Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winter's Closing Down Digging For 2016

Looking North From Lake George Towards the Tarryalls
Rock Hounding season is coming to a close as the temperatures drop and frost begins to set into the ground. I’ve been able to prospect a little longer this year than other years due to a lack of snow in the mountains. We’ve had no measureable snow yet and it’s almost December which is fairly unusual. This day I decided to do a little prospecting and one of my favorite digging opportunities presented itself in the form of a large dead tree and old digs (depressions) around the tree’s base. There were 3 main roots emanating from the base of the tree, each root was about as thick as my thigh and totally rotten. I could see from the old digs that somebody had found amazonite here when the tree was probably healthy and they quit digging as they ran into the massive tree roots. Now that the tree was dead and mostly decayed I decided to dig where others couldn’t and tear out the now decayed roots of the dead tree.
Old pine with digs around it's base bears investigating

 I was soon rewarded with amazonite. I continued digging out each root finding the hidden host pegmatite and digging out the root along with some small well-colored amazonite. I didn’t find a pocket of amazonite but there were still over 30 small collectible crystals.
Lots of small amazonite crystals aroud the tree roots
I was going to take the entire tree along with its tap root out of the ground, but the wind started to pick up and my spot went from sunny to full shade so I decided to prospect elsewhere and come back another day to take out the dead tree. It didn’t take long to find more amazonite float associated with a fairly extensive pegmatite. After digging a few holes along the pegmatite I reasoned this area was most likely already dug as the crystals I found were mostly broken and the rocks below ground seemed disturbed. Normally undug pegmatite will be grouped together, this peg had country rock(granite) and pegmatite mixed together along with the broken crystals. I checked a few spots up the hill and came up empty. The temperature was beginning to drop as the sun dipped towards the horizon and I decided it was time for me to skedaddle.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A Fall Rock Hounding Trip To Lake George, CO

Austin shows off 1st nice crystal of the day!
Austin wanted me to take him rock hounding and after hearing of a few of his negative adventures with others we picked a day and set off for Lake George. From Austin's stories it sounded like some of his "friends" are valuing rocks more than people. I had been prospecting a private claim for the last few weeks but did not have permission to take guests there so I decided to go to a reliable area where at least small crystals could be found. As I’ve said before when I take a guest I always hope we find something. Austin’s enthusiasm for rock hounding surpasses mine and I have been spoiled as of late with easy finds of amazonite so I was not sure how long I would last. We checked out an area where I’ve rock hounded before and found some small crystals and a few plates of microcline and quartz. We got started and were soon finding small quartz points and an occasional piece of white quartz. Things were going slowly and I was thinking about trying another area when I noted just a few feet away from where I was digging there were some larger pieces of pegmatite with embedded minor quartz faces. As I broke open the area with my pick axe by removing the sod from the surface I noted a small microcline group (see below).
Key to the pocket--where there is one crystal there is often more
Between the quartz faces on pegmatite and this microcline specimen I decided to slow down, put down my pick axe and take out my scratcher. Good thing I did because I soon was hitting large shards of smoky quartz and then a stout 4” smoky rolled out of the scree. Austin liked the material I was digging out and said he had never found any fluorite and sure would like to find a fluorite sometime. He no sooner spoke those words than a 1.5” fluorite rolled out of the dirt.

I pulled out a few more smokys and then turned the pocket over to Austin. I told him he could have the rest unless something unusual popped up. Within a couple of minutes he found his first fluorite ever and a number of microcline crystals. I prospected around a bit while Austin stuck with the pegmatite hoping for another pocket. Soon time was up for the day and we navigated the 4-wheel drive roads as a herd of deer looked on guessing we weren't interested in them and were just a couple of crystal hunters. Here is a picture of what I took home.  I took the best of my pocket while Austin got the bulk of the quartz crystals, along with several smoky quartz and microcline plates.
Microcline plate, 10cm Smoky quartz and Penetration twin fluorite

