Tales from the four corners – PT3 Old West Traces

The american outback and the old west

Ventures for gemstones lead the seeker to the remotest places on earth. Some of which are at locations one might not have thought of. When hearing the word “Outback”, usually images of Ayers Rock in Australia and the red earth surrounding it, are deeply ingrained in the minds. “Thus, talking about the American outback often comes as a surprise”, says Alexander Kreis, one of the Gemologists at KREIS.

One of these American Outbacks is located in the state of Oregon, northwest in the USA. The area is encompassing the “Hart Mountain” and the “Steens Mountain” close to Idaho. It is a landscape characterized by tumbleweed and endless roads. Before entering the Outback, the last official outpost of civilization is an old gas station which also serves as a grocery store, a bar as well as a hunting and fishing supply, all wrapped in one.

an adventurous spirit

“[a] reminder of an advernturous … history”

“The Outback is a fascinating place, and there is more than the eyes might realize,” tells Stefan Kreis. Inconspicuous at first, an old settlement seems to appear. “We think it to be from the days of the Old West,” says Alexander Kreis, “renovated as a silent reminder of an adventurous period in American history. But we don’t really know the exact date it is from.”

Venturing forward into uncharted territory can be an exciting and, yet, at the same time lonely feeling. “It is the unknown that makes it so fascinating. Especially, when we drive to a mine for the first time. Some of the miners life so secluded that we only hear from their mining operation by word of mouth. Sometimes even we don’t know what to expect”, says Alexander Kreis. These ventures can have a component of luck and curiosity to them. Alexander relates, “driving by a settlement, seemingly from the Old West, we do feel a kind of connection to the settlers of the old days.”

Adapting to life in the outback

Further, the settlement is a reminder of the adaptational abilities of life. Miners have to plan ahead. Having only a couple of months left to mine Oregon Sunstone, they are always working against the clock. Any mistake in planning will cost them valuable time. “They cannot go down the street to the next supermarket and be back in a couple of minutes. They are really on their own out there,” says Stefan Kreis. Therefore, collecting water in barrels and planning groceries for the month, not the week are important issues as well as safety.

Usually, they are able to mine from April to September, depending on the weather. “Once the temperature drops to around 32°F (0°C), mining gemstones is almost impossible. They will have to wait until next year,” explains Alexander Kreis. It is a small window of opportunity which needs to be ceased each year. Therefore, once the temperatures rise to a level that will allow for mining, a rush ensues and the spirit of the Old West comes to life.

More about Oregon Sunstone.