Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More Fluorite at Lake George (Jun 2009)

As winter has set in here in Colorado I will blog about prior finds starting chronologically with 2009. This way you get to see more of my collection and antics while I make sure everything gets documented and relive past glories.
Fluorites with Phantoms

It was in June 2009 that my rock hounding partner Bob and his wife joined me and my wife for a rockhounding adventure. Bob and I had scouted out an area and knew there was easy stuff to find which was just right for the ladies. While the ladies dug the surface, Bob and I hit some old digs near the area. Bob was rewarded first with a number of well-formed 2-3 inch crystals. The ladies were also finding crystals and small plates. I continued excavating a shallow dig and soon hit pegmatite with some mud. I recall being somewhat surprised that after removing all the debris in the old dig there was pegmatite and mud at the apparent bottom. I dug out a few of the bottom rocks and found they were plates with small crystals on them. I continued to dig down and then hit many more plates with small fluorites. Each one of the fluorites had phantoms, or fluorites within fluorites. While most of the fluorites were small and on matrix I found one fluorite that was really sharp and clean with some size. This was my favorite specimen from 2009.
Penetration Twin Fluorite
I was really proud of it and brought the specimen to our Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society's Crystal Club. I got somewhat discouraged when a club member remarked that they had better stuff laying around in their back yard than what I had brought in. My opinion of that person diminished somewhat, but I realized some folks are more competitive than others and a new person finding nice stuff might seem competative to them. This dig and find was memorable in that all 4 of us all found crystals at this site. We worked this site a few more times and found goethite, fluorite and smokys. A couple years later we returned to the site and found that someone else liked what they saw as well and trenched a large area. Judging by the size of the crystal fragments littering the ground we missed a lot that they found.  We hadn't claimed the area and hoped it was remote enough for us to return to and dig more crystals but someone else had other ideas.
Crystal Flat, you'll see some larger smoky's given to me by Bob and some Goethite. Need to clean these sometime

Friday, November 14, 2014

Review of prior year digs at Lake George (May 2009)

Now that winter has arrived and the digging season is over I thought I might recall some of my prior digs that occurred before I started this blog and relive past glories. Prior to documenting my finds in this blog I kept a written record so I will rely on that to refresh my memory of the events. I also documented some of the digs with pictures, so I will have an adequate source to add a few posts.

I began to get really interested in digging for crystals in 2008. I attended our local Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society (CSMS) attended a few field trips and became a member of the CSMS crystal group. While I never found much on those field trips, the trips did help me learn how and where to dig as well as meet a few knowledgeable people. These experts encouraged my efforts by answering my questions, pointed out a few things on field trips and even welcomed me into their homes. In the fall of 2008 a 79 year old gentlemen (Ray Berry) asked me if I would like to go rock hounding with him. He had been rock hounding for over 30 years, so I didn’t even think twice about going. Ray cautioned me that the terrain was uneven and may be a little tough going, I figured I could keep up with a 79 year old. Not only did Ray show me what to look for and how to dig, but he also showed me a large area pretty much fallow as far as prospecting goes and I had all I could do to keep up with him that day. I spent the next 3 years digging in the areas he showed me and found a few other adjacent sites as well. I don’t recall finding much of anything until 2009, but that’s when the experience, training and investment in time began to show some dividends. One of the nuggets of wisdom Ray passed on to me was always check out where others have dug, see how far they dug and what the inside of an old pocket looks like. Did the prior prospector follow the quartz and clean out the whole pocket, or did he miss something?  By the way nobody always gets it all.
My first crystal plate (Smoky Quartz and Fluorite)

One spring day I was traveling along a two-track road when I noticed another road branching off into the woods. This road was marked by the Forest Service, but it was almost overgrown with grasses. I headed down to the end of the road and noted some digs on a hill nearby. I check for claims, saw none and began to explore the area. There were numerous digs but all appeared old with weeds and grasses growing in the long ago dug out pits. I scratched through some of the piles of debris and found one area that looked promising with many broken smoky quartz pieces and some pretty well formed plates. I did a little research on the area at the county court house and found the area was not claimed, so I invited my new friend (Bob) and his wife to meet me near the area. I easily found the site back, met up with my friends and I began cleaning out the old dig. The chunks of cast off pegmatite and broken quartz crystals suggested somebody found something fairly good. It took me about an hour to dig out the debris in the old dig. I then started pulling away the pegmatite or sidewall that surrounded the old pocket. This was one of the first times I had ever dug out someone else’s old dig, but what better way to learn? After an hour or so I hit a small seam in the pegmatite that opened up to reveal some ½” crystals (not great but something)… if the previous digger missed this who knows what else they overlooked. I kept pulling down the sidewall until I got to the south corner of the dig. I pulled down a few rocks and bingo, yellowish mud and smoky quartz crystals. The crystals were still quite small, but they were attached to pegmatite which made them desirable to me. As I was digging out the debris in this secondary pocket I started to find pseudo cubes of fluorite. I almost didn’t recognize the rocks as fluorite, but the weight of them was a sure give away. The fluorites were etched and barely resembled crystals. I continued on. Suddenly a large grouping of pale green fluorite was in front of me, maybe a dozen in all. I tried to carefully extract the entire plate with fluorites, but the pegmatite was too crumbly and fell apart as I tried to carefully extract it from the pocket. Still I got some really interesting plates with pale green fluorite. Every time I found a fluorite I raised it up with a hurrah. I think my digging buddies were getting tired of me, but it was my first descent find ever! I dug out the rest of the pocket, returned to the site probably 4 or 5 more times, but never found anything like that first visit, and so I was hooked.

