Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Return To Devil's Head Collecting Area

The crystal collecting area called Devil's Head southwest of Castle Rock, Colorado has had renown for it's large topaz for nearly 100 years. While I'm sure there is still some topaz in the area I am satisfied with finding smoky quartz and amazonite. The smoky quartz at this locale is known for it's size while amazonite is often fairly pale though exceptions occur. I've found the pegmatite to be a little more difficult to work here rather than the softer more broken up pegmatites I've found at Lake George. We parked our vehicle near topaz point and began prospecting from there. We found several promising pegmatites with small crystals, but most of the crystals on the associated plates were broken.
Now that's a boulder!
It was a warm day in the middle 80s, which is hot for the mountains, so after a fruitless search in the morning I settled down in a promising shady area. The site had numerous digs, but there was still a lot of undug quartz in the pegmatite which included smoky quartz with numerous faces. I removed some overburden and then dug straight down and pulled out pieces of the pegmatite looking for crystals.
Well formed pegmatite too solid for me to break through this day
I found a lot of subhedral crystals including microcline, but not much to take home. Then, after pulling away a large chunk of smoky quartz a few well formed crystals showed themselves. I guess the previous digger didn't get all the goodies.
Unfortunately I had not taken my heavier equipment to deal with the pegmatite. I really needed a larger chisel, sledge hammer and pry bar. I usually don't carry this heavy equipment with me until I find a need for it. Prospecting at 9000 feet and 85F with a hot sun discourages me from taking any more equipment than I have to. However, I can go back now straight to the dig with my heavier equipment and see what I can do. It was a nice day though a bit warm and a few nice crystals from Devil's Head are now part of my collection.
Best of the lot

Very Gemmy but some internal fracturing
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Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day Pockets at Lake George with Turkey Vultures

On this warm 3rd day of July I found two pockets of crystals. Both had lustrous smoky quartz crystals with gemmy interiors. In general crystals from Lake George seem to have less cleaning issues and overgrowth than crystals I've found around Pikes Peak (see previous post) so today we are at Lake George. I had just set out climbing up a hill and noted some white float quartz dribbling down. As I followed the quartz up the hill I noted an old prospector's dig as the probable origination of the roll-down quartz. The dig was not large and seemed fairly old judging by the vegetation growing in the depression of the dig. The old dig stopped at the edge of a fairly large fallen tree. I picked up the now dried out tree and cast it aside, I'm guessing when the dig occurred the tree was pretty hefty. I stuck my pick axe into the dirt where I had removed the tree and hit pegmatite and red dirt. I then began to dig and immediately hit crystal fragments.
I took out my scratcher and began to unearth crystals. Nothing spectacular about this pocket except for the fact that someone a few years ago had dug to within inches of my find and stopped because of the downed tree. The previous digger may have found his own pocket, or I might have found an extension of his pocket. In either case I got some nice crystals fairly easily this day.
Nice Haul From Pocket #1

It was about noon and I had found a good looking pegmatite with some promising quartz a few weeks ago and decided I had time to follow up on that pegmatite after digging out pocket #1. After about a 20 minute walk up another hill, I dug down removing scree and broken rock till I got down to the self-buried pegmatite. I followed the grayish quartz for a few feet and suddenly it became smoky and a couple faces appeared on both the quartz and feldspar. Then I discovered a small fluorite formed around a smoky.
I knew a pocket was close. As I was expanding my dig with my scratcher tool I found a hole in the pegmatite wall (this was it). I cleaned out the hole as best as I could with my hand and started to pull out smokys from the hole.
Soon I had to enlarge the hole to get out some of the small plates, the job was becoming a little difficult as I was down about 5 feet into the ground. Thunder had been rumbling for at least an hour as a storm built up just to my south. As this storm moved off to the east a group of vultures started circling overhead (kettle) then roosted on a nearby boulder (committee). According to Wikipedia vultures in fight are a kettle, resting or nesting a committee and chowing down on carrion a wake. I knew it couldn't just be a flock of vultures :-)
Those Vultures Mean Business!
 I continued breaking down the pocket wall and removed crystals mostly of the 1 inch variety. Clouds started to darken overhead and I could hear thunder approaching again from the northwest. I decided the vultures were not going to have a wake over a lightning seared meal today so I covered up my dig and began my hike down the hill to find my digging partner and head for home.
Pocket #2 Bounty: I Noted A Repair On One Plate Will Really Pop The Plate... I'll Add That Later

Happy Birthday America There Is No Place I'd Rather Live Than Beautiful Colorado!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Crystal Hunting in Bear Creek Canyon *Updated 4 July

