Expedition Bigfoot Museum Near Blue Ridge Georgia

I had the opportunity to spend a recent Saturday in Talking Rock, Georgia (near Ellijay, GA) with my children and grandchildren (and the lovely and adorable Lana) at a nice mountain cabin. While there, we discovered a neat little museum near Blue Ridge (home of fairy crosses from The Gemstone Chronicles) devoted to Bigfoot! Called Expedition Bigfoot, it was a neat place! I had no idea Georgia was home to Sasquatch, but it certainly has it share of sightings.

If you read the blog, you’ll recall my post about Bigfoot from 2016. That post focused on the Pacific Northwest, where some of the most well-known sightings, photos, and video footage originates. As I found out, though, every state in the contiguous United States, Alaska, and Canada all have sightings. I can’t leave Hawaii out, either. The Hawaiian version, known as Menehune, are humanoid creatures about 3 feet tall. Even if they don’t measure up to the Bigfoot stature, it’s still an unknown creature and makes you wonder.

So, what did we find at Expedition Bigfoot? First, check out this map of Georgia with sightings marked on it. I cropped the bottom half of the state so I could zoom in to the more numerous sightings in North Georgia.

Expedition Bigfoot

 

Though it’s hard to see, if you look closely at the map, you can see green pins showing the sightings. Interestingly, a number of sightings occurred near Cleveland, GA, where we go gemstone hunting. I’ll have to keep an eye out when I’m up there!

Another famous sighting happened near Barnesville, GA (bottom middle of the map above, just to the left of the lowermost I75 symbol). The picture of the foot casting below was taken near Elkin Creek in Pike County, GA. If this is an accurate casting, the creature certainly has a big foot!

Expedition Bigfoot

 

If you watch The Travel Channel, you’ve probably seen shows featuring Josh Gates. In 2007, Josh cast a Yeti footprint. Below is the casting with Josh Gates in the background. That’s pretty cool!

Expedition Bigfoot

There are audio recordings at Expedition Bigfoot and you can don a set of headphones and hear cries, thumping on trees, and other sounds attributed to the creatures. Cool stuff!

I know none of this proves the existence of Bigfoot, but it sure makes for interesting speculation. I’ve not seen one, and skepticism runs deep. However, one of the people we spoke with at the museum declared herself not a believer, but a knower, and claims to have experienced many sightings over the years. Who knows? She might be correct!

Which are you? Are you a skeptic, a believer, or a knower? Leave me a comment and let me know! If you’ve seen one, give the details. I’d really like to know! Have you visited Expedition Bigfoot? Let us know and tell us about your own expedition to find Bigfoot!

If you want to email about your experience, send it to bill@williamlstuart.com. I also welcome new friends on social media. Find me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest, say hello, and let’s connect!

Quartz, Topaz, Emerald, and Fairy Crosses!!

Quartz, Topaz, Emerald, and Fairy Crosses!!

I went rock hunting with my brother and niece recently. We found lots of great rocks and I thought I’d share a few of them. First is a nice piece of quartz (I like to call them pencil quartz but this would be a BIG pencil!). The rusty color is internal to the rock, which is pretty cool! I think I’ll try to polish it a bit, but don’t really plan on changing it much. I like the way it looks!

Quartz

 

The second find of the day was a great piece of topaz. The topaz we find is usually clear or maybe has just a touch of blue in it. As you may have read in previous gemstone posts, topaz’s blue color can come from heat and exposure to radiation. North Georgia ‘s mountains have a lot of granite (which may contain trace radioactive elements). I think I’ll play around with a smaller piece of topaz and a butane torch to see if I can get color enhancement. If so, maybe I’ll try it on this piece. At 168.4 carats, I don’t want to damage it.

 

The last find I want to share is this great piece of moonstone (I think). I love the orange colors and I believe it will make a great cabochon. I’ll cut a slab or two off it and see if I can get it to shine. I’ll post pictures and let you know how it works out.

