Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

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!