I, like most of you, always dreamed about finding my own crystals and honestly had no idea where to start. I had my own crystal shop for a time and knew the best places to buy but never really ventured on my own. Cue, the spring of 2018. I was working at a really cute little crystal shop in Florida, New York as a tarot reader. The gal who owned the shop sent me to a rock show nearby to find vendors and wholesalers. This is where I met Shane for the first time.
When I met Shane, he was vending with some people and I happened to pick up a Herkimer that he had mined at 51. It was very different, having a cave-like structure. He told me about digging and answered my questions. When I asked him where one can dig, he gave me the names of a few really great places. I knew however, with my heart at 40% there was no way I was going to be cleared to play in the dirt. I mean, I was on so many blood thinners walking bruised my feet. So, digging would just have to wait.
About a year later, the same shop owner, Diz, and I ran into Shane again at another show, Edison. For a Vermonter, Shane definitely made the rounds of crystal shows. Diz talked to him about digging and they decided to set up a time for us to come up to 51. By this time she had taken me to a couple of places where you could find little gems sitting on the top of the ground. My gal pals and I were completely taken by them but 51 would be very different. This was hard rock mining. Honestly, I had no idea what I was in for.
It was rainy and cold the day we went up to meet the miners and I, as always was running late. I got up to the massive crater, looked in and had no idea where to start. Shane and one of the other founding fathers of Area 51, Chris, were on jackhammers. I was not prepared for the amount of noise. I walked over to my
friends and started poking around in the dirt. Was this right? Was this what we were supposed to do? I had no idea and they, well, they were busy and wouldn't have heard us anyway. So poke, poke poke, scratch scratch scratch. I hadn't found anything. Looking back I can totally understand why.
After some time, the guys found a pocket. They masterfully chipped the stone around it, Chris barely balancing on a thin ledge and Shane, smiling through his respirator. I never met anyone who smile was so bright you can see it even when covered. They opened the pocket, let us reach in and feel this gorgeous Herkimer probably about the size of a grapefruit. I had never even thought about these things coming out so perfect. After a quick dunk in the water it was gleaming, just gorgeous. While we were admiring this work of natural art, they hit another pocket. This time there was a three crystal cluster in it.
They spent the rest of the time getting the huge cluster out and then, in a totally shocking fashion, Shane turned to Diz and offered her to choose one of the crystals. She chose the grapefruit. Shane then turned to me with a smile and said, "Here ya go". I am pretty sure my chin dented with how hard my jaw hit the ground. Who gives this away? As I would come to find, Area 51 Miners, that's who.
I spent the entire summer up there on weekends. During that time, I met some great people. Shane and Chris ran 51 as a family. They would invite a dozen people out at a time. Imagine, a dozen people from all over, different walks of life, all covered in dirt, bloody hands and smiling ear to ear, hands full of crystals. We laughed harder than I had ever laughed before.
Area 51 wasn't a place. It never was a place. It was a community of diggers that just wanted to spend time outdoors, with like minded people. Shane and Chris thrived on giving and making people smile. It was always my favorite part, watching the newbies come up and beam as Shane handed them a Herkimer or would let them keep some amazing crystal they had found. People would flock to them and were welcomed with a "dig in" mentality. On the walk down from the claim, they would stop and talk to each person they saw. Showing crystals, asking how their day was. Sometimes it took a full hour to get off the hill as they left a trail of smiles behind.
They brought elation, peace and a place to be a kid again to so many people. I feel blessed to have experienced it, honestly.
(If you are wondering, I did eventually figure out what to do. I started with clearing rubble most of the year 2019 and slowly moved up to using a jackhammer. Although I still lose my balance at times.)