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Minerals At An Estate Sale

Got dem got dem dry bones - - maybe petrified tusks?
Got an email from our rock club informing everyone that there would be an estate sale from a local biology professor who collected minerals. I will travel in town to an estate sale and this one fit my criteria of having rocks and minerals so I thought I would give it a try (Getting information like this is one more reason to belong to a local club). When I arrived at the home I was told the rocks and minerals were primarily in the back yard and some books on mineralogy were located in the basement. I was told all offers would be considered--sounded good to me! I got into the backyard and there were several boxes of minerals and some crystals all with no labels. No labels means no provenance so though you may have an idea on where something was found you really don’t know for sure. In my experience usually more than half the value of any collectible mineral lies in the provenance. There was an abundance of fossils which I don’t really collect but some petrified bones (mammoth tusk frags?) caught my eye so I took those. There was also a vertebrae but it felt too light and may have been a caste. There were a lot of leaf and stem fossils as well. Finally I got to a box loaded with garnets in schist, wrapped in newspapers from 1970. Unfortunately most of the almandine garnets were incomplete crystals although they did look nice in matrix. 
Several garnets in this schist matrix
I’ve picked up similar specimens from the Wilkerson Pass Colorado area while rock-hounding and they could be from the same locale. I took about half a flat of these. Next up were a couple of boxes with desert roses or selenite/gypsum. I’m not sure where they are from either but could be Arizona I suppose. The roses were well formed and probably worth a few bucks.
One of a dozen desert roses I selected
I rounded out my flat of garnets with a number of these specimens. I also found a few pieces of opal, some beryl and fluorite. Next I went book hunting and in the basement was a 3 volume mint set of Dana’s System of Mineralogy 7th Ed for $3. I also collect stamps and found some unused stamp storage albums which go for about $16 a piece. I picked up a few other oddities and almost went for a taxidermy rattle snake coiled and ready to bite but decided one of my nephews would get something else for Christmas. So I spent $30 for what I valued to be well over $200 and have no idea about the petrified bones/tusks. I enjoyed the camaraderie and banter with other bargain hunters and the sellers seemed happy to unload some rocks for money.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

More Digging in the Amazonite Pool

Wildlife in the shadows
Turkeys welcomed me to Lake George, Colorado for another warm day of digging rocks in mid-October. We had high wind warning today for much of the mountains with potential winds of up to 80mph near mountain peaks. Since my digging partner Bob is laid up with hip surgery and he has the chain saw I decided I better at least take an axe in case a tree falls over the road and blocks my path.  I arrived at our favorite spot and commenced digging where I had left off last week. The area is remote and hidden in a thicket of aspen so I am not too concerned that someone else will discover it. The claim owner has given me carte blanche to dig the claim until the New Year so I am in no rush. I decided to finish up the old pocket and then back-track a bit and dig down the hill as the pegmatite I had discovered went that way. There were a few straggler crystals and a plate in last week’s pocket so I worked that and then moved down the slope following the pegmatite. The pegmatite was near the surface but then dove down at nearly a 45 angle into the earth. As I followed the pegmatite thick mud showed up to be followed by amazonite crystals—another pocket! Most of these crystals were singles but still collectible. I also believe a number of them have cleavelandite associated with them. I had a hard time getting these single crystals out as the peanut-butter-like mud and 3 foot hole made extraction difficult.
Todays Amazonite Finds Mostly Singles and Ready For Cleaning

Specimen In Hand Shows Cleavelandite Surrounded By Amazonite
 I broke a few crystals due to the difficulty, but the work involved in tearing down the pegmatite on all sides and resulting trauma to the crystals in the process probably wouldn't have been any easier on the amazonite. Well it was 3PM and time to leave. I loaded up the truck and headed down the road. Yikes, a fairly thick tree blocked my only way out so maybe I would have to use that axe. I decided it would be easier to chop down a few saplings and go off road than chop through a 10” green tree.
Got to be ready for anything out here... a 4-wheel drive vehicle helps!
After checking things out I was soon off again and headed home.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Amazonite Pond at Lake George

Autumn Sunrises Are The Best Here, Sunsets Aren't Bad Either
My digging partner will soon be out for the rest of the season due to an upcoming surgery so I am digging solo a bit until frost sets in and kills the season. This day was another spectacular weather day and as I drove into the forest two deer crossed my path. I hoped it would not be bad luck like a black cat crossing my path and as you’ll see my luck held this day. I continued to prospect a friend’s claim which seems to have amazonite shards everywhere a veritable pond of amazonite fragments but no full crystals. I tried a spot today that showed some large white quartz chunks on the surface. I had noted this spot a few weeks ago and meant to get back to it at a later date which was today. Someone had dug up some quartz but quit on it as it meandered up the hill under the forest floor. I continued to follow this quartz and was soon seeing some amazonite shards which has not been unusual for this claim. As I continued pulling out quartz I noticed that large grooves were imprinted in some of the quartz which suggested a crystal had been lodged against that area of the quartz as the quartz formed. Well that got my attention especially since the grooves in the quartz were fairly large and suggested a large microcline at the very least. . 

