Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Rock Hounding At Collector's Edge--An Indoor Field Trip

Namibia amethyst group with odd termination
Rock hounding minerals in Colorado can run a bit far afield, especially when I set the rules. When it’s cold and icy outside a little shopping for deals at local rock emporiums helps pass the winter time.  I took a planned trip up to Denver and checked out Collector’s Edge (CE).  Now I’ve always understood Collector’s Edge to be higher end, an out of reach dealer for the regular collector, but who knows.  I went on a tour with a couple other Joes and was greeted at the door by Phil Perrson.  Phil has been working for CE for over a year and has a MS in geology.  We were welcomed into a foyer where to the left a number of fairly old brass microscopes, goniometers and other antique rock viewing instruments were on display.  I found their workmanship astonishing considering many of the instruments were made over 100 years ago.  From the museum display we went into the high end mineral area, and were overwhelmed by the proprietor (Bryan Lees') personal Colorado collection.  Everything was there that could be found in Colorado with a special emphasis on rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine, barite from Stoneham, and smoky and amazonite combinations from the Pikes Peak Batholith. The showroom had wall-to-wall cases loaded with mineral specimens. Each mineral was carefully documented and aesthetically displayed.  After an hour or so of examining these specimens we moved on to the lab and prep area.  In the lab a number of large concretions from Mexico were being cut up for the brown barite crystals hidden inside.  There were also a number of brilliant yellow brucite specimens the cleaners were working on.  Lab workers were also working on a number of plumbogummite plates that I recalled from an article in the Mineral Record magazine. Plumbogummite is
pyromorphite crystal, whose terminations have pseudomorphed into beautiful light blue plumbogummite. I really liked saying the word plumbogummite, and much to the consternation of my traveling buddy I preferred to call it plumbogumbo.  I decided that despite CE’s prices I might have to get one.  I saw lots of chemicals, exhaust hoods and vacuum chambers, some epoxies with dyes, numerous saws and a number of friendly people. The workers seemed happy in their tasks, perhaps that was because Bryan Lees, the proprietor, was in China?  Next up was a staging room for the Tuscon Show.  I think there was at least a semi-truck of flats ready to go to Arizona in January. The Tuscon mineral show is the largest show of its kind.  We had reached the end of the building.  Thinking we were done I asked Phil if there were any less pricey plumbogummites to be had.  Phil said of course there are, after lunch we’ll go to the warehouse.  Warehouse… who knew?!
Lunch didn’t go by fast enough for me.  I wanted to get back to the warehouse. The warehouse is located about a block away from the main work area and offices.  They had a keystone (half-price) area where you can buy single crystals and another area with flats of minerals. I went immediately to the keystone area looking for a plumbogummite that I could afford.  I got a nice plumbogumbo for a good price and moved on to where my chums were looking through flats. I think there were well over 1000 flats of minerals.  My chums decided to split a flat as who needs a couple dozen fluorite even if you do trade/sell some.  I thought maybe I’m better off back at the keystone area. Then I noticed some of the flats said mixed minerals--Namibia.  Hmmm lots of different stuff in a flat, maybe I don't need to buy 20 of one thing.  Plenty to look at and maybe add to my collection.  Yea I can spring for one of those boxes. The problem with my collection is it’s all black and blue… I kid you not.  Too much blue amazonite and black smokys--not bruised minerals.  I think I looked through about 100 boxes of mixed minerals from Namibia.  Boxes ranged from 4 specimens (museum size) to 54 specimens (thumbnails).  Prices ranged from $50 to $500 a box depending on the mineral quality. I went for cabinet size pieces and got a flat with 18 specimens from Namibia.  There was some duplication but I didn’t mind that too much. I figured 3 of the specimens in the flat could pay for the entire box. 
Schorl with fluorite
Schorl is not my favorite mineral but when it’s combined with other things like fluorite I find it acceptable.  So I got schorl with fluorite, schorl with aquamarine and plain old schorl.  I also got stand-alone fluorites, a topaz, an aquamarine and a few oddities I have to figure out.  What fun!
