Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Monday, June 1, 2015

Rockhounding Between The Trees At Lake George Colorado and another large Bevino

Working between the jumble of trees
Despite the conflagration at Lake George over 12 years ago (Hayman Burn), trees remain standing and create problems for those who wish to rock hound. I would have thought that by now most of the burnt out trees would have fallen but that is not the case. There are always leaners to be wary of and fallen trees intertwined with others that are just too big and heavy to move but must be worked/dug around. The biggest trees always fall where you want to dig. Such was the case this day when trees seemed to hamper my every effort. By the end of the day I was rewarded. It is also nice to see more wildlife returning to the rejuvinated forest. Here is a nervous elk which I guess has nothing to worry about until hunters return in September.
Elk on the run
I had my sights set on a certain area, but never made it there as is often the case. Too much interesting stuff on the hike in. I stopped a couple of times and poked around looking for pegmatite. One spot I was sure was just roll down quartz that had washed down into a depression, but upon further examination it proved to be a source of in-place pegmatite with small crystals. I followed the pegmatite for about an hour with little to show for my efforts, so I moved on. It's always difficult to leave a spot you've put some time into especially when you are finding crystals, but these crystals were so few and small that I decided to resume my journey up the hill. On the way up the hill I stopped at my "Big Kahuna" pocket(see 28 Sept 2013 post)  I had buried several smoky shards in the debris of that pocket and since that find I have started tumbling smoky pieces for sale. I finished digging up about 20 broken but gemmy smoky crystals and moved on. Mother Nature tested us once again today with grapul, hail and cold conditions, but I moved on through the hail and stairmaster of trees that was in front of me.
Within 5 minutes the sun was back out and I was digging in another interesting spot still not even half way to my intended destination. I ended up spending the rest of the day there. There was a small dig that showed considerable amounts of whitish/grey quartz scattered about so I dug into it and expanded that old hole. As I dug up the hill I noted quartz pieces tended to be found lower in the scree so I guessed there might be a pegmatite buried further up the hill. After digging about 6 feet up the hill and down maybe 3 feet following the quartz I hit some smoky quartz shards with my rock hammer. I put down my rock hammer and pick and commenced scratching though the scree and almost immediately hit a mud seam with a layer of pegmatite above it and diorite below the seam. The mud seam had some malformed crystal pieces in it and was only about an inch in height but I following the seam between the layers of pegmatite and diorite for about 5 feet. After taking down the sidewall to my right for the third or fourth time I noted the side wall had a seam of quartz. The quartz seam angled down towards my mud seam. Intersecting features like these often lead to a pocket and sure enough the quartz seam angled right into the mud. Microcline crystals started popping up as the mud seam grew in width. The area I was digging has amazonite shards scattered over the surface everywhere but it was just my luck to find microcline. Shortly afterwards I hit some nearly whole smoky quartz crystals so I gave my digging partner a call and he became the photographer and helped dig the scree away from the tree.
Note pile of microclines in foreground, here I'm holding a smoky quartz crystal
 As I continued to dig, my migraine headache of the night before began to return so I called it a day and will return another time to see if this is a good gem producing pocket or not.

Day 2: I returned to this dig and determined to give the pocket area another hour or two. As I resumed digging Bob said "you're never going to get that tree out of there" well, that was just the encouragement I needed to pick up the tree Paul Bunyon style and heave it to one side. I kept digging and things kept looking promising, so I carried on til days end.
Smoky quartz crystal engulfed in sticky pocket mud
 During the process I primarily found microcline... oh why couldn't they be blue?!  I also found some smoky quartz crystals, but they were not the highly prized products I'm used to finding up at Lake George.
The sticky mud made extraction of crystals an extremely slow process
The last hour of this day I zeroed in on large area of mud near the bottom of the pocket as there appeared to be a rather large mircocline crystal there... and what a microcline it is! Normally I don't collect mircocline, but this day I made an exception. After an hour of carefully digging around this crystal I was finally able to coax it out with zero damage. Microcline crystals can be twinned as either Bevino, Mannebach or Carlsbad twins named after the city in Europe that they were first discovered, This large Bevino microcline crystal makes it very collectible as opposed to just a run-of-the-mill microcline crystal.
Large Microcline "in situ"
The above microcline is a Bevino!
Top down view of the Bevino Crystal

Continuation of the dig down and underneath a quartz seam produced more microcline crystals and a few poorly formed smoky quartz crystals. After working on this peg and digging about 5 feet down I decided the effort wasn't worth the reward and called it quits for this pocket (site).



