Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Petrified wood and Tumbling

Refer back to 03/04/2011 "An adventure to the Denver Basin looking for petrified wood."  In the winter I clean, examine and tumble specimens found over the warmer months. I finally got around to tumbling some of the petrified wood I collected last March and if I may say so I think they look pretty good.  My friend helped me build a tumbler for about $50 (Bearings, used motor,scrap wood and belts).  While I've read some people use old paint cans and other barrels to use as tumbling barrels, I decided to buy a rubber barrel (another $50). No sense in doing all the work of collecting, storing and polishing only to have a crummy barrel mess everything up.  Anyway here is a picture of some wood that went through 4 of the 5 tumbling stages.  A burnishing step with soap flakes is described as a finishing step, but I'm not sure I need to.  Stones look fine as they are.
Red, Yellow, Black and White all good looking stones

Friday, December 2, 2011

St Peters Dome and Rare Earths - - Astrophyllite

Topo map of St Peter Dome area
There is plenty of massive fluorite, but not very gemmy.  Does polish well though.

Now that the ground is frozen it's time to reflect on some prior rock hounding trips.  One of my favorite sites to visit is St Peters Dome, a rather large foothill of Pikes Peak, just west of Colorado Springs.  The best way to get there is take Old Stage Rd west from the Broadmoor area and follow it until it intersects with Gold Camp Rd (4-wheel drive recommended but not necessary when the roads are dry).  Gold Camp Rd is closed to vehicles. There is an occasional dirt bike rider or ATV, but the road is fairly wide and safe for walking. I have collected primarily on the eastern and northern slopes of St Peters Dome with mixed results.  However, every time I've rock hounded there I've found something. Usually some quartz points or fluorite.  You can find massive fluorite just past the shooting range on the south side.  I believe the shooting range has been closed for quite some time and you shouldn't have any trouble with that.  Occasionally a chain crosses the road to the site, but it's only a 1/4 mile hike from the St Peters Dome trailhead.  The fluorite does polish well, and may tumble as well, though I have not tried that.  The color is purple and green (see pic).  You'll need some gads or chisels and a rock hammer to free up a nice piece.  The hike around St Peters Dome on Gold Camp Rd is all downhill, so just remember to leave yourself plenty of time and energy/water to get back.  I've found that the further you stray from the road the more likely you are to find something interesting. At this time I don't believe there are any claims around St Peters Dome, but you should probably check before digging.
St Peters Dome is known for many rare earths.  One day I dug into an interesting looking area on the northern flank of St Peters Dome and found some astrophyllite (see pic).  I wasn't sure what it was til I checked with the local rock shop and rock club.  Fairly rare I guess and primarily found in Russia. The easiest but longest way around St Peters Dome is to follow Gold Camp Rd.  I have cut across the area near the St Peters Dome trail head (see topo map) on the way down, but usually follow the road back up.  Hiking this area is enjoyable too, just keep an eye on the weather.  One person was killed a couple of years ago by lightning near the shooting range.  I've also seen bear scat around.

You can see the needle like structure of the Astrophyllite and bow-tie appearance.
Astrophyllite: (K,Na)3(Fe++,Mn)7Ti2Si8O24(O,OH)7   YIKES!!!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thunder eggs vs Geodes

So what's the difference between thunder eggs and geodes.  The lady at the Rock Hound state park in NM said geodes are hollow with crystals and thunder eggs are solid.  Problem was she had numerous rocks labeled as thunder eggs that had voids in them. I tried Wikipedia for help. "A thunderegg is a specific geological structure. A thunderegg may be referred to as a geode if it has a hollow in it, but not all geodes are thundereggs because there are many different ways for a hollow to form.  Okay, so not all geodes are thunder eggs, but just because a thunder egg has a hollow doesn't preclude it from still being a thunder egg.  I guess the geological structure or formation process is the key.  Okay, here are some pictures of a geode and thunder egg?  Interesting-facts-about-geodesThe thunder egg was found at NM Rockhound State Park.  Yes they let you dig in a state park for rocks.
I found this thunder egg in the park.  It has a solid quartz center (Needs some polishing)

I found these nodules near the NM AZ border.  I suspected they might be geodes.
Geode with Tabular quartz crystal
Geode with dirty center (chalcedony)
Geode? No void/vug
Geode with tinted green Chalcedony

