Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fluorite and Pocket Minerals

Quite often when I find a good pocket there will be some strange mineralization at the bottom of the pocket. I understand that as the mineralized liquids cool in the pegmatite certain crystals form first and others later as the temperatures inside the crystal pocket cools. Minor minerals are pushed aside until the main crystals are formed. Sometimes there are later stage intrusions into the pocket of a hydrothermal nature. While hydrothermal intrusions do not occur in all pockets, when they do you can get some odd minerals. One of the most common hydrothermal minerals to be found in pockets is fluorite. Also calcite seems to be quite prevalent. Sometimes the mixture of left over minerals can be found in several areas within a pocket, but often it seems to occur at the bottom of the pocket. When I've completed the extraction of crystals from a gem pocket, I always excavate the bottom of the pocket just to make sure I haven't missed anything.  The other day while I was finishing up a pocket I ran into some nice green fluorite. So I extracted the in matrix fluorite specimens and began the process of cleaning. While cleaning I noted some rather odd looking secondary minerals, so I took out my microscope and toothpick to continue the cleaning process. While I'm not exactly sure what I have besides fluorite and calcite, there are definitely some odd minerals accompanying the fluorite. I've taken the specimen to a few more experienced rock hounders, and they were scratching their heads over the mineralization as well. One of the guesses for the acicular crystals was Bertrandite. Anyway I found that sometimes finding the crystals is half the job, while figuring out secondary mineralization can be quite a challenge. Thanks to my digging buddy Bob for helping me photograph the minerals
Fluorite in matrix

Fluorite (X10)

Acicular Bertrandite crystals on matrix (X30)

Possible purple fluorite (X30)

Unknown pink mineralization (center left)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Prospecting to Prospect or Which Roads are Accessible?

THE GOOD: View of Pikes Peak from the south

Traveling around the south side of Pikes Peak has changed a lot since the 9-11 terror attacks. Many old jeep roads have been closed to public access due to fear of contamination of water supplies. Years ago you could travel just about anywhere you wanted in the National Forest as long as you had a vehicle that could make it around the boulders, trees, bogs on old jeep roads. Today most of these roads have been blocked off much to my chagrin. Unfortunately roads are closed by one agency but they don't tell the map makers so you just have to check things out for yourself. When you look at the messes people have made near the existing open roads, I wonder if the closures are not a bad thing. I thought the bad behavior of litterers was a thing of the 70s, but evidently it's alive and well in some of redneck enclaves of Pikes Peak.

THE UGLY: Looks like a firing range, note executed trees. I guess we need no dumping signs too.

Oh well, the purpose of todays trips was to see just what roads were open as well as determine if it would make sense to bring up some ATVs to ride on some of the roads that had been turned into trails. We have an area we want to prospect, but it looks like it will require overnight camping to get there. Our older maps show roads that are now closed to all but hikers. Perhaps I will give this a try some day, but cooler temperatures and no thunderstorms must be part of the forecast.

THE BEAUTIFUL: State Flower the Columbine at 10,000Ft


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Mud flows in Ute Pass

Not a rock hounding story, but an interesting day nevertheless due to rock hounding.

While rock hounding at Lake George a storm was building up and I was in the middle of removing crystals from a pocket (more on that in another post). I tried to call my digging partner Bob to let him know of my find but he wasn't answering. Soon I started hearing his truck horn, thinking he wanted to leave because of the approaching storm I gathered up my crystals and met him at the truck. He said his radio was only receiving, so he heard my calls but couldn't answer them and he didn't know where I was. The thunder was getting louder but we decided to go back to the pocket I was digging and check it out a little further. Finally the lightning was just too close for comfort although there was no rain. I packed up a couple more crystals and we headed for the truck. While lightning and rain were clearly visible within a mile or two, we remained dry while we loaded up the truck. On the way out of the digging area we got hit with rain and small hail. We left a little early fearing we could get stuck on the forest roads if the rain got too heavy. As we traveled home towards Colorado Springs, Bob talked about the local meteorologists predicting potential flood issues with the Waldo Canyon burn area if we got heavy rain. Waldo Canyon empties out along side US24, the route we take home.