I went into my rock vault and found the crystals from that particular pocket and here are some of them!
Nice 360 degree cabinet specimen

10 intergrown fluorites on the plate approximately 5 inches across

1.5 inch penetration twinned fluorite (somewhat etched, but not unusual for Lake George)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

End of Season Rock Hounding at Lake George Updated: 6 Nov

Started out the day with a rather innocuous controlled burn by the Forest Service. By afternoon the winds had picked up and shrouded our digging area in smoke. I decided to quit after I started coughing due to smoke. My production this day gave me no real excuse to continue on.
Smoke from controlled burn moving towards me

While I've found a couple pockets in the last couple of weeks I really don't have much to show for my efforts. It's not unusual to get skunked from time to time, but it is unusual for me to find fairly large pockets and get little in the way of collectible crystals. The crystals have been broken, hooded and etched. I thought I had some good amazonite at one dig, but when I began cleaning the crystals I realized they were sprinkled with fluorite (see previous post). Fluorite can etch microcline and these microclines (var amazonite) were deeply etched (read ugly). Next dig I found a few small smoky quartz crystals and that was it. Third dig I found a few amazonite crystals, but only one was collectible.
Not much to show for 2 pseudo pockets and 10hrs of work!
The fourth dig in the last 3 weeks found me digging in a pocket of quartz and microcline crystals. The ground around the area was sprinkled with smoky quartz shards and bright blue amazonite pieces from nearby digs. When I brought my crystals home and began cleaning these newly found specimens I found the quartz was nearly all hooded or broken and the microcline was just that... microcline, no amazonite. I don't mean to complain, it is great to get out and find things, I just wish my efforts were rewarded with more consistently collectible specimens. Anyway here is an account of my latest adventure. 
As I mentioned it was a bit smoky and that only increased during the day. I had done a bit of prospecting and found an older dig that stopped at a fairly large rock. Rocks and trees slow me down, but they rarely stop me. Many of the older digs we encounter have dead trees as part of their perimeter. Most of these trees are dead and rotten due to the Hayman fire, so a little push of encouragement brings the trees to the ground. The rocks are another matter. If the rock is firmly embedded in the soil I will dig around it. If it's a roll down rock/boulder from above I usually don't bother. This particular 200+lb rock was solidly anchored to the ground on the northern edge of the end of the dig. I reasoned that since most pegmatite run north south in this area there might be a chance the previous digger stopped at the rock even though the pegmatite may continue on under it. I dug away the ground around the rock and then got above the rock and eased it out with a push from my legs. The rock rolled about 3 feet down the hill and gave me enough room to inspect the area. Sure enough after a few shovels of dirt, pegmatite appeared and the dirt began to take on a reddish tint a sign of iron infused clay ahead.
Note the contrast in color
I also begin pulling out rather large broken crystal fragments about 1 foot below the surface.
Nice sized crystal chunks appearing
I reasoned there must be a pocket up the hill, maybe beyond the position of the aforementioned boulder. I decided to expand my dig left and right and make sure I didn't miss anything. You'll see in the picture some pegmatite, perhaps collapsed wall and the clay material that often covers crystals.
Time for me to get disappointed. I kept pulling out quartz pieces and most of it appeared hooded. It's somewhat difficult to tell in the field with pocket mud coating the crystals, but they didn't look good. I continued digging out crystals when Bob showed up. Bob started doing a little field cleaning to the crystals and confirmed my suspicion that a lot of the crystals were junk. I continued on and Bob dug a little too helping me excavate the pocket. While I have not finished the dig due to time, I will probably return at some point hoping things improve (usually never do) with this pocket. The picture below shows a 3 inch hooded smoky quartz crystal from this latest pocket. Well a couple days later I got back at it. Bob has a theory that there is always at least one good crystal per pocket. I took the top down around the dig and began again pulling out broken crystals. As the side wall ahead of me began to firm up, I thought I might be reaching the end of the pocket. Suddenly some fairly large nice quartzy shapes began to appear. I carefully dug around the quartz and called Bob over to have a look. This may be that one crystal that pays off for my time and effort. While it is double-terminated and 8 inches long it too is a disappointment due to overgrowth. Still it's better than ice crystals. I wrapped up the crystal and continued the dig until the end of the day. Are there more hooded crystals there yet? Probably. Tommorrow is another day and hopefully I'll have more success, but it is getting late in the digging season. I guess this is my "Double Terminated Halloween" pocket. It was quite ghastly.
An example of the latest finds... at least its double terminated
8" Double Terminated Smoky In Pocket
If Only This Smoky Hadn't Been Hooded With Crappy Quartz!
Nope, not a Gwindel
Scepter with two terminations