Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Large Amazonite at Lake George and the Woodman gets caught or Summer's Swan Song Pocket (Last Update)

Summer Swan Song Pocket Opening Up
A fellow who lives near the National Forest (I'll call the Woodman) decided to harvest the dead trees from the Hayman fire area near Lake George. I have seen the Woodman removing trees a number of times in the last few years and I figure he is doing the community a favor by taking out the dead trees. The areas he harvests are not hikeable and are hazardous due to falling trees (Forest Service even has a sign  stating the dangers). However, the area is not permitted for taking firewood (as far as I know). I figure the Woodman is not only making the forest safer, but also reducing the chance of another forest fire like the Hayman started by a forest ranger. Anyway I have benefited from the Woodman's work since he clears dead trees from the roads, removes hazardous trees hanging over my pegmatites and kicks up rocks as he goes along. I found a nice amazonite pocket a few years ago thanks to his off road wood pursuits. The Forest Service takes a dim view of people removing wood without a permit, selling it for profit and driving off-road to get to the better stuff. My attitude has always been live and let live, but evidently somebody near Lake George reported him as I saw him being escorted out of the National Forest by a Forest Ranger's vehicle and will probably have a court appearance along with a hefty fine. Figured he would get caught sooner or later especially when he started cutting and removing wood in the middle of the day on weekends. I'm sure he'll be more discreet about his wood removal forays--after all rules are rules!

After watching the above story unfold from my digging site, I hit a pocket of amazonite. Someone had dug a couple of test holes in a pegmatite some time ago and then left them. I poked around in their holes and found a lot of quartz which I decided merited further inspection. After about 3 hours and 2 feet below the previous rock hounder's diggings I was just about to give up. I kept finding subhedral smoky quartz crystals and microcline. My gloves were shredded from the quartz shards, my finger tips were bleeding and I had nothing to show for my efforts. I took the top off around the pocket one more time and dug out the overburden. To my delight I started seeing hints of blue on the microcline (amazonite). I don't understand why one microcline can be right next to a crystal of amazonite. I would think a pocket would be all microcline or all amazonite, but I guess that's not the way mother nature works. While the amazonite was only pale blue/green, the size was larger than I normally find. Time was up this day, the Woodman left with his ill-gotten gains and a fairly large fine I suppose, I found a few amazonite crystals and one nice smoky and covered up my promising dig. I shall return with a new pair of gloves to harvest more crystals at a later date.
More than one large crystal in this pocket

Big Blue/Green Kahuna just about ready for extraction

Near the end of September (visit #2) I returned to the dig and cleaned out the pocket debris intending to extend the dig in all directions. As I was cleaning what I thought was the bottom of the pocket I noticed some straight angles on what I had at first perceived to be country rock. I carefully scrapped around the rock and found it to be a large amazonite crystal... hurrah! Another large amazonite crystal not as well formed was in front of the prize, so I took that one out first. Initially I couldn't believe a crystal could be this big in such a small pocket. Due to mud, crystal fragments and compaction it took me 3 hours, yes 3 hours to remove 1 crystal. From the pictures you can see the difficulty in removing a crystal of this size. No prying was done until I got to the bottom of the crystal on all sides. The crystal weighs just under 26lbs! This is the biggest amazonite crystal I have ever seen. Bob, my digging buddy, even helped me dig the crystal for awhile as I needed a break and know mistakes happen when you get tired and frustrated. After digging out this crystal I found several smoky quartz crystals all damaged beneath the amazonite crystal. I probably did some of the damage to the smokys but suspect when the pocket collapsed and the 26lb amazonite crystal landed on them they didn't fair to well. I then found a number of smaller amazonite crystals to the right of the big blue/green kahuna. Bob thinks I should name this pocket, so I shall call it Summer's Swan Song. A cold front was moving through Lake George and black clouds and colder air were moving in from the north. I think Summer's Swan Song is very apt for this near end of season find.
That's one heavy amazonite crystal! Some odd twinning too
Next I have to figure out what I'm going to do with this monster amazonite. A nice dilemma. Yes there were a lot more crystals in this pocket. I will post a couple more pictures here as I get some of the specimens cleaned.

