Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Rock Hounding

Monday, February 17, 2020

2019 Collecting Ends On A High Note At Lake George

Big Horn Sheep off the mountains in Colorado Springs looking to bulk up before winter
I wrote most of this up some months ago and delayed posting it hoping for some new information to share, but my patience has eroded away and this is what I got for the end of 2019.  I made it in and out to our claim at Lake George but not without a couple white knuckle driving moments on this trip due to mud and ice. The following week temperatures are forecast to drop to zero Fahrenheit with several inches of snow forecast.  This would be one of the earliest endings to my field collecting season ever (early Oct!)  We shall see. I would say overall this season has been a little slow collecting-wise. I went to a few places I had never been before and had some great experiences. I went to my first Tucson show ever; found fluorite at the famous Bingham mine; got some calcite epimorphs from the Crystal Cavern near Ouray; purchased my first Sweet Home Mine rhodochrosite; and got a couple nice pockets of crystals from L George, Colorado.  See previous posts.

My last visit to my favorite collecting area this year was successful. The Lake George intrusive area of the Pikes Peak Batholith is my favorite place to collect. I had found some float below a large area that had been remediated some time ago on our claim. I figured most of the float I was finding was just pieces pushed down the hill by erosion and a bulldozer from someone’s remediation effort long ago. Bob and I loaded up the truck and hit our area one more time before the onset of winter.
Nice float a few inches under the topsoil kept me going

Normally I wouldn’t dig an area like this, but some nearly intact showy specimens just below the surface kept me going. I also noted a few smoky quartz shards in the ground and hoped for the best. As I dug, I finally found an intact pegmatite, so I knew this spot had not been dug.  I guess the area was just covered by roll down from years ago I supposed. Pulling out chunks of pegmatite I found some crystal faces with fairly good amazonite color as well as some quartz. I was not finding any really good pieces but a couple larger chunks of rock with numerous crystal faces on them got my attention. I pulled the pieces and wrapped them for further inspection and cleaning at home.  I dug up down and all around as my mentor taught me to.  You never know when something might have gotten separated from the main pegmatite. To my dismay, despite the nice formation there just wasn't much in the way of collectible crystals. I continued scratching around the area but didn't even find any more float up the hill, and was satisfied that I found the original occurrence.
Overall color is good and I may be able to fit a few pieces, but it was disappointing due to all the damage
My digging partner Bob also seemed to be onto something as well.  He had been digging quartz shards for most of the day with only an occasional crystal face but the spot he was digging looked good. Persistence once again paid off for Bob. He mentioned he checked down, up the hill, and to the right and found only quartz.  Finally he dug to the right a bit more and found a pocket of crystals. Bob hit some fairly large goethite chunks and then some smokys. 
Note fingers to right for size, I think it was about 18 inches.  The fish
and game warden said this was big enough to keep, so Bob took it home.
The smoky crystal with goethite wrapped around is fairly impressive. Near the bottom of the pocket were some pale amazonite crystals.  Though small and pale in color, I believe Bob got a couple combination pieces of amazonite/microcline with secondary minerals. Bob invited me over to his dig and said I could have any of the microcline plates I wanted.  I took a few after noting that some of the plates had mannebach twins and small fluorite.  Bob always shares.


Xenotime Y(PO4)

After I got these specimens home I cleaned them up and found a fairly odd secondary mineral with the microcline plates.  Very small yellow dipyramidal crystals lay on top of some of the microcline.  After consultation with a few other seasoned collectors it was determined that these small yellow crystals are Xenotime ( with rare earth Yttrium). I mentioned this to Bob and I think he went back to the site to pick up the rest of the pale amazonite plates to check for Xenotime. It was a very nice way to end the season with both of us finding some collectible crystals. Winter is coming with a forecast deep freeze in a couple of days.  Next stop the Tucson Show!


Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Denver Gem & Mineral Show

    The Denver Gem and Mineral Show (DGMS) is always a fun time. The Show lasts for 10 days and is the second biggest mineral Show after the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show with several separate venues. In order to make it a successful Show, I decided to attend several main venues on their opening day. The opening days of the different venues were staggered. I had also agreed to help my friend at his booth the last few days of the Show due to staffing problems.
Below are my 2 big purchases.
    I planned my visits to the DGMS based on when the venues opened.  The first venue to open was the Western Arena next to the Denver Coliseum.  Collector’s Edge (CE) also had a preview of their latest finds from the Detroit City Adit of the fabled Sweet Home Mine on the same day. I’ve been thinking of building a Colorado mineral collection and I know I will never have a chance to find/mine rhodochrosite.  I’d been saving money for about a year to purchase a nice rhodo and decided today was that day. After an hour and a half trip up towards Golden, CO from Colorado Springs, I entered the inner sanctum of CE.  I was surprised at the lack of customers.  I was one of only about half a dozen customers ogling the minerals. Not sure why there were not more customers, but I was happy to get some personal attention. After some deliberation I picked out a piece and paid for my purchase. I had been watching CE’s podcasts for the last few months for information on DGMS events and decided to stop at CE’s room at the Fine Mineral Show as well.  Evidently the Fine Mineral Show located at Denver Marriott West was allowing guests in if they knew the secret knock (haha).  All dealers at the Marriott were in hotel rooms and would let you in once they got set up.  I got into the CE showroom and ogled their tourmaline for a while. Then I got down to business and picked out a wulfenite from the La Morita mine in Mexico for my collection. Next stop was a box store in Denver followed by a visit to the Austin's booth at the Western Arena.

    I made two stops at the Coliseum area prior to visiting Austin.  I’ve always wanted a zeolite or two from India and I was looking for something showy. I purchased two pieces and worked out a deal. Next up was a dealer from Brazil. He sells quartz by the kilogram, but disappointed me when he said his shipment of smoky quartz had not arrived. The dealer was hopeful that it would arrive before the end of the Show.  I picked up a couple quartz clusters “super 7” that I thought I might be able to resell and then moved on to the Western Arena.  Austin’s booth looked good with a lot of nice looking material attractively displayed. His specimens outclassed most of the stuff at the other booths. I figured he’d have a good Show.

Austin and Lola at his booth
    My next visit to DGMS was to the opening day of the Crowne Plaza venue.  I visited with a few dealers but found their prices were a bit rich for me.  I was interested in a couple of specimens: A fluorite from Outer Mongolia, a smoky quartz with spessartine garnets and a piece of gold.  I could not find a nice fluorite for under $400 (over-priced in my mind). I tried to work with the Chinese on a smoky with spessartine garnets but they were not dealing. The piece had too much damage for the price they were asking. The small bit of crystalized gold I was interested in had no provenance or gram weight for the piece. I passed on all 3. One dealer that I had not seen before was selling mainly Elmwood, TN fluorite.
Elmwood Tennessee Fluorites on Sphalerite
I had seen some similar items when I was in Tucson months ago. This dealer's prices were better than those at the TGMS and after looking for a bit he approached me and said everything was 10% off. I finally picked two out and he complimented/patronized me, telling me I had picked out the best ones he had. Of course I did. :-) I then renegotiated the price down a little bit and made off with my purchases.

   I did make my way to Collector’s Edge wholesale area also at the Crowne Plaza.  I purchased two flats of lower end Detroit City adit material from the Sweet Home Mine and returned to the Coliseum. While I was showing one of the flats I bought at CE to Austin, another dealer came over and said he wanted to buy the flat. 
Some mineral specimens from Collector's Edge wholesale area
I sold the flat to him making a tidy profit. I will keep the other flat of minerals for study. While at the Western Arena, Austin showed me some interesting quartz with goethite-like inclusions. The crystals exhibited both hopper and scepter habits. I ran off to that dealer and purchased two specimens for my collection.

Picture courtesy: Bob Germano
    My next visit to the Show was Friday at the opening of the Denver Merchandise Mart.  I sold a couple pieces to a dealer I know and spied some interesting amazonite at another table.  The amazonite were not cleaned very well.  I looked at the pieces for sale and there was a black mineral on them that suggested columbite (fairly rare mineral).  I asked the seller what the black mineral was and she said she didn’t know.  She showed the mineral to the dealer and he said that’s columbite!  Pull those pieces!  The dealer decided he would sell me the one I picked out and pull the rest.  I paid $40 for a nice cluster of amazonite with a number of small columbite. I then spent some time talking to a few of the other dealers at the
Black columbites embedded in amazonite, courtesy BG
Show, checking their inventory. Then, back to the Western Arena.