In addition to the ones I found, I ordered a bag of chiastolite fairy crosses and staurolite fairy crosses (these came from Fannin County Georgia). If you recall from The Gemstone Chronicles Book One: The Carnelian, the elf Findecano was trapped in a chiastolite fairy cross, so I had to get me at least one. And Aidan found a bunch of staurolite fairy crosses before Maggie found Findecano’s prison. Given how important fairy crosses are to the books, I just had to have some.

Quartz

The last picture I wanted to share with you is this emerald. I found this one a while back and want to take it to my friend for him to examine and cut for me. This one is about 16 carats, but it has a great green color and I hope he’ll be able to create a beautiful stone from it!

I’ll be heading out for another rock hunting excursion soon. If I find some noteworthy specimens, I’ll be sure to post pictures. In the meantime, check out the blog for other gemstone posts and subscribe so you don’t miss any updates. Connect with me on social media, too! I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest! I look forward to meeting new friends!!

Celebrating the Wonder of…Duct Tape!

Duct tape!!

Duct tape

Duct tape. Staple of many a tool box and indispensable aid in household repairs. But, it is so much more than that. As a former submarine sailor, I can attest to the fact that my boat, USS Sandlance (SSN660), didn’t go to sea without a supply of EB tape (the US Navy term for duct tape – allegedly the EB stems from Electric Boat, the builder of many of the submarines). In fact, there is an urban submarine legend that a submarine was in the shipyards and the workers covered over an opening in the pressure hull with EB tape so the hull could be painted. Of course, the pain t went right over the EB taped area and everyone forgot about it. As the story goes, the sub went to sea, dove to test depth, and the taped area held. Now, this didn’t likely happen, but it illustrates the confidence submariners have in the tape!

Duct Tape USS Sandlance (SSN660)

USS Sandlance (SSN660)

Not that I ever participated in one of these activities, but I heard rumors of NUB (non-useful bodies), non-qual, DINQs (delinquent in qualification) getting taped to various parts of the boat. I imagine it would look something like this!

Duct tape

Besides keeping submarines floating and taping the occasional person to the wall, bulkhead, stanchion,or nearby handy chair, duct tape has tons of other uses. In The Gemstone Chronicles Book One: The Carnelian, Beebop uses a duct tape to restrain the troll Yul. Yul had been Findecano’s guardian in the fairy cross and was released when Aidan and Maggie smashed the stone to free Findecano. Yul busted through the door of Nana and Beebop’s house and Nana clonked Yul on the head with a cast iron frying pan. it was then that Beebop was able to tape the troll and keep him restrained. In keeping with the legendary stickiness of the tape, Beebop tore out lots of Yul’s arm hair when he finally freed the troll.

What other uses are there for this wonder repair device? Believe it or not, there are books detailing the uses (and you can make a book cover with it if you like), but here are some of my favorite ideas.

  • Don’t have a lint brush? Just make a loop of duct tape (sticky side out, of course), and viola, lint remover!
  • Got a nasty cut while working in the garage? Cover the cut with a clean cloth or paper towel and wrap it in duct tape. Makes a great temporary bandage until you can get some medical attention.
  • How about taping a spare car key to the undercarriage of your vehicle?
  • You can repair a vacuum cleaner hose by wrapping it with duct tape.
  • You can repair a leaky car hose with duct tape, too, but it only a be temporary fix. It may hold long enough to get you to a mechanic.
  • If you are a camper, you can repair a hole in your tent, make a rope, fashion a clothesline, or catch flying insects (think flypaper – just hang a few strips and then roll them up after catching the bugs).
  • Car repairs of many other types (body work, holding windows in place, etc.), See the picture below!

Duct tape car repairs

There are many more uses for the tape than I can ever begin to list here. I did want to add a picture of duct tape clothing. I think some people may have way too much time on their hands!

