MARQUETTE - For sisters Sarah Paveglio and Shana Kleinschmidt, combing Lake Superior's beaches for agates is more than just that, it's about the memories they've shared while doing it.
"We grew up picking rocks and agates with our grandma and grandpa on Lake Superior since we were little," said Paveglio.
Every year for as long as they can remember, the family would camp for a few weeks out of the year in Grand Marais, Michigan.
Sarah Paveglio searches for agates on a beach off of Eagle’s Nest Road in Marquette County recently. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Paveglio)
Paveglio, Kleinschmidt and their grandmother, Miriam Paveglio of Ishpeming, who has since passed, would get out their walking sticks and walk the beach for miles, hunched over, searching for the special rocks.
"We would just stare at the rocks," said Kleinschmidt. They'd take a break for a picnic, but get right back to the search, she said.
"Agate hunters develop an eye for an agate," said Paveglio, "It's a certain skin that you're looking for."
"You have to watch out for fooler stones," Kleinschmidt added, which are stones made of quartz that aren't agates.
Whenever they thought they found one, they would lick the stone.
"It sounds gross, but that's what we'd do," said Paveglio.
Licking the stone helps the agate hunter see the real color of the stone. Most agates and Lake Superior rocks look more brilliant when wet.
Miriam Paveglio would search for agates with her grandchildren, and then save the rocks in a jar. Each child had a jar with their name on it, which would someday become theirs.
After their grandmother passed away, Paveglio and Kleinschmidt received their jar of treasured agates. To them, the jars held agates, but also precious memories of their grandmother.
Agate hunting was so important to their relationship, Paveglio even spoke about it at her grandmother's funeral.
Kleinschmidt has decorative dishes throughout her home filled with the rocks that she and her grandmother found together. Some people like to put agates in a rock tumbler, to polish the stones, but not Kleinschmidt.
"I've never tumbled one because I like them just the way they are," she said.
Now the sisters enjoy combing the beaches for agates, remembering their grandmother, sharing with others what was once shared with them.
"I always go by myself to remember her," said Kleinschmidt.
"It's so calming when you're by the lake," said Paveglio, "It helps you forget about everything else."