Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lake George diggings of amazonite and smoky quartz

Welcome Back it's 2014!
Well, after a seemingly endless winter my rockhounding buddy and I finally got out to Lake George to check the conditions. We did a lot of walking around, checking areas for claims as well as prospective sites to dig this year. As you can see there was a lot of snow still clinging to the shadows and on the north sides of hills, but sunny areas were abundant and a few newly unearthed quartz fragments suggested crystal laden pegmatites below.

There was one area we were headed towards that I had been eyeing for a couple of years. The area was not claimed, but so close to the road that I doubted there could be much of anything there. Plus I don't like to dig near roads where others can hijack my dig before I am done. This day was different, it was very quiet and snow across the roads prohibited curious prospectors from driving down this particular road and seeing fresh dirt from a dig. I was drawn to this area because of previous digs, as well as a couple of recently fallen pine trees. The "Tree Root Pocket" on the Two Point ( is always in the back of my mind, so when I see a freshly downed tree I go check it. I walked about 20 feet from the truck to the fallen tree and there around the broken roots were fragments of amazonite.
Root ball of downed pine tree

I couldn't believe my luck, here it was my first day of the season and I'm already in an amazonite seam. At first I thought it might have been previously dug, but as I got past the initial dirt disturbed by the fallen tree I ran into quartz pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. Onward and downward I went, digging ever so carefully between pieces of quartz and fragments of blue/green amazonite.

Rich pocket material  of quartz and amazonite beginning to show

The dirt began turning a yellowish color and I was certain I was digging into a pocket. The excitement quickened as the amazonite had good color and there was considerably smoky quartz shards also showing. Finding a nice sized amazonite and smoky quartz cluster would be a real prize for my first day in 2014. Unfortunately as soon as I found the pocket it disappeared into scree and white quartz. The pocket was very small, though typical of miarolitic cavities of this type in the Lake George pegmatites. Oh well, I got a few nice pieces and will return some day to see if I can pick up this seam again in search of other pockets of crystals. Below are a couple of pictures of some of the finds. These pieces are not all cleaned up yet, but they do show promise.
This grouping appears to be the nicest, approximately 3x1.5 inches. Always get a kick out of seeing established dealer prices on stuff like this.... and of course they always measure their specimens in millimeters.  So is it 2 inches, 5cm or 50mm. Fifty is more impressive number I suppose.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Lake George Minerals and More

Bicolor Topaz with needle inclusions

Smoky Quartz, Amazonite with purple Fluorite
For much of the winter the ground is too frozen to dig crystals, so it is a time to review last seasons successes and catalog new finds and acquisitions. Normally I don't bother too much with small crystals, but last Christmas my rock hounding buddy Bob got a new microscope camera and software to better take pictures of thumbnails or smaller features on cabinet specimens. These pictures demonstrate the beauty of small crystals as well as assist in studying minerals and their crystal forms. Unfortunately these pictures also display faults and need for additional cleaning

Clusters of Fluorite


Large cluster of small fluorite found on the Bob & Ray claim (with permission)
Goethite Cluster on quartz
Green fluorite (needs cleaning)
Onegite Crystals
Smokys on Pegmatite

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Return To South Denver For Petrified Wood

Andrew was pleased with this nice find

My nephew Andrew visited us for Thanksgiving Day and he decided he would like to stay with us another day. Andrew likes doing things outdoors but the Rocky Mountains are covered with snow and frost is down at least a foot deep, so I asked him if he would like to go petrified wood hunting in the plains. He wasn't sure, but after showing him some of the specimens I found in the past he was quickly on board with the plan. See Post: "An adventure in the Denver Basin looking for Petrified wood" See:;postID=3183572986641379303;onPublishedMenu=posts;onClosedMenu=posts;postNum=86;src=postname As I have plenty of petrified wood from this site I planned to give Andrew everything we might find. I had found two fairly remote locations. One site with large pieces,of partially opalized wood from a petrified log and another site with more varied but scattered petrified wood. I had not been to either site for a year, so I wasn't sure what we would find. It took a long time to find the first site. I had picked up all the surface signs and the surface diggings I had done had been smoothed over by erosion. I was about to give up when I spotted an area with numerous round boulders laying on the surface. I started poking around and soon chips of petrified wood started to turn up. I called Andrew over and put him to work. After an hour or so of picking up primarily silver dollar size chips Andrew hit a nice limb piece, about 10 inches long with petrified bark and some opalization.
Nice opalized piece of petrified wood

