Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

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