ELLENSBURG, Wash — You can find a lot of blue in Ellensburg – from the chicory flowers in the fields to the skies above the rolling hills. But there’s only one Ellensburg blue. Millions of years ago water flowing through lava beds in Kittitas Valley made light blue agates. It’s a color Bernice Best loves.
"What do I love about it? It's blue. Blue's my color. Blue's the sky. Blue's the ocean. Blue's everything around us."
For decades, she has let people search for blues on her 200 plus acre Rock ‘n Tomahawk Ranch.
"It's better to share and let them look. With no guarantee that they're going to find a blue. The only thing I guarantee 'em is that they're gonna find a rock," said Best.
"This particular stone is the third hardest gemstone in the world to find. That tells you how rare they are."
Five dollars gets you all the blues you can find. Rock hunter Mary Hoy traveled all the way from Olympia to search for blues and found something tiny that might be the elusive blue agate. Usually, stones need to be cut to reveal whether there’s color inside:
"Pretty excited about that. We'll see when we get home with the Dremel and see what's in there," said Hoy.
The possibility of finding a rock that could be worth up to 250 dollars a karat means everyone who walks this property does it with a 'blues bend'.
Even the owner.
"It is addictive,” Best said, after stooping and picking up yet another tiny stone along a road cut.
A flat large blue that’s the shape of a tomahawk blade is the ranch's namesake. It was found on the property, polished, and given to Best as a Christmas present.
Another blue, mounted in a ring, her husband discovered stuck in his horse’s hoof.
Ellensburg blues seem to find people, rather than people finding them.
Every year in April, after the snow melts another bunch of blues emerges, hidden among the dusty stones on this land.
"There are people who will tell you there are none left. But in reality, the way they were brought here, there are more left. You just gotta keep digging!" Best said.
No matter what kind of blue you find out here, Best says the search is always worthwhile.
"Finding the blue is always the benefit. But being out here, I mean, I wouldn't live anyplace else."
Rock n' Tomahawk Ranch allows people to hunt their 200 plus acres for blues for 5 dollars, to make a reservation call (509) 962-2403. Ireland Jewelers in Cle Elum makes finished pieces using Ellensburg blues, 111 E 1st St, Cle Elum, WA 98922.