, January 10, 2014
Be forewarned: this is a biased review. I am mentioned in and am the source for quite a few localities in this book. That said, I am generally very critical of rockhounding guides in general (vis a vis the terribly outdated and wildly inaccurate Gem trails of Oregon by James Mitchell, and the unmentionably abysmal GPS Guide which is a total waste of money). I tried hard not to be biased in this review; I have dissed other books for which I was a source of information (listed or merely stolen from).
This book is the best, up to date, and only guide to Washington rockhounding that 95% of casual rockhounds will ever need. The book presents, in exhaustive detail, more sites than one could visit in several summers of nothing but rockhounding. Most sites that I am aware of that contain good lapidary or gemstone material are in this book. Of those that aren't, many are currently or have been under a mineral claim, and some are just plain dangerous to collect or require a strenuous hike or other dangers that the casual rockhound shouldn't be attempting in the first place. In addition, there are dozens of sites that haven't been described in any literature published to date (which, by the way, is a very short list for WA, ALL of which are referenced in the book).
The descriptions of the sites are accurate, at least for the ones I have visited. The reader is constantly encouraged to contact the sources listed for each site for more detailed information and maps, a welcome addition which has never been included in the Gem Trails series to date. And, surprise surprise, the author actually visited each and every site in the book! Something that cannot be said for the author of Gem Trails of Oregon, James Mitchell.
Others have commented that the number of "stream walk" or "tumbler material" sites are excessive. I say, the more the merrier, since "newbie" or "weekend" rockhounds can find something to throw in their tumbler at any of these sites. If you don't want to walk creeks looking for pretties, then don't, it's as simple as that. I don't think the author threw out "digging" sites on order to make room for these.
The maps are decipherable, if a little crude (my bias here; I love topo maps too much!). The road directions are 99% accurate. A few typos are easily corrected by looking at highway or forest service maps, or the Delorme WA book, for instance. The GPS waypoints are incredibly useful and guarantee that you won't get lost if you take the time to input them into your GPS unit before heading out. Nitpicking: I have found a few errors in the waypoints but I am sure if you email the author you can get the corrected waypoints (right, Garret?). Besides, there are other sources of maps and wayponts, all of which are mentioned numerous times in the book.
The information at the end of the book is extremely valuable as a resource on its own, and includes the only complete list of WA state rock shops, gem & mineral websites, clubs, and prospecting clubs that I have ever seen. The list of sources similarly gives the reader a huge number of resources to consult for further information.