Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Friday, December 7, 2012

Fossils in the Pierre Shale of Colorado Springs

I'm not sure fossils have a place in a rock hounding blog, but I guess they are rocks after all.  Today was too nice to sit home (55F) and study, so I decided to try my hand at finding baculites (late Cretaceous) and anything else preserved in the Pierre shale see:( As I recall from High School Latin class the word for stick is Baculum. My magister threatened me with a baculum or made me bring crustula the next day if I got the answer wrong in Latin class. Latin must be the origin of the naming convention for baculites as they are long slender stick-like fossils. I have found baculites in outcrops of shale along Fountain Creek before, and having not visiting this favorite site for over a year I decided to give it a try. I have a couple sites that I let erosion do the work and I just stop by once a year hoping to collect some fossils. The creek is usually quite low this time of year, so I can get access to spots that are otherwise difficult. The particular shale cliff I visited today faces west and north. The west side is dry and crumbly but the north side is moist and almost impossible to get anything out of the shale whole(shady and wet). As I approached the site I noticed someone had been busy tearing down the shale. A fellow fossil hunter left me a nice metal sign post to do some tearing down of my own. Care must be taken when peeling back the shale so as not to bury yourself.  This particular site had an overhang of about 15 feet, so I used some care so that I wouldn't become one of the resident fossils. Not all of the shale has fossils, but this particular spot seems quite fossiliferous. Despite others working the area, I soon found a prize in the shale wall about 9 feet off the ground. I used the metal sign post that someone else left and helped myself. I used to gather a few of these specimens every time I visited this site and then put one or two up for silent auction at our club meetings. When nice 75M year old specimens enclosed in their original nacre sold for less than $5 I decided I'd rather keep the fossils than let them go for that cheap. A friend of mine has gone to Baculite Mesa NE of Pueblo, but he has never found any baculites with the nacre shell still in place. In past years I've found Jeletzkytes here as well. Cleaning the baculites is always a dance between getting rid of the dirt to see the nacre and sutures for identification and preserving the nacre, as it is very crumbly. Here are my pictures of today's hunt.
Geese enjoying a warm December day

Baculite fresh out of the Pierre Shale, about 7 inches in length

Cleaned baculite with nacre
A Jeletzkyte encased in Pierre Shale
Not sure what this is, maybe a coral or worm burrow
Another Jeletzkyte, not sure of exact name
Shells and other oddities found in the Pierre Shale

Monday, November 19, 2012

End of Year Rockhounding at Lake George

Having not found much lately I decided to redig a hole someone else had worked a few years ago. I talked to the claim owner about the hole and he had no recollection of digging it. After digging out the old hole I noticed there was considerable quartz in the pegmatite wall in front of me as well as shards of quartz in the bottom of the dig. After not digging too long I began finding big quartz crystals. Unfortunately all of the crystals were covered or shrouded with a veil of quartz. While most of the specimens were covered in lumpy quartz overgrowth, a few just had a brownish rusty sheen (keepers). I supposed it is iron enriched quartz. Below are a few pictures of me digging. My digging buddy thought he would use these pictures as blackmail in how not to dig a hole, but I survived the experience. I wasn't too concerned as the surrounding pegmatite, was quite firm, at least after a few bangs with a crack hammer it appeared to be stable. I think I'll call this my "Waste of Time" pocket. It showed real promise, but the crystals were not really collectible. Maybe the guy who worked the pocket prior to me knew when to quit. Evidently I don't know when to quit! The frost is slowing me down, so this may be my last entry for 2012 unless I go petrified wood hunting.
Where my hardhat and miner's light?

Going in for the kill, I dug this out about 6 feet down

Time to pull out the crystals
This is the best I found, too bad the smoky is covered in a coat of reddish quartz

This one has white and reddish quartz over the smokys

Talk to you all again next year.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Onegite at Lake George