We continued to find some nice pieces, but I was itching to show him the other site with the log of opazlized wood. We packed up and went to that site. Unfortunately after 5 years of my off and on visits to this site someone else found it and cleaned it out. Perhaps I talked too much. I was sorry Andrew didn't get a chance to work that site. We went back to our previous dig and managed to find a few more nice pieces and left Denver on a beautiful end of Nov 60F day!
Some nice tumbling material

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Legend of the Big Kahuna and Kahunasita See 9/28/13 Post

Every year a pair of eagles winters at Lake George... they have returned :-)

After finding the biggest amazonite crystal I have ever seen (See previous post "Large Amazonite at Lake George...", I decided to try and find out what is the biggest amazonite crystal ever found at Lake George. I could find no information on-line. I checked some of the on-line mineral dealers and nobody had anything close to what I found. I recalled seeing some large smoky and fluorite crystals at the museum in Florrisant, CO but no amazonites. I spoke with a few old time prospectors and they said they had heard tell of a crystal near the size of mine some time ago and referred to it as Gen Sherman, they didn't know what happened to that crystal, but they didn't believe it was quite as large as the one I found. Perhaps I should rename my crystal Gen Grant? One fellow said crystals of the type I found do not come to market, they are snatched up by the guys with deep pockets, and large wheelbarrows. I decided to expand my Internet search to largest amazonite crystals ever found worldwide, still nothing. So I tried biggest crystals ever found and then got directed to this paper from the American Mineralogist written by an Aussie:  While there was no mention of amazonite the article did talk about humongous microcline crystals measured in meters. So is my amazonite crystal the biggest amazonite ever found? Probably not, but it is the biggest I've ever seen and may be the largest ever found at Lake George CO, and that's the way I spent my Sunday afternoon as the legend of the Big Kahuna was born.
A few weeks ago I decided that I should show the crystal to folks at the Denver Museum of Science and let them analyze it and maybe help determine if it has any contenders for size weight and twinning. Who knew a museum would employ a dozen PhDs. I decided to find them something practical to do rather than their normal form of employment of giving esoteric talks that nobody but them understands (apologies to any PhDs reading this post). They seemed excited enough and after 3 emails I was forwarded to someone who is an expert in these matters. The expert never returned my email or responded after a second email, so he was either too busy to be bothered, or perhaps I got the wrong email address. I may try the Colorado School of Mines. After all they have even more PhDs than the Denver Museum.
The Kahunasita
So here is a picture of the little Kahuna. The little Kahuna or Kahunasita was found right next to the Big Kahuna. There are two contact areas on this crystal, I was hoping the Kahunasita might fit with the Big Kahuna, but no luck. You may notice this amazonite crystal also exhibits Bevino twinning. While this crystal is only 20% the weight of the Big Kahuna it's still the second biggest amazonite crystal I have ever found.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Prospectors on the Weather Channel -- Season II (Updated thru Episode 5)

