Jon asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I asked if we could go to the diamond mines. It's called the Crater of Diamonds, and it's a state park a little over two hours away. It's a state park, so there's no admission, and if you actually find a diamond, you get to keep it! It sounded like it would be a fun day outdoors, and it really was!
There was a chance of rain, but we braved it anyway, and the weather ended up being just perfect. The worst part was the drive up Scenic 7, which is the main road up to many of the major places in Arkansas. "Scenic" here means very twisty-turny, and even the strongest stomachs don't make it on that road. I was driving so Jon could study, which meant that I was fine and Jon was not! Jon didn't get to study long, and had the cold air blasted in his face at the end of the drive. We were very glad to get out of the car when we did!
When we bought our tickets, Caleb got his first hand stamp. He's an official miner now!
The "mine" is not really a mine at all. It's official name of "crater" is a bit better, but really, "field" would be the best way to put it. It's a very large open area of dirt that is plowed up into very deep furrows. The best time to hunt for diamonds is right after the plow comes through, or after a big rain. We had neither of those working for us, by the way.
First we went into the learning area to we could find out how to find diamonds, what diamonds looked like as opposed to normal rock crystals, etc. We brought supplies--a shovel and spade, a bucket, and various items like snacks and sunscreen. We rented a couple of sifting screens.
Caleb is demonstrating how a turn of this wheel turns the diamond-laced wheel inside the box, which cuts into a slab of quartz.
Jon is ready to find some diamonds!
...or fight off the rabid miners once we find the Big One!
Jon shows Caleb how to sift the dirt through the screen. Look for anything shiny; it might be a diamond!
Caleb helps with the spoon we brought for him.
He may have used that spoon to try some of the dirt, as well.... I bet he ate the diamond we never found.
It looks hot and miserable, but the weather really was perfect for a day outside. It was actually even a bit cool in the morning.
Jon eventually realized that the likelihood of finding a diamond was very small, so he just settled himself into a furrow and relaxed. Caleb joined him. It was the most relaxing day we've had in a long time!
After a while we retreated from the field to the shade of the trees, where we enjoyed a great picnic lunch. After all, this day was for MY birthday, and I can't think of a better lunch than a picnic lunch!
We went back to the task of hunting for diamonds after lunch. Or at least I did--Jon and Caleb were happy just relaxing!
In the end we came home with a couple of quartz crystals and some other clear-ish sort of rock. No diamonds, but it was still a perfect day!