    So where do I start with the flat?  First I divided everything up into known, and unknown specimens.  Instead of being lazy and asking folks on the internet for help on what different minerals were, I decided a cold Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to learn how to do a specific gravity (SG) test.  I also used a couple other techniques to see if I could figure out what some of these odd minerals were.  I read up a bit on minerals of Namibia at various web-sites to see what was possibly in my subset of unknown minerals.  The specific gravity test is pretty easy, just google John Betts for information.  I decided to do the specific gravity test on a few known minerals like quartz, fluorite and microcline to see if my technique was reliable enough.  I got SGs of 2.54 for microcline, 3.05 for fluorite, and 2.63 for quartz.  All within tolerance as far as I was concerned which is probably why I only got a B- in college chemistry.  See for info:  Time to check out those unknown minerals.   Oh-oh the unknown minerals are primarily mixed or on matrix.  So taking the specific gravity of a mixed mineral won’t work, I need solitary minerals for the SG test… oops.  Well, I did what I could and verified a couple fluorites, a topaz, and a couple cerrusite. The rest of my unknowns are either on matrix or have associated minerals with them.  I was hoping for some dioptase but alas, only green fluorite.  It was a fun time looking through the minerals at CE.  The people there were friendly, Phil was a great host.  The end result was I am now able to use the specific gravity test to identify a few more minerals.  I also added some colors to one of my display cabinets.  Hooray, my cabinets are healed, no longer black and blue!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Three Rock Hounding Trips to Lake George, CO in October #Onegite #Goethite #Amazonite #Rockhounding #Rocky Mountains

Snow beginning to pile up on Pikes Peak
As another rock hounding season in the Colorado Rockies comes to a close, I wonder if I will be able to get out there again, or is this it for the season?  Mother Nature has been telling me no as of late, but you never can tell.   Bob, my digging partner, and I have gone out a couple times during the month of October and neither of us can recall stopping this early in the season due to cold and snow.  Last month we decided to go back to one of our more productive sites but we’ve dug it so much it’s hard to figure out where to go next.  I decided to work a gully which I usually avoid, thinking it is just a collecting area for broken float crystals.  When I saw a couple of nearly complete well-formed microcline crystals I decided to give it a go.  Visually sorting the wheat (crystals from a nearby undisturbed pegmatite) from the chaff (broken float crystals from a nearby dig) is a learned skill. To my surprise there was a pegmatite only inches below the surface.  The peg was shedding microcline.  While a pegmatite with microcline is not too exciting I was hoping for a concealed crystal pocket with something better.  
One of the larger crystals from this small pocket
As I dug a little deeper into the pegmatite the microcline turned bluish green (amazonite), but was still not producing well-formed crystals.  On I went following the blue sign and sure enough I did manage to hit a small pocket.  The size of these amazonite crystals wasn’t very big but at least the color was above average.  I continued in the old water run following the pegmatite and blue sign.  Soon quartz started becoming more prevalent and I started getting a little excited.  I shoved a fairly large rock aside and underneath were a number of quartz crystals--even a combination of amazonite and quartz.  Unfortunately the quartz was layered with iron/goethite and not very appealing. The size of the combos was also underwhelming, but at least it was something.  As I continued to dig 
Quartz with goethite overgrowth
up the hill I hit a very large amazonite crystal, nearly the size of my fist.  I got excited enough to call Bob over, but the curse of calling my digging partner Bob over to see what I had found manifested itself once again.  The peg ended and the crystals dried up.  We joke about this phenomenon, so much so that I rarely call Bob over unless I’m really into something good.  Oh well.  I took about 75 crystals home from this spot but I'll be surprised if 10% of them are worth keeping.  Too much damage and too much iron coating.  Quite often shallow digs, suffer more damage than the deeper larger pockets infused with protective clays.  The iron coating seems to be happening more often than not on this part of the hill we've been digging.
Next visit. I prospected an adjoining hill to our successes of last year and found some old digs, but not much sign on the surface.  Even the old digging piles seemed nearly devoid of quartz.  I decided to prospect a slight spine running up the hill where others had dug, and tried to stay out of the run-down material from previous diggers.  After digging a bit I found a fairly nice phantom crystal ( a smoky crystal hooded in clear quartz), but determined it had eroded out of a pocket already dug up the hill from me. I decided to hop over the previous digs
Phantom quartz with prospector's thumb

and continue along the spine guiding me up the hill. Without much quartz sign I decided to dig anyways.  It reminded me of my late mentor Ray B.  Ray said that in some places at Lake George, all you have to do is throw your pick up in the air and start digging where it lands.  Might as well give that method a try I guess nothing else was working.  It was near the end of the day and I had invested some time and energy into the dig I was working on so I continued despite it's lean offerings.  Bob stopped by, bemoaning his lack of success and checked what I was up to.  I felt a little embarrassed showing him what I was digging in but at least there were some small quartz crystals. Bob decided to dig up the hill from me.  Soon we were both finding some small quartz crystals.  At the end of the day we decided this area merited further prospecting.
