and I was looking forward to seeing them, but we didn’t see any that really stood out.
From there we drove back down the mountain on the same Forest Service road we came in on - 177. Below Collier Spring there were some interesting rock formations I just had to stop and take some pictures of. The lines in these rocks were tilted almost perfectly vertical. And the area was home to some nice Beech trees with their stubborn copper leaves.
We made one last stop near sundown at the Crystal Recreation Area. We didn't have time to hike the short loop trail, but the boys had had fun playing around a native stone dam.