These have a hollow inside with what appear to be chalcedony

Friday, October 28, 2011

NM Trip: Rhyolite

Fence and house made of "candy" Rhyolite
Next stop on our vacation was to a town called Truth or Consequences in search of Rhyolite.  Not sure what to expect from a town named after a TV game show. The particular rhyolite we were looking for is called "candy" rhyolite by the locals.  This rhyolite has enough quartz in it that it polishes up fairly nice.  The instructions we received to get to the site were not very helpful.  The road we were to travel on split into several other roads and then split again.  GPS coordinates would have helped.  We asked somebody at a nearby shooting range if they knew anything about it and they said they were from Albuquerque, although he did mention his interest in the diamonds found in Arkansas.  After searching for about an hour and getting eaten up by some fire ants we gave up and looked for Rhyolite in the town. We found a house made of Rhyolite (see above)!  If at first you don't succeed, just buy a chunk of Rhyolite from a nearby rockhound store (see below).
Purchased Rhyolite from Rock Store :-)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rockhounding trip to NM: Fluroite, Barite, Galena and more

Nice Specimen with Blue Fluorite
Usually once a year in the fall or spring my wife and I take a one week vacation doing some site-seeing and rock hounding.  Most of our rock-hounding on this trip was technically outside of the Rockies in southern New Mexico, but its still rock-hounding.  Our first stop was at a world famous mine outside of Bingham NM.  We had tried to call the caretaker of the mine several times, but our cheap cellphone kept telling us no service.  Since the site was only 30 miles east of the Interstate, we took a chance to see if they were open for business.  While it took some time to get someone to open the store, eventually the caretaker invited us in, we signed a disclaimer and followed a provided map to the mine site. This site is a fee only site, so you pay a flat rate of $10 per person to rockhound.  You may take as much as 20lbs of material per person.  This seemed like a lot of rocks at first, but when the primary minerals are Galena, Barite and Fluorite the weight adds up quickly.  The caretaker was somewhat upset by an individual who wanted to take 120lbs out the previous week even though you sign paperwork that says all you can have is 20lbs per person.  We followed the map to the mine and began exploring.  Both my wife and I looked for an hour or so til she found some bluish fluorite near a mine entrance.  It appeared that someone had done some field trimming of specimens there and there was quite a bit of debris.  We decided to go through the other person leavings and we ended up finding some nice specimens.  We guess this was from the guy who visited the previous week and tried to take out 120lbs.  This fall day the temperature was in the upper 70s and we were happy for a breeze that picked up at noon.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fall Colors in the Rockies and Goethite with Smokys

Fall in the Rockies near Lake George CO
I've looked for advertisements on-line for goethite and there doesn't seem to be much of a market for it.  I guess that's because it would be tough to incorporate in jewelry.  However, the mineral collector should still seek it out.  I think goethite is somewhat under appreciated.  Goethite was named after a German who first named it.  Some folks like to pronounce it like gerthite.  I guess that is due to the German background.  Evidently there must have been finds of goethite in Germany at some point.  I dug where I had found crystals before and was pretty sure I would find more today. The results of my dig are pictured below.

Off to rockhound and take some fall pictures.

Somewhat unusual goethite balls perched on smoky quartz. 

Goethite crystals are displayed here as needle sprays

Not sure what is coating this plate, maybe goethite in another form.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rockhounding Streams in Colorado

Every once and awhile Colorado Springs gets a good rain that churns up the creek.  There is no telling what you'll find after a flooding event.  Normally the rocks get moved around, new stream channels are cut and sandbars appear where there was a stream before.  I've found everything from smoky quartz, petrified wood, fossilized bones, agate and jasper.  Most pieces require some hunting, but they are there for the taking.  The other day I noted 4 other people combing Fountain creek before I got there.  While I only found a couple pieces of petrified wood I did find some nice smoothed smokys.  I probably won't try this again til spring.
Fountain Creek Really Got Churned Up After a 4+ Inch Rain

Smoothed Smoky Found On A Sandbar

Can You See the Smoky?  Pick it Up!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Now that's the color of amazonite!

Amazonite comes in different colors of blue-green.  Some light blue, others very green.  The amazonite I found this past week although somewhat small is near the optimal color of blue/green. 
We went up to Lake George again, famous for its smoky quartz and amazonite.  After doing some initial prospecting I came across some amazonite on the surface kicked up by a fallen tree. As I searched for the originating pegmatite I kept running into amazonite float.  While the amazonite was dinged up some, the color is spectacular for amazonite.