Season II Episode 1: Last year I was troubled by the lack of prospecting on a prospecting show. Finally a little prospecting from Rich Fretterd a hand digger was discussed and demonstrated in the show. Rich also mentioned he got over $50K for the crystals he found the previous year. Hope Rich declared the income on his tax return as well as he declared it on national TV. Rich cut his day short due to a rifle shot or two, this is not uncommon in the National Forest, I often wear bright colors to be seen, as I'm pretty sure I won't be scaring any crystals away. Dwayne Hall a newcomer to the show was also seen doing some real prospecting on Mt White. Can't say as I've ever taken a car jack up a mountain to hold boulders in place while I dug though. The premise of his digging is that he is showing a young whippersnapper the ropes as Dwayne is 55 years old. My digging partner is 66 and he often leads the charge up the mountain. I will say it appeared Dwayne found some nice aquamarine unlike the encrusted junk Amanda was finding.
Well I'm guessing Amanda is wearing a camisole to increase ratings. Perhaps her attire will increase the teen age boy viewership. Her claim is on a nightmare of Antero talus. Dwayne's claim on Mt White appears little better. I'm a little surprised the Weather Channel doesn't have some kind of disclaimer about the risks portrayed in the show, other than just cold and lightning. It sure would be a shame if some greenhorn went up Mt Antero and got himself killed in a rockslide due to the show's hype.
Despite equipment issues Joe Dorris continues to pull out fabulously colored blue green amazonite off his Smoky Hawk claim. When I first saw some of his crystals I thought surely he was doing something to enhance the color. One visit to Joe's claim and I saw the blue/green colored crystals come up out of the ground for myself. Truly beautiful-- but the prices are too high. Joe may sell an occasional top-notch specimen to a big time collector, but I'm sure he holds lots of his crystals in reserve for years. I'm guessing the theme of getting rich on crystals will be a continuing theme of the show. Wonder what new things we'll see this year. A friend of mine said he found a large fluorite on a field trip to Fretterd's claim and was filmed with it, it would be fun to see Frank on TV. Nice not to have Broncato spouting stupid aphorisms in episode 1, probably see him in episode 2 though. Stay tuned.

Episode 2: I knew we wouldn't be able to keep Brancato away for long. In this episode he sacrificed his blood to Mt Antero to get more aquamarines, put on his aquamarine cammo gear so he could sneak up on the crystals. All to no avail.  He then regressed to cursing when his expert techniques resulted in nothing. Still I have to give him credit for trying. I'm pretty sure the high grader they portrayed on his claim was also a plant, though I have no doubt that the hype created by the show has increased claim jumpers this past summer.
I don't know about team Travis and Amanda. I don't buy Amanda's excuse for not having safety gear, especially a hard hat. Wet granite is also a great conductor of electricity. Putting a tarp up and working in the rock during a thunderstorm is not a good idea especially with the possibility of lightning causing rockslides or electrocution. Recommend team Amanda and Travis check out some lightning safety information Safety  If Amanda would put some clothes on she wouldn't be so cold in her ice cave.
Fretterd keeps working away. I'm guessing my friend that I mentioned in episode I post got cut from this episode. The fluorite depicted was found during a Lake George club field trip and left in place until the videographers got there and then Rich took over and pulled it out of the ground. Evidently he offered to sell it to the individual working with him that day. I was a little surprised to hear Brian Lees refer to the crystal as a hog turd, I guess he speaks from experience though as he mined for awhile before he became a dealer. I would have thought Fretterd would have had a better idea of the value of the fluorite than he apparently did.
Joe Dorris keeps pulling out the good stuff. Loved the 12 inch smoky with amazonite. Now I know why I haven't seen any of the icon pocket material for sale, still cleaning and hoping to sell the whole shebang to a museum... makes sense I guess. Didn't care for Lee's comment again that Joe is really lucky. I think Joe is a hard working, smart prospector who through persistence, experience and a lot of upfront cash is realizing his investment.

Episode 3: Another episode, with more amazonite, smokys, aquamarine and topaz crystals with nearly nonexistent safety precautions. On Mt Antero we get our first look at the Busse family this season. Seems like they got a fairly late start if July truly is the first time they’ve mined the mountain this season. I’m more fearful of lightning than I am of the scree on the side of the mountain. All it would take for me to get off the mountain is one rumble of thunder. Busse’s got some nicer aquamarine. I liked Brians description of transparent, translucent and opaque aquamarine. They seem to know their way around the outdoors. The story of Rich Fretterd finding Ed Over’s topaz pocket has been reverberating amongst Colorado collectors for over a year now. I got my first glimpse of the stuff last fall when I believe Rich had commissioned Joe Dorris to sell some. I wasn’t overly impressed with the quality of the topaz, though the color was unique. I noted poor terminations and much internal fracturing. Perhaps the material that came out of the pocket this year was of better quality. The topaz certainly seemed more colorful. While the exact spot of the Tribute pocket is a secret the general location is not. If you want to know more about the Tribute pocket, you can look up the Lake George Mineral Club’s newsletter from a few months ago and read all about it. Rich’s regard for safety seems nearly nonexistent, but at least he is risking his life for something of value unlike Broncato’s chips of amazonite. No hog turds for Rich in this episode. Speaking of Broncato, he went from a garage sale to picking mushrooms and then finally digging for crystals. No safety equipment at Henrick’s dig either. I always wear a long sleeve shirt when digging. The quartz fragments will not only shred your hands, but also your arms… I would have thought Steve would have figured that out by now. The thunderstorm the producers were playing up a Joe Dorris’ Smoky Hawk claim near Lake George were often mixed with shots of Mt Antero. Seemed the video was all mixed up. At one point the announcer says the storm is moving up out of the south to the north and then says later the same storm is moving towards Mt Antero which is SW of Lake George. Storms initiate over the continental divide (Mt Antero) and then move east towards Lake George. Stay tuned for next week’s death defying feats on Mt Antero! We need to get to Joe's Topaz claim in the Tarryalls too.

