Out here in the Hills, down in dry creek beds and ravines that have had water flowing through them, there is a lovely phenomenon we call garnet sand. Millions of little tiny red stones will pool up together, dunes of scarlet and purple and burgundy, pooling up when the water is running, then glinting darkly in the sun when the water has run off and the earth has dried.
We started picking garnets in dry creek beds probably a good ten years ago, and each of us girls has found our share of decent garnets. But the fun of the hunt is always there when we find a new deposit of garnet sand.
Most of the garnets really are very little bigger than grains of sand, but sometimes, if you’re careful and if you’re lucky, you’ll find garnets that are good sized, a few millimeters in diameter. The best ones have probably been half the size of a pea. Old timers tell stories of garnets the size of the end of your little finger, but those are from higher up in the Hills, closer to the source of the stones.
It takes a fair amount of water to wash up new layers of sand, and down along the Hole-in-the-Wall jeep trail, on the part of the trail that runs in an old creek bed, there was obviously more than a fair amount of water. Turf had been peeled back from the rocky bottom like bark on a sycamore tree, curled over on itself with all the roots of the grass showing and the smooth stone underneath polished clean of dirt.
The trail has even changed significantly since we last hiked it two months ago or so. Then, it was mostly grass, and pools of water here and there. Now, it is rock and sand, no water. Right below a little five-foot spillway, the entire jeep trail was rock and sand and, yes, a new layer of garnet sand. Most of the sand is like you’d see anywhere but flecked with mica, deposited in a deep drift probably six inches deep in places, new since this spring. But on the top of the drift were sweeps of deep burgundy, brown in the evening light, swirled together with the golden sand.
These little red stones aren’t worth much, but they sure are fun to hunt.