I had heard about Spirit Stones from our friends Bob and Joy. They had visited Captain Cooke SRA area before we did. When we arrived at the campground, posted on the bulleting board were pictures of stones that people had found. There were piles and piles of these unusual stones in the pictures. I wanted to go search for them!
We asked the campground hosts where we could look for the stones. He said it was up the beach about 8 miles. He went on to say how dangerous it was to go there because of the tides and the possibility of getting stuck in the mud. I thought there still had to be a way to get to find these magical stones. As the days wore on, I tried to succumb to the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to get to look for them and said a silent prayer.
Then, the night before we are to leave, Sam talked to a group of campers at the campground. It was a whole family set up. They had been out clamming for the day and Sam had to see what that was all about. In the process he saw that they had huge boxes full of spirit stones. To make this long story short – the people invited us out in their jeep the next day to search for stones! My prayers were heard!
The next morning at low tide, Philip Koenn, an easy going guy and resident of Alaska had us hop into his old muddy jeep with the doors removed. He told us the story of how he had bought the jeep. He wanted to buy the winch off the jeep from a friend and offered him $1000 for it. His friend told him no. He wanted to sell the whole jeep for $1200 – so he ended up with the whole jeep instead of just the winch.
As you will see in the pictures, the beach at low tide is littered with rocks. The going was slow. We made the 8 miles in about a half hour. We passed huge boulders, creek mouths, coarse sandy beaches, muddy sandy beaches and fishing cabins – including one built in a precarious position!
We arrived at our hunting spot, just past dogface rock. We pulled on our waders and hip boots and made our way away from the beach, into the mud. The first 50 feet or so was the kind of mud that would suck your boots off if you let it. The further out we got the harder the ground got.
We started the search about 200 yards from the beach. Philip said to look for a light colored gray rock that is smooth on the top and has no algae growing on it. We were equipped with clam digging shovels to help us turn over any find. He told us that years ago when they first discovered this spot that you could find hundreds in no time. Since then lots of people had cleaned the area of most of the treasures. He assured us that we would still be able to find some. It just wouldn’t be as easy as it used to.
We found a lot of rejects at first. These were the ones that people before had found and left. The rejects were spirit stones without any of unusual designs on them or were broken. Finally here and there we started finding a few as we developed an eye for what they looked like.
Spirit stones have another name – “Concretions”. They are found in many places through the world and are composed of different materials. These particular concretions – from Cook Inlet in Alaska are formed from the very thick mud which develops from glacier dust and produces the huge mud flats seen along the Cook Inlet.
Some people think that these concretions were formed under retreating glaciers, like those which created Kenai Fjords in Alaska. Others think that these stories were carried by the glaciers and deposited in the river. Still others believe that they were formed in the inlet, right where they were found. They are thought to be somewhere between 10,000 and 2 million yeras old – quite young for a rock.
Most of these concretions are rounded in shape, with tops which have been weathered and discolored by the tides. When you finally spot one, pry it up from the mud which holds it in place, and then turn it over, it shows you something completely different. At first, it looks very miuch like an ordinary chunk of concrete. Then, as you wash away the mud patterns begin to emerge and you start to see different shapes and designs. Although many concretions are similar, each one is unique.
Michael Carlson has a summer cabin on the peninsula. He has made a book of photographs of some of the concretions he has found, titled “Ancient Saw Spirits…What Do You See?” That is the perfect question. Each person who holds a concretion sees something different. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Mr.Carlson’s website is www.cookinletconcretions.com . It has additional pictures and information.
We dug and searched for stones for about 2 hours. We then had to leave because the tide was coming up. We had a short window of time to make it back to the campground before the whole beach would be flooded.
Sam and I were so appreciative of Philip for taking us on this treasure hunt! We were so glad he shared his treasure hunting with us. We hope to meet him and his family again further down the Kenai peninsula in a few days.
What do you see in some of these stones?