Visit #3(30 Sep): to the Summer Swan Song pocket. First thing I did was dig out the debris in the pocket from the prior days visit. I was careful to hand load material onto the flat blade shovel in order to spare the crystals from any trauma. Within 10 minutes I was once again digging out crystals. Another beautiful fall day at Lake George as the leaves are now beginning to change. Below are a few pictures of the crystals I took out of the pocket. The smokys have all been problematic with exterior white quartz growth and blunted tips. The quartz seam pretty much runs up the hill and begins as fairly brittle quartz and then firms up as you go. The smoky quartz crystals are all tending to be below the amazonite. This day all I did was carefully dig out crystals. I got a few nice plates and single specimens. I used up all my newspaper for cushioning and my backpack was overflowing with crystals. No twinning was observed in any of the amazonite crystals although they are covered in pocket mud for the most part. While I believe I have 90% of the crystals removed, I must still excavate the bottom of the pocket and carefully probe the sidewalls to make sure I'm really done. I also left a few crystals near the pocket as my backpack was overflowing. Here are some more pictures showing the crystals just after coming up for air after their 1,000,000,000 year rest and yes, there will be another visit to the Summer's Swan Song pocket!
First one of the day, note brownish mud, somewhat unusual, its normally redish, yellow or purple

Nice grouping, appears to be about 5 crystals in all

Smoky and amazonite, one of the few well formed smokys I found

Visit #4(2 Oct): The dig continues for amazonite and smokys. I had thought I was nearing the end of this pocket but when I thought I was clearing out the left side of the pocket it widened out. While I didn't find anything spectacular this day, there were plenty of crystals to keep me busy. I found some smokys, but they were all damaged to some degree, either with white quartz hooding them, or blunted tips. The smokys are very gemmy and lustrous in appearance other than where they have overgrowth. The amazonite crystals remained pale, but still well formed and desirable. Near the end of the day I notice I am breaking more crystals from fatigue and carelessness. I sent in Bob, my pinch hitter to help remove crystals while I wrapped what I found. Bob found some nice specimens and was rewarded with a few for his collection. Today the zipper on my backpack broke from the weight of the crystals! I name a pocket and define it as significant depending on the quality and amount of collectible crystals. Normally I'm happy to fill a flat (18x12" box) with desirable crystals from a pocket. This pocket has produced at least 5 flats not including the big Kahuna. I will post some pictures soon of my 4th visit. There will be a 5th visit soon. Will that finish this pocket?
After a week of cleaning in acid. Looking good, Abe is almost standing on his head... more cleaning is required
The pocket that just keeps on giving! Today was Oct 8 and the fifth visit to the Summer Swan Song Pocket. I spend about 4.5 hours at this site each time I visit. I finally finished the left side of the pocket today. I still have straight ahead, right and down in some areas to revisit and dig out. While I have found better crystals in smaller pockets, I have never returned to a pocket more than 3 times, nor found the volume of collectible crystals like this before. Today I found more smoky quartz crystals. While many still have the outer hooding of white quartz the points of the crystals are better formed and the quartz itself seems stronger and less subject to fracture the largest smoky is about 6". I dug out a couple of plates today. Of course the prize is plates with smoky quartz and amazonite... Not today. I found quite a bit of cleavelandite in the pocket today. One plate in particular was covered with cleavelandite and amazonite crystals. There were also a couple of broken smokys on the plate(rats). I placed this plate in oxalic acid this evening and will try to photograph it soon for this post. I showed the big kahuna over the weekend to my mentor, Ray Berry a 40 year prospector of Lake George area and he had never seen anything quite that big. Ray was excited enough to take several pictures of it from different angles and get its weight (26lbs)... seemed like a trophy fish. Here is a few more pictures. Smokys are not all that photogenic or collectible for that matter. The nicest one was in two pieces. I will post additional pictures as the crystals get cleaned
Largest Smoky so far. It was broken in half and has white quartz hooding parts of it
Lots of crystal forms in the pocket, note smoky and amazonites here

Smokys collected yesterday most of them have issues... Intarsia anyone?