The first sign of trouble along US24 was near Chapita Park. Last week engineers built about a 4 foot high retaining wall to hold back flood debris from spilling onto US24. The wall is about 50 feet up the hill. As we passed this area, mud, rock and other debris were spilling over this wall and flooding a nearby frontage road. More trouble ahead we surmised. We got passed Waldo Canyon but then came to a stop (3:20). We were stopped for almost 3 hours due to a mud flow about 1/2 mile and 100 cars ahead of us. Maybe it was a good thing we took a second look at the pocket delaying our departure time from Lake George by a few minutes.
This van isn't going anywhere, spattered in mud

After sitting in the vehicle for about 30 minutes in the traffic jam curiosity got the best of me, I got out of the truck and walked along the highway shoulder to see what was going on. Most of the folks in line were just patiently waiting with their engines turned off. After rounding a couple of curves in the road I came up on the mud flow. There were cars scattered everywhere in the mud. Didn't have my camera, wish I had borrowed Bob's. Some of the cars were up to their windows in debris. One car was hung up on the 4ft raised concrete median. There was one front end loader trying to hold back the mountain of debris flowing into the roadway but nobody else. As I walked back to our vehicle many asked me what was going on. I told them it was a mud flow and nobody is going anywhere for at least an hour. I went back to the truck ate skittles and drank a bottle of water that a kind lady was handing out.

After sitting in the truck for awhile longer ambulances started showing up traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes. Since nobody could travel westbound due to the road blockage, emergency vehicles and heavy equipment were using the westbound side of the highway to go eastward towards the mud flow. Next a convoy of county dump trucks went by. Minutes later a military medevac helicopter flew over. I decided to walk back down to the mudflow and this time I took Bob's camera with me. I got stopped before I could see anything by a state trooper who told me "you can't go any further, nobody is going to get killed on my watch." So I went back to wait in the truck. I now have a new saying ... "nobody's going to get killed on my watch!" Folks were playing catch along the roadway, talking to strangers carrying on in an almost picnic/festive atmosphere. To pass the time Bob and I decided to clean some of the crystals I found in the pocket, right there along the roadway. Next to show up on the scene were tow trucks. Shortly after the tow trucks went by a number of badly beaten up muddy cars started traveling past us westbound. Many of the cars were damaged and covered with mud... the cars were making very odd noises. As the cars went by the people waived and there was a considerable amount of horn tooting by both the folks leaving the scene and those of us stuck in the traffic jam. Next a convoy of front end loaders showed up and soon dump trucks loaded with debris were commuting back and forth to dump their loads and return for more. At least there was some progress being made.

Cleanup crew taking a break. Mud flowed over concrete highway divider

Hmmm more cleanup crews taking a break... or discussing cleanup strategy... that's it. This is where the mud came from

Staging area for cars that could not drive away

Snow plows putting the finishing touches on the road cleanup

About 6:10 the traffic began to move. I took a few pictures with Bob's camera on the way out. So even though I found a pocket of crystals this day, the trip home was more exciting. Most folks took the whole delay in stride a couple did not. One guy was shouting at the top of his lungs and kicking the guardrail for about 20 minutes. I think he lots of issues. I almost forgot the best part. As the traffic was finally moving in our lane the lane next to us wasn't moving. We soon passed an older lady trying to get on her hog, her hubby was asking her if she needed a boost up to get back on.
The race is on, down the mountain through the dried mud.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Crystal Park Rock Hounding

Crystal Park is an area closed to the general public, but if you are lucky enough to know someone who lives there, you can get easy access to the adjacent National Forest. A few years ago I struck up a conversation with Terry, a hiker who lives in Crystal Park. He was very gracious and said anytime I want to go rock hounding with a friend(Bob) to give him a call and he will grant me access to the area. Crystal Park is a gated community, so this limits rock hounding access of the adjacent national forest area. With a name like Crystal Park, I've always thought the crystals should be easy to find, but that has not been the case.
After passing through the access gate you take a winding road about 8 miles or so from a starting elevation of about 6800ft to the top near 8500ft. I have seen a lot of wild life in this area including bears, so I am always a little more keyed into my surroundings by upping my situational awareness. Never had any problems though, as the only part of the bear I usually see is the back end running the other way. There are other ways to hike into the area, but you start at about 6500ft. Since most of the pegmatites are above 8000ft, and have to walk a few miles. Still the rockhounding from Crystal Park is not easy as trails are limited to game trails which don't usually go in the direction you might choose. So my digging buddy and I spent about 4 hours prospecting and digging without much success. Perhaps we have to hike into the forest further. We've climbed Cameron's Cone (west of Crystal Park) and had more success than hiking southward to Sentinel Rock, however, the hike up Cameron's Cone is quite arduous. It was a beautiful day and I did find some interesting specimens and took a few pictures. Next time I may have to give Cameron's Cone a try, but it will have to be a cooler day.