Duc tTape Prom Outfits

There you have my tribute to duct tape. An amazing thing and people find new uses for it every day. Which leads me to ask, what are your favorites uses for duct tape? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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The 1832 Georgia Gold Lottery and The Trail of Tears

I mentioned in a previous post that gold was discovered in 1828 in the North Georgia Mountains. Miners swarmed into the mountains and encroached on the lands of the Cherokee.In my books, The Gemstone Chronicles series, I referenced the gold rush, the displacement of the Cherokee, and one of the legends regarding the origin of staurolite Fairy Crosses – the Trail of Tears. In this post, I will discuss how the 1832 Georgia Gold Lottery impacted the Cherokee in particular, North Georgia in general, and led to the infamous Trail of Tears.

 

The capital of the Cherokee Nation was at New Echota, near present day Calhoun, Georgia. Lana and I took a Saturday and visited New Echota to learn more about the Cherokee, the gold rush, and the ultimate displacement of the Cherokee. We learned a lot during our short time at New Echota, including the Cherokee form of government, the way the Cherokee lived in the early 1800’s, and some of the famous Cherokee people.

As I mentioned above, the 1832 Gold Lottery was part of a larger land lottery in Georgia. The lottery encompassed the lands of the Cherokee as show in the map below.

1832 Gold Lottery Cherokee Land

The lands on the right hand side of the map are the lands that held most of the gold. According to the display at New Echota, about 85,000 people competed for about 18,000 land lots and 133,000 people competed for the 35,000 gold lots in the lottery. The land lots were 160 acre tracts and the gold lots were 40 acre plots.

A big question in my mind was how did the lottery come about? it turns out that Georgia had a history of doing land lotteries. According to Wikipedia, the Georgia lotteries began in 1805 and a succession of lotteries followed in 1807, 1820, 1821, and 1827. By 1832, the Cherokee were living on an area in the northeast part of the state and the Creek had ceded all of their lands in the state.

When gold was discovered in 1828 in Lumpkin County (Dahlonega), white settlers headed to the mountains to stake their claims. It didn’t matter that the land belonged to the Cherokee. In fact, the State of Georgia passed laws that forbade the Cherokee from mining gold on their own land!

The Cherokee didn’t just give up the lands, though. Since they considered themselves a sovereign nation within the United States, the Cherokee viewed the land lottery as illegal. The Cherokee sued and the case reached the US Supreme Court. More on that coming up.

A second case involving the Cherokee reached the Supreme Court, too. This case involved a law Georgia passed that required non-Native Americans have a license, issued by the state, to be present on Native American lands. When Samuel Worcester refused to get a license, Georgia arrested him and put him in prison. Mr. Worcester had arrived in New Echota in 1825 to convert the Cherokee to Christianity and teach them English. He also served as the postmaster and, with Elias Boudinot, established the Cherokee Phoenix, the first newspaper among the Native Americans.

1832 Gold Lottery Samuel Worcester House

Now, back to the court cases. In the first case, Worcester v. Georgia, the Supreme Court found in favor of Worcester. According to Wikipedia, Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the federal government had an exclusive relationship with the Cherokee Nation and recognized the Cherokee Nation’s sovereignty. above state laws. Worcester was pardoned, but moved to Indian Territory in 1836.

The other case, Cherokee Nation v Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that the Cherokee was not a foreign nation (later reversed in Worcester v. Georgia) but had a relationship similar to a “ward to its guardian.” Regardless of the ruling, the state and President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce the rulings and moved forward with the land lottery. Below is a land deed from the lottery signed by William Lumpkin, Governor of Georgia.

1832 Gold Lottery Land DeedThe land lottery was the beginning of the end of the Cherokee in Georgia. More settlers streamed into Georgia and, with the Georgia Guard enforcing the laws, there wasn’t many avenues of recourse for the Cherokee. Finally, in 1833, the Cherokee began negotiations with the federal government for a removal treaty. The Cherokee were split into two factions. The Treaty Party, led by Elias Boudinot (who worked with Samuel Worcester on the Cherokee Phoenix), Major Ridge, John Ridge, and Charles Vann advocated for the removal treaty. The National Party, led by John Ross, the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation opposed the treaty the federal government offered.