Large impression of crystal in quartz above thumb
As  I was digging in a grove of aspens and large blocky chunks of white quartz the aspen tree roots kept hindering my progress. As I continued the dig I noted some more interesting pegmatite (feldspar/quartz/mica) was mixing in with the plain quartz and in no time the feldspar started exhibiting blue/green faces the telltale sign of amazonite. The site was looking very promising but my habitual headache was returning from the day before. I kept digging as the sign was too good to quit and then I hit pay-dirt or at least some nice amazonite. I pulled two large complete amazonite crystals 3+” and started working on some of the surrounding quartz to see what might be underneath.
4" Crystal Fresh Out Of The Ground

3.5" Crystal With a Fracture Ready For Cleaning

 I gave up on the quartz as I just couldn’t budge it with the tools I had and continued my hunt up the hill. More amazonite kept dribbling out of the hillside and I knew I had found a fairly good spot.

My headache continued to grow so I decided to cut my visit short this day and will plan to return next week. I packed up and was about to leave my dig site when I noticed a nice chunk of blue/green amazonite at the edge of my dig where I left off. I’ll wager there are more crystals waiting for me the next time I return with an axe for the roots a pry bar for the quartz and no headache!

Visit #2: Autumn is setting in but the unseasonably warm weather continues. I stopped off at my digging partner's (Bob's) house and showed him some of the recent crystals and despite his health issues he insisted on going with me and checking things out so off we went.

Still hitting the same spot and following the pegmatite. I brought in a pry bar and axe this time and my headache took a holiday so with 70F, sunny skies and crystals to find there was nothing to hold me back.  I immediately went to work on the quartz with the pry bar and despite my efforts I found very little. Since there was still quartz and amazonite shards up the hill I continued the hunt. I continued finding an occasional single crystal. Bob stopped by to needle me wondering where my bushel basket of crystals was and I retorted the day was still young and I too was surprised my wheelbarrow wasn’t yet full of crystals. I continued the dig and hit some yellowish dirt normally a good sign. I was digging a little downhill from the pegmatite and so I decided to pull out some pegmatite and try to find the source of these single crystals and yellow dirt. Soon I hit highly mineralized pegmatite with yellow clay and what appeared to be amazonite sprouting out of the pegmatite… BINGO!  I had just told Bob I would be ready to leave in a half hour or so, but this find pushed that back an hour. Finally some amazonite plates with plenty of pocket mud.
The crystals were fairly clean and well formed with good color and some size. I’ve rinsed them and brushed them in soapy water, next step is Iron Out. I’ll probably give that pegmatite another try as well! Here are best of the lot so far cleaned up, I took these out of my wheelbarrow (haha)

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Hunt for Amazonite at Lake George CO

Fall Shows Up Right on Schedule... 22 September
I recently got permission from a claim owner to prospect his claim. He always has the caveat that if I find something really good I must show him the specimen. So far what I’ve thought was fairly good hasn’t measured up to his definition of really good so I've been able to keep past specimens. My digging partner Bob and I decided to give his location a try and see if we could have some luck. Bob investigated older dig areas while I looked for undug areas. I figured I could find float or discards or maybe something missed at the old digs but I would have a better chance of finding a bonanza if I could find an undiscovered area/pocket. Even in the remoter areas of the claim I could see that others had been there before me by the signs of disturbed surface quartz and shallow depressions. Lake George is noted for its amazonite and I haven’t found much in the way of amazonite this year so I concentrated on looking for blue sign. I found chips of amazonite in different areas but they all lead to previous digs. I walked ridgelines and checked rock outcrops looking for a potential spot. I finally located a downed tree on the side of a hill which had some quartz around the rotted exposed root-ball. On closer examination I noted some blue flecks of amazonite. I dug in and found a few larger pieces of amazonite and quartz but no pegmatite. I reasoned the old tree roots may have collected float around it's roots. There were no digs on this hill so I liked that aspect of the area very much... nobody had dug the area and thrown quartz all over the hill. I’ve seen people throw quartz 20 feet down the hill not realizing this will create a prospecting nightmare for those who follow trying to find a pocket based on quartz float. About 6 feet up the hill from the tree I noticed some more flakes of amazonite in the scree so I decided to probe this spot and dig in a bit. I soon found larger pieces of amazonite and quartz which quickly led me to a pegmatite. The digging was slow as only a few collectible crystals were mixed in with the shards… about a 25:1 ratio of leaverites to keepers.  I kept a lot of the amazonite leaverites due to their nice blue color (perhaps traderites) as I may be able to trade them for something else more desirable.
It was near the end of our digging day so I called Bob on our radios and then showed him the spot I was digging. Bob agreed that the area has plenty of potential and suggested we return again another day.
Only a few complete crystals of amazonite but the color is above average

