Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rock Hounding the Tarryall Mountains

Austin's Topaz
Looking west towards Badger Flats with a little smoke in the distance
In my quest of rock hounding different areas this year I took up the suggestion of a friend of mine to rock hound a spot in the Tarryall mountains. The Tarryalls are north of the Lake George, CO intrusive area though promise similar minerals of smoky quartz and microcline with an added bonus of topaz. I don’t have many well-formed topaz in my collection and have always found it to be somewhat elusive. We set out early as the day promised rain mixed with snow by nightfall.  Austin took me to a spot he had been working for a while. After prospecting the area he suggested we work a spot that already had been dug up, but should have been dug a little deeper. We started about 10 feet down the hill from an existing excavation.  The top foot or so of material had been dug, but 2 feet down intact roots and less jumbled rock led us to believe that the previous diggers had only scratched the surface. I dug up the hill to Austin’s right both of us digging down about 2 feet and shoveling dirt and rock down the hill as we went. Austin got the first and best score of the day pulling out a light blue 35 carat terminated topaz float crystal.  
This topaz gem reinvigorated both of us and we continued our digging assault up the hill. As we dug up the hill we found interesting float and then I scored a chubby 2 inch smoky. The smoky has good luster but with some internal fracturing.  As I dug I started hitting some very fractured feldspar,
Feldspar shards
Quartz Shards
then a few microcline crystals rolled out of the sidewall and I knew I was headed for a pocket. Soon I dug through the feldspar and started removing quartz shards. It was at this point that I let Austin know I probably had a pocket in front of me.
Austin came over and helped go through the shards looking for topaz. Quickly the quartz shards became more smoky in color and increased in size to some being over 6 inches in length. Then the smoky quartz crystals started to show themselves through the scree and red clay. Austin gleaned through the pocket mud and shards of quartz checking for topaz. The quartz shards were much larger than the euhedral crystals.  The quartz shards suggested 6 inch crystals, but the biggest complete crystal was 3 inches. After I felt the pocket was nearly depleted I let Austin finish it up.
Austin Finishing Up The Pocket
Austin found a couple of crystals in the sidewall and then rechecked for topaz. I took home about a dozen well-formed crystals and let Austin have the rest. I got the quality Austin got the quantity and a little quality as well. Austin did find a 130 carat fractured topaz in the debris I flung out of the pocket. Who knows how many shards of topaz I left, but we can always go back another day and sift through the dirt/clay once its dried out.  I still liked his light blue 35 carat terminated topaz better than anything else I found this day.
Smoky Quartz Crystals just about clean up enough for an acid bath to remove some stubborn iron staining

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Prospecting a hill at Lake George for crystals

Will Winter Ever End???  (Couple weekends ago)
Feeling cooped up a bit as of late with springtime rains, wind and cool weather keeping me indoors.  Bob and I have a lot of prospecting to do this year as we don’t have a favorite spot yet.  Many years we find a productive hill and stay with it for a digging season or two.  This year we have found a hill that has some promise but we are still prospecting it to see if it’s potential merits our time.  We have noticed a number of old digs near a ridgeline leading into the hill and also noted the top of the hill has been heavily dug.  The slopes seem fairly virgin of prospecting digs, so we will concentrate there first and work our way up to the top.  I started on the side of the ridgeline and Bob, my digging partner, hit the side of the hill.  Soon we were both finding good sign, but not much in the way of keeper smokys or amazonite.  I found a well-formed quartz pegmatite with only small float smoky quartz crystals and some goethite chunks but no crystal pockets.
  Bob dug into a nice crystal pocket, but it primarily contained microcline plates.  The microcline plates are well defined and Bob will clean them up and check for twins.
Lots of microcline plates with a little quartz... hoping for amazonite
 Due to the occasional amazonite chips above where Bob was working I decided to climb the hill 50 or so feet above him and try my luck near a promising looking quartz formation. The quartz was associated with some blue subhedral amazonite and after digging down into the pegmatite about 2 feet down I found a pocket with yellowish mud and a few smokys and amazonite crystals. Unfortunately the crystals were fairly small. I continued the dig until I had exhausted the crystals in this smallish pocket and then decided it was time to tear down the sidewalls and fill up my dig with dirt.  While pulling down the sidewalls a rather large double terminated smoky rolled out of the dirt. This float crystal may have traveled a bit from it’s origin and is a little scuffed up, but still collectible. My next job is to figure out where that floater came from.  There is another dig up the hill so I will work my way up the hill looking for more float. Bob finished his microcline dig and was poking around in some quartz nearby.  After I showed Bob my double terminated quartz floater I noted a few feet up the hill from where he was prospecting there was a recent dig with some grey quartz with well-defined faces. I mentioned I wasn’t sure why someone would stop digging there and so Bob gave that spot a try.  Soon he was pulling out small smokys but nothing too big yet.

 Next trip we hope to expand our searches in that area and with a little luck find a smoky pocket or two.