In December 1835, the negotiations were held in New Echota and  a treaty was signed. The treaty allowed for the payment of $5,000,000 for all Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River, equal land in the Indian Territory, $500,000 for education, and full compensation for the lands left behind. One other clause was that any Cherokee that wished to do so could remain in the states in which they resided and become citizens. With that last clause included, the committee reported back to the council, and the council unanimously approved the treaty. The 20 members of the committee signed the treaty and it made its way back to Washington. President Andrew Jackson struck the last clause from the treaty.

When the National Party learned of the treaty, they protested that they had not ratified the treaty and it was, therefore, illegal. John Ross presented to the US Senate a petition signed by 16,000 Cherokee asking that the treaty not be ratified. However, in 1836, by one vote, the treaty was ratified and President Martin Van Buren directed General Winfield Scott to enforce the removal of the Cherokee. 1838 saw more than 16,000 Cherokee moved from their land. Multiple routes moved the Cherokee over land and river. Below is a map of the infamous Trail of Tears.

1832 Gold Lottery Trail of Tears

 

During the forced removal, more than 4,000 Cherokee perished. The Cherokee finally arrived in their new lands, but old tensions still festered. In 1839, members of the National Party assassinated Elias Boudinot, Major Ridge, and John Ridge. They also attacked Stand Watie, but the attempt to kill him failed.

The aftermath of the assassinations was a civil war within the Cherokee Nation. In 1846, the federal government negotiated a when a tenuous peace treaty. The bitterness remained and may have contributed to the split within the Cherokee during the American Civil War. The Treaty Party faction (and most of the Cherokee Nation) sided with the Confederacy. John Ross and his supporters sided with the Union. With the Union victory in the Civil War, John Ross became the recognized Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

This post cannot capture the events and politics that led to the removal of the Cherokee from Georgia. The land lottery system set up in Georgia beginning in 1805 might be the starting point. So many other factors and circumstances added nuances and I think it overly simplifies a complex issue.

What are your thoughts about the plight of the Cherokee and the impact of the 1832 Georgia Gold Lottery? Let me a comment and let me know. As always, feedback and shares are welcome!

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Georgia Gold Mines -There’s Gold in Them There Hills!

The California Gold Rush and the legendary Miner 49ers. We all learned about that gold rush in school. But, did you know that before gold was found in California, there was a gold rush in North Georgia? It’s true! There were many Georgia gold mines! Gold was discovered around Dahlonega in 1828, twenty years before gold was found at Sutter’s Mill.

Georgia Gold Mines Dahlonega Mint

Dahlonega Mint

At the height the of the gold rush, there were over 500 gold mines operating in 37 counties in North Georgia. Boom towns sprang up, miners streamed into the state, and many people found riches. And gold flowed out of the mines – so much so that a mint was opened 1838 in Dahlonega to process the gold into coins. Wikipedia says it’s estimated that from 1828 through the mid-2oth century (when commercial gold mining in Georgia stopped) 870,000 troy ounces of gold were mined. At today’s price of $1218/ounce, that is over $1 billion!!

In 1832, the state of Georgia held a Gold lottery, selling 40 acre lots across North Georgia – land that belonged to the Cherokee. Despite protests from the Cherokee, the lottery winners swarmed into the lands and settled. The Cherokee were soon to be forcibly relocated along the infamous Trial of Tears. In The Gemstone Chronicles Book One: The Carnelian, Aidan finds some staurolite fairy crosses. One of the legends regarding the staurolite fairy crosses is that they are the result of the tears the Cherokee shed as they were forced from their home in the mountains.

Georgia Gold Mines Staurolite Fairy Cross

Staurolite Fairy Cross

I plan a future post of the Gold Lottery of 1832 and the Trail of Tears, so I won’t go deeper into that subject here.

There were some notable figures with ties to the Georgia Gold Rush. John C. Calhoun, Senator and the 7th Vice President of the United States, owned the Calhoun Mine. The Calhoun Mine produced a lot of gold during its time, as did the Loud Mine and the Consolidated Mine. The Calhoun Mine was managed for a time by Thomas Clemson, the founder of Clemson University.