Episode IV: Maybe this episode should be titled "Claim Jumpers". Claim jumpers at Lake George, Mt White and Mt Antero were all featured to a minor degree, not sure how well these cheaters/thieves are prospering, but I’d guess the show with all the inflated prices for the crystals is bringing out the cockroaches. I’d bet a lot of the claim jumpers are probably locals inspired by the show’s claims of making big money. Removing claim posts, cutting locks and digging out crystals are the actions of a few desperate get rich quick folk. I’ve helped repost claims that were vandalized by others last year, I guess I’m resolved that it goes with the territory. I’ve never been ripped off though either. Was hoping to see some prospecting in this episode, but I saw more target shooting than anything else. I suppose the target shooting is done to discourage would be high-graders. Joe D. blowing up the “cap rock” was somewhat entertaining. I thought this kind of explosive mining was done electronically these days, so I was a bit surprised to see a fuse lit with a match. Joe sure finds some outstanding specimens, I would love to find fluorite with amazonite, but am not willing to purchase them for $5K a piece. Broncato provides us with some entertainment. I doubt he will find much gold. Even if he did it looks like it would have to be milled from the rock…no small expense. He can’t seem to settle down on one thing, I wonder how long before he will return to mushroom hunting. Dwayne Hall and Justin need to stabilize their dig site somehow. No hard hats and plenty of falling rock would give me pause before I would walk 8 hours at 10-12,000ft in search of a couple hundred dollars of aquamarine. No weather concerns in this episode, I think this may have been a first. Not sure what else they’ll come up with for following episodes but time will tell.

Episode V: I guess this episode could be called Aquamarine on Mt Antero. I like Aquamarine, but fail to understand prospector’s value estimates. I’ve purchased specimens at local rock shows for a tenth of the value the prospectors are quoting. Perhaps it is just their way to try and inflate the prices for the specimens they find. Below are some of the inexpensive purchases of aquamarine I've made.
A few aquas I've picked up at rock shows, none over $20

 $5 for this specimen, though not very gemmy
Once again in this episode the only one who shows common sense is Joe Doris, he wears his hard hat and determines it’s time to get off Antero before the lightning starts popping. Amanda and Travis seem to have a death wish, but perhaps as Joe says the altitude can effect one’s judgment in the high country. I would suggest Amanda and Travis get a room. I’m led to understand they are married as of this post. Not sure about the desirability of phenakite, but Tim seems to think there is a good market for it… I didn't get a good look at the phenakite, but the smoky the phenakite was perched on didn't look like much. You can get a nice phenakite crystal on line for $100 or less. See the website below:
Busse’s had a rough day of it. I know how much a rock can hurt when it strikes your ankle, even if it is only a few pounds. Fretterd again shows off his 350lb smoky at the Lake George show. He says it was valued at $125K. I’m guessing he may have gotten that estimate from Amanda. Oh well, more lightning, rain and few if any real finds. Thought we would see Brancato picking up gold nuggets by now. ;-) 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Large Amazonite at Lake George and the Woodman gets caught or Summer's Swan Song (Last Update)

