Tuesday, April 13, 2010


It's March 4th and the foothills have been enjoying signs of spring.  Which means that despite seeing from here that the mountains are clearly still snow-capped, I'd been dying to see what the conditions are like in the Canyon.  Authorized entry beyond the gates to access our business meant I had a shot at seeing if I could get to our property to check on things.  The weather was nice & while the road was snow-covered in the higher elevations, it dried up as I drove down into the Canyon.  There were several rock-falls to maneuver around, and then finally one slide that sufficiently blocked my path. 

This was as far as my truck could go that day, and is just one example of the many clean-up projects CalTrans has each spring.  Boyden Cavern will have to be visited another day...

- Steve

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

When people find out that Boyden Cavern and the portion of Hwy 180 that goes down into Kings Canyon close every fall, the next question is often "So then what do you do in the winter?" There's actually quite a lot of work to do in preparation for the next season, so it's a longer answer than one might think, but one of the highlights is traveling to Tucson, Arizona for the Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show.

For two weeks every year the city of Tucson becomes host to thousands of sellers.  Football-field-sized white tents are set up with seemingly endless rows of booths & tables inside, first-floor motel rooms become shops, and large vendors set up in tents of their own.  Someone driving on I-10 through Tucson can see groupings of white tent-tops on both sides of the highway for a good portion of the road, and when driving on city surface streets a single turn can reveal a whole new surprise.

Many tents are open to the public, but many of the tents are only accessible to registered buyers like us, or have several days at the beginning of the show exclusive to buyers before opening to everyone.  Our job is to scour these tables to find the best items for our Gift Shop at the best prices possible.  This takes weeks of preparation beforehand so that we can arrive with a solid plan for what we know we want to buy and then also know how much room we have for trying new discoveries.  Once we arrive it's day after day of walking up & down rows, making notes, comparing & discussing options, and negotiating deals.

Vendors come from all around the world - Asia, Africa, Central & South America, Australia, Europe, and our own North America - and we deal directly with these sellers, sometimes even using a language interpreter as we bargain with international vendors.  Mineral specimens, jewelry, fossils, animal carvings and geodes you can crack open yourself all find their way back to our little gift shop and await your discovery!

We've been working hard getting everything ready for this season, and now it's nearly time to open.  We hope you'll enjoy exploring these treasures when you visit us this summer!

~Michal Lisa~

When our feet get tired and our heads are full with the day's deal-comparisons, and if sensory overload hasn't set in yet, we do make sure to appreciate some of the truly awe-inspiring pieces on display.  Here's Steve next to a single-piece conglomerate of at least seven different minerals.