Much of the gold found during the beginning of the gold rush was placer gold. Placer gold is gold that eroded away from the vein and deposited in stream beds, at the mouths of rivers, and other such places. Gravity wins with gold, as it is about 19 times heavier than water, so it won’t travel far from the source. By some estimates, gold will only travel about 1500 feet from the source. After the easily found gold was exhausted, miners invaded the creeks, streams, and rivers to dig into the beds and pan for gold. Below is a gold nugget found in the Dahlonega area.

Georgia Gold Mines Gold Nuggest

Dahlonega gold nugget

According to the Consolidated Gold Mine website, in 1845, John Hand developed a hydraulic mining method to dislodge material from the hillsides. This method meant that water cannons would point at a hillside and blast away the mountain and send the mud and rocks down the hillside and into sluices positioned below. Another method was to find the gold-bearing quartz (quartz is plentiful in Georgia), run the quartz through a stamp mill, crush the rock, and extract the gold. If you are lucky enough to be able to prospect on some of the lands around Dahlonega, you can still find tailing piles from the hydraulic mining days, and yes, there is still gold in them!

The gold rush in Georgia really died out when gold was discovered in California. With the difficulties of extracting the gold from the mountains, miners moved west and left the Georgia mountains. Wikipedia tells us the assayer at the Dahlonega Mint told the miners that there were still millions in the mountains, but he couldn’t persuade the miners to stay.

However, gold mining in Georgia wasn’t done. As mentioned above, commercial mining continued until the mid-20th century. The Consolidated Mine operated from 1895 until 1906 when the company failed. Whatever the reason it failed, it appears that it wasn’t due to a lack of gold! Below is a picture of the Glory Hole from the Consolidated Gold Mine.  The hole is shown looking upward. Imagine finding that much gold!

Georgia Gold Mines Glory Hole

Consolidated Gold Mine Glory Hole

There is still gold in the Georgia mountains. It may be hard to come by, but the search is half the fun. I have a small sluice box that I use when I go gemstone hunting. I haven’t found any gold yet, but I have found where it wasn’t! Like Beebop’s character in The Gemstone Chronicles, though, I will keep looking because you never know! I might just start the next Georgia Gold Rush!

Are there gold mines where you live? Have you prospected? Just in case you might want to, here is a link to a site that gives links to prospecting clubs by state: http://www.goldminershq.com/clubs/gold1.htm.

If you have prospected, leave me a comment with the results of your search. I look forward to hearing about your adventures!

If you like this post, please feel free to comment and share. Feedback is always welcome!!

Happy prospecting!

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Fairy Crosses – Did You Find an Elf?!!!

A few days ago, I got a tweet asking me if the fairy crosses that are an integral part of The Gemstone Chronicles stories were real or a figment of my imagination. The truth is…they are REAL!!

Now, I don’t think there are any elves trapped inside the stones, but the fairy crosses I referenced in Book One: The Carnelian do exist. Let’s take a look at the crosses from the book.

If my readers recall, Aidan found a group of staurolite crosses by some mounds while Maggie and Beebop were setting up to hunt gemstones. Staurolite is the Georgia state mineral. Staurolite crystals naturally form into cross shapes – though we don’t really know why. There are 3 different types of the crosses. The most common cross is the prismatic  shaped and is a less-defined cross shape. The second most commonly found shape is a “X” known as the St. Andrew’s Cross. The rarest and most highly prized shape is the perfectly formed Maltese Cross. The staurolite crosses are most commonly found in Georgia in Fannin County near the North Carolina and Tennessee borders, but they are also found in other places such as Virginia, New Mexico, Minnesota, Norway, and Switzerland.

Now that we know about the scientific aspects of fairy crosses, what do the legends say about them? In The Gemstone Chronicles Book One: The Carnelian, Beebop tells Aidan and Maggie two legends about the origin of the staurolite fairy crosses. The first legend was that the fairies, who lived in the beautiful north Georgia mountains, heard that the son of the Great Creator had been crucified. They wept in sorrow at the news and their tears fell to the ground and formed the crosses.