Set off bright and early planning on going to Lake George when the TV weatherman said it would be only 80F today and 10% chance of rain, I took him at his word and went to Bear Creek instead. Bear Creek is known for crystals but it gets a lot hotter and more humid in the summer due to the lower elevation so we tend to go there in the fall. While heading out to Bear Creek due to the cooler weather we found our way blocked by a closed road. Evidently last fall's heavy rains closed the road which meant an extra mile or so of walking up the canyon instead of driving. We decided the walk would do us good and it was cool so off we went. The closed dirt road is at about a 10% grade, so we warmed up quickly. We saw no bears, nor any fish in the creek. I believe this area is under consideration for closure to preserve an area for the green cutthroat trout which were all probably flushed out of the creek into Fountain Creek due to last fall's rains.
Bear Creek Gurgling Along
We rock hounded an area we had tried before, but had previously run out of time digging there. We had the whole day in front of us. While Bob was thinking of going up towards an area called Sentinel Rock, I was happy to dig in a well formed pegmatite further down the hill. By 10AM I was finding crystals, so Bob aborted his plan and decided to dig near me and try his luck as well.
May be a quartz scepter
By 12 o'clock Bob was finding crystals as well, so we never made it to Sentinel Rock this day. There are probably claims ringing it now anyway, but we'll get up there sometime this summer or fall to check it out.
After following a root through a pegmatite the pegmatite started opening up and getting moist with dirt. Soon I pulled out a rather large worm... lucky for me not so for him. I tossed him down the hill and started finding quartz with faces. Then I started finding full blown crystals. I called Bob over when I pulled out a 7 incher with fluorites attached.
7" Crystal Combo With Fluorites
I'm not sure about the color of the fluorites since they have not yet been cleaned, but they appear to be green to me.
6" Smoky With Fluorite Attached
Clay Encrusted Plate With Fluorite (upper right) and Quartz
A picture of the above plate in the collapsed pocket
Next up was another well formed fluorite followed by plates of smokys with fluorites and microcline. This find ended a somewhat dry spell crystal-finding for me. Bob decided to go to work almost exactly where I had thrown that worm. Now I don't think he found the worm, but he did find crystals. I guess I should have kept that lucky worm.
Bob's Nice Quartz Grouping
 By 1:30 PM the sky began to cloud up and thunderclaps were rumbling in the distance. So much for that 10% chance for rain. I decided I had more crystals (plates) than I could carry so we headed back for home. Forty pounds of rocks with equipment and 55 year old knees slowed me down some, but Bob was gracious enough to carry some of my crystals. I buried about a third of the lesser crystals within the pocket and then covered up the hole. Its a pretty remote spot, but no sense giving away the rest of the crystals with potentially more in the unfinished pocket. Not sure when I'll return, but it will have to be a cool day.                             Update: I returned to Bear Creek on 1 Jul to clean out the pocket. There were a couple of nice quartz crystals unearthed, but all were hooded (see picture).
The "Godfather" With Crystal Arms Oustretched {4" tall}
None of the new plates had fluorite on them either. As I continued to dig into the mountain following the crystal pocket, the crytal-bearing void continued to narrow down and the crystals grew smaller. The crystals on the plates were all laying down parallel to the host rock. The quality of the specimens I was finding did not merit further digging in my mind, so I filled in the 6 foot hole not planning to return anytime soon. On the 2.5 mile trek back to my vehicle we prospected an area dug for amazonite. I found a nice green fluorite on the edge of one of the digs which will probably bring me back to that site some day!
Blue/Green Fluorite with phantom

Overgrowth on smoky with pagoda top

Green Fluorite With Clear Late Stage Overgrowth Fluorites
Today's Haul of Crystals! Now for the cleaning to start. Looks like these will need a lot of phosphoric acid





Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Some Success Rock Hounding at Lake George

Greetings From Lake George

Today Bob and I returned to some of our old digs at Lake George. Bob dug on a pegmatite we had pulled out some nice fluorite in years past and I went back to an amazonite/smoky dig where I had found some excellent specimens. We spent a couple hours rechecking these sites with no success. We then moved on to another pegmatite where there is a lot of white quartz, but had little success. This particular site had been worked over by others several years ago. A couple years ago I found some fine onegite at this site and so Bob did some digging in that area,
Bob Checking Out Some Onegite Plates
and I did some digging along the quartz seam. I worked the quartz seam finding occasional crystals until a small pocket formed. The small pocket contained a couple of small plates which contained microcline, smokys and small fluorites. I thought I was going to find something really good when I broke into the pocket and found a large void behind it. Hoping the void would be pregnant with crystals I tore apart the country rock surrounding the void but found only dirt. Studying the rock around the void, it appeared to be entirely surrounded by country rock. The void was not an extension of the small pocket, but just a jumbled void in the country rock.
Bob found a few small onegite crystals and then a fairly nice smoky at a different dig that the person who had previously dug the site had missed. Bob's smoky was lustrous and well formed. So today we found a few interesting specimens but not the home run we were hoping for. Who knows, maybe the next time out our luck will change and I'll really have something to talk about :-)
Bob Found This Nice Smoky Group