Day 2: Well I was back at it again today and continued to find nice colored broken amazonite. I'm afraid that's all this pocket has to offer. I spent about another 2 hours making sure I got most of it and then moved on.
I'm guessing kids will get a kick out of having some amazonite, so I saved this broken stuff for grab bags at our Club's next show. Approximately 20 feet away was another burned out tree with pieces of amazonite in the dirt around it's base. This amazonite was paler than the other spot but I'm guessing its on the same pegmatite. I decided to give this spot a try as well. I dug it for about 2 hours with similar results to the first dig. The amazonite was locked into quartz and was often incomplete or subhedral. Since this amazonite was paler and smaller than the other pocket I decided it was time to give it up and check on my digging partner Bob and see what he had gotten himself into.
Uncleaned and quite fractured pale amazonite 2nd dig
As I went in search of Bob I noticed only about 10 feet away from my second dig there was some more pale amazonite and quartz shards on the surface in exactly the same line as the other two pockets along with a dead tree. I decided I had enough of this junk for awhile and continued my search for Bob. Bob was digging through debris or float and pulling out a few nice pieces of amazonite. Most of the pieces were damaged but they, like my first dig had good color and some size. I sat down near him and pulled out a couple pieces of damaged amazonite and we decided to call it a day. I'll probably return to both sites in the near future and try my luck again.
Visit#3: The weather has been fantastic with a lot of sun and cooler temperatures so we decided to take another trip up to Lake George, CO and try our luck. Saw a young coyote again today, he didn’t seem as fearful of us as I thought he should be but he eventually wandered up the hill away from our parking area. I decided to check out the site Bob had found and dug about 20 feet down the hill from him on a shallow sloping hill. Bob said for the most part he was just digging out the first 8 inches or so of the ground and finding float amazonite crystals. This suggests to me either this area has already been dug or there is an old decayed pegmatite underlying the surface shedding crystals. I picked a spot based on the fact there was a rather large root nested on the top of the ground and suspected there might be a pegmatite underneath propping up the root. I also noted some “rice rock” on the surface (see pic) which is a really good sign of crystal formation. The combination of small pieces of quartz and feldspar makes the surface rock look like it's coated with rice.
Old-timers called this rice rock

Underneath rice rock shows crystalization
Bob was busy up the hill finding shards of crystals and so I settled down along the decayed root and immediately starting finding good crystal sign. Bob’s area played out rather quickly and when he got a look at some of the crystals I was finding he found a nearby spot and tried his luck.
Nice float amazonite (sorry a bit out of focus)
Soon we were both pulling out amazonite crystal shards with the occasional collectible crystal. To mea crystal must be terminated in order for it to be collectible, though I know folks seek out amazonite for tumbling and jewelry making as well. Bob’s amazonite began to turn brownish and lean more towards plain microcline while my spot continued to produce albeit much less than it had earlier. I decided to give my back a break and went for a walk exploring the hillside. There is plenty of undug quartz in the area and I have a pass to prospect this claim until the end of the year so I’m sure I’ll return to this area again to try my luck
Bob had the find of the day with this large well-formed crystal

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Rock Hounding at the Denver Mineral Show