Onegite is somewhat of a misnomer. Onegite was a name given to a mineral when in fact it is a specimen composed of quartz and goethite needles. Originally described from Lake Onega, Wolf Island, Karelia Republic, Northern Region, Russia. We still use the name Onegite locally instead of saying quartz with goethite inclusions. The onegite varies in color from near black, brown, yellow (citrine) and purple(amethyst). I believe this color change is primarily caused by the amount of goethite needles imbedded in the quartz. Last week I made another prospecting trip to Lake George in search of crystals and stumbled on a pocket of smoky quartz and onegite. Unfortunately many of the smoky quartz have a mottled appearance and are spot covered in additional quartz coating. The onegite are however somewhat unusual and the nicest I've ever found. I've shown smaller specimens to old timers who were quite impressed. These onegite handily beat those. Studying the crystals I believe the onegite and goethite balls formed after the original pocket was formed. Much of the goethite with onegite crystals seems to have formed around existing smoky quartz crystals.
Close up of Onegite

Large grouping of onegite on goethite

Onegite on matrix with goethite

Onegite crystal mass

Largest onegite crystal found about the size of a nickel
I should add the smokys from this pocket cleaned up fairly well

Quartz crystals also found, dig is in lower left

Friday, October 12, 2012

Microcline In The Lake George Intrusive Area

When I prospect the area north and east of Lake George I'm normally either looking for amazonite, fluorite or smoky quartz crystals. One of the indicators I use to know I'm onto something is microcline. I figure if there is microcline crystals present, then I'm probably rooting around in a pegmatite that might also produce quartz crystals or other desirable specimens. Normally I leave the microcline at the dig. While they are crystals, they are rather plain when compared to their brilliant blue/green cousins amazonite. When I'm having a slow day prospecting, I might take home an occasional well-formed microcline specimen. Last month I was digging out some fairly nice smokys when I hit some microcline crystals. These microcline crystals were rather odd in shape, so I dug them up, pursuing them 6 feet into the ground and took them home and cleaned them up. While cleaning I noticed they were twins. I knew they were both manebach and bevino twins. The easiest way to detect twins is to look for V-shaped reentrys between crystals. You can also detect cross hatched banding on the crystal faces indicating where one crystals starts and the other leaves off. I didn't think a lot about the crystals, but took them to my mentor, Ray Berry, who has been digging out pegmatites for over 40 years. Ray likes odd things and these seemed out of the ordinary to me. Ray was quite impressed with the crystals. Ray thought some of the microcline crystals might be double or even triple twins. He told me a feldspar collector would kill for these, so I decided not include my home address in this blog ;-)
Bevino and Manebach (V reentry on bottom)

V-Reentry clearly visible with Bevino hanging off side

Bevino twin on lower right, albite on left side

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Lake George Smokys and more

Since it is a rainy day today I thought I might catch up on my blog. I had a fairly nice find on 31Aug with crystal extraction and cleaning continuing til today. I was prospecting north of Lake George and found some quartz fragments with faces. Looking around for any recent digs, I did find one but it was below the float quartz I was finding. After a few shovel fulls of dirt, I started finding small but gemmy crystals. These smaller crystals also had albite and/or cleavelandite (see around the bases of the crystals attached to the pegmatite. I also found some grainy fluorite pieces. Some of the crystals also had small phenakite (see Phenakite is Greek for deceiving. I guess it can be mistaken for quartz or topaz. As I dug down through reddish dirt the crystals become more frequent with considerable quartz shards. I finally hit some firm quartz about 4 feet down and followed this for a few feet til I hit some plates pictured below. While the plate came out in pieces it is still quite a find (at least for me). Since I found these plates on 31 Aug, the second full moon of the month (colloquially described as a blue moon) I will henceforth describe this find as my blue-moon pocket. Perhaps you only find something this nice once in a blue moon. Next blue moon won't occur til 2015. Hope I find more nice specimens before that ;-)
A sign of good things to come a very nice chubby crystal

Carefully scrapping dirt away reveals the beginning of a nice plate

Blue Moon plate washed and ready for reconstruction and further cleaning

Cleaned and stable, needs a little more TLC

Crystals reattached and cleaned.
Extracted these crystals for later reconstruction.

