Summer Camp at Ft. St. James


Home of the The Giant Nickel Silicate Boulder

August 2008

By De Morgan

On the Stuart River, just on the South side of Fort St. James is the most picturesque camping spot you could ever find on earth. The site is located along the broad river, with a three mile an hour current swishing and swirling past and rocky pine forests lining the shore. Eagles and osprey swoop down to grasp the unsuspecting trout from the water. The bank is steep, with a 12 foot drop in the rapids on the far side of the river, so we were warned to keep all children away from the edge. In the past ten years, seven people had drowned from this campsite!

As we arrived, Jennifer Moore from the Surrey Rockhound Club, made her way from the dock, carrying her fishing tackle and a trout. The fishing was good here, and Jennifer reported catching 2 to 3 pounders during our week-long stay at the campsite.

Our first field trip, on Monday, was the Tanizuile Site, a large quarry containing black/dark gray limestone. On careful inspection, there were plates of bladed calcite crystals which had formed on the flat surfaces of the rocks. They were either white or golden in colour, with crystals of one to two centimeters across. I found a couple of attractive plates, as did the others on the trip, and packed them carefully in newspaper and boxes. Calcite has a hardness of about three on the mohs scale, and needs to be treated gently or it will bruise.


The second stop that day, was for soapstone, and a kind of serpentine called antigorite. I picked up lots of chips of the antigorite, with the plan to use it on the Kid’s Rock Identification cards at the Surrey Show in September. It shone chatoyant green, and formed in long strands.

The soapstone was gray green, some with orange stringers through it. I found two large pieces, and loaded them into the truck. This was only the first day, and the truck was already looking full!

In the evening there was a wiener roast, with watermelon for dessert. We sat around the crackling fire, sharing our experiences and swapping stories.

Tuesday was an 8 a.m. start, as it was a long drive to Mount Sidney Williams to find the nickel silicate, a sugary green material that weathers to a rusty colour.

We came first to the Van Decar creek, where bright red sockeye salmon fought their way up stream to their spawning grounds. The same salmon had come from the coast, up the Fraser River to the Nechako and Stuart Rivers, and then up the creeks, a distance of 1000 kilometers or more. It was fascinating to watch them jockey for a position, and surge forward, splashing and wriggling to get to the next part of the creek.

We went farther down the same road, and came to the piles of nickel silicate. Gordon Pinder from the Maple Ridge Club, found an excellent specimen of the green nickel silicate with a 6 by 2 inch vug of quartz crystals. One half of the crystals were covered with druzy and the other half were clear. They were about an inch long and half an inch wide, centered in a band of quartz. There were large boulders of nickel silicate, and we all had plenty to take back home to polish.

Ernie Olinyk and my husband, Bob, found a huge boulder in the road bed, and began digging and bashing with a 12 pound sledge to try and break it. They worked the whole time, and got a part of it out before it was time to leave.

Tuesday evening was chili night for supper. Win Robertson, organizer of the camp and its activities, had made a huge pot of chili for us at her home, and brought it along. It was a really flavourful chili, and went down very well after a hard day of pounding on rocks. Dessert was Nummy Knobs, a kind of bannock, baked on a stick over the open fire, and coated with various toppings. Compliments and thanks to Marie Adshead.

Wednesday we went to Pinchi Lake, to a rusty coloured rock quarry, and found hard, reddish, orange-brown patterned jasper. The colour of the jasper may have been due to its cinnabar content, a mercury sulfide, and it broke in a conchoidal fracture with pieces as sharp as glass. Small druzy quartz crystals sparkled in the sunlight, and formed in plates on some of the surfaces. Once again, there was bountiful material for taking home.

At camp we had dessert night, with ice cream and a great variety of toppings. Entertainment was the Ugly Rock Contest. Everyone was to find an ugly rock, bring it to camp and name it. The winners of the ugly rock contest were youngsters Lynn and Wayne Li for their rock, “The Moldy Cheese”, and yours truly in second place with “The Bulging One-Eyed Skeleton.

Thursday, we went in search of clear quartz crystals along Stuart Lake. We found the location, but most of the crystals were intergrown and milky. There were vugs of small, clear crystals, and I took some samples of those. I plan to cut the thick base off two of them, and wirewrap the pieces to form a pendant.

At the same location was a former antimony mine adit. Antimony is a rare mineral used for type setting in days long ago, and for solder. We took a small sample of that as well.

In the evening, we had a delicious and tasty hobo stew. Bev Olinyk, Win and others had been working hard to open the cans, and prepare the vegetables that went into the stew.

Following dinner, awards were given.

Ernie Olinyk presented the Rolling Rock to the proudly receiving members of the Abbotsford Club. The rock “Rolls” from club to club in B. C.
Jennifer Moore was presented with an inukshuk as thank you for preparing the coffee each morning.
Bob Morgan received a bear bell for the best disaster of the week—a one-inch rock pit that spread across his truck’s windshield.
Win Robertson was presented with a beautiful wooden table, some liquid refreshment to enjoy on it, and a card of thanks from the entire group for her hard work in organizing the summer camp.

Friday was a free day to do as we pleased.

My husband, Bob couldn’t get his mind off that very large boulder of nickel silicate in the road bed up by Van Decar Creek, and went back there with Ernie Olinyk to liberate it from its hole. They worked all day. They fought the rock and the rock won. It’s still there, should any of you like to go and get it.

Left on my own, I went into the town and enjoyed going through the Fort St. James Museum. It was turned into a federal park using the original buildings that still stood from 1806 when the fort was established, with the exception of one building which had been destroyed by fire. The museum was well done, with guides in each building, and interesting artifacts to examine and handle.

In the evening, we all met for Chinese food, and then parted company the next morning. It was a very successful summer camp and thoroughly enjoyed by all fifty plus rockhounders who attended.

August 2008

By De Morgan