Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Day at the Mineral Museum in Golden Colorado

The rocks and crystals seemingly came alive at the Colorado School of Mines and Geology in Golden, CO. Since rock hounding is nearly impossible this time of year I decided to check out the Colorado School of Mines. This is a real Colorado jewel for anyone interested in geology and it’s free! We were fortunate to go on a day when no school children were visiting so it was quiet and we got to speak with the curator, Dr. Geller. He was very cordial and invited me back another time for a guided tour. The museum hosts mineral displays, fossils, gemstones, meteorites and mining artifacts including a simulated mining cave. The 2nd floor is the main floor with 75% of the displays. The 1st floor is reached from the 2nd floor and houses fossils as well as some minerals. There is also a gift shop on the 1st floor with donated specimens selling from $1 to $1000. The main floor host a mix of minerals and crystals about 50% from Colorado and the rest from around the world. Since my interest is primarily in Rock hounding the Rockies I spent nearly an hour examining the Colorado section of minerals and crystals. There are also outdoor displays of fossils and various geological points of interest, but that was covered in snow this day. The museum is about 1.5 hours from Colorado Springs and well worth a visit.

So here are some pictures of Colorado crystals that one doesn’t often get to see. Of course I am partial to Pikes Peak Batholith crystals like smokys, fluorite and amazonite.

So lets take a look at some of the smokys they had on display. There were a couple bigger smoky crystals from other parts of the world, but I decided to concentrate on Colorado minerals for this post on my blog. 

A case could be made for the white quartz overgrowth enhancing this specimen

Exquisite smoky with fluorites surrounding the base 

A Colorado collection is incomplete without one of these

Beautiful Amethyst 

Nearly 2ft high smoky quartz crystal!



Everyone wants one of these elusive combos




The last group of pictures show the varied colors of amazonite found in the Lake George Intrusive of Park and Teller counties, Colorado. Of course this is only a sample of what's at the Museum. There is topaz, fluorite and many other worldwide minerals including gold.
Pea green example of microcline

Very pale large amazonite crystal
Blue-green amazonite plate with smokies and manebach twin perched on top
White-capped amazonite with smoky quartz crystals

Light blue amazonite plate with smokys and cleavelandite



Monday, December 15, 2014

300+ Smoky Quartz Crystals in 1 day at Lake George, CO! Updated 22 Dec w/ cleaned crystals

Crystals piling up by the dozens, excavation in background
Thinking the cold weather and frozen ground were here to stay I packed up my rock hounding equipment a few weeks ago. This past week the temps have been near 60F for several days, so my rock hounding buddy and I decided to head out and check the pegmatites at Lake George. When we got to one of our normal sites the ground was quite frozen, down to a depth of nearly 18 inches. The frozen ground made prospecting almost impossible. I thought I might try a southerly facing slope to see if that was any better and sure enough, the ground was completely thawed out. I found some white quartz dribbling down the hill and decided to follow it up the slope. The white quartz was fairly small and without faces, but I still followed it about 50ft up the hill. Suddenly along a rock I found a large piece of white quartz with several faces on it. I decided to dig the surface and see what was there. Bob joined me and we dug about 10 feet up the hill finding more quartz pieces with faces. As the sun was going down we both started unearthing smoky quartz pieces and even a few whole crystals. Everything we found was just an inch or two below the surface. Since the following day promised to be just as nice with no wind, sunny and temperatures in the 50Fs, we stopped and planned to return the following day to continue our search up the hill for the source of the quartz. Here is a short video from the following day showing quartz crystals coming out of the newly discovered pocket

video
Next visit found us back at the site digging up hill through the scree. We kept finding pieces of crystals and some nice floaters, so we were encouraged to continue the dig. Within a half hour larger crystals began to show up with more frequency and the pocket was discovered. Red dirt and mud surrounding multiple crystals made this pregnant pocket one of the largest I’ve ever found. Crystal after crystal kept popping out the dirt and while I kept hoping for some plates.
Plate showing a couple smoky crystals with lots of mud