Washed and ready for an acid bath

Dark area underneath this amazonite is purple fluorite. Have to keep an eye out for that as well

Snow capped smoky with amazonite 3" tall

Pocket Favorite the "Big Kahuna" partially cleaned
Apparent Bevino twinning plane shown as diagonal faint line through lower half of crystal extending to upper left corner!
Purple Fluorites on side of Amazonite Crystal

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Highly Prized Large Smoky Quartz Crystals at Lake George CO

After finding only relatively small smoky quartz crystals most of the summer we were due to find something a little more substantial.  Anytime I find crystals over 3 inches in length I am satisfied. Of course exterior luster interior gemminess and overall appearance are critical factors in a crystal's aesthetic desirability.

Badger Mtn from northeast of Lake George CO
I returned to one of my old digs near Lake George and continued to follow a somewhat spotty quartz seam about 3 feet under the ground. The pegmatite would almost turn to country rock, then back to fairly large grained granite with an occasional quartz shard. Finally quartz shards dominated the pegmatite and faces began to appear on quartz which was also turning smoky in color. Red dirt was also becoming more evident which is another good sign of a pocket. Bob was working some distance away, so I picked out a few subhedral crystals and went to find him. I was fairly confident I was into something good. I listened for a minute and soon heard the clink of Bob's pick axe hitting granite. I located him and asked him if he would like to see me pull out some crystals and he decided he would take a look. Back at the dig I quickly got past the malformed subhedral crystals and started pulling out 7"smokys! Unfortunately the dig, already dipping underneath a large rock, was getting more difficult to work due to the cramped conditions. Bob volunteered to dig on the other side of the rock that was blocking my efforts and see if he could attack the pocket from the other direction. Within minutes Bob was digging out shards of quartz which soon turned to crystals. Bob's crystals were bigger than the ones I was finding. Since it was my discovery Bob decided he should let me dig out what appeared to be a substantial crystal that he had started to excavate. I pulled out a couple of crystals around the one he was digging, but predictably the crystal's tip was damaged.
Large Smoky emerging from the pocket
We dug most of the crystals out of the pocket, but due to a couple of half ton boulders we will have to return some day and remove the boulders and double check the pocket depth and see if any quartz stringers with additional attached pockets remain. While many of the crystals were broken due in large part to the 1000lb boulder that rolled down on top of the pocket, I still got one 9" crystal, two 7" crystals and a handful of 2-5" smokys and two 2x3x1" purple fluorites all being highly prized by me. The smaller crystals are gemmy, but the larger crystals have internal fractures. I filled up my backpack with about 30lbs of crystals and Bob put a number of crystals in his backpack as well. I would say this was the highlight of my 2013 rock hounding trips. Looks like I'll have to buy a bigger crock pot to give some of my finds an acid bath in order to clean them up.
Quartz shards and subhedral crystals from the pegmatite which led me to the pocket and one of the hefty boulders

Smokys stacked in the pocket (7" crystal on right)

Cathedral Crystals popping out of the hole/pocket behind me these cathedrals are my favorite
Cathedral cleaned. I will add a couple more pictures of the fluorite to this post after they are cleaned

Cleaned smokys on left, largest 9"crystal on right is ready for an acid bath (next time I'll use a Colorado quarter)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Prospector's Show Revisited

If you find minerals on National Forest/ BLM property you can't sell the minerals unless properly permitted.
You can collect them all you want for recreational purposes, but that doesn't include selling the minerals. Evidently 3 of the 4 groups the Prospector's program focused on are not properly permitted, Joe Doris being the exception. The author of the article below makes the group out to be less than the sharpest sticks in the bunch. Evidently the author would expect that people who go on a nationally televised programming would know the rules of prospecting federal land and reselling minerals. I'll let you judge for yourself.

See for original blog on this subject:

I also wish to thank my readers for putting my blog over the 10,000 page view statistic yesterday.

Latest update 28 Sep: Some hearsay... When you sell minerals to the public and go on national TV but haven't delcared the income from mineral sales on your tax returns the IRS will hunt you down. The treasury Dept of Colorado will also take an interest in your tax returns. The "underground economy" only works when it stays underground.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

More Fluorite at Lake George and Mineral Cleaning

View of the Tarryalls from my dig site
Whenever I hit a pocket of even common microcline I take home a few specimens for cleaning. I dug into an area that had all the right signs, but no amazonite or smokys. There were plates of well defined microcline, so I took a few of these nicer plates home for cleaning. I mentioned to my digging buddy Bob that there appeared to be a fluorite crystal on one of the plates. The plates were covered in orangish red pocket mud, so I soaked the crystals overnight and took a toothbrush to scrub them up a bit. Voila, not only was there one fluorite, but the plates were peppered with small deep purple fluorites. Now I get to go back to that site and remove all the plates for cleaning and redig the area more carefully to make sure I haven't missed anything. I should have a flat or two of nice fluorite on microcline with smokys. Small specimens but unique!

