hunting for agates in downeast maine

4 Jul

96 posts in, and I suppose it’s high time I introduce this blog’s second namesake. Agates.

Agates are rocks, you see. Beautiful, wonderful rocks containing a motley assortment of lines, lacy bits, and fantastic eye-catching colors. Banded chalcedony, at times containing geode centers. Their delightful innards are often hidden behind a mild-mannered, blandish exterior. But if you know what you’re looking for, there are magnificent specimens out there to be found.

I’ve spent countless hours devoted to unearthing these lovely gems from rocky Great Lakes beaches. My first road trip away from my parents was charted solely to visit an agate museum in Grand Marais, Michigan. The only t-shirt I’ve ever worn to shreds proudly displays a large agate on the front. I am a rockhound with a penchant for hunching over along dirt roads, looking for treasure every chance I get.

So imagine my impatience to get out there and hunch after I learned last summer that there are agates in Maine. It took me a year, but I finally made it to Perry, Maine, located near the easternmost point in the continental U.S., and epicenter of agates in the state.

  

I find the geology of the Perry area to be fascinating. The sea cliffs are amygdaloidal basalt, meaning that a myriad of smaller rocks were once upon a time trapped in larger rock as it did something volcanic, flowed a bit, and cooled.

I am by no means a mineralogist, and except for one tiny banded specimen, I can’t say with any certainty exactly what I found on the beach last weekend. Agates look a bit different out here than the Lake Superior Agates I’m used to. Heck, learning the words ‘amygdaloidal basalt’ even made my brain hurt a little bit.

But I collect rocks because I think they’re beautiful, and those found near Perry fit that bill well. I’ve been cleaning them in a bleach/detergent solution, and will likely cover them in some mineral oil. While I would like to purchase a diamond tile saw to cut these babies open, those run a bit on the holy-buckets-EXPENSIVE! side, so perhaps I’ll find myself a small rock tumbler instead.

Rock collecting time is quiet, thoughtful, reflecting time. I find it to be as relaxing as yoga or weeding the garden. It didn’t hurt that the weather was amazingly gorgeous last weekend, and that the nearby towns of Eastport and Lubec were brimming with Fourth of July charm.

  

There’s nothing like a trip to the ocean to restore my faith in Maine’s intense beauty. The Downeast region of the state delivers good food, serene camping, and plenty of rocks.

A happy Fourth of July to those in America who are getting their tradition on today. I’m celebrating by spending the day watching my cat sleep cutely.

Visiting Downeast Maine:

My visit to Great Wass Island

Mount Desert Island in the autumn

Eastport

Lubec

Perry Agates

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48 Responses to “hunting for agates in downeast maine”

  1. Mr_Mineralogy 2012/07/04 at 11:47 #

    So, like, something volcanic happened, then some stuff flowed, and then it got cold? “Wow, great story Hansel.” I can’t wait to get back down there!

    • emma 2012/07/04 at 11:53 #

      Haha, I got a little fired up for a second. Like, who is this d-bag? Oh. It’s you, Mr. Mineralogy. Of course.

      I had to look up the quote, too. You. But I can’t wait to go back either;)

  2. leaf (the indolent cook) 2012/07/04 at 12:26 #

    I used to go rock-hunting as a child, and wanted to be a mineralogist when I grew up. Suffice to say this hasn’t happened, but I still like rocks and stones and minerals and crystals… I’d be keen to see what your haul looks like after a good polish!

    • emma 2012/07/05 at 07:01 #

      It never crossed my mind to be a mineralogist when I was young, but I probably would have wanted to be a “professional rock gatherer.” I’ll put a picture up somewhere, someday, of what these look like polished:)

  3. Jenna 2012/07/04 at 18:43 #

    I’ve never really rock-collected before. Except yesterday, when I collected round, flat rocks to paint on. Said painting was not as easy as I thought.

    • emma 2012/07/05 at 07:02 #

      How interesting that your only rock collecting experience was so in sync with this post. What were you painting?

      • Jenna 2012/07/05 at 09:20 #

        I found one in the shape of a skull, so I attempted to paint a Day of the Dead sugar skull (I just love how colorful they are). I think it came out okay.