    Both Saturday and Sunday I worked with Austin at his booth. I can’t really say much good about the Western Arena venue from the standpoint of a dealer's helper. I would say the biggest problems were lack of security, poor ventilation and overall tedium. On the plus side, customers were friendly and there was a certain amount of camaraderie amongst the dealers. The booth suffered from theft and crystal damage, both of which are to be expected to some degree. My biggest complaint would be with the lack of security.  Security (police) should be walking the venue, not hiding out in a separate area away from the public eating donuts. If there was a problem at your booth there was no way to contact security. The police should be around as a visible deterrent, yet for the most part they were invisible. Secondly, nobody but dealers should be allowed into the venue prior to it’s starting time (didn’t happen).  At the end of the day security should have conducted a sweep through the venue to shoo out the public… Folks were still milling about a half hour after the Show was closed. More than one individual tried to help themselves to items while the dealers were focused elsewhere packing up at the end of the day. Although the venue was air conditioned the HVAC system could not keep up with the 90F heat. The fact that there was a livestock event in the arena the previous week didn’t help with the odor. The last 2 days were a bit of a downer, but maybe I’m not cut out to be a dealer at a lower end venue.

Overall I enjoyed the DGMS and can’t wait til Tucson.
A close-up of another CE piece from the Sweet Home Mine. You can see quartz, fluorite and tetrahedrite. Courtesy: BG

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Smoky Quartz at L George Colorado with lightning

  
Wood chips from this tree were embedded like daggers
in the ground 50 ft away from the base of this tree
Well I don’t buy that lightning never strikes the same spot twice, even when I’m digging next to a tree that nearly exploded with lighting a few days prior. I’ll still run for cover when lightning starts to crackle.  Admittedly, one can rarely rockhound past 2PM in the Rockies before the thunderstorms start popping.  As I poked around the dirt north of Lake George I knew it would be another shortened dig day due to thunderstorms, so I worked somewhat hurriedly.  Found an old bush below a dug up area that looked pretty healthy.  I decided to probe in the ground uphill from the bush to see if I could find some float backstopped by the roots of the bush.  Sure enough, a 3 inch smoky, with a very much intact tip lay only an inch from the surface.  Time to unload my gear and make myself busy digging up the hill from the bush.  I didn’t have far to go.  While white quartz shards littered the hill no apparent smoky quartz chips were visible. As I prospected with my pick axe I noted this wasn’t the only crystal below the surface.  Several small crystals started popping out of the dirt.  I took another close look at the surface and still no good sign. Oh well, sometimes it’s just fine to be lucky. 
As I dug I noted the stream of quartz crystals was expanding but staying very close to the surface. My old friend goethite also began to appear and seemed to be clinging to many of the quartz crystals. Too bad there wasn’t any amazonite. It was getting close to 2PM and of course the thunder started to rumble and the clouds began to darken.  I knew thunder and lightning would be cropping up nearby soon. As a batch of clouds directly to my west started to rumble I began to pick up the digging pace. If there had been amazonite in this dig I would have buried it for another time, but with only microcline I didn’t concern myself with nicking a few crystals (heresy I know).  None of the specimens are outstanding mineral examples, but still fun to collect.  
Mixed bag of smokies with goethite and a couple microclines

I finished the pocket up and scurried back to the truck just before the rain began in earnest. I noted I had a few healed quartz crystals with goethite. Anytime that happens you have a chance of getting some of the quartz crystals rehealed with goethite inclusions (onegite). Didn’t know it until I cleaned a few specimens, but sure enough I got some onegite. Overall a somewhat odd pocket just inches below the surface. I probably only walked across this spot 20 times or so.  :-)
Onegite is quartz with goethite inclusions
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Monday, July 22, 2019

