Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Friday, June 27, 2014

Crystal Hunting in Bear Creek Canyon *Updated 4 July

Set off bright and early planning on going to Lake George when the TV weatherman said it would be only 80F today and 10% chance of rain, I took him at his word and went to Bear Creek instead. Bear Creek is known for crystals but it gets a lot hotter and more humid in the summer due to the lower elevation so we tend to go there in the fall. While heading out to Bear Creek due to the cooler weather we found our way blocked by a closed road. Evidently last fall's heavy rains closed the road which meant an extra mile or so of walking up the canyon instead of driving. We decided the walk would do us good and it was cool so off we went. The closed dirt road is at about a 10% grade, so we warmed up quickly. We saw no bears, nor any fish in the creek. I believe this area is under consideration for closure to preserve an area for the green cutthroat trout which were all probably flushed out of the creek into Fountain Creek due to last fall's rains.
Bear Creek Gurgling Along
We rock hounded an area we had tried before, but had previously run out of time digging there. We had the whole day in front of us. While Bob was thinking of going up towards an area called Sentinel Rock, I was happy to dig in a well formed pegmatite further down the hill. By 10AM I was finding crystals, so Bob aborted his plan and decided to dig near me and try his luck as well.
May be a quartz scepter
By 12 o'clock Bob was finding crystals as well, so we never made it to Sentinel Rock this day. There are probably claims ringing it now anyway, but we'll get up there sometime this summer or fall to check it out.
After following a root through a pegmatite the pegmatite started opening up and getting moist with dirt. Soon I pulled out a rather large worm... lucky for me not so for him. I tossed him down the hill and started finding quartz with faces. Then I started finding full blown crystals. I called Bob over when I pulled out a 7 incher with fluorites attached.
7" Crystal Combo With Fluorites
I'm not sure about the color of the fluorites since they have not yet been cleaned, but they appear to be green to me.
6" Smoky With Fluorite Attached
Clay Encrusted Plate With Fluorite (upper right) and Quartz
A picture of the above plate in the collapsed pocket
Next up was another well formed fluorite followed by plates of smokys with fluorites and microcline. This find ended a somewhat dry spell crystal-finding for me. Bob decided to go to work almost exactly where I had thrown that worm. Now I don't think he found the worm, but he did find crystals. I guess I should have kept that lucky worm.
Bob's Nice Quartz Grouping
 By 1:30 PM the sky began to cloud up and thunderclaps were rumbling in the distance. So much for that 10% chance for rain. I decided I had more crystals (plates) than I could carry so we headed back for home. Forty pounds of rocks with equipment and 55 year old knees slowed me down some, but Bob was gracious enough to carry some of my crystals. I buried about a third of the lesser crystals within the pocket and then covered up the hole. Its a pretty remote spot, but no sense giving away the rest of the crystals with potentially more in the unfinished pocket. Not sure when I'll return, but it will have to be a cool day.                             Update: I returned to Bear Creek on 1 Jul to clean out the pocket. There were a couple of nice quartz crystals unearthed, but all were hooded (see picture).
The "Godfather" With Crystal Arms Oustretched {4" tall}
None of the new plates had fluorite on them either. As I continued to dig into the mountain following the crystal pocket, the crytal-bearing void continued to narrow down and the crystals grew smaller. The crystals on the plates were all laying down parallel to the host rock. The quality of the specimens I was finding did not merit further digging in my mind, so I filled in the 6 foot hole not planning to return anytime soon. On the 2.5 mile trek back to my vehicle we prospected an area dug for amazonite. I found a nice green fluorite on the edge of one of the digs which will probably bring me back to that site some day!
Blue/Green Fluorite with phantom

Overgrowth on smoky with pagoda top

Green Fluorite With Clear Late Stage Overgrowth Fluorites
Today's Haul of Crystals! Now for the cleaning to start. Looks like these will need a lot of phosphoric acid

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Some Success Rock Hounding at Lake George

Greetings From Lake George

Today Bob and I returned to some of our old digs at Lake George. Bob dug on a pegmatite we had pulled out some nice fluorite in years past and I went back to an amazonite/smoky dig where I had found some excellent specimens. We spent a couple hours rechecking these sites with no success. We then moved on to another pegmatite where there is a lot of white quartz, but had little success. This particular site had been worked over by others several years ago. A couple years ago I found some fine onegite at this site and so Bob did some digging in that area,
Bob Checking Out Some Onegite Plates
and I did some digging along the quartz seam. I worked the quartz seam finding occasional crystals until a small pocket formed. The small pocket contained a couple of small plates which contained microcline, smokys and small fluorites. I thought I was going to find something really good when I broke into the pocket and found a large void behind it. Hoping the void would be pregnant with crystals I tore apart the country rock surrounding the void but found only dirt. Studying the rock around the void, it appeared to be entirely surrounded by country rock. The void was not an extension of the small pocket, but just a jumbled void in the country rock.
Bob found a few small onegite crystals and then a fairly nice smoky at a different dig that the person who had previously dug the site had missed. Bob's smoky was lustrous and well formed. So today we found a few interesting specimens but not the home run we were hoping for. Who knows, maybe the next time out our luck will change and I'll really have something to talk about :-)
Bob Found This Nice Smoky Group

Pocket Revealing Itself

Crystal Growth Exhibited On Pegmatite

Small Plate From Pocket

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Tornado in rock hounding country

No Crystals Around This Root Ball
Some of you may know from reading my biography that I am a meteorologist by training and a rock hound as a hobbyist. There was much excitement here last weekend when a tornado blew through rock hounding country up at Lake George, Co. The tornado moved through the community of Lake George and then went on to tear up some trees in the Pike National Forest in Teller County where I rock hound. From the description of a friend and local media reports I decided to see if I could find out where the tornado entered the forest and see what kind of damage it did. While driving down the forest roads I saw nothing. Once I got out of my vehicle and did some hiking I soon saw hail and then green trees strewn about.
Left over hail almost 24 hours after the tornado
Part of my interest was as a meteorologist seeing the destruction a tornado can do to 200 year old ponderosa pines, while the rock hounder in me wanted to check out each root ball for possible exposed pegmatites pregnant with crystals. While I found over 100 downed trees during my hike, crystals were few and far between. Not a single root ball exposed a pegmatite, let alone crystals. While it was disappointing not to find any crystals, I felt rewarded to be able to discover the impact area and analyze the storm damage created by the weekend tornado. I sent a note and a few pictures to the National Weather Service (NWS) Pueblo, as they asked for information on the tornado, but have not heard back from them. The NWS Pueblo has jurisdiction over Teller County while the NWS Boulder has jurisdiction over Park County and Lake George. All structural damage so far reported was in Park County.

No Crystals Here Either, but a 10+ foot diameter root ball

Dangerous Tree... Note Crack Through Entire Tree Trunk Near End Of Ax Handle

Somehow This Yellow Beauty Got Spared The Turbulence And Hail

These downed trees are mostly pointing westward, others were pointed east, north and south

Pretty hard hiking through these downed trees