Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rockhounding amidst the Raspberrys at Lake George

We've moved on from our earlier rock hounding bonanza and tried another area rich with raspberrys. I think my wife might even like to go rock hounding at this site with more berries than one could eat. For some reason nearly every dig gets filled with raspberry plants within a couple years. Evidently the turned over soil and rock is very conducive to growing berries.
I'll leave these tasty morsels for the bears
Digging where others have dug in the past can often lead to good results.  I’m frequently drawn to old digs and dig on the margins or try to figure out a pattern to the excavations and determine the alignment of pegmatites. Once you know the general drift of pegmatites under the ground you can do some probing with a pick axe and follow the pegmatites searching for crystal pockets.

Today Bob and I hiked up to the top of a ridgeline and noted that there were a few digs with quartz float scattered around.  Bob had done a number of test digs in the area and determined the pegmatites run straight up the hill.  Bob had found some plates of crystals the previous week and so after doing some prospecting on another slope I joined Bob at the top. The weather was a little sketchy with thunder in the distance along with visible rain shafts so that became a concern for much of the day, though not a show-stopper. After poking around a bit I found a small clear crystal and noted a fairly large older dig nearby. Bob mentioned he had dug on the perimeter of the old dig and found some microcline.  After studying the ground around the old dig I noticed a fairly well formed smoky plate and decided I would dig a couple feet away from the old dig.  Rule #1 for prospecting is when you find smoky quartz shards or crystals it’s time to do some serious probing and search uphill from the float quartz for a crystal pocket. The scree was churned up a bit so I figured perhaps the previous digger had just missed a plate, but as soon as I put my pick axe in the ground smoky quartz and microcline crystals started popping up out of the ground.  Pretty odd I thought, maybe the digger was looking for amazonite or some other mineral and bypassed the quartz. I pulled out a number of smoky quartz crystals along with a few plates. Bob joined me digging out the site and was as perplexed as I on why/how the previous digger missed these crystals. Most of the crystals were within 6 inches of the surface. I followed the float crystals for about 3 feet and finally I ran into a solid piece of granite with a few pieces of quartz revealing the pegmatite wall and the end of this dig.
Smoky quartz, well-formed carlsbad twinned microcline and cleavelandite were found in this pocket

On a sour note mother nature hit me with some large hail last month and caused about $25,000 in damage to my home. Fortunately insurance will cover the bulk of the damage. My neighbor had all 4 of his vehicles totaled
This 2 inch hailstone was all too common in our neighborhood. The largest I recorded was 2.75 inches that's 7cm!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Amazonite and Smokys at Lake George -- A summers worth of fun! (Updated 26 Jul)

Bob and I had been having some luck in a fairly remote area so we headed back there this day. It takes about 40 minutes to walk to our spot but a hillside along the way seemed unexplored. Each time I approach an area I try to do it from a slightly different angle, that way I can prospect some new territory on my way to my planned destination. This particular day I prospected up some hills on a rather circuitous path to our site. Bob stayed in the valley on a more direct line to our destination. I never got to the destination that day.
As I was walking along a hillside I noted a little blue poking out of the ground. I carefully looked the area over and determined the blue amazonite fragment was in a slight water run… who knows where that could have come from? Of course the most obvious choice is right there despite the water run. Maybe the water run just uncovered the tip of the pocket. I poked around a little bit and hit more pegmatite and some plates with amazonite and smoky quartz crystals.
Fresh out of the ground, first piece I found at the site
The water run was slight enough to uncover some scree and expose the pegmatite and crystals but not significant enough to wash much material down the hill. After digging a couple of hours I felt guilty and went in search of Bob at our initial destination. Bob was busy digging and finding some noteworthy crystals on his own, so he wished me luck and I went back to my dig. Best dig of the year and best find I had made thus far. I cleaned out several small plates, a few solo smoky crystals and a number of single amazonite crystals. The amazonite was very difficult to remove as it was coated in pocket mud and was very fragile.
Fresh out of the ground combo

Specimen above cleaned up a bit

Nicest combination plate of the lot 12+ complete crystals!

Ready for display!!!

I spent that day and the next working the pocket. I managed to get a little over 2 flats of crystals from this pocket so it was a very nice find!

After finishing up the pocket I prospected below the site hoping to find a few float crystals. I found some nice float crystals as well and decided to come back another day. If there is one pocket there, maybe there are more. I went back home and examined my finds. I noted that the roll-down crystals or float were different than the smokys I had found in the pocket. Most of the float crystals below the pocket grew out of white quartz and went from white to smoky, while the smokys in the pocket were all just black all the way to their growth points out of the pegmatite. I deduced there must be at least one other pocket on that hill. How right I was! While first pocket was the only nice combination smoky/amazonite pocket I found on this hillside.  
Digging through some float we found another pocket with smokys
Bob and I extracted crystals from well over a half dozen more pockets on that hill. While none of the crystals were large (> 6”), they were gemmy and lustrous.
Nice size to these, between 3-6"
The next pocket we found was split between us and consisted of smoky quartz crystals. I had followed quartz float about 40ft up the hill and determined it stopped nearly 50ft below the original pocket (above). Both Bob and I dug in where we found the last surface float and had to dig nearly another 10 feet to find the pocket. Of course there was float under the soil leading us to that pocket.
We probably pulled out 500+ crystals from this area.
Nicest smoky quartz cluster in the pocket and hillside for that matter 4x4x5"
We also found quartz with goethite inclusions (onegite), amazonite, green fluorite, goethite and smokys.
Onegite with a purplish hue (Amethyst)
Onegite with a yellowish hue (Citrine)

It was very rewarding to find an area undiscovered by anyone else and pull out beautiful crystals from billion year old undisturbed pockets. Hurrah, what a rock hounder's paradise!

