Milford High grad writes rockhounding guide

MILFORD – When he was 8 years old, Peter Cristofono’s mother gave him money to buy a book at a school book fair, and he chose a Golden Book on rocks and minerals.

Then, when he was 13, Cristofono’s family moved to Milford, and “the Granite Town in the Granite State” provided him with a paradise of rock hunting opportunities.

And in those pre-Internet days, he would do research at Wadleigh Memorial Library, and librarians would unlock the New Hampshire History Room for him so he could learn the state’s geography and geology.

At Milford Area Senior High School – he was in the Class of 1978 – Cristofono remembers his earth science teacher, Mr. Hoyt, who “got me even more excited” about geology.

And when he had a driver’s license, northern New Hampshire and eventually, all of New England, provided him with endless rock hunting adventures, and he joined the Capitol Mineral Club in Concord.

He majored in geology at Boston College and for 10 years was a member of the Boston Mineral Club and eventually became its president.

Recently, Cristofono wrote and illustrated a field guide to rocks, minerals and fossils called “Rockhounding New England: A Guide to 100 of the Region’s Best Rockhounding Sites,” one of the Falcon Guides, published by Pequot Press.

The author now lives in Salem, Mass., and does a mix of things to earn a living – freelance editing and fact-checking, some real estate, but his passion is rocks and minerals and he’s proud of his new book.

Filled with photos he took over the years, it provides detailed directions and GPS coordinates to sites, with tips on what to tools to bring and how to conduct a search. There are lists of minerals or fossils for each site and information on clubs, rock shops, museums and special attractions.

The New Hampshire section includes the Wilton Crushed Stone Quarry, located in Wilton and partly in Lyndeborough.

“People really want to know where to go,” to hunt for rocks and minerals, Cristofono said, and the book has sold faster than the publisher expected. In mid-April, it was temporarily out of stock.

The fun of rock hunting, of course, is that it’s a treasure hunt, he said, but not in the sense that you’re looking to get rich, but looking to find something interesting and unusual.

It’s also a way for collectors to rescue and preserve crystals they find.

“I like the citizen-scientist aspect,” he said, “and being outdoors, being in nature.”

At that school book sale long ago, the 8-year-old Cristofono was torn between buying the book on rocks and minerals and a book on insects, and his interest in insects has run parallel to his interest in geology.

Over the years, he has taken thousands of photos of insects and says he would love to do an insect guidebook someday. Now, he just shares his photos online.

Once, in Rockport, Mass., he photographed a spider he didn’t recognize, then shared it online and was excited to learn he was the first photographer in North America to take a photo of this particular species, which came from Japan, apparently hitching a ride on a boat.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.