Have you ever seen an agate? They are small rocks, usually pea to grape sized, that are fairly translucent and usually have feathery patterns inside. Some have patterns on the outside and resemble tiny planets. Some are so clear, they resemble glass. Many are colored, usually in the yellow to red range. Occasionally you will find a green or blue one. You find them on the beach where the ocean has been turning and rolling them like a rock tumbler until they are shiny and smooth.You donít just find them anywhere, either. Thatís part of the thrill of hunting them.
Agate Hunting in Del Norte County
Crescent City has a really good agate beach. On your way through town, turn west on 9th street. Follow it west until it ends then turn north (right). The place you are looking for is about a mile north, and has a parking lot and a set of cement stairs leading down to the beach. The best time to find the big agates is right after a storm has settled down. The storm will have turned the beach gravel and brought in gravel from out in the surf. You donít need to look down by the surf line as there will not be any agates to speak of there, and besides, thatís a good way to get soaked clear to your knickers. Try up among the rocks high on the beach. Look in the lee of a good sized rock and all along the edges. Itís best if you get right down in the gravel, the agates are easier to spot that way. Slowly and lightly brush your hand over a small (1 foot by 1 foot) patch, moving just a thin layer of gravel at a time. Scan over it a couple of times before moving the next layer.
The Thrill of the Hunt
Itís really a great thrill to find a big one, but many of the smaller ones are transparent enough that you can see right through them. They come in so many strange and evocative shapes, too. The really exceptional ones we take home and put in a mason jar full of water. They look great on the sill above the kitchen sink and are a nice reminder of the many restful hours spent sifting gravel in search of that one agate, clear as glass, shiny as a new bumper and the size of a Moa egg!
Tricks of the Trade
One little cheater trick is too look alongside the stairs going back up to the parking lot. Many people toss the agates they have found right there. (Guess they donít want to cart them home in their glove box, or maybe the kids found them and the parents think they are crab shells or something.) At the foot of the stairs is another little trick place to find "tossed" as opposed to "found" agates. Iíve outlined how we get down in the gravel to search a small area thouroughly, but there are others who seem to do as well or better by standing erect and covering a lot of ground looking down between their feet! I donít search this way because my neck gets a crick in it right away and then I have a hell of time looking up to see where Iím going.
Why are we doing this?
Whatís the big deal about agates, anyway? Well, itís kind of like finding a four leaf clover, or a ten dollar bill in the parking lot at K-Mart. A really good agate is beautiful indeed and they are hard enough to find that turning up one is a thrill.
The beach in Crescent City has been the most productive for me , but I am sure there are many others. Iíve heard of another place in Humboldt County that is supposed to have lots of BIG agates, (moa eggs). Itís just south of Orick. The turn off is to the west across form the Little Red Schoolhouse. There. That should be enough clues.