Third attempt for the month.  The next outing, was over a week later due to poor weather and other complications.  We headed straight for our new area up at Lake George to do some prospecting.  I found the pegmatite I was working on the last trip, but it continued to only yield small float quartz crystals, similar to our last visit.  Bob found a pegmatite nearby, and started finding some more impressive specimens.  Unfortunately nearly 80% of what Bob was finding was badly damaged.  Still, he did find some very impressive goethite, onegite, and a couple double terminated quartz crystals. I think he even scored some small fluorites.  I continued to slog my way along my pegmatite finding only small iron/goethite coated crystals.  After a bit the small quartz crystals I was finding seemed more frequent on the right than on my left.  I followed the crystals on my right and was soon pulling out more productive looking pegmatite (larger grained rock).  I decided I needed to stretch my legs and walked over to where Bob was digging.  Bob had an impressive pile of broken quartz crystals and microcline.  He did show me a very nice 3" double terminated smoky and remarked that he was also finding some goethite and fluorite.  I guess there was some hydrothermal activity on this hill at some point in time, that helped bring about the goethite and fluorite specimens. I remarked that Bob was doing better than me this day and he certainly had some keepers.  
A keeper for sure!
A good day is when we both find something to take home.  A really good day is when we find something good enough to put in our display cabinets at home.  Bob was having a really good day.  I returned to my pegmatite which was about a foot below the surface.  As I dug I noted an occasional weathered chunk of goethite.  All the nice goethite needles and sprays were worn down but I figured at least it was something to follow up the hill.  As I proceeded along the pegmatite, a softer area began to develop in the middle of the pegmatite.  I no sooner noted the change than I was pulling out goethite sprays.  These sprays were well defined.  I determined that this must have been where the floater goethite chunks I had found earlier originated.  I pulled out about 8 fist sized or smaller chunks of goethite and noted some had quartz crystals embedded in the goethite as well as a few very small fluorites.  I wasn’t competing with Bob’s finds but at least I would not go home empty handed.  Bob checked out my progress and decided I should have one of his onegites with goethite sprays.  Onegite as a mineral has been discredited but we use the term locally to define quartz with goethite inclusions.  Onegite was first discovered and named in Onega, Russia only to be later discredited as a separate mineral. Thanks Bob!  Sympathy onegite.  I’ll take it!  :-)   
A nice grouping of goethite on quartz peppered with onegite crystals

It’s been a slow year for both of us though not without some fun.   I hope we can get back to this area a time or two before winter shuts us out completely.  Who knows what we will find next on this crazy hill.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Return to Silverton Colorado 28 Sep 2018 #rockhounding #amethyst #quartz

 After 10 years of a pitted windshield, cracks running thru my vision everywhere, some hailstones destroyed my old 4-Runner.  Seemed like an expensive way to get to see thru my windshield, but I like this ride better too
After a fairly successful rockhounding trip to the Silverton area in July (see post 7/23/18)  my rock hounding buddy, Austin and I decided to return to the same sites near Silverton, CO that we had previously visited. We hoped for another crystal score. I finally got a replacement Tacoma for the 4-Runner that was totaled the previous month, so I decided it was time for a road trip. We coordinated our visit with a geologist friend, Raj in Durango who discovered the crystal rich site earlier in the year, and told us to come on out. I was a little concerned about a late September trip into the mountains but Mother Nature gave us a break this time. We set off west from Colorado Springs towards Silverton, Colorado and made a stop at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (BCG NP) between Montrose and Gunnison Colorado. 
          We took in the sites at BCG NP as a ranger explained how the canyon was carved out of granite over a period of millions of years. The canyon is actually the 2nd deepest canyon in US outside of the Grand Canyon, AZ. 
One of several canyon overlooks, I went as close to the edge
as I dared
At one point the rim of this canyon is more than 2,500 feet above the canyon floor.  Austin kept telling me to take one more step back so he could get a better picture of me... I think he wants my truck :-)  If you get a chance to see BCG NP it’s worth a stop. We took a few pictures and continued on our way to Silverton, CO.  We stopped at a rock shop in Montrose and Austin favored a couple specimens but we left empty handed promising to return on our way home.  The owner of the store talked about some tourmaline he got from a prospector near Gunnison, but had left the material at his home in Delta, CO.  We saw similar material later on in a rock store in Ouray. We passed on that too.
     We arrived at Silverton around 5PM as the sun was getting ready to set behind the mountains. I decided our priority was to get our campsite ready while we could still see.  Austin was in a hurry to see the dig site, and I knew if we went to the dig site first, the sun would be down before we'd have a chance to set up the tent. 
View of the mountains from our camp site
The campsite was put in order fairly quickly, I think Austin got the tent up in 5 minutes!  After a 10 minute walk we found the dig site much as we had left it a couple months ago.