Rock Hounding the San Juan Mountains #epimorphs #quartz #fluorite

Rock Hounding the San Juan Mountains (Photo Courtesy Austin Cockell)
We decided we needed a break from Colorado’s front range mountains and the Pikes Peak batholith so Austin planned a trip to the San Juans.  Austin has been eager to go back to Silverton, Colorado area since his big score of last fall (see post 10/28/2019).  Since I planned our spring trip to New Mexico (see post 5/8/2019), Austin took on the planning for the San Juan trip. On our way to the San Juans we stopped at the mineral show in Durango, CO.  I brought a few duplicate minerals that I had, and hoped I could trade or sell for something else to add to my collection.  I first tried selling some of my stuff, but nobody wanted anything for cash.  All the vendors who had some interest in my material said the show was going poorly for them and they just weren’t making much money.  I sometimes wonder with a dozen shows in Colorado alone how competitive it must be for the dealers.  I decided maybe I could work some trades.  Most of the vendors didn’t have anything I really wanted.  Finally I noted a gentleman who had an interest in my material and had some fluorites that caught my eye.  I did a trade and I felt satisfied in getting something for my duplicate minerals. Austin also picked up a couple items from one of his favorite dealers and off we went to Silverton.
View from the camp site
We arrived at a campsite we used last year and found the dig site nearby had been worked quite heavily over the winter.  The mosquitoes were exceptionally hungry and despite Deep Woods Off we were both bitten several times before we realized the bug spray appeared to be some kind of attractive pheromone for these pests. We decided to skip this site and moved on toward Ouray, CO. 

Austin knew a guy in Ouray who might be able to get us on to the Amphitheater claim.  Austin’s friend said the owners of the Amphitheater mine were not allowing rock hounds on their claim but he suggested another site for us to visit.  We got a map with direction to the Crystal Cavern.  Well that sure sounded promising!  This site is not claimed but I am loath to give directions to the site out of fear that publicity will cause this site to become picked over.  After walking about a half mile we got to the Crystal Cavern and met other folks already there hard at work. 
Austin wrapping crystals in the Crystal Cavern
The cavern was once filled with calcite crystals but then a secondary infusion of mineralization coated all the calcite crystals with druzy quartz. Evidently many collectors put these crystals in HCL and remove the calcite providing an eggshell of druzy quartz.  The end product is a man-made epimorph. An epimorph is a type of pseudomorph where one mineral replaces another and the original mineral (calcite) dissolves leaving a hollow cast of the old mineral (calcite) surrounded by a different mineral (quartz). Not sure about homemade epimorphs but I was up for something different. You had to hack the crystals off the wall with chisel and crack hammer so there was some work involved. We enjoyed the company we found at the cavern and soon had enough crystals to make us both happy.  It was great to be inside a cool cavern with temperatures outside in the 80s.  We decided to camp near Ouray as Austin knew of a fluorite site that he’d had some success at when he was a geology student at Ft Lewis College.

We camped at a no fee, improvised campground near Ouray that seemed to be a small village of like-minded frugal vacationers.  We were greeted by a deputy sheriff in the morning, which I believe Austin correctly assumed to be a welfare-check of sorts--making sure nobody was doing anything illegal.  Sheriff was cordial enough and quickly moved on. Off to the fluorite site.  Austin had found some covelite at this site when he visited a couple years earlier.  I was happy with the fluorite and quartz I found in the tailings.  Most of the fluorite was broken but I still got some fairly large pieces which I may either cleave into octahedrons or polish. Getting to the tailings piles of the old mine was an adventure in itself. We had to cross one stream at least 4 times. 
Tailings piles contained fluorite and quartz (Austin's photo)
At one point the stream was about 6 feet across and a foot deep.  I quickly realized why the hikers we had encountered were wearing water shoes.  I managed okay on the trek in, but on the way out I had too many heavy rocks to make the jump and trudged through the stream with water up to my calves. The first tailings piles we hit had both fluorite and quartz.  Finding intact crystals was nearly impossible, but the green color and size of the fluorite made them seem collectible in my mind.  The second tailing pile was more of the same.  Austin scored a covelite (copper sulfide mineral). The mineral has a very lustrous blue metallic color.  We found many broken bottles, old cans and even a crucible. We took pictures and left the material for others to enjoy. On the hike out I noticed something flying off a vehicle as it zipped through a hairpin turn.  I walked to the road and picked up an I-phone just before a truck rumbled by.  The phone seemed intact, probably because it had a hard shell case. The owner of the phone eventually called it, so we waited for them and eventually met up with them in Silverton returning their phone. They seemed grateful and we got a hearty thank-you and hopefully some good karma (haha). We set up camp once again and decided to do some prospecting.
Water rushing under snow field
If we go back to this site I think I will have to look for a covelite. We also explored what appeared to be the miner’s dump area.

While prospecting the next day I discovered a quartz outgrowth that looked promising.  After about an hour or so of slugging through the quartz I made it into a vug and started pulling out some small quartz plates.  Austin came along and said he had found a more promising site and urged me to join him.  About a 5 minute walk through the mosquito infested area we found another site that others had been working. 