While the Denver Mineral Show is primarily at the Denver Merchandise Mart there are other venues running at nearly the same time. There is the Denver Coliseum as well as a couple other dealers set up at local hotels and other spots. My wife and I decided to make a day of it and drove to Denver to see the show. First I visited one of my supply guys who has storage flats and display boxes for minerals, he also sells some crystals and minerals. Fred is a bit off the beaten path and last time I was there he had received a number of Herkimer diamonds but had not priced them. He had shown me a piece of opalized petrified wood that he liked last time I visited--something I have in abundance back home--so I decided next time I went to Denver I could trade some of my petrified wood for some boxes.  The timing was finally right and I ended up getting hundreds of boxes in trade and a discount on one of his larger hoppered Herkimer diamonds for a piece of polished petrified wood and some cash. I was happy with my boxes and Herkimer and he was delighted with his petrified wood.
Hoppered Herkimer

My next stop was a hotel where one of the actors in the Prospector’s Show was selling his minerals. I have a pretty good relation with some of these guys and showed them some of the minerals I found this past year. To my surprise they wanted to purchase some of my Carlsbad twin microclines mentioned in post 8/30/2016. Evidently Carlsbad twins are sought after and hard for them to keep in stock. So I had a productive meeting and then finally arrived at the Denver Merchandise Mart.
The Denver Show is a bit overwhelming with over 300+ dealers. Prior to getting started I ran into one of our club members who was helping host the show and she gave me a quick run-down of the event. I told my wife I would be good for 2 hours and that would probably be it for me. She was fine with that and made her way to the wholesale jewelry section. I sought out a dealer who makes quartz crystal twins. Dr Klipov makes crystals primarily for optical and electronic applications but also dabbles in twinned crystals that collectors seek (perhaps these are lunchbox specials from the lab). Dr Klipov said that it takes over 9 months to create these crystals in the lab and no discounts would be made for these specimens (ok then). The quality and twinning of these crystals were irresistible to me so I plunked down $50 and made a purchase. I’m not a big fan of lab created crystals but I think one or two is okay in my collection. 

 While browsing I met a fellow rock-hound from Lake George, CO who to my surprise has a claim next to mine. He was selling off some of his collection and was in good spirits as sales were brisk. As I strolled through vendors booths I kept my eye out for Herkimer diamonds to see how good a deal I got on my purchase and all the Herkimers I saw were three times more expensive and of poorer quality than the one I purchased. My deal for boxes and a Herkimer just keeps getting better
My wife loaded up on jewelry and seemed happy with her purchases and I forged a couple new friendships and felt I made a couple of good deals. Back to rock hounding the Rockies next week!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Crystal Hunting at Devil’s Head Colorado

View of Devil's Head looking east
My digging buddy Bob and I go to an area near Devil’s Head along the front range of the Rocky Mountains once a year or so. This region is known for topaz and large smoky quartz crystals. After rock hounding a few times up at Devil’s Head I believe the name comes from the fact that the devil messes with every crystal I find there. Almost every crystal I find in this region has issues. The quartz crystals are either broken or have a lot of white quartz overgrowth and I think the Devil got away with most of the topaz long ago. 
We got an early start to rock hounding this day and were somewhat surprised at the number of vehicles parked along Rampart Range road. Most of the vehicles have ATV trailers so perhaps these are early season hunters or folks just out for one last vacation before winter sets in. Bob had a spot he had dug last year and I decided to do a little prospecting. I noticed a tree nearby had a lot of quartz at its base so I decided to poke around that a bit and see what I could find. Almost immediately I started finding quartz crystals. Unfortunately the smoky quartz crystals were hooded with milky white quartz which makes them unattractive and somewhat uncollectable. Still I pressed on hoping there might be a pocket with better quality crystals up the slope. I found a rather interesting alligator skinned quartz piece and hoped for better. After a couple hours of digging I hit some larger pieces of pegmatite and reddish dirt. Red dirt is often a sign of iron leaching out of a crystal pocket and such was the case again today. I discovered about a 4 foot long lenticular pocket. Most of the host pegmatite was damaged and no crystal plates were found. All the crystals in the pocket also have milky white quartz hodding them.
Lots of hooded quartz crystals
As I neared the edge of the pocket I started to uncover clunky heavier material that I hoped might be topaz. As I examined the first couple of pieces I quickly realized they were fluorite and pressed on. Some of the fluorite in the pocket were fairly well preserved while other fluorite I found down the hill from the pocket had internal fractures and a lot of grooves or heavy etching on them.
Somewhat unsightly fluorite( a little cleaning may help) :-(
I found about 100 quartz crystals of mostly poor quality up to 6 inches in length and about a dozen beat up fluorite with the largest being about tennis ball size. There were shattered pieces of smoky quartz crystals in excess of 6 inches but they were either poorly formed or entirely shattered. While I didn’t get any crystals to donate to the Smithsonian today I still had fun discovering a quartz crystal pocket along with some large fluorite. For me a great deal of the fun is in the finding of the crystals and not in the cleaning or even displaying the crystals, still a few better formed crystals could have made this an outstanding pocket.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Coyotes howl a welcome to a good day of rock hounding at Lake George, CO

