Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Following The Crystal Float at Lake George

Crystal Mass on Boulder
Today was set aside for prospecting as I had cleaned out my latest pocket. I revisited one spot where I had found hooded quartz, but after double-checking that site I decided it was time to move on. I walked for about 2 miles picking away at some of the white quartz I saw along the way. Nothing much interested me until I found a white quartz crystal. I looked up the hill and soon found a small broken smoky crystal, soon the quartz with faces started to multiply and I figured I would soon be digging out a pocket. I looked up the hill and saw no discernible digs, so figured I would keep prospecting up the hill until I hit pay-dirt. I was working along a large boulder to my left and soon came upon a small rock ledge in front of me as I bypassed the rock ledge I immediately ran out of quartz. So either the pocket was under the rock ledge or crystals had collected on the downhill side of the ledge. I looked again up the hill, no digs. Then the boulder to my left caught my eye. About 10 feet up the boulder someone had been chiseling quartz crystals out of the rock.
Small Vugs With Hidden Crystals
As a rookie I had tried this a few times but mostly came up with fractured crystals. I inspected the area hoping for topaz in the rock and after searching a couple voids decided to move on. I was glad not to have spent a lot of time digging at this spot and decided to leave the crystal-bearing rocks to someone else who may chance upon it to take a few pictures.
Goethite In A Vug

I pretty much got shut out this day, but I enjoyed the late cool summer day by getting in a rather strenuous hike.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Large Crystals at Lake George

Back to Lake George to dig crystals again today. We had planned to go to a certain spot, but I never got there. Only 5 minutes into the hike I found a spot good enough to spend the afternoon. I'm guessing I walked across this spot about 50 times and though I had poked my pick axe into the grey quartz a few times I had never given the spot much credit. Figured it was so close to the parking area and no other digs were around there probably wasn't anything there. I dug into the quartz and was soon pulling out large quartz chunks with faces. Hmm seems to me somebody should have found this by now! Digging along I quickly hit a large quartz crystal, one of the biggest I've ever found. Unfortunately it is heavily fractured and more of a grey than the more desirable smoky quartz.
Heavily fractured 10" crystal... it will make a nice yard rock!
I continued the dig finding several quartz points mixed in with quartz shards. I followed a smooth quartz face down and it ended up being a quartz crystal of nearly 6 inches with nice girth!
After shredding the finger tips of my gloves in the uncooperative grey quartz and pulling out a few crystals points the quartz disappeared in country rock so I went prospecting. I discovered several older digs up a hill with amazonite pieces scattered about the debris piles. Did the previous prospector get all the crystals? I may have to try my luck there another time
Best of the lot
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Super Moon Crystal Pocket at Lake George

So what's the big deal about a super moon anyway? The moon's orbit about the earth is not a perfect circle but elliptical. Super moon is media hype for the moon at perigee. So when the moon is closest to the earth it is somewhat larger and brighter. I know its not quite this simple but come on folks let's concentrate on something important like rock hounding. I figured super moon pocket probably sounds better than perigee pocket, so I too have succumbed to media hype and named the crystal pocket I found this day the super moon pocket, though as you'll see there wasn't anything really super about it. On to the super moon pocket!
Super Moon over Pikes Peak CO 
We arrived at Lake George to find hail everywhere. Evidently they had a hailstorm at Lake George on Sunday and piles of hail were laying everywhere. There was also fog and a heavy dew on the grass. As I set off, my shoes soon became soaked as did my pants up to my knees. I decided to look for the pocket of crystals I had opened up on 8 Aug and set out on about a mile hike uphill. After searching for about 45 minutes I couldn't find my pocket, but had scared up a number of deer. Just when I was about to write off the pocket and call it the lost dutchman mine, I found my markers which led me right to the dig.
At the dig pulling out crystals
I cleaned the hail out of the depression and started to carefully dig uphill. I hit some large quartz and much to my surprise they were in quartz crystal form up to 8 inches in length. Upon closer examination every crystal had imperfections with their terminations and were coated in milky white quartz. I continued to dig following the pegmatite and found more crystals all with milky quartz coatings. Some of the crystals had cathedral faces, so that kept me going.
Pulling out some large quartz chunks
Running out of crystals, but not quartz I continued to carefully dig up the hill. After 6 feet of digging up the hill I was now about 2 feet down. I began to hit crumbly quartz with shards of quartz falling out of the sidewall of the dig. Next milky quartz covered cathedral crystals began to pop up. I gave Bob a call and he made his way over to my dig. About the time Bob showed up I began to find some single collectible smoky quartz crystals covered in cathedral milky quartz. I also found some well formed fluorite and zinwaldite. I was running low on water and let Bob dig in the pocket for a bit while I wrapped up the crystals. Bob continued the dig until he hit a fairly large quartz structure. We called it a day a little early but need to return and dig around the quartz to see if the pegmatite continues up the hill. The oddist thing about this pocket was the lack of sign (quartz) on the surface and the shallowness of the pegmatite under the ground. In many spots quartz showed itself to be only a couple inches below the ground, yet there was very little quartz showing on the surface of the hillside.
4"+ Smoky With Hooding
While this wasn't a magnificent pocket it was somewhat unusual and I decided to give the pocket a name, succumbing as I said to media hype it will be called the super moon pocket of 2014

