Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

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)