Mike's Garage

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Holbrook, AZ ~ July 15-17, 2011

In honor of the 99th anniversary of the Holbrook meteorite (July 19, 1912), "Mr. Meteorite" Ruben Garcia arranged a hunt of the strewn field.  About 50 of us made the trek out to the center of Arizona in hopes of finding some 4.5 billion year old rocks from space.


Nininger Museum

On the way out I pulled off I-40 and took a left turn back in time down Old Route 66.  Modern day Route 66 runs by about 3 miles south of my house, but out here it is a 4-lane major arterial highway populated with malls, restaurants, and about any business you can imagine.  Route 66 there at the Meteor Crater exit off I-40 was a barely paved 1-lane unsigned road, but the museum is on a small rise and easily visible from the highway.  I drove up the drive and parked, imagining I was about to step into one of the world's greatest collections of meteorites.  The place has seen better days, that's for sure, but it was still great to walk around somewhere I have read about so many times.

Some day soon the big tower is going to fall completely over.  Naturally I parked right next to it.

The place still looks cool in the setting sun.


Holbrook strewn field

The next morning about 10 of us left the hotel for the strewn field around 5:30am, the rest would be coming out a little later in the morning.  Sun rise in the desert is always an awesome experience.

The road down to the strewn field, and probably my absolute favorite street sign.  Where the pavement ends is what my truck is built for.

Looking northwest from the heart of the strewn field.

I started my day hunting the east side of the strewn field north of the railroad tracks.  Little did I know that only a little while later one of the biggest finds of the last decades would be made in the area I was hunting.  A couple others were on the east side with me, but they were closer to the tracks.  You can see below there was more than enough room between hunters, plenty of strewn field to go around! 

I was drawn toward the wash and spent several hours between the road and the east end of the field near the wash.  I spotted a set of bird tracks and followed them...

...to my first meteorite find, and it was only 7:45am!  I had stopped for no real reason and noticed a black rock about 4' to my left.  I reached out with my magnet pole and it picked it right up.  I brought it up for inspection and was pretty stoked.  The legendary Dr. Nick Gessler happened to be near me, so I walked over and showed it to him.  How cool to have my first meteorite confirmed by Mr. Gessler, I'll never forget that.  I wasn't able to get a photo in-situ since it hopped right to my magnet, but I put it back where I picked it up for a photo and gps coords.

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On with the hunt!  Ever active geologic processes are at work exposing more meteorites for future hunters.  Here's a typical sink found in the area.

I came across a toad, or maybe it's a frog?  Check out those eyes!  He posed for a picture and I thanked him by filling his mud hole back up with my water bottle.

I've thought for the longest time that the meteorites are out there, you just have to be lucky enough to walk over them; and here is evidence of just that.  Erik Fisler, finding a few fragments on the surface, started digging and found an amazing 240g stone.  A bit earlier, at about 8:30am, I walked not 20' from where he made his find.  I'm actually glad that I didn't walk 20' to the west.  While I'm confident I would have found the surface fragments I would not have thought to dig and that 240g stone would have remained buried.  Much better that it was discovered for all to see!  Ignore the blue path, that is Google Earth rounding off the data.  The light gray is much more representative of my path.

A little after 10am I decided to head over to the south side of the tracks and check out the other half of the strewn field.  Here's a view of the south side looking back north where I was earlier in the morning.  You can make out the train levee running east-west in the middle of the photo.

Coyote jaw?

By late afternoon/early evening almost everyone had left the strewn field.  As I watched huge bolts of lightning arcing down to the ground from the incoming monsoon storms I decided that walking around in an open area holding a 5' aluminum pole probably wasn't the best of ideas.  I packed it up and headed back to the hotel.  One find makes an entire meteorite hunting trip a success, and I was more than happy to be leaving with half a gram of space rock in my pocket.

By the time I got back and showered the post-hunt ceremonies were already in full swing.  I got there just in time to get my certificate from Ruben and to watch the presentation of three trophies.  Nick Gessler got one for his 11 finds.  Richard Garcia (no relation to Ruben) got one for his outstanding 47g complete stone.  Even if Erik Fisler didn't find the 240g monster (which he also got a trophy for), Richard's 47g rock would have made everyone's weekend.

Thanks to Ruben Garcia for organizing such a great hunt!  I made a lot of good friends this trip, I hope to see you all in the field soon.

 (click for Ruben's page)


Meteor Crater

On my way home I stopped at Meteor Crater.  It's an amazing spectacle in person; you can imagine the explosive forces at work that uplifted the sandstone layers visible around the crater's rim.

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I stood with my feet wedged under the railing as close as I could get to the edge on the over look and snapped a shot looking down to the crater floor.

A picture looking into the crater from the lower observation area.

Uplifted moenkopi sandstone.

Now THAT is a meteorite!


I can't wait to do it again in 2012!