At the end of the trench where we had previously dug, folks had probably dug another 15 feet or so along the quartz seam.  Austin jumped into the trench and found some crystals right where the previous digger had left off.  A broken plate and some small crystals were laying there ripe for the taking.  We went back to the campsite assured there would be plenty of crystals to dig the next day. Austin built a fire while I got out the camp stove to cook up some BBQ.  It seemed like Austin's campfire smoke followed me wherever I went.  The next day we were anxious to get started so we just heated up some oatmeal and hiked over to the dig site.  Austin jumped into the hole and he was quickly pulling out some fairly nice specimens.  He lined up some nice crystal plates near the top of the dig and showed me a couple of the larger groupings he was finding. 
Austin's big plate
The plates looked good and I recommended that we not clean the mud off the crystals until we got home to protect the crystal points.  Of course Austin was curious to see that the terminations were sound so the mud came off. 
Austin continued to work the end of the trench while I searched for a vug/spot further along the quartzite outcropping to dig in.  Since Austin had no hard rock tools I shared my chisel, crack hammer, pry bar and sledge hammer.  I assisted him when he needed to remove larger boulders blocking his efforts.
     Around 9:30 I heard some noise in the woods above us, and the real fun was about to begin. I noticed a figure walking down the hill towards us and alerted Austin. I wasn’t too concerned about having a problem with anyone as this was public land and we had coordinated our visit with the geologist who found the site. However, I quickly pulled Austin’s jacket over the pile of better crystals and plates he had found.  If this was the guy that dug the hole there is no reason to get him too upset over the nicer stuff we had already found. Plus he might not leave if he saw what we pulled out. Our visitor (Hans) was a bit distressed and claimed he had worked the site with his friend Franz the day before, and had opened up the pocket Austin was working in. Hans went on to let us know he couldn't sleep the night before thinking of all the wonderful crystals that could be in his pocket.  Well, now he saw what was in the pocket as Austin had lined up several specimens above the pocket, except of course for the better pieces I had covered up with Austin’s jacket. We told Hans that we had scheduled our visit 3 weeks earlier with our geologist friend Raj, who had discovered the area, and we had been working the site since 8AM.  I had little sympathy for Hans as he failed to coordinate his visit with the geologist, had not finished the pocket he had opened the previous day, and initially accused us of trespassing on his spot (public land) and later said something about running us off. We then told Hans we had coordinated our trip with Raj, the geologist who had discovered the site.  The end result was Austin gave Hans a couple nice pieces from the pocket. Hans then showed me where he had stashed his tools to work on the pocket, and permitted us to use his tools if  we might need them. Hans then left.  We continued to dig for several more hours until Austin uncovered a fairly large boulder with crystals on it’s side. Austin told me I could work the seam and keep what I found if I would help him remove a large boulder.  As we removed the boulder I noticed there were some crystals underneath it so I figured I would be taking something home. I found a fairly large crystal attached to a plate. I dug back into the rock as 
Fairly nice crystal plate in hand
far as I could before I broke the plate off the quartzite. I carefully pulled out the plate, but when Austin saw the plate he pulled a Sméagol on me and decided he wanted this precious crystal for his own. Austin did give me a fairly large crystal for my efforts though not the plate I had dug out.  I told Austin that I thought the day's find was worth $5K. I mentioned that Austin should give the pocket a name.  Every large pocket that I find I usually name. I suggested "Hans' Regret", Austin didn't think that was funny... oh well. At the end of the day Austin's friend, Raj showed up, and seemed amazed at what we had found.
     The plan for our trip as I understood it, was to spend one day at the milky quartz site and another day at an amethyst area on the top of a mountain.  I had told Austin I wasn’t interested in hiking up to the amethyst area and would prefer to just work the quartz site near the camp site, and he could drive up with Raj and  hike up the mountain for the amethyst.  That evening I found out that Raj had a camper on the back of his truck and was not planning on taking that off to drive Austin up the mountain to the amethyst site. I changed my plans and decided I would drive everyone up the mountain and then hike to the top as well.  
Marmots getting ready for the coming winter... they left my truck alone
     The next day as I parked my vehicle above tree line, Raj mentioned he had some trouble with marmots chewing on electrical wiring under the hood of his vehicle in the past, so he brought some mothballs and ammonia along to fend off the varmints.  I was glad for his thoughtfulness and dispersed the ammonia round my truck while bags of mothballs were placed in my engine compartment. I’m not very quick at 13,000 feet so it took me awhile to hike to the top.  I knew where I had to end up but I kept losing the sketchy trail on the way. The 20-year olds were long gone by the time I worked my way up the mountain. I had to retrace my steps and rock scramble four different times to get back on the path. Austin checked up on me a couple of times on two-way radios... after all I did have the keys to the truck. Finally I got near the top of the mountain and was told not to crest the hill because there were some claim jumpers on the other side, and Raj didn't want the claim jumpers to see me, and give away the amethyst hole he was working in.