Nice sized plate with a few 3"crystals should display well once cleaned
I was a little surprised at the number, size and completeness of the crystals. I spent 3 hours digging out crystals and finally did manage to find a few plates (pics above). The crystals mostly measured 2-4 inches. Near the back of the pocket was a fairly large quartz blow, so I will eventually go back (next spring) and tear that out to make sure nothing is hiding in the back of the pocket. Next up is cleaning the crystals. There were over 300 crystals not including the plates. I left about 30 crystals behind as they were too broken up to bother with. I gave my digging partner Bob 85 crystals and brought the rest home. I think I had about 40 pounds of crystals on my back to carry down the mountain that day. Next up is sorting, putting a few together and cleaning. I'll try and get a few pictures of the cleaned crystals in a couple weeks from the date of this post. Here they are, looking pretty good!
Dark Smoky foreground with lighter one on left

Nice plate with up to 3 inch smokys


Backlit Smoky, quite gemmy
See you in 2015!

Prospectors on the Weather Channel (Season 3) Updated through Episode 3

“Ridin’ the Pain Train” or an Over-hyped Tornado and Ne’er-do-wells (Ep 1)

Well we start the season with one calamity after the next. While not excusing claim-jumping or high-grading the TV personalities somewhat invite trouble by being on TV and over-hyping their finds. Prospecting has always been secretive. The destruction of Busse’s and Hall’s equipment was despicable and there is no reason for it. It was nice to see the Busse’s find nice colored aquamarine crystals. The fact that someone moved the claim marker on Dwayne Hall’s claim suggests to me he has a disagreement with a fellow claim holder who believes Hall may have over-staked his site, though tampering with claim markers is a federal crime. I think Joe Dorris has a lot of interest in his topaz claim by ne’er-do-wells too. Joe’s claim sits along a well-traveled county road and is easily accessible. He told me one day he expects to find a crushed body or two on his claim due to high-graders digging under the unstable granite boulders. The Dorris’ did find some nicely terminated topaz. The narrator spoke of Joe’s topaz claim as being near Lake George, while in reality it is in the Tarryall Mtns near the town of Tarryall. Amanda and Travis got turned away from Mt Antero but did find some crystals elsewhere. I noted the couple was talking about the dangers of the mountain road while driving without seatbelts. If the truck rolls they will be flung from the cab and crushed. Not sure their crystals were worth hundreds of dollars either. High priced smoky crystals must be gemmy and lustrous with undamaged/sharp points. With gemmy being the inside and lustrous the exterior. Amanda’s crystals did not appear to have a good luster.
The whole tornado event was quite over-hyped, but most of the show is make believe anyway. The facts of when the tornado hit and where were modified for the show. The trees the tornado (F-0), took down were mostly dead or extremely weakened from the Hayman fire and subsequent drought. The actual tornado damaged a couple of house trailers in Lake George and took down a number of trees. As a meteorologist by trade I checked out the path of the storm and coordinated my analysis with the National Weather Service Pueblo Office. The track of the tornado was about 2 miles through Lake George and into the National Forest. The storm occurred on Sunday at 12:30 PM. The Prospector’s show talked about that storm threatening Amanda and Travis during the following night--didn’t happen. There may have been a storm that threatened the duo, but it was not the storm that produced the tornado. I mentioned to Joe that the storm knocked a few trees down near his Klondike Cowboy claim (he had no idea), the tornado was nowhere near his Ute claim where the track hoe was parked… of course without stretching the facts a bit there would be no viewer interest.
So we start the season with ne’er-do-wells, an over-hyped tornado and ridiculously overpriced crystals. I think I’ve seen this show before… maybe several times before.

