Himalaya Mine Field Trip, San Diego County, California
by Jay Bates, member, SFGMS
April 2-4, 2004
On a nice sunny day, I left the San Francisco Bay area and drove down to the Himalaya Mine on Mesa Grande in San Diego County. After driving for eight and a half hours I arrived at a campground near the mine. It was cloudy and drizzling rain. The previous week had been sunny and in the eighties. I met another member of my club, the San Francisco Gem and Mineral Society, and we spent a cool night dining and camping. The next day we drove up to the mine.
The Himalaya Mine has been in existence for many years and has produced many gem quality tourmalines. For further information see: "Exploring and Mining Gems and Gold in the West" by Fred Rynerson, Naturegraph publishers inc., 1977. It covers his 54 years of prospecting and gem cutting, gem mining and lapidary in the West, Southern California, and San Diego County in the tourmaline heydays from 1901-1925.
Many of the tourmalines out of this mine went overseas to the Emperoress of China, who doted on them. The road to the mine is a bit rough and a four wheel drive vehicle is recommended for the last half-mile or so. It was a beautiful time to be driving in rural San Diego County as everything was green and the ceanothus and other flowers were in full bloom. We scouted around a bit and were soon met by Harry and Mary White, the trip leaders for this particular trip. I was with Robert Campbell who is a friend of Chris Rose, the leasor for the mine, and who made the arrangements for the trip. It cost us $50 a head.
The following day we met the rest of our group who had driven down from the Bay Area at various times during the night and caravaned up to the mine. The road goes through the Mesa Grande Indian Reservation and because it goes near to several houses it was necessary to limit the number of vehicles to three or four.
The objective of our trip was to sift through the mine dumps, which have been sifted through commercially twice before.
The following photo shows the screens previous used commercially. Even so, there are still many pieces of tourmaline left in the tailings. They are also finding pockets of top quality tourmalines in the mine missed by earlier miners.
Idle commercial tailing screens
The area surrounding The Himalaya mine, and other mines in the area, were subjected to a series of catastrophic fires that burned off a lot of impenetrable chaparral brush, and many houses. There were a number of prospectors out scouring the burn areas for pegmatite outcrops and their Eldorado dreams full of tourmalines.
We were using two techniques in looking for tourmalines in the dumps. One was to sift and wash the tailing to get almost all pieces and chips of tourmaline, and the other was to move as much tailings as possible without washing and finding the larger pieces, missing the smaller chips.
The following a picture is of Aaron Lerer digging in the tailings. He found a nice watermelon a couple inches long and an inch in diameter with a nice termination.
The following is a picture of club member, Monica Morris, doing some screening.
Monica Morris. screening tourmaline
The picture below shows the chips and crystals that I found. I found a small twin crystal of tourmaline and quartz. The quartz crystals from here are facet grade. I also found three or four facet grade pieces of tourmaline and two reverse watermelon crystals (green on the inside and pink on the outside).
Tourmaline and quartz from Himalaya Mine tailings
At about 2:00 pm it started to pour down rain and some of us left, slipping and sliding up the rain slickened road. A few stayed behind and were rewarded by finding a number of "roadkill" tourmalines in the road and dump piles exposed by the rain.
Even though the weather didn't cooperate, ("it never rains in southern California in the summertime" - oh yeah, you bet...), we did very well and everyone got some nice tourmalines making the trip very successful. One beautiful piece of tourmaline from the old days was found, and most likely will end up in the club's museum.