Another beautiful day in the Colorado Rocky Mountains near Lake George. Temperatures have fallen a bit as we edge towards fall making digging in the sun a little more tolerable. I decided to take one of the younger club (CSMS) members with us today (17 years). I met Austin at our Club picnic and never ran into anyone so enthusiastic about rock hounding. After the picnic he spent 2 hours at my house looking at my personal collection and would have stayed longer but I eventually shooed him away with a box full of give-away specimens. Seeing as he has a true interest in rock hounding and appeared to have some basic knowledge I invited him to go on a daytrip out to L George with Bob and me. In anticipation of his visit I prospected a few possible digging sites and marked a couple pegmatites that appeared promising. While I always want my guests to have a memorable experience it’s mostly in Mother Nature’s hands and luck of the draw as to what we do or do not find. Despite my suggestion to carpool, Austin insisted on driving his father’s SUV to the site though he had second thoughts once he traversed the roads. As we neared the site two coyotes gave us the old stink eye in the middle of the road and then thought better of challenging a couple SUVs. The coyotes looked very healthy and have probably been feasting on the flock of turkeys we saw a couple weeks ago.
Mountain Coyote Cr: Alfred Viola
We got to the site safely enough, outfitted Austin with a pick axe and rock hammer and made a beeline to the first pegmatite on my list. I suggested we dig together and soon we were hitting float crystals from the pegmatite I had marked. Austin found some nice floaters while I slammed into a pocket. The pocket contained many pale amazonite and smoky quartz crystals. Some of the crystals look good, unfortunately the amazonite is quite pale.
Nice gemmy, lustrous smoky cleaned of pocket mud

Pale amazonite still needs a touch of cleaning to remove iron staining
As Austin and I finished up our site the coyotes began to howl and so I called Bob, my rock hounding partner, on our radios to make sure he wasn’t the coyote’s lunch and where he was digging. I found him at the top of the claim digging up 1”smoky quartz crystals. He was more generous than I with Austin and gave him about 50 crystals and then gave up his spot as well. I moved on to my other marked spot and was quickly digging out small plates of microcline and smokys. Most of the plates were of marginal quality and size, but I took some of them home and shared the rest. Austin had a good time and declared he was probably carrying at least 20 pounds more down the mountain than either Bob or me. I suggested he could lighten his load by leaving some crystals behind and he thought that was a good one. I hope Austin learned a bit about how to find crystals and will one day give someone else a few pointers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

First Snow of the Rockhounding Season (Updated w/ microcline pics)

Courtesy Cog Railway top of Pikes Peak, CO
We found a fairly productive crystal area on a claim out at Lake George, CO which has been producing smoky quartz crystals, twinned microclines and an occasional faint colored amazonite. I had found one pocket of crystals at this site and my prospecting partner had also found some collectible material. Digging uphill we were finding small plates of microcline and smokys as well as some single crystals.  While most of the crystals were on the small side there were some interesting Carlsbad twinned microcline.
Microcline var. Carlsbad with perthite

