Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pocket #3 at Lake George

Noticed a turkey vulture on the way to our claim at Lake George today. It's hard to get close to these large birds, but this one seemed intent on holding his ground. On the way back home we passed the same area and our truck was mobbed with ravens. As we drove off we noticed a fairly large fresh deer carcass, so that explained the vulture earlier in the day.
Best weather day of the year so far up at Lake George and the digging wasn’t bad either. I returned to the same site I’ve posted about and started digging in an area I had left off last year. I hadn’t found anything but float but where there is good float there normally are crystals. I had stopped digging at a fairly large tree root last year and decided to continue up the hill on the other side of the tree. I continued to find good float crystal pieces and became concerned that I might be gleaning through debris from a previous dig. A shallow depression in the ground about 3 feet up the hill concerned me as a possible old dig, or was it a collapsed pocket? As I neared the depression in the ground my digging partner Bob stopped by as I was swinging my pick into the sod. I flipped over the sod chunk and the dirt underneath was swimming in quartz and microcline. The depression in the ground was a collapsed pocket and not an old dig. This makes 3 pockets in 3 consecutive visits to this site. Every pocket seems to have different material (see previous posts). Pocket #1 contained smokys, white microcline and cleavelandite and goethite. Pocket #2 was nearly all plates of beige microcline and smokys while Pocket #3 had fluorite, amazonite and smokys. While smokys and microcline were in each pocket, the amazonite was a bit of a surprise.
Amazonite shows up for the party!
I’ve dug this area from time to time in the last few years and never run into even a chip or shard of amazonite. While Bob watched me dig for a bit I pulled out a squarish lump which turned out to be some fluorite. I finished up this pocket and started prospecting in another area. Bob seemed busy, so I stopped by his spot and watched him dig for a bit. Bob was down on his luck during our last few outings so I was glad he hit some crystals. Bob found a number of smoky quartz crystals and a couple plates. I started digging out the corner of his dig and ran into some calcite and goethite. I gave Bob the crystals I found as it was his dig but he allowed me to retain some goethite. While this hill has been dug up around a central strongly mineralized pegmatite there seems to be plenty of minor pegmatites running in different directions from the main seam producing crystals within a foot of the surface. I’m guessing we’ll return again soon
Two inch amazonite with sidecar ready for cleaning

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Crystal Pockets at Lake George

Warmest day of the season up at Lake George this year with only a few mounds of snow in the deep woods, the ticks, spiders and ants appear to be thriving in the mid spring sunshine. While earlier in the week I found a nice starter pocket today was a little more exciting. We walked for about a mile or so into the hills and I reworked the pocket I had found a couple days earlier. I worked the downhill portion of the old pocket and after picking up a few crystals I determined the spot was finished.  I prospected a little further around the hill probing a couple of old digs when I noticed someone long ago had dug a narrow trench up a hill and stopped.  At the point where they stopped there appeared to be a fairly quartz laden pegmatite. I stuck my pick axe in a few times and decided to continue up the hill as the pegmatite seemed promising.
A new dig begins!
 After about 15 minutes I started picking up small crystals and a few poorly formed plates with microcline and smokys. I liked the way this pegmatite was running up the hill and the crystals seemed to be without the iron mineral deposits present in the previous pocket. As I continued along the pegmatite I noticed red dirt/clay appearing and was sure I was running into a pocket. The scree and clay started to give way to larger rocks which revealed themselves to be crystal plates.

Smokys appearing in pocket wall
I continued finding crystals for the next 3 hours along with approximately 8 plates of smokys and microcline.
Plate #1
Plate #2

I found a couple of nice plates and one interesting bevino microcline with an attached smoky quartz crystal which proved to be the find of the day
Bevino microcline with accompanying smoky quartz
When crystals show up rock hounds swarm to the area :-)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

2016 Rock Hounding Adventures Begin

Pikes Peak after a very snowy spring
The 2016 rock hounding season has begun. We’ve had a number of late season snows in Colorado this year which has kept my hunting grounds snow covered and wet. Even yesterday (4May) there were patches of snow on the roads. With the sounds of humming birds buzzing the foothills and spring flowers starting to assert themselves it was time to explore some of my favorite sites. I find spring is the best time of year to prospect as all the vegetation is dead and knocked down, the frost heaves have left patterns around all the splintered surface rocks which helps for easier identification.

After prospecting for a bit near the top of a contact zone between a rocky area and scree I found a spot with many shards of surface quartz and one small crystal, I decided this was as good of a spot as any and commenced digging near a fairly large dead tree. I have often had good luck around trees and today was no exception. The tree was dead like so many others burned out by the Hayman fire years ago so I had no qualms in ripping up the decayed roots around the tree to see what was hidden hopefully below. The pegmatite below looked good with graphic granite and even a few subhedral crystal faces appearing. Down and up the hill I dug hitting some small smoky quartz crystals, then a plate containing microcline and smokys. 