        • emma 2012/07/05 at 09:22 #

          Those skulls are wicked cool! I like your idea – you’re full of all sorts of good crafty ideas:)

        • emma 2012/07/05 at 09:24 #

          And now you’ve got me singing “She’s Crafty” ;)

  4. sarah 2012/07/04 at 19:09 #

    I love the picture with the red doors reflecting and the boat with chipped blue paint. I “pinned” it under Just Pretty so I can look at again and again.
    My family used to go topaz hunting in Utah when I was little. I wasn’t very good at it. I made it my job to look out for snakes. I was worried they’d sneak up on everyone so I would wreck the serene mood by singing and rustling shrubs. I believe I would have totally lost my junk if I’d actually seen a snake, so I don’t why I thought I was of much help. I liked the little hammer I got to carry around too. Are there little hammers involved in agate hunting?

    • emma 2012/07/05 at 07:05 #

      Aww, thank you for telling me that! We had the most serene morning in Lubec, slowly sipping coffee and tea on a sunny bench as we watched boats come and go. The boat in the picture that you like wasn’t going anywhere fast, but we did see a picture of it in its heyday. Before it sunk, at least.

      I love your rock-collecting story. I adore it. 1) Because I’m deathly afraid of snakes and would have greatly appreciated your ‘protection,’ and 2) Because it reminded me how much I’d like to get a little hammer. It would have been very helpful for getting rocks out of the soft and crumbly basalt cliffs!

  5. CheezyK 2012/07/04 at 19:14 #

    Aw look, quaint American town dressed up in all it’s patriotic glory. Those are some really lovely photos you have there! (I am right this minute now dying to get on a plane, and not just for the blue sky and sunshine).

    My grandfather used to have a rock tumbler, I still have the two pet rocks he gave me many, many years ago – googly eyes and all :D

    • emma 2012/07/05 at 07:08 #

      So very quaint it’s almost too much! I didn’t even mention the lobster club sandwich that deliciously capped off a day of blue sky and sunshine;)

      I used to have a rock tumbler too, but it’s quite old and not currently in my possession. I didn’t have any pet rocks, though – that was so sweet of your grandfather:)

      • Mum 2012/07/05 at 17:10 #

        Hey, what do you call “Rockman”?

        • emma 2012/07/05 at 17:12 #

          I thought about that, actually. But he’s more of a friend than a pet. And I definitely have too much respect to label him as something beneath me! Hehe:)

  6. movita beaucoup 2012/07/05 at 07:50 #

    Mother of pearl. I love the photos!

    Enough said.

    • emma 2012/07/05 at 07:58 #

      Weeellll, I didn’t find any mother of pearl last weekend. That would have been unexpected. But I did come geographically closer to you. Enough said.

  7. Mum 2012/07/05 at 17:25 #

    I also loved the photo with the red doors reflecting….very nice. And nice to see this area again! Lucky you:-)

    • emma 2012/07/06 at 07:16 #

      Yes, lucky lucky lucky me! The red door picture was in Lubec. Such a lovely quaint place, so quiet. Once I got past my fear of burning myself while trying to drink hot tea out of one of those plastic cup-topper things, I had the absolute best time:)

      • Mum 2012/07/09 at 14:27 #

        Hot tip(haha)–always use a straw!

        • emma 2012/07/09 at 14:38 #

          The girl behind the counter might have had a heart attack if I had asked for a straw, too – I had to ask for the evil cap thing. Although she gave me a spoon (?). This was after she told me that they didn’t serve tea. Silly.

  8. Thông Tin Nhật Bản 2012/07/05 at 22:36 #

    i love photo

  9. hotlyspiced 2012/07/06 at 01:20 #

    What beautiful images and thanks for letting me know about these rocks – not something I was aware of before. It certainly looks like summer has arrived in your part of the world. Enjoy the warmth – we’re freezing down under xx

    • emma 2012/07/06 at 07:19 #

      I hope you’re keeping toasty and warm inside! Yes, summer is in full swing here and it is lovely. I’m sure people have long wondered when I’ll get around to explaining what the ‘agates’ part of my blog title means:)

  10. Jill @ 42potatoes 2012/07/06 at 02:02 #

    Emma, I came across your blog this evening and am loving it! Your white pine pops remind me of a birch tea I’ve been wanting to try – better for you than root beer, right? Over here on the Oregon Coast, we also find a lot of Agates. In fact, my favorite ring is a beautiful deep amber Agate. Thanks for the inspiration, and your beautiful photos… I can’t wait to read more! ~Jill

    • emma 2012/07/06 at 07:25 #

      Hi Jill! I’m so glad to hear that you’re enjoying what you see.