Crytals with albite or cleavelandite near bases

Phenakite on smoky

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Smoky Quartz at Lake George

This year has been a poor one for collecting crystals at Lake George. The Waldo Canyon fire, Lake George fire and continuous temperatures in the 90s have made it difficult to prospect this summer. Persistence is a desired quality when rock hounding. The difficulty lies when persistence becomes stubborness. I believe I went through a period of stubborness in July. I thought there were crystals present in a certain area due to quartz float, but just couldn't find the source. I finally decided/reasoned that the source of the quartz was eroded away and I was able to move on after a month of looking for crystals in one area. Now that I've moved on, and temperatures have cooled a little, my prospecting is ranging further and I'm once again finding crystals. The other day I stumbled on 3 pockets of crystals in one day.  One pocket had amazonite and smokys, but the amazonite was very pale. The second pocket had small plates of quartz crystals which were very small. Finally in the 3rd pocket I hit paydirt. Though not the desirable smokys with amazonite, the smokys are sizable with good luster and sharp form.
Nice chubby smoky with side crystal attached

15+cm Nice luster, biggest smoky I've ever found

15cm of smoky bliss

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rock Hounding at an Estate Sale

I decided to attend an estate sale that promised thousands of rocks. The owner of many of these specimens an avid member of the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (CSMS), died doing what he loved best, collecting specimens on Pikes Peak. The auction started out somewhat slowly with clocks, furniture, knives and housewares, but eventually moved onto the rocks fossils and minerals. The amount of specimens up for auction was surprising. I recognized a few members from the CSMS and spirited bidding soon began. While I recognized some nice items, most others did as well. I was looking primarily for crystals, and was frequently outbid.  Finally I got a nice specimen of tourmaline and a rather large grouping of purple fluorite. The fluorite was somewhat dirty with calcite covering portions of it, but a quick trip to heated phosphoric acid bath took care of those two problems. I would guess that now that I've cleaned up the fluorite it has changed from a $4 specimen to at least $25 (see picture below). I've always loved geodes and like giving them away to kids. The price was right on these too. Imagine, spending the time to find, cut and polish and sell one of these beautiful geodes for $5 (I bought four). What a deal for me. Wasn't sure why some folks spent good money for river rocks and yard rocks, but to each his/her own I suppose.
After 8 hours my feet were sore and my interest was waning. I think my wife was looking for me as well. I would guess the auction went on for at least another hour or two. I got a few deals and was happy with my purchases. I decided to include this in my Rockhounding the Rockies blog, though it wasn't really rockhounding, unless you consider fishing in a trout pond fishing...;-)
Fluorite measures about 7 inches across, an overall beauty

One of four geodes I purchased, probably Mexico

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hanksite at the Rock Fair

This past weekend I went to a rock and mineral show in Buena Vista. I always keep my eye out for something different and this particular day a dealer had hanksite for sale at a very reasonable (cheap) price. Never having heard of hanksite, I let him tell me what it was. Evidently it is a rare due to its chemical composition and locale. The dealer said it is only found in California, specifically Searles Lake. Care must be taken with this mineral as it is an evaporate. Minerals such as these tend to slowly dissolve with time in moist environments.  The dealer advised keeping an eye on it and apply mineral oil if the specimen got any film on it. He also said you could spray it with a clear semigloss to keep out moisture.  He said I might not have much trouble in Colorado Springs due to the dry environment.

I did a little research and found it was named after Henry G Hanks the first CA state mineralogist. The minerals would be impossible to get except for the fact that a company that mines Borax brings up some of the hanksite from deep within the Searles lakebed.  Evidently the company allows folks to come to the site once a year and help themselves to mineral specimens. The occasion is called the Annual Gem-O-Rama.

I guess I could have gone to the Gem-O-Rama myself but it seemed easier for me to purchase a couple of specimens from the dealer who was not only knowledgeable and friendly, but also had reasonable prices.

I also purchased a piece of pink halite. Good with chips I think.

My Hanksite Specimen. (KNa22(SO4)9(CO3)2Cl
Pink Halite (NaCl)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hackett Gulch Amazonite