As the crystals began popping out of the pegmatite debris I wondered whether I should find my digging partner to let him in on the fun. We forgot our 2-way radios and so I had to walk down hill and find him and then back up the hill. It was about noon so I thought a walk down and up the hill would do me good. Bob wasn’t having much luck and was happy to climb the hill to see what I had found. After watching me dig out a few crystals he found a spot and began finding a few smokys for himself. I found smokys, microcline crystals, pseudomorphs of goethite after calcite/siderite, cleavelandite and goethite. I would say the best specimen I found was a 3” goethite spray capped with botryoidal goethite. Sandwiched in the specimen is a chisel point smoky quartz crystal.

While the crystals were near the surface (1foot down or less) the accumulation of iron staining will make for a tedious cleanup of the crystals. Despite not being a tremendous pocket it was a nice way to start the new digging season
Cleaned Plate of Smokys, Microcline and Cleavelandite

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fluorite at Lake George


As summer turns to fall the wildlife gets more active and my urgency to find crystals increases. I guess you could say I'm kind of squirrely by trying to gather up some crystals before the winter sets in and freezes the ground hahaha. We saw a pair of ptarmigan on the way into our site and a deer was cooling itself on the road on the way out. Here is a short clip of the quaking aspen at Lake George CO. My digging partner and I returned to Lake George to dig out some pegmatites we had found earlier in the month. Pegmatites are the geologic formation where crystals are found and there are plenty of both at Lake George. My first digging area produced little, there were many small microcline plates and a few small smoky crystals, but nothing to blog about so I moved up the hill to another area where I had some success in years past. I visited the dig I nicknamed the “waste of time” pocket and then moved laterally to some smaller digs where I had some success in the past. I noticed a few scattered pieces of pegmatite between two of my older digs so I decided to give the spot a try. I found a couple small microcline crystals, but no underlying pegmatite and decided to dig a little deeper and expand the hole. Soon I found a pegmatite only about a foot below the ground which seemed to run in a way that connected to the two other digs I had found previously. The quartz looked pretty good and soon I ran into some smoky quartz crystals. The smokys were damaged but it was encouraging. I dug a little deeper into the pegmatite and I started to note the dirt was changing from brown to red with a layer of diorite below the pegmatite. Soon I was finding lots of microcline plates, but no smokys or much in the way of quartz. I decided to expand the hole uphill and was rewarded with some fluorites near the top with a couple more quartz crystals. The quartz crystals were small but gemmy but the prize was the fluorite. 
Fluorite cube on matrix (bicolor green/purple)
The fluorite was resting just above the pegmatite and probably only about 8 inches below the surface. Upon field-cleaning the fluorite I noted some green and purple zoning, so that is a plus as well. I kept digging the site but found little more in the way of fluorite or smokys. Below the pegmatite I found numerous microcline plates in red clay, but not really collectible. I gave the day 2 stars out of 4 as the weather was great and at least I found some collectible fluorite crystals
Not as gemmy as I had hoped, but a nice specimen nevertheless

Friday, September 11, 2015

Smoky Quartz Crystals at Lake George CO

The Tarryalls

While this past summer has been a little tougher to find crystals for me, technique and persistence eventually paid off.  Walking across our Club claim is a little bit harder to prospect than other places due to the large areas of disturbed ground. Quartz fragments and pieces of pegmatite are seemingly scattered everywhere making the technique of prospecting next to impossible. As I was checking out one particular area of fairly undisturbed ground on our club claim I noticed a large rock flipped over with white quartz underneath it. I poked around the rock and found nothing so I decided to check out the ground down the hill from this area and saw pieces of white quartz on the ground as well. After scratching the ground with my pick axe I found a few faces on the quartz. I was about 10 feet down the hill from the overturned rock and since I found quartz faces with no apparent dig uphill I set myself down and began searching the topsoil for float (quartz crystals from a pocket). After about 5 minutes I began to be rewarded with some nice float. The float I was finding was nearly all double terminated and there were some larger smoky quartz chunks that look promising.
It was near the end of the day so I decided to call my digging partner on the radio and meet him at my truck and then drive back up to the site. By the time we got to the site I mentioned I wasn’t sure this was an old dig as there was a shallow depression up the hill, or something worth pursuing. After 15 minutes of digging Bob was convinced this was a new find due to the amount and quality of the material we were finding. We scratched the surface in an area about 10 square feet heading uphill till we ran out of sign (quartz).  Since it was now 4PM I smoothed out the surface of the dig as it was within only 20 feet of the road and planned to come back another day. I took about 20 crystals home and hoped there were more. The next visit to Lake George I went directly to the site and started digging into the earth where we had stopped finding the quartz float. I almost immediately hit pegmatite about 1 foot down along with a couple small crystals. I decided to back off and went about 3 feet down the hill and dug in again. This time I only found a few small shards of quartz and decided to continue the dig up hill. As I dug I ran into a fairly firm pegmatite to my left so I follow that up the hill until it veered to my right and continued nearly straight across the hill. As the pegmatite veered to the right it opened up and there was a small pocket of about 10 crystals. All the crystals were double terminated and less than 2 inches in length. I reasoned there must be another source of crystals along the pegmatite as some of the float we had found downhill exceeded 3 inches in length. I proceeded to dig along the pegmatite finding small crystals as I went.

