Gem Trails of ... by James R. Mitchell (Gem Guides Book Co.) is an inexpensive series of seven books which are ideal for novice and intermediate collectors who are interested in relatively well documented and easy to find sites. Although the series was originally published more than thirty years ago, most of the volumes have been expanded and revised within the last six years. Each book consists of about 110 pages, covers one state, and describes at least fifty sites. The series currently includes Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas, and Utah.
The presentation format is consistent throughout the series making the books easy to use. Each book begins with a map showing the locations of the collecting areas. Usually sites are marked with a number. Next is an index giving the name of each site and the page number of the site description. Naturally, the bulk of each book is the collection of site descriptions. Some of the books conclude with a Mineral Locator, which is an index cross-referencing minerals to locality. Unfortunately, not all of the books have this index. The Locator is a nice feature if you have a particular mineral in mind.
The site descriptions are one to three pages long and consist of several paragraphs describing how to get to each of the collecting areas at the site, and what to look for when you get there. In most cases there is a hand-drawn map included with the description. Although we haven't found an instance where the map was completely wrong, the more complex maps are sometimes hard to interpret (or simply out of date). Be particularly careful about venturing out into desolate areas without carefully researching the accuracy of the maps. Also, there isn't usually a warning concerning whether 4-wheel drive vehicles are warranted. It is best to be pessimistic in this regard.
Each book also contains 50 to 60 photographs showing either a collecting site or a mineral specimen. The site photos are considerably more helpful than the specimen pictures, although we have occasionally been stumped as to what the relationship of the picture was to the site (we did, however, find the site). The main problem with the specimen pictures is that they are small, of marginal resolution (clarity), and in black-and-white. For the novice all of these can be an impediment to identifying specimens. On the other hand, it may not be fair to expect high quality color pictures in a $6-7 book.
The descriptions of a large number of sites that are
clearly accessible with an automobile make the books a
good investment for the novice rock collector. For the
more advanced collector willing to venture farther off the
beaten path, the books are still a good value if they are
considered as a starting point for identifying places to
Copyright © 1993 by Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, Inc.
The preceding article was originally published in the March 1993 issue of Lithosphere, the official bulletin of the Fallbrook [California] Gem and Mineral Society, Inc; Richard Busch (Editor).
Permission to reproduce and distribute this material, in
whole or in part, for non-commercial purposes, is hereby granted
provided the sense or meaning of the material is not changed and
the author's notice of copyright is retained.
Last updated: 18 September 2002