The pictures that follow show me working the amazonite dig.  Eventually I did find the source of the amazonite and am probably going to work that area a few more days.  There were some smoky quartz crystals with the amazonite, but they were of very poor quality.

After finding quartz float I begin to aggressively prospect

I've excavated a trench following amazonite float and am working uphill.

First nice size amazonite on the edge of the pegmatite

Some sidewall amazonite.... no pocket yet.

Cleaning the float amazonite

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Extraordinary Arrowhead

Once and awhile you find something that's really exciting.  This arrowhead was found near Florrisant Colorado on private property.  I had been given permission to prospect the area and found a little quartz, but no collectible crystals. I found no other artifacts and concluded that the arrowhead was lost during a hunting expedition.  I can find no evidence on-line of similar quartz arrowheads from Colorado.  Sometimes it's amazing what you can find when prospecting.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Rockhounding for Smokys at Lake George

Ray Berry, 81 years young, owns the mineral rights
to about 30 acres northeast of Lake George CO. 
Ray lets local clubs dig on his claims from time to time. Here you can see the Master crystal hunter at work.  Ray has been hunting crystals for over 50 years!

My digging friend and I arranged to permit the
Colorado Springs Mineral Society's crystal club to
dig on Ray's claim this past Saturday. Everyone found something to take home from the trip.  Some even found crystals.  Most just took home aches and pains, sunburn and the formation of new friendships.  We did find two pockets of crystals.  One pocket (5ft down) yielded about 30 crystals; however, none were more than 3 inches long.  Another pocket consisted of microcline and smokys.  None of my finds exceeded 2 inches in length. The pocket I found was mostly broken crystals with microcline, but at least we had something to show for our efforts.

While Ray retains the rights to any spectacular
(museum quality finds) he let us keep everything
we found.  Here we all are at days end sharing our stories of how the big crystal got away and examining our finds. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lake Geoge Rock Hounding

Another beautiful day at Lake George, although a bit warm.  84F is not so hot at sea level, but at thinner air and sitting in the sun it got quite warm.  The heat didn't bother me much after I started finding crystals.  I went back to Lake George again and worked a spot that I had dug previously.  It was too warm for prospecting, so I just set myself down in an area that looked to have promise. 
 You can see some of the tools of the trade here.  I am working a seam of peg just below a burned tree. My digging buddy is working up the hill from me in the upper left of the picture.
 Here are bits of the pegmatite dug out.  I'm looking for pocket where groupings of crystals can be collected.  I noticed on the peg I dug out that there was some amazonite and smoky quartz.  However I also noted there was some damage to the crystals, probably due to pocket collapse and shifting of the earth over the last few millions of years.
Here is a picture of a pocket located along a seam of enhanced minerals within the pegmatite.  You can see some microcline and smoky quartz.  I managed to get this out mostly intact.

Some specimens, soaked in water overnight.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Scientific Method & Rockhounding at Lake George CO

We all use the scientific method from time to time, usually not even realizing it.  I decided to more formalize my rock hounding using the scientific method.  There are 6 parts to the scientific method, (1)a question, (2)background research, (3)a hypothesis, (4)testing the hypothesis, (5)analyzing and drawing a conclusion, (6)communicating your results.  I will update this posting from time to time.

(1) QUESTION: What's the best approach to finding crystals in the Lake George Intrusive area?  There are several parameters/restrictions involved including things like areas privately owned and claimed, what is the best elevation, where have people had success in the past, are more remote areas more likely to be less picked over, how does erosion play a role in crystal discovery.

(2) BACKGROUND RESEARCH: My background research will be a culmination of my experiences in the last 2 years of rock hounding combined with rules of thumb and questions I've gleaned from old-time prospectors.  The Lake George Intrusive area includes parts of sections: 33, 34, 35, 1,  2, 3, 4, 8, 9,11,12,14,15,16,17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27 in Park and Teller counties. I will not include crystal finds for areas I have not prospected. This would include private claims and private property which are well documented for finds, but unavailable for prospecting.  I will include some finds on private claims for which I received permission to prospect. I will construct a database that will include section #, elevation, whether or not it is in the Hayman burn and how steep/incline the site is. I will also include a notation as to the remoteness of the site, as well as what was found and its quality (somewhat subjective discriminators). This database will be a close hold item as I don't want to reveal the specific sites of my finds!