Microcline var. Carlsbad twinning with perthite
 A former officer of our club (CSMS) had moved to WY and wanted to trade some jade and opal for an outing to L. George.  Since Bob and I have known this WY cowboy for some time we agreed to take him along with no guarantees of finding anything.  The area we had recently located has several small pegmatites running very close to the surface which makes digging easy and finding crystals fairly likely.  We wanted to show our WY guest a good time so we took him to the area where we guessed we’d be able to find something collectible.
The first day was wet and we had to quit early, though we did find some float crystals the quality, amount and size were unmemorable. The weather was definitely not cooperating but we had another day to demonstrate our skills. We went back to the same spot and after prospecting and digging around for a few hours I found a spot with a small microcline crystal on the surface and several fine grained granite rocks (pegmatite) poking out of the ground nearby.  I suggested to the WY cowboy that we dig there. While he found some float smokys I hit a pocket just as thunder started to rumble. Watching the skies to the west and trying figure out how much time we had before the storm hit, I carefully extracted crystals from the pocket. While the lightning was getting closer I decided to let Bob my digging partner finish up the pocket while I packed what we had and prepared to scramble down the mountain. Normally it takes about 30 minutes to get back to our parking area but this day it probably only took 20 minutes. Just as we were reaching the vehicles the hail started to pour down. Hail in the mountains is often small but still intense. I was glad to be off the mountain and dry in my truck. The WY cowboy took home some nice crystals albeit mostly small and Bob and I made our way through the storm home while the WY cowboy went to NM to pick grapes.
Our third outing to the site at L. George promised early rain again but we still went out, returning to the same area and continuing our digs. Bob found a small pocket near the top of the hill and I continued working on the pegmatite I had discovered with the WY cowboy. Quartz crystals and microcline were shed from the top of the pegmatite and while I didn’t find another pocket I did dig up several smoky quartz crystals and a few half-dollar sized microclines some with Carlsbad twinning.  I’ve noted before that when an area produces something unique it often repeats that unique crystal abnormality whether it be twinning, quartz hooding, scepters or other abnormal crystal habit throughout the pocket or pegmatite; this area seems to have a predilection to produce Carlsbad twins.
Carlsbad twinned Microcline with a spot of Cleavelandite near the base
Thunder began even earlier than our last outing. We were once again at the top of a hill with another thunderstorm moving in.  This time I decided we would leave at the first sprinkle which pushed us off the mountain at 1PM.  No running down the mountain this time.  We got back to the truck, stopped off at a nearby coffee house and treated ourselves to an apple fritter and large coffee. I highly recommend the Donut Mill in Woodland Park, CO. The temperature outside had dipped to 47F as Pikes Peak got covered in a late summer snow.
My camera is broken, but I hope to get a new one soon and post a few pictures of the crystals we found. For the WY cowboy (Al) check your microcline for purple fluorite.  I found a couple of microcline crystals with rice-sized fluorites near their base in my hoard.
Some crystals from the last few outings, note microcline twins and smokys

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Rockhounding amidst the Raspberrys at Lake George

We've moved on from our earlier rock hounding bonanza and tried another area rich with raspberrys. I think my wife might even like to go rock hounding at this site with more berries than one could eat. For some reason nearly every dig gets filled with raspberry plants within a couple years. Evidently the turned over soil and rock is very conducive to growing berries.
I'll leave these tasty morsels for the bears
Digging where others have dug in the past can often lead to good results.  I’m frequently drawn to old digs and dig on the margins or try to figure out a pattern to the excavations and determine the alignment of pegmatites. Once you know the general drift of pegmatites under the ground you can do some probing with a pick axe and follow the pegmatites searching for crystal pockets.

Today Bob and I hiked up to the top of a ridgeline and noted that there were a few digs with quartz float scattered around.  Bob had done a number of test digs in the area and determined the pegmatites run straight up the hill.  Bob had found some plates of crystals the previous week and so after doing some prospecting on another slope I joined Bob at the top. The weather was a little sketchy with thunder in the distance along with visible rain shafts so that became a concern for much of the day, though not a show-stopper. After poking around a bit I found a small clear crystal and noted a fairly large older dig nearby. Bob mentioned he had dug on the perimeter of the old dig and found some microcline.  After studying the ground around the old dig I noticed a fairly well formed smoky plate and decided I would dig a couple feet away from the old dig.  Rule #1 for prospecting is when you find smoky quartz shards or crystals it’s time to do some serious probing and search uphill from the float quartz for a crystal pocket. The scree was churned up a bit so I figured perhaps the previous digger had just missed a plate, but as soon as I put my pick axe in the ground smoky quartz and microcline crystals started popping up out of the ground.  Pretty odd I thought, maybe the digger was looking for amazonite or some other mineral and bypassed the quartz. I pulled out a number of smoky quartz crystals along with a few plates. Bob joined me digging out the site and was as perplexed as I on why/how the previous digger missed these crystals. Most of the crystals were within 6 inches of the surface. I followed the float crystals for about 3 feet and finally I ran into a solid piece of granite with a few pieces of quartz revealing the pegmatite wall and the end of this dig.
Smoky quartz, well-formed carlsbad twinned microcline and cleavelandite were found in this pocket