Crystal Park is in the foreground

Looking down on Garden of the Gods

Sentinel Rock

Smoky float cluster

Lake George Amazonite

New pieces of Amazonite and Smoky quartz grouped for display
Looking for smoky quartz and amazonite can be quite challenging some days. This day was different as within 15 minutes of prospecting I found a small pocket of crystals. It seemed like I had only begun prospecting when I noticed a small chip of amazonite. I looked up the hill and couldn't discern any old digs (so far so good). I walked up the hill following the terrain looking for more float and soon found another chip of amazonite. I noticed a large rock and tree nearby. Trees are always looking for moisture and the clay in crystal pockets retains moisture, so while a tree doesn't mean there is a crystal pocket, float and trees together are a good sign. Rocks, especially in situ rocks versus roll down can also suggest a contact zone or area of potential mineralization. I sunk my pick axe down next to the tree and immediately hit pegmatite. I flipped the rock over and saw good signs of mineralization. I then went down the hill about 3 feet and dug into the ground towards the tree. I hit shards of grey quartz and even noted a small piece of amazonite. I continued to dig up the hill and grew concerned about the volume of quartz pieces without crystals. For a fleeting minute I thought maybe I was in an old dig, but reasoned that the quartz shards were too closely interwoven to be the case.  Next step was to expand the initial dig. Pegmatites at Lake George normally run just off the north/south line, so I expanded the dig southward. BINGO! Small smokys soon led me to amazonite and smoky crystals. No plates or combinations of crystals, but still some desirable amazonite. While the pocket was about the size of a football, much care is needed during the extraction process due to the easy cleavage of microcline(amazonite) and the compaction of the pocket with thick clay-like mud and numerous broken crystals. No sense in rushing to get out the crystals and breaking them all in the process. Even though the pocket was collapsed, there is usually something good if the pocket crystals are encased in clay. The clay serves as a cushion over time and helps prevent frost heave damage. Time always goes by quickly when the hunt is on, I spent nearly 4 hours carefully working on a fairly small pocket. I would estimate the take at less than a hundred dollars, more conservative/realistic than quotes I saw on the prospectors TV show. I felt my time was well spent no matter what the value. See photos below of crystal extraction and specimens cleaned and displayed.
A Beautiful Start to the Day at Lake George

Friday, July 5, 2013

Prospecting the Lake George Intrusive

The Lake George Intrusive (LGI) doesn't encompass the city of Lake George, but a 5 minute walk from the center of town will put you in the Intrusive area. The LGI is a circular area of increased mineralization about five miles in diameter. Taking a look at a high resolution visible satellite picture will help you see the rings of the LGI.  While you can find crystals within the Pikes Peak Batholith, the Intrusive centers are where the action is. There are a few intrusive areas within the Batholith including the LGI, Devil's Head, Wigwam Creek and other areas around Pikes Peak including Crystal Park. This past week I went out to the LGI area and was rewarded with amazonite and smoky quartz crystals. My digging buddy (Bob) and I were eyeing an area that already had been dug but seemed like a shallow dig. We surmised amazonite and smoky quartz were found at this site due to the dump debris and downhill float. Bob decided to redig the area and I went after some quartz float. Bob noted the dig went uphill and did not follow a north-south line that most crystal bearing pegmatites follow. He decided to extend the old dig checking out the north and south corners of the old dig. Bob found some microcline and quartz fairly quickly. With a little spit-shine we ascertained the microcline was indeed amazonite. Too bad the amazonite was so faint blue instead of the deep blue green amazonite the LGI is famous for. Bob also managed to find a few smokys. I went and dug through some float and came up with a few nice smoky crystals of my own. While normally float crystals are damaged, these crystals looked pretty good. A couple days later we tried our luck again and were shut out, as mother nature decided to end our activities for the day with a thundershower. 
Bob found some of these amazonite groupings, too bad they had such faint color

Fairly gemmy float quartz


Minimal cleaning is required for these float quartz, wish the pocket was still around

Somewhat dinged, but impressive 6 inch floater

Storms moving in to end another Rocky Mountain rock hounding day