Meet the president of the Northern Berkshire Mineral Club - and his awesome crystal collection
NORTH ADAMS — Enter Larry Michon's accounting office and it immediately becomes clear what he does on the weekends.
Garnets, amethyst, fluorite and quartz are a few of the minerals that line the windowsills, the desk and the display cases along the office walls. Michon has even more at his Clarksburg home.
"I've got rocks everywhere," said Michon, president of the Northern Berkshire Mineral Club. Actually, he said, he is "more of a crystal guy."
Originally, Michon was just a nature guy who did things like hike the Appalachian Trail and paddle the Connecticut River from Canada to the Long Island Sound.
"I'm a little bit of a nut when it comes to exploring the natural world," he said.
These explorations changed forever in 1998. That's when one of Michon's clients brought him to Fonda, N.Y., where, at the site of ancient seabed and inside dolomite limestone cavities that date to when the Taconic Mountains were formed, Herkimer diamonds lie waiting.
"I stuck my hand into the 450 million-year-old cavern and pulled out this," Michon said.
He held out a fist-size, double-terminated, 18-faced quartz crystal, nearly clear except for some brown streaks in its center, and, when turned a certain way beneath the office lights, an iridescent shine on its surface.
"In order for a crystal to form, you have to have a mineral-rich solution enter a cavity," Michon said.
For the Herkimer diamonds in New York, the ancient seas provided the mineral-rich solution — in this case, rich with silica — and the dolomite limestone offered up cavities.
Two decades ago, Michon added, "I had no idea there was such a thing,"
These days, whenever the accountant isn't buried under his clients' taxes, he is digging into the Earth's veins and searching for yet another crystal.
"I just like finding them," Michon said. "There's nothing better than digging in-situ — meaning where it sits; where it lies."
Michon digs an average of two days per week, and while he has traveled all over the country, he often heads to nearby locations with his fellow club members. In addition to the club's monthly meetings at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Michon said there are excursions planned most weekends.
"We are a digging club," he said.
To pay for these trips, the club holds its annual Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show as a fundraiser. The 55th such show will be held this weekend at American Legion No. 125 in North Adams. There will be 10 vendors selling a wide range of products: high-end minerals, more common minerals, fossils and jewelry.
"I like to call our show a small but nice show," Michon said.
For anyone in the Berkshires who would like to find — rather than buy — a rock or mineral, Michon said there are nearby deposits of garnets, pyrite and the state gem, rhodonite, plus the two minerals first found in this county: Goshenite and Cummingtonite.
Michon suggested that people join the Northern Berkshire Mineral Club to learn about digging locations, since the state doesn't maintain many pieces of public land for mineral collecting. The club pays for a claim in the Herkimer diamond mines, and members usually conduct digs at privately owned mines where they can pay a small fee to enter.
"It requires that we dig a hole or break a rock — we're altering the environment," Michon said. "As more and more people want to dig, more and more land is being purchased or posted. We're always fearful our favorite places are going to be shut down."
Michon said he and other experienced rock hounds also know about unpublicized locations that are harder to find in New England's forested and developed landscape.
"There's sort of a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy," he said.
Michon noted how many minerals are out there beneath the world's surface, waiting to be discovered. It is what keeps him hunting for more.
"You know what my favorite crystal is?" he asked. "The next one."
Elodie Reed can be reached at email@example.com and 413-398-9203.
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