A chilly view east of Silverton, CO
After 20 minutes of waiting in a fairly cold stiff wind I decided Raj could just shoot the claim jumpers if they got too close, I was getting cold. I crested the hill and Austin found me and soon all three of us were digging out some crystals in a fairly large chasm/pit that the geologist had opened up a few weeks earlier.  Austin wandered off and spent most of his time outside the pit gleaning crystals from previous dig sites while I helped Raj muck out the bottom of the pit. Raj gathered up crystals, and crystal plates from the bottom of the pit and then placed them in a plastic bucket and hoisted them up to me.  I dumped out the material from the bucket and gleaned through the muck looking for crystals. The geologist was none too happy that he didn't have a flashlight, but he did the best he could. After an hour or so I found a place in the pit to dig and found a few crystals for myself. At the end of the day the geologist said we would divide up the crystals. First Raj took a few of the finer plates he found and then generously divided up the rest of the stuff we found in the pit.  We found a lot of small pale amethysts along with a few plates of quartz.  With two deteriorated disks in my back it took me longer to get down the mountain than going up (which is why I didn't really want to go up in the first place).  I knew from past experiences that one misstep or slip would really mess up my back, and with the extra weight of rocks I had to be careful.  This is also why I took a pass on lugging down any large crystal plates for myself. Eventually we loaded up the truck and drove back down the mountain.  The marmots had been defeated with ammonia and mothballs and all 3 of us were pleased with our haul. 
    We spent another night at the campsite and listened as some light rain fell throughout the night ruining our plans to revisit our now nearby muddy quartz dig.  The next day we slowly traveled back to Colorado Springs stopping at rock shops along the way home. Austin made some trades with Ben who is taking over his father's rock shop in Ouray, Colorado. I purchased a Hardin County, IL fluorite pictured below.  Ben was quite affable as it seemed the cold, wet weather had kept
Fairly nice fluorite backlit by old Sol 
the tourist traffic down this particular morning, so Ben spent quite a bit of time with us. We continued on our way home in a steady rain. When we arrived in Salida I decided I was due for a shower for $5 at the local aquatic center, but that price was too steep for Austin. I told Austin afterward I got a free shower as I looked pretty bad-off to the attendant, and promised not to go into the pool. (haha). Austin wondered why I hadn't gone back to the truck and gotten him for a free shower.  I told him it probably wouldn't have worked for the two of us, especially since I looked more like a homeless person than he did. We stopped at another rock shop in Salida but it was closed, and then checked on a local jeweler. As the trip was winding down I decided we deserved a treat as we had a successful trip and neither one of us had come to blows.  We stopped at a Dairy Queen in Canon City and indulged ourselves with some ice cream. Evidently the secret to making a proper dip cone has never been explained to the DQ folks in Canon City. It looked like they painted the chocolate cover on my dip cone with a spatula. I was just grumpy enough to have them redo it, unfortunately with equally dismal results. I decided I wanted to get home sometime that day so I took my cone to the truck and watched the ice cream melt all over my hand. The ice cream still tasted pretty good.
      Some pictures of the cleaned specimens we found on our recent trip are pictured below.  The one large artichoke quartz to the right appears to have some inclusions under a secondary hooding of quartz which may have encapsulated some manganese. The crystal also has some odd rhombic impressions which I may study a bit more. While the amethyst is pale it makes up for that deficiency in the odd windowing or fenster habit exhibited in nearly all the crystals in excess of 1 inch.  Some of the smaller amethyst have multiple terminations which I also find intriguing.  Austin is already busy selling some of the larger quartz plates to a high end dealer and has promised me some cash for my share of work.
The following weekend snow covered Silverton and it seemed like we got our season ending rock hounding trip in just in time.  At least rock hounding season ended in the high mountains.  We are already itching to go back again but we know that will have to wait until spring. Maybe a NM road trip can be done until the weather warms up.
One week after we left Silverton, here is a view of the outskirts of the town courtesy of CO Dept of Transportation. Brrrrr!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Rock and MIneral Shows in Colorado #amethyst

Seems more and more rock and mineral shows are being run with minimal Club oversight.  Last weekend there were 3 shows all within about 15 miles of each other.  How does that work?  Who does the advertising or is it all social media now?  The weekend before I went to the Buena Vista show, which appears to be slowly turning into a large flea market. No information booth, little for kids and more non rock/mineral material for sale than I can recall.  
Looks like a flea market to me... even got a canon
I went to both the Buena Vista show and Woodland Park show this past month and found attendance down at the Buena Vista show from prior visits and the Woodland Park show seemed somewhat quiet as well.  I’ve noticed internet sale sites seem to be flourishing so perhaps the hobby is going through some changes as younger folk get more involved in the hobby/business.  Personally I like to take a real good look at anything I purchase unless I know the dealer.  I’ve seen too many fakes, to include oiling and waxing minerals as well as trimming and reshaping crystal terminations. 
