I remember my first experience rock hounding. I was sixteen years old and my friend’s dad took us to Ruggles Mine in Grafton New Hampshire. My first question was “are we going to find gold!?" I had no idea the absolute amazing mineral specimens the earth had hidden inside of it. I had a great time that day, but my mind soon shifted back to having fun with my friends and playing sports. The next time I thought about rock hounding I was married with two beautiful daughters. As many young families do, we were looking for an outdoor adventure. We decided to go rock hounding at Ruggles Mine. This was the only place I knew about at the time that was available for this type of activity. What a day. Both kids had a great time, as long as we kept them fed, and the best part of all, my beautiful wife Jenni had a blast. The very next summer we decided to go back, this time we had some of my brother’s families with us. I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you, I have a very large family, six boys and two girls to be exact. When we were kids, we could clear McDonalds out faster than my mother could scream Alleluia!! Well, back to the story. The entire family dug from the time we arrived until it was time for the visitors to get out. I remember as it was closing time struggling to carry two five gallon buckets up the hill through the huge mine shaft. I had no idea what I was carrying, just that I was hoping it was something good. We went back a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
At that time, I was teaching Earth Science at a local junior high school and at this point, was the family “expert” on rocks and minerals. I was no expert, but none the less everyone would bring their rocks to me for analysis. This was a wonderful time of exploration for our families. A couple of years later my father and step mother rented a huge house up in Maine for our entire family to stay. We had an amazing time. We noticed there was a rock store on the way to the house. Brother John asked the owner some questions and came away with some wonderful news. There were some mines in the area open to the public, and they were free. The Harvard Quarry mine was one of them. All twenty something of us at the time (we are now in the thirty somethings) marched up the steep mountainside and began whacking away at the hillside.
There were so many little kids having fun it was an absolutely perfect day. We were hooked. That summer a bunch of us went back to Ruggles Mine. At this point we started talking about finding more areas to rock hound. The following April vacation my family took the plunge. We decided to dedicate our entire April vacation to mining. We traveled from New Hampshire to North Carolina and visited the best mines we could find in the hills of North Carolina. On the way home Jenni and I were not ready for the trip to be over, and neither were the kids.
She began to look up mines we could visit in the North East. She discovered Herkimer Diamond Mine in New York. This might have been the single most important discovery for our mining future. I remember the kids were so sad the trip was coming to an end. When we told them we were going to New York State to find Herkimer Diamonds they could not believe it. What a time we had. After this trip we had rock hound fever bad. Jordan, my oldest daughter, and I began looking for any mines that were open to the public in New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. My older brother John and his son Joe were all the way on board as well. John had been doing gold panning for a few years leading up to this time, he can stay in a cold river all day looking for the good stuff. I did my best to get him out of the water and on dry land. He did convince me a time or two to gold pan, I get cold easy though. Anyway, after that first summer of rock hounding there was no turning back. Jordan, John, Joey, and I would take any chance we had to get out and get our noses in the dirt. We started joking about a family rock hound club. We told family members one at a time so they could not converse about it without the four of us around. Alas!! Our family rockbound club was formed. We even roped Uncle Jim into the club.
Our first family club trip was to Auburn Maine, Mount Apatite. We were so excited to get up there and get in it. We planned the whole trip out. There were nine of us on that first trip. We rented a hotel room the night before and half of us slept on the floor in sleeping bags. We were really squished in that room, but no one cared, we were all so excited. We dreamed of pockets of tourmaline all night long….. well, Uncle Jim had the good sense to get his own room that night after he saw the sleeping arrangements. The rest of us decided to tough it out as the Treasurer brother Matt sprang for the room. I will never forget that day as long as I live. We worked together like a well-oiled machine. We took turns pulling out piles of dirt as we passed them down the line of eager hands so it could be sifted.
From then on we were rock hounding every chance we could get. It was a delicate balance. Any weekend that was not planned would somehow find a day of mining penciled in. We started to plan all of our three day weekends so that at least one of the days would be dedicated to finding mineral specimens. This is about the time my home became piles of minerals. Jenni was becoming less than impressed that rocks were in every part of our house including our cleaning station, the kitchen sink. We began to toy with the idea of creating something out of these beautiful mineral specimens. I gave a few halfhearted tries at some crude jewelry but my passion was in the mineral specimens. One day while at Home Depot I was talking to Cousin Rich about the capabilities of a wet saw on granite. He said it would definitely work and to my wonderful surprise, he was down from the north country the next day with a wet saw. He showed me how to use it and I have been cutting on that saw ever since. As I began to create jewelry and more mineral specimens, I fell in love with this aspect of the hobby. I began to have dreams of making this more than just a hobby. As I talked over the idea with my family and with their support I began to realize this was a possibility.
I remember the moment Lumina was born. Up until this point I had come up with so many names for this gift, jewelry and mineral specimen business but none of them were even close. They were all weird variations of our last name or usually ending in “rocks”. No, I was not impressed either. My family boarded our vehicle as we were about to go for vacation. We had a three-hour drive ahead of us. There was one goal during the drive, find a perfect name for this business. Jordan, Jaidan, Jenni, and I came up with the wildest ideas, none of them seemed to fit. I said, I am looking for a one-word name that means bright light, or something with light. Jordan said “I got it dad!!” A couple of years ago she was doing a report on Gigi, Jordan’s great grandmother. She said her name means bright light. “Lumina” Jordan said. A wave of emotion came over me, that was it, Lumina. My grandmother was a bright light in so many peoples lives. Her wonderful great big smile and amazing personality would light up any room. That is how Lumina was born. From that moment, both kids were in the back of the car drawing their ideas of jewelry. One of their ideas we are using for some of our bracelets today. Jordan and Jaidan drew it on a napkin. That was an exciting ride. The ride is not over. We still go on trips as a family and our family club is stronger than ever. More brothers have joined the club. Brother Dan and brother Luke have been around with their families on some recent trips. I can’t think of a better way to spend time than to be with my family, a little country music on in the background (courtesy of Jordan), digging in the dirt, and knowing somewhere on the way home, there is a Pizza Hut we will be telling tales in after a great day of rock hounding.