Pocket Revealing Itself

Crystal Growth Exhibited On Pegmatite

Small Plate From Pocket

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Tornado in rock hounding country


No Crystals Around This Root Ball
Some of you may know from reading my biography that I am a meteorologist by training and a rock hound as a hobbyist. There was much excitement here last weekend when a tornado blew through rock hounding country up at Lake George, Co. The tornado moved through the community of Lake George and then went on to tear up some trees in the Pike National Forest in Teller County where I rock hound. From the description of a friend and local media reports I decided to see if I could find out where the tornado entered the forest and see what kind of damage it did. While driving down the forest roads I saw nothing. Once I got out of my vehicle and did some hiking I soon saw hail and then green trees strewn about.
Left over hail almost 24 hours after the tornado
Part of my interest was as a meteorologist seeing the destruction a tornado can do to 200 year old ponderosa pines, while the rock hounder in me wanted to check out each root ball for possible exposed pegmatites pregnant with crystals. While I found over 100 downed trees during my hike, crystals were few and far between. Not a single root ball exposed a pegmatite, let alone crystals. While it was disappointing not to find any crystals, I felt rewarded to be able to discover the impact area and analyze the storm damage created by the weekend tornado. I sent a note and a few pictures to the National Weather Service (NWS) Pueblo, as they asked for information on the tornado, but have not heard back from them. The NWS Pueblo has jurisdiction over Teller County while the NWS Boulder has jurisdiction over Park County and Lake George. All structural damage so far reported was in Park County.

No Crystals Here Either, but a 10+ foot diameter root ball

Dangerous Tree... Note Crack Through Entire Tree Trunk Near End Of Ax Handle

Somehow This Yellow Beauty Got Spared The Turbulence And Hail

These downed trees are mostly pointing westward, others were pointed east, north and south



Pretty hard hiking through these downed trees



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May Trip to Lake George some Smoky Quartz CSMS

Well, I'm running out of titles for my blog posts so unless I find something special or opine on something other than what I've already discussed the titles will be somewhat uninformative. Anyways I returned to Lake George and planned on doing some prospecting. This particular day I prospected for only about 15 minutes before exposing some smoky quartz shards really close to the surface. Not sure I've ever found so much quartz with such little accompanying pegmatite. I expect the pegmatite that was host to this quartz just crumbled away over the eons and all that was left was the stronger/solid quartz. I called my digging partner Bob over to check it out as I was finding smoky quartz pieces with faces. Bob immediately got to work on the same knoll and hit a better-formed pegmatite and found some amazonite. While I wouldn't say either of us found any trophys, we enjoyed the day and found a few crystals to take home.
Digging through some kinnikinnick

Quartz shards appearing in the dirt, or is it more than just a shard? See below.

More than a shard, best of the lot (see pic above), a nice cathedral crystal (Bob digging out a peg in the background) This crystal grouping, only about 6 inches below the surface was in amazingly good shape!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rock Hounding at Lake George

A View Of The Tarryalls... Will Winter Ever End?


Still snow up at Lake George. We had a recent 10 inch dump of snow last weekend and there is still a bit of snow lying about. While rock hounding at Lake George today we got some graupel, but no accumulating snow. Not exactly a Chamber of Commerce day up there, but it was good to get out. Flowers continue to bloom despite the weather. Digging was a little wet this day, but having been away for a few days due to illness I decided I was well enough to dig crystals!
We also saw some elk, but they were too far away for pictures. After scratching away at some pegmatites, Bob (digging partner) hit a promising seam. Small crystals started popping out of the ground, so I stopped prospecting and lent Bob a hand. Bob didn't need the help, but handed me one of his scratching tools as he knows it's almost as much fun seeing the crystals come out of the ground as digging them for yourself. We got over 50 smokys out of the ground and a number of small plates with smokys and microcline. There was nothing exceptional about this pocket, but a day in the mountains digging crystals beats just about anything else I know. I've attached a few pictures of the diggings. Everything is pretty much fresh out of the ground.
Iron infused dirt/clay with crystal definition showing in pocket

Small plate with smokys and microcline evident on piece of pegmatite

Interesting grouping of microcline
Fairly shallow pocket about 1.5 feet to bottom finished