Searching for Stones

It seems that half the people I know went to Florida for Spring Break. In our traditional quirkiness, The Precious Pair and I headed the opposite direction — seven hours north to explore an area of Pure Michigan new to us called Petoskey. Yes, we drove all the way through the worst state in America for current COVID rates. Not ideal, yet we practiced all our usual precautions consistently.

We are not typically road warriors. I get far too antsy trapped in a car for more than three or four hours at a time, as the driver or the passenger. So I split the trip up there and back into two legs. Stopping in Grand Rapids on the way and Holland on the way back. That plan worked out fairly well.

We expected cool temps in the 50s, clouds, and rain, according to my weather app, and, of course, all of us packed hoodies and jeans for those conditions. Instead, we encountered unseasonably warm weather in the 70s and sunshine for most of the week – the perfect conditions for hunting Petoskey Stones.

Finding hidden gems among the beach rocks is much like finding characters in the clouds. It definitely has a similar calming effect and works the same creative muscles. The best difference is tangibility – you can touch and hold stones in your hand, admire them up close, toss them back into the water or onto the shoreline, and even take a precious few home with you.

It didn’t take long before we spotted some pretty cool finds, like what we called the “Stone Phone.” It was a good-sized rock that looked like a circa 1980’s car phone. Or there was the one that had the color, shape, and size of a human heart.

The special rock we were seeking though was the Official State Stone of Michigan, the famed Petoskey Stone. Actually fossilized coral once alive in the saltwater seas that covered the area 350 million years ago, they are found primarily in the water and beaches of Northern Michigan.

In raw form, a Petoskey Stone is worth $4 per pound. But polished, their value ranges from $10 to $100 a piece. For perspective, I bought a small pair of earrings made from the material for $17. I also considered a wine stopper and a business card holder for my desk, but those items started around $40 each.

The best tip for finding them – they must be wet to see the distinctive hexagonal pattern. Otherwise, they look like ordinary pale gray rocks. Nothing sexy about that.

Yet the hunt is rewarding. It’s priceless in terms of its relaxation value. Cleansing. Purifying. All-Natural. Completely Non-Digital. The event included lake water, spring breeze, rocky shoreline, loads of sunshine, and my two girls and me. The perfectly socially-distanced activity, too!

We did not leave empty-handed. We found a small handful of the elusive stones plus two pockets full of other rocks we simply found to be pretty in one way or another. I have no idea what we will do with them. But I have learned that one of my besties owns a rock tumbler, so we plan to borrow that to see how our collection shines up.

Due to the distance, I doubt we will get back to Petoskey anytime soon. But it’s definitely worthy of our return someday. As we left town, I felt the typical vacationer’s longing for more time – at least another day. All three of us agreed there were a few more things we wish we could have done. We never stopped in at the weird pottery place we kept passing. There was one more local restaurant I wanted us to try. There was one more road I wanted us to follow…

On Saturday, our last day of travel, we had 3 hours to go until we got home. We hadn’t quite made it to Indiana yet, and there were a few more fun Lake Michigan towns we were nearing and soon to be passing. Only half kidding, I said “What if we stopped and stayed someplace for one more night, girls? Just for fun!”

Maturely, both of them responded that they were ready to get home. Back to their dogs. Back to their beds. Back to their busy lives. All the things I didn’t mind steering clear of, just a little longer.

Because the busier we are and the older everyone gets, the faster the time goes. Along the way, I hope we will always make some time to search for stones.

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