Before and After Holbrook and Meteor Crater Trip

I am heading out to the Holbrook strewnfield in a few days. I missed the hundredth anniversary gathering/hunt and all the yearly ones since. Paul and I did get out there several years ago for a very successful two days of hunting. This year I am going to go to the yearly hunt.

When I was working full time it was difficult to take off and to drive the roughly 1300 miles by myself to get to Holbrook and back home. Now that I am retired it is not as hard to go and this year I am excited to see the place again. Of all the places I have hunted meteorites Holbrook is one I have been quite successful at. I know that others have been much more successful but many of them live closer and can visit more often. I have been there on three trips and spent about four days total hunting. I have recovered just about 100 specimens. I have written about those trips before and won’t go over the material again.

As I write this I have begun charging camera batteries and started getting my hunting stuff together. Some is still in the pack I used at Gold Basin last November. I won’t use that at Holbrook. I usually just carry a water bottle and my magnet stick at Holbrook. I keep my cellphone and GPS in my pockets. When I find a stone I lay the GPS next to it and take an image put it in a baggie with something written on the outside and move on.

I am riding along with Richard Garcia on this trip. Richard and I have hunted together a few times before and it is always fun. It has been a while so I am looking forward to having the chance to catch up. I had just one request when we first planned going. I needed to stop at Meteor Crater to take some images for the new book I am writing. It is about the crater again but just a one year period in the history, so much narrower than the historical books I have written before. Richard said he was planning on stopping himself so that was perfect.

I could not find my travel tripod. It is collapsible and reasonably sturdy. But after several hours of hunting everywhere I can not find it. So I ordered a new one. I really have never bought a modern tripod. I have some antiques made of wood that I have bought at swap meets but not an aluminum modern one. They have all come as part of camera packages or lenses offers. I decided that since my images are going to be extreme telephoto shots to get one that was pretty sturdy but still portable. I also did not want to break the bank on a tripod. I found a nice one on Amazon that was $100 off regular price and had great reviews for about $90. It also came apart to work as a monopole which is good as I can use the anti shake help sometimes.

I have a wonderful 70-300 mm telephoto made by Tamron for my Canons. It is sharp as a tack and good for most everything including my astro imaging, but it was not going to get me across Meteor Crater or to places around the crater I wanted to shoot. The south road is pretty far from the crater slope. I did not think I could get permission to visit those locations in the short lead time I had for this trip so I needed to reach out with telephoto lenses the best I could.

I have used mirror lenses before and am well acquainted with the drawbacks that they have. But for price, weight and size they are hard to beat if used with care. The ones on the market today are both good and poor. I did a lot of searching on the net, and reading reviews again. I found one by a manufacturer I have had lens from before. It was very reasonable in price and reported to give a very sharp image at both the 500 mm normal setup and with the 2x tele extender. The sample photos in one of the reviews were very good. I doubt that I will do more than just try the 2x setup. That would be 1000 mm of focal length and an OK field of view if it was a full frame sensor camera. But with my APS sensor and a crop factor of 1.6 it would give me the field of view of a 1600 mm lens. I think that may be too restricted for what I need. But we will see. I will play with it when it arrives and with the tripod. The biggest negative most people have with mirror lenses is the donut shaped out of focus highlights. Anything bright in foreground or behind the point of focus will be a blurry donut. It starts out being a cool effect when you first try a mirror lens but it can quickly become a much less attractive feature. Even an annoying feature at times. I am shooting across Meteor Crater and everything should be at or very near infinity focus in my images. I should have very little depth of field. So no out of focus areas to become donuts. When used this way the lens is very handy to get distant objects at big magnification. The resolution charts in the reviews seems to be good though not as good as a refracting telephoto lens of the same focal length costing 30 times as much or more. You often do get what you pay for but sometimes almost as good is good enough and far less expensive. I am hoping that is what I will find with this mirror lens.