This young lady seemed embarrassed to be seen here haha, or maybe
she was looking at a mineral using a black light under the blanket
I’ve been hearing now that the professionals are sealing minerals to preserve them…  Caveat Emptor I guess.  So the Buena Vista show was a hodgepodge of everything from antiques, antler horns, beads, jewelry, rocks and of course crystals and minerals. The number of dealers and customers seemed to be down a bit especially for a Saturday afternoon. There were 4 rows of dealers and I spent about an hour per row though I think I speeded up the last row as I was getting a bit tired and glazed over in the bright sun. The Buena Vista show is an outdoor event and can get quite hot, windy or wet.  The day I went was pretty nice and I think it stayed in the low 80s with a light breeze. I didn’t purchase much but was drawn to some amethyst on one guy’s table. I was wondering if this stuff was somehow enhanced but with flats of various hues of amethyst and a careful inspection of the material I decided that as far as I could tell this was just some real top-shelf amethyst
These amethyst really popped and I couldn't resist snapping up a couple of these nearly pristine specimens
The amethyst had some of the best color I’ve ever seen and were not blocky like the slabs of amethyst from Brazil, but nicely defined crystals.  The location of these amethyst was one I’d never heard of before from a silver mine in Estado de Mexico.  After some negotiating I finally got a 25% discount on two specimens I had selected.  I really wanted a flat of the amethyst but was not willing to spend $600.  Sheesh it’s still just purple quartz.  The dealer did have some flats from $200-$400 but it was not as brilliant in color or as undamaged, so I cherry picked from the best flat and paid for it accordingly. I noticed something new, or at least new to me.  A number of dealers had amethyst crystal plates with the exterior wrapped in metal. Looked different but not my cup of tea.
It reminded me a bit of crystal trees made out of wire and crystal pieces that were very popular a few years ago.  There was one concession booth and it was doing a brisk business, despite the slim crowd as he was the only vendor there.  

The Woodland Park show was more of the same only half the number of vendors.  This show seems to have peaked in attendance somewhat from prior years as well though I was only there for a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon.  There was a children’s activity area and a number of food and drink vendors.  The show also seems to be a little truer to the selling of minerals, crystals and jewelry than the Buena Vista show.  Most of the dealers at this show were the same ones with the same material I had seen at the Buena Vista show.  My wife went with me this time but neither of us bought anything, though some jewelry caught my wife’s eye it needed some serious cleaning. We hit a nearby Sonic and enjoyed some cool drinks to finish off the afternoon.  Next show is the Sep Denver show and I'm pretty sure there will be a number of interesting items there.

A Hail of a Crystal Pocket or an Extended Weather Report

It was a rather humid day and thundershowers were expected for later in the day.  The prior days forecast mentioned thunderstorms developing over the Colorado Front Range around 3PM and the early morning forecast set back the timing of the storms to 5PM.  Storms were not expected to be severe, except for some isolated heavy rains. A few years ago the Hayman fire stripped the forest of overgrowth which makes the forest along Ute Pass susceptible to mud & rock slides onto US-24. A couple weeks ago I got trapped in the pass due to a rockslide and had to wait for the road to be cleared by front end loaders.  A couple years ago I waited nearly 3 hours for the road to be cleared of debris prior to its reopening.  As I was rock hounding at Lake George I found some interesting goethite and smoky quartz float crystals.  One very large goethite spray is surrounding some smoky quartz crystals and is an exceptional specimen in my opinion. 
3" smoky for size from pocket.  Couple smokys at bottom of goethite spray
Usually smokys in goethite are more embedded than this... I like it!
After finding this specimen near the surface I decided to dig around the area a bit further and deeper and dumbed into a pegmatite with large grained quartz about 2 feet below the surface.  I decided this peg needed further inspection and so I dug up a few feet of this pegmatite to see what way it was traveling underground and see what it might contain.  After an hour or so I started to get smoky quartz faces on some of the pegmatite pieces and then some rather large crystal fragments.  I hadn’t found a crystal point so I wasn’t sure there was much there but as soon as I hit a crease of yellowish-brown mud some quartz points appeared and a small crystal pocket opened up.  
Turned out to be very expensive smokys!
I was getting some fairly large smoky quartz shards but the complete crystals were few and far between.  For the most part the crystals were about 1” except for the one pictured above.  As I was digging out the pocket I found some small fluorite but unfortunately they were not attached to any of the pegmatite or smokys. It was 1:30PM and the sky was beginning to darken to the north.  I mentioned to my digging partner Bob that it had been thundering for nearly a half hour and if we want to get down Ute pass before it might get closed we should pack things up for the day.  I wrapped my meager lot of crystals and headed back to the truck.  One hour later. We stayed dry until we got about half-way down the pass and then the hail began to fall.  I looked for a place to pull off the road for cover but there were really no options.  I slowed my speed, put on my flashers and eventually got off the highway and waited under a willow tree for shelter.  As I left the highway another 5 vehicles followed me off the road. 