On a sour note mother nature hit me with some large hail last month and caused about $25,000 in damage to my home. Fortunately insurance will cover the bulk of the damage. My neighbor had all 4 of his vehicles totaled
This 2 inch hailstone was all too common in our neighborhood. The largest I recorded was 2.75 inches that's 7cm!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Amazonite and Smokys at Lake George -- A summers worth of fun! (Updated 26 Jul)

Bob and I had been having some luck in a fairly remote area so we headed back there this day. It takes about 40 minutes to walk to our spot but a hillside along the way seemed unexplored. Each time I approach an area I try to do it from a slightly different angle, that way I can prospect some new territory on my way to my planned destination. This particular day I prospected up some hills on a rather circuitous path to our site. Bob stayed in the valley on a more direct line to our destination. I never got to the destination that day.
As I was walking along a hillside I noted a little blue poking out of the ground. I carefully looked the area over and determined the blue amazonite fragment was in a slight water run… who knows where that could have come from? Of course the most obvious choice is right there despite the water run. Maybe the water run just uncovered the tip of the pocket. I poked around a little bit and hit more pegmatite and some plates with amazonite and smoky quartz crystals.
Fresh out of the ground, first piece I found at the site
The water run was slight enough to uncover some scree and expose the pegmatite and crystals but not significant enough to wash much material down the hill. After digging a couple of hours I felt guilty and went in search of Bob at our initial destination. Bob was busy digging and finding some noteworthy crystals on his own, so he wished me luck and I went back to my dig. Best dig of the year and best find I had made thus far. I cleaned out several small plates, a few solo smoky crystals and a number of single amazonite crystals. The amazonite was very difficult to remove as it was coated in pocket mud and was very fragile.
Fresh out of the ground combo

Specimen above cleaned up a bit

Nicest combination plate of the lot 12+ complete crystals!

Ready for display!!!

I spent that day and the next working the pocket. I managed to get a little over 2 flats of crystals from this pocket so it was a very nice find!

After finishing up the pocket I prospected below the site hoping to find a few float crystals. I found some nice float crystals as well and decided to come back another day. If there is one pocket there, maybe there are more. I went back home and examined my finds. I noted that the roll-down crystals or float were different than the smokys I had found in the pocket. Most of the float crystals below the pocket grew out of white quartz and went from white to smoky, while the smokys in the pocket were all just black all the way to their growth points out of the pegmatite. I deduced there must be at least one other pocket on that hill. How right I was! While first pocket was the only nice combination smoky/amazonite pocket I found on this hillside.  
Digging through some float we found another pocket with smokys
Bob and I extracted crystals from well over a half dozen more pockets on that hill. While none of the crystals were large (> 6”), they were gemmy and lustrous.
Nice size to these, between 3-6"
The next pocket we found was split between us and consisted of smoky quartz crystals. I had followed quartz float about 40ft up the hill and determined it stopped nearly 50ft below the original pocket (above). Both Bob and I dug in where we found the last surface float and had to dig nearly another 10 feet to find the pocket. Of course there was float under the soil leading us to that pocket.
We probably pulled out 500+ crystals from this area.
Nicest smoky quartz cluster in the pocket and hillside for that matter 4x4x5"
We also found quartz with goethite inclusions (onegite), amazonite, green fluorite, goethite and smokys.
Onegite with a purplish hue (Amethyst)
Onegite with a yellowish hue (Citrine)

It was very rewarding to find an area undiscovered by anyone else and pull out beautiful crystals from billion year old undisturbed pockets. Hurrah, what a rock hounder's paradise!

Update1: I continue to find a lot of pegmatites and associated minerals on this hill. Goethite and associated "onegites" continues to be quite plentiful. The amazonite has dwindled off, but we are still finding pockets with smoky quartz crystals although they are smaller than some of our initial finds... the fun goes on
A nice cleaned flat of smoky quartz crystals, excellent luster (mostly 1-3")

Many onegites here (quartz with goethite inclusions)

Some of my favorite smokys, lustrous, gemmy and slender (2.5")