I am taking my cellphone macro camera so I can image my Holbrook finds at night in the hotel room. I am taking a scale with me so I can weigh them. I will very likely post images of the finds during the trip. If there are finds of course. I was skunked at Holbrook on my first trip there about 20 years ago. Here is an image of one of my cases of mostly small Holbrook meteorites from the trip in 2012.

I love going to Holbrook and stopping at Meteor Crater on the same trip. It touches two of my favorite parts of meteorite study and collecting. I am really enjoying writing this new book and the images I hope to get will enhance the presentation of the material. And besides it is always great to stop and see The Crater. And it has been way too long for anyone as obsessed with the place as much as me. The new book will be read by a whole 50-100 people like the others but the precious information was crying out to be preserved before it was lost forever. Maybe I will spend a little more effort promoting this book. I have been working on getting one of the others in shape to go up as an ebook and a printed book. It has been only a printed book and actually out of print for a couple years. But I have never really worried much about how many people read my books. I have always had the need to write and I love to write so the books flowed out of that passion. Whether anyone read them was always a lesser issue. This new book has given me the chance to mix some fiction in with my historical writing. I find I love that and may try a total fiction book in the future. I began writing in college with short stories and poetry so fiction is not totally foreign to me. I can spin a pretty good tale when I want. There has to be some twist on alien creatures in meteorites that has not been written before. The Blob vs Predator maybe. . . oh I’ll think of something.

The tripod just arrived and I am going to open the box and see what I got and how it works. It is like Christmas in July. The lens is not coming for a few days but I can practice with other telephotos until it does arrive. Got to open the box sorry, bye.

As a little side note this month. I started a batch of tektites that were chipped and broken tumbling on June 15th. It had been nearly 40 years since I tumbled any rocks. We bought a tumbler to see how it would go and if we could redeem these tektites since we have thousands of small ones that we are not going to be able to sell unless we fix them up into something beautiful. After a week of coarse grinding, and a week of fine grinding, four days of prepolish grinding, and finally 10 days of polishing the batch was done on July 11. I am really happy with the results so far but may have to do a little study. Some of the tighter cavity areas are still just a little satiny instead of high gloss. I like it but it may not be everyone’s idea of beautiful. It may require that I mix into the final polish a harder media. I used plastic pellets, but may need ceramic polishing media or steel shot. I need to do some research. Here is an image of a sample group of the tektites from the batch.

I am back from the Holbrook hunt and Meteor Crater trip. Rode with Richard Garcia and had a great time. We got out to Holbrook on Thursday evening and were out hunting by 7 am on Friday morning. I stayed on the north side of the tracks most of Friday and found four meteorites. I hunted a couple hours on the south side and found a marble but not space rocks. The largest find for me on Friday was a .509 gram almost complete stone. The other three of Friday’s finds were a .329 gram half stone, a .454 gram complete stone and a .198 gram complete stone. It was hot to say the least. The weather forecast had been for 92 or 93º F but it was well over a hundred still in the afternoon when we drove out by the digital thermometer in Richard jeep. The monsoon thunder showers were approaching and lightning was striking a little ways from us so we left. Robert and Robby Hoover had arrived in the afternoon and stayed to hunt for a while. The clouds and breeze that comes with them do make hunting much more pleasant.

We got back to our hotels and after cool showers and some rest we all got together to tell stories around the patio.