Snow avalanches contributed to this late season snowfield

There was a narrow hole that appeared to be the source of several crystal plates lining the edges of the dig.  We decided to leave most of the plates where they were and try our luck in the hole.  Somebody had put a lot of work into removing these crystal plates and we thought they might return, so we left them alone. Austin decided to have a go at the hole.  Most of the crystals around the opening had been removed.  The hole/vug continued into the ground at least 8 feet and had 6" or so of ground water at the bottom. The first 5 feet or so of the vug angled into the ground at 45 degree. Then the vug flattened out for another 5 feet. The initial opening was pretty well picked clean of crystals. This is where a tall skinny guy has the advantage. 
With Austin’s 80 inch height and 42 inch reach he was able to get well into the vug where others couldn’t reach. Out came the plates, one after the next. He got a little bruised up squirming in the hole not much wider than himself. The skeeters seemed excessively hungry here so I went on bug patrol while Austin crawled into the pocket.  The hole, now referred to as the Mo’Skeeters pocket, was lined with crystals that
Mo Skeeter
that were solidly intact with the sides of the vug. Austin managed to spear his elbow with a one inch crystal.  He plucked that one from his skin and said it was my turn to crawl in. I told him I would give it a try but didn't plan on removing any crystals with my elbows (haha). I did the best I could and found a side chamber about 4 feet into the vug. I managed to glean a few crystal plates from that tube.  By the end of the day both of us had the scars and bloody hands to prove we had gone after some difficult to get crystals. 
Two different quartz habits, both needle and blocky crystal plates
We slathered on some Neosporin and looked forward to the next day. Day 2 at this site we continued our mission and managed to get a few more crystal plates.
A nice pale colored amethyst
Austin noticed that some of the crystals had amethyst in the plates so we scoured the leavings of others and found a couple broken plates with amethyst crystals on them. While surveying the site we found another hole dug out some time ago with several crystals near the bottom of that vug as well. We left that spot for someone else to burrow into. We'd had enough of the mosquitoes and had filled our crystal storage bins. So we decided to call it a day.

Next we headed down to Durango. Austin wanted to continue the journey all the way home but I was thinking Pagosa Springs at 7:30PM would be a nice place to spend the night, than traveling half the night and arriving in the Springs at 1AM.  After nearly hitting a few deer and having a very close encounter with a large brown bear during our night time drive, Austin relented. We stayed in Salida prior to bringing our rock hounding trip to it’s conclusion by driving home the following day. Overall a successful, enjoyable trip with plenty of specimens to add to our collections as well as some valuable trading material.
All these specimens will need cleaning and then acid to create the epimorphs of quartz after calcite
I will post pictures of a few cleaned specimens in a couple weeks
Cleaned epimorphs of calcite with quartz overgrowth


Friday, July 12, 2019

Crystals amidst the wildflowers at Lake George, Colorado


Getting ready to do some prospecting amongst the Penstemon
My digging partner Bob and I have been digging the side of one hill on and off for almost 2 years.  Between our digs and the ones preceding our efforts it’s getting harder to know where to dig. This spring’s rains have helped some by revealing a few potential spots by eroding the top soil. Rains have been tremendous in enhancing wildflower growth as well as nourishing the local aspen and buckberry bushes.   
Colorado state flower the Columbine
This day I finished up a spot I had dug on a previous visit by double checking the bottom of the pocket.  There was just a slight crease of clay I had missed at the bottom of the pocket so I went to work extricated the mud and quartz wedged down in the crevice.  I was rewarded with a couple smoky crystals and satisfied myself that this dig was done.  As I scanned the hill for an undug area I noted a spot devoid of vegetation and old digs.  I carefully scanned the surface and very quickly spotted a complete smoky quartz crystal.  The crystal wasn’t large, but the termination was intact.  A solid crystal termination suggests to me that it’s source and potential crystal pocket can’t be far up the hill. 
Pocket opening up with crystals spilling out
I continued to slowly work up the hill digging deeper as I went.  Quartz crystals continued to tumble out of the dirt as I watched the black dirt become yellowish with clay.  Finally I decided it was safe to have Bob come over and take a look.  We both thought this could be a significant find.  As Bob watched more crystals tumbled out of the yellow dirt and pieces of pegmatite with microcline began to emerge.  Unfortunately no amazonite.  I didn’t really expect amazonite as there were no amazonite shards in any of the scoopfuls of dirt I had extricated. I was hoping for some nice plates with microcline and quartz but none were found.  The largest quartz crystal I found was about 3” in length and the microcline plates were fairly ordinary. There was one microcline plate that has a central double terminated crystal and is crowned by two Carlsbad twinned crystals at the top (see pic below).  A keeper for sure. I finished this spot though was somewhat disappointed there wasn't more. I dug up the hill a bit to see if there wasn't something else above me, but no quartz shards suggests nothing nearby. So I determined I was done with this dig. At least I know there are still some hidden crystals on our hill.
Central DT microcline (somewhat unusual)
Ah yes and summer has arrived.  The forecast was for a high of 74F and when we left the sun was scorching us, the flies were biting as Bob's Taco thermometer read 83F when we left.  We wonder where we should go next.  Our hill is pretty much dug up and has become increasingly difficult to prospect. I would never say we got them all (crystals) but finding them has become increasingly difficult. The surface has been pretty well churned up. As summer progresses I think we are both ready to find a place to dig in the shade :-)
Pocket contents.  A fairly small pocket about the size of a soccer ball... but fun