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pegmatites at Lake George CO

We checked out a new area last week at Lake George, but didn't believe we would find many crystals as the area was quite dug up. First thing we did was examine the debris from the older digs, since the diggings looked promising we gave it a try. We prospected the area and found many of the older digs were extremely shallow. Bob dug into a quartzy area that had been dug by others while I hit an area down the hill. The older dig I focused on went straight up the hill, while the dig Bob investigated was shallow and circular. I expanded the old trench-like dig in a SE direction while Bob dug his quartz dig deeper. Almost immediately after digging into my dig I found crystal pieces and mud. Note the changing color of the dirt around the crystal below (sign of a pocket). Things looked very promising so I called Bob over to take a look at a fairly large crystal nestled in the pocket. I kept my fingers crossed as I hoped the point would not be damaged.
Fingers crossed in hope of a good crystal (the termination/point makes the crystal
Much to my dismay as I pulled the crystal out of the pocket I noted it was damaged :-(  The crystal never properly terminated but its crown was filled with what appears to be manganese. I wasn't sure this specimen was worth taking home, but the crystal might prove interesting and it would certainly be a challenge to clean.  I took home a few crystals from this dig, but most were broken. Bob continued to dig deeper into the quartz. Our mentor always told us if at first you don't succeed dig deeper!  Well, Bob kept digging and after 4 feet down he started to find some real smoky gems
Bob's got a nice 5" smoky quartz crystal (among others in background)
Bob found a lot of calcite overgrowth on his crystals, but a little muratic acid will take care of that.
We returned to this area a few days later and again checked out some surface quartz that upon further examination only appeared to be scratched through. Bob again started digging a 4 foot hole and sure enough there were prized smoky crystals at the bottom. I started lining up the digs and noticed they followed a northwest  to southeast line confirming an underlying pegmatite. I decided to dig my own 4 foot hole along that nw-se line and was soon pulling out my own crystals albeit small fry. We'll probably trench this entire underlying pegmatite which appears to run for about 75 feet (We shall see). I found some surface amazonite fragments, so that will also help further the hunt. Later in the day I was scratching around on the surface and found a pocket near the surface as well. This pocket only yielded a couple of keepers but the area continues to yield crystals and certainly merits a return visit.
Crystal shards in the pocket... not much else unfortunately
I too found crystals, but mine were only 1 inch in length while Bob dug out some 4 inch beauties

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Two pockets of Crystals at Lake George

Snow still on the Tarryall Mountains about 10km north of Lake George
Snows continue to fall in the mountains but at least the ground is now thawed out. Many of the southern and western slopes are snow free, so its time to hunt crystals! Spring in the Rockies is fickle with snow one day and flowers bursting forth the next day.
Pink cactus flowers popping out in the April sunshine
So my rockhounding partner and I set forth to see what we could find. I followed some quartz float up a hill and as I pursued it, I noted it thinned out to almost nothing six feet up the slope. I dug my pick axe in and soon was pulling out quartz crystals. I called Bob over and he helped me move a rather large rock and I continued to dig out the pocket for another hour.
You can see some of the smoky quartz appearing in the crystal pocket
Unfortunately most of the crystals were damaged. Bob was digging nearby. He suspected a shallow dig was not very aggressively dug, so he went down the hill and redug the surface and ran into a pocket that someone else had missed. Bob found several crystals as well but many of his were damaged too. Still a very good day as we kept busy finding crystals.
Bob's had enough of this pocket and is leaving a rather large pile of fractured crystals behind. Bob's pocket also yielded some interesting calcite conglomerations which I took home and will try and clean. So far I've applied Super Iron Out and will continue for a week or so to see how they're cleaning up. Hopefully some pictures on that later.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Another Season Begins!