Summer Swan Song Pocket Opening Up
A fellow who lives near the National Forest (I'll call the Woodman) decided to harvest the dead trees from the Hayman fire area near Lake George. I have seen the Woodman removing trees a number of times in the last few years and I figure he is doing the community a favor by taking out the dead trees. The areas he harvests are not hikeable and are hazardous due to falling trees (Forest Service even has a sign  stating the dangers). However, the area is not permitted for taking firewood (as far as I know). I figure the Woodman is not only making the forest safer, but also reducing the chance of another forest fire like the Hayman started by a forest ranger. Anyway I have benefited from the Woodman's work since he clears dead trees from the roads, removes hazardous trees hanging over my pegmatites and kicks up rocks as he goes along. I found a nice amazonite pocket a few years ago thanks to his off road wood pursuits. The Forest Service takes a dim view of people removing wood without a permit, selling it for profit and driving off-road to get to the better stuff. My attitude has always been live and let live, but evidently somebody near Lake George reported him as I saw him being escorted out of the National Forest by a Forest Ranger's vehicle and will probably have a court appearance along with a hefty fine. Figured he would get caught sooner or later especially when he started cutting and removing wood in the middle of the day on weekends. I'm sure he'll be more discreet about his wood removal forays--after all rules are rules!

After watching the above story unfold from my digging site, I hit a pocket of amazonite. Someone had dug a couple of test holes in a pegmatite some time ago and then left them. I poked around in their holes and found a lot of quartz which I decided merited further inspection. After about 3 hours and 2 feet below the previous rock hounder's diggings I was just about to give up. I kept finding subhedral smoky quartz crystals and microcline. My gloves were shredded from the quartz shards, my finger tips were bleeding and I had nothing to show for my efforts. I took the top off around the pocket one more time and dug out the overburden. To my delight I started seeing hints of blue on the microcline (amazonite). I don't understand why one microcline can be right next to a crystal of amazonite. I would think a pocket would be all microcline or all amazonite, but I guess that's not the way mother nature works. While the amazonite was only pale blue/green, the size was larger than I normally find. Time was up this day, the Woodman left with his ill-gotten gains and a fairly large fine I suppose, I found a few amazonite crystals and one nice smoky and covered up my promising dig. I shall return with a new pair of gloves to harvest more crystals at a later date.
More than one large crystal in this pocket

Big Blue/Green Kahuna just about ready for extraction

Near the end of September (visit #2) I returned to the dig and cleaned out the pocket debris intending to extend the dig in all directions. As I was cleaning what I thought was the bottom of the pocket I noticed some straight angles on what I had at first perceived to be country rock. I carefully scrapped around the rock and found it to be a large amazonite crystal... hurrah! Another large amazonite crystal not as well formed was in front of the prize, so I took that one out first. Initially I couldn't believe a crystal could be this big in such a small pocket. Due to mud, crystal fragments and compaction it took me 3 hours, yes 3 hours to remove 1 crystal. From the pictures you can see the difficulty in removing a crystal of this size. No prying was done until I got to the bottom of the crystal on all sides. The crystal weighs just under 26lbs! This is the biggest amazonite crystal I have ever seen. Bob, my digging buddy, even helped me dig the crystal for awhile as I needed a break and know mistakes happen when you get tired and frustrated. After digging out this crystal I found several smoky quartz crystals all damaged beneath the amazonite crystal. I probably did some of the damage to the smokys but suspect when the pocket collapsed and the 26lb amazonite crystal landed on them they didn't fair to well. I then found a number of smaller amazonite crystals to the right of the big blue/green kahuna. Bob thinks I should name this pocket, so I shall call it Summer's Swan Song. A cold front was moving through Lake George and black clouds and colder air were moving in from the north. I think Summer's Swan Song is very apt for this near end of season find.
That's one heavy amazonite crystal! Some odd twinning too
Next I have to figure out what I'm going to do with this monster amazonite. A nice dilemma. Yes there were a lot more crystals in this pocket. I will post a couple more pictures here as I get some of the specimens cleaned.