Thursday, July 11, 2019

Indian Paint Brush Pocket #quartz #fluorite #goethite #Lake George


After a cool wet spring, flowers are in full bloom
This post is a continuation of the previous post.  I was going to list all my June trips out to Lake George together, but this visit was significant enough to have it's own post.  I was pretty sure that my previous visit to Lake George had exposed a fairly interesting pegmatite. I went back to dig in my spot. This particular grouping of Indian Paint Brush flowers (Castilleja Indivisa) marked my spot. I told Bob, my digging partner, about what I had found during my previous visit with Austin and despite the forecast for rain we set out.  Arriving at the claim I sat in the truck for about 10 minutes as a rain shower moved across the claim.  The rain stopped, I got out, walked back to my dig and went to work.  I mucked out the dirt and rock I had used to cover my hole and was soon digging again.  Immediately I found where I had left off and two fluorite crystals tumbled into my hole. The crystals were not as big as the previous visit but I really like fluorite.  Soon I hit some fairly large quartz shards with faces.  Large quartz shards don't always mean crystals will be found but it's a good sign. I found where Bob was digging
Large smoky quartz segment (1 of 3 pieces Rats!)
and he seemed more interested in the fluorites I had found than the quartz. Bob came over to see what else I could find. Bob said I might very well be the entertainment for the day. I told Bob I might have invoked the curse of overconfidence by showing him my paltry findings too soon. Seems like nearly every time I invite Bob over to see what I'm doing everything shrinks and disappears. Haha. This time that didn't happen. Goethite chunk after goethite chunk was taken from the hole. I occasionally find float goethite which has rounded needles but this batch was well ensconced in the pocket.  Very little damage or dings were visible on the goethite. Soon a couple of smoky quartz crystals appeared.  I had a fairly nice chunk of crystal quartz in one of the sidewalls but quickly noted it was fractured.  I still hoped for a nice termination on this specimen and carefully excavated around the spot. I noted more goethite in the side wall and pulled out what I thought was a chunk of country rock to get at the goethite sprays. Turned out I pulled out the only plate in the whole pocket!  Bob was shocked by the careless manner in which I had removed the plate from the sidewall and managed to not ding any of it's associated crystals. I thought it was
Favorite crystal plate from this pocket with Phantoms to 5"
country rock I was removing... As some fairly large quartz crystals came out of the hole, the goethite seemed less important to me.  Near the bottom of the pocket, near a large fractured quartz crystal, I found the termination of another crystal.  I carefully removed all the rock and dirt around it and gently pulled it straight out of it's position. Nice--a doubly terminated smoky!  I continued to work on the big smoky in the sidewall.  Slowly I pulled it out by pieces. Unfortunately it was broken in three spots (which I knew prior to excavation) but was hoping for a nice termination. Alas, it turned out to be yard rock.
Excavating the Crystal Pocket
Pit nearly 5 feet deep and ready for remediation
I continued digging some smaller smoky quartz crystals out of the middle of the pocket.  Most of the pocket wall was lined with goethite chunks except for that one plate of crystals.  Very odd.  Anyway, first I got fluorite, then below the fluorite was microcline and goethite and then mostly at the bottom was the smoky quartz crystals, then fluorite again. Around 1PM I noticed clouds were gathering so I sent Bob in to pinch hit for me in the dig while I wrapped 72lbs of crystals (goethite is heavy). Bob found one interesting microcline group down near the bottom of the hole.  The pit was now over 5 feet deep and despite the occasional crystal still coming up from the depths, I decided it was time to fill the hole and head home.
The rain began to pelt down as we meandered back to the truck. The temperature dropped to 42F and a bit of ice was mixing into the rain.  I wondered on this day if summer would ever get here. Bob added a few goethite specimens to his collection. We got 3.5 hours of digging in between showers and managed to clean out a fairly large elongated (beach-ball size) pocket. As we drove home we noted Pikes Peak had yet another coating of fresh snow on it. It's 23 June! This pocket ranks in my top 10 ever, which is significant as I've found close to 200 pockets of crystals in the 12 years I've been prospecting for crystals.
Goethite in process of getting cleaned
Light purple nearly clear fluorites from the Indian Paint Brush pocket
Large Smoky repaired.. nice yard rock ;-)

