For those who like beautiful day drives and laid-back outdoor activities, rockhounding may just be your new favorite pastime. Richardson's Rock Ranch is open during the summer seven days a week, 7am to 5pm. Thundereggs—named for their spherical shapes and often colorful, agate-filled interiors—are plentiful in the volcanic ash layers common throughout the region. Guests dig for thundereggs and pay for their haul by the pound.
Directions: Drive 11 miles north of Madras and turn right at Mile Post 81. Follow the signs and take the dirt road to the right, past a few barns and to the Richardson's Ranch office. It's hard to miss—quartz and rocks the size of your head are on display in front of the building.
Gear needed: Buckets and rock hammers are available to borrow on a first come, first serve basis. These are the only tools you'll need to get started.
This Perfect Day: I left bright and early at 6am on Sunday to beat the impending summer sun to the agate and thunderegg beds. The roads are well maintained, but they're still dirt. I'd suggest not taking a small sedan out to the ranch, but you won't need an off-road vehicle. When I pulled past the red barns and into the driveway of the Richardson's Rock Ranch office, I was greeted by peacocks, chickens, roosters and a few quail scurrying across the road. It felt like a magical farm in the middle of nowhere—with a ton of colorful rocks and quartz carefully laid out in front, like a yard sale.
After checking in with the owners and borrowing a rock hammer, an employee told me how to get to the mineral beds on the property, with the matter-of-fact friendliness of a flight attendant's scripted instructions. As I approached the first gate leading to the agate beds, I had to politely ask a herd of cows to move so I could squeeze by. They eventually acquiesced.
I chose the Moss Bed as my digging site, which unbeknownst to me has a difficulty rating of "hard." I definitely worked up a sweat, but that's all it takes, really. As Red from "Shawshank Redemption" famously said, it just takes "pressure and time."
Patience is a virtue, young grasshopper. This is a fun activity to enjoy alone or with a few friends or family. The beds are rated "easy" to "expert," so there's something for everyone.
Bonus eats: No doubt you've passed by Sun Spot Drive-In, a delightful '70s-era drive-in located in Terrebonne. The joint opens early at 6am every day, making it a great place to grab coffee and a quick bite on your way to the ranch. If you're taking your day trip Wednesday through Saturday, stop by Wild Bleu in Madras for lunch and a brew. It's an adorable beer garden, complete with food carts and a little boutique that offers craft classes during the week.