Smoky coated in two layers of quartz and fluorite!

Sides Of Above Coated Smoky (note purple fluorite)

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Ferruginous Quartz & Float Crystals at Lake George

My rockhounding partner and I decided to try a different area of Lake George, one we hadn't prospected much for a couple of years. The rains have been rather heavy lately so we thought we might have some luck finding crystals that Mother Nature had unearthed. One of the best ways to find crystal pockets is to prospect for quartz. Smoky quartz with faces is most desireable, but grey quartz with a face or two is worth following up as well. Amazonite is sometimes found with white quartz, so white quartz can be an indicator and should be carefully examined when field collecting as well. On this trip we planned to do considerable prospecting and thought our chances good for finding crystals due to the last few months of water erosion. Heavy rain can expose new pegmaites or loosen surface crystals and make them more visible. Surface crystals are called float. Float crystals originate in a pocket and are weathered out of the crystal pocket usually transported downhill from their source. When I find good float (quartz with faces) I generally poke around a little bit and try to figure where the quartz came from by tracing the float quartz uphill. Quite often I'm led to an old dig, but occasionally I make a new discovery. Today while prospecting I found some fairly nice float and followed it uphill. The float quartz looked very promising, so good that I found a few collectible float crystals.
Float double terminated with cathedraling scepter
 When following float you generally only have to dig a few inches down. Hopefully the float will become more concentrated and deeper as you dig along and lead to a crystal pocket. As I scanned for float I noted a small depression in the ground above me. I thought if it was a dig, it was very old... After digging and finding several float crystals I hit aluminum foil. At this point I was pretty sure the depression was an old dig and I was just rummaging through some missed float crystals from a previous prospector's crystal pocket. As an aside, pack out what you bring into the forest. I continued digging (less carefully) and arrived at some broken pegmatite around the now obvious old dig. Not an entire waste of the morning as I did find some collectible float crystals. I decided it was time to resume prospecting and continued my search. Meanwhile I got an excited call on our two-way radios from my digging partner. He had found some white quartz and digging down led him to some ferruginous quartz crystals. I had just settled down doing some digging of my own after following quartz, but the quartz I was finding was hooded with white quartz over grey on the crystals. Bob sounded excited about his find and a rumble of thunder overhead persuaded me to search him out on the way back to the truck. We know the area quite well, so when Bob gives directions he is usually pretty easy to find. A few pick axe knocks on surrounding rocks also helps locate his site. Bob was down nearly 4 feet and pulling out interesting plates of red coated quartz crystals. The red coating appears to be a thin layer of iron rich quartz covering white crystals.
Cathedraling plate of ferruginous crystals

Fist size clusters of ferruginous quartz clusters
I have only run into this once before and never in such large quantities as what Bob was finding. So Bob provided the entertainment this afternoon. We got a little wet, but there is still a pocket of crystals waiting for me on the other side of the hill.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Return To Devil's Head Collecting Area