The second legend is part of one of the most heartbreaking realities in the history of the United States. Until 1828, most settlers stayed away from the north Georgia mountains. In 1828, gold was found in the mountains and soon after, the Georgia Gold Rush began. Suddenly, the mountains became the place to be. President Andrew Jackson forced the Cherokee from their ancestral lands and moved the nation to Oklahoma along the “Trail of Tears.” It was during this forced exodus that the legends say the  Cherokee wept and their tears formed the fairy crossed found in the mountains today. As noted in the book, there are performances of the play “Unto These Hills” during the summer months in Cherokee, NC that depicts the tale of the “Trail of Tears.”

Here are the three types of staurolite fairy crosses:

First, the Maltese Staurolite Fairy Cross. isn’t it beautiful?

 

Maltese Fairy Cross

 

Secondly, the St. Andrew’s Staurolite Fairy Cross. Note the characteristic “X” shape.

 

St. Andrew's Fairy Crosses

 

Lastly, the Prismatic Staurolite Fairy Cross. This type has a random shape. One thing to note about any of the crosses is that no two are identical.

 

prismatic fairy crosses

 

None of the crosses above, though, housed Findecano, the elf that Aidan and Maggie freed from his stone prison. Findecano’s prison was a chiastolite, a different type of fairy cross. Chiastolite fairy crosses are not native to north Georgia. Chiastolite is a variety of andalusite and has carbon inclusions that form the black cross that is characteristic of the stone. Chiastolites are found in many locations around the world.  Prime locations are Spain, and California, Nevada, Maine, and Massachusetts in the United States. In the book, Beebop speculated the stone could have reached Georgia by trade among the native Americans, or by Spaniards exploring the New World .

Below is a picture of a Chiastolite Fairy Cross. Can’t you imagine an elf and a troll trapped in it just waiting for someone to smash the stone and free them?

 

chiastolite fairy crosses

 

I hope this post answers the questions readers have about Fairy Crosses. If not, please send me the questions and I will do my best to find an answer!

I haven’t found one yet in my rock hunting trips, but I try to keep a sharp eye out for them. Legends say wearing fairy crosses bring good luck, so if I happen to find one, I will be sure to keep it with me!

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North Georgia Mountains – The Setting of The Gemstone Chronicles

As readers of The Gemstone Chronicles know, Nana and Beebop’s house in the books sits perched on a mountain in the north Georgia mountains. For those who don’t know, the mountains in Georgia are part of the Blue Ridge Mountains (which are part of the Appalachian Mountain chain). While not towering like the Rockies, the mountains can be very remote and extremely rugged. They are also beautiful!

Recently, Lana and I decided to visit Brasstown Bald and see what the highest spot in the state looked like. We were not disappointed!

 

The views were breathtaking and expansive. On a good day, you can see North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and, of course, Georgia. Rising over 4700 feet above sea level, Brasstown Bald allows spectacular views like the ones below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

These and similar views were the inspiration for the setting of the four books of The Gemstone Chronicles. I also discovered my fascination with gemstones that are found in the hills. Findecano, one of the elves in the books, was trapped in a chiastolite fairy cross found in the mountains. Fairy crosses are often found in Fannin County, GA, which can be seen from Brasstown Bald. I have found rubies, emeralds, sapphires, garnets, aventurine, carnelian, amethysts, and different other quartz during my many rock hounding trips. I recently joined a gold prospecting group, too, and I am looking forward to finding some of the gold left in the mountains!

The region also has some fantastic homes nestled in the hills. One of those houses became the prototype for Nana and Beebop’s house. I think this one is a bit larger than their home, but what a great place to spend a day. There is even a gold-bearing creek running through the area – the basis for the river running through Beebop’s property.

The House and The River:

 

 

 

North Georgia Mountains

 

There you have it. The North Georgia Mountains and streams that inspired the setting for The Gemstone Chronicles. Feel free to share pictures of the mountains and streams (or whatever else) that have inspired you!!