After not having much time to go crystal hunting between work and bad weather I planned to go rock hounding with my prospector friend Bob to see what we could find. We had planned to go 10 days prior, so despite a rather formidable weather forecast we decided to check out the terrain at Lake George.

I told Bob I may just stay in the truck and drink coffee and eat a bearclaw as the the forecast was for a high temperature of 39F with a 50% of rain or snow... ugh. About the time we got to Lake George, CO the snow began falling. We tried to get back towards our Club's claim, but after several runs up the hill and some rather unnerving slides back down we gave up and parked the vehicle.
Roads were slick and icy

I had told Bob a slope on the claim looked fairly untouched and was covered in fairly good quartz sign, so we gave it try. Bob and I both followed the quartz shards up the hill to a somewhat exposed pegmatite. Where I dug, the pegmatite was shallow and unproductive; however, Bob's dig was quite a different story and he soon started pulling out smoky quartz crystals.
Maybe some termination issues but a nice sized crystal
Unfortunately many of the crystals were broken, but Bob still got a few keepers. After finishing the majority of the dig Bob started wrapping his crystals while I crawled in his excavation as a pinch hitter and found a small seam of clay for myself and got a few crystals of my own.
Gemmy!
While the crystals I found were small, they all had good luster and were gemmy. When finished we filled in the dig and threw a few rocks over the site, so that it blended in fairly well with the surroundings. I believe there is more to be found along that particular pegmatite. In couple of weeks weather permitting we will give it another try, but 34F, windy with snow is not my kind of rock hounding weather.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Rock Hounding the Rockies Indoors

While the snow is 2 feet deep in the mineral belt of Colorado, there are still plenty of mineral related things you can do in the Rockies. Today I visited a fellow rock hound who got to show us his collection.
 
 While most of the minerals he had were not found in the Rockies he lives in the Rockies, so a bit of a stretch but still rock hounding the Rockies J  Here I am with a 50 pound fluorite that my friend found over the summer. He’s pretty cagey about where he found it and I will respect his wishes suffice it to say it was found in the Pikes Peak Batholith. He’s been working on his display cabinets a couple of years and he finished them this fall and loaded them up with museum-class crystals.


There were tourmalines, rhodochrosite, wulfenite, sulfur, quartz clusters, barite and calcite to name a few. The display just about took my breath away.  I favor fluorites and so I captured a few of these for your viewing pleasure. Most of the crystals in his mini-Museum were purchased and have probably increased in value several times over the years. While most were not found in Colorado they live here now.







After leaving his house my rock hounding buddy Bob and I ruminated over the collection we had just seen. As a rock hound I primarily collect what I find and don’t have the budget to purchase anything in the cabinets I’ve just seen, still I enjoyed viewing the minerals, the hospitality of friends and the knowledge imparted during the visit. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Day at the Mineral Museum in Golden Colorado

The rocks and crystals seemingly came alive at the Colorado School of Mines and Geology in Golden, CO. Since rock hounding is nearly impossible this time of year I decided to check out the Colorado School of Mines. This is a real Colorado jewel for anyone interested in geology and it’s free! We were fortunate to go on a day when no school children were visiting so it was quiet and we got to speak with the curator, Dr. Geller. He was very cordial and invited me back another time for a guided tour. The museum hosts mineral displays, fossils, gemstones, meteorites and mining artifacts including a simulated mining cave. The 2nd floor is the main floor with 75% of the displays. The 1st floor is reached from the 2nd floor and houses fossils as well as some minerals. There is also a gift shop on the 1st floor with donated specimens selling from $1 to $1000. The main floor host a mix of minerals and crystals about 50% from Colorado and the rest from around the world. Since my interest is primarily in Rock hounding the Rockies I spent nearly an hour examining the Colorado section of minerals and crystals. There are also outdoor displays of fossils and various geological points of interest, but that was covered in snow this day. The museum is about 1.5 hours from Colorado Springs and well worth a visit.