The crystal collecting area called Devil's Head southwest of Castle Rock, Colorado has had renown for it's large topaz for nearly 100 years. While I'm sure there is still some topaz in the area I am satisfied with finding smoky quartz and amazonite. The smoky quartz at this locale is known for it's size while amazonite is often fairly pale though exceptions occur. I've found the pegmatite to be a little more difficult to work here rather than the softer more broken up pegmatites I've found at Lake George. We parked our vehicle near topaz point and began prospecting from there. We found several promising pegmatites with small crystals, but most of the crystals on the associated plates were broken.
Now that's a boulder!
It was a warm day in the middle 80s, which is hot for the mountains, so after a fruitless search in the morning I settled down in a promising shady area. The site had numerous digs, but there was still a lot of undug quartz in the pegmatite which included smoky quartz with numerous faces. I removed some overburden and then dug straight down and pulled out pieces of the pegmatite looking for crystals.
Well formed pegmatite too solid for me to break through this day
I found a lot of subhedral crystals including microcline, but not much to take home. Then, after pulling away a large chunk of smoky quartz a few well formed crystals showed themselves. I guess the previous digger didn't get all the goodies.
Unfortunately I had not taken my heavier equipment to deal with the pegmatite. I really needed a larger chisel, sledge hammer and pry bar. I usually don't carry this heavy equipment with me until I find a need for it. Prospecting at 9000 feet and 85F with a hot sun discourages me from taking any more equipment than I have to. However, I can go back now straight to the dig with my heavier equipment and see what I can do. It was a nice day though a bit warm and a few nice crystals from Devil's Head are now part of my collection.
Best of the lot

Very Gemmy but some internal fracturing
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Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day Pockets at Lake George with Turkey Vultures

On this warm 3rd day of July I found two pockets of crystals. Both had lustrous smoky quartz crystals with gemmy interiors. In general crystals from Lake George seem to have less cleaning issues and overgrowth than crystals I've found around Pikes Peak (see previous post) so today we are at Lake George. I had just set out climbing up a hill and noted some white float quartz dribbling down. As I followed the quartz up the hill I noted an old prospector's dig as the probable origination of the roll-down quartz. The dig was not large and seemed fairly old judging by the vegetation growing in the depression of the dig. The old dig stopped at the edge of a fairly large fallen tree. I picked up the now dried out tree and cast it aside, I'm guessing when the dig occurred the tree was pretty hefty. I stuck my pick axe into the dirt where I had removed the tree and hit pegmatite and red dirt. I then began to dig and immediately hit crystal fragments.
I took out my scratcher and began to unearth crystals. Nothing spectacular about this pocket except for the fact that someone a few years ago had dug to within inches of my find and stopped because of the downed tree. The previous digger may have found his own pocket, or I might have found an extension of his pocket. In either case I got some nice crystals fairly easily this day.
Nice Haul From Pocket #1

It was about noon and I had found a good looking pegmatite with some promising quartz a few weeks ago and decided I had time to follow up on that pegmatite after digging out pocket #1. After about a 20 minute walk up another hill, I dug down removing scree and broken rock till I got down to the self-buried pegmatite. I followed the grayish quartz for a few feet and suddenly it became smoky and a couple faces appeared on both the quartz and feldspar. Then I discovered a small fluorite formed around a smoky.
I knew a pocket was close. As I was expanding my dig with my scratcher tool I found a hole in the pegmatite wall (this was it). I cleaned out the hole as best as I could with my hand and started to pull out smokys from the hole.
Soon I had to enlarge the hole to get out some of the small plates, the job was becoming a little difficult as I was down about 5 feet into the ground. Thunder had been rumbling for at least an hour as a storm built up just to my south. As this storm moved off to the east a group of vultures started circling overhead (kettle) then roosted on a nearby boulder (committee). According to Wikipedia vultures in fight are a kettle, resting or nesting a committee and chowing down on carrion a wake. I knew it couldn't just be a flock of vultures :-)
Those Vultures Mean Business!
 I continued breaking down the pocket wall and removed crystals mostly of the 1 inch variety. Clouds started to darken overhead and I could hear thunder approaching again from the northwest. I decided the vultures were not going to have a wake over a lightning seared meal today so I covered up my dig and began my hike down the hill to find my digging partner and head for home.
Pocket #2 Bounty: I Noted A Repair On One Plate Will Really Pop The Plate... I'll Add That Later

