Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Day is done

It's time to go home, the crystals have been in the ground for 1 billion years, they can wait another day.  I should be out crystal hunting again on April Fools day, can't wait to see what mother nature throws our way on that day.

Digging up a pegmatite

In this picture you see me working up hill following a pegmatite.  While this particular pegmatite is long and looks promising, we haven't found much there yet.  Best practice is to dig up a hill if possible and start at the first signs of the pegmatite so as to not cover over an area you'll want to dig later.  This is good in theory, but we almost always have to move a pile of debris at some point.  Bob found a nice pocket of etched fluorite crystals here last fall and I found some bits and pieces of fluorite today.  There are a couple of crystals on some newspaper that I use to wrap the crystals, but not much in the way of keepers.  Still it was a nice day considering its only March in the Rockies.

Getting Down and Dirty

This particular day we explored old digs from the prior year and while we didn't find much, we did get dirty.  Only shards of smoky quartz were found along with some massive pieces of fluorite.  I did find some nice microcline cystals, but the elusive amazonite remained hidden.  Here I am pointing out a new exploratory hole that I was digging.  I only found some microcline crystals here, but before the days was done Bob and I did find some quartz with faces, so something may be lurking here waiting to be found another day.  Yes, it was cold.  You might notice the red dirt where I am digging, this is usually a good sign of crystal habitat and points to extra iron in the soil.

Rockhounding the Lake George Intrusive

We got off to an early start this year.  Although I was somewhat skeptical of the conditions at 8500ft, we drove to Lake George and found the conditions tolerable.  The sunny slopes were fairly dry and thawed, while the north facing slopes had slushy snow in spots and some frost in the ground.  Unfortunately all the places we wanted to go were on the northern side of the hills.  The Lake George Intrusive is part of the Pikes Peak Batholith, a granite pluton that was formed under the earth's crust more than 1 billion years ago.  While crystals can be found throughout the batholith, it is at the intrusive areas that the crystals are most concentrated.  Finding crystals takes time and effort along with experience.  In the early spring, when weather cooperates, Bob and I do most of our prospecting.  We prospect first while the vegetation has died off and is trampled down by the winter's snow.  This time of year makes it easier to find the elusive pegmatites that contain the miarolitic cavities that contain the crystals. We mark promising areas with rock cairns and GPS coordinates. We also go back to our previous year digs and chip away at the edges of the pits to see if we missed anything.

Friday, March 4, 2011

An adventure in the Denver Basin looking for Petrified wood

A Beautiful day in the Denver Basin


Red, Yellow, Black & White Petrified Wood

I found a beautiful specimen of opalized wood over 4 years ago and have taken a few pieces of it home from time to time.  These pictures doesn't do the coloration justice, but I'll need to take it home and clean it up. My rock hounding partner Bob has wanted a piece of it for some time and today was the day.  The last  piece I hauled out was 85lbs.  Bob has put together a small sled to take out some pieces.

This log extends into the hill a few feet, don't really know how far
 A few years ago a frontage road was put in along I-25 near Lonetree.  I collected some very fine specimens of wood along that roadcut.  Last weekend on my way up to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds I noted another new road going in near Happy Valley.  I decided to go up there today and try my luck.  The road graters and earth-movers have been very busy turning over rocks.  I arrived late in the afternoon so as not to disturb the workers.  I found petrified wood shards in a few places and decided to dig in the earth with my rock hammer uphill from the site and to my delight found quite a bit of fossilized wood.  I discarded the orange jasper colored wood and concentrated on the more colorful agatized and opalized wood.  Within 1 hour I had 25 lbs.  Above are some pictures of my finds.  The fossilized bark on some of the pieces was remarkable.  I left some nice pieces behind for others, maybe I will return again another day.

I have returned to the site. See pictures below of opalized wood. Do I have it all yet? Nope, that's because I haven't told anyone exactly where it is and after every visit I rebury it. I'm tumbling fragments now and can't wait to see how they turn out. I will post a picture of them at a later date.
Log during excavation sticking out of a dry stream bed in Denver formation

Had to break it up, felt bad, but that was the only way to get it out. 

Broken piece from the 200+lb tree trunk....

Quarter placed on upper left for size. Estimate this chunk weighs 30lbs




Thursday, March 3, 2011

Rockhounding the Denver Basin


A few years ago a frontage road was put in along I-25 near Lonetree.  I collected some very fine specimens of wood along that roadcut.  Last weekend on my way up to the Jefferson County Fairgrounds I noted another new road going in near Happy Valley.  I decided to go up there today and try my luck.  The road graters and earth-movers have been very busy turning over rocks.  I arrived late in the afternoon so as not to disturb the workers.  I found petrified wood shards in a few places and decided to dig in the earth with my rock hammer uphill from the site and to my delight found quite a bit of fossilized wood.  I discarded the orange jasper colored wood and concentrated on the more colorful agatized and opalized wood.  Within 1 hour I had 25 lbs.  Above are some pictures of my finds.  The fossilized bark on some of the pieces was remarkable.  I left some nice pieces behind for others, maybe I will return again another day.