A days drive from Crater Lake basically put us in the middle-of-nowhere Nevada. But we had to do it because Nevada was the only state in the West we haven’t hit and it left a big hole on our door map. We did a search of the smaller-than-small towns along route 140 and came across Denio, which is right along the Nevada/Oregon border. Do you know what else is along that same border? Opal mines.

But before we get to that, here are some photos of the drive down 31 to 395 to 140:

Barn near Ft. Klamath.

Barn near Ft. Klamath.

 

The Sheldon Antelope Refuge.

The Sheldon Antelope Refuge.

 

The Trailer Park Laundromat in Paisley.

The Trailer Park Laundromat in Paisley.

There are a solid handful of opal mines around Denio, and one of them has an RV park — the Royal Peacock.

The Store/Office/Place To Pick Up Tools.

The Store/Office/Place To Pick Up Tools.

Sure, it’s about 20 miles or more from the actual town of Denio, and yes, the 8 mile side road off 140 to the actual mine is one of the worst we’ve been on (total washboard and sandy)

The 8 mile drive to the Royal Peacock (with wild donkeys in the background).

The 8 mile drive to the Royal Peacock.

but it has full hook ups and that 8 miles is one of the most beautifully remote drives we’ve ever taken. (But we did knock the screws out of 2 cabinets and the whole Airstream was covered in a film of dust).

Road to the mine.

Road to the mine.

The park is basically two rows of a parking lot – but one of them has trees, so get there early! The family that owns that park lives on the property so there are also chickens around and a field of wild horses.

Our digging commrades.

Our digging commrades.

Opal digging was a foreign concept to us – we didn’t know this group of people existed! They drive out to the middle of nowhere with ATVs and their own digging equipment to toil in the hot sun in hopes of finding an opal (black or white, as we found out). Very much like Airstreamers, this is one of the friendliest groups of people we’ve come across on our trips. When we parked, people immediately came up to introduce themselves, give a hand shake and ask about digging plans. Much like we do with RV park info, they shared the best places to go and the best times of day.  Dale and Rick, our neighbors, are two brothers with their own mine down the road who’ve been staying at the park for years because it has water and power. Rick stays the whole summer just digging and selling what he finds. Dale comes in from WA a few weeks a year and helps get the gems all polished up. They were incredibly nice and taught us a lot about digging.

Follow the yellow signs!

Follow the yellow signs!

At the Peacock, digging in the tails is $75 for the whole day, $190 if you want to dig in the bank (pretty much guaranteed to find something). Pretty pricey for two people who had no idea what they’re doing, but we stopped in the office and asked how much it would be for two hours and they reduced the price accordingly. At 8am we picked up a shovel, a rake, a bucket and a pick (because Barry yelled to us across the parking lot “Don’t forget your pick!”) and drove to the mine.

There we just picked an area at random and started raking. Then I basically sat down in the dirt and started picking through stones, rocks, petrified wood– whatever happened to be there. As you can see, I’m infinitely more prepared for the dig (gloves, long sleeves, boots, protective hat)

Prepared.

Prepared.

than Deke (short sleeves and Crocs).

Unprepared.

Unprepared.

There were little things we found that look nice and shiny, but probably aren’t really anything, but we kept them. Then Deke found one piece of iridescent rock with “fire” signifying an opal. We put it delicately in our box and after a few more minutes, packed it up.

That's Deke's find on the upper right. The petrified wood is filled with little pockets of opals.

That’s Deke’s find on the upper right. The petrified wood is filled with little pockets of opals.

This was sitting at the entrance to the digging site and I just thought it was bizarre.

Sad face.

Sad face.

After showers and hitching up, we met up with Dale and Rick after they’d been at their mine all morning and Dale presented me with a small opal he found. It was beautiful and firey. We sat and talked with them for a while about their lives and how much they love their mine and digging. Then Rick came out with a vial of opals and presented it to me as a gift. I was stunned and refused, but he insisted, so I tucked it away in my bag and said goodbye. But first we bought them ice cream cones.

So many opals.

So many opals.