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rock Hounding Lake Geoge CO #Baveno #Amazonite #Goethite #Quartz #Pseudomorphs


I use the winter months to clean minerals and get ready to attend a few mineral shows. As I cleaned a number of crystals, I found some microscopic topaz on some pegmatite plates. I guess these plates may be collectible to a mineralogist, but are not really of interest to me as you almost need a microscope to see the topaz. 
Small topaz at base of fluorite
Still an oddity I suppose for Lake George.  I also met a geologist from another local rock club over the winter who has interest in odd things and so I showed him some small blue gemmy crystals on a plate of pegmatite. I found this specimen several years ago. The geologist got quite excited about these crystals.  He is going to write an article on this find after the specimen’s identity is determined using XRF technology. Most likely a phosphate mineral new to this locale is in the process of being discovered (see post 7/27/13: Fluorite and Pocket Minerals)


It’s been a slow start to the rock hounding season. First the late season cold and then some heavy wet snows.  Words like snow bombs, snowmageddon and Canada's revenge were bandied about to describe the spring storms. The biggest snow of the season came in mid May with 10 inches of very wet snow and a lot of damage to budding tree limbs.  One month later it still looks like a tornado went through some parts of my neighborhood. Some seasons we
10" of heavy snow in May damaged many trees
start rock hounding where we left off the previous year.  We closed last season with nothing much to go back to. So far this year we’ve been prospecting for a crystal “hot spot”.  Some days we come away with just float crystals from a long ago exploited mineral cavity, other days we manage to find a small pocket of crystals.  We’ve gotten out a few times and have had a couple minor scores but not much to blog about.  I’ve combined a few June rock hounding outings into this blog post.

Back to prospecting… so we revisited some old and new areas so far this year.  We hit one area that we had found a lot of goethite in the past and decided to give our luck another go in that area.  This spot is fairly remote and we were surprised that somebody redug out a number of the holes we had previously dug and filled.  We noted in each dig the high-graders never dug down far enough to hit the bottom of the old pocket, but just made a mess digging large holes that we had previously filled with junk tailings.  The claim is clearly marked and gated.  Folks who mineral trespass have been and are prosecuted. We dutifully filled their holes and remediated the sites once again.  I selected an area downhill of where my digging partner Bob had found some nice goethite. There was a large tree stump in the process of decay on the claim and I thought this might provide a backstop for goethite eroding down the hill.  I found a couple of amazonite crystals right at the base of the stump so I dug down and uphill from the stump.  
The goethite we had found before at this site was in strips of sand between feldspar and quartz.  I soon started hitting some goethite specimens near the bottom of a sandy area above some scree.  I found about 10 specimens near the stump before the dig played out. The goethite needles were somewhat worn (too be expected as they traveled down the hill), but large and intricate enough to get my attention.  I took home the specimens and cleaned them up.  I noted one goethite specimen had a lot of quartz on it which turned out to be onegite (quartz with goethite inclusions). A fairly nice find.
   The next trip out Austin and I went digging together.  It was cold and windy with a little ice mixed in along with a biting rain.  We outlasted the weather but wondered when summer would arrive.  I dug in another’s previously dug hole. I dug down all the way to the bottom of the pocket and found a few straggler smoky quartz crystals.  Another area seemed to be a rather new dig and it was quite shallow. The excavation looked like a two person dig with pits on both sides of some untouched ground in between. There was a bit of grass growing in the dig debris so I’m guessing someone dug there a year ago or so. I dropped my pick axe into the undisturbed area in between the digs and crystals rolled out of the side of the dig.  I think whoever dug there got to within an inch or two of this pocket.  A sure sign of a pocket is usually red clay/dirt and there was plenty of red dirt leaching out of the island between the two holes.  I got a few collectible crystals out of this pocket.  Most of the smoky quartz crystals had milky white overgrowth on the terminations which makes them somewhat different and more desirable to me.  I prospected another area where someone else had stopped digging bull quartz running up the hill.  I found a lot of quartz fragments and one crystal.  Austin found a couple microcline crystals in the same area. The icy rain began to fall in earnest and the wind kicked up, we decided we’d had enough for that day. I’ll have to return to this spot another time and continue prospecting it.

