Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

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.