      I’ve never made birch tea before, but birch twigs are my preferred twigs to chew on!

      Oooh, Oregon. I don’t remember looking for agates when I was there, but I was much younger and less rock-wise then. I hope to get back someday soon. Cheers!

  11. Hannah 2012/07/06 at 07:08 #

    Happy Fourth of July to you too, gorgeous Rockpine Lady! I remember going quartz-hunting when we lived in Orange County, and my parents recently went fossicking on an island that was not even as long as the length of their living and family room. They’ve shown me photos of this “island”, and it scares the pants off me.

    I’m glad your agates exist on firmer, larger ground.

    • emma 2012/07/06 at 07:44 #

      Hello, gorgeous FriendofWallabies Lady! I found some lovely pieces of quartz last weekend – they’re always so brilliant that I feel a bit like a magpie when I swoop down over them.

      Fossicking is the most exciting new word I’ve ever heard. It sounds cute, but also very businessy. Fossick this!

      I would go to this island you speak of. It sounds like a marvelous adventure:)

  12. thyme (Sarah) 2012/07/06 at 07:26 #

    How wonderful to have such a passion. My son has an affinity for rocks and been interested in rocks and minerals from a young age. During the school year, we give school presentations to school children in the morning. I handle the “malacology” cart and he handles the “rocks and minerals” cart. We’ve been to Maine 2 or 3 times and you are absolutely right…it is a gorgeous state!

    • emma 2012/07/06 at 07:49 #

      I’m so intrigued by how you’ve homeschooled your children – it sounds like you’ve done a fabulous job with them. Learning concepts thoroughly through the education of others is a terrific tactic.

      There was a gems and minerals cabinet in my middle school, but it was a sad and dusty thing that was never discussed by anyone or used educationally. I loved lingering over it, but no one else seemed interested.

      Ah yes, the gorgeous Maine scenery continues:)

  13. Mr. Chopp 2012/07/06 at 19:02 #

    Emma, great post about one of my favorite summer pastimes. I too would scour the Lake Superior coast and search for agates. My favorite was always a tiger eye.

    • emma 2012/07/07 at 10:14 #

      One of my favorites, too! I also enjoyed looking for them trapped in massive ice sheets along Lake Superior in the winter. It’s a year-round hobby of mine, I guess:)

      I didn’t realize you could find tiger’s eyes in the Great Lakes area – did you just find them along lake shores?

      • pennycoho 2012/07/09 at 01:07 #

        Hi Emma, glad to be following you. There’s this whole rock fascination thing going for many of us. I read in your comments and I have heard people say all my life, …when I was a kid I had a fascination for rocks. That was me also and I still do. Don’t know why. Just an attraction to pick it up, look at it, show it off, keep it. I have given rocks I’ve found to so many people over years. I guess just a rock mysticism.

        • emma 2012/07/09 at 06:55 #

          Thank you for the nice comment, Penny.

          I find myself saddened to hear people make statements beginning with “When I was younger I had a fascination for ___,” and ending with “…but now that I’m older, I’ve lost interest” or “…I’m too busy now for things like that.” It’s refreshing to hear others out there who are still pursuing the hobbies that intrigued them at a young age!

          I just gave someone a rock as a birthday gift, so we’re on the same page here:)

  14. erin @ yummy supper 2012/07/09 at 05:35 #

    Emma, I feel like you have been reading my mind. Just yesterday I was talking with my mom about hunting for agates. Mom lives in a town with a beach called “agate beach” – how we’ve never been dogged in our hunt for the rocky beauties, I don’t know. I even wear a huge agate necklace everyday.
    When you eventually come to the bay area for a visit (;)) you’ll have to join me in a search.
    Have a great week! xxoo
    E

    • emma 2012/07/09 at 07:02 #

      Aw, Erin, I knew if anyone else could have an affinity with agates, it could be you! Your necklace sounds lovely, and your beach awe-inspiring. Beaches tend to make me inspired no matter what, but add agates to the mix…. and I now definitely need to pay a visit to your part of the country! How wonderful would it be to spend some time chatting with you while hunting for treasure:)

      I hope you’re doing well! xo

      • erin @ yummy supper 2012/07/09 at 09:05 #

        Emma, the beach I mentioned in my mom’s town is so your kind of spot. Great oysters and small farms, woods, sea and rocks. We really would have fun!
        xxoo
        E

        • emma 2012/07/09 at 09:13 #

          That sounds so incredibly beautiful! Since I’m having such a tough time finding work, I halfheartedly feel like packing up and heading West right now:) But you wouldn’t be there… so, some day – soon, I hope!