Yesterday I went to Hackett Gulch, generally a dry arroyo that when wet feeds into the Platte R.  It was a fairly long trip on dirt roads, but the roads, though 4-wheel driveable were not too bad.  One large puddle had considerable mud at its bottom, but momentum got us through. Hackett Gulch is on the outskirts of the so-called Lake George Intrusive area, but still has several amazonite prospects.  I hadn't been in this area for two years and noted that one area appeared to have a new claim posted to it.  Posting was not clear and no central discovery point could be ascertained to this claim (not unusual for folks to not keep up their claims especially in remote areas like this one).  We also noted no recent digging.  For a claim to be valid it must be properly posted and if its a placer claim it needs to be worked a certain number of hours a year.  Folks often post claims and never take their stakes down. We didn't prospect the invalid claim area as there is more than enough untouched area up there to dig without causing a confrontation.  After 4 hours of prospecting I was about to give up when I noted a small pool of amazonite on the surface.  It was quite blue in appearance, I called over my digging buddy, but the spot only yielded a couple of collectible crystals.  This surface sign helped me discover a fairly large pegmatite just under the surface which may yield additional collectible crystals. On the way out of the area Bob also noted amazonite float on the surface down hill from the pegmatite.  We shall have to return soon to explore that area as well.
Amazonite from Hackett Gulch

Smoky Quartz from Bob&Ray Claim (different trip) Tesson habit

Mystery Crystal ? on smoky quartz and feldspar (not microcline) from Bear Creek

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Lake George Rockhounding "The one that got away"

I have not posted to my rockhounding blog in some time due to studying for tests and a large fire here in Colorado Springs which some of you have no doubt heard of.  Many roads were closed, temperatures were near 100F and the smoke was unbearable. Yesterday I got out again and looked for smoky quartz near Lake George CO.  We had been to this spot before and dug out a fairly large pocket of smoky quartz crystals. We checked out an area down hill from this spot and found a lot of float crystals, but no pocket. At the end of the day we surmised that the float had been coming from the pocket of crystals we had already excavated. Still, many of the float crystals were keepers.  Normally I don't take broken crystals home, but I made an exception for the specimen pictured below.  It is about 7 inches long. With a proper termination it would have been at least 9+ inches and the biggest crystal I had ever found. It probably broke when the pocket that it formed in broke millions of years ago. :(

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Little Pikes Peak and Elk Trail

Little Pikes Peak is near its bigger brother.  I suppose someone must have mistaken it for it's namesake at some point in time.  Today I hiked Elk trail to see if I could get to Pericle Rock.  I was going to check out Oil Creek Tunnel and the Cincinnati mine, but it got cold and windy and so I never made it, but did do some prospecting as I hiked along. Better to be safe and turn around then get caught in sleet or thunderstorm or both.  I got some nice pictures of Lil Pikes Peak.  I started at 9:30 and it was 55F at the trail-head. When I got back at 1:30 it was 42F... no sun and quite windy.  While I didn't find much, the area has some potential for smoky quartz and I'll probably revisit the area soon. Not sure why the road to the Pikes Peak doesn't open til 9AM, but the gatekeeper said the hours would be extended next week opening at 7:30.  Evidently the key-master sleeps til 9 or so. At 9 there were about 30 cars waiting for the road to open (including me).
Elk trail heading out towards Pikes Peak from the northeast

Little Pikes Peak

Quartz dribbling down the hill, a good sign for smoky quartz prospectors

Red dirt around a chunk of pegmatite. You can see some of the crystal definition

Good smoky fragment, close but no cigar... or smoky for that matter

Rumdoodle Ridge is between me and my quarry (Pikes Peak in background)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Fluorite at Lake George CO

Today we went to Lake George Colorado to continue work on a pegmatite we've been working on and off for the last 3 years.  We have dug about 75 feet up a hill following this pegmatite. Last year my digging buddy found some nice fluorite there and today it was my turn. This pegmatite has only yielded collectible fluorite.  We have found much microcline and quartz points, but none of these were really collectible.  These fluorites were on top of the pegmatite.  Below you can note the reddish dirt which is a seam in the pegmatite.  The red is caused by iron. Below are a few pictures of my latest finds. I will add pictures as the fluorite gets cleaned. The largest grouping of fluorites measured about 5 inches across. The fluorites appear zoned with purple and clear areas. Unfortunately though not uncommon, they are somewhat etched.

Large Fluorite only 10" from the surface

I look pretty happy about this one, wait til I try and clean it!?$#!

Here are some pictures I promised.  Most of the fluorites were etched,
but the edges are fairly crisp, some contain host pegmatite

Glued this one back together... seemed only right.
Some nice twinning shown here
Largest one found, about 5 inches across!