I don't care for these ice crystals too much
  I waited about 15 minutes until the hail diminished in size and the storm appeared to ease off some.  So 2” hail is definitely severe weather and it started around 3PM, but oh well I didn’t pay too much for that misguided weather forecast, or did I? I should have stuck with the prior day's weather forecast. We finally resumed going down the pass.  We spent another 30 minutes or so driving thru the hail and eventually within about 5 miles of home the hail quit and changed to rain.  Time for me to start making my own weather forecasts again I guess. National Weather Service can't seem to get it right very often.
Trying to take a little cover off the road under a tree to no avail.  Crack in windshield spreading and car getting totaled.
While my windshield held for the most part, the rest of my vehicle got turned into what looks like a very large dimpled golf ball.  My vehicle is 10 years old with 114,000 miles and I like it a lot but depending on what my insurance company says I may decide to get a new one.  The insurance claim has been filed.  The weather forecast for tomorrow is for severe weather and I’ve decided to stay home… we shall see. Sigh.  Turned out to be sunny, 75 and no rain... go figure.
Most appreciated comments
1) You know if we would have left L George 30 minutes later we probably could have avoided this
2) Oh that doesn't look too bad
3) It if gets totaled I wouldn't mind buying it from you if I can get a discount

Dragons, Castles and Rocks

Lots of rocks here
My wife Vicki decided it was high time we went down to Bishop’s castle in south central Colorado near Wetmore to check on the owner’s building progress. We hadn’t been to Bishop’s castle in quite some time so we were curious to see how things were going.  To learn more about Bishop’s castle and it’s builder/owner see:  I would say the castle is one of Colorado’s oddities, but still inspiring to see what one man can do with his hands.  The plan was to visit the castle and then have a late lunch in nearby Westcliff and head home from there.  
After lunch we walked off our meal and much to my delight and my wife’s indifference there was a well-stocked rock shop on main street. The store was open but the owner was out of town, so no deals could be made and the sales people couldn’t even seem to get their credit card reader to work.  Well my wife decided her walk wasn’t done and went a few more blocks to the nearest ATM to make a withdrawal and help me out.  After checking some of the labels on the minerals I realized the owner of this store was the mining partner of my former mentor--Ray Berry.  I saw many specimens from Ray’s shared claim called the 2nd Mesabi. Ray called the claim Mesabi after the iron range in Minnesota due to the large amounts of iron(goethite) he found on that particular claim site.  I thought many of the minerals were fairly priced.  Some of his silver specimens seemed high, but the Lake George minerals I’m used to seeing like amazonite, smoky quartz and fluorite all seemed reasonable. Though the quality of these Pikes Peak Batholith specimens on display was about average in my opinion.  
Specimens for sale from around the world include apatite, vanadanite, fluorite, topaz with elbite/cleavelandite and more
The owner’s back room had about 40 flats of crystals on display with bags of dinosaur bones and many other fossils as well.  Underneath some of the displays I noted another 40 or so boxed flats.  I opened a few of them but found lesser material than what was on display.  I’ll bet there is some better stuff holed away somewhere in storage.  Oh well maybe another day.  Hat’s off to my wife Vicki for tolerating an unplanned rock hounding expedition in Westcliff and getting me some money from a nearby ATM to purchase some of the specimens. Sure is easier to purchase specimens than hunt them down and dig them out of the ground
Goodbye Sangre De Christo mountains, hope to see you again soon


Monday, July 23, 2018

Rock Hounding Roadtrip to Silverton CO #quartz #crystals #colorado

My friend Austin and I decided to go on a road trip and check out some new spots for crystals.
Road Trip!
Austin spent the previous year in college in Durango and made a few rock hounding contacts in the area and keeps in contact with some folks via social media. One of these contacts is a geologist who does a lot of prospecting. Austin and I were told of a site or two to dig some quartz crystals if we would meet Austin's geologist friend in Silverton. On our way to Silverton we stopped for the night in Creede. Austin is collecting silver from a number of different locales and wanted to make sure he got a few samples from the Bulldog and Commodore mines. Checking with a few locals we found both these mine's tailing piles were closed to prospecting so we went to an amethyst mine in Creede that I've talked about in an earlier post (Oct 4, 2014).  The miner and staff are fairly congenial but the opportunity to go through tailings at that site has been significantly curtailed by OSHA rules now that the area has been transformed into a tourist site. We were told we could only look for things along a trail through the tailings.