  15. Alayna @ Thyme Bombe 2012/07/12 at 10:38 #

    Sounds like a very calming activity. I had a rock tumbler when I was a kid and loved to gather up shiny things in our backyard and toss them in, hoping a diamond would come out.

    • emma 2012/07/12 at 10:47 #

      Your childhood sounds similar to mine:) Did you ever discover any diamonds in the rough? I didn’t!

  16. El 2012/07/12 at 11:00 #

    I’ve never been rock hunting but your photos are lovely!

    • emma 2012/07/12 at 11:10 #

      Thank you El! You should try it sometime;)

  17. shannon 2012/07/15 at 06:48 #

    did you say “lobster club sandwich?”
    because, seriously; maine. it looks gorgeous. just exactly how i always imagine it to be. awesome run-down boats, beautiful old buildings, ships, and my heavens: there’s bunting and patriotic pennants EVERYWHERE. no wonder all the good rocks live in Maine.
    on a side note, the word “Passamaquoddy” stirred something in my childhood memory; i can’t get far enough into it to figure out why, but i’ve never been to maine. But I will be rolling the word “Passamaquoddy” in my head all day until i figure it out.
    this. post. rocked. on several levels, yes.

    • emma 2012/07/17 at 15:59 #

      I wish I had another five lobster club sammies sitting in front of me right about now. Oh my goodness gosh, yum.

      These towns are very much what I imagine the Maine of my dreams to look like, too. It’s not often that I get to visit this part of the state… so I was pretty thrilled. Oh, and I wanted to buy my own bunting this year (it’s a life goal!), but they had sold out at the store by the time I thought about it.

      Passamaquoddy. Don’t know what to guess here. Indian tribe? Bay? I don’t know…

  18. Danasa Carson 2013/02/09 at 17:42 #

    I have been to Gleason cove several times, my Mom and I go in the summer as she lives in Lubec and we are rock/glass hounds. I have cut one of those beautiful agates with my tile saw and it is gorgeous!! I was so excited to see your pictures and recognize this gem of a spot! Happy hunting, maybe we will meet someday. But having my head down most of the time looking for the perfect specimen, I probably won’t even know you’re there.

  19. sammwichtrooper 2013/02/20 at 20:57 #

    Hey. My name is Kristina. I was reading your blog and I was pleasantly surprised to see that you have gone to Perry, Maine for agates. I live literally up the road from there (to the north). My friend and I have gone agate hunting there as well, when we attended UMaine Machias. We’re planning a trip to Nova Scotia to spend a few days hunting for more agates, Fossils, and amethyst. We are looking for a 3rd person to split the cost of gas with. Would you be interested?

  20. Diane Williams 2013/06/23 at 09:06 #

    Hello Emma, all I did to start making cabochons was I bought a tile saw at a Hardware store..who’ll will remain nameles..lol…It cost me $50 shipped and I also bought 2 more diamond saws .050…not the thinnest, but they work for starting big rocks…If you’re not getting into the slabbing business, they’ll do just fine….they were $8 each..so I got 3 blades for my saw…The only thing is you need water, and a place for it to run as this one was a cheapy..I would recommend wearing an apron, or just bum clothes, some sort of head gear, and a dust mask and goggles…all cheap….I did buya rotary tool with flex head for $25 or less, and some small blades…I recommend the 2″/60mm ones as they’ll cut through thin just as well as thick so I say for less than $100, you’re on our way…There is an Inland Swap-Top 6″ machine that can be bought for like $370 with all the shaping and polishing discs to get you started…So, I think for $500 total, you can have yourself set to go…start saving!…lol..or sell some stones you’ve found on Etsy, or Ebay, and have that finance your purchases…Then you have to think about measuring, weighing, taking pics, but get the basics, show them to your friends, maybe get into wire-wrapping them and selling them at church craft fairs, things like that…Anyway, thanks for your site, It was nice to come across it, as I was wondering if we had stones here that I could cut and sell…I found some really sparkling ones in my driveway…have no idea, they’re black and just shimmering!…Well, if you have questions please feel free to ask! Take care, Diane

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