Happy Birthday America There Is No Place I'd Rather Live Than Beautiful Colorado!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Crystal Hunting in Bear Creek Canyon *Updated 4 July

Set off bright and early planning on going to Lake George when the TV weatherman said it would be only 80F today and 10% chance of rain, I took him at his word and went to Bear Creek instead. Bear Creek is known for crystals but it gets a lot hotter and more humid in the summer due to the lower elevation so we tend to go there in the fall. While heading out to Bear Creek due to the cooler weather we found our way blocked by a closed road. Evidently last fall's heavy rains closed the road which meant an extra mile or so of walking up the canyon instead of driving. We decided the walk would do us good and it was cool so off we went. The closed dirt road is at about a 10% grade, so we warmed up quickly. We saw no bears, nor any fish in the creek. I believe this area is under consideration for closure to preserve an area for the green cutthroat trout which were all probably flushed out of the creek into Fountain Creek due to last fall's rains.
Bear Creek Gurgling Along
We rock hounded an area we had tried before, but had previously run out of time digging there. We had the whole day in front of us. While Bob was thinking of going up towards an area called Sentinel Rock, I was happy to dig in a well formed pegmatite further down the hill. By 10AM I was finding crystals, so Bob aborted his plan and decided to dig near me and try his luck as well.
May be a quartz scepter
By 12 o'clock Bob was finding crystals as well, so we never made it to Sentinel Rock this day. There are probably claims ringing it now anyway, but we'll get up there sometime this summer or fall to check it out.
After following a root through a pegmatite the pegmatite started opening up and getting moist with dirt. Soon I pulled out a rather large worm... lucky for me not so for him. I tossed him down the hill and started finding quartz with faces. Then I started finding full blown crystals. I called Bob over when I pulled out a 7 incher with fluorites attached.
7" Crystal Combo With Fluorites
I'm not sure about the color of the fluorites since they have not yet been cleaned, but they appear to be green to me.
6" Smoky With Fluorite Attached
Clay Encrusted Plate With Fluorite (upper right) and Quartz
A picture of the above plate in the collapsed pocket
Next up was another well formed fluorite followed by plates of smokys with fluorites and microcline. This find ended a somewhat dry spell crystal-finding for me. Bob decided to go to work almost exactly where I had thrown that worm. Now I don't think he found the worm, but he did find crystals. I guess I should have kept that lucky worm.
Bob's Nice Quartz Grouping
 By 1:30 PM the sky began to cloud up and thunderclaps were rumbling in the distance. So much for that 10% chance for rain. I decided I had more crystals (plates) than I could carry so we headed back for home. Forty pounds of rocks with equipment and 55 year old knees slowed me down some, but Bob was gracious enough to carry some of my crystals. I buried about a third of the lesser crystals within the pocket and then covered up the hole. Its a pretty remote spot, but no sense giving away the rest of the crystals with potentially more in the unfinished pocket. Not sure when I'll return, but it will have to be a cool day.                             Update: I returned to Bear Creek on 1 Jul to clean out the pocket. There were a couple of nice quartz crystals unearthed, but all were hooded (see picture).
The "Godfather" With Crystal Arms Oustretched {4" tall}
None of the new plates had fluorite on them either. As I continued to dig into the mountain following the crystal pocket, the crytal-bearing void continued to narrow down and the crystals grew smaller. The crystals on the plates were all laying down parallel to the host rock. The quality of the specimens I was finding did not merit further digging in my mind, so I filled in the 6 foot hole not planning to return anytime soon. On the 2.5 mile trek back to my vehicle we prospected an area dug for amazonite. I found a nice green fluorite on the edge of one of the digs which will probably bring me back to that site some day!
Blue/Green Fluorite with phantom

Overgrowth on smoky with pagoda top

Green Fluorite With Clear Late Stage Overgrowth Fluorites
Today's Haul of Crystals! Now for the cleaning to start. Looks like these will need a lot of phosphoric acid