Prospectors flooded Oregon in the 1800s in hopes they’d find their riches in the dirt—and many did. But that age must be long gone, as the collection of ghost towns in this part of the state attest to. There are, however, plenty of gems in the ground if you know where to look. The folks at Lucky Strike Mines have memorized every crag and crack in these parts, giving them the experience needed to track down that buried treasure, and they’re willing to show you the way. A sharp left turn off Highway 26 just before the bridge to downtown Mitchell leads you up Cindy Kopcinski’s dirt driveway, where you’ll quickly be greeted by a pair of barking Labs. The property, wedged against a steep mountain, is her home, a rock shop and a museum for her collection of precious stones, including everything from a pair of waist-high sparking purple amethysts to spiky dog tooth calcite, which could be a shrunk-down version of the iron-made seat of authority from Game of Thrones. These impressive specimens aren’t for sale, but you can take home agates or the official state rock—thundereggs ranging in size from a lemon to a coconut. For those who’d rather earn their geodes, Cindy’s adult children will take you deep into the Ochocos about 5,200 feet up to their mine claims. You’ll need a four-wheel drive and a sharp eye—thundereggs may be swirling with color on the inside, but their shells are as gray and boring as they come.
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