Sowbelly agate along the trail
If you left the trail you'd get yelled at (haha). You could take all the pieces you wanted for $2 a pound as long as they were within reaching distance of the trail (we brought our pick axes along for a longer reach). The material along the trail has been picked over quite a bit but we still found some nice pieces of "sowbelly" agate and some with specks of silver in the host agate. I looked primarily for smaller pieces I could cut with my 10" saw. Jack the owner of the mine has a couple miner's cabins to stay in and one of the cabins was available. The rain was starting up, and the price for the night was a customer determined donation for the preservation of the mining site, so we decided to give the cabin a try.
Miner's cabin
No running water, one light bulb and two beds. Austin drew the short straw as he always does when he's with me :-), so he got the bunk bed. After Austin checked the inside of the cabin with a blacklight (not so clean) and after seeing a few chipmunk leavings in a corner of the cabin we decided to lay out our sleeping bags on our beds anyway.  Still we had a dry roof over our heads, matresses under our bottoms and we were off the ground. We also had access to 3, yes 3 outhouses and a shower. One bit of confusion between us and the owner's daughter (Annie Oakly) was that we were told to be back on the property from town by 6PM. When another group arrived at 10PM I pondered the requirement for us to be onsite at 6PM. The site has a gate across the access road to the mine property but I don't believe the owners are allowed to lock the gate with visitors on site. We played a few card games like the miners did of old to pass the time as the sun went down and watched one of the workers toke the evening away. We donated $20 per person which the lady in charge seemed happy to receive, especially after the foursome who spent the night in a larger cabin donated $6.25 per person. We said goodbye to Jack thinking we'll probably not be back to rockhound there.  Jack does have a small museum, gift shop and mining tour so if you don't mind spending $15 for a half hour mining tour this might be up your alley but no serious rock hounding is permitted. I enjoyed exploring a very historical part of the mining history in Creede, CO  and Jack is an interesting guy. As we left Creede I noticed an antique store with a few rocks out front.
Silver ore sample complete with saw marks
We turned around and pulled off the road, ending up finding just what Austin wanted, inexpensive samples of local mine ore with silver. Most of the samples were a combinations of argentite deteriorating to acanthite. Some of the samples had silver in them and others even had a bit of wire silver most likely from the Bull Dog mine. Of course the samples with real silver in them were not cheap. Austin was happy to load up on specimens while I made small talk with the proprietor who told many fanciful tales of days gone by. Next stop was Silverton. We met up with a local geologist, a friend of Austin's, who showed us a site where we were told we would probably find some nice
Austin purchased this beauty
from the geologist
quartz crystals.  The geologist showed us a really nice sceptered quartz crystal that came from the site. This beautiful specimen helped sway both Austin and me to give this quartz site a try. We both worked on a quartz seam running just under the surface. Austin was first to hit a pocket and was soon pulling out small well defined quartz crystals. He finished up a small pocket and then started on another void just a foot away.  I had been working about 5 feet away on the front of a boulder and decided to try the back of this boulder.  Finally I found a fairly large void with many intact crystals.  The problem with this crystal pocket was that it was fairly difficult to extract the crystals from the pocket without damaging them.  Most of the crystals were in plates still attached to the granite. A pry bar and a 10 lb sledge hammer would have come in handy to break up the surrounding rock but we had forgotten to bring these tools.  I got a number of loose crystals out but the real prize were some crystal plates attached to very large rocks.  I had no way to easily get the plates off the host rock but after an hour I managed to get a fairly well-sized crystal plate off the sidewall but was giving up hope of getting more of the plates and some large crystals I spied about 2 feet down. Austin gave me a hand with the crack hammer I brought along and we worked together as best we could but the lack of heavier tools continued to hinder our work. While I held the chisel Austin pounded away with the crack hammer. After he managed to hit a couple of my fingers I decided he could hold the chisel for awhile while I tried to break through the granite or his fingers. I will say without Austin’s persistence and drive we probably wouldn’t have gotten as much out as we did.  We were trying to decide on whether to stay another day when the rains started again and began turning the site into a mud hole. We decided to call it quits knowing there were more crystals in the pocket we abandoned and probably more crystal pockets along the quartz formation. We thanked the geologist friend for the tip on this spot and mentioned that we both thought there were more crystals at this site.  After cleaning a few of the crystals when we got home Austin said he regretted leaving as did I but hopefully we can get back to this spot another time and try our luck again. The geologist offered to let us stay at his place next time and we may well take him up on his offer. The 6 hour trip home didn't seem too long as we were both anxious to clean our crystals and see what we found. Here are a couple of my better finds NFS.  See follow up trip on this blog for even better finds (10/28/2018).