Pocket opening up

Bob taking a crack at the pocket, note old dig in rocks, somebody just missed this pocket

Gemmy fluorite on matrix with microcline and smoky quartz, Ray B said the darkness of fluorite may be associated with Columbite anybody know a reference on that, couldn't find anything via Google or Mindat
A quick word on cleaning: Some minerals are professionally cleaned. If you wish to pay more for the crystal than what it is worth have it professionally cleaned. I would only reserve the finest/rarest crystals for professional cleaning. DIY. Different minerals require different processes. I use a multistep process that can be found in different books authored by Sinkankas and Pearl ...  Step 1: Soak specimen in water and lightly scrub it. Step2: Resoak specimen with soap and warm water and rescrub. Step 3: Determine what mineral you have to apply the appropriate cleaning agent you might have a plate of different minerals (don't clean calcite with a strong acid or you won't have anything left). Step 4: Carefully clean your specimen with the appropriate cleaning agent on low heat and check it frequently. Make sure specimen is completely immersed in cleaning agent during the cleaning process.  Step 5: I sometimes clean things a second time in different acids depending on the stubbornness of the staining or impurities I want to get off the crystal. If you use acids be very careful. See cautions on labels and internet. If you have children, lock up the acids like you would a loaded gun. Step 6: If I'm satisfied with the cleaning process it is now time to neutralize any acid if used. The temperature of the neutralizing solution (baking soda) must be as warm if not warmer than any acid used. It is also recommended to leave the specimen in the neutralizing soln as long as it was in the acid bath, the base solution should be changed frequently. Finally you may need to either bead blast or use a water gun to get off residue. You may also use a water gun after step 2 as well. Finally rinse in soapy warm water and hopefully they look like something you want to keep.

For the fluorite on matrix I found, I used phosphoric acid at 20- 25% concentrate in step 3 at low heat for about 36 hours. I will add a few more pictures of the cleaned crystals next week.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Rock Hounding near Devil's Head Forest Fire Lookout Post

Inedible mushroom on forest floor

Typical torn up landscape
Devil's Head gets its name from a granite outcrop near a fire lookout post. If you tire of rock hounding a hike up to the tower is a fair challenge. The USFS caretaker who resides near the tower has a number of good stories and a lot of information about the area. Evidently if you squint real hard a rock formation south of the fire tower is said to look like the devil. Having never seen the devil I really can't make a judgement on that. The area south and west of Devil's Head is known for its mineralization, especially topaz. I have seen claims in this area from time to time, so make sure you double check where you are digging or you just might meet up with "Old Scratch"
I understand that the east side of Rampart Range road is a better place to look for topaz than the west side. However, the east side has really been worked over, so we went with our local guide to the west side. I have searched this area before with limited success. Part of the problem with this area is its popularity with diggers and difficulty in prospecting due to the proliferation of digs. Despite a rather warm day, the air was dry and the shady trees were abudant so the weather was tolerable. Unlike Lake George, the Hayman burn did not reach this far east so we plunked down in a shady area surrounded by digs. Our guide suggested we could go further south to less dug up areas, but we settled on what is refered to as the "Virgin Baths" area. I must say I didn't see the devil, any virgins, baths or topaz for that matter.We did find some smoky quartz. I'm not sure which one of us had the best find. I worked downhill from a couple older digs hoping to run into missed float or an extension of the pegmatite that produced the pocket/dig up hill from me. I had some success and followed a pegmatite that produced small crystals. I did uncover a few small crystal plates, but nothing to write home about, though good enough for this blog ;-)  While others found a couple 2" crystals I went for quantity, unearthing about 20 or so 1" or less in length smokys. It was a fine day, with good company and easy digging though not as productive as we had hoped.
Cathedral crystal on microcline

A few crystals shown here in matrix