I had been at this about 2 hours when suddenly I uncovered a large crystal and thought to myself so this is where the larger shards came from. The large crystal looked to be in good shape so I called Bob over as I thought he might like to see it. J  
5 Inch Smoky Revealing Itself in Pocket
I pulled out a couple of crystals and told Bob I needed a break so he commenced digging. Bob went straight into the pegmatite and found very little, so after a snack and some water I resumed the dig along the pegmatite. I was soon rewarded with another pocket or possibly an extension of the pocket. I was soon pulling out 3 and 4 inch crystals nearly all of which were doubly terminated. I finished the pocket, gathered up about 75 crystals and once again smoothed out the dirt around the pegmatite to keep away the curious. I’m guessing if there were two pockets there could easily be a third so no sense giving away the digging spot.
Best of the lot cleaned 5" Smoky  (Pictured in ground earlier)

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Orthoclase Crystals Near Mosquito Pass

Top of Mosquito Pass used by stagecoaches long ago
Just west of Mosquito Pass and east of Leadville, Colorado is a fairly well known area for finding twinned orthoclase crystals. I had been to this site many years ago on a club field trip and thought it might make for an interesting diversion to an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) trip my digging partner had planned. While orthoclase crystals don’t excite me too much, the fact that many of the crystals are penetration twins (Carlsbad) makes them desirable for the mineral collector. 
We drove through Fairplay, CO, parked the vehicle and headed up the east side of the pass on ATVs. The visibility was somewhat restricted due to fires in western Washington, Idaho and Montana, but better than the last few days. There were many things to see including wildlife, abandoned mines and friendly people along the 4-wheel drive road.
Marmot warming up
As we crested the pass my foggy memory cleared of where the exact crystal site was and we motored down the pass quickly reaching the old dig site. I reread some material by Voynick, 1995, Colorado Rockhounding to help refresh my memory of the location. The twinned orthoclase crystals can be found in quartz monzonite porphyry outcrops. Near the digs you can see host rock with the orthoclase crystal indentations in them. The ground was also scattered with what appeared to be pea-size or smaller octahedral quartz crystals that had weathered out of the host rock. We dug into the side of an old dig and found the occasional crystal weathered out of it's host rock. No pockets of crystals here, but time and a little determination yielded results.
Digging area
 We only spent a little over an hour at the site but did find a few collectible crystals. I read that Carlsbad twinned orthoclase crystals up to 2” can be found so after finding one double terminated crystals of 3” I figured I could do no better and it was time to continue our ATV fun. My digging partner generously provided the transportation and made for a very enjoyable day. This particular site is more easily accessed by 4-wheel drive vehicle from Leadville but either way you go to this 12,000Ft dig site be mindful of your 4-wheel abilities, altitude and the changeable weather.
Some dendritic manganese patterns on the crystals

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Elusive Quality Amazonite at Lake George

Large Smoky fragment with more up the hill
The smoky fragments were fairly large and had no coating of secondary material. Looked like I might be on to something. Soon I began to find more concentrated quartz fragments and then some pegmatite leading me right toward a dead tree. Sure enough the closer I got to the base of the tree the better the specimens got. Keeping my fingers crossed and taking a few pictures I put my pick axe and rock hammer away and proceeded cautiously with a borrowed scratcher.
Pocket starting to show itself at the base of a dead tree
I lost my scratcher the last time out so I had borrowed one from my digging partner Bob prior to setting out. It's crystal time! While I found over 50 crystals only 4 or 5 were big enough for me to consider as display pieces. We'll see how they clean up, but they seemed pretty clean right out of the pocket.
Nice smoky, albeit small with microcline
I finished this pocket and then poked around in the area a little more to see if the pegmatite extended further up the hill with pockets. Find nothing and since it was about 1PM I decided I better get to my initial objective of the amazonite area. I had found some float amazonite the previous week but not the source. This day I had enough time to find the source and dig out some pegmatite. While the crystals were of good color so far they have been very small. Time was up this day but I will continue the dig soon and hopefully find a pocket of amazonite
Wild flowers are everywhere this year due to rains