Update1: I continue to find a lot of pegmatites and associated minerals on this hill. Goethite and associated "onegites" continues to be quite plentiful. The amazonite has dwindled off, but we are still finding pockets with smoky quartz crystals although they are smaller than some of our initial finds... the fun goes on
A nice cleaned flat of smoky quartz crystals, excellent luster (mostly 1-3")

Many onegites here (quartz with goethite inclusions)

Some of my favorite smokys, lustrous, gemmy and slender (2.5")

Friday, June 17, 2016

Three Pockets of Crystals at Lake George

While I found 3 pockets of crystals in one day, another visitor to Lake George did not fare as well as me. For some reason a driver with 4-wheel drive capability and nearly bald tires decided he could go off road and use his vehicle to dig up crystals(probably not). Personally I use a pick and shovel to find crystals and not my $20K vehicle ;-). The owner of this vehicle won’t be going anywhere until he gets a tow out of the mess he dug himself into. There is always something new to see at Lake George and it’s not always minerals.
Glad this wasn't me, dude will probably have to drop $400 to a tow truck to get himself out of this remote predicament

Back to prospecting… I had a bit of a dry spell the last few times out but made up for it with a 3 pocket day. The first pocket was near the top of a hill down the slope from someone else’s dig. I was pretty sure the float I was finding was from the previous dig but when I dug down I hit red dirt/clay and surmised there was a second pocket down the hill from the prior discovery. The pocket contained some nice specimens of smoky quartz crystals. The second pocket branched off the first and formed within the same pegmatite as the first pocket, I thought the second pocket would be better than the first as there was a lot of well-formed quartz with the second pocket but not a lot materialized into collectible crystals with the second pocket. The third pocket was some distance from the other pockets and was more interesting with smoky crystal plates, double terminated smokys some goethite, fluorite and some baveno twinned microcline. The goethite was quite massive with some blading but also showed some minor occurrences of attaching itself to the smoky plates. The smoky plates had some nice size and were quite numerous.
Fresh out of the ground after a 1 billion year wait for me to dig em up
Well I ran out of time to finish the third pocket but I will get after it on my next visit to Lake George.

Day 2: Got back to Lake George just as our latest heatwave is beginning. Just means an extra 32oz of fluids and a little more sleep for me. Anyway back at the dig I continued to dig up small plates and goethite. Many of the plates turned out to be combinations of specimens with fluorite and goethite clinging to the quartz crystals or matrix. This should be quite a time consuming cleaning project, but I'm definitely up for the challenge.
My wife said this looked like a dead fish

Fluorite front, goethite behind, iron stained smokys and microcline makes for a very busy mineral plate

Hopefully in a couple of months I will post some after cleaning pictures.
Examining the "dead fish" (pic above) in some detail gave me pause to think about how all these mineral deposits took place on the quartz crystal. After examining the specimen with my microscope it appears that after the quartz crystal was formed it broke, rehealed a little and then some fluorites were deposited on the quartz. Subsequent to that occurence a layer of iron was deposited on the quartz to include the goethite which coated just about everything including the initial fluorites. After the goethite formed there was a secondary hydrothermal infusion of fluids which formed the yellowish fluorites and then I dug it all up :-). I better be careful or I will transform my interests into micromounts or paragenetic mineral analysis or worse yet learn some geology terms.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Higgledy Piggledy Goethite at Lake George

After nearly a full week of poor weather I set off again for the spot at Lake George that I’ve been working with my digging partner Bob. We have been having a bit of luck in this area of the claim, but we’ve found nothing extraordinary. I started to work a small seam that drifted off a massive pegmatite and found a few 1” crystals but none of them were noteworthy. After finishing that spot I checked in on Bob to see how he was doing. Bob found a highly mineralized pegmatite with broken crystals below the surface at only inches to as much as 3 feet underground. Some of the smoky quartz plates Bob found would have 3 or 4 major crystals (6”) on them but all would be broken off. Bob did find a few collectible solo crystals. We both remarked about what could have been for this pocket had it not been busted up by nature long ago. I settled down near Bob on what was part of a general pegmatite structure running up the hill. I found a few small plates of smokys and microcline as well as some goethite. It seem that all the crystal producing plates were next to decaying tree roots. Evidently the tree sent its roots in vugs or seams within the pegmatite that produced the crystals. I’ve often found tree roots in conjunction with crystals at Lake George. Bob also found some goethite sprays which seem to be dispersed higgledy-piggledy within the scree at this site(always wanted to use higgledy-piggledy) These goethite sprays will be a nice addition to Bob’s collection. Unfortunately most of the larger quartz material was damaged by nature.

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