Visit #3(30 Sep): to the Summer Swan Song pocket. First thing I did was dig out the debris in the pocket from the prior days visit. I was careful to hand load material onto the flat blade shovel in order to spare the crystals from any trauma. Within 10 minutes I was once again digging out crystals. Another beautiful fall day at Lake George as the leaves are now beginning to change. Below are a few pictures of the crystals I took out of the pocket. The smokys have all been problematic with exterior white quartz growth and blunted tips. The quartz seam pretty much runs up the hill and begins as fairly brittle quartz and then firms up as you go. The smoky quartz crystals are all tending to be below the amazonite. This day all I did was carefully dig out crystals. I got a few nice plates and single specimens. I used up all my newspaper for cushioning and my backpack was overflowing with crystals. No twinning was observed in any of the amazonite crystals although they are covered in pocket mud for the most part. While I believe I have 90% of the crystals removed, I must still excavate the bottom of the pocket and carefully probe the sidewalls to make sure I'm really done. I also left a few crystals near the pocket as my backpack was overflowing. Here are some more pictures showing the crystals just after coming up for air after their 1,000,000,000 year rest and yes, there will be another visit to the Summer's Swan Song pocket!
First one of the day, note brownish mud, somewhat unusual, its normally redish, yellow or purple

Nice grouping, appears to be about 5 crystals in all

Smoky and amazonite, one of the few well formed smokys I found

Visit #4(2 Oct): The dig continues for amazonite and smokys. I had thought I was nearing the end of this pocket but when I thought I was clearing out the left side of the pocket it widened out. While I didn't find anything spectacular this day, there were plenty of crystals to keep me busy. I found some smokys, but they were all damaged to some degree, either with white quartz hooding them, or blunted tips. The smokys are very gemmy and lustrous in appearance other than where they have overgrowth. The amazonite crystals remained pale, but still well formed and desirable. Near the end of the day I notice I am breaking more crystals from fatigue and carelessness. I sent in Bob, my pinch hitter to help remove crystals while I wrapped what I found. Bob found some nice specimens and was rewarded with a few for his collection. Today the zipper on my backpack broke from the weight of the crystals! I name a pocket and define it as significant depending on the quality and amount of collectible crystals. Normally I'm happy to fill a flat (18x12" box) with desirable crystals from a pocket. This pocket has produced at least 5 flats not including the big Kahuna. I will post some pictures soon of my 4th visit. There will be a 5th visit soon. Will that finish this pocket?
After a week of cleaning in acid. Looking good, Abe is almost standing on his head... more cleaning is required
The pocket that just keeps on giving! Today was Oct 8 and the fifth visit to the Summer Swan Song Pocket. I spend about 4.5 hours at this site each time I visit. I finally finished the left side of the pocket today. I still have straight ahead, right and down in some areas to revisit and dig out. While I have found better crystals in smaller pockets, I have never returned to a pocket more than 3 times, nor found the volume of collectible crystals like this before. Today I found more smoky quartz crystals. While many still have the outer hooding of white quartz the points of the crystals are better formed and the quartz itself seems stronger and less subject to fracture the largest smoky is about 6". I dug out a couple of plates today. Of course the prize is plates with smoky quartz and amazonite... Not today. I found quite a bit of cleavelandite in the pocket today. One plate in particular was covered with cleavelandite and amazonite crystals. There were also a couple of broken smokys on the plate(rats). I placed this plate in oxalic acid this evening and will try to photograph it soon for this post. I showed the big kahuna over the weekend to my mentor, Ray Berry a 40 year prospector of Lake George area and he had never seen anything quite that big. Ray was excited enough to take several pictures of it from different angles and get its weight (26lbs)... seemed like a trophy fish. Here is a few more pictures. Smokys are not all that photogenic or collectible for that matter. The nicest one was in two pieces. I will post additional pictures as the crystals get cleaned
Largest Smoky so far. It was broken in half and has white quartz hooding parts of it
Lots of crystal forms in the pocket, note smoky and amazonites here

Smokys collected yesterday most of them have issues... Intarsia anyone?

Washed and ready for an acid bath

Dark area underneath this amazonite is purple fluorite. Have to keep an eye out for that as well

Snow capped smoky with amazonite 3" tall

Pocket Favorite the "Big Kahuna" partially cleaned
Apparent Bevino twinning plane shown as diagonal faint line through lower half of crystal extending to upper left corner!
Purple Fluorites on side of Amazonite Crystal