Saturday we were back out at the strewnfield early again about 7:30 or so. We hunted on the south side on the eastern end of the strewnfield. We did not have any luck and Richard wanted to go back to the area where he had found the three nice ones the day before. We walked around the old train yard site from the time of the fall and saw a lot of historical junk still lying around on the ground. Then we crossed over the tracks and I asked him to let me out right away. I have had some luck in the past finding stones far to the east on the north side. And I had several hours to make my way to where he would be a mile or so up the dirt road at lunch time. In about a half an hour I found a nice almost ¾ fusion crusted stone that weighed .366 grams. Then I did not find anything for more than an hour. I got all the way to Sun Valley Rd. and met up with Roy and Cody Miller who were heading into the market nearby to take a cool break from hunting. They saved my life with a Pepsi from their cooler. I had plenty of water with me but it was hot and much less refreshing. I went away from the tracks there into a spot I have had luck in before and about five minutes after the Millers drove off I found a small stone of .166 grams. Richard called me on the walkie and said he wanted to make sure I was alright and was coming back to meet me figuring I needed to resupply on water. I told him I was fine and well over to the west and not too far from his jeep. I said stay out as long as you want I have water and had the soda the Millers had given me. About one minute after getting off the walkie with him I found two very tiny meteorites. One was .059 grams and the other .035 grams. I may not be able to find the most large ones but I can find the most tiny ones. In the next hour I found two more. One was the tiniest of the trip found just walking it was only 10 milligrams a fragment crusted on one side. The other was a larger broken stone that weighed .381 grams.

I did some magnetic sampling of the soil in three spots and could see as I bagged the material one chondrule was on the magnet so I picked that off then and put it in a baggie. The rest of the samplings I put into a glass bottle for separation later. So my visual find totals for the two days was 10 meteorites and one chondrule with a combined recovered weight of a whopping 2.534 grams. But they are cute pieces most of them and they are meteorites and I am the first person every to touch them and that is what hunting meteorites is all about.

The other guys did well Robby Hoover found two stones one almost 8 grams and one over 2 grams. Ben Fisler found 9 I think. The were all nice stone from the south side where I can never find them. Roy Miller found two a nice almost 1 gram if I remember right and a small cute pea near where I had gotten the soda from them and found several peas myself.

Saturday was hotter than Friday had been. When Richard called and I said “I’m fine not far from your jeep keep hunting.” I really thought that the car ahead of me was his. I was seeing only the back end of it from where I was. As I moved farther west way up away from the tracks where the car was parked I finally got along side it and could see it was Ben’s car. I scanned out along the road far from me to the west and way out there another half mile or more I could see Richard and Roy’s vehicles. I was going to be hot and tired when I got to there. I thought all I had to do was walk down to the tracks from where I was when I got to the car I had been watching. I was not thrilled about the extra walk in the 100+ temperature we had on Saturday. But I took my time and I still had a couple water bottles with me. I was just walking up to Richard’s jeep as he was arriving so I was able to get cold water from the cooler and did not have to drink the safety bottle on the tailgate of the jeep. Meteorite hunting always an adventure. We were all safe and no one got skunked. It was a great hunt but honestly not as pleasant a time at Holbrook as hunting in mid October as Paul and I have done.

Sonny and Georgia Clary and Brix were passing through the area and stopped at the hotel for patio beer and soda time with us in the evening. Richard Garcia took this nice picture of our small group. Robert Hoover is missing from the shot but was out with us for hunting both days.

Richard and I headed home early Sunday morning. We were going to stop by Meteor Crater. I wanted to get some images with telephoto lenses of some parts of the crater. I have a few old film pictures but not the images I needed for this new book I am in the middle of writing. It took me an hour and a half I guess to do the photography and some time to get in and out. We went around the back side down Chavez Pass Rd and I got some shots of the west side and south slope and the no trespassing signs. Richard took some images too. We stopped at the barrier across old Route 66 that prevents you from going to Nininger’s old tower ruin. They have even closed the barbed wire fence in close on the side of the barrier now so you can not go around it and put up no trespassing signs there as well. I think there is just something wrong with keeping American citizens from having access to walking on historical portions of Route 66 which is still there I might add at the barrier.

We had a great ride home though long because of a detour off of I-40 for construction. It was a good trip, with good company and I found some meteorites.

About the Author

James Tobin
The Meteorite Exchange, Inc. was born in 1996 with meteorite.com and Meteorite Times Magazine in 2002. Still enthusiastic about meteorites and all things related to them, we hunt, collect, cut and prepare specimens. We travel to gem shows and enjoy meteorites as much now as in the beginning. Please feel free to share any comments you have on this or any of our other sites.
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