“Poppin Rocks” or Nothing New Under the Sun (Episode 2)

I liked the title of the show. While I’ve been prospecting for 5 years I’ve never seen this popping rock phenomena, but it is believable. It’s always nice when they mix a bit of science into the show. The point Dorris made about Jack Buckner had some historical interest for me as well. Dwayne Hall and his pocket of smoky quartz crystals reminded me of some of the junk I’ve found this fall. I thought it was odd Hall was following aquamarine fragments and he was sure there was a pocket of aquas behind the boulders. Once Dwayne found some smoky quartz his whole theory was forgotten and not another mention was made of aquamarine. I would say he was working in an extremely dangerous, borderline crazy excavation considering how unstable the mountainside is.  At least he was the one taking all the risks as the newbs looked on. He found one ugly smoky quartz specimen and recognized it as such. I think hog turd would have been an apt description for that rock. Nobody will give them the quoted $400-$500 for the junk they found unless they’ve been out in the sun too long. Perhaps next episode will show Hall pulling out aquamarine, there must be a pocket there somewhere due to all the nearby float he was finding

Cardwells have 16 claims, wow! I guess he’s the Joe Dorris of Mt Antero. Even though Cardwell’s ancestor originally put the road in, it is not a private road. While I wouldn’t object to the work he did on the road, I’m not sure what the Forest Service would say. I would say he did very well indeed to have taken that track hoe up the mountain in 1 day… now he has to find some crystals, I guess stay tuned for that. Narrator kept mentioning Fretterd’s secret Agnus Dei claim. Anybody who wants to locate Fretterd’s claim can do so by doing a little research. I won’t give it away, but the claim is in his girlfriend’s name. The mere fact that it is a claim means you can look it up. The Agnus Dei has about 8 claims filed all around it by a guy from Denver. Thanks to the show a large area of Cameron’s Cone is now claimed and off limits for others. Oops I’ve already given too much away. Rich does find good stuff on the Agnus Dei. I really liked the smoky plates.

Aquamarine – Plenty of it! (Episode 3)

I have been somewhat disappointed by the exploits of the prospectors in previous episodes on Mt Antero/Mt White, but finally some aquamarine. Claim jumpers from the previous winter were highlighted on Amanda’s claim, but they didn’t get it all. I would guess the claim-jumpers on Amanda’s aqua pocket were the same ones that hit Busse’s stowed gear featured in episode 2. Unfortunately I doubt they will get any help from the county police. If Travis and Amanda did intercept claim jumpers they would not use their weapons except in self-defense as they would be on the wrong side of the law if they shot somebody stealing from their claim. I really don’t understand their lack of safety gear. I’ve never gone rock hounding without a pair of gloves. I usually wear mechanics gloves or cheap throw-aways. As you could see from Amanda’s hands the quartz was shredding her up pretty good. I often take a hard hat and safety glasses as well if the site requires it. I noted Dwayne Hall using a chisel and hammer pounding away on granite without protective eyewear. I guess if he’s gotten away with doing things that way for 30+ years he probably wouldn’t change. Dwayne’s featured aquamarine was a beauty, but not sure it’s a museum specimen. Loved the aquamarines being pulled out by Amanda as well, but didn’t note any real good terminations on any of the crystals, still a lot of gemmy “cutters” with jewelry value.

The whole episode with the truck going down-hill is not that unusual. The part where Busse came across an SUV off the road seemed somewhat staged. I suppose some people who drive 4-wheel vehicles don’t know how to use them (recommend lowest gear duh). I met one person stuck on a 4-wheel road who didn’t know how to put his vehicle in 4-wheel drive (this has happened more than once). Recommend anyone driving up Antero get 4-wheel driving experience first… better yet drive an ATV up--much easier. I’ve driven up a couple times, and always found the first 4 miles through rocks harder than the road above tree line.  

Joe Dorris usually wins the day, but not this time. Don’t believe hooded/scepter quartz with amazonite is a big deal nor the sepulcher smoky. I think some hype here as well. If the Icon pocket were put together and cleaned it might end up in a museum, but I guess donors need to see the finished product before ponying up $1M.

Two thumbs up for the aquamarine found on this episode.