HYPOTHESIS: Steep areas in the Lake George Intrusive area that were extensively burned by the Hayman fire within +/-500ft of 8500ft in elevation that are at least 1/4mile from any road should have the best prospects.  This hypothesis is based on experience.  While I have found crystals within 20ft of a road it seems most crystals are found off the beaten path.  I must now begin construction of a database to review my finds and prove or massage my hypothesis to better fit the data.  Testing of the hypothesis went hand in hand with its construction.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Rockhounding Pikes Peak

A friend of a friend of a friend said they knew where we could rock hound on Pikes Peak and find nice big smoky quartz crystals.  Well this is not the last red herring I will have been on nor the last.  It was a nice day and the forecast was for no thunderstorms (which is rare on Pikes Peak in the summer) so I went with a few freinds.  We started out around 630AM from my home and got to the top of Pikes Peak around 830.  I found a few smoky quartz crystals and what I believe to be fluorite, but the directions we had for the honey pot of crystals was somewhat spotty and lacked detail.  We hiked down the Barr Trail from the top of Pikes Peak about 3 miles and did our prospecting.  We had an enjoyable day and made it back to the top around 630PM.  The hike back up was difficult and I was almost glad I didn't have a backpack full of crystals.

We left Barr Trail and hiked around some boulders to the suggested spot.  At first I tried to step lightly on the Alpine tundra, but I soon realized my safety was more important and walked where my feet were securely planted.
Reservoir looking east from PP
 Here is a picture of one of the high mountain reservoirs.  The last couple of winters have been very dry and the reservoirs are somewhat low this year.  Hopefully the summer monsoon rains will come soon and help alleviate the drought we are experiencing. 
Big granite rocks

That's why they call them the Rockies!

In this picture you can see some friends prospecting in the middle of the picture (you may have to zoom in on the center).

When the animals come out to play its time to get off the mountains.  This deer blended in so well in the evening dusk that I almost missed her.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rocky Mountain Regional Federation Show

There were two rock shows held at the same time and both put on by the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society.  It would have been nice to put the two shows together, but cost and available space was prohibitive.  The one site was at the Colorado Mining Museum and the other part of the show was at the Best Western in town.  The Mining Museum was more kid friendly while the show at the Best Western had more high end stuff and included the competitive exhibits.  I had one noncompetitive exhibit at the Mining Museum of petrified wood and a competitive display at the Best Western.
Noncompetitive Case of Petrified Wood Found in El Paso County

I won a Blue Ribbon for my competitive display!

 Here is a shot of the rock hounding fair.  The Mining museum is to the right and the vendors are located in the white tents.  It was a good thing there were tents as it was 90F.
 Here is Vicki my wife visiting with a vendor.  The gentleman in the foreground is Rick.  Rick said they were doing well at the show selling jewelry and assorted polished rocks.

Below is a picture of one of the high-end vendors displays.  Joe specializes in amazonite, topaz and smoky quartz.  The specimen of amazonite I am holding was listed for sale at $250.  He had many specimens for over $1000.  He was the claim owner who allowed us to visit his topaz claim, mentioned in a previous blog.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rockhounding at Lake George

My rockhounding buddy (Bob) and I went to Lake George yesterday to see what we could find.  It was fairly easy to find a pegmatite (gem bearing granite formation) but harder to find any associated crystals.  I took a few pictures with my new camera.  My old one got too much dust in it.  The pictures show a pegmatite being dug in progress and some crystals found.  The pictures are of smoky quartz and amazonite. 

This picture shows a portion of the pegmatite.  I dug away the scree, roots and misc country rock from the pegmatite and then began to carefully pick away at the quartz bearing rock.  Although somewhat hard to see in this picture, there is considerable quartz in this pegmatite.  I also found some small amazonite crystals while digging into the peg.

This picture shows a large piece of the pegmatite in my hand.  You can see the faces of crystals on the portion of the rock being held, especially in the lower right.  There was a layer of this type of rock and below it was a more concentrated area of quartz with some crystals (see next)

Here is some nice colored amazonite and smokys. Too bad much of the amazonite was sidewall and damaged, the crystals growing  in the pegmatite seam touched the sidewall of the seam while they were growing and prevented the amazonite from being nice classic shaped crystals.  The smokys were few and far between and somewhat small with the biggest being only 4cm in length.  No combinations of amazonite or smoky quartz were found.  The smokys have yet to be cleaned.