So here are some pictures of Colorado crystals that one doesn’t often get to see. Of course I am partial to Pikes Peak Batholith crystals like smokys, fluorite and amazonite.

So lets take a look at some of the smokys they had on display. There were a couple bigger smoky crystals from other parts of the world, but I decided to concentrate on Colorado minerals for this post on my blog. 

A case could be made for the white quartz overgrowth enhancing this specimen

Exquisite smoky with fluorites surrounding the base 

A Colorado collection is incomplete without one of these

Beautiful Amethyst 

Nearly 2ft high smoky quartz crystal!



Everyone wants one of these elusive combos




The last group of pictures show the varied colors of amazonite found in the Lake George Intrusive of Park and Teller counties, Colorado. Of course this is only a sample of what's at the Museum. There is topaz, fluorite and many other worldwide minerals including gold.
Pea green example of microcline

Very pale large amazonite crystal
Blue-green amazonite plate with smokies and manebach twin perched on top
White-capped amazonite with smoky quartz crystals

Light blue amazonite plate with smokys and cleavelandite



Monday, December 15, 2014

300+ Smoky Quartz Crystals in 1 day at Lake George, CO! Updated 22 Dec w/ cleaned crystals

Crystals piling up by the dozens, excavation in background
Thinking the cold weather and frozen ground were here to stay I packed up my rock hounding equipment a few weeks ago. This past week the temps have been near 60F for several days, so my rock hounding buddy and I decided to head out and check the pegmatites at Lake George. When we got to one of our normal sites the ground was quite frozen, down to a depth of nearly 18 inches. The frozen ground made prospecting almost impossible. I thought I might try a southerly facing slope to see if that was any better and sure enough, the ground was completely thawed out. I found some white quartz dribbling down the hill and decided to follow it up the slope. The white quartz was fairly small and without faces, but I still followed it about 50ft up the hill. Suddenly along a rock I found a large piece of white quartz with several faces on it. I decided to dig the surface and see what was there. Bob joined me and we dug about 10 feet up the hill finding more quartz pieces with faces. As the sun was going down we both started unearthing smoky quartz pieces and even a few whole crystals. Everything we found was just an inch or two below the surface. Since the following day promised to be just as nice with no wind, sunny and temperatures in the 50Fs, we stopped and planned to return the following day to continue our search up the hill for the source of the quartz. Here is a short video from the following day showing quartz crystals coming out of the newly discovered pocket

video
Next visit found us back at the site digging up hill through the scree. We kept finding pieces of crystals and some nice floaters, so we were encouraged to continue the dig. Within a half hour larger crystals began to show up with more frequency and the pocket was discovered. Red dirt and mud surrounding multiple crystals made this pregnant pocket one of the largest I’ve ever found. Crystal after crystal kept popping out the dirt and while I kept hoping for some plates.
Plate showing a couple smoky crystals with lots of mud

Nice sized plate with a few 3"crystals should display well once cleaned
I was a little surprised at the number, size and completeness of the crystals. I spent 3 hours digging out crystals and finally did manage to find a few plates (pics above). The crystals mostly measured 2-4 inches. Near the back of the pocket was a fairly large quartz blow, so I will eventually go back (next spring) and tear that out to make sure nothing is hiding in the back of the pocket. Next up is cleaning the crystals. There were over 300 crystals not including the plates. I left about 30 crystals behind as they were too broken up to bother with. I gave my digging partner Bob 85 crystals and brought the rest home. I think I had about 40 pounds of crystals on my back to carry down the mountain that day. Next up is sorting, putting a few together and cleaning. I'll try and get a few pictures of the cleaned crystals in a couple weeks from the date of this post. Here they are, looking pretty good!
Dark Smoky foreground with lighter one on left

Nice plate with up to 3 inch smokys


Backlit Smoky, quite gemmy
See you in 2015!