Trip 3&4.  I visited a site I hadn’t dug for nearly 2 years. The dig site was grown over with weeds.  I recalled I wanted to revisit this site as I had found some nice small amazonite crystals there a couple years ago.  I previously quit the dig as I had run out of pegmatite, but float crystals above my dig brought me back to this area.  I continued digging up the hill and went about 6 feet up the hill digging down about 2 feet as I went.  Suddenly the scree started to firm up into a weak pegmatite and I noted the color of the dirt was changing to a reddish color (good sign).  As I dug I hit a sheet of thin quartz nearly vertical in the ground. I pulled out the quartz and there were amazonite crystals imbedded in the back of the quartz.  I found a few single amazonite crystals here.  Unfortunately almost all the amazonite was frozen/encased in the quartz so that no plates were found.  As I dug out the quartz, it


ended about 4 feet below the surface.  At the bottom there were a couple tabular smoky quartz crystals but nothing really collectible.  This spot kept me busy for the day and I did get a few crystals out of it, but overall it was disappointing.  One particular crystal I felt compelled to show the claim owner.  When digging on somebody else’s claim (with permission) it’s generally agreed that if you find something good the claim owner has first right of refusal.  Well, I’m happy to say the claim owner told me I could keep the amazonite baveno pictured below, so I got a nice addition to add to my collection.
Amazonite Baveno Twin, found, cleaned, displayed
Trip 5. Mostly prospecting this day and it wasn’t til 2PM that I found something worth digging into. I decided to poke around a big burned out tree.  Almost immediately I found a 3 inch smoky quartz crystal near the base of the tree and decided to dig in up the hill from the find.  Within a couple minutes I was popping out well defined microcline crystals. As I dug down a bit I was rewarded with quartz crystals below the microcline.  As I dug I hit a fairly large root from the old burned out tree.  My digging partner Bob came a long and wondered how so many crystals could come out of such a small pocket.  It was a bit perplexing but it quickly dawned on me that the large root from the dead tree was taking up much of the space of the old pocket. 
Pocket material from trip 5
As I chopped out the root I found a few more crystals underneath with pseudomorphs of goethite or limonite after a carbonate.  You can read more about pseudomorphs in some of my other posts.  See Blog post: “Pseudomorph Sunday or a Return to Iron Hill”, dated 9/1/2017. 

Trip 6.  It was a fairly windy day, which stirred up quite a bit of dirt.  I went with Austin this day and once again did a lot of prospecting.  I found some nice specimens but no pockets.  Austin kept busy most of the day chasing a quartz seam with an occasional crystal tease.  It looked good but produced little. Of most interest to me were a couple large smoky quartz crystals, some ugly microcline crystals tending towards amazonite color and a few fluorite crystals.  The most promising area was where I found the fluorites at the end of the day. 
Some 1.5 inch fluorites (nice for L George)
I had dug in this area before and found goethite and some small smoky quartz crystals.  I often find fluorite and goethite together as they are both hydrothermally produced minerals.  I found 3 fluorites and one pretty intact goethite group. Thunder started rumbling and it was getting close to quitting time so I buried my dig intending to go back soon to see what’s up the hill from this promising spot.  I guess that will be trip 7 for June.

Looks like trip 7 will qualify for it's own post.  Went back and found so much goethite I can probably